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May 2010

(Page 2 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.

South Africa camps
Pafuri Camp update - May 2010               Jump to Pafuri Camp

The onset of winter has brought cold morning chills and the baobabs with their autumn leaves are adding new colour to the concession with different shades of yellow, orange and red. Temperatures have dropped as low as 10 degrees but have still soared to a scorching of 42 degrees.  May still brought some rain and we recorded rainfall of 17.2mm this month. The area is thus still green and the pans are full. 

Wilderness Safaris believes in a sustainable conservation model. One of the ways to ensure sustainability is to contribute to new knowledge through research. There are currently several research, monitoring and re-introduction projects being carried out on the Makuleke Contractual National Park. One of the newest projects we are sponsoring is an investigation of the effects of off-road driving. This activity has long been contentious especially where private operations and national parks have met. This project will add real data to a debate that has been rather too based on sentiment instead of research. 

Male kudu at Pafuri    Kudus drinking at Pafuri camp    Baobab sunset at Pafuri

Another big project is the investigation of transboundary elephant movement in Pafuri. The project involves the collaring of both bulls and cows and tracking their movements across national boundaries into Mozambique and Zimbabwe. In addition, we hope the project will give us some insight into the movements of elephant bulls between different breeding herds. In May, Jabulani, one of the collared bulls, followed a combination of four herds. Research indicates that these herds may be inter-related splinter groups from a much larger family herd. 

Some interesting smaller mammals have made an appearance this month. A very special Cape clawless otter was seen swimming and playing in the Luvuvhu River at the Luvuvhu Bridge. Three honey badgers were viewed harassing some impala. While these pugnacious animals have been recorded killing prey this size and bigger, this was an extremely rare sighting. We also had a late evening view of a caracal. 

The Pafuri pride male was seen mating with a sub-adult female this month. So we will hopefully have some little lion cubs on the concession in a few months time. This particular female's brother has had to distance himself in order to avoid the pride male and he will, in all probability, soon adopt the nomadic lifestyle of a sub-dominant adult male.

On the bird front, unusual sightings for the month have included: Bat Hawk, Broad-billed Roller, Grey-headed Parrot, Three-banded Courser, Verreaux's Eagle, Arnot's Chat, Pel's Fishing Owl, Bohm's Spinetail, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Crowned Eagle, Dickinson's Kestrel, Crested Guineafowl.


Pafuri Walking Trail update - May 2010               Jump to Pafuri Walking Trail

May Mornings
The crackle of a fire, the crisp dawn air and the sound of boiling water pouring into your basin - these are the sounds that wake you as the sun slowly ignites the horizon on a Pafuri walking trail. You eat breakfast accompanied by the dawn chorus and then head out on foot to explore the wonders of the northern Kruger. 

General game has been prolific this month with fantastic nyala, impala, kudu, zebra and warthog sightings permeating the trails. The impala are so numerous that they can make one feel completely surrounded as they begin their exaggerated prancing. Apparently they do this to show their strength and health - perhaps they just enjoy it. 

Buffalo seen on Pafuri Walking Trail in South Africa    Buffalo seen on Pafuri Walking Trail in South Africa    Zebras seen on Pafuri Walking Trail in South Africa

One group of May trails guests had an exciting morning with two herds of buffalo. They encountered the first herd early one morning and as conditions were not good for viewing, the guide decided to move away. As they were backing away, they came across a second herd moving towards the first. This herd became quite inquisitive and moved towards the walkers who wisely retreated. The first herd then joined up with the second as the guide and guests found a suitable extraction route and moved away. 

On another trail, we were privileged to be visited by two young lionesses in camp. The lion approached the outskirts of the camp while we were eating dinner. They probably remained on the perimeter because of a combination of the fire, our voices, laughter and our smell. Perhaps, like hyaena, they were waiting for some scraps. Sean and Dani, having completed the washing up, threw the bucket of dirty water into the bush behind the makeshift kitchen. As luck would have it, the two lion were lying directly in the path of the water. The unexpected shower gave them a huge fright and they ran off. We quickly made our way to the vehicle and, with the aid of the spotlight, found the lion - now dripping in dirty water. With the camp vacated, the two cats saw fit to visit. They walked through the middle of the tents and then investigated the chemical loo before heading out into the night. 

Other unusual sightings have included four feeding bushpig and an African civet. The civet made a hasty retreat to some vegetation with a banded mongoose in its jaws. This is a surprising delicacy for the civet, who normally specialises on millipedes, but does feed on small mammals, birds, eggs and reptiles, and sometimes fruit.


Kings Camp update - May 2010               Jump to Kings Camp

Lots of guests shared amazing sightings with us during May...

Winter is closing in on us with a rapid haste! The blankets and hot water bottles are already permanent guests in our vehicles….LOL…

We still had some awesome game viewing with the last bits of green around and large herds of Zebra have been around utilizing it before proper winter sets in. The open areas also get visited more frequently by some Ostrich, which are the largest (non-flying) bird in the world.

Burchell's Zebra at Kings Camp    Burchell's Zebras at Kings Camp

Bateleur eagle at Kings Camp    Ostriches at Kings Camp

Rockfig Jr. and the two almost 7-month-old cubs are doing extremely well. Mommy made many kills over the last month and all of them recorded were very large male impalas. (This happens a lot now in the breeding or rutting season! The males are less alert to danger around them due to the fact that they fight so much with each other over territory and the females.) She has lost one or two of the kills to Hyenas as she did not manage to get it secured in a tree soon enough.

Rockfig Jr the leopardess at Kings Camp    Rockfig Jr's two cubs at Kings Camp

Ntombi is making more appearances again and I do understand that she has one cub. We are not sure whether it is male or female yet as the little one is quite nervous of the vehicles still. Ntombi kept the cub in rocky ridges in the riverbed and no vehicles could access the difficult terrain. We will keep you updated as its progress.

Ntombi the leopardess at Kings Camp in South Africa

The very impressive Argyle male leopard gave us two amazing sightings during the month. He had an impala kill at the first sighting and a warthog at the second. This big male is very relaxed and even gave us a showdown when confronted by a Hyena at his kill. At first he left the carcass and ran, not knowing how many hyenas had shown up. He soon realized that there was only one and then approached the situation to get his kill back. There was a bit of a scuffle, but he did manage to "steal" the hog back and this time he managed to get it up into a tree before more clan members arrived.

The Argyle male leopard at Kings Camp    The Argyle male leopard at Kings Camp

The Xakubasa pride is now appearing to settle in the central and northern traversing areas. They were seen frequently and seem to stay in good condition. Kills recorded over the last month include impalas, kudus, and young buffalo.

The Xakubasa pride with white cubs at Kings Camp    White lion cub at Kings Camp

The Machaton pride killed a few impalas but nothing sustainable to keep them in the traversing all the time. They did however spend a lot of time in the month on Kings Camp traversing with at least one of the Timbavati Boys.

The Machaton pride of lions at Kings Camp    A Machaton pride female with one of the Timbavati Boys at Kings Camp

One of the Machaton pride females at Kings Camp

The large herds of both species only showed themselves in good numbers towards the end of the month. Once here they entertained us around the waterholes on the traversing.

Elephant at Kings Camp

We had plenty sightings of white rhino.

