(Page 2 of
South Africa camps
Pafuri Camp update - November 2010 Jump
to Pafuri Camp
Weather and Landscape
November month has come with its own excitements in Pafuri. We received our first good rains, the dry Limpopo River started to flow once again, the impalas have been lambing, more migratory birds have arrived and we've had more eland sightings.
The temperatures were hot during the month with the highest recorded temperature of 46 degrees Celsius. This prompted plenty of game to come and drink water in the Luvuvhu River. Although the elephants are slowly leaving the area, every now and then we still see a breeding herd coming back to drink and cool off in the Luvuvhu.
With the first good rains, the veld is now covered with a green carpet carpet and most trees are blossoming and full of life. We are waiting for more rains to fill some of the seasonal pans which are still dry.
Mammal sightings were good as usual, although in comparison with the dry season one can notice a change in the numbers we are seeing. Firstly the bush has become thicker once again and therefore animals are harder to spot, and as water and good vegetation is now more widely available the game has spread out. Large herds of buffalo were seen every day however and white rhino has been sighted a few times up in the sandveld.
Other interesting mammals seen were eland, bushpig, common reedbuck, wildebeest, klipspringer, Sharpe's grysbok (pictured above), African wild cat, large-spotted genet, civet, porcupine and sable. There were also a number of bigger cat sightings this month as well.
Probably a highlight for the month were the triplet thick-tailed bushbaby babies and their mother spotted in a tree from a pool lounger at camp. This is already a rare sighting, but to see these animals in the daylight is even more unusual and fantastic for those onlookers as we all know it's difficult to get a real sense of an animal in the dark. Read more here.
Birding is phenomenal at this time of the year as the migratory birds return. To name a few: Woodland and Pygmy Kingfishers, European Rollers, Red-backed Shrikes and a number of different cuckoos.
Some of the Wilderness Creative Team, along with a film crew, visited us this month in order to get footage of the outstanding scenery and game that is on offer at Pafuri. We believe that they had a fantastic time filming and enjoying the camp and we look forward to seeing the fruits of their work.
Pafuri Walking Trail update - November 2010 Jump
to Pafuri Walking Trail
Kings Camp update - November 2010 Jump
to Kings Camp
Rain, Rain, Rain!!! The rain started towards the middle of the month and slowly but surely the bush recovers to its full green splendour.
Game viewing remained spectacular through out and we shared some special moments with our guests.
Rockfig Jr. and Tumbela now spend more time apart from each other, but when Mom makes a larger kill she still collects her 1-year-old cub to join in the feast.
Tumbela has now officially during the month killed a young Impala and two steenbok by herself! I've only witnessed young leopards killing larger pray like this at ages of 15-17 months before. This indicates to me that she could potentially live up to her mother and grandmother's reputations of being super hunters.
On one of the morning drives Cynet found the two of them close to "Rockfig Koppies" looking at two hyenas that had scavenged their kill. They soon left the area and split their ways, Mom to look for food and Tumbela exploring like young cats should. I followed Tumbela and she soon took us to her Steenbok kill that she must have made about two days before. The carcass wasn't open yet and this shows that after she made the kill her mother called her to the one they lost but as leopards do she came back to finish her prize.
Ntombi and her boy were seen on numerous occasions and gave lots of our guests amazing time with leopards. One evening they even showed up for a drink at the waterhole while our guests enjoyed dinner in the dining room.
Xinope-nope, growing into a handsome male was seen frequently on our South and South Eastern traversing. He has made a few successful kills but still has a tendency to locate on his mother's kills and steal them away from her. It is quite common for young males to "overstay their welcome" with the mother for up to 5 or 6 months after independence. He will soon stop this and hopefully spend more time looking for a decent territory to stay in.
The big Argyle male made a few welcome appearances in the North. We saw him on kills on two occasions and this always proves worth its while to visit him. More often than not we witness amazing interactions between him and other predators.
One afternoon drive I went north to go see him on an impala kill. We arrived while it was still quite hot but it soon cooled down. He got active and moved east away from his kill to locate on the foetus of the impala female he had killed. While feeding on this some hyenas showed up and chased him into a tree. Another leopard then showed up. This was a young female called Ixongile. She noticed that the big male was not at his kill and climbed into the tree and started feeding. The Hyenas heard this and moved from the male to the female leopard. This gave him a chance to get out and as soon as she and the Hyenas saw him the hyenas chased him away and Ixongile made a run for it. The next morning I got a report that Kuhanya another female found out about this and also got a bite to eat from the same kill.
Three leopard sightings over two days at the same kill… AMAZING!!!
The Machaton pride provided the bulk of our lion sightings this month.
The three lionesses and all four cubs are looking very good and healthy. The little cubs are so undisturbed by the vehicles and often come up and play right next to us. I had a careful look and we can confirm that it looks like three boys and one little girl.
The Timbavati boys were absent for nearly four weeks, but finally showed up towards the end of the month. I got information on them from people further south and they confirmed the boys were mating with lionesses from one of the southern prides. This all beyond our traversing and the informants say they also spent some time with other lioness and cubs from the same pride.
The Mahlatini coalition spent most of their time up North but gave the eastern area much further south of their range, a surprise visit. This could be due to the fact that the 'Timbavati boys' were absent for such a long time.
After months of speculations the 'Xakubasa' pride finally came back "home". They arrived with a bang killing a buffalo calf up in the North. They slowly came further South after finishing that kill. Once on Jaydee they managed to kill a Zebra followed by a carcass of a buffalo they found close by. Here we witnessed some amazing interaction between them and a clan of roughly 16 hyenas. Once that carcass was consumed they moved a lot closer to the camp. They had a good rest in the afternoon and I noticed some giraffe feeding just on the other side of the Nhlaralumi riverbed… a perfect set up for the evening hunt I thought. The following morning we located the lions in the riverbed with a adult female giraffe kill!! They are extremely successful and it is so good to have them back in the area.
The 'Ross' pride visited briefly at the airstrip, killed a buffalo, finished it in less than 24 hrs and moved back to the Klaserie reserve.
ELEPHANT AND CAPE BUFFALO
Towards the end of the month we saw less activity of elephant herds but we had some large bulls wandering around in bachelor groups.
The 'Super herd' of buffaloes stayed in our traversing for long periods. It's always impressive to see the sheer number when they gather around one of the dams to drink.
It was slightly quieter during the month.
'Mtenge-tenge' spent most of his time further east of our traversing. We think that he is possibly on "Honeymoon" with an oestrus female on a neighbouring property.
The 'Nhlangula' male spends most of his time in the neighbouring Klaserie reserve, but he showed himself numerous times in our Western traversing.
We were blessed by seeing two packs of Wild dogs during the month. One pack consisted of ten dogs and the other of five males. We had quite a few sightings of the larger pack while the pack of five was only seen twice.
Both packs had some interesting interaction with other creatures, but the most exciting was surely the pack of ten chasing and being chased by Egyptian geese. They pack of five kept them occupied by chasing 'Rockfig jr.' and 'Tumbela' around at the Fielmetter trough when they had a kill close by. The leopards were too clever though and teased the dogs from the safety of large trees.
Three young female cheetahs frequent the open areas around "Voëldam" in our Northern traversing. We saw them a few times in October but they visited only once during November.
Thanks for reading the monthly updates!
We will see each other soon.
Morné and the Kings Camp guiding team.
Report written by, Morné Hamlyn
Photography, Morné Hamlyn
Rocktail Beach Camp update - November 2010 Jump
to Rocktail Beach Camp
The summer season has started to settle in along the Maputaland coastline. The days are warm and sunny and in the evenings we've been privy to some dramatic thunderstorms. However, big lightning displays can play havoc with the turtles' nesting habits which could explain the slow pace of the season so far. But we have recorded a number of nesting sites to date and we have high hopes for an absolute cracker of a turtle season as we move forward.
