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Excellent news: After successful negotiations between the governments of South Africa and Botswana, we are pleased to advise that the direct flight between Johannesburg and Maun has been reintroduced. With effect from 5th November the flight with a technical stop in Gaborone has been discontinued.
New Zambian 'Security Tax'
The Zambian Department of Aviation have announced that a new Security Tax will be introduced from 1 January 2011. This additional tax of US$5.00 per person for international flights and US$ 3.00 per person for domestic flights must be paid on departure at the relevant Zambia airports. This is over and above the existing Departure Taxes.
Community engagement efforts in the public arena
Sue Snyman, Wilderness Safaris' Community Engagement Researcher, has recently been presenting her work and that of Wilderness Safaris in the broader conservation community. In August, she contributed to the South African National Biodiversity Institute Ecosystems Services and Poverty Alleviation workshop (ESPA) held in the Kruger National Park. In November, she presented two papers on the role of high-end ecotourism in socio-economic development and poverty alleviation. This was at the International Conference on Global Sustainable Tourism in Mbombela (Nelspruit), a conference that attracted 200 delegates from 29 countries.
Wilderness Safaris Namibia on the way to becoming 'carbon-neutral'
Wilderness Safaris Namibia (WSN) has been steadily reducing its carbon emissions by installing solar panels and battery invertors for generators, and implementing a scheduled circular routing for Sefofane charter flights. In its aim to become carbon neutral, the first step was taken recently - that of calculating the entire carbon footprint of WSN!
The total carbon footprint (i.e. total carbon dioxide emissions) for WSN was 5 098 tonnes compared to 5 950 tonnes of the previous financial year. (On average, one person's carbon emission on a long-haul flight from Europe to Namibia equates to 4 tonnes.) In years to come, WSN will compare its footprint annually so that contributions to reducing emissions can be measured.
Wilderness Safaris has also been chosen as one of four tour companies to participate in nature-based tourism and climate change research. The aim is to investigate the carbon footprint of nature-based tourism and use four inbound tour operators in Namibia and Southern Africa as case studies. Based on findings, recommendations will be developed on how the carbon footprint of each company in general can be improved. As a result of these, carbon management strategies (including carbon offsetting) are to be developed in a second phase of the project. The research commences in February 2011.
Children in the Wilderness News
Children in the Wilderness programmes have begun in many of our regions including Botswana, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa.
The kids had a fantastic drive down from the villages to Lufupa, and as they entered the park they were fortunate to see huge herds of buffalo and zebra amongst many other smaller game species. On their first night in camp, we went out for a short night drive, and saw a magnificent male lion not far from the camp as well as two hyaena! This was the first lion sighting for the kids and teachers so was a great start to the programme! Over the next four days, which were themed Kafue Day - Respect, Environmental Day - Responsibility, Culture and Tourism Day - Friendship and HIV/ Aids Day - Love and Care, we had fun, action-packed, educational days, which saw the kids slowly open up and respond to the staff. Days started with either a game drive or boat cruise with fishing, followed by the kids showing and telling us what they had encountered in the bush or on the river. ? My closing words are that being with these children humbles you. To see things through the eyes of these children who have so little in terms of material goods - how they appreciated every tiny thing they received on camp, absorbed everything that they learnt and went away with something to hold onto for the future is truly humbling. (Emma Seaman, CITW Director, Lufupa Camp in Zambia)
Bat Hawk seen in the Linyanti
Location: Kings Pool Camp, Linyanti Concession, Botswana
Date: 07 September 2010
Observer: Russel Friedman
Photographer: Russel Friedman
Bat Hawk is an uncommon and sparse resident and its usual crepuscular habits adds to its elusiveness spending most of the day roosting in thick foliage.
On the 7th of September we were out on an early morning game drive in the Linyanti Concession, driving from Kings Pool Camp. It was about 8am when we noticed a smallish bird of prey flying over the reeds of a floodplain area. Stopping to take a closer look at this bird, it initially appeared to be African Marsh Harrier but its flight pattern was not right for this species. Rather than the languid flight of the harrier as it floats over the reeds this bird had a much faster flight action with distinctive v-shaped wings.
As we were in a hurry to get back to camp due to our outgoing flight we had to leave the sighting but not before I managed to rattle off a few identification shots for a later more detailed review. My thought at the time however was that this was definitely not your typical raptor.
Imagine my shock (and later delight) when I downloaded these images back at home to realise that it was a Bat Hawk! On enlarging the images, the distinctive eye and central line on its pale throat and sharp wings were all very apparent.
As its name suggests, it typically hunting bats as well as swifts and other small birds at dusk but can be active in the early morning which is when we saw it. Perhaps it was hoping to catch birds leaving the sanctum of their nighttime roosts in the reedbed that it was flying over.
Often all avid birders can hope for when searching for this bird is a dimly lit flight silhouette as it flies around rapidly over rivers and other suitable hunting sites just as the last light of the day fades. Otherwise they are sometimes seen at known day roost sites, such as those recorded in South Africa. We were thus extremely lucky to see this bird in the morning like this and it was my first for the Linyanti!
Savute Channel Elephant Movement Study
Location: Savuti Camp, Linyanti Concession, Botswana
Date: 20 September 2010
Observer: Russel Friedman
Photographer: Russel Friedman
In September, I was privileged to join in the darting of two elephant and the fitment of radio collars by Dr Mike Chase from the NGO Elephants without Borders.
Between 1982 and 2009, the Savute Channel was completely dry and the Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks pumped artificial water points at the heart of the Chobe National Park. This is no longer necessary as flow in the Channel resumed in May 2009, heralding a new era in the ecology of the region. The main aim of this project - run by Elephants without Borders - is to determine the effects of water availability in the Savute Channel on elephant movements in the wake of flow resumption.
This specific exercise took place in the Linyanti Concession close to the Savute Channel. We collared one female and one male elephant as part of a longer term study to get a better understanding of their movements.
The team involved were incredibly professional. From the time the elephant was darted it only took 20 minutes to fit the collars and administer the 'wake-up' antidote before the elephants were up and ready to go back to the herd.
Everyone is looking forward to seeing the initial movement results of these elephants especially during the upcoming summer months which is typically the rainy season here. The new collars give a waypoint plot every hour, so the data that will be collected over the next four years will be quite substantive!
The Wilderness Trust is involved with funding this project. Read more here.
For more details on Elephants Without Borders, and their elephant-related projects, click here.
Rare Pangolin Sighting on the Busanga Plains
Location: Kapinga Camp, Busanga Plains, Zambia
Date: 02 November 2010
Observer & Photographer: Neil Midlane
As part of my continued lion research here on the Busanga Plains, it means that I spend many hours in the field. Although it can get tiring, and conditions are sometimes quite tough, it is also very rewarding...
Sitting with the Papyrus Pride of lions a few evenings ago, I noticed that one of the lions was staring intently in one direction. I had a look with my binoculars and nearly fell out of the vehicle! To my utter amazement, there was a pangolin moving through the grass! First one I've ever seen, and that in daylight!
I drove closer to about 15m away, and the pangolin proceeded to walk straight towards the vehicle until he was behind the front wheel. He was very relaxed so I got out of the vehicle to take more pictures. The pangolin suddenly realised that he had company, and perhaps feeling threatened rolled into a ball and really displayed his spiny scales. I quickly retreated, and then he snuck off into the longer grass again. Absolutely awesome experience and one of my best since being here!
Pangolins are found in Asia and Africa, but there is only one species to be found in south-central Africa - the Temminck's or ground pangolin. It is covered with hard scales of the nail protein keratin, feeds on termites, and is secretive, nocturnal, small and endangered.
Sightings are therefore rare and when they do occur, there is much excitement - the Busanga Plains seems to be producing infrequent sightings of these special mammals and a better chance than most in seeing them.
Leopard visits the Tubu Hide - again!
Location: Tubu Tree Camp, Jao Concession, Botswana
Date: 4 November 2010
Observer: Johnny Mowanji and guests
Photographer: Stefan Helene Petersson
The hide on Hunda Island is proving to be alluring to our resident leopards. At the beginning of this year there was a special sighting of a big male leopard relaxing on the hide. Ten months later it has happened again!
As guests were driving up to the hide they stopped to look at a Hamerkop bird nest when a guest spotted one of Tubu's young female leopards up on the hide. He was strutting his stuff, claiming to be the prince of the hide.
It was quite special; however it was only the start of the sighting. The young leopard watched the safari vehicle pull up a little closer and then decided to investigate the vehicle. The guide stopped and as they watched, the leopard came down from the hide and slowly walked towards the game viewer checking out one side before coming in front and to the driver's tyre. He rubbed up against it and posed for a nice picture before heading off.
It was quite ironic as this hide was constructed to observe wildlife from it, not in or on it!
The guests were left sitting with their mouths wide open, but this special sighting didn't stop there. As they followed the young leopard, he lead them to his mother and sister. The mother was out of breath from taking down an impala, and our youngster proceeded to feed with the family.
Reptile vs. Reptile at Pafuri Camp
Sighting: Reptile vs. Reptile at Pafuri Camp
Location: Pafuri Camp, Kruger National Park, South Africa.
Date: 08 November 2010
Observers: Johan Rebel, Brian Rode
Photographer: Brian Rode
While lounging at the main area of Pafuri Camp, the constant chattering of various bird species drew our attention. On closer inspection, a snake was discovered near the swimming pool. The snake was in hot pursuit of a chameleon, the chameleon running as fast as these generally lethargic reptiles can...
The snake in question was identified as a boomslang (literally translates as tree snake). This specimen was just over a metre long (which is not particularly long for this species). Boomslang tend to be sexually dimorphic (the males and females have different coloration - the males are more likely to be bright green in colour whereas the females tend to be an olive-brown colour) and this snake was most likely a female.
She was stalking a rather large flap-necked chameleon, which had obviously already been bitten. There were puncture wounds and discoloration on the left flank, but it kept racing at full speed for maybe five meters or so. Only when it stopped and seemingly decided to make a stand, by puffing itself up and hissing, did the snake strike again, very cautiously at first.