White rhinos at Kings Camp

The group that varies between 3-6 animals was seen regularly down in the southern traversing and they are getting more relaxed every day we see them. The youngster in the group is now about 3 and a half years old which means that its mother could be pregnant soon or even already.

Whilst sitting in our house the other night I noticed a BIG noise on the porch. I called Melissa over and we opened the curtain to discover a fight between our local camp scavengers. The Honey Badger vs. a big male African Civet. Both of them visit the camp at some point each night. This night however their paths crossed and ended in a BIG fight. Usually one would think the honey badger, a fierce creature by reputation, would have the upper hand. In this case however the Civet once grabbed him by his neck and pulled him around a bit. The fight lasted for about 10 minutes after which their paths separated again, only leaving foul smelling scents hanging in the air…

Altercation between a civet and a honey badger at Kings Camp

Soccer (football) fever is high!!
Good luck Bafana-Bafana!!

Leopard and Kings Camp game drive

See you soon!
Kind Regards,
Morné Hamlyn and the Kings Camp guiding team.


Rocktail Beach Camp update - May 2010               Jump to Rocktail Beach Camp

The weather played into our hands perfectly this month and there were only a few days when we had to dodge the rain.

Sunset at Rocktail Beach Camp    Sunset at Rocktail Beach Camp

Wildlife and diving
The diving in May was, as usual, world-class.  The summer storms had abated and the warm gin-clear waters served up the goods. Of particular note was a trip to Lake Sibaya around the middle of the month. The trip was as beautiful as ever, but the sunset en route back to camp was profound. It left us all with feelings of humility and nostalgia.

Fishing typically peaks around April; however the seasons seem to have shifted a month late, meaning May was a golden month. Fish of note included a 131cm giant kingfish, as well as many giant sandsharks.

Crocodile and cormorants at Rocktail Beach Camp    Butterfly at Rocktail Beach Camp

Camp News
If we wind back the clocks to this month exactly a year ago, we would have all been running around Beach Camp with spades, wheelbarrows and cement, hurriedly extending the camp to cater better for children. With the development of the kids' room, the extra family suites, and the spectacular honeymoon suite, we have added real value to the Rocktail Beach Camp experience. The additions have come of age and settled in beautifully with the camp's new profile. 


Rocktail Bay Dive Report - May 2010               Jump to Rocktail Beach Camp

The May sea was lovely and flat all month with stunning visibility. We could see the reef and the fish from the boat for all but a few days when the surface was slightly choppy. The water temperature is slowly dropping and winter is around the corner.

To start off the month, Clive led a dive at Pantry, which is our closest dive site and sits at a maximum of 14 metres with an average depth of 12 metres. The divers saw a guitar fish swimming slowly over the reef.  While at the safety stop, Clive saw a sailfish of about 50kg. It came to within just ten metres. A dive at Coachman's Ledge the following day gave us stunning visibility, starry moray eels, schooling coachman, yellow snappers, humpback snappers, two green turtles and a small sharpnose stingray.

Geometric Moray at Rocktail Bay    Paper fish at Rocktail Bay    Moray eel at Rocktail Beach Camp

Elusive is our most northerly reef and is known for its huge, multi-species shoal of fish which seems to be growing all the time. It consists of blue banded snappers, yellow snappers, Dory snappers, flame goat fish, the odd humpback snapper and some rubber lips swimming among them. There is also a shoal of mangrove snapper in close attendance. These predatory fish, which can grow up to ten kilograms, feed off of the yellow fish shoal. 

Another great sighting at Elusive was that of a stonefish which Mich found sitting on the sand inside a section that we call the Doughnut. We don't see them very often, so it was a nice surprise. Stonefish have very good camouflage and small spines on the dorsal fin which are highly venomous. Other highlights at Elusive this month have included crayfish, octopus, lionfish, radial firefish, nudies, honeycomb moray eels, black-cheek morays as well and both hawksbill and green turtles.  

On one dive at the cleaning station we call Engen, we saw three green turtles in the space of a few metres, munching away on the seaweed. Unfortunately the pair of harlequin shrimps left their pot hole at Engen halfway through this month. Several delicate paperfish have made their home in the same pot hole.

Pineapple Reef gave us a great sighting of an enormous king mackerel and a few encounters with grey reef sharks.  On one dive at Pineapple, towards the northern section, we started hearing smacking thuds. I looked round and saw two white-barred rubberlips fighting. The noise came from the fish hitting and biting each other. The fight was so vicious that bits of flesh were being torn off the combatants. Eventually they locked jaws, twisting and turning, neither willing to let go until a grey reef shark came cruising in and one of them scampered.  It was an amazing sight. 

Other interesting species seen this month include porcelain crabs feeding in anemones, lots of different nudibranchs, scorpionfish, geometric morays, the odd titan triggerfish, mantis shrimps, scurrying marbled electric rays, octopus fighting, several large honeycomb rays, a round ribbontail ray without a tail, a blue spotted ribbontail ray and a guineafowl moray eel. 

Guest News
Congratulations to the following divers:
Jaryd - for completing his PADI Open Water Course
Kaden - for completing her Advanced Open Water Course

Staff News
A big congratulations to Clive and Michelle who got married this month.


Zimbabwe Camps
Makalolo Plains update - May 2010               Jump to Makalolo Plains Camp

No report this month.


Little Makalolo update - May 2010               Jump to Little Makalolo

May has been a month of varied temperatures, from rather chilly early mornings to extremely dry and hot days. The grass vlei and forest areas have thinned out drastically over the last month as the dry winter creeps in. The maximum temperature for May was 34.2 degrees Celsius, and the nippy minimum was 7.7. 

To our astonishment we received some unusual rain at the end of May. There were some very overcast days towards the end of the month that finally resulted in a heavy (10.5mm) downpour. The rain fell in less than 10 minutes and filled a few pans and left puddles along some of the roads.

Landscape and Vegetation
It is amazing how the vegetation of an area can change over a month. Last month the trees and shrubs were brilliant green but they have now started to change colour, lose their leaves and dapple the ground with yellow. The grass is receding quickly around the waterholes as animals start to concentrate around the last water. 

Elephants at Little Makalolo    Elephants at Little Makalolo    Elephants at Little Makalolo

May gave us some fantastic sightings and it's hard to believe that it's going to get better with the oncoming dry season.

Leopard viewing has been good with wonderful sightings of a big male near the camp and a female in a tree with her kill. On the lion front, a number of different prides made regular appearances throughout the month. A group of sub-adult males, offspring of the Spice Girls Pride (which no longer exists), visited the concession three times. On one occasion,  they gave us a display of their hunting technique which seems to be fairly inept. The Back Pans Pride have increased their number by three this month. Charles was out one morning and came across the pride with three new cubs and a new female with them. The Ngweshla Pride, which had six cubs in March, was back on the concession this month and the cubs are all looking healthy.

The male cheetah we see between Makalolo and the Ngweshla Picnic Site is now comfortable with our presence. We have had some wonderful sightings of him this month and our guests have taken some spectacular photos.

We've also had regular sightings of buffalo and elephant, most of them just in front of the camp at a waterhole. The highlight was a herd of 400 buffalo that arrived to drink the other day.