We had a couple of sightings of loggerhead turtles during November, much to the satisfaction of the guests that were on the turtle drive. Leatherback turtles have been a bit slower in making their appearance, however there have been sightings which leave our guests totally awestruck as to the size of these spectacular marine reptiles.
Our guests are making the most of the warm weather. Those who have had the chance to snorkel at Lala Nek have been blown away by the diversity and abundance of the marine species. After an excellent snorkelling experience, the privacy of the pristine beach is a great place to laze around with family and friends and soothe away any stress or strain of everyday life.
Walks through the dune forest have been ever-popular for those who are up and about early in the morning and eager for a stroll. The bird life is plentiful and those who enjoy this activity often remark on the sweet melodies of the birds as they busily call to one another and prepare for another day in this pristine dune ecosystem.
A walk on the beach later in the day as the sun sets over the horizon has left many of our guests mesmerised. All in all, it's the perfect beach holiday - with a few turtles thrown in!
Rocktail Bay Dive Report - November 2010 Jump
to Rocktail Beach Camp
Finally summer is here, bringing with it some great conditions. The water temperature is still a little chilly but warming up, visibility has averaged at a nice 15 metres and above and surface conditions have been really good with only the odd choppy day. It's just going to keep on getting better and better, so get out those fins and come diving!
After some fantastic sightings this month, we have sadly said goodbye to the humpback whales as they head back to Antarctica for the summer. We were given a wonderful farewell by a humpback breaching right near the boat.
As one season comes to an end, another starts! As briefly mentioned last month, the turtle season has begun. Beach Camp guests have been having some great sightings of female loggerhead and leatherbacks nesting while on nightly turtle drives. These turtles truly are an amazing sight and we have been seeing quite a few loggerheads on dives as well. There is still a big male at Gogo's who seems to have taken a liking to the divers. He swims straight through the group and settles himself in amongst them.
A female leatherback of about 1.6 metres with a big pink patch on the back of her head (perhaps old scar tissue) was the first leatherback sighting in early October. She was spotted by Darryl and was seen about 2km offshore. We saw the same leatherback in mid-November close to Hang 10, a reef not too far from the beach. She was recognised by the unique scar tissue on her head.
The other excitement around the corner is the imminent arrival of the ragged tooth sharks. The pregnant ragged tooth sharks come up from Aliwal Shoal, just south of Durban, for "maternity leave". No one really knows what they do up here in the warmer waters. Some people say that the the warm waters help with their gestation period; there are so many unknowns about sharks, and this is just one of them.
Summer time brings lots of frolicking fish and we had a beautiful mating dance display from two yellowtail rock cods on Elusive Reef. They were only five metres away from the divers and seemed oblivious to us watching them. They swam down and rubbed themselves on the sand, swam upwards twirling around each other, then back down to the sand to finally twirl up again.
There are lots of fish eggs in and around the reefs. Most of the anemone fish have laid their eggs just near or below their anemones in order to protect the eggs. Some eggs have already hatched, and we counted seven baby clownfish in one anemone on Pantry Reef. On Aerial Reef, sergeant majors and other damselfish have nested on the ground and in small potholes. As we dive along the reef, wrasse hide behind the divers in order to come close to the damsel nests, at which point they dart out from behind us and eat the eggs. Given this interesting adaptive behaviour, we keep a fair distance from the sergeant major and damselfish nests.
There have been numerous sightings of honeycomb, sharpnose, ribbontail, round and blue spotted rays. Another lovely summer sighting was a leopard shark resting on the bottom at Elusive Reef.
Dolphins have made a few appearances this month, including a wonderful experience of swimming with a pod behind Island Rock. A magical experience was when a mother dolphin brought her tiny baby right up to the boat. We never tire of swimming with these majestic and intelligent animals.
Jellyfish arrived in their hundreds this month. This creates a feeding bonanza for crabs on the beach. When the jellies go down onto the reef, triggerfish and angelfish eat these stingers. This coincides with the female turtles coming in to lay their eggs by providing a ready food source for them as they wait for night; the safest time to lay their eggs. Nature's timing for provision boggles the mind!
The last dive of the month was done on Regal Reef, a shallow reef with an average depth of seven to ten metres. We only get to dive there on calm days and when given the opportunity to do so we are always blessed with a stunning dive. It is called Regal Reef because this is the only reef that we see the regal angelfish also known as royal angelfish. They are smaller than their cousins, the old woman or emperor angelfish, and are bright yellow with blue and white stripes. They are known to be very shy, but always give the divers a nice display. We saw a couple of marble electric rays burying themselves under the sand, powder blue surgeonfish pairing off and dancing mid-water as well as a rare sighting of oriental sweetlips. We also spotted a small green turtle. Towards the end the dive a grey reef shark circled around in a canyon below us before swimming off. All of this on one dive. WOW!
We had some exciting beach action this month too. Clive caught a big leguaan (monitor lizard) of about two metres in length, where we beach the boat. It was a very hot day and obviously it was in search of drinking water. Clive managed to catch it and bring it up to the dive centre were he gave it some water and then released it into the forest. Darryl also spotted one, not quite as big, eating ghost crabs on the beach. Leguaans are master turtle nest robbers and can be quite prolific during the turtle egg laying season.
The following divers have completed the PADI Discover Scuba Diving Course: Morne Fisher, Brigitta Neumann, Steve and Hannah Kohler-Proudman and David and George Grubb
Makalolo Plains update - November 2010 Jump
to Makalolo Plains Camp
With regards to the weather, we've had a mixture of good and bad days this month - good if you're duck; not so good for the less waterproof humans in the concession! We've had some hot days, hot and humid days, wet and warm days, wet and cold days - the latter resulting in campaigning from the staff to have the day off to stay in bed with coffee and a book. The summer rains are settling in as we receive a downpour at least every second day. Although not always a cloudburst, the coolness and cleanliness of the rain is most welcome.
Landscape & Vegetation
The landscape is very beautiful at this time of the year, particularly the open savannah grasslands which are carpeted by green shoots of grass and fireball flowers decorating the termite mounds. The natural pans have already accumulated water from the first rains of the year. Although they are not yet full, they are important life sources for all the wildlife. The rains have drastically changed life for everything in a short period of time; the flowers and the trees are bursting with new life and greenery, the birds are nesting and the antelope are dropping their young.
Plains game such as zebra, impala, warthog, wildebeest and waterbuck are forming big herds in the open areas of the concession and massive numbers of buffalo have congregated in front of camp. The cats, both big and small, have been seen quite a bit this month. Cheetah, serval and African wildcat have been ticked off which is fantastic, while we continue to see lion and leopard regularly. A single lioness took down a wildebeest right in front of camp, and made the shade of an old tree her home for a day or two before dragging the kill off into the bushes near Tent 9. She was seen again later with another lioness with two very young cubs.
Other highlights of the month were an aardwolf catching flying ants in front of camp, bat-eared fox, white rhino and a lone wild dog near camp.
Probability sightings for November:
Aardwolf - 6%. baboon - 84%. bat- eared fox - 3, cape buffalo - 71%, caracal - 13%, cheetah - 10%, duiker - 39%, eland - 19%, elephant - 84%, gemsbok - 3%, small spotted genet - 3%, giraffe - 71%, hippopotamus - 84%, spotted hyaena - 29%, impala - 90%, black-backed jackal - 77%, side-striped jackal - 13%, kudu - 71%, leopard - 10%, lion - 42%, banded mongoose - 6%, slender mongoose - 6%, white-tailed mongoose - 6%, vervet monkey - 10%, striped polecat - 6%, reedbuck - 6%, roan - 6%, sable - 39%, serval - 3%, springhare - 84%, tree squirrel - 23%, steenbok - 84%, warthog - 74%, waterbuck - 90%, white rhino - 6%, African wildcat - 6%, wild dog - 6%,wildebeest - 87%, zebra - 94%
The guests and safari guides recorded a lot of birds both in the woodlands and open savannah areas. These included local residents, intra-African and Palaeo-Arctic migrant species. What is currently wonderful to watch are the Yellow-billed Kites hovering over the waterholes, hunting their favourite snacks - frogs. Their aerial displays can keep one captivated for ages.
