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AFRICAN SAFARI NEWS

October 2010

(Page 1 of 2)

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

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


GENERAL UPDATES
AIR BOTSWANA

We would like to advise that there have been occasions where Air Botswana has left luggage behind in Maun and luggage has thus not accompanied the guests on their flight. The aircraft type being used on the Maun/Johannesburg route and the high temperatures that are experienced at this time of year do not allow sufficient capacity for the weight of both passengers and luggage. The luggage left behind in Maun is sent on a later flight which may cause delays of up to a couple of days. We recommend that essentials such as basic toiletries, change of underwear/clothing and medication are packed in guests' hand luggage.

WILDERNESS FLYING POLICY

Please find below the updated weight and dimensions policy for Wilderness charter flights. It is critical that these parameters are adhered to by all our partners world-wide due to safety requirements and to prevent guests from being inconvenienced whilst travelling with Wilderness Safaris.

We will have no flexibility within the luggage policy and will be strictly implementing this as detailed below:
* 20kgs (44lbs) luggage per person in a soft bag (i.e. no wheels/frame/rigid structures), inclusive of hand luggage and camera equipment for all regions except Malawi where the luggage weight restriction is only 12kgs (26lbs).
*  Dimensions are 25cm (10 inches) wide x 30cm (12 inches) high and 62cm (24 inches) long in SOFT BAGS ONLY - no wheels/frame/rigid structures.
*  Private / Sole Use Charter weight allowances may vary and are dependant on distances travelled and guests travelling. This will be quoted on a case-by-case basis.
*  The bag dimensions are based on what is able to fit into the aircraft luggage pods which are restricted.
*  A collapsible wheeled luggage frame/trolley (separate to the bag) is allowed, as long as basic dimensions are similar to that of the bag.
* 100kgs (220lbs) personal body weight, per person.
The main priority is safety and aviation regulations (we have strict measures in place to ensure weight allowances are not exceeded) and practicality– the physical limitations of the aircraft we use…the size and type, including the size of the luggage pod and seats.

If a guest requires additional space/weight:
· Additional baggage - an additional seat must be purchased per sector. This additional bag will be placed on the seat in the aircraft, strapped in with the belt and must be no larger than 40 x 40 x 80 cms (16 x 16 x 31 inches) and must not weigh more than 20kgs (44lbs).
· Passengers exceeding weight restriction - an additional seat must be purchased per sector.

If the above parameters are not adhered to, please ensure that your guests are aware of the following:
* Incorrectly sized/weighted baggage will not be allowed and they will need to purchase/borrow a soft bag and re-pack their bags at the point of entry. Any costs of storing/repatriating their original bags will be at their cost.
* If they decide to continue with the excess baggage, they will need to purchase an additional seat as per the abovementioned policy. This is however subject to availability and may cause delays in being reunited with the luggage. Booking a private charter is an option, subject to availability and at an additional charge.
* Passengers over the weight restrictions will need to purchase an additional seat. Booking a private charter is an option, subject to availability and at an additional charge.
* All additional costs for the above will have to be settled directly with Sefofane, or alternatively these costs can be added to the extras bill at the first Wilderness/SAC camp on the guests' itinerary.
Non adherence to these policies will cause inconvenience and delays to our guests which we need to avoid. Please ensure that all are made aware of these policies and the impact it could have on their safari.


Conservation News
Wilderness Head Office gets Greener
At the Johannesburg office, the IT department is scaling down the number of physical servers currently being used from 32 to three by means of virtualisation - a concept that allows multiple software virtual servers to be installed onto fewer physical servers. What all this means is that there is an 88% reduction in the total number physical servers used - which in turn saves energy and drops our carbon footprint significantly. We therefore will be reducing our CO2 emissions by 155.02 metric tons per year - in other words, the same amount of emissions as that produced by 16.7 homes a year, and the equivalent of removing 28.4 cars from the road or planting 371.3 trees!


Top

WILDLIFE NEWS
Young Male Lions Go for a Swim
Location: Xigera Camp, Okavango Delta, Botswana
Date: 10/10/2010
Observer and Photographer: Victor Horatius

It is well known that cats do not much care for water. Sometimes however, even cats must immerse themselves and swim no matter how unwillingly.