Also around camp, an African rock python appears to have taken up residence. This enormous reptile was recently seen sunning himself in the low branches of a camel thorn tree and his tracks regularly cross the paths. 

We've only had two wild dog sightings this month but it is always wonderful to see these rare animals. One sighting was of a pack of two feeding on a fresh kill and the other was a large pack of seven.

Lioness at Little Makalolo    Lion cubs at Little Makalolo

Birding Highlights
This month we recorded a total of 130 different bird species. 

We watched a marvellous battle for food between a Tawny Eagle and a black-backed jackal. The eagle swooped down to catch a hapless Helmeted Guineafowl. A jackal resting nearby watched the hunt and raced in to steal the dead bird before the eagle had a chance to react. 

The other birding highlight was the sighting of a Temminck's Courser on the Ngamo Plains. Any keen birder would be happy to tick this off their list.

Staff In Camp
Staff in camp this month included Charmaine and Sibs on the management side. Charles and Lewis have been fantastic on the guiding side ensuring that most wish lists are fulfilled. A huge thank you to Douglas who helped us out on numerous occasions during the month - his enthusiasm was definitely contagious and enjoyed by all guests. Kim and Shayne continue to be attentive and welcoming to those who come through the camp. 

Guest Comments
Thank you so much for the warm hospitality - from the service to the food, the hostess staff to the guides, we've been beyond impressed. What a wonderful place. The guide was amazing and he has taught us so much about the Hwange wildlife. - Michelle

Thank you so much for our 'perfect' visit here at Little Mak. We so appreciated your hospitality. - Barbara and Peter


Davison's Camp update - May 2010

This month has seen a minimum of six and a maximum of 32 degrees and there was even some rain at the end of the month.  The half hour deluge delivered 28mm and had us all running to zip down tent flaps. May gave us misty mornings clearing to beautiful blue skies with a fresh chill in the air. The misty laden mornings lend a surreal and beautiful aura to the area, with the sunlight filtering through to those that wait below for the first bit of morning warmth. 

The landscape is turning a rich, golden brown as the grass dries and water becomes scarce. The red syringa trees are already showing signs of early frost with dry and leafless individuals dotting the landscape.  At the same time, the purple-pod cluster-leaf trees are dropping the last few pods. The seeds will spend the winter dormant before trying their luck at survival when the spring rains arrive.

Davison's landscape    Davison's landscape

Our most exciting sighting this month involved a late evening viewing of a young female leopard. She is small but powerfully built and we think she is about four years old. We watched in awe as she slowly ambled down the road towards us, stopping  every so often to investigate the bush fringing the road. She came to within just a metre of the vehicle and we held our breath as she looked directly into the awe-struck faces watching from the front seat.  She then wandered around the side of the Land Rover and continued along the road.  We followed her for a little while but left her when it became clear she was hunting - we didn't want to spoil her chances of catching a meal. We've had another five very good leopard sightings this month. 

Unusual mammal sightings have included serval, honey badger and African wild cat. The serval was a fleeting glimpse in the long, dry grass. We happened upon the honey badger on a night drive one evening. As is the wont of this fearless creature, it stood on its hind legs and hissed at the Land Rover( roughly 100 times heavier)before trotting arrogantly off into the bush. Sadly, the African wild cat was seen at a pan one night. It had a very badly damaged leg and was consequently emaciated.

Leopard at Davison's Camp    Storks at Davison's    Bradfield's Hornbill

A flock of marabou storks visited the camp pan recently and provided us with huge evening entertainment.  The flock consisted of about 20 squabbling birds foraging in the water.  These birds are not attractive in the classic sense with their bald, blotchy heads and spotty pink crops dangling under their beaks.  They hung around the pan looking morose and then one by one, just as the last light of the evening faded, spread their enormous wings and flew into the nearby trees to roost.  

Hornbills are common in Hwange National Park. The noisy Bradfield's hornbills can be heard most of the day, calling to each other. They take special delight in 'chatting' right outside the rooms very early in the morning. 

Staff went out of their way to make us feel special with lots of little touches such as Fiona's birthday cake and the last night dinner on the tent terrace to celebrate our honeymoon.  Sam and Fiona Marshall, UK

Enjoyed the walks through the acacia Erioloba woodlands with the wonderful vegetation, birds, animals and sounds.  Jonathan Turner, South Africa

The passion of the staff, their kindness and a male lion close to our vehicle, also the elephants.  Mercuri Family, New Caledonia


Ruckomechi Camp update - May 2010               Jump to Ruckomechi Camp

Good rainfall in the catchment area has transformed the lower Zambezi River into a temporary water wilderness. Gullies and small river courses have backed up inland, creating stunning bodies of water. Birdlife has increased dramatically, bringing waterfowl and waders right up to the back of the camp. In fact the camp is now officially an island, although the water surrounding it on the eastern side is just a few centimetres deep. The elevated ground is popular with animals trying to avoid getting their feet wet and the animal traffic in the area has increased dramatically.

Cheetah at Ruckomechi camp    Leopard at Ruckomechi camp

The increase in animals on the concession (i.e. close to the river) is also a result of inland pans and water sources drying up as we move into the heart of winter. Visitors to Ruckomechi this month have included elephant, lion, hippo, waterbuck, impala and baboon. There have also been a plethora of birds and smaller mammals. 

Lions chasing an impala at Ruckomechi    Martial eagle

Out on game drive, Lin found a small pride of three lion hunting an impala ram. Initially, the lions managed to corner the impala up against the Zambezi River but the wily ram managed to outwit them and make good his escape.

This month's special mammals include three separate pangolin sightings, a huge pack of wild dog numbering 22 animals, two different cheetah, a herd of 35 eland and two new male lions that we haven't seen before. Leopard viewing has also been good.

On the bird front, we've had good sightings of Red-necked Falcon, Martial Eagle, Bat Hawk and Harlequin Quail.


Mana Canoe Trail update - May 2010               Jump to Mana Canoe Trail

Early mornings and late evenings have been relatively cold this month and there have been a few overcast days, which have kept the Zambezi Valley chilly. Although acting like a blanket and keeping the warmth in at night, the cloud cover tends to hide our ceiling of stars and the magical sunrises.

Vegetation, Landscape and the Zambezi River
With the river so high, we have been able to explore new channels that haven't been deep enough to use since the last high waters. This has added a new sense of adventure for both guides and guests.

The thick Senna shrub vegetation has now died off in some of the higher areas, but the lower lying areas are still quite thick with Indigofera as the water table is very high. We are hoping that the extra water will afford the young albida  a head start before the elephants eat them.

Mana Canoe and Walking Trail in Zimbabwe    Buffalo on the Mana Canoe Trail    Walking safari on the Mana Canoe Trail

This month's wildlife on the canoe trails was very exciting. Big buffalo herds and lone bulls were abundant this month, on foot, on the drive back into camp and along the Mucheni and BBC channel banks. Very relaxed elephant bulls, feeding along the banks of the Zambezi, gave our guests some incredible experiences. They allowed the canoes to drift past very close by - an experience of a lifetime that guests will never forget. 

The predators seen on the Canoe Trails have also kept everyone very excited. Two wild dogs were seen briefly on a walk in the Mucheni area. They were hunting and calling to each other while moving fast through the bush. 