With the rainy season settling in, the number of guests coming into camp is decreasing. However, we have had a range of guests from America as well as some Zimbabwean guests. The rain has put some of our special activities to a halt, but a lucky few enjoyed deck dinners and bush picnics.
Building has begun for our new offices and the new dining area is up and running and well-used by those trying to escape the stuffiness of the office on a hot day. Everyone has also enjoyed the experience of being able to sit around a table together during meals.
Staff in Camp
Management: Caro, Jeremy and Tammy
Guides: Godfrey, Bryan, Dickson, Lawrence and Richard (Trainee)
Hostesses: Kate, Cynthia and Tracy
Little Makalolo update - November 2010 Jump
to Little Makalolo
Climate and Temperature
November started with a bang, followed by a few more in the form of thunderstorms and beautiful rains over the course of the month. Mornings were crisp with washed blue skies and a few wisps of cloud which grew fat and fluffy over the course of the day ending in a cloudburst in the early afternoon or evening. Occasionally the rains would clear in time to produce stunning sunset cloud formations. Although the rain cooled the temperature down substantially, the average maximum was still 34 degrees Celsius which seemed warmer due to all the moisture in the air forming humidity. The average minimum was 20 degrees Celsius and the minimum 16.3 was felt when a storm blew in under the cover of night.
Landscape and Vegetation
The change in the Hwange landscape in November was blatant - at the beginning of the month the countryside was bare and brown. Two weeks later the areas around the pans became rolling emerald lawns merging into a thick myriads of green trees and scrub lines. Shoots have sprung up from seemingly inhospitable areas of soil. Trees which looked like they would remain skeletal reminders of the harsh winter suddenly had nodes of bright little shoots and the canopy of new foliage now provides shade for hundreds of delicate little flowering plants including poison apple shrubs, fire-ball lilies and ground creepers. The pans seem to have filled up overnight and the natural waterholes are also soaking up and retaining much needed water. Suddenly Hwange has become a water wonderland - only a hint of what it will look like if the rains continue.
The transformation of the flora with the rains is even more enchanting with the newborn animals seen within this lush backdrop. Impala fawns, perfect little miniatures of their elegant parents were seen in crèches frisking in the green grass. Small fluffy bat-eared foxes and jackal pups were little bundles of energy making for great entertainment for our guests. A site which has previously been used as a den for one of the hyaena clans has seen the arrival of another generation of pups. Three little hyaenas were sighted with one adult playing and chasing each other - even these creatures usually perceived as ghoulish attracted "awws" from the guests who saw them. Three cheetah cubs, a halo of fuzz surrounding their tiny faces were viewed with their mother but only briefly before disappearing into the brush. Some fortunate guests spotted the white rhino and her calf grazing in the open.
The rains seem to have inspired fresh efforts in the big cats to thrill and captivate us - a number of the lion prides within the Wilderness concessions have been seen frequently in November, often attempting a hunt, on a kill or relaxing in a playful mood with their cubs. The leopards have slunk even further into the shadows but one large male obligingly walked down one of the sandy roads one evening and guests stayed with him for a long time. The massive herds of elephant and buffalo have also dwindled as natural pans fill up. On a few occasions a lone bull elephant, one or two being magnificent tuskers, passed through camp.
A few amphibians and reptiles have woken up and emerged from their winter hiding places. Many of the puddles are home to terrapins and guests often spend time scanning these for a glance of them riding the waves created by the vehicles. After the first big storm, little bushveld rain frogs arrived in their droves, these modest, well-rounded creatures inflate indignantly when disturbed and comically waddle away from the assailant. Thousands of termites materialised from mounds working busily whilst the deathly quiet winter nights have given way to a chorus of cicadas and crickets, and the chirping, tinkling and lyrical calls of many other little frogs in the pans and pools of water.
Sightings for November have included:
Elephant, zebra, impala, waterbuck, steenbok, hippo, black-backed jackal, Cape buffalo, wildebeest, common duiker, baboon, giraffe, sable, spring hare, kudu, warthog, lion, tortoise, eland, spotted hyaena, vervet monkey, slender mongoose, cheetah, leopard, bat-eared fox, banded mongoose, side-striped jackal, white rhino, wild dog, striped polecat, roan, porcupine, African wildcat, white-tailed mongoose, tree squirrel, scrub hare, large spotted and small spotted genet.
With the advent of the rainy season the bird life seen in and around Little Makalolo has been phenomenal. The summer migratory birds have delighted guides and guests alike such as the stunning coloured Carmine, Eurasian and Little Bee-eaters and Racket-tailed Rollers.
There was a sighting of a bold and beautifully marked Dusky Lark, an uncommon but welcome visitor to the southern hemisphere. On another drive, a pretty little Pygmy Goose was seen enjoying a choice of ponds after the rains. On the raptor front, it has been exciting with a Eurasian Hobby being sighted as well as a rare visiting Pallid Harrier and a White-headed Vulture.
"The guides were so knowledgeable and answered all our questions well. The food was brilliant and all the staff so friendly". - Jessica & Michaela - Australia
Little Makalolo Team, we thank you very much for a lifetime of memories. The game drives exceeded any expectations we had before we arrived. Never did we realize we would be so close to the animals in their natural habitat. The drives were both exciting and educational. The guides are terrific. You have defined the word 'service'. In fact, you went way beyond 'service', you became family. Thank you so very much for a wonderful time". Mark, Myla, Chelsea and Whitney - Florida USA
"Little Makalolo Team! Thank you for a lifetime experience. Thanks to Lewis for all the information and everybody else for your warmth. Indeed Wilderness Safaris logo came to its truest meaning "Our Journeys Change Lives"! We will meet again soon!" - Carol and Patience - Zambia
Staff in Camp
Charmaine has brought Little Makalolo successfully through another month with the aid of Sibs as assistant manager. The excitement of the first rains was tangible but also meant a change in pace and routine. However Kim, Shayne and the rest of the staff met the rainy season head on. Sibs held the fort on the guiding front with Charles, Lewis and Buli sharing adventures and knowledge. Many thanks to Lawrence from Makalolo Plains who assisted us in November too. Sadly we are saying farewell to Charmaine at the beginning of December, we would like to say a sincere thank you for everything she has brought to this camp over the course of the year and wish her bright new adventures and fulfillment of all her dreams.
Davison's Camp update - November 2010
Temperatures this month have dropped considerably with the onset of the rains. Only a few days reached the unruly temperature of around 44 degrees Celsius, however average temperatures remained between 35 and 37 degrees. We received 49mm of rain in one day towards the end of the month and smaller scattered showers during the month. While the storm clouds made for spectacular sunsets and lightening shows across the horizon, the rain-filled winds that raced across the pan brought temporary chaos to the furniture and decor in the main area. Plenty of puddles are forming on the roads and we are waiting in anticipation of the fun and games the muddy roads will cause later on in the season.
Plants and Flowers
We were welcomed this month by an amazing olfactory change in the wilderness as a variety of wildflowers have opened their petals, filling the air with sweet scents. The beautiful flowers and leaves of fireball lilies, red paintbrushes, camel thorns, lavender crotons and leadwoods are all competing for airspace! Combined with this, the emerald-green grass stretches as far as the eye can see, creating a breathtaking backdrop; an amazing contrast from last month.
The beginning of the month marked a considerable change to the landscape with the onset of the rains. Caught by surprise, we soon saw herds of over 100 wildebeest and zebra congregating on the Linkwasha, Mbiza and Ngamo vleis to feast on the new succulent green grass.