Due to the envenomation, the chameleon eventually started to act as if it was drunk and was unable to move properly. It changed to a bright golden yellow colour and gaped with its mouth open. The boomslang kept watching it and moved in closer. In total, the snake must have struck at least fifteen times and it took quite a while for the chameleon to exhibit clear signs of the venom taking effect. Boomslang have got great binocular eyesight and are able to distinguish static objects. She had to open her mouth very wide when biting the chameleon as her fangs are situated quite deep in the mouth. Boomslang are thus categorized as back/rear-fanged snakes. There was red blood weeping out of some of the puncture wounds on the flanks of the chameleon and the skin on one side had started to change to a dark grey, dead colour.
The venom of a boomslang is considered to be haemotoxic, which stops the blood from clotting and causes massive internal bleeding. Fortunately these snakes are not usually aggressive and bites to humans from this species are rare. The one that we were watching was not concerned by our presence in the slightest and was concentrating totally on the chameleon. After each bite the boomslang moved away from the chameleon and kept watch on it. After a few minutes the chameleon was in such a poor way that it could hardly move. It was obviously dying. The boomslang approached and started to feed on the chameleon, swallowing it head-first. She then disappeared into the bush.
Their varied diet often includes chameleons, birds and nestlings, and frogs. We were very fortunate to have witnessed this fascinating interaction.
North Island Turtle Season Update
Location: North Island, Seychelles
Date: 10 November 2010
Observer: Linda van Herck, Adriaan Goosen
Photographer: Adriaan Goosen
We are having a really good hawksbill turtle season this year. It only kicked off in September, and we already have 20 recorded nests (assumed and confirmed: the first ones we are quite sure she laid from interpretation of digging but did not witness the actual egg laying).
The current green turtle season has also been good, and with the last emergences having taken place in September, we still need to check the last nests which will hatch about two months later, meaning our last green turtle hatchings will be until end November.
Petite Anse is the only beach with no more nests but for the first time to my knowledge we had green turtles visiting this tiny beach this year (we did have an occasional hawksbill turtle nest on this beach in the past).
Pictured left is a hawksbill turtle photographed on West Beach as it heads back to the sea. Many saw the turtle as a bringer of good luck for the wedding that was happening at the same time!
Maporota Pride Welcomes New Members
Location: Mombo Camp, Mombo Concession, Botswana.
Date: 19 November 2010
Observers: Moss (Guide), Grant and Rodney Woodrow, Steve and Melissa Wittul
Photographers: Steve and Melissa Wittul
On a still and overcast morning at Mombo recently, Camp Guide Moss and his guests came upon the Maporota Pride. They soon realised that this pride of 22 lions had some new additions to the family as they saw four tiny lion cubs that probably had just been introduced by their mother to the pride for the very first time.
As seen by the adjoining pictures, the tiny cubs' eyes had just opened (usually occurring any time from 3-11 days) and they are estimated at being approximately two weeks old - as they only start walking at that age.
The whole pride took great interest in the tiny cubs and greeted them with playful antics. However, sometimes these antics, which may seem playful to the other lions and elder cubs, were a bit rough on the newcomers whose alarm squeals warned their doting aunts and uncles to try 'play nice'.
Having 22 other family members to look out for them, these cubs were welcomed into one of the most successful prides in the Okavango Delta and are sure to entertain guests in the coming months.
Tiny Tortoises found on North Island
Location: North Island, Seychelles
Date: 19 November 2010
Observers: Greg Wepener, John Mokgethi and Linda Vanherck
Photographer: Linda Vanherck
On 19 Nov Greg, North Island's Landscape Gardener, found a baby tortoise on a villa road. He took it to the pen and found it measured approximately 24cm over the curve of the carapace, and weighed 1.35kg. After being weighed and measured, the staff had to let it walk outside the pen for a while after this 'scary' experience! This drew the attention of the inquisitive moorhens!
Soon after, a much smaller tortoise was found by John, who is on the maintenance team. He discovered it on the wooden walkway of the Sunset Bar. This tiny creature was only 8cm long and weighed a mere 45g.
Both animals are now in the pen and are being surveyed by staff and guests. North Island adheres to the 'watch but do not touch' policy to minimise stress as far as possible, however the weighing and measuring process is still taking place to make sure they are growing healthily.
North Island believes that there are another 10 to 15 babies at large, and while they can survive on their own, they are keeping their eyes open for fear of any road accidents.
While on the subject of tortoises, on 29 November, a female giant tortoise was spotted next to one of the villas closing up a nest. Although nobody saw her actually laying her eggs, we believe that her behaviour of closing the nest means that she was successful. We estimate that they will hatch in late March/early April next year.
Baboon Infanticide at Kings Pool Camp
Location: Kings Pool Camp , Linyanti Concession, Botswana
Date: 27 November 2010
Observers: Odumetse - Guide
Driving back from a day trip and arriving on the outskirts of Kings Pool at about 14h00, Odumetse, one of the camp's guides, saw a young male baboon, a member of the Kings Pool Camp troop, running with a baby baboon in its mouth. The baby was being carried by the skin on its neck. Chasing after them were the baby's mother, covered in blood, and another female.
The male eventually stopped and sat down barking at the mother who was clearly too scared to approach. The male then, using his incisor teeth, started to rip the skin off all the baby's extremities, whilst the baby was still alive.
First the hands were stripped to the bone, then the feet. The tail was stripped of hair and skin, the genitals were bitten off, as were the baby's ears. All skin and hair was spat out, nothing was swallowed!
Once he had finalised his gruesome work of art, the male then folded the baby in two and patted it flat, all the while the baby still squeaking.
Finally, the male got up and left and the mother retrieved her mangled baby who sadly, was unable to cling to her. Later in the day we saw the mother with her now dead baby being dragged around the camp area.
Another interesting aspect to the scenario was a mother impala who was clearly looking for her young as she had been contact calling without success. The impala saw the baboon scene taking place and tried to approach several times only to be chased off by the mother. Presumably the impala thought the baby baboon might have been her young one.
It looks like infanticide has taken place here. This occurrence is well known in lion and to a lesser degree in primates. The reason is most likely that an alpha male had been displaced by other males in the group, and the alpha female becomes the target of their attention. The infant would have been killed to assert dominance and ensure that the previous alpha male's genes do not survive.
This suggests that a trigger for infanticidal behaviour is a rise in dominance. Most observations of infanticide have occurred when an unfamiliar male immigrates into a troop and usurps the resident, dominant male's position. In either case an unfamiliar male becomes the dominant male or within an established group a new alpha male emerges.
Migration Routes - November 2010
A recent trip in Botswana saw guests following parts of Wilderness Explorations' Migration Routes. While staying at Xigera Camp in the Okavango Delta, a leopard on a kill was spotted on the first drive. The general game was fabulous. The guests sat watching a herd of 50 elephants for at least half an hour and part of the group were even lucky enough to see four sitatunga.
As they travelled further north into the Linyanti, the group was offered other fantastic sightings. On three occasions wild dog were spotted having killed baby impala. During this time of year, just after the rains have come, impala females drop their young and the predators are known take advantage of these little, unsuspecting babies.
A leopard was seen trying and failing to get his impala kill up a tree - both the live and dead animal falling to ground in the attempt. Another leopard was sighted and tracked while it stalked squirrel.
Lion were seen on two different occasions, of which one of the sightings a cub amused everyone as it played up on a tree stump. Elephant in the Linyanti were a bit scarce but they were spotted on the last day of the safari.
It is always great to have bird lovers on a trip - these guests certainly were enthusiastic. The Pel's Fishing Owl in the Okavango was of great interest and with the return of the migratory birds it made for an even more exciting journey as they ticked off birds such as the Lesser and Amur Kestrel.
Bushbaby Babies at Pafuri Pool
Location: Pafuri Camp, Kruger National Park, South Africa
Date: 28 November 2010
Photographer: Caroline Culbert
Observers: Caroline Culbert, Ilana Stein, Lawrence Margolis, Nick Ball, Vanessa Lucas
It was an extremely hot Sunday at Pafuri Camp, temperatures reaching a sultry 45ºC. An early start to get to Crooks' Corner and then climbing the Big Baobab meant that we were ready for a snooze in the afternoon, but in this heat we abandoned our tents for the small pool in the private boma area. Modus operandum was to cool off in the pool before lying back on the loungers shaded by the thick branches and leaves of the sausage tree.
It was while lounging and gazing lazily upwards that Caroline discerned movement of a primate kind. Through the leaves she saw large round eyes looking blurrily down at her, long black skeletal fingers curled around branches or grooming in the light brown fur. A long bushy tail draped over the branch identified the sight as that of a thick-tailed bushbaby - and her three babies, all large milky eyes, enormous ears and tiny delicate hands holding on firmly to mom!
The thick-tailed bushbaby (Galago crassicaudatus), is the largest of the bushbaby family - hence its other name: the greater galago. It is a primate but looks nothing like the monkeys and baboons of Pafuri; indeed it is considered to be the closest living relative of the earliest primates. A nocturnal species, it is not often seen as it moves only at night to forage for fruit, seeds, flowers, insects and even small birds. It is more often heard, its eery 'crying baby' call echoing through the night air.
Two to three young are born during the rainy months in leaf nests built by the female. For the first few weeks of life, the young hold on to their mother, only letting go when she 'parks' them on a branch while she forages.
This was an amazing sighting, firstly being a daytime one and secondly, since during the day bushbabies rest up in trees, the young family wasn't going anywhere, allowing Pafuri guests to spend as long as they liked looking up through the leaves at the antics of these unusual creatures.
Kalahari Plains Camp
Kalahari Plains Camp is delighted to announce that Wildlife Walks are now offered as an optional morning activity. The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is an ideal place to experience the excitement and 'back to nature' experience of walking in the wild. Guides safely take guests out onto the plains, onto the dune scarp and to a couple of large pans – a wonderful expanse of scenery and habitats offering the chance of seeing as much game as possible. Bird life in the area is known to be superb, and the unobtrusive, discreet nature of these walks heightens the odds of seeing more species.
· Walking is dependent on a qualified walking guide being in camp and for this reason cannot be confirmed.