Very close to the Chikwenya boundary road, the guests were tracking lion with Andrew and Mathew one day. They came across a lioness resting in a mopane thicket close to Ilala Camp. She was enjoying the sun, calling gently and watching impala. Soon after, she was joined by a male. The male was not as relaxed as his companion and they soon moved off into the riverine thicket.

Mana Canoe and Walking Trail in Zimbabwe    Mana Canoe and Walking Trail in Zimbabwe

One evening at Chessa, while we were eating dinner and admiring the stars, the staff heard baboons alarming. They went to investigate the situation and came across a very relaxed leopard not far from the camp. As we watched the leopard disappear into the darkness, we also came across a clan of three hyaena wandering around the camp. 

With a total of 157 species of birds seen along the river this month, we have had fantastic birding. Bat hawks have been a common early evening sighting at Vundu Camp, feeding above the guests as they come in for their sundowners. Africa skimmers have also been seen feeding on the river edge and we've seen flocks of up to 50 Lillian's lovebirds on more than one occasion. Trichilia Island has been a great place for pearl-spotted owlet, painted snipe and western-banded snake-eagle. 

Guest Comments
Guiding, organisation and guys are all excellent on every level, walks, canoeing, ambience, food. Andy and Matt; outstanding, knowledgeable guides, Clea; organized to an incredible level and great fun; Bob; the BEST! Nick and Kate

The whole thing - just awesome. From someone who has spent many many trips in the bush and on the Zambezi this has blown me away, I never expected this level of excellence! Lewis Lynch

Staff on Canoe Trails
With many Mana Canoe staff members on leave, a number of Ruckomechi staff  have had the opportunity to experience working on the canoe trails. Sean Hind and Andy Smith worked with Matthew on the river as the walking guides. Clea took over the hosting side of things. 


Zambia camps
Toka Leya Camp update - May 2010
               Jump to Toka Leya Camp

Let us love winter, for it is the spring of genius - Pietro Aretino

The winter season is truly upon us here at Toka Leya. This season brings great game viewing and wonderful clear crisp mornings. Watching the mist rising off the Zambezi River at dawn, covered in a soft blanket and sipping hot coffee, is pure magic. 

This month our water levels have receded substantially - our parking lot is now without its paddling pool. The water recession has caused a small lagoon to form behind Toka's driveway where a rare African Finfoot has set up residence. This has made for unrivalled photo opportunities for birders.

Vervet monkey on the walkway at Toka Leya    Motor boat at Toka Leya

The river continues to provide us and our guests with joy. When the water levels were still quite high, we regularly saw tiger fish, enormous bream and monitor lizards close to the tents. The water also tends to push animals that might normally stay out of camp, closer in. A young crocodile was seen soaking up the sun near Tent 3, right underneath a tree of very excited monkeys. No doubt our scaly friend was hoping for a tasty treat to drop out of the foliage and into his waiting jaws....

On a really special note, a bull rhino wandered into camp. He caused huge excitement amongst staff and guests, making his lazy way through. Herds of buffalo and elephant have visited the camp too, the latter most recently taking in the workshop.

Camp News
May was a great month for star-gazing with clear evening skies and rich chunks of the Milky Way visible most evenings. We had an excellent two days with a professor of astronomy from Michigan University who arrived at the camp with an extremely powerful telescope. We were able to get outstanding views of the Milky Way, Southern Cross, the Jewel Box, sunrise on the moon, Alpha Centauri (third brightest star) and Beta Centauri. The professor gave us some wonderful information and it was a real treat for the team.

We have hosted many post-Indaba travellers this month. It has been wonderful hearing their feedback on our camp, other Wilderness camps and the industry in general.

Guest comments
Please consider upgrading Toka Leya to a Premier Camp, the place was wonderful and the staff is top notch! Cramer Family - USA

The personal attention to detail, responsiveness to guests' needs, professional handling of situations and Sam was a delightful guide! Steve and Glenda - USA

Very thoughtful surprises in room!! Food was EXCELLENT.  Incredible hospitality! Very friendly staff! Jesse - USA

These were only the first 3 days of our 3 week trip and it's going to be difficult to surpass our experiences so far. Everything was terrific! Magrino - USA

In Camp
Daniella Ponter
Kawanga Ndonji
Evidence Musabi
Justice Chasi
Jacqui Munakombwe
Amon Ngoma
Mike Muvishi
Evie Bwalya 
Zoe Namangonze


Lufupa River Camp update - May 2010               Jump to Lufupa River Camp

My introduction to Lufupa was a leisurely trip down the Kafue River, this wide expanse of flowing water lined with jackleberry and waterberry trees is truly magnificent. The first view I had of the camp itself was the wooden deck built out over the water at the confluence of the Kafue and Lufupa Rivers.

The enjoyment of just sitting on this deck at daybreak looking at the mist coming off the water, and again in the evening seeing the sun setting and casting an orange reflection on the water is so special.

The surrounding bush and grasslands are still green from the summer rains. Driving around the various routes mapped out around the camp, one is astounded by the diversity, the vegetation and the topography of the area.

Lioness at Lufupa River    Male lion at Lufupa River    Wild Dogs at Lufupa River Camp

The game sightings have been remarkable, considering the denseness of the bush. Highlights this month have included three male cheetah on a regular basis, two male lion almost in camp and a nightly camp visit from a female leopard. She has been desperately calling for a little attention so I am sure we will have a male around very shortly.

The best sighting of the month was of a pack of wild dogs. The first time we saw them, we found 11 in the pack but during the month the dogs split, with eight moving into another area and three remaining. The small pack was perfectly comfortable around the game drives which made for wonderful photographic opportunities. 

Another visitor to our camp was a hippo that remained out of the water for two days grazing between the tents, taking very little or notice staff and guests passing by.

Our resident bull elephants made frequent appearances, attempting to shake marula fruit off the trees, and then saunter off into the nearby thicket.

Guest comments
Wonderful lodge, great staff, good company, a little piece of heaven. Barbara

Had a perfect time, beautiful site. We could not ask for a better place. Just superb. Henny and Michael

Photography: Neil Midlane


Lufupa Tented Camp update - May 2010               Jump to Lufupa Tented Camp

No report this month.


Kalamu Lagoon Camp update - May 2010               Jump to Kalamu Lagoon Camp

Weather and Landscape
With approach of winter, the temperatures in the valley are fantastic. Vegetation is still green and looking really beautiful, giving the concession a completely different feel from when we packed up at the end of the dry season last year. Also, with the exceptional rains this year, a few of the small streams and bigger dambos still carry a reasonable amount of water.

The Concession 
It is obvious that our relationship with the South Luangwa Conservation Society (SLCS) is yielding great results. The game on the Luamfwa Concession has increased in number and the animals we see are far more relaxed. Each year, when we return after the rainy season, we notice how the sightings have improved from the year before. Despite our absence for the last six months and the consequent lack of human / animal contact, the animals are increasingly tolerant of vehicles and people.

Sunrise view at Kalamu Lagoon camp    Elephants at Kalamu Lagoon camp

Also on the concession, a number of new game drive loops have been added to the existing network. These have been placed with the dry season in mind as they focus on the more permanent waterholes. These loops should substantially enhance game viewing. 