Lions at Xigera    Lions at Xigera    Lions at Xigera

If you are a cat and you want to live around Xigera Camp, then unfortunately you are not always going to have the luxury of a dry island to hunt and sleep on. The other day, three young males decided to brave the water between two islands. It took them forever to make the decision however. They walked gingerly along the channel edge, shaking their paws out every time they stepped in the water. Guides and guests found it hilarious.

Lions swimming    Lions swimming

Eventually however, they realised they were going to have to swim for it. One by one they sank into the two-metre deep channel.

Lions (and most other big cats) are surprisingly good swimmers and in no time at all, they were swimming strongly across the channel for the other side - albeit with looks of distaste on their faces.



First elephant sighting for Chelinda Lodge
Location: Chelinda Lodge, Nyika Plateau, Malawi
Date: 10 October 2010
Observer: Sam Chiwayu

I have seen thousands of elephants in my career but today's sighting was the best so far. They were my first sightings of these gentle giants on the Nyika Plateau. I always knew they were in the area - I have often seen tracks, droppings and other signs - but I finally saw a herd today while having a drink on game drive at Sangule Kopje to the south-west of the camp.

There were 12 individuals in herd with at least three adult cows. They were feeding well below us so we walked cautiously down the hill for a better view but the elephants soon disappeared noiselessly. A few moments later I spotted two individuals feeding in the reeds below. As I was pointing them out to the guests, the rest of the herd appeared further up the slope. They ran down towards their companions in the reeds.

This spectacular sighting was the guests' first in the wild and it left us all chattering excitedly to each other.

The night before the appearance of the elephants, we saw a leopard with two cubs. Initially we spotted one cub in the road. She disappeared into the bush when we approached her so we investigated the bracken where she had hidden and eventually spotted the little cat and her sibling - two leopard cubs! They were both quickly enveloped by the vegetation so we drove further on down the road hoping to catch another glimpse. About 400 metres later, we turned around and there, on the road behind us were the two cubs and their mother. We had a wonderful view of them for some time before they eventually headed off the road and into the undergrowth.

Another leopard highlight was a sighting on a walk the other day. The spotted cat froze when he saw us. He crouched down and then melted into the bush.



Pula learns a hard lesson
Location: Mombo Camp, Okavango Delta
Date: 17 October 2010
Observer and Photographer: Brooks Kamanakao

Chiefs Island certainly provides prolific game viewing opportunities. Recently, Mombo Camp guide, Brooks Kamanakao, was watching female leopard Pula (Legadima's daughter) take down a male impala out on a morning drive.

Pula taking down an impala    Pula taking down an impala    Impala escaping

After Pula had managed to subdue partially suffocate the impala, a troop of chacma baboons spotted her. The males of the troop came charging in toward her, and she had to take evasive action. The baboons then lost interest in her once she was out of sight, but a spotted hyaena then arrived to see what all the fuss and noise was about. The hyaena didn't spot the impala, and seeing nothing of interest, walked off into the bush again.

Roughly ten minutes later, the impala took a huge gasp, sat up, and looked around groggily. Seconds later, it was on its feet and rapidly disappearing into the distance!

Baboons are often seen in association with impala herds, with the two species often foraging together due to the added benefit of more ears and eyes to keep a look out for predators. Baboon troops also regularly have sentinels in the trees keeping a watchful eye over the surroundings. In this case, the baboons certainly saved this impala's life...



Quarterly Wildlife Update: July to September 2010
North Island - September 2010
19 Oct 2010

North Island had a relatively good year for green turtle nesting this year, following a poor one in 2009. This pattern of years - with substantially higher numbers of green turtle emergences alternating with one or two years of lower nesting activity documented at North Island over the past 12 years - appears typical of green turtle nesting throughout Seychelles and even in other parts of the world, according to Dr. Jeanne Mortimer.