· As per Wilderness Adventures' terms, walking cannot be pre-booked or guaranteed as a private activity.
· A maximum of six guests allowed at any time on a walking activity.
· Minimum age is 13. There is no maximum age; however participation depends on fitness and ability to cope with the heat. The guide conducting the walk will decide as to whether guests may or may not join the walk.
· The guide is professional, qualified and armed.
· Walks are done within a 3km radius of camp (as per the walking licence).
Vumbura Plains North
Further to a previous communique about the fire damage at Vumbura Plains North we are delighted to advise that the rebuild is scheduled to be completed by 31 January 2011. In the meantime the Vumbura Plains South kitchen and main area are being used for guests from both North and South camps. The camp will manage the placements, providing private dinners, bush dinners, and picnic brunches etc. where appropriate. Vumbura Plains South main area can easily accommodate 26 guests and the camp staff are doing everything possible to ensure all guests are comfortable.
There is plenty of surface water in the Selinda Reserve at the moment so both Selinda and Zarafa camps are able to offer boating activities this summer. At Zarafa Camp, guests are enjoying excursions on the HMS Zib - a pontoon styled boat on the Zibalianja Lagoon, and at Selinda Camp there is a smaller, more conventional boat for trips up and down the Selinda Spillway.
Transfer Update: Usually, we are able to offer complimentary road/boat transfers between the camps in the Jao Concession, but as a result of the high water in recent years, we will offer this transfer option between 1 May and 30 September only. For travel between 1 October and 30 April, access will be via charter flight between Jao and Hunda airstrips only.
Jacana Family Room: The family room being built at Jacana Camp is set to open in March 2011 and will comprise two separate tents, each with its own entrance, joined by a bathroom in the middle.
A Dive Package not to be missed
Rocktail Beach Camp along with its in-house accredited Dive Centre is offering a real fantastic dive package. Three nights and four days, including dinner, bed, breakfast and four dives, costs just R5 650.00 per person sharing (R7 246.00 for a single diver)!
The Maputaland Marine Reserve, just offshore from Rocktail Beach Camp, is a place which provides a haven for extraordinary underwater encounters with dolphins, turtles, whales and a diverse array of tropical fish species along a series of pristine, untouched reefs. Not only do guests experience phenomenal diving but the range of activities which Rocktail Beach Camp has to offer, including the opportunity to watch huge turtles nesting on the beach in summer, will inspire all our visitors.
Terms and Conditions:
Minimum age: 12 years old (no child rate). Minimum of 3 nights. Valid until 6th January 2012. Excludes public holidays and long weekends. Terms and conditions apply.
RENAMING OF A KENYAN FAVORITE
Ol Donyo Lodge, Chyulu Hills, Kenya
There is a Maasai tradition in Kenya of renaming oneself at various stages in life. It is with respect to this, that Ol Donyo Wuas Lodge will be renamed "ol Donyo Lodge" as of January 1, 2011. This subtle name change reflects the local Maasai's affection for simply calling it "ol Donyo".
In 2008 Great Plains Conservation undertook a partnership with Richard Bonham and the Maasailand Preservation Trust to acquire a majority share in what was then Ol Donyo Wuas and Ride Kenya Mobile Horse Safaris. Following the purchase, the lodge was completely rebuilt and re-opened with much acclaim in July 2008.
ol Donyo Lodge, located in the private 275,000-acre Mbirikani Group Ranch, is nestled on the slopes of Kenya's Chyulu Hills. This 5-star luxury lodge is among the very finest in Kenya, with each of the unique ten guest suites, set in six expansive stand-alone villas, offering dramatic views the wildlife-rich plains and Mount Kilimanjaro.
ol Donyo Lodge is situated in a 'Big 5' region. The reserve contains one of Kenya's last truly wild population of Black rhinos, as well as some of the continent's most impressive large-tusked elephants. Further, a diverse range of activities are available: 4x4 open vehicle early morning and late afternoon/evening game drives; bush walks with armed guides; half-day horseback safaris; mountain biking; close-up wildlife experiences in the hide; star-beds; authentic Maasai cultural visits and tracking with Bloodhound dogs. Nightly rates include all activities, all meals, all local drinks and house wines and laundry.
North Island Update - November 2010 Jump
to North Island
...and into the summer.
With the change in the seasons comes a change in the direction of the ever-shifting sands which have once more begun their biannual migration - now in a southerly direction as the extensive bank of sand that has built up in front of Villa 11 is gradually eroded away and systematically shifted all the way back to the front of the piazza - already a substantial amount of sand has been deposited here in this short time.
Although the sand movement has already begun to change, there is still very little sand that has managed to travel the distance from the West Beach Bar to Honeymoon Beach - we will therefore have to wait a little longer before the sand properly begins to accumulate here and once more reforms this beach to its pristine, picture-perfect portrait.
Underwater, visibility has fortunately not been as volatile as the ocean conditions in general, which have been particularly rough on several days; visibility remained no less than 25 metres on most days with some days in excess of 35 metres. Sprat City in particular has finally cleared up fantastically and the entire reef can now be clearly seen from the deck of the boat - complete with scatterings of blue-banded snappers, yellow-back fusiliers and the ever inquisitive orbicular batfish which always take the time to wander up to the boat to say hello.
Various small flight formations of spotted eagle rays have been repeatedly spotted cruising just below the surface and in particular between Petit Anse and Honeymoon Beach. These gatherings of juveniles will continue to patrol the shallow reefs around the island until they are large enough and brave enough to venture further seaward to the depths beyond - only occasionally returning back to the island from time to time for no particular reason.
Flying needlefish mimic archers' arrows as they furiously propel themselves out of the water in an ingenious attempt to avoid being devoured by larger predators such as the ever-watchful barracuda and kingfish, of which there have been plenty.
We look forward to the rest of the summer and the fantastic diving conditions that this will no doubt bring.
Kings Pool Camp update - November 2010 Jump
to Kings Pool Camp
Summer and the rainy season are in full swing. Temperatures have cooled down considerably since the first showers started mid-month. Later on the first thunderstorm of the season gave us reason to celebrate with 25mm of rain in just one night.
While our daytime temperatures have been beautifully pleasant, the evening temperatures have dropped, demanding our presence around the fire after dinner while stargazing.
The mopane bushes are starting to sprout thick layers of leaves, which makes for more challenging game spotting. Nevertheless, our guides have been able to prove their tracking skills by following spoor or listening to birds alarm calling. The outcome being several interesting sightings!
The rains have also announced the new arrival of several species. Impala, warthog, red lechwe, vervet monkeys and baboons can be seen nursing their offspring and trying to protect them from the many predators around.
And predators there have been plenty... One night, just before dinner, we saw a leopard with a baby impala between its jaws at camp before disappearing between the bushes. Everybody raced onto the Land Rovers and went looking for it. We found it feeding happily 200 metres away from the main area of camp.
Another female leopard with its year-old cub has been seen regularly in the area. She is teaching her cub the skills of hunting and young impala are great practice prey for the little cub.
Leopard are not the only predators which have been enjoying the deluge of young antelopes. On several occasions our guests have seen a successful kill by the experienced hunters of the LTC Pack of wild dog. One evening the dogs managed to catch four newborns to feed their pups before the adults got their fair share of this feast. This is where wild dog differ from other social predators such as lion for example. Adult lion always eat before sharing their leftovers with the rest of the family.
A wild dog pup also entertained us one day when he came across a large water monitor lizard. He played with it without daring to get too close - this reptile's tail is very strong and works like a whip when the lizard is feeling threatened.
Lion have also been feeding regularly. While about to get off a vehicle to go for a walking safari, a group of guests and OD their guide heard a lion roaring not far away. On investigation they found the resident male with his two females feeding on a kudu kill. These three individuals are seen regularly in the Linyanti and especially the Kings Pool area.
Elephant have also been seen in abundance. The river and swamp area in front of camp attract breeding herds as well as individual bulls. The herds rarely come right into camp, but the bulls often wander through and, luckily for us, make frequent use of the dips in the otherwise elevated walkways.
There is a pod of hippo that spend their days about 500 metres from the main area of camp in the deeper parts of the channel. As soon as it gets dark they move in, feed between the rooms and give out their notorious barking sounds which is enough to frighten anyone.
Staff in Camp
Management: Karen Jensen, Frank Matomela, Nina Reichling, Julian Muender and Ben Gouws.
Guides: OD, Lemme, Diye, Ndebo
DumaTau Camp update - November 2010 Jump
to DumaTau Camp
Weather and Landscape
This month has seen temperatures reach in the high 30s and early 40s almost every day, with a maximum reading of 45 degrees Celsius. With each brief spell of rainfall that we receive, we breathe a sigh of relief. Local vegetation has benefitted immensely from every drop, transforming the landscape into a lush canvas of green mopane woodland. Clouds overhead bring welcome breezes through camp and we have enjoyed occasional shows of lighting, which illuminate the DumaTau floodplain at night and remind us that the green season is certainly underway.
Perhaps the greatest draw of this wetter time of year is the abundance of new arrivals. We have entered the lambing season now, and guests have been privy to sightings of many newly born animals. A few lucky guests witnessed the birth of an elephant on a morning game drive and watched it struggle to stand and walk, fiercely protected by its mother and the rest of the breeding herd.
The high number of impala births is good news for the concession's wild dog packs. For the past two weeks they have been seen almost daily feeding on young impala. These elusive canines are thriving in the Linyanti, though not without a struggle. A fierce confrontation earlier this month between the Zib and Linyanti packs resulted in serious injury of one of the Zib adult males, and the departure of the pack across the Savute Channel. We expect that they will return to the DumaTau area soon, but in the meantime we are happy to report a high number of sightings of the rival Linyanti Pack. Separated from two adults dogs last month, this pack of seven adults and four juveniles are together again and have rewarded guests with fantastic sightings. On one particular game drive, a vehicle responding to wild dog calls found the DumaTau male leopard hiding in a tree while the pack of dogs joined a baboon troupe in taunting him from below.