We had a few excellent sightings of the wild dogs this month. They should be denning now although we are not sure where exactly. Lion viewing has been good with a small pride spending a lot of time in the vicinity of the camp and another pride of three killing a baby hippo one evening. 

Also near the camp, there is a young leopard that seems to have established himself between the camp and the airstrip. On most nights this month he walked through the camp or called close by. He keeps causing a commotion amongst the troop of baboons who roost in the trees just behind our staff village. A female leopard and two cubs was found at the Bush Camp Lagoon and, interestingly, she was very relaxed despite the presence of her two very small offspring.

Sunset view at Kalamu Lagoon camp    Elephant in crossing the river at Kalamu

We have also had many incredible sightings of our endemic giraffe subspecies, the Thornicroft's giraffe. 

On the birding front, large concentrations of water-feeding birds like storks and herons have been concentrating around the drying pans, foraging for food in the mud. These have included rare Saddle-billed Storks and numerous Yellow-billed Storks.

Staff developments
We are very proud to announce that Luxon Situmbeko, one of our guides, has passed his exams and is now a licensed South Luangwa Professional Guide. This will enhance our guests' experience as Luxon can now combine game drives with walking. This is fantastic especially when animals are sighted far from the road. 

Guest Book Comments
Many thanks for all your help and hospitality. Everything was wonderful. The setting is extraordinary - M and G, USA

Two words that describe our experience at Kalamu: Loved it - L and T, USA

Very very special visit. Thank you for the warm hospitality.- J and R, USA


Shumba Camp update - May 2010               Jump to Shumba Camp

Weather and Concession
We are back again in the Busanga Plains for the start of the 2010 season. Every one of us is overjoyed to be back in this superb, unspoilt and undisturbed area with lush and ever-changing landscapes of endless open savannah and floodplains, dotted with colourful flowers.

Our return to Busanga Plains in April was quite an experience. Water levels on the road were extremely high and, in some areas, covered the bonnet of the Land Cruiser making it treacherous although we remained unstuck. The Busanga Plains received just over 1 600mm of rain in the wet season and this turned the northern section of the concession into a swamp.

Lioness at Shumba Camp in Zambia    Drinks on safari at Shumba camp    African Openbills at Shumba

It's getting nippy now, so we have to put on an extra layer in the mornings and evenings but the afternoons are kindly hot.

The water limited our exploration of the concession in May but we were still able to offer our guests some exciting game viewing. Unusually for this time of year, we've seen two different elephant herds in front of the camp. One afternoon, while having a serene sundowner on the pool deck, three magnificent lionesses walked across the stream in front of the camp. Excitement erupted from both our guests and staff as this was our first sighting of the Busanga Pride this season - a good indication that the waters are receding. 

Wild dogs at Shumba Camp in Zambia    Wild dogs at Shumba Camp in Zambia

Game drives to the dryer south of the Plains have been a bit easier. This area contains various habitat types from pans, grassy plains and open dambos to miombo woodlands, supporting a wide diversity of wildlife. We've had regular sightings of Defassa waterbuck, kudu, impala, puku, lechwe, elephant and warthog. The drives have been productive on the predator front too with excellent sightings of lion prides and wild dog packs.

Helicopter scenic flights have been a highlight this month. Guests have had the opportunity to see lion, buffalo and elephant from this aerial perspective. 

Guests Comments
Shumba is a wonderful remote camp.
Fantastic bird sightings.
The all round friendliness of attention to detail of the staff was really a highlight, as well as the trips with the boat were memorable, especially the sundowners and the visit to the local fishermen.

Camp Staff
Managers: Solly Tevera and Mulenga Pwapwa and Chipasha Mwamba, a trainee manager who has recently joined us from Fairview College.
Helicopter pilot: Mario Figueredo
Guides: Idos Mulenga, Lex Kkymbekela and Isaac Kariwo


Kapinga Camp update - May 2010               Jump to Kapinga Camp

No report this month.


Busanga Bush Camp update - May 2010               Jump to Busanga Bush Camp

No report this month.


Namibia camps
Desert Rhino Camp update - May 2010               Jump to Desert Rhino Camp

No report this month.


Palmwag Lodge update - May 2010               Jump to Palmwag Lodge

No report this month.


Doro Nawas Camp update - May 2010               Jump to Doro Nawas Camp

Weather and Landscape
We thought we needed to gear up for winter here at Doro Nawas, so guests and staff have been overloaded with warm clothing, but the weather had other plans. We've had warm easterly winds, both in the mornings and afternoons, which have resulted in warm, humid days and nights. Temperatures ranged between 14-18°C and 36-40°C (57-64°F and 97-104°F).

Tucked away between granite and sandstone in the heart of Damaraland, there is a place famous for its desert-dwelling elephant - Doro Nawas. Two weeks ago we had a very unusual surprise when the desert dwellers returned unannounced. Ignatius, one of our guides, decided, one day, to drive along the beautiful Huab River and there, to his surprise, were about 23 great grey beasts. After two months of unpredictable tracking the elephant are back, and looking for water. We had great sightings, and all guests returned to camp with big grins on their faces. We had one of the most beautiful days ever on the 4th May - when both the Rosie herd (13 elephant) and the Oscar herd (10 elephant), walked through camp looking for water at dusk. Luckily they did no damage, they just wandered past letting us know they are back.

Elephants at Doro Nawas    Elephant at Doro Nawas

There's a thought that an African elephant's ear is in the shape of Africa and an Indian elephant's ear is in the shape of India. Elephant move slowly to protect their vast brains, with which they can hear subsonic sounds. The word elephant has its roots in Latin, and is composed of two words: ele, meaning 'arch' and phant, meaning 'huge'. Loxodonta, the genus name for African elephant, means 'lozenge-shaped teeth', which refers to their chewing surface.

We truly hope that these majestic elephant will stick around for a long time so that all our guests get the opportunity to experience these fascinating desert adventurers.

Even though the rainy season has passed, tucked away in the Huab River lies a place one can only imagine - luscious and green, with a vast array of birdlife and wildlife, an oasis in the desert. Recently elephant tracking has become a whole new extreme 4x4 adventure - because we have to travel on muddy, rocky, sandy terrain. 

Lush grassland at Doro Nawas    Tree silhouette

Sebastiaan, who is an assistant manager at Doro Nawas, was very excited when he had to guide a three day safari, because guiding is his passion. It was like Christmas came early for him when he was allowed to step out of the office and back into the bush. 

Guest Highlights
"The location of the lodge is fantastic and the employees are friendly and generous." - Silvana and Stefano, Italy

"Sebastiaan was wonderful - enthusiastic and knowledgeable, eager to please and did his best to meet our wildlife wishes!" - Blumberg, UK

"Sleeping under the stars, elephant tour and staff singing were our highlights. Thank you also for making our Honeymoon extra special. Particular thanks to Michael for his great driving and knowledge on the elephant safari and to Sebastiaan for his friendly welcome and hospitality." - Alex and Clare, UK

"Loved seeing the elephants with Arthur. The rock engravings were fantastic. Singing of the staff was very enjoyable." - Joan and John, USA

"We had two wonderful days in your camp. Food was delicious and the staff very friendly! Stay on as you are!" - Peter, Germany

Camp Staff
Camp Managers: Coenie and Danize van Niekerk
Assistant Managers: Agnes Bezuidenhout, Morien Aebes and Sebastiaan Meyer
Guides: Arthur Bezuidenhout and Ignatius Khamuseb
Trainee Guides: Michael Kauari and Richardt Orr

Photos taken by Sebastiaan Meyer.