Naturally, this collection of plains game brought the predators to the areas. Lion, cheetah, leopard, wild dog and hyaena have all been seen in high numbers and frequency. Witnessing predator kills has become a regular occurrence on game drives.
Davison's became a regular haunt of two prides during the month and therefore on a number of days we had great sightings of the big cats right in front of camp. A few unsuccessful attempts at buffalo kills were witnessed by a rapt audience from the safety of camp.
Lions stalking, killing and feeding on a zebra and buffalo on two separate occasions created much excitement. Guests also saw a warthog killed by a leopard in a tree; although one leopard has remained a ghostlike visitor at camp on a number of occasions, only leaving remnants of her tell-tale tracks. A cheetah with three cubs were seen drinking from our pan and a number of cheetah kills have been seen too.
A herd of approximately 700 buffalo has also been a regular visitor to our camp, often converging on the pan in the early morning sunrise while we are having breakfast. We have enjoyed sharing our premises with the bulky beasts followed closely by predators which in the hope of getting the opportunity for a kill.
The onslaught of the rains has resulted in a baby boom. Tiny zebra, impala, warthog, jackal and buffalo are roaming our lands. Again, the prolific predators are never far away.
This month, the rains have created a birder's paradise in the Linkwasha Concession. 'I'm so saaaaaad'; 'klee-klee-kleeuu-kleeuu' and 'piet my vrou' belonging to the Black Cuckoo, Jacobin Cuckoo and Red-chested Cuckoo respectively, are a few of the many sounds heard well before sunrise and throughout the day around camp. Yellow-billed Kites are now not the only masters of the air, being joined by vast numbers of Steppe and Walberg's Eagles as well as Steppe Buzzards. Davison's has been completely dominated by the Broad-billed Rollers, who seem to have settled in for the summer. Red-backed and Lesser Grey Shrikes have been seen around the concession.
Rain, heat, humidity, cuckoos, frogs and bugs all indicate the arrival of summer, although it would not be complete without the presence of the swallows. The soft calls of the Red-breasted, Lesser Striped and Barn Swallows to name a few can be heard throughout the day as the birds slice swiftly and elegantly through the air.
Not only does summer bring back the migrants but it also brings courtship rituals to the fore in forms of intense singing, wooing by breeding plumage, frantic nest building, mating and ultimately the begging squawks of chicks wanting food. The Shaft-tailed Whydah has been spotted sporting half of his breeding plumage; no doubt when his transformation is complete, the females will be mesmerised by his striking beauty. The male weavers are hard at work trying to impress the females with their nest architecture. The Kurichane Thrushes are ahead of the game as the females are already sitting on eggs in their neat cup shaped nests. The Crowned Lapwings beat the baby rush by hatching their chicks earlier in the month. Small down-covered balls of fluff on legs frantically try to keep up with their seemingly neurotic mothers. The Ostrich chicks are growing rapidly and have been observed feeding in the Linkwasha vlei, while being carefully guarded by their ever present parents.
Children in the Wilderness
Davison's has been very busy with Children in the Wilderness camps this month. We have all been frantic hosting four camps with children from as far away as Tuli, as well as schoolchildren from our neighbouring villages. It is a fantastic experience sharing our knowledge and wildlife with the children. It is wonderful watching the reaction of the little children seeing their first lion and elephant. We are very privileged to have experienced this programme, and to have had a small part in opening the eyes of the children of our future to the conservation and protection of our most valued resources here in Hwange.
'The staff were wonderful, and went out of their way to make our honeymoon special.' - Canada
Ruckomechi Camp update - November 2010 Jump
to Ruckomechi Camp
Mana Canoe Trail update - November 2010 Jump
to Mana Canoe Trail
Toka Leya Camp update - November 2010 Jump
to Toka Leya Camp
Weather and Landscape
The first month of the green season is one of the most exciting times to observe nature. November initiated the start of our seasonal change influencing so much around us. Exciting new migratory birds keep arriving in camp, trees shoot beautiful new and soft leaves, reptiles leave their retreats and the weather has been pleasantly versatile.
The sweltering heat of October still in the back of our minds, November brought us much cooler weather. Daytime averages hovered around 33 degree Celsius (91 Farenheit) and nighttime temperatures never dropped below a comfortable 19 degrees Celcius (66 Farenheit). Great thunderstorms frequented the late afternoons and early evenings and from the comfort of Toka Leya's riverview bar, we observed fantastic lightning shows over the Zambezi River. However the blue sky and the sun prevailed during most of the month.
The change of season led to the first recorded water level increase of the Zambezi River since June this year. Heavy rains throughout the night of 29 November caused even the small and seasonal rivers - that had been dry for nearly seven months - to flow for the first time again.
When these smaller streams flow, the fresh rainwater which leads into the Zambezi River brings with it all sorts of particles and seeds. Along with this, a hive of activity is created where the rich water mixes with the main river influencing fishing in a positive way. The new flow of food attracts a lot of fish species such as yellow-bellied bream, barbel and tigerfish.
Although fishing has been good throughout November, one late afternoon yielded a special catch. Some fishing enthusiasts tried a spot right next to the rapid that faces Toka Leya's bar. A few casts later a long fight ensued and after a while a massive 3kg tigerfish was pulled out of the water. Considered Africa's equivalent to South America's piranha, they are famous for their ferocity, and one certainly feels that when they strike the hook!
Various animals were spotted in and around camp in November. The group of five rhino visited Toka Leya several times and herds of elephant and buffalo were also seen. Hippo, crocodile, impala, baboon and great numbers of vervet monkeys were seen from within camp during the month.
Although we still had good numbers of elephant around Toka leya, it is at this time of the year that they will start migrating to drier and higher grounds. They tend to head towards Botswana and we usually only see them again in June.
In contrast to the larger mammals, other species are more easily spotted at this time of year. Reptiles such as the African rock python and the olive grass snake have been recorded several times this month. While snakes usually deter people, these two species are fascinating to observe.
Non-venemous and living up to 30 years, rock pythons are the largest of all the snake species in Africa. Although they only measure between 2.5 to 3 metres at Toka Leya, they do grow to as much as 5.5 metres. Most sightings at Toka Leya this month occurred in the reception area where grassland is available right next to water. An interesting fact is that during the incubation period of her eggs the female python remains with her eggs for nearly two to three months, not eating anything during the period and only leaving her nest for an occasional drink.
Toka Leya offers the perfect habitat for the olive grass snake during the green season as it prefers moist savannah next to water. Hunting for lizards, rodents, frogs and even birds, this snake also poses no danger to humans. A beautiful snake to observe, we have been able to spot it twice in November.
The wetter season brings an incredible variety of new birds to the area in a relatively short space of time. The early mornings in the beginning of November were a particularly good time to pick up calls of new intra-African migratory species. Within the space of just two and a half weeks we recorded three stunning beauties from the fascinating Cuckoo family: the stunning green Klaas's Cuckoo, the black and white Jacobin Cuckoo and the elusive Striped or Levaillant's Cuckoo.
The Klaas's Cuckoo is fairly common around camp and has often been spotted hunting for insects such as butterflies or caterpillars. Arriving in the area to breed between late October and January, their breeding practices are particularly interesting. The cuckoos are classified as 'brood parasites'. This means that they lay their eggs in other birds' nests. The host birds, thinking that the egg is their own, incubate the egg and even care for the chick. The cuckoo lays one egg per nest and up to 24 eggs during the breeding season. The Klaas's Cuckoo population in Zambia is doing very well and is one of the few birds that is expanding its distribution range.
Other interesting birds we have seen are the beautiful Broad-billed and Lilac-breasted Rollers and the incredibly colourful European Bee-eater.
As we move further into the rainy season, we look forward to intense green surroundings that has already started to appear. With more rains, new species will be attracted to our area and the landscape will be barely recognisable in comparison with a couple of months ago.