Paying heed to our smaller inhabitants can yield some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities. Keen birders have been delighted by visits to a massive Carmine Bee-eater colony of more than 600 located on the eastern side of DumaTau. Back in camp the collective alarm calls of squirrels and birds alerted us to the presence of an African rock python in the branches of a mangosteen tree by the boardwalk. It had succeeded in catching a tree squirrel and was in the midst of swallowing it whole. A number of guests were in camp and able to enjoy the strange sight of this serpent who then retreated into the tree trunk to digest its meal in relative peace.
Plenty more action can be found beneath our camp's shady grove of mangosteen trees, which continues to attract a variety of wildlife. We have been regaled by daily visits from local elephant bulls who are unfazed by us in their entertaining attempts to rid the trees of their berries. Joining these giants are plenty of baboons and birds hoping to share in the bounty. The presence of bull elephants and the breeding herds who often pass through camp has led us to wonder if a change in our camp name might be in order. "DumaTlou" or "Call of the Elephant" would be a fitting title for our little paradise, whose giant inhabitants have ushered us into this season with great fanfare!
Staff in Camp
Managers: Kago "KG", Abbie, Abiella, Anna and Ben
Guides: Bobby, Lazarus, Lazi, Name and Ron.
Thanks to Kago "KG"
Savuti Camp update - November 2010 Jump
to Savuti Camp
The vibrant morning colours reflecting off of the slow moving Savute Channel start to brighten as the sun slowly starts to climb above the distant tree line and warm up the land. Kane, Lets, Goodman and Grant, our Savuti guides make their way down to a morning coffee spot close to the water when a sudden, noisy eruption in the distant vegetation shatters the morning stillness. Without hesitation, the game vehicles are quickly on the move, bouncing over pot-holes and pushing through the dense green foliage, all the time the sounds of panic and chaos getting louder, stronger and more frightening.
As the vehicles arrive into a small clearing the story unfolds. A group of hungry hyaena have attacked and killed a blue wildebeest and some are starting to greedily eat as others cry out a closing victory call. The hyaena spend most of the morning eating from the carcass but thirst gets the better of the group and collectively they walk towards the Savute Channel for a late morning drink of cool, fresh water. As soon as the hyaena have moved out of the clearing a big leopard brashly walks into the clearing and starts to scavenge on the wildebeest carcass.
The leopard makes himself quite at home on the carcass and when the hyaena return it makes no attempt to leave. This behaviour is so unusual that even the hyaena are taken back and don't try to chase the leopard but rather wait a little distance from the wildebeest and allow the leopard to have his share and move off before they take control of the area again. The month of November most definitely belongs to our leopard and hyaena.
Another highlight for the month of November has been the Savuti hyaena den. Most of our guests have spent hours being entertained by a mother hyaena and her three pups.
Most guests visiting Savuti Camp caught sight of our little leopard cub and his mother who hangs around just outside the camp. On one occasion he was seen hunting a banded mongoose and after stalking the mongoose for about 20 minutes managed to pounce and successfully catch his prey.
All three packs of wild dog were regularly seen at the beginning of the month until they all met on the Savuti boundary line one afternoon and a big fight ensued. The conclusion is all three packs have moved in opposite directions and only the Savuti and LTC Packs have since been seen. On all the occasions that both the LTC and Savuti packs were see,n the dogs were hunting baby impala very successfully.
Large herds of elephant have come back to the Savute Channel after a brief disappearance into the mopane thickets. They have returned to the channel with renewed enthusiasm and vigour and spend long periods of time swimming and splashing in the water. Big herds of zebra have been regularly seen throughout the month and a journey of 18 giraffe frequent the channel in the early mornings.
The canoe activities have been exciting all month and lion, elephant and buffalo as well as a large number of brightly coloured water birds have been seen and photographed from water-level during the month.
Life is again plentiful here in the great garden of Savuti and we are eagerly waiting to tell more great tales and adventures of our camp and its surrounds next month, until then cheers from:-
Managers - Cheri Marshall, Helena Faasen, Kemmonye Wright and Warren Baty
Guides - Kane Motswana, Grant Atkinson, Goodman Nglovu and Lets Kamogelo
Photos by Kane Motswana
Zarafa Camp update - November 2010 Jump
to Zarafa Camp
The rains have arrived and with them a wonderful cooling effect. With temperatures still soaring into the early forties at the beginning of the month - with no relief at night - the rains have brought in a welcome fresh breeze. We've only had one big storm of about 21mm of rain, but we've witnessed dark clouds rolling in over the floodplains and lightning lighting up the sky. These thunderclouds threaten us almost daily but they often dissipate without any rains.
With the bursting skies comes new life. Fresh green grass has been sprouting everywhere and the birth of warthog piglets - we affectionately call them wiglets - and unsteady baby impalas. The fire that came in previously and burnt the western edge of the lagoon is now flourishing with new grasses and has become extremely palatable as the fire cleared off the inedible turpentine grass. The new shoots are attracting zebra and wildebeest to the area and roan antelope are regularly seen braving these open areas in search of the fresh growth.
In camp, the mangosteen tree in the driveway is seeing its fair share of visitors including Meyer's Parrots, Grey Go-Away Birds, vervet monkeys, baboons and, of course, the old bull elephants eager to feed on the delicious fruit. One particular bull caused a fair amount of trouble tossing the logs on the sides of the pathways around and kicking the parking-area steps. While it is magnificent to witness such a huge beast so close, it does however cause delays getting to and from our tents. It often means that we have to find alternative routes through the bush - even at night!
Since we launched the HMS Zibadianja, we've waited for an opportunity to spend time close to the elephants as they swim across the lagoon. We were rewarded this month when two bulls decided to cross the lagoon together while were we out on the boat having lunch. They played close to us as we gently drifted closer to them.
The lion pride continues to spend its time in the northern parts of the Reserve and their youngsters are still doing well. We've also been seeing a single female with two cubs and we hope that they will remain strong and continue to grow. Although they are all quite a distance from camp, we still have the opportunity of seeing them when we take a picnic lunch out for the day.
The leopard in the area are still regularly being seen, with both Mmaditsebe's male cub and Amber's daughter growing up healthily. They are both about a year old and are still very relaxed around the vehicles.
The wild dogs have unfortunately lost a couple of pups - we suspect to lion - in the Savute area and they have returned to our side of the concession for a while; perhaps to escape the lion!
This time of year is always a fantastic time for birders since the migratory birds have returned. One can hear the daily cacophony of Broad-billed Rollers and Woodland Kingfishers as their fight for nesting space. The Diederik, Klaas's and Black Cuckoos have also been heard around camp, probably also looking for the nest of another species in which to lay its eggs.
All the best from a green and flourishing Zarafa Camp.
Selinda Camp update - November 2010 Jump
to Selinda Camp
It's raining Cats and Dogs!
29 October brought an end to six months of dry weather in the Selinda Reserve. Everyone in the Reserve welcomed the rain in a different fashion: the bell frogs began to play their songs, the Woodland Kingfishers, Broad-billed Rollers and many more migratory birds showed up, the dust calmed and the previously burnt, blackened ground turned green and finally the mammals started dropping their young. What a delightful place to be born into!
Guests had an opportunity of witnessing a wildebeest giving birth, which took over thirty minutes. These are extremely dangerous moments for a mother and child as they are completely exposed to all predators. The intriguing part is seeing the newly born calf getting up and taking off only a short ten minutes after birth. The young would not have a chance to survive if they could not get up and run after such a short period.
With all these new helpless creatures around the predators are taking advantage. The Selinda Pride continues to patrol and hunt in all the reserve's corners, taking down antelope young almost every day and occasionally large prey like kudu and giraffe. One evening, while out on the boat, the crew witnessed the pride killing a warthog that had come down the Spillway to quench her thirst. Great news is that all the cubs continue to develop well and the youngest two have now reached two months of age.
Not only are the lion celebrating this ripe time of the year, the spotted hyaena were also seen feeding on baby impalas. We have also found a den not far from camp where a mother keeps two pups. We are hearing hyaena call regularly from camp as they whoop their singing call to each other in the early hours of the morning.
We continue to see the herd of very rare roan antelope - amongst the rarest of the antelope family in the region - and their black and whites faces are a wonder to see. Luckily the size of the herd has remained consistent; perhaps the lion have too many rich pickings at the moment.
The continent's most endangered carnivores, the wild dogs, always bring great excitement to our guests. This month they gave us an eye-catching show. The Selinda Pack of seven are now down to four puppies. They nearly also lost their alpha female who was trying to lead the pups across the Spillway when a huge crocodile's jaw just missed her head. The whole pack was forced to try another crossing section a little distance from the previous one. This is a very rare sighting indeed.
As far as rare sightings go, one afternoon, just after the rain our safari vehicles followed two spotted hyaena that seemed to be hunting, when one of the guests spotted a pangolin. Amazingly he never rolled into his protective ball as we had expected, rather he dashed into a Kalahari taiboos bush. We all pushed back to give him a comfortable distance, and off he continued on his business feeding on ants and then finally taking cover. This is very unusual in itself, but in broad daylight it is quite incredible.
Another entertaining sighting was a leopard who, in the midst of a hunt, gave up on the impala it initially had its sights on and turned on an unfortunate tree squirrel that was busy collecting nesting materials. Everything happened so quickly and before we knew it the squirrel was hanging hopelessly between the leopard's jaws. We watched her eat her afternoon snack before disappearing back into the thickets were she had come from.
The Selinda Canoe Trails are no longer operating this season due to the wet conditions but Selinda Camp guests are still enjoying this as a shortened activity whenever the weather permits. This month was all about outstanding sightings while out on the canoes. Large herds of elephant have been sighted from the safety of these canoes and the entire 16-strong Selinda Pride were also seen at the water's edge.
We had a group of guests from Florida who are all major fishing enthusiasts. They had just come from a fishing holiday in the Chobe and have suggested that we start a "Selinda Slam"! This idiom comes from deep-sea fishmen who gain this illustrious title if they catch all the 'best' fish in one day. The "Selinda Slam" includes catching a three-spot tilapia, an African pike and Barbel or Catfish in one day. We therefore announce our "Selinda Slam" ... Let the games begin!