Damaraland Camp update - May 2010               Jump to Damaraland Camp

The month of May usually marks the beginning of winter, but it seems like winter is coming late to Damaraland this year. We have had only two mornings that required fleeces to keep out the cold. The wind changed towards the end of the month and started blowing from the east, bringing warm conditions. Along the coast, east weather caused a lot of discomfort. On the cooler days the mornings started at about 13°C (55°F) and warmed up to 26°C (79°F). On the warmer days temperatures soared to 37°C (98°F). All in all May was a lovely warm month. We are expecting June to bring the cold.

This has been a very exiting month for wildlife in Damaraland. Although a lot of game has moved north because we haven't had as much rain as we would normally have by this time of year, we saw the desert-adapted elephant on most of our activities. They have been concentrating in the Spaarwater area, where it rained quite a bit. On the 17th the elephant surprised us all by appearing at De Riet, a small village not far from camp. They stayed for a day and then moved back up the Huab River.

Huab river at Damaraland Camp    Elephants in the Huab riverbed at Damaraland Camp    Elephants at Damaraland camp

There are currently a lot of brown hyaena in the area and they move up and down the Huab River, mostly at night. We saw five lion in the Springbok River area for a few days, and it seems that they have now moved back north. They caused some sleepless nights by harassing the local community and preying on their goats and cattle. Now that they've wandered back north, everyone is getting a good night's rest again.

Guests were also treated to wildlife in camp: a few scorpion sightings, one with babies on her back! The night skies were also amazing, with scorpius seen rising in the east.

We had a visit from the California Academy of Sciences. Dr Rathbun and Jack Dumbacher graced us with their knowledge on smaller mammals in the area. They are currently investigating a possible new species of elephant shrew (or sengi) that was discovered in the area, and have written a few papers on it. These little creatures live in the rocky slopes of Damaraland and feed mostly on insects. They are monogamous and have very few young. The young are precocial and the sengi do not make nests.

Scorpion with babies at Damaraland    Pigmy rock mouse at Damaraland

We were invited to help check all the traps in the morning and what we found was quite exciting. The most common rodents caught for study purposes were the short-tailed gerbil and pigmy rock mouse. We record the catch, with the elevation and coordinates, and then set the critters free.

Our resident Guineafowl still think the camp belongs to them. Every morning they make their way through the main area and return in the afternoon. The Rosy-faced Lovebirds bring some colour to the reddish brown landscape and the Bokmakierie entertains guests with beautiful duets in the mornings.

We had a Huab Protocol meeting this month, which is the first step to a partnership to protect the local environment.

Camp Staff
With the HAN environmental awards coming up we are excited to be reaching all the goals we set. Our aim is to be one of the most environmentally friendly camps in Namibia. We will sort all our own waste and send it, labelled and sorted, back to Windhoek. We have built oil filtration drums to clean the run-off water from our workshop. Drip-trays have been installed at all our fuel storage areas. The process is slow, but we feel confident we are getting there.

Managers: Ivan Phillipson and Ilze Van Der Vyver
Assistant Managers: Neil van Wyk and Elfrida Hebach
Guides: Johann Cloete, Anthony Dawids, Daniel Uakuramenua and Alexia Awaras

We have had another great month in Damaraland and we look forward to seeing you soon.


Skeleton Coast Camp update - May 2010               Jump to Skeleton Coast Camp

Weather conditions in the Skeleton Coast are extremely variable and can change every hour. Some mornings start clear and blue but within 15 minutes the air can become clogged with the famous Atlantic fog. This time of year, the days can still be warm but the nights are chilly and perfect for sitting around the camp fire.

Wildlife and Landscapes
Initially desolate in appearance, the Skeleton Coast seems a place where nothing can survive. But even in this desert, life has found a way of flourishing. Often this life is discovered in sound. At night, the empty silence is broken by a jackal's eerie territorial call. During the day, the enormous Rüppell's Korhaan croaks like a strange desert frog.

Oryx at Skeleton Coast    Dwarf Beaked snake at Skeleton Coast    Clay Castles at Skeleton Coast

The gemsbok (oryx), a quintessential desert animal, is often seen treading its way up the dunes, eking out a living in the inescapably harsh environment. These antelope use water very sparingly and can allow their body temperatures to rise while their brains keep cool with the aid of a highly sophisticated respiratory system.

A special reptile sighting is the dwarf beaked-snake, often spotted close to camp. This snake is not venomous and blends incredibly with the hues of the desert.

Other than animals, our guests marvel at the majestic Clay Castles which formed thousands of years ago when erosion blocked the Hoarusib River mouth, stopping the flow of water to the Atlantic Ocean. These stunning sedimentary structures are a unique feature of the area.

This has been a sad month for the Skeleton Coast. Despite our best efforts to ameliorate the human / wildlife conflict through projects such as the Kunene Lion Project, clashes do occur. Leonardo, the adult male lion, of the Hoaruseb Pride, was put down close to the Sesfontein Conservancy on 21 April 2010 after he killed some livestock. Tragedies like this are becoming less and less frequent as Wilderness Safaris attempts to demonstrate the commercial value of wildlife such as lions to local people. To this end, we voluntarily pay the communities closest to the areas of potential conflict a percentage of profit. In this way they do not bear all the opportunity costs of having these magnificent predators in the area.

Lions at Skeleton Coast    Himba village in the Skeleton Coast

On a brighter note, some of our guests were lucky enough to see two lionesses not far from Puros. Guides Kallie and Gert suspect that one of them is pregnant. They were found close to a zebra kill and were well-fed and very sleepy.

This month some wonderful guests donated a number of hippo rollers to the Himba people of the Onjuva area, which is about two hours' drive from camp. A hippo roller is a thick plastic drum that can be filled with water and then rolled rather than carried. The Himba people of this area walk tremendous distances to fetch water and can now transport larger volumes with much greater ease. The life-giving and spine-saving inventions were donated by generous American friends. Our thanks go Krista Krieger, Sue Devitt, Wendy Wood, Tracy Bross and Margaux Mackay!

Guest Comments
Everyday was an adventure, loved the dunes to Skeleton Coast - amazing! - Toni & Dennis

Awesome few days, wish it was longer! - Ashleigh

We make every attempt to fill our guests with magical memories - sundowners on the dunes, dinners under the desert stars or just the solitude and wonder of the Skeleton Coast. A recent honeymoon couple was treated to a spectacular champagne dinner on their private veranda which was decked with myriad candles and tended by the resident brown hyaena!

Camp Staff
Guide Kallie is currently doing an elephant training course at Hoanib River Camp. We value his constant efforts to improve his knowledge.


Serra Cafema Camp update - May 2010               Jump to Serra Cafema Camp

No report this month.


Ongava Tented Camp update - May 2010               Jump to Ongava Tented Camp

Weather and Landscape
May has been cool to chilly, which means winter has started. Most of the trees around Ongava Tented Camp have lost all their leaves, with only the mopane trees retaining their green. It's that time of year when guests need to wear jerseys on evening and early morning drives, and when they arrive back to camp in the evenings we greet them with sherry, to warm them up a bit.