Green turtle nesting

The fact that green turtle nesting activity varies so much from one year to another highlights the need for continued long-term monitoring of the population. The North Island green turtle nesting population appears to be increasing thanks to careful protection provided by North Island management. But on average only a handful of females nest annually; so the long-term survival of this terribly vulnerable green turtle population is unlikely without continued vigilance to protect the turtles and their nesting habitat.

Coinciding with heavy rains, the giant tortoises have been seen digging, although no actual egg laying was witnessed or new small ones spotted. Large numbers of tortoises moved from the plateau to the forest to feed on fruits, mainly golden apples, during the prolonged dry spell in July and August, as per their yearly habit.

Our big male, Brutus, was found toppled on his side as a result of a fight with the second largest male (see photo left). After a short period of observing his unsuccessful desperate attempts to get back on his feet, accompanied with loud whimpering sounds audibly reflecting his discomfort, we came to his rescue. He subsequently had some audible respiration problems for a short while, but recovered and seemed to be breathing normally afterwards.

Two confirmed nest sites of White-tailed Tropicbirds have been monitored since 2006, and were found to be regularly re-visited by breeding birds in the past years. The reuse of one nest was confirmed once again when a new chick was seen end July.

Seychelles Blue pigeons were spotted breeding again and the subsequent occurrence of immature birds confirmed their breeding success. All these are continued good signs of the positive 'after-effects' of the rat eradication in 2005.

We have also become used to the foraging visits of Seychelles Sunbirds at the environment office area: the flowering Cordia trees are constantly filled with them! Three Seychelles Kestrels were seen in September and at least one kestrel was regularly seen or heard; a hopeful improvement after several years of spotting only one pair at irregular intervals.

-Linda Vanherck-



Opportunistic Python near Savuti Camp
Location:Banoka Bush Camp
Date: 20 October 2010

Banoka Bush Camp, on the Khwai Concession has been enjoying some incredible wildlife sightings in the past few weeks since its opening.

Some of the highlights have included a pride of seven lion regularly seen around camp, although the one lioness in this pride seems to be nursing an injured front leg. This group of lion has also been seen on various kills on many occasions too.

Birds    Elephant    Wild dogs

Two large male lion have also been sighted on game drives along the Khwai River. A pack of 14 African wild dogs is also a regular sight at the moment and was last sighted on an fresh impala kill. This pack looks very healthy and we hope they will stay in the area now that the pups are more mobile.

Other exciting encounters by guests on drives have included sable, two leopard (male and female) and a large herd of Cape buffalo.

General game enjoyed on this diverse concession include southern giraffe, common waterbuck, red lechwe, spotted hyaena, common reedbuck and impala. This area is also outstanding for birding and even more so as we move into the summer months and the glut of migratory species that are now present.



An Old Friend Comes to Mombo for Breakfast
Location: Mombo Camp, Okavango, Botswana
Observer and Photographer: Ryan Green
Date: 12 October 2010

Today's picnic lunch at Hippo Hide had a special visitor. Apart from the herds of elephant coming down to drink from the channel in front of us, Stompie, a huge old bull, decided to join us - literally. First he lumbered through the woodland and out into the open towards the channel for a drink, then he tucked into a sycamore fig branch. His appetiser complete, he lumbered over to inspect the picnic kitchen where Steve had his chocolate pancakes ready for dessert. A wild date palm there held his attention, and he ours, for the duration of the picnic.

Stompie the elephant

Immediately, as everybody climbed into the vehicles to head back to camp, off went Stompie as well, leading some of us to wonder whether he really had just come over to have some company! He used to be a regular visitor to Mombo Camp, but we haven't seen him for quite a while. It was great to see the old boy again.



Wild Dog, Jackal... and now an Aardwolf at Mombo
Location: Mombo, Okavango, Botswana
Observers: Tshepo Pala, Ryan Green
Date and Time: 20 October 2010, 17h00.

The story of the lone wild dog is a fascinating one in its own right, but a recent sighting of her has gone even further.

We have become used to seeing the dog with her two black-backed jackal companions and the occasional spotted hyaena, which is extraordinary in its own right. Recently, we spotted her resting in the shade late one afternoon, the jackals right next to her. As the temperature dropped to a more bearable level, a scuffling sound from a nearby burrow revealed another creature emerging for the evening - another jackal, perhaps? Closer inspection revealed the dog-like creature to be an aardwolf!