"An absolutely gorgeous place, everything was just perfect. A pity that our stay was less than 24 hours. A big thanks to the whole team." - Switzerland
"Wonderful camp and the staff couldn't be more accommodating. The rhino was a real treat as was the boat cruise. I hope to be back next year." - Ron, USA
"Dedicated and wonderful staff. Our short stay exceeded our expectations. Every day was educational, beautiful and full of adventure. We will recommend this camp as 'a must do to friends and family. One day we may see you again! Many thanks." - USA
Staff in Camp
Managers: Suzanne Scheffer, Bastiaan Rosenkamp and Zoe Namangonze (Trainee Manager)
Guides: Amon Ngoma, Mike Muvishi and Sandy Sakala
Lufupa River Camp update - November 2010 Jump
to Lufupa River Camp
Lufupa Tented Camp update - November 2010 Jump
to Lufupa Tented Camp
Weather and Landscape
It is well known that Zambia, in particular the western region, receives higher rainfall than many other places in Africa. During some years in excess of 1 600mm of rain has been recorded in a four-month period. The rain however, is a welcome break from the dry and dusty months of September and October, as the precipitation brings with it a comfortable drop in daily temperatures.
It takes a matter of days for the rains to transform the landscape from a desiccated, dust-filled habitat to a lush green watery paradise, with flame lilies and giant edible mushrooms emerging through the blanket of dead organic matter littering the floor of the miombo woodlands. The now emerald-green plains are vibrant with colours; amongst them, daisies, vlei ink flowers, commalinas and wild garlic.
A joy to any photographer, the light at this time of year is phenomenal. The rains have washed the air clean and dramatic evening skies fill the photographer's frame with the pastel sunset hues of an artist's palette.
Parched waterholes and other water sources, once abandoned, are flowing with water once again. This means that wildlife is now more widely distributed, and at times perhaps harder to find. Sightings have however been superb.
After a relatively slow start to the month, the Lufupa leopard have become once again a regular sighting on both day and night drives, with more than one sighting a day a common occurrence. Although Lufupa is lucky enough to boast a high success rate of leopard sightings, these particular leopard have remained cautious around vehicles and human activity. In some ways this adds to the charm and wilderness of the Kafue.
However, one sunny morning a young male broke all the rules. Spotted on Robinson's Corner, the curious cat sauntered up to JohnD and Isaac's vehicle and spent some time having a good look at what was inside, underneath and behind the Land Rover. He took his time sniffing the tires and when he was satisfied that this monstrosity was neither edible nor playful, lay down beside the road for the best part of an hour, allowing guests to take some superb photographs.
Wild dog have also been seen on a number of occasions. We have recognised three different packs in recent weeks - the three ugly sisters and their two newly acquired males, a pack of four males and a lucky lady, and a pack of eight comprising a male and female with six pups. To see these creatures, whose very existence balances on a knife edge, successfully breeding is a heartwarming treat and gives one hope.
General game has been good. Antelope roam the landscape in abundance, however one particular exciting moment was a sighting of a yellow-backed duiker early one evening; this is an extremely rare and seldom seen dwarf antelope. We have started to see small groups of buffalo bulls - Dagga Boys - moving into the area with the onset of the rains.
An interesting aspect of the Kafue is its mini-migrations; the multitude of habitats causes seasonal movements of wildlife from one area to another as resources become sparser or more abundant accordingly.
We must not neglect to mention some of the smaller creatures who lull us to sleep with their evening chorus; nights are filled with the trilling sounds of cicadas and crickets, the ponds and river resonate with the bellowing of guttural toads, chirping reed frogs and the klinking of bubbling kassinas. It certainly beats the hum of traffic or a next door neighbour pumping up his stereo...
As December falls upon us, we at Lufupa wish you a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year to follow!
Management & Guides in Camp
Phil J, Solly, Danni, Phin, Evie, Chipasha, Rob, Isaac, Brian and JohnD
Kalamu Lagoon Camp update - November 2010 Jump
to Kalamu Lagoon Camp
A healthy thundercloud build-up has been gracing our skies daily; however very little has materialised from this, except for the occasional shower. The drizzle, while having not done much for the water levels in the lagoons or rivers, has brightened up what was once dead, dry bush. Even the stretch of mopane forest which was looking so sorry for itself has come back to life with colourful buds. The game is still feeling the effects of the previous dry season and there is still little ground cover for grazers. These unfortunate creatures will have to wait for a good downpour before the plains once again become their oasis.
Predators have taken advantage of the weakening grazers, especially the buffalo. Lion have really taken to hunting these great beasts, and have shown their penchant for opportunism here. On a number of occasions we have seen two buffalo hunted and killed at once. They have devoured one, and left the other one untouched or with a small nibble here and there. At this time of year lion clearly do not need to guard every morsel of their kills as they know food is plenty and more importantly easy to catch.
One such slaughtering, an event witnessed by some of our guests who happened to be at the right place at the right time, watched the whole action from start to finish. After they killed the two buffalo, the lion left the carcases and went down to the river to drink. One could say they were too tired to eat from the fight, but these lion were visibly full. They did not touch the meat until the next morning. By the end of the second day, the pride moved on and the party was on for the vultures that had waited patiently for this moment.
Female hyaena have dropped their young and on occasion we have seen adults with their cubs. We had a wonderful sighting of two cubs who became rather curious of our game drive vehicle. The mother tried time and again to lift them off the road and take them back into the bush but the cubs kept coming back to us. The guides had to drive away to give the poor mother a break.
Leopard and wild dog sightings have been on the increase. More and more roan antelope have been seen at the lagoon and on one unfortunate incident a calf got stuck in the mud and clearly attempted to get out but failed. The little antelope finally died and unfortunately when we saw it, she was already dead. A crocodile found it the following day and dragged it away into deep waters.
With temperatures being so high the deck at the main area and the pool have become popular - and the time spent here really pays off, as we had many animal visitors coming to drink or wallow in the shallow waters of our lagoon in front of camp. Elephant, buffalo, kudu, waterbuck have all been seen from the comfort of deck chairs. A great sighting was that of three bushpigs coming to drink at our lagoon early in the morning as we were preparing to go out for the morning safari. Although in some areas these animals are often seen, at Kalamu they are a rare sight.
Most of the migratory birds are now back. One large flock of Abdimn's Storks was seen flying over camp, Woodland Kingfishers are the new morning sounds as well as the Yellow-billed Kites which were also seen flying all over the concession.
Kalamu Star-Bed and Chinengwe Camps
Whether one would like to call this back to basics or roughing it in style, the two camps have definitely given the Kalamu Concession a new meaning of being close to nature. The two have definitely become a product of their own and guests who have managed to spend time at either one or both camps have left with some great memories of a safari experience with a difference.
Message from the Kalamu Team
It has once again been a great season for the camp and concession. We wish you all a great festive season and look forward to yet another good season in the New Year.
"Your second year is going great and we wish you much success. Lovely staff and our guide Luxon was wonderful."
"Amazing animals and wonderful staff! We really enjoyed ourselves. Best dung cake ever. Thank you for the best birthday ever. I will never forget this."
"As your last guests this season enjoy the break from all the hard work. We go with happy memories. Thank you all."
Management and Guides
Petros Guwa - General Manager
Gogo Chisulo Guwa - Camp Manageress
Luxon Situmbeko - Head Guide/Trails Guide
Mwila Zulu - Guide (grade 1)
Simonga Maleya - Trainee Guide
Mambwe Chuulu - Head Chef
Shumba Camp update - November 2010 Jump
to Shumba Camp
The last month in the season has been a cool relief for us at Shumba. After the previous hot and sun-drenched months we have been the grateful recipients of electric storms and cool tranquil days. The plains have begun to sprout lush tufts of grass and we hear the hippo roaring and laughing from their growing mud pools and rivers.
With minimums of 18 degrees Celsius at night and highs of 39 degrees at noon we are getting a wonderful varied '2 seasons in one day' climate.