Camps Update - November 2010
•Things are cooling down with the rains, and everything looks green and lush. Everybody is having babys and some guests were lucky to see actual births. That makes up for having to carry all the rain protective gear with you, and even sometimes to get a little wet. A small price to pay!
Lagoon camp Jump
• We still have the six pups, but the number of adults is now only 11. This has most probably to do with some dogs breaking off to start their "own" packs. This is a normal event, so we are not worried. The rest of the pack is doing very well, hunting successfully and clearly in good condition.
• The cheetah coalition of three brothers is doing well to, being seen on an impala kill, while all the other times they are seen they seem to have full bellies!
• The reports we are getting about elephants and buffalos just say: they are everywhere!!!
• A highlight was the sighting of three, and a week later four more sitatunga. These extremely shy antelopes are very well adapted to live in the wetlands of the Okavango Delta, and are very rarely seen.
• Off course the wildebeests, zebras, giraffes, warthogs, impalas, baboons, reedbucks etc. weren't missing too.
Lebala camp Jump
* Currently closed for a rebuild and we are very excited for when it opens again in the 1st of March 2011.
Kwara & Little Kwara camps Jump
& Little Kwara camps
• The lions performed very well this month. We had several sightings of the 5 cubs, and they are very cute! From our coalition of seven males, we saw five of them together which is quiet an overwhelming sighting. One of the females was seen on her own feeding on an ostrich. Quiet an achievement to catch one of these birds. Ostriches are capable of defending themselves, kicking their legs, hoping the vicious big toe makes a hit. Injuries by that can be fatal. And sadly one baby zebra had a rather short life and got eaten just 25 minutes old.
• A male leopard was spotted a few times. Sometimes even hunting, but he wasn't successful. Still very exciting to see these cats stalking their prey.
• The three brother cheetahs had more success hunting, and managed to kill two baby wildebeest in one day!
• A few sightings of the pack of seven wild dogs were recorded. One time they were feeding on an impala.
• Elephant are still around in big numbers, but the buffalos however moved out of the area in search of good grazing. General game has been good though, with lots of zebras and a lost of babies. Also the birdlife is interesting. Sightings of the endangered wattled cranes and ground hornbills.
• Not to forget the giant bullfrogs which are hopping around at the moment.
• For predators we had lions, leopard and cheetahs. They were all seen on a regular basis.
• We have good general game around. To mention are the zebras and the wildebeests, and a few guests saw actual births right in front of them.
• This month we saw the first time one wattled crane in Nxai Pan.
• At the water hole there are still a lot of "white" elephants drinking every day. "White" they are because of the white clay that they spray themselves with. In the evening light they look extremely photogenic against the dark clouds in the sky.
• The lions of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve seem to have taken a liking to our camp at Tau Pan. Almost every day they are seen at the water hole in front of the camp, having a drink. One of the females seems heavily pregnant and surely will have cubs very soon.
• On the list we have also leopard and cheetah sightings.
• Birdlife is good, especially if you after raptors. Eagles, kites, vultures, goshawks, and hawks
• We are also visited by honey badgers in camp every night.
• A guest spotted a flapped necked chameleon, and it could be observed catching flies and moths.
Mombo Camp update
- November 2010 Jump
to Mombo Camp
The extreme heat of the day is washed away by the building up of dark storm clouds and the refreshing downpour of rain. This is the time of year in which a lot of wildlife give birth - and November certainly has been our "baby month". The succulent shoots of vegetation which come to life following the rain help the new herbivorous mothers to produce healthy milk for their shaky-legged young.
This sudden unison of birthing also has another reason; the greater the number of babies around, the more chance one has to survive. All predators, including the opportunistic baboon, feed on young animals, and this prey in turn is used to feed the growing predator families and their babies - so the circle of life turns.
Pula, one of Legedima's offspring was seen to have at least three impala carcasses in a tree. It seems when the opportunity arrives for an easy meal it is too good to be turned down.
Legedima herself graced camp with her presence once again. She appeared on the boardwalk in front of guests who were leaving the following day and had been discussing having not yet seen leopard. Although a beautiful sighting, it can be somewhat nervewracking for staff on duty as they walk the guests back to their room! While Legedima sleeps peacefully on the boardwalk, we have to find alternative routes so as not to disturb her or endanger anyone. She was last seen huddling in the hollow of a tree near the main area, sheltering from the rain before slinking off once again into the night with her belly protruding. We are hoping that she will give birth to a litter of healthy cubs.
The Maporota lion pride also added to the boom of offspring at Mombo. The pride of 22 showed off four tiny cubs to the delight of the guests. However, the sighting took on even more importance when the guide Moss realised that it was in fact the first time the mother lion was introducing the tiny cubs to the rest of her family. As the inquisitive family members bumped, sniffed and licked the newcomers, mama lion sat nearby keeping an eye on the proceedings. The cubs were seen again on one occasion after this. It seems that the mother might have thought the introduction was too early and has once again taken her cubs into hiding.
Guests also spotted some playful hyaena pups at their den. They are always a joy to watch. As the vehicle arrives they scamper off to the safety of their mother and once the engine is off the most curious pup makes his way towards us followed closely by his siblings. Hub caps and wheels are a point of much interest to a hyaena cub as they are investigated, tasted and fought with.
The "top of the pops" baby however always seems to be the warthog piglet. These tiny replicas of their parents point their little tails in the air like their mother and their tufts of hair bounce from side to side as they run around the floodplains. They butt heads, go down on their knees and chase each other whilst mom and dad keep a wary eye on what might be lurking in the shade of the bushes. These pint-sized piglets always draw brooding sounds from guests before they run off or disappear down the safety of a warthog hole.
Pula the leopard was seen stalking two sub-adult warthogs, but unfortunately for her the wary hogs were able to disappear into the safety of their hole in the side of a termite mound. No leopard will try dig out a warthog whilst the tusks are facing out of the hole and so a standoff ensued before Pula got lazy and fell asleep.
The lone wild dog has been seen regularly, especially with the plains full of easy pickings in terms of baby impala. As usual, she has been doing the majority of hunting whilst the rest of her 'pack" - between two and four jackals - help her finish off the meal. The interaction between the two different species still has everyone amazed and there is never a dull moment when she is seen hunting. Her strength, pace and determination is wonderful to watch while she is followed by the shorter legged jackals running behind her.
Rhino sightings have not been as much as in previous months, mainly because Poster, our Rhino Researcher, has been away taking part in joint ventures with the Wildlife Parks and Anti Poaching Unit in tracking other rhino in the country.
As the water pools in front of camp from the previous flood start to dry up and turn into muddy sanctuaries for frogs, fish and the odd wallowing warthog, the bird life continues to gather. They are only bothered by the overhead flight of the magnificent Fish Eagles that get too close for their comfort. Birds such as the ever-present Openbilled Storks, Saddle-billed Storks, Squacco Herons, several species of egrets, Egyptian Geese, Spur-wing Geese as well as the graceful Wattled Crane to name a few can be seen on a daily basis.
Staff in Camp
Managers:Martha at Little Mombo, Gordon and Tanya, Lorato, Graham, Tumoh and Kirsty.
Guides: Tsile Tsile, Cisco, Moss, Moses and Sefo
Xigera Camp update
- November 2010 Jump
to Xigera Camp
Climate and Landscape
November has produced some superb summer weather and also some cooler days that have threatened rain - threatened being the operative word. We are all revelling in the more pleasant climate of gentle breezes and afternoon cloud build-up in comparison with the overwhelming heat of October.
Despite the fact that we have not yet experienced the full drama of a summer storm, we have still had some wonderful photographic moments brought about by the stormy conditions and light showers that we have had.
With the floods having dissipated, we are now able to access and explore some great areas. Imagine a brunch on pristine white sands where you can bask in the sun, then slip into the crystal clear waters of the Delta to cool off after enjoying a slow lunch in the shade of the parasols, while watching the skimmers fly, literally inches above the water, as they scoop their prey from the surface.
The fig and mangosteen trees around the camp are now laden with fruit. As a result, elephant gazing has become a regular camp activity this month. The elephants have spent hours around the walkways, tents and camp area, which has been a real treat for guests.
With the summer well upon us, the bush is a hive of activity. The air is filled with birdsong, insect calls and a cacophony of frog calls which are overshadowed by the shrill persistent call of the cicadas that fill the summer air.
Another special aspect of this time of the year is the arrival of all the new babies. The impala have been lambing and a multitude of zebra, tsessebe and other mammals have also made their first appearance. Perhaps the cutest of all are the baby warthogs; exact miniature replicas of their parents, running behind their mothers with their tails pointed straight up in the air.
Apart from the beauty of the newborn animals, their behavioural aspects are wonderful to watch. Impala young are hidden for a few days while they gather strength as their mothers eat the nutritious summer grasses to produce milk for their offspring. Baby tsessebe are soon on the move, needing little time before they are able to keep up with the herd. The zebra mothers will keep themselves between the baby and the rest of the herd for a couple of days so that they can imprint their unique markings on their offspring.
Our star this month has been our resident leopard that has started to show off a very young but confident cub. Although only a month old, the cub has been unconcerned by vehicles. The highlight of the month was a kill that took place within metres of the Land Rover. Guests were watching the leopard when an unsuspecting impala strolled too close. In an instant she recognised her opportunity and attacked, killing the impala right next to the Land Rover.
After regular sightings of the leopard and her cub, we found hyaena in the area where we had last seen the cats. We also found leopard tracks leading into the bush but no sign of the leopard. We have our fingers crossed that the hyaena have not killed the young cub, which, as competitive animals, they will not hesitate to do.
Although the lion are still keeping their distance from the immediate surrounds of the camp, we have heard regular distant calls during the night. As the main channel drops further we expect that that the lion, particularly the territorial males, will start to cross over to Xigera Island as they mark their expanded territories. We look forward to seeing their tracks announcing their arrival.