All in the family

This shy and rare creature is in the hyaena family, but lives almost entirely on insects, so it is not likely to join the meat-eating wild dog's "pack", but what an incredible experience to see these three distantly related species in such close and comfortable company.

Photo by Tshepo Phala.



Legadima seen at Mombo Camp
26 Oct 2010
Location: Mombo Camp, Mombo Concession, Botswana Date: 23 October 2010
Observer and Photographer: Ryan Green

Female leopard Legadima decided to visit Mombo Camp for a few days in late October, spending most of her time between Tents 1 and 3. In this time she made three kills - as far as we could deduce from tell-tale evidence: two piles of feathers from what appeared to be that of Spur-winged Goose, and what looked like a steenbok, the remnants of which she hid under a date palm thicket near the walkway to the management accommodation.

All guests in Mombo Camp at the time enjoyed daytime sightings of her as she moved around, although we all had to be much more careful at night with no guests walking around unescorted as is standard practice! During one evening she was even seen in a large sausage tree right outside Tent 2!

Legadima and warthog Legadima at camp Picture time

Her arch-enemies, a troop of chacma baboons, made an appearance once, and she swiftly disappeared into thick brush until they had moved off. The 'camp' warthog had an eyeballing session with her once too, which was fascinating to watch - the warthog spotted her first, and as she looked up at him from about 15 metres away, both animals sized each other up before Legadima lazily flicked her tail and went back to sleep. Obviously a full-grown male warthog in the heat of the day would be far too much effort to pursue, especially considering she still had a recently caught steenbok still to consume under a bush close by...

She eventually left Mombo Camp in the dusky twilight of the fourth day, heading north, in the direction of the centre of her territory.



Banded Mongooses attack Python at Vumbura Plains
Location: Vumbura Plains, Kwedi Concession, Botswana.
Date: 18 October 2010
Observers: Simon Dures, Lopang Rampeba
Photographer: Simon Dures

The chirping sound of a band of mongooses is unmistakable. It was this sound - the sound of approximately ten individuals - that attracted Lopang Rampeba, one of the managers at Vumbura Plains, towards Room 1 of South Camp. Under the boardwalk, the mongooses were huddled in a semicircle chirping away at a large African rock python. Every so often one would pluck up enough courage to dash in to attack by biting the reptile before retreating to a safe distance.
As the mongooses plucked up even more courage, they would dash in as a team and mob the snake, which appeared exhausted and seemed to have given up, barely even trying to strike out at his attackers. After watching for ten minutes one particular mongoose appeared determined to drag the snake away. Clasping the tail - the safe end - it would drag and drag, stretching the tail until the moment it could pull no more when it would spring back spectacularly, much to the amusement of all of the observers.

Mongooses attack python    Mongooses attack python

After a further five minutes they gave up. One by one they trotted off, presumably to find easier, more manageable prey items such as their normal diet of beetles and other insects. The python, still alive, just lay still. After half an hour of recovery time it slithered off quietly to nurse its wounds of little more than a few puncture marks.

The band of mongooses is seen daily patrolling the boardwalks of Vumbura Plains but rarely is it seen trying to overwhelm such large prey.
This mongoose species forms the largest groups and is highly gregarious. These mobbing attacks of banded mongoose can be so intimidating that even large predators are easily deterred. The pack probably perceived the snake as potentially dangerous and thus decided to deter it collectively rather than seeing it as a source of food.



Leopard seen - in Mokoro - at Tubu Tree!
Location: Tubu Tree Camp, Jao Concession, Botswana.
Date: 28 October 2010
Observer: Grant Atkinson
Photographer: Grant Atkinson

On a trip to Tubu Tree Camp, situated in the west of the Okavango Delta, we had a most interesting encounter with a young male leopard. The alarm snorts of impala and zebra close to camp indicated the possible presence of a predator, so we followed up on it. What we eventually found was a leopard, moving along slowly, clearly more intent in exploring his new surroundings than in us. This particular leopard is one of two cubs from an adult female known as the Mopane Ridge Female seen around Tubu Tree Camp at the moment. It seemed that his mother was not in attendance though, perhaps out hunting, and he had been left behind to stay safe and out of possible harm.