The surroundings are getting drier, which means the waterhole in front of camp is much busier during the mornings and at midday. Guests have been able to take some nice pictures with the animals being close to the lapa.

Long-horn the rhino and her calf at Ongava waterhole    Long-horn the rhino and her calf at Ongava waterhole

May was full of surprises and new beginnings. Long Horn and Oukoui, two of our white rhino, had new calves born this month. Long Horn visited the waterhole recently with her two-week-old calf in tow - it was still very wobbly and uncoordinated. Long Horn's previous calf also joined them at the waterhole. Long Horn has been slowly pushing it away, into independence, so it was somewhat distant at the waterhole.

While Long Horn was at the waterhole, we also had a pride of lion in camp, hiding in the bushes. The seven sub-adults were waiting for the lionesses to get back from their excursions and had been practising hunting the whole day. The lions became quite interested in the new calf and started stalking the rhino. The tension was high, and guests in camp, lucky enough to witness the whole saga play out, feared that something might happen to the calf. The lion stopped very close to the rhino and then lay down to check things out. When Long Horn started to walk away the lion started to follow. We all held our breath, but the lion soon returned to the waterhole, exhausted by the game.

Lions on an Oryx kill at Ongava    Bare-cheeked Babblers

Guest Highlights
"Walking to the rhinos and the sundowners. Ongava Tented Camp is a very cosy, relaxed camp and offers warm hospitality and well trained staff."

"Spending 45 min with pride of 11 lion, seeing them drinking, interacting and then seeing them heading out for a kill. Also saw four black rhino in one day. Other animals included African wild cat, honey badger, yellow mongoose, and too many others to mention. It was perfect for our first experience in Africa."

"Wildlife viewing, especially from our own deck."

"The waterhole was a very special treat, 'a memory forever'. Barrier, our guide, was a jovial guide and knowledgeable companion."

Camp Staff
Managers: Gerda, Silvia, Alfonso, Inge and Corne
Guides: Rio, Festus, Barrier and Leon


Little Ongava update - May 2010               Jump to Little Ongava Camp

Weather and Landscape
We at Little Ongava, on the southern boundary of Etosha National Park, are experiencing warmer days and cooler nights. Namibia's winter runs from May to August; with mid-winter temperatures ranging from 6 - 22 ºC (42 - 72°F). The landscape is dry, with most trees and shrubs losing their leaves, which makes the tracking of animals so much easier. The skies are clear and beautiful, especially at night, when the Milky Way and a million other star constellations are exposed.

For animal and bird lovers, this is the best time to visit Namibia. The days are cooler and some natural waterholes start drying up, which means game will be concentrated where there is water. Most animals come to the waterhole at camp in the afternoons.

A variety of herds pass by camp every afternoon to quench their thirst at the waterhole. Guests can enjoy lunch outside on the deck, while watching all sorts of interesting animal behaviour below them. Most of our guests have been amazed by the eland, which is the largest antelope in the world, with males weighing up to 840 kg (1 850 lb).

Elephants in Etosha    Lioness drinking at Ongava waterhole

During dinner one evening we were surprised by a clan of four spotted hyaena. It seemed as if they were on a mission, scavenging around. They ended up spending the whole evening whooping around camp. Spotted hyaena are both scavengers and very adept hunters. They are less skilled at stalking than lion and rely on their speed, of up to 40 - 50 kph over 4 - 5 km; biting chunks out of their prey, and tearing it apart as it runs. The victim dies eventually from shock and loss of blood.

Some guests recently spent two hours at the hide and took the amazing picture on left of a lioness drinking.

The mother and baby black rhino, pictured left, also came past the hide to the waterhole for a drink. Because of their acute hearing, the mother was quite restless and would move hastily and look around when she heard the slightest sound. The mother black rhino always leads the way and it will defend its baby unhesitatingly against any actual or potential danger. Baby rhinos are not completely weaned until they are at least 12 months old - even then they stay close to mama until they are three or four years old; by which time she may be pregnant again.

Game viewing in Etosha National Park has been very favourable; with large herds of antelope and a variety of bird species. Recently Gabriel came across a herd of about 40 savannah elephant. We haven't been seeing them in previous months because in the rainy season they migrate north towards Angola and west to Kaokoland, and only begin returning at the end of March.

Rhinos at the Ongava waterhole    Ruppell's Parrots at Ongava

We have been spotting some very interesting birds: African Quailfinch, Kori Bustard, Bare-cheeked Babbler (endemic), Lilac-breasted Roller, Damara Hornbill, a confusion of Guineafowl rushing for a drink in the mornings and the Double-banded Sandgrouse flying to the waterhole at dawn, marking the beginning of the day.

Michael and some of his guests were very surprised when they sighted two Ruppell's Parrots outside one of the guest rooms. The two birds were very cooperative as they posed for a picture. They are common, near endemic and protected. They occur in small flocks in arid woodland and thornveld.

Spotted around the camp are Dusky Sunbirds, who enjoy the juices of the mopane aloe (Aloe littoralis or Windhoekalwyn). This medium-sized aloe flowers from summer into autumn. It is mainly found in Namibia, with isolated populations found in South Africa and Botswana.

We have also witnessed this month some very interesting bird behaviour from the Red-headed Finch: a pair were seen utilising the abandoned nest of a Lesser Masked-Weaver to lay their own eggs. We have learned from one of the guides that these birds can use any bird's nest or cavity to lay their eggs.

Guest Highlights
"The camp; the waterhole life; the exquisite and huge rooms and décor."

"The staff were warm, competent and caring - who could want more?"

"The game was diverse, varied and special. Watching the birdlife bathing in the pool was great. Don't change anything - it's perfect."

"Beautiful accommodation, beautiful food, most of all beautiful people. We loved and will cherish every moment we had. It was a pleasure experiencing Little Ongava and its team. Thank you all for your caring - it shows."

Camp Staff
Managers: Florensia Mutrifa and Michael Kaeding
Guides: Gabriel Haufiku and Michael Haidongo

Thank you to all guests who have shared their wonderful pictures with us.


Ongava Lodge update - May 2010               Jump to Ongava Lodge

No report this month.


Andersson's Camp update - May 2010               Jump to Andersson's Camp

No report this month.


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

The weather has been very unpredictable during the month; the first week of June was extremely cold with maximum temperatures only reaching 12 degrees Celsius. Luckily, this only lasted for a while and when the east winds started blowing again, temperatures rose to around 30 degrees during the day. Sometimes these winds bring some loose clouds over the horizon which make for great photographs (Photograph by Jennifer Dickinson).

Sunset at Little Kulala    Pale Chanting Goshawk at Little Kulala

Wildlife and Landscape
The waterhole in front of camp is active most of the day. Common visitors include springbok, ostrich and oryx. These animals and the backdrop of the paprika-coloured Sossusvlei dunes are the reasons that some of our guests decide to just stay in camp and enjoy the view.  

At night we've had sightings of black-backed jackal, spotted eagle-owl and even the rare brown hyaena on a few occasions. The jackals are very vocal and entertain anyone that is awake during the night and the early hours of the morning.  One of the most common raptors we have on the reserve is the pale chanting goshawk. These birds are normally perched on top of tree, stump or even on the ground. 