We have been very lucky this month to spot the sitatunga. This notoriously shy, small, swamp-dwelling antelope has been spotted three times in the papyrus which is due west of Wilderness' other Zambian premier camp, Kapinga Camp.
The Busanga Boys, our cheetah brothers, have been spotted quite close to Shumba Camp. They were sporting some rather full bellies, fresh from a hunt, walking lazily towards Shumba South.
The Busanga Pride has been spending a lot of time in the trees, which is very common for this time of year. A lioness from this pride spent a whole eight hours wedged in the V of a sycamore fig tree. She eventually climbed down gingerly and joined the rest of the pride, all of whom were lazing in the cool grass after the rains. This pride, consisting of two males and four females, are a great hit with our guests and are always up to something exciting or mischievous!
Another fantastic sighting has been a herd of 500 buffalo moving through the plains. On the topic of herds, just outside the tree line we have seen a mix of zebra and wildebeest grazing happily together and both sets of animals with lots of babies standing nervously under their mothers' bellies.
We end our newsletter with a goodbye and we look forward to seeing you next season! All the best for the holidays!
The Shumba Team
'Camp and game viewing wonderful. Exceptional staff!'
'Meeting the big cats (lion, cheetah and wild cat). The harmony between all these species, the space, the quietness is phenomenal. Very healthy and beautiful animals.'
'We loved the traditional dinner in the grass; sightings of the lions and the serval; our last evening; the fantastic view out of the outside shower!'
Staff in Camp
Concession Manager: Gilmor Dickson
General Manager: Daniella Ponter
Camp Managers: Julia Bauer, Mulenga Pwapwa
Trainee Manager: Chipasha Mwamba
Guides: Idos Mulenga, Lexon Munuma
Kapinga Camp update - November 2010 Jump
to Kapinga Camp
Busanga Bush Camp update - November 2010 Jump
to Busanga Bush Camp
Mvuu Camp update - November 2010 Jump
to Mvuu Camp
Last month, we had a very exciting sighting of lion in the area. Due to heavy poaching a number of years ago on these great cats, there are very few left in Malawi. What was extremely encouraging this month were the ongoing sounds of lion roaring, heard from the area the last lion was spotted in. Guides believe that it is the sound of not one but two lion. Hopefully December and the New Year will bring more sightings of Liwonde's lion.
Wilderness Safaris has organised a boat driver's license course for 21 members of staff. All of Mvuu's safari guides, some managers, and other staff members who ferry staff across the Shire River will become qualified boat drivers. The three-week course is designed to provide professional training to enhance the skills and knowledge the boat drivers already have.
Children in the Wilderness Programme
Mvuu Camp hosted 28 children from the villages around Liwonde National Park for the latest Children in the Wilderness camp. The team made it possible for the invited children to arrive at the camp despite the bad conditions of some roads due to the rains. Children from the East Nafyulu Gate had to be escorted in on tractor as the roads were impassable for our vehicles!
Although some of roads were not roadworthy, this did not stop us using other roads and taking the children out on very successful game drives. Other activities included walking safaris, night drives and boat trips. A very special sighting was that of a black rhino just outside camp. Elephant, hippo, hyaena, impala and waterbuck were all in abundance. The guides made sure to also point out birds, trees and flowers. All of this is done to develop the children's love of nature and conservation.
Our aim is send the children home with a better education and attitude towards wildlife and conservation and to get them excited about potential careers in the field as well as become environmental leaders who are inspired to care for their natural heritage.
The children had a chance to mix with and interview those who have made a career in wildlife and in other professions including doctors, nurses, managers, guides, chefs and accountants to name a few. We also encourage the children to go to school and develop their skills.
Before the children left they each left a hand print on the wall at the Kids Playground to mark their visit. All in all, it was a very successful camp and the children had a fabulous time.
Desert Rhino Camp update - November 2010 Jump
to Desert Rhino Camp
Palmwag Lodge update - November 2010 Jump
to Palmwag Lodge
It is sunny, HOT and humid! These three words are the only ones we can use to describe our weather over the last month. We had very little rain (only 3mm) and as a result we have received humid days with clouds hanging to the south and east of the horizon. While they are not producing any more rain for us, they do create a great backdrop for some spectacular sunsets.
Wildlife sightings during the month have been wonderful. The elephant have given us a great show right at the lodge, and even Sebastian who has not been here for almost two years now has returned. Both Sebastian and another bull have graced our lodge surroundings every day in the last month. This happened to coincide with the visit from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism who were using our lodge as a base in order to collar elephant. They will be able to monitor elephant movements and to get a better indication of numbers in certain areas like the Palmwag Concession.
In between all the elephant activity, the leopard (who has two cubs) made a kill close to the generator room and then dragged its prey down past some of the rooms to the river. She was clearly dragging the food all this way in order to feed her cubs who were waiting for her.
We always have the privilege of starting our day with one of the several beautiful sounds of the Bokmakierie. Another frequent visitor is the Mountain Chat who is territorial and always hunts for insects at the pool bar. The Yellow Hornbill duo came down to the restaurant one morning and posed very confidently for us.
Since the beginning of November we have made an injection of changes with regards to our décor and camp. We have increased the outside seating capacity and have put up more shade netting to cover these. The kitchen was moved back to its original position and the restaurant area was spruced up with cushions for a splash of colour.
"Delightful! Loved falling asleep to the sound of elephant munching in the tall grasses around the lodge and the jubilant early morning play of the weavers in the reeds. Friendly staff and very comfortable rooms. A joy!Namaste!" - Julianne & John - Atlanta U.S.A
"What a surprise. An elephant visiting us to eat the plant right next to our door! To have a huge and beautiful animal about 1.5 meters from where we were standing was almost like a dream." - Ian & Sandra
"It was a great stay at Palmwag Lodge. The sleep-out was a great adventure and Stephanus a great guide." -Thomas, Consten & Stefan - Germany
Doro Nawas Camp update - November 2010 Jump
to Doro Nawas Camp
It has been hot and humid with, surprisingly, a little rain. For three days consecutively we received between 20 and 40mm of rain. The days remain hot with temperatures reaching a maximum of 40 degrees Celsius; however we are thankful that the nights still cool down to around 15 degrees. With the little rain we have had, the grass is starting to grow, but we still need a lot more rain for it to grow to its full capacity.
Wildlife and Landscape
There has been an increase of wildlife sightings by quite a substantial 70 - 80% which we can only attribute to the rain. With the grasses starting to turn a more palatable looking green, one can immediately begin seeing a change in the behaviour of animals. Springbok groups of between 50 and 100 have moved from the mountains to the open plains making them much easier to see.
Spotted a few times this month close to Twyfelfontein Airstrip were 13 red hartebeest and a lone giraffe. We are always surprised to see both species as they are hard to find in these parts.
Elephants in both the Rosy and Oscar elephant units have been collared. Together the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and the Namibia Nature Conservation will be monitoring the elephants' movements, which groups they breed with and their behaviour through the year. This also a prevention of poaching as they know where the elephant are for game counts.
Joyful sounds of the Bokmakierie can be heard in the early mornings and late afternoons. The adult Bokmakierie is a 22-23 cm long bird with olive-green upperparts and a black tail with a conspicuous bright yellow. The Bokmakierie has a range of loud whistles and calls, often given in duet, but the most typical is the one that gives this species its name, "bok-bok-mak-kik."
"Thank you very much for your presentation, for the singing and dancing. It was fantastic." - Rene and Chantel
"The singing after dinner and learning about the stars was exceptionally good. Food was the best I've had so far on this trip and all the staff was very friendly and helpful."
"Wonderful staff, superb scenery, elephants. Sleeping outside under the stars and guided tour of the stars. This was a truly great experience and I would recommend it to any of my friends. The staff singing was great!" - John and Wanne
"Many, many thanks for the excellent gluten-free dinner and breakfast! The best in Namibia!" Sandra
Unfortunately Coenie and Danize will be leaving Doro Nawas Camp and we would like to wish them all the very best. Thank you so much for all your help, we have learned so much from you. You will be missed.