It was a very pleasant, overcast afternoon, and the mild temperature had likely encouraged the young cat to begin moving a bit earlier in the day than would normally be expected.

Leopard investigating Canoe    Leopard in canoe

During perhaps half-an-hour's wanderings, the young cat had shown strong interest in some far-off red lechwe, and a flock of White-faced Ducks. He was walking along the water's edge, and this brought him right up to one of the camp mekoro.

He approached the mokoro very cautiously, and then reached out a paw to touch it. Next moment, he slipped inside and walked the length of the canoe, stopping at the far end, which was just on the edge of the water. After a good, long look around, he decided that he wasn't going to proceed any further, and he turned around, and jumped out.

We followed him for a little longer, and left him resting in some tall grass, keeping a close eye on some distant blue wildebeest, and waiting for his mother to return.



Migration Routes - October 2010
On a wonderful southbound Migration Route that has just come to an end we had some incredible experiences and surrounded ourselves with the sounds, sights and wildlife of Botswana.

The trip started with a boat cruise on the Chobe River where we saw great numbers of elephant as they came to drink and cool their large bodies off in the water. Some even crossed over to an island called Sedudu which is the only place where they can still find lush grass at this time of year.

Elephants in the Chobe River    Sables out and about    Hyaena sighting on the way to Linyanti

Next we jumped into our vehicle and took a drive along the river banks. We spotted fantastic bird species and saw beautiful roan and sable antelope before coming across a male lion that had been feeding on a dead elephant. By the way he looked, his stomach protruding, and the way he was acting, one could see that he was very full. But he wasn't going to move out of the direct hot sunlight in case the carcass fell into any scavengers hands, such as the circling vulture. To our surprise, as we headed onwards, we saw two more dead elephant along the river. We speculate as to whether the heat has become too intense and the distances the great beasts have to cover too great in order to feed and drink.

On the way to the Linyanti we had some outstanding sightings of hyaena, giraffe and elephant. However, our three nights in the concession proved to be even more fulfilling with a sighting of a male lion, three lioness and a cub feeding on a giraffe. Something which was very unusual about the scene was that one of the females did not belong to this pride. It turns out that this older female was left by her pride after much 'cat' fighting.

Lion with his catch    Lion and cub

We also spent a lot of time watching a leopard unsuccessfully stalking bush squirrel. Roan and sable were also out and about and we got a couple of sightings of them too.

Our next camp, which was in the Khwai Concession further south, produced great wild dog and lion sightings. General game was in abundance too and one afternoon we sat and watched a herd of about 200 buffalo until sunset. We were all terribly stirred by the movements, sounds and smells of this massive group of animals.

Finally we made our way to the incredible Okavango Delta where we glided through the lilies on mekoro and even swam some of the waters. We spent a lot of time with relaxed bull elephant on our game filled drives.



Chelinda Camp - October 2010
"Leopard Diaries of Chelinda"

In five days Chelinda recorded 12 leopard sightings.

20/10/10
Just after sundowners, Whyte and his party set off from Dembo Bridge and only a few hundred metres down the road they found a female leopard strolling onto the road. She stopped on the middle of the road, looked at the vehicle and, clearly unperturbed by our presence, started playing with the bracken fern in the road. She played until a large male appeared and greeted her. They both then set off into the forest.

21/10/10
On game drive with some guests in the afternoon we come across a lone female leopard on the main road close to the campsite.

23/10/10
Andrew, a staff member, took his family out on a game drive while they were visiting from the UK. At about 10am they saw a leopard crossing in front of their car and saw another one two hours later around the Chelinda Bridge area.

Danger, our guide, led an evening drive and spotted one female at the airfield.

Leopard at Chelinda

24/10/10
Andrew, with his family, saw another two leopard along the plantation loop on the back of the Chelinda Camp.