Guest comments
Our daughter celebrated her birthday while here and the staff were wonderful - making a cake and singing for her.  It was truly memorable.

Besides being in the mountains and dunes, the staff and guide made this one of the most joyous holidays.  The entertainment and singing was a joy and also the wine cellar dinner.

The food was amazing, as was the serenity of the desert. We loved hiking up 'Big Daddy' and into the canyon.

Staff in camp
Managers: Daphne and Ignatius Hanabeb
Assistant Managers: Corrie and Merino
Guides: Richard, Willy, Raymond, Elaine, Agnes and Thereza


Kulala Desert Lodge update - May 2010               Jump to Kulala Desert Lodge

May started off with a bang - literally.  On the first evening of the month, there were very heavy winds which blasted everything not bolted down into the desert. Some of the more colourful items recovered the next morning included scatter cushions and women's underwear. Kobus was assigned the dubious honour of saving the undergarments while Dawie, the manager, occupied himself with collecting less personal items. 

Another extraordinary weather phenomenon occurred a week later. A heavy fog bank moved into the Sossusvlei corridor, so that visibility in Dead Vlei was reduced to only two metres.

Tsauchab riverbed at Kulala    Oryx at Kulala Desert Lodge    Satellite equipment for watching the World Cup at Kulala

We're happy to report that the brown hyaena population is growing. Two juvenile animals have been seen around the lodge recently. They appear to be coming in from the dry Tsauchab River where some dens have been discovered.

The White Lady of the South - an oryx with leucism (a condition characterised by reduced skin pigmentation) - has only been seen a few times during the year. She has legendary status around here and we were lucky to see her grazing around the lodge one afternoon this month.   Johan and Jennifer took a few pictures and it looks as if she is pregnant.  This cow was first seen in August 2009.

Camp News
Soccer World Cup fever is hitting the south of Namibia! The satellite dishes are up and the sound is connected, but, being very aware that the camps still need to blend in with the desert, all sorts of ideas of how to camouflage them have been put forward. In the photo, Johan is trying his utmost to make the satellite dish blend in with the lodge walls. 


Kenya camps
Governors' Camp update - May 2010               Jump to Governors' Camp

The Masai Mara had some heavy rain up until the end of the month then the weather dried out and we had a week of glorious weather. The temperature averaged about 28 degrees Celsius and we received 191.5mm of rainfall over the month of May. The Mara River rose almost to capacity a few times mostly due to rain at the source in the Mau forest on the western escarpment of the Rift Valley. All this rain followed by sunshine has caused a flurry of growth out on the plains and the savannah grasses are fantastically long, the red oats grasses are showing their fruiting seed, giving an orange tinge to the plains towards the Serengeti.
Birding has been great this month with a few species hatching young chicks and teaching their fledglings how to gather the abundant insects that are about. We still have hundreds of Open-Billed Storks in the marsh as well as a small flock of White Storks preparing for their flight back to Europe. The Jacksons Widow Bird male has been hopping up and down in the grass displaying to females, as well as many of the Fantailed and a few White-Winged Widow birds. Some of the less common birds seen were the Leviallant's Cuckoo, Marshal Eagle, Dark-Chanting Goshawk, Grey-Headed Bush Shrike and Double-Toothed Barbet.

Egyptian Goose at Governors' Camps    Martial eagle at Governors' Camps
Photos courtesy of Chala Cadot

There are three herds of buffalo in our area at the moment, one herd is remaining close to the Marsh and it numbers around 600 individuals and two herds above the ridge numbering 300 and 200 individuals.
Massive herds of Elephants have been milling around the Musiara Marsh area and moving up to Rhino Ridge eating the grass on the plains. We have had a large presence of bull elephants, some a little testy and in musth, but mostly just content to eat alongside the female herds. A couple of mating sessions was witnessed, which is an incredible sight.
With all the elephant and buffalo manure to take care of we have had an influx of the larger species of dung beetle. They are not seen as regularly rolling their balls along, but simply dig below a prospective meal as the ground is soft in most places. The dung beetle will stash their ball below the surface and lay an egg, this will eventually hatch and the larvae will feed on the dung until it metamorphosis's and digs its way up to the surface as an adult.

Elephants at Governors' Camps    Elephant calf at Governors' Camps
Photos courtesy of Chala Cadot

The hyena packs are fairly scattered as they are mostly scavenging at this time of year. There is one hyena den site close to the airstrip with three small black pups and two larger ones just changing colour now at about seven months or so. The scavenging took on a large scale this month when  some of our guests had an incredible sighting of twenty three hyena chasing three lions off a buffalo kill, the noise and energy were unbelievable.
The Marsh Pride have scattered a bit this month, only being seen in two's and three's. At the beginning of the month they were spending their time in the plains close to the Marsh, and then they moved into Masai Land bordering the Masai Mara Game Reserve where their territory extends up to Leopard Gorge and to the west. In these areas the grass has been mostly grazed down by Masai cattle making perfect grazing conditions for plains game. Big herds of zebra have come in to these areas from the Loita Plains area in the east, all this game has been an attraction for the Marsh Pride. Towards the end of the month most of the pride headed back to the Musiara Marsh area.
The Ridge Pride have been seen more frequently in their usual, smaller territory. There seem to be the two pride males, three females and three cubs. They have had some lean times, but are doing well enough with the large numbers of warthog in the area.
The Paradise Pride are doing exceptionally well, they have spent more time as a pride as their hunting tactics differ. They have become specialist hippo hunters managing to take down three hippos during May. There is also plenty of plains game in their territory, as the grass is shorter in a few areas. The six males are still together, although sometimes spending time apart from each other. We are not certain which males, but certainly the younger ones cross the river to visit another pride of females. Having a coalition of six males, they most definitely call the shots in that area.

Lion cub at Governor's Camp    Lion cubs at Governor's Camp
Photos courtesy of Chala Cadot

The three cheetah brothers have spent most of their time up on the high plains. This area has been slightly grazed down by the large herds of topi and other plains game that have continued to stay in this preferred area. This area gives them a great vantage point to see predators and they have added security of safety in numbers. The three boys have obviously been attracted by the bounty of prey on these plains. They have had some success hunting Topi on the shorter grass, but have mainly been concentrating on the warthog in the bordering longer grass.
There has been a single female cheetah in our area which we believe to be pregnant.  A second lesser known female was also seen within our area with two cubs of about eight or nine months old.
Shakira and her cubs have not been sighted, we are sure they must still be on the west side of the Mara River. The river has been high for many months prohibiting her movement back onto our side.
This month we enjoyed some wonderful leopard sightings close to the camps with two leopards regularly making an appearance. The large male made his presence felt between the forest and the Marsh and the female leopard, which we have become well acquainted with, has frequented the Ilmoran area and the small patch of forest in the Marsh near 'Lake Nakuru.' 
Back in camp a family of giraffe have been regular night visitors sleeping on the grass in front of the plains tents giving guests a wonderful view in the early mornings.

Giraffe at Little Governor's Camp    Giraffes at Little Governor's Camp
Photos courtesy of Chala Cadot

We hope to share the magic of our corner of the Mara with you sometime soon.


Rwanda camps
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge update - May 2010

No report this month.


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