Staff in Camp
Management: Coenie van Niekerk, Danize van Niekerk, Agnes Bezuidenhout (Assistant Manager), Morien Aebes (Assistant Manager), Theobald Kamatoto (Assistant Manager)
Guides: Michael Kauari, Ignatius Khamuseb, Richardt Orr (Guide), Pieter Kasaona (Trainee Guide)
Damaraland Camp update - November 2010 Jump
to Damaraland Camp
Skeleton Coast Camp update - November 2010 Jump
to Skeleton Coast Camp
Serra Cafema Camp update - November 2010 Jump
to Serra Cafema Camp
Ongava Tented Camp update - November 2010 Jump
to Ongava Tented Camp
Weather and Landscape
November has again graced us with hot days full of sunshine, while the south-westerly winds have helped cool down the area pleasantly in the evenings. We also received some rain and one could almost see the relief in the fauna, flora - and on our faces. We also witnessed a 'sundog' at Ongava Tented Camp one morning: an atmospheric phenomenon that creates a luminous ring or halo around the sun. These sundogs are formed by plate-shaped hexagonal ice crystals in high, cold cirrus clouds.
The landscape is becoming greener and greener as a result of the rains we have had. Grazing is becoming scarce as the veld is still quite dry, but by managing grazing animals' movements we are able to see to it that animals have enough to eat. We do this by opening and closing different water sources on the reserve which forces these animals to follow after the water and in turn they will find better grazing.
The camp waterhole was busy as always this month with a variety of antelope as well as frequent lion and both black and white rhino visits. Some guests were lucky enough to spot a family of black rhino together - dad, mum and baby - which according to our guides is a rare sighting as usually black rhino do no remain together as a unit.
Other special sightings included Damara dik-dik, spotted hyaena and the ever elusive leopard. Charlie the porcupine also visited our dinner table frequently.
The lion were very active this month giving our guests great sightings. A number of kills happened in and around camp and on many occasions guests didn't even have to leave their tents or the lapa to witness all the lion action.
"Lion and rhino at the waterhole during dinner were fantastic!" - Jannsens & Wenger
"Undoubtedly the lion were our biggest attraction! Our guide Festus was great and the staff was very friendly and chatty. The lion 'cabaret' on the first evening was extraordinary, the staff handled it very well." - Miller and friends
"Our guide was very good and friendly. He clearly was very passionate. Seeing the leopard was extraordinary" - Mark and Roland
"Intense contact with wildlife" - Paolo
Staff in Camp
Managers: Gerda, Silvia, Inge and Corne
Guides: Rio, Festus, Bariar, Leon
Little Ongava update - November 2010 Jump
to Little Ongava Camp
Weather and Landscape
Finally the rain reason is upon us. We received the first few drops in mid-November and since then it has been raining almost every night. Much to the delight of the guests we are receiving soft showers rather than thunder and lightning which would keep them awake at night. While the overcast and rainy weather is keeping the area a little cooler, we are still experiencing muggy days.
As one can only imagine, the rain has brought about huge relief for our wildlife at Little Ongava. This means plenty of food and water and that distances between waterholes and grazing lands shrink substantially. If the rain continues as it has, within a few weeks we will be transformed into a green paradise. Currently only the deciduous trees have green leaves, such as the shepherd's tree, a few species of acacia and the mopane as it has a deep root system to reach the ground water. These are the only source of food for browsing animals during the dry season when most of the trees have shed their leaves.
The rain has also brought with it the emperor moth, also known as the mopane worm. These young moths have been spotted hovering above lights at night. The female adult mopane moth lays its eggs on the leaves of the mopane tree, on which the larvae hatches and the worms feed on. The mopane worm is harvested during the rainy season by the local people and eaten as a scrumptious delicacy - a great source of protein!
Game viewing for this month has been great in both the Ongava Game Reserve and Etosha National Park. During late mornings and late afternoons the waterholes are occupied by various species of game all congregating to quench their thirst. This month there have been sightings of the largest antelope, the eland, to the smallest, the Damara dik-dik; the latter is rare to see on our side of the reserve. Lion, black and white rhino did not disappoint our guests this month as they were seen on a regular basis.
However, what we interpret to be our best sighting this month were three cheetah brothers, spotted in the open plains. The guests had a chance to spend time with these spectacular, lithe cats. We have never seen them so relaxed as they often flee on the sight of a vehicle.
Our floodlit waterhole at the lodge remains famous for game viewing not only at night but also during the day. As one of the best game viewing areas, it is wonderful to sit in the lapa and consume a refreshing drink while the animals literally come to you. During dinner one has a very good chance of seeing lion, black rhino or spotted hyaena coming in for a drink.
Much to the delight of our bird-lovers, the summer visitors are all flocking back. The Southern Masked-Weaver can been seen on a daily basis as they eagerly wait for the emergence of fresh shoots of green grass in order to make their nests in time for the breeding season. Raptors such as the White-backed Vultures have been spotted hovering in thermals in the sky and on carcasses feeding. The elegant Secretarybird, Northern Black Korhaan and the Pale Chanting Goshawk are regular sightings both in Etosha and on our reserve.
Latest news from our neighbouring Etosha National Park is that the elephant are beginning to migrate further to the northern end of the Park; regardless game viewing in Etosha is still wonderful.
A male and a female lion were collared with radio transmitters by the Ongava Reserve Research Centre this month. The main purpose of this exercise is to collect data on lion movement patterns, as there is free movement of lion between the Ongava Reserve and Etosha National Park. The centre does extensive research on rhino and lion on the reserve; Ongava has a custodianship programmed with the government and any information collected on black rhino is sent to them.
"Namibia, a country of fabulous contrasts! Each part we saw was wonderful. Super accommodation, great food and fine staff. Franco - a gem. He knows so much and sees so much. We were lucky to have him and Florensia"
"We were overwhelmed by the friendliness of the people and their professionalism. Mike was an extraordinary guide. We also very much enjoyed the fantastic views. Adding to that is the enormous privacy of little Ongava. It was the right choice. We will be back."
Managers and Guides
Camp manager: Florensia Mutrifa
Relief Manager: Michael Kaeding
Camp Guide: Franco Murao
Relief guide: Michael Haidongo
Ongava Lodge update - November 2010 Jump
to Ongava Lodge
The daytime temperatures are increasing every day as we move further into the summer season. Warm clothes are no longer a real necessity except in the early mornings and late evenings. We can all breathe a sigh of relief as our first rains have finally come. Although our rains usually start in mid-September we have only seen the first of them now in November.
Wildlife and Landscape
As the landscape becomes greener, the views are becoming more splendid and colourful. Our game viewing has been wonderful this month. Mid-afternoons are the best times to see large herds of elephant as they splash and wallow in mud at several waterholes in Etosha. The lodge waterhole still remains popular especially with nocturnal activities. The black rhino and lion are frequent visitors of our waterhole. The hide overlooking the waterhole, a stone's throw away, is hugely popular. Here you get to view these endangered animals up close and personal.
With over 350 species of birds in Ongava and around Etosha, of which many are summer migrants, this is the time to be in northern Namibia if you're a bird lover. During this period, large flocks of different species gather around the waterholes and the lodge itself. Green-winged Pytilia, Acacia Pied Barbet, Lilac-breasted Roller, Abdim's Stork and Black Stork, African Hoopoe and Violet-eared Waxbill, Southern Masked-Weaver and lots more show off their beautiful colours and calls at this time of year. The more colourful ones, usually the males, are showcasing themselves to attract the females.
News from the Ongava Research Centre
A young male lion was collared, the purpose being to monitor the movements of lion on Ongava Reserve.