25/10/10
An early morning drive, in order to drop off some tour operators at the airfield, proved to be most successful. Halfway along the way we spotted a hyaena in the bracken fern and some alarm calls of reedbuck. We stopped to watch the hyaena and moments later a male leopard popped his head up out of the fern and started moving away. Suddenly a female leopard appeared, as did another hyaena. They all looked at us and then turned and watched each other for a while. We suspect the leopard had killed in the night and the hyaena had come to scavenge on the feast. We watched them for over 10 minutes and then proceeded.

On the way back, in the same spot, were two leopard cubs playing in the bracken while the mother crossed the road and went into the pine plantation.

Finally and notably, a pair of Wattled Crane were seen along Juniper road on Saturday.



Carmine Bee-eater colony gets unwelcome visitor
Location: Ruckomechi Camp, Mana Pools, Zimababwe
Date: 08 October 2010
Observer: Stephen Rimer
Photographer: Stephen Rimer

Whilst on a recent safari to Zimababwe, our group spent three incredible nights at Ruckomechi Camp on the Zambezi River.

October is a spectacular month to visit, with the wildlife concentration along the river probably at its peak. We enjoyed numerous female elephants and their young ones continuously parading through camp in the most relaxed manner. The nutritious pods of the winter thorn trees also acted as special attraction for these gentle giants, one of their favoured food sources at this time of year.

This time of the year is also well known for the beautiful crimson, scarlet and blue colours and liquid 'prrp' calls of the Southern Carmine Bee-eaters that dazzle visitors as they go about nesting in the riverbanks of the Zambezi River.

Southern Carmine Bee-eaters nesting along riverbanks    Lizard inspecting the nests

They seem to favour locating their nest colonies near fallen trees that are in the water close to the bank - excellent perches for these beautiful birds as they take frequent rests from their incessant "on the wing" insect catching forays.

Mid-morning or later afternoons were the best times to observe these flying kaleidoscopes of colour, possibly also coinciding with the most insect activity. Their daily routine of feeding includes repeated visits to their nests which comprise hundreds of holes dug into the vertical sandy riverbank. They continuously fly in and out to tend to their ravenous young, hidden from the burning African sun. They also often skim the water's surface to quench their thirst before flying back to their perches or nest.

Lizard inspecting nest holes along riverbank    Southern Carmine Bee-eaters nesting along riverbanks

Sometimes unwanted visitors come by to inspect these colonies though, like the wily Nile monitors that are always opportunistic. On one specific visit to a bee-eater colony, one such lizard was seen making an organised and methodical inspection of the rows of nests, prodding, sniffing and scratching at the nest entrances. The lizard would inspect and re-inspect many of these nest holes along the riverbank.

At times, his entire body and tail would even disappear into the nest holes of the bee-eaters. The birds would bombard this reptile but to no avail as monitor went about his business of raiding the nests. The mere fact that its entire body and tail disappeared from view made us realise just how deep these nest tunnels are. These slightly declined burrows can be anything from 1.5 to 2 metres long! The lizard would then back all the way out and enter the next nest, repeating this same performance over and over again - presumably after eggs or hatchlings.



Mombo's Maned Lioness Seen
Sighting: Mombo's maned lioness update
Location: Mombo Camp, Mombo Concession, Botswana
Date: 28 October 2010
Observer & Photographer: Russel Friedman

While visiting Mombo Camp recently, we were excited to catch sight of the very unusual lioness (pictured below) - unusual in that she has a mane. She is currently being seen around the Mombo Concession and Mombo Camp and forms part of the Western Pride - a pride that at one point had two maned lionesses. The other female has disappeared; this one has not been seen to conceive or give birth and is probably unable to. She is large in body size and sports a mane size equivalent to that of a four-year-old male lion! She is also the dominant lioness in the pride.

Maned lioness at Mambo Camp    Maned lioness at Mambo Camp

It is possible that members of this pride (Western Pride) is in fact descended from the well-known maned lioness named Martina who was a regular fixture in lion viewing at Mombo Camp in the 1990s. This is not confirmed however.

More on the history of Mombo's maned lionesses and Martina can be read here.