Our efforts at investigating the evening roars have resulted in a number of exciting crossings towards Nxabega where we have had good lion sightings, two of which have been on kills. In the first instance, we found two males on a buffalo, which they proceeded to consume for a number of days. A multiple zebra kill took place on the 29 November when guests were lucky enough to come across a pride of five lion that had killed three zebra - a mother, sub-adult and baby. At this stage, the smaller zebra's carcass remains untouched and the hyaena have, surprisingly, not yet made their appearance. The vultures are also being kept at bay by the lion.
The warm weather has also resulted in increased reptile activity. We are seeing lots of harmless and very beautiful spotted bush snakes and we also came across a rather fat young puffadder slithering past the office. It is sad to think that these elusive creatures are so misunderstood and disliked by so many. We therefore really enjoy it when we have the opportunity to show them to guests so that they can form a better understanding of these magnificent animals that play such an important role in nature.
Xigera is one of those camps that is never without its surprises. It is quite evident, from the list of insects, reptiles, birds and animals that we have seen over the past month that Xigera is like opening a lucky packet - you never know what you are going to get. Big and small game excites us and the excitement of being able to get a macro shot of a tiny long reed frog, which grows to about 20mm long, or the splendour of the large cat's-eye emperor moth is difficult to describe. These are the magic moments of the early summer months.
On the birding front, it has been wonderful to see the African Skimmer chicks on the sand banks at Xigera Lagoon. The White-browed Robin-Chat chicks, with their speckled heads and necks are beautiful. It is wonderful to watch the doting mothers scavenging around for food and then feeding their offspring that are already almost adult.
The area in front of our tents is also a birder's paradise. Yellow-billed, Open-billed and Saddle-billed Storks, Egrets, Herons, Pink-backed Pelicans, White-faced Duck, waders and tons of other species are hauling fish, frogs , snails and a host of other species from the water. It is a proverbial feeding frenzy.
The summer bird watching is simply a real all-round treat; the area in front of the camp is also an extremely productive and exciting area for guests with flocks of green pigeons consuming the figs. We have also had superb sightings of Giant Kingfishers and of course many other superb species.
Our prized Pel's Fishing-Owls and African Skimmers continue to be highly sought-after and have been a regular sighting this month.
As we head into the festive season, we would like to pass on our very best wishes to everyone. To all who have visited us this past year, we look forward to seeing you again. And to our new guests, we are waiting to welcome you to this special camp, in one of the most pristine areas on our planet.
Mike and Anne Marchington, Kgabiso Lehare, Stuart Parker, Teko, Ace, Barobi, Luke and Tsono
Chitabe Camp update
- November 2010 Jump
to Chitabe Camp
November is a time of change in the Okavango, and that change certainly comes in spectacular fashion. The skies turn dark, huge anvils of cumulus clouds roll towards the heavens and lightning shows light up the evening skies. A quick shower cools the surrounding land and within minutes a warm, clean light penetrates the already receding clouds.
On 5 November the much anticipated rain finally arrived. The heavens opened driving away the heat and dust from the air and leaving us with 38mm of much-appreciated rain in 20 minutes. The first to take advantage of the rain are the fireball lilies, pushing their fiery red pompom shaped heads through the rain moistened sand. Their striking colour fill the landscape; a huge contrast to the bleached and muted tones of winter.
The first rain showers brought about what can be described as the greatest wildlife spectacle of all time - the flush of termites. To many, this abundance of new life may be considered a nuisance, but to the food chain, it is a time of plenty and definitely an event worth witnessing. Clouds of termites take to the skies with a single goal - find a mate, shed their wings and start a new colony. In doing so, however, they run the gauntlet of survival as frogs, birds, baboons, jackals and almost every protein consumer in the local environment comes out to take advantage of this bountiful feast.
Almost on cue, the summer migrant birds arrive to partake in the festivities. Swarms of kites, eagles and storks circle like vultures waiting for the next flush of termites to erupt. That crisp, clear, golden air that we only get after a good rain is saturated with the calls of summer. The chirping call of the Woodland Kingfisher demarcating his territory and the rasping "zwee-zwer" of the Paradise Flycatchers as they forage in the canopy of trees are synonymous with our summer.
Herds of impala, zebra, tsessebe and giraffe also get into the mood and within a few days they inundate the plains with their newborn. The herds double in size overnight and many hours can be spent sitting watching the spectacular event of a new birth. Within minutes these tiny mammals, who seem to be just ears and spindly legs, take off at a run. This is a necessary survival tactic as all the larger predators prepare to enjoy their early Christmas bounty. Tsessebe babies seem to have the gift of speed. Our guests enjoyed a wild dog chase where a baby tsessebe outran a dog and in the race this baby nearly ran straight between the legs of an elephant. By the time the elephant reacted, the tssessebe was long gone and the elephant's ear-flapping reaction was directed at the hungry dog - a welcome distraction for the young tsessebe.
Talking of feasting during Christmas, one impala baby kill was left untouched after being hauled up a tree by a leopard. In another instance, a half-eaten baby impala, also in a tree, was totally ignored by a lion who climbed the tree. The lion merely took to the tree to mark his territory and left begrudgingly, almost as if to say 'If I catch this leopard, I'm gonna teach him a lesson'.
The two dominant Chitabe male lions may have a fight on their hands to defend their new cubs. Our guides have spotted a coalition of four very tough looking male sub-adults in the concession. They could very well give our Chitabe boys some serious competition. We'll keep you posted on developments.
The Chitabe team would like to extend their warmest greetings to all who visited us at this special time of the year and a notable "thank you" to all the guests that sent back some wonderful wildlife images. Many of these are ideal in assisting us in broadening our predator monitoring identification database.
Enjoy the summer or winter wherever you are, and we wish you all a fantastic festive season and wonderful new year.
Staff in Camp
Management: Tiny, Alice, Tumie, Lieana and Trevor
Guides: Anthony, Luke, Thuso, Barbeton and Gordon
Vumbura Plains Camp update
- November 2010 Jump
to Vumbura Plains Camp
One of the greatest pleasures of living in Botswana's remarkable Okavango Delta is being able to follow the changing seasons and smell the rain in the air in summer.
In a bountiful explosion, the region has burst back to life and winter has retreated taking with it the floodwaters. The once submerged areas are now inundated with vegetation and plant life. Every shade of green is represented along with flashes of reds, pinks and other colours, all tickling the nostrils with their sweet smells.
The recently heavy bellies of the impalas have shrunk - they have dropped their young and each day spindly legs become more confident and over-sized ears twitch more expertly. Once they have full command of their wayward limbs, they begin to form kindergarten groups. In this time of plenty, animals lose themselves in this immense salad bowl. Their sleek flanks fill out and once again become energetic.
Kites, swallows, bee-eaters and swifts endlessly circle above, while immense columns of cumulo-nimbus clouds begin to build up; precursors of the storms and rains we have waited so long for. Throughout October these clouds hovered above us promising so much but giving so little. It was only in early November, when the tension had peaked unbearably, that the land received much awaited precious rain. The first few heavy drops each kick up their own miniature dust cloud, then they begin to fall faster and thicker and rivulets run down sun-baked paths, winding through brittle golden stalks of grass. Craters made by elephant feet fill to become tiny ponds, and the tremulous chorus of frogs pierce the air.
The first rains are greeted by another incredible natural event: the nuptial flight of the termites. Future kings and queens embark on their one and only flight. They wind their way into the air, only to tumble to the ground again and begin the search for a suitably regal mate. Millions of pairs of silky, iridescent wings are shed in drifts as successful couples begin a subterranean romance, burrowing into the newly-soft ground to start new colonies. Very few of them are successful however, many becoming casualties of misleading lights, or the myriad predators who gather to share in this annual bonanza. Mice, jackals, baboons, marabou storks enjoy this feast quite literally falling out of the sky.
Each day now ends in a spectacular sunset. Wonderful tones of pinks, reds and oranges scan the horizon as the sun sinks rapidly behind the earth. The trees, newly-bedecked in foliage, cast unfamiliar shadows and the first bats of the night swish into action.
Inevitably there is a dispersal of game at this time of year as the calcrete pans in the mopane woodland begin to exert their magnetic pull. Out on the floodplains, where the retreating flood has left enriched soils and groundwater to boost new grass growth, the tsessebe venture out with their young along with herds of zebra, wildebeest and the occasional majestic waterbuck.
Waders and probers collect where the floodwater has dried into shrinking pools. Fish realise too late that the receding floodwaters have now become a death trap; or perhaps they cannot grasp the scale of their error. Patient witnesses to slaughter, egrets and herons line the banks of each of these fish traps. Hamerkops ruthlessly exterminate the frogs, and Open-billed Storks perform a strange staccato ballet as they stride through the water, nutcracker bills dispatching the snails. Gaudy Saddle-billed Stalks unfurl immense wings, and everyone seems to shuffle aside to make room for the stately elegance of the Wattled Cranes.
The energy of the bush at this time of year is explosive in terms of the new life and the destructive action of some storms. Lightning forks can ignite the dry grass into boisterous bush fires, which crackle and pop their way across the landscape. However, even the wild fires have a part to play in the rejuvenation of the bush. The next rain shower extinguishes the blaze and the ash left behind provides vital nutrients for new grass growth. One of the most iconic images of a Delta summer is that of antelope gingerly picking their way across a blackened plain, delicately nibbling at fresh green shoots, while summer migrant birds look down on mysterious skeletal fingers of white ash, marking where trees and bushes lay down and died.
As herbivores feed on fresh nutrients and in turn predators feed off the newly born or fattened animals, the circle of life turns - this incredible corner of Africa can only encapsulate your heart.
Little Vumbura Camp update
- November 2010 Jump
to Little Vumbura Camp
We have been blessed by rains this month, although we have not experienced many heavy downfalls. However, according to the "weather man" we are expecting more rain in December. We have been witness to some great storms taking place on the horizon displaying dramatic lightening. Apart from those few days of rain, the weather has been clear and hot. After the first few drops, the grass turned green in some areas.
The Kubu Pride (three adult lioness and two juveniles) is still doing very well and provided us with some great sightings this month. One particularly interesting sighting was finding the pride feeding on a baboon.