Jack from the Environmental Department came to Ongava Lodge with a student Hilma Leng. The student will be doing some research on the impact of the tourism industry on the Ongava environment, following the footsteps of Elton the "dassie monitor" who completed an excellent research project on rock dassies. Dr Ken from the research centre and Stuart, our reserve manager, will assist her with the information she will need in order to make this possible.
Staff in Camp
Adriano, Agnes, George and Jason
Teacher, Mike, Willem, Henock, Kapona, Abraham
Andersson's Camp update - November 2010 Jump
to Andersson's Camp
Little Kulala Camp update - November 2010 Jump
to Little Kulala Camp
The first few drops of rain fell on our thirsty desert this month. Although we received very little rain in the camp surrounds, we had a few days of overcast weather and opportunities for great photographs. Sunrises were particularly amazing with the sun peeking over the mountains, thrusting its luminous body through the clouds. Temperatures are too hot to contemplate at the moment; 47 degrees Celcius was measure one afternoon in the full sun.
Due to the heat and dry land, wildlife is fairly scarce on the reserve at the moment. They tend to congregate around water points and under the few trees that are around. Jason, our assistant manager, photographed a Spotted Eagle Owl early one morning in the riverbed as it flew away.
Willem, one of the guides, and his guests spotted a white lady spider in the dunes one morning. It is amazing how the little spider can disappear into the sand as soon as it feels threatened, leaving a small circle in its path.
"The best staff you can find anywhere. Friendly open-minded, very clever and with good humour. Thank you all! We had in Agnes an extraordinary guide, smart and friendly. She really made our stay a memorable one."
"Wonderful scenery, wonderful cabin, wonderful staff."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Daphne and Igna
Assistant managers: Corrie, Jason
Guides: Richard, Agnes, Theresa, Raymond, Willem, Elaine
Kulala Desert Lodge update - November 2010 Jump
to Kulala Desert Lodge
We've had our first rains! This was certainly well received with some of our staff dancing up and down and the management team enjoying the cool veranda. Kulala Desert Lodge looks out onto the Naukluft National Park border and it seems that the rain concentrated more on the dunes, turning them into a dark maroon colour, than on our reserve. One of the guides reported there was even a river running in front of Dune 45. When the rain let up, the clouds played over the dunes, leaving us awed by the colours this created.
The animals are very thin and emaciated, in their desperation for rain they are keeping to the small area around the river for nourishment.
We've had a couple of special sightings this month with an aardwolf seen near the road from the lodge to the airstrip. This caused great excitement. Another unexpected visitor, arriving with no booking or voucher, perched itself on one of the cross poles in the roof of the restaurant. The genet was obviously not impressed by the dinner buffet and after posing for a few photos, he disappeared into the night.
Ramona and Daphne came to visit the southern Namibia camps to discuss some HR matters and have meetings at the lodges. Serious and work-driven during the day, they certainly showed us how to let our hair down in the evening.
Our veggie garden has literally been growing stronger and stronger by the day. We have been using spinach, carrots, baby marrows, tomatoes, celery and beetroot from the garden at some of our meals. Philip is doing a very good job by always keeping an eye on what is going on the garden and has now also planted potatoes. The herb garden is also looking beautiful. What a feeling to be able to tell our guests that the veggies come straight from our own garden!
Our photo shows that Kulala's veggie garden can turn even a Herero into a vegetarian!
"A beautiful aesthetic place with a very kind and attentive staff"
"All the team is fantastic and warm. We can feel a good working atmosphere resulting in an excellent customer experience"
Staff in Camp
Managers: Dawie and Christa
Assistant managers: Phillip, Violet, Kobus
Guides: Angula, Albert, Petrus, Willem
Kulala Wilderness Camp update - November 2010 Jump
to Kulala Wilderness Camp
On 8 November, 8mm of rain fell in the area around the camp. Some of our guests, being from Europe, didn't understand the excitement of our staff. When we explained that the last rain that we'd had was in February and that 8mm was the total sum of the previous rainy season, then our excitement was appreciated, especially since we received this amount in one go!
Despite the very dry conditions, it seems our oryx population is fairly busy. There are a lot of young on the reserve and relatively big herds can be seen in and around the camp.
Our waterhole still attracts the usual suspects - springbok, oryx, jackal and hyaena. However, what has been a highlight this month was a ferocious battle and eventual kill right on our veranda during dinner one evening. It seems that the two Bibron's geckos didn't want to share the insect that was drawn toward one of the lights and the bigger of the two managed to grab the other one by the throat proclaiming his superiority!
"We loved the game drives with our guide, the welcoming after every drive and the friendly staff and style of the camp."
"The dunes, the canyon, the vineyard are all amazing. Rest and relaxation in superb surroundings."
Staff in Camp
Assistant managers: Dios, Petronella
Guides: Dawid, Richard, Moses
Governors' Camp update - November 2010 Jump
to Governors' Camp
The early part of the month was very dry as the rains came a little later than expected and the only grass of any substance in the immediate vicinity was around the Marsh. This was where the elephant families were spending most of their time. As the grass in many places has been eaten down to stubble length the elephants have taken to getting most of their nutrition from trees. This is obvious in their dung (which is very dark due to the high tannin level in trees - their dung is usually light in colour when they eat lots of grass) and the state of some of the trees in the area. Elephants are not tidy eaters! Our Masai walking guide is very upset about this as the giraffes' food source is being disturbed. Giraffes are highly revered by the Masai!
Despite the lack of rain early in the month, there are still many zebra and wildebeest around. River crossings were still being seen at the end of the month. We think that their extended stay is due to good rains earlier in the year.
Photos courtesy of Dawn Stuart
Towards the middle of the month we had good, consistent rain bringing a profusion of green growth. Suddenly everything seemed pregnant, with zebra fit to burst and lots of animal mothers walking with difficulty due to the extra weight they were carrying. First the topi calves arrived, skittering around and eventually taking off at full speed in all four directions of the compass at once. Then came the impala. It was a sad part of reality for guests to watch two black-backed jackals taking a three day old impala kid one morning. In the walking area two giraffe calves were born in quick succession, both of their feathery sets of horns proclaiming their innocence. At the moment the Mara seems like a nursery!
Photos courtesy of Daryl Black and Philip Mcllelan
The five males of the Marsh Pride of lions are still finding easy pickings between Lake Nakuru and Rhino Ridge while the three sisters were seen mating with two males near Ol Duruki. The Paradise Pride has been spending most of their time near the Serena Crossing taking advantage of the late traffic of wildebeest and zebra in the area. Notch, five other males, six females and ten cubs of eleven months old were all seen together in this area on a wildebeest kill near the end of the month. Interestingly, there has been a major take-over of the Acacia Pride (in the walking area). Two big males (possibly who followed the migration) fought off the three original males and sadly killed eleven of the prides' cubs. These are two of the biggest lions we have ever seen!
Photos courtesy of Samuel Kiplangat and Sue Lawless
Rhino sightings have been really good over the last two months, with one rhino being seen almost once a week. A big male was visible for about an hour around the Little Governors Marsh in the middle of the month and there was another sighted between Il Moran and Governors Camp towards the end of the month.
The resident female leopard of our area was seen regularly this month. In the walking area there is a particular favourite tree that a big male leopard likes to use. It is exciting to think that when guests are having breakfast in the walking area, they are very possibly no more than 300m from a slumbering leopard!
The female cheetah and her cub, in very close proximity to the three brothers, were seen around our airstrip recently. Maybe we'll have some more small cubs soon!
All in all the Mara is "greening up" beautifully. There is a profusion of youngsters, fresh grass for them to eat and, on the harsher side of life, a huge amount of food for the predators to eat. Many of the Eurasian migrants have returned, making birding a pleasure. The ever cycling seasons are revolving as they should and we are continuing to show our guests the wonders of the wild.
We hope to share the magic of our corner of the Mara with you sometime soon.
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge update - November 2010
to Page 1