The Vumbura/East Pride is also doing well and was seen many times. The pride used to consist of four adult lioness and four juveniles but during this month we have only seen one adult lioness with two juveniles. The Vumbura Pride has had some incredibly successful hunts and we enjoyed watching them in action on numerous occasions. A highlight was watching them spend a couple of days feeding on a sub-adult elephant.
We have had some great sightings of the female leopard Selonyana. On a number of occasions we have seen her hunting and successfully killing tsessebe foals, a wildebeest calf and impala lambs. Our guides also spotted a few unknown, shy leopard this month. Another highlight for this month was a hyaena den near Motsumi Road where we counted seven adults and five cubs which are around four or five months old.
Africa's second most endangered carnivore - wild dog - made its appearance this month. The Golden Pack which consists of eight adults and eight pups and another pack of three adults with seven pups have kept us well entertained. With a lot of newborn impala lambs around, our packs of wild dog are having great feasts. Sadly, the young lambs are easy prey for all. Big male baboons have even been sighted by our guides feeding on these little babies.
The general game was spectacular this month with great sightings of sable antelope, big herds of elephant, zebra and buffalo. Summer has delivered newly-born tsessebe, impala, warthog, zebra and wildebeest. There are also many fish traps around the Delta at the moment: as the floods recede we see an outstanding number of water birds like Marabou Stork, Hamerkop and many more making use of these catchment areas.
Staff in Camp
Management: One and Alex Mazunga, Brett and Roxanne Sinclair
Guides: Rain Robson, Sam Setabosha and Sevara Katsotso
Duba Plains Camp update
- November 2010 Jump
to Duba Plains Camp
Banoka Bush Camp update
- November 2010
Jacana Camp update
- November 2010 Jump
to Jacana Camp
Weather and Landscape
The roller coaster ride of Jacana, the Delta weather, has been up and down. We have seen a combination of strong winds, cloudy and humid days and, of course very hot and still weather. This ever-changing climate makes it tricky when our guests ask the question: "what will the weather be like tomorrow?"
While the cloudy weather has been a pleasant respite from the sizzling hot African sun when on game drives and on boat cruises, we have been given very little warning of sudden gusts of wind blowing a path of destruction through camp. So strong has the wind been that it has even taken down two big trees - one at the boma and one which ended up on an unfortunate staff member's tent. Thank goodness he was not at home at the time.
The long-awaited rains have shown up, but only in small quantities. We have only received 12mm for the month. This is uncharacteristic in comparison to previous years where the rainy season was in full throttle by this time of year.
With the channels getting shallower and drier by the day we have had to close the Jacana jetty and have had to use the Jao Island jetty to launch. Fortunately the floods were big enough this year allowing us to use most boat channels for a while longer than usual. We therefore continue with our wonderful water activities including mokoro rides, boat cruises and fishing in the lagoon.
Once again Jacana has lived up to its reputation as the place to see the rare inhabitants of the Delta, like the sitatunga. We had first time visitors to Africa who, on the way from the airstrip to camp saw a sitatunga; many of us who live on the continent have never seen this rare antelope. This amazing animal was also spotted on three other different excursions.
African wild cat made an appearance on Jao Island, and if you don't think that is rare enough then we will mention that he was seen in broad daylight, uncharacteristically relaxed in the presence of the vehicle. Another rare animal that was seen on the island was a pangolin.
Sighted in the lagoons between the Jao and Jacana camps, was the uncommon Cape clawless otter. This big otter weighs up to 25kg and is an agile swimmer. It was probably trying its luck searching for freshwater crabs, fish, frogs, reptiles, small mammals, ducks and crocodile eggs.
The young male lion has been a popular and frequent sighting for guests. On one occasion he was spotted leaving a trail of dead terrapins as he made his way on the now dried-out Kwetsani floodplains. The mature male was spotted sleeping a number of times and once mating. He is clearly leading the proverbial "dog's life" - eating, sleeping and mating. We also believe that there are lion in the Jacana Camp area, as evidenced by fresh lion tracks that have been found on neighbouring islands while we were on mokoro excursions. We've also heard alarm calls from the likes of lechwe on the floodplains at night and monkeys and baboons on the Island have been alarm calling in the early mornings. What has sealed the deal is the unmistakable lion roar that we have heard on a number of occasions.
Elephant, as always, love Jacana Island. We had a great experience with one of the big elephant bulls while we were having a traditional dinner with our guests around the campfire in the boma. We were aware of the bull in the area and were keeping a close eye on him. All of a sudden he decided to join us for dinner and made for the boma. In haste we moved into the shelter of the dining area and continued eating our meal in true traditional style - standing and using our hands - while watching Africa's largest animal at the fire.
One night we could hear what sounded like a fight between two hippo not far from camp. On inspection the following morning our suspicions were confirmed when we spotted the carcass of a hippo close by, which had attracted plenty of meat-eaters including crocodile and birds. It did not take long for the crocodile to hide this carcass from any other competition.
Two fantastic rarities were spotted at Jacana this month including a Pel's Fishing Owl and a Rosy-throated Longclaw. Even though we have seen the latter on a number of occasions in the last few months they are always a great sighting.
It is almost an understatement to say that Jacana is a birder's paradise. Great sightings out in the open plains in front of camp have include Open-billed Stork, Squacco Heron, Yellow-billed Duck, Slaty Egret, Saddle-billed Stork, African Jacana, Spurwing Geese and African Pygmy Geese.
"Krrr? Krrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr" has been the background sound of Jacana Camp for the past month. The Woodland Kingfishers together with Lilac-breasted Rollers have set up home all over Jacana Island. The lovely kingfishers have been flashing their superb colours and showing off their aerial capabilities with dives on the floodplain catching smaller insects in front of the lounge/dining area. During this time, these two bird species have become territorial and have often been seen chasing each other away, making for great entertainment in camp.
"A unique experience! We enjoyed every drive and boat trip. Thanks very much to all." - Picenoni
"We had a wonderful time in this camp with the visit of the elephant and traditional dinners. Many thanks." - Stach
"Had a wonderful time, really great trip and great to see the elephant at breakfast." - Barry
"Thank you from heart" - Andy & Hess
"Thank you for everything. Beautiful paradise! Very good food and everyone was so friendly." -Brigitte & Victor
"Thank you so much for our last four days in Botswana! We will never forget how you all spoiled us." - Robert & Sylvia
"What a wonderful spot. We really had a fantastic time and can't wait to come back. Thank you for everything!" - Margot & Niclos
Staff in Camp
Camp Managers: Rheinhardt & Mia Schulze
Guides: Timothy Samuel, Joseph Basenyeng & Florence Kagiso
Thanks to Rheinhardt Schulze
update - November 2010 Jump
to Kwetsani Camp
The weather has generally been hot over the last month with most days in the low to middle 30s and the evenings still pleasant at an average of 20 degrees Celsius. We weathered a few wind storms during the month and received very little rain until the last day of November where we picked up about 30mm of the precious liquid. All in all, the climate has been extremely unpredictable this month, which has made it difficult to plan meals and where to have them. We have had to make a run for it on several occasions and make last-minute decisions or even changes during a meal. But we take it in our stride!
Our camp activities are now mainly game drives on the Jao and Kwetsani floodplains. Mokoro trips are still taking place, however we have moved this activity closer to Jao where there is more water. We are also still able to do boat rides out towards Jacana but the end of this season, we fear, is close. We can no longer travel to Hunda Island as the water is too low.
The wildlife has been great over the last month considering that we do not have the use of Hunda Island at this time. Lion have still been very much in evidence and were sighted on several occasions to the north of Kwetsani. The male has been seen mating with both of the females, often one after the other. They have been moving between the floodplains, north of the concession and then to the airstrip right in the south. Broken Nose, a lioness, was sighted towards the end of the month near Cheetah Point and it looked like she may have been lactating.
The elephants have been constant backdrop in camp during the late afternoons and early evenings. Sometimes they have spent the whole night in the area enjoying the fruit of the mangosteen trees. At the beginning of the month, we noticed that the matriarch of the herd that we see around camp regularly was heavily pregnant. She has given birth and we have seen the tiny animal twice.
Game drives have shown off herds of zebra, giraffe and buffalo. It would seem that the more water we are seeing in the concession the more the mammals are able to move around as rich vegetation and water becomes easily accessible throughout. Both impala and wildebeest babies have been seen as well as lechwe. We have also seen warthogs with youngsters in tow.
The birding has been tremendous with up to 20 Wattled Cranes seen on the eastern edge of the Kwetsani and Jao floodplains. A pair of Giant Eagle Owls have been seen around camp, both during the day and night. Glossy Starlings are busy raising their chicks in a hole in an old mangosteen tree outside the office and there is a pair of Woodland Kingfishers around the camp.
The monkeys and baboons have been causing havoc in and around camp and both groups have been fighting over the ever-popular mangosteen fruit.
"The entire trip was fantastic! Excellent food and the accommodation was top quality. Fantastic staff - well worth it." Richard & Irene Paterson - RSA
"Great staff, excellent food, really felt special with unique treatment received being a Honeymoon Couple." Manie & Maritza Nel - RSA
"Impressive sundowners and sunsets. OP was a great guide. Wonderful company of guests and staff. Really enjoyed the trip in the mokoro watching the little details of Botswana go by. The leopard sighting was incredible and of course, the celebration of our 10th wedding anniversary!" Matt & Silvia Lorens - Spain
"This was our first exposure to an African safari. The warmth and hospitality from all the staff was beyond any expectation. OP, our guide, was wonderful and very knowledgeable and had a pleasant personality to boot!Keep up the excellent work." Andrew and Carolyn Bond - USA
"The Pin-tailed Whydah was a first! OP was very special and worked very hard to find a variety of game. We enjoyed every moment. A beautiful camp and very well run. Thank you." Dr. Thomas & Nan Rees - USA
"The wonderful staff, traditional songs, food, guest quarters and common areas were fantastic. The knowledge and passion of the staff and guides was superb and even more so as their command of the English language was perfect!" Samuel & Dana Banks - USA
"Thanks a lot to Michélle, Ian and all the staff for a lovely stay. We loved all of it." Carmen Flujuci - Belguim/Congo
Staff in Camp
Management: Ian and Michélle Burger and Ipeleng Pheto
Guides: OP Kaluluka and Keone Kekgathegile
update - November 2010 Jump
to Jao Camp
Water Levels and Weather
With this year's grand flood moving out swiftly we are making the most of the water we still have around Jao. Our boats are still cruising around the channels and although shallower, the activity is just as pleasant as previously. Mokoro tours across the open Delta are a perfect opportunity to absorb the riverine surroundings.
The skies did threaten us with rumbles and lightning during the month but very little rain fell until the end on 30 November when we had an impressive storm with over 60mm of rainfall. The cool change was welcome; the dust settled, the landscape was refreshed and the sunsets were glorious.
Our island and the area have been bustling with visitors and not only those of the international kind. Bull elephants have really made themselves known, tussling and trumpeting with one another, causing huge commotion. When they are not distracted with their egos, they are enjoying the wild figs that have fallen from the trees. One by one these fruit are delicately pinched from the Delta floor with surprising precision. The breeding herds moving by have brought calmness with them as they move gently through the area.
Buffalo have made a sleepy arrival to the Jao Island. One bull, probably part of a bigger bachelor herd in the area, crept around the camp in the early mornings seeking a place to rest. He did end up choosing the wine cellar and Jao Spa as the most peaceful places and we would have to agree with him. Despite this, the spa ladies, Ollie and Virginia, saved their exotic Intonga massages and African potato wraps for our international visitors.
Our local lions have roamed the area keeping a close watch on the red lechwe on the floodplains. The male has established himself among the mother-daughter duo and has been mating with them. In time, we hope to see some cubs trailing them and building the pride.
Our resident mongooses, who usually use this time of year to explore the wider horizons of the dryer Jao Island, have introduced us to their 25-plus litter. The little scavengers often walk aimlessly about the tall grasses keeping all adults on full alert and very busy shuffling them back to safety. They must be careful of the raptors flying lower and lower but, so far so good; although it's not particularly easy to keep count.
One of our renowned endangered bird species has been seen dancing their courtship parade on the floodplains. The Wattled Cranes have been displaying with spectacular jumps and grass scattering impressing the females and photographers alike. One particular sighting we saw as many as 24 of these remarkable birds.
Fish Eagles, although quite common around this area have been seen in impressive numbers of up to 21 spanning two trees at the same fishing spot. With the low water levels, fishing is limited to certain areas but these particular spots, now fish traps, are any Fish Eagle's dream.
Maribou Stork, Paradise Flycatcher and Rosy-throated Longclaw are some of the other wonderful species around at the moment. The other beauty and one that likes to make his presence known is the Woodland Kingfisher. Their high-pitched shrill is synonymous with the sounds of summer. We see them here every year and they nest in tree crevices where they raise their young.
We had some repeat guests this month and also those who were first timers but would love to return with family and friends. This is an experience people love to share with those they love and we look forward to sharing it with them too.
We have had guests who have been touring Botswana and after a stop in Maun, decided to visit us in paradise.
Birthday, honeymoon and graduation celebrations all took place this month, bringing a fun and lively atmosphere to camp.
Many thanks again to all of our lovely visitors who make our jobs here so much fun. We truly are looking forward to meeting the rest of the world.
'What an amazing camp, staff and wildlife experience - Thank you!' - Shaun
'Four nights of bliss! Thanks for the great service and friendly words.' - Monique
'The dream of an 8 year old boy fulfilled. I will never forget: 2nd November: international leopard day. Thanks to all staff' - Peter
'We have been spoilt by your wonderful staff and the spectacular nature is a bonus! Many thanks.' - Marianne
'This is really paradise. Beautiful! Thanks for the whole JAO TEAM' - Ineke & Henny
'Three nights and three days of simply paradise. See you next October' - Laurence & Alex
Staff in Camp
Management: Chris Barnard, Tara Salmons, Neuman Vasco
Guides: Cedric Samotanzi, Maipaa Tekanyetso, David Mapodise, Kabo Kgopa and OB Morafhe
Spa Therapists: Ollie Olepeng, Virginia Mlotshwa
Executive Chef: Desiree Stephenson
Tubu Tree Camp
update - November 2010 Jump
to Tubu Tree Camp
November saw the beginning of the rainy season. The skies filled with thunder and lightning but we were receiving very little rain which was disappointing considering the commotion of the storms. However on the evening of 29 November, a spectacular lightning storm lit up the skies and the surrounding plains, followed by some deafening claps of thunder, all resulting in a more appropriate 40 mm of rain.
Temperatures this month were very pleasant average lows of 20 degrees Celsius and highs of 32. Some days offered some cloud cover and of course we had the occasional rain which cooled off the land wonderfully.
The start of the rainy season is also the signal of new beginnings. Everywhere you look there are curious and energetic baby impalas exploring their new surroundings and tiny warthogs running around with their little tails in the air.
Grazers have filled up the newly flourishing floodplains; multiple herds of zebra and wildebeest with their young bring the numbers to well over 100. Buffalo numbers have increased due to the now almost receded floodwaters and a couple of small herds have been seen, however a herd of between 50 and 70 was also spotted.
One of the pregnant lionesses from the Jao Pride has disappeared. One day we saw her feeding off a wildebeest kill with the pride and the next day she was gone. We suspect she has moved away to give birth.
Hunda Island, where Tubu Tree is situated, is filled with truly magnificent game. One morning as guests headed towards the southern end of the island in hopes of finding lion they were instead rewarded with a small, rare and exciting creature - a secretive pangolin. As it was on the move guests were able to watch it for about 15 minutes before it disappeared into the thick bush.
The leopard have shown themselves beautifully this month. Some of our guests even had multiple sightings of this elusive cat. One group in particular had a phenomenal amount of sightings. On seven game drives they saw six different leopard and had a total of 12 sightings, while another group saw five leopard in one morning. Sightings included an attempted and failed hunting of a tsessebe and one leopard seen chasing monkeys in a tree. A highlight was a youngster stalking ground hornbill before being distracted by a hippo being chased by an elephant back into the water, another being a female successfully taking down a young zebra but failing to kill the young prey as the family came to its rescue. A wonderful sighting was the Tubu Female with her two one-year-olds eating and drinking together and then lying on the same tree branch together as a family.
Finally, a new chapter has taken place in Keledi's life as she was chased off a kill by her own mother who appears to be lactating; could it be that there are new leopard cubs on Hunda? This begs the questions - what will now happen to Keledi and her sister Kamanyana? The full circle of life seems to be turning!
Not to leave out the small things, the image at the left is that of a musk shrew, an exciting sighting too.
Newborn birds are also on the agenda in the Delta, the three Red-billed Francolins that call Tubu home have had seven chicks between them. They have been actively running around camp and making sure all guests are awake in the mornings. The ostriches have five young with them and we cross fingers in the hope that they will reach adulthood as Tubu is a tough place to grow up with the abundance of hungry leopard around.
Tubu has become home to a new resident; an African Scops Owl which has taken to sleeping in a tree close to our entrance. A single sighting of a Secretarybird caused some excitement; we hope to see more in the near future.
"Wonderful hospitality. Johnny was an informative and great guide. Leopard sightings were fantastic. Once again a memorable few days with Wilderness Safaris. Hope to be back again very soon. Great place to spend a birthday - many thanks for all the spoiling." - Roy & Janet (RSA)
"Jacky and Justin are great hosts, and they do a great job of connecting all the guests in camp. No other camp has done that before and we made great friends. The food was terrific, lots of vegetarian options. Johnny is a fabulous guide who knows just the places to go and he knows his birds too! Bravo - our favourite experience so far!" - Kevin & Lotte (USA)
"Game viewing with Johnny - an incredibly exciting and educational experience! He is a gem. Spectacular landscape, sunsets, sunrises, wilderness and most of all animals, especially the elephant in our path! Most welcoming and warm host and hostess! The food was simply outstanding! Don't change a thing. This camp is intimate, fun and perfect. Sheer paradise! We absolutely loved it!" John & Catherine (USA)
"Seeing 4 different leopard in such a short time was fantastic. To Jacky, Justin and staff - thank you for the superb hospitality and dedication in making our stay enjoyable, fun, wild and peaceful. What a beautiful place." - Kassi, Vivian & Maxime (USA/FRANCE)
Staff in Camp
Management: Justin Stevens & Jacky Collett-Stevens
Guides: Kambango Sinimbo Johnny Mowanji
Special thanks to Peter Daubenbuechel for capturing the pangolin.
Kalahari Plains Camp
update - November 2010 Jump
to Kalahari Plains Camp
The long awaited rains have finally arrived to breathe life into the parched Kalahari Plains. The resurgence of life is a miracle to behold. Giant bullfrogs have emerged from their long dry aestivation periods. Puddles of water ripple with these giant amphibians and the atmosphere of re-awakening permeates everywhere. The grassy plains sprout various varieties of flowering lilies and springbok lambs frolic joyfully amidst this profusion of colour.
In response to this injection of life, predators have emerged to take full advantage of the easy pickings. Lion roars again split the silence of the Kalahari nights as the predators redefine their control of replenished natural water pans and plains re-colonised by gemsbok (oryx)and springbok.
The month has brought exciting and thrilling sightings on a regular basis. A highlight included an epic battle between the Kalahari Plains male pride and two blonde interlopers.
Another was observing a cheetah stalking a herd of springbok only to discover that a leopard was stalking the same herd. When the cats spotted each other they compromised their positions and the springbok were able to make good their escape. Another excellent sighting was of a brown hyaena at the airstrip at sunset. We also discovered a cheetah mother with her three tiny cubs. This beautiful family has become a regular feature of game drives in the area around camp.
On another occasion two vehicles full of guests were treated to the experience of witnessing the Plains Pride killing a gemsbok. An epic struggle took place which aptly brought home the drama and unpredictability of the Kalahari. One thing for sure is that Kalahari Plains is a predator's paradise and at no time is this more apparent than during the rainy season from November through to April.
Other unusual sightings included a hedgehog. These appear in the Kalahari but are not often seen.
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