Lion with Vegetarian Tendencies at DumaTau?
Location: DumaTau Camp, Linyanti Concession, Botswana.
Date: 28 October 2010
Observer: Mocks and Juliet Lemon
Photographer: Juliet Lemon

On a recent game drive from DumaTau Camp in northern Botswana we come across the Savuti Pride of lions, which consists of two sub-adult males, both approximately two years old, and an adult female which is their mother.

Whilst watching the pride, one of the young males started chewing on an acacia thorn tree branch.

Young lion chewing on an acacia branch

Young lions are inquisitive by nature and have been observed playing with and chewing many things such as fallen branches, twigs, tortoise shells and even elephant dung. Lions of all ages have also on occasion seen eating grass thought to be ingested as an aid to help settle upset stomachs.

What made this sighting particularly unusual is that it is uncommon to see a lion chewing on a branch covered in thorns. As the photograph clearly shows, the youngster was clearly finding a mouth full of thorns distinctly unappetising!



Mombo and Little Mombo Best in Africa Again
Wilderness Safaris is thrilled that Mombo and Little Mombo were once again voted the Number 1 Resort in Africa in the 2010 Condé Nast Traveler (USA) Readers’ Choice Awards. The overall ranking of 98.4 also placed the camp in third place (tied) in the Top 100 for the world – the list described by Condé Nast as being those with “sky-high scores and planet-wide choices.” Last year, Mombo and Little Mombo ranked 10th on this list.

Aside from Mombo’s chart-topping achievement, a number of other Wilderness Safaris camps were prominent in the Top Resorts in Africa: Other camps in Botswana that were rated highly by readers of the magazine were the Okavango camps of Jao Camp (at eighth place) and Vumbura Plains, and the Linyanti camps of DumaTau and Savuti. Namibian camps that featured in Top African Resorts included the Kulala and Ongava camps at Sossusvlei and Etosha respectively.

Destinations were rated on the following criteria: Activities/facilities, food/dining, location, overall design, rooms, and service – all of which Mombo performed almost perfectly according to the readers of Condé Nast! As the magazine states: "Africa at its finest, this camp on the edge of a floodplain has a perfect-scoring location so exquisite, a movie set couldn't replicate it."

We are both humbled and thrilled that so many of our camps are rated as highly by the readers of Condé Nast.


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CAMP UPDATES
BOTSWANA
Fishing Opportunities in the Okavango Delta

Although over 80 fish species occur in the Okavango Delta, the species most sought after by recreational fishermen include tigerfish, nembwe with various other tilapia (bream) species and African pike. In the winter months fishing is not that productive due to cooler conditions. The summer months (Sept-April), when waters are warmer, offer far better fishing opportunities with the peak being October and November. A new fishing law prohibits fishing in Botswana in January and February for fish breeding purposes.

Catch and release is practised at all Wilderness Safaris and Safari Adventure Company camps. Whilst none of our camps in Botswana are sold as 'fishing camps' per se, we are able to offer this as an activity at the following camps: Banoka Bush Camp, Xigera, Jacana, Jao, Kwetsani, Tubu Tree, Little Vumbura, Vumbura Plains, Seba, Abu, Selinda, Zarafa, Savuti, Kings Pool and DumaTau. Only a basic supply of equipment is offered, so avid fishermen are welcome to bring their own equipment along.

Botswana Camps

Update on 'Sleep-Outs' in the Linyanti Concession
Kings Pool and Duma Tau: Sleep-outs are no longer offered at the Kings Pool sunken hide but are possible at the DumaTau hides, on a stay of 3 nights or longer. The DumaTau hides are elevated platforms, equipped with bed rolls, mosquito nets and long-drop toilet.

Savuti Camp: Sleep-outs are possible at the Savuti hides for guests staying 3 nights or more. Two of the Savuti hides are elevated platforms and the third is a sunken hide - all are equipped with bed rolls, mosquito nets and long-drop toilet.

Family Room at Banoka Bush Camp
The family suite at Banoka Bush Camp consists of two separate canvas tents on elevated platforms. Both rooms have separate entrances and their own bathrooms, with the children's tent being a little smaller.

Since the camp's opening, wildlife sightings have been excellent, including: pack of 14 African wild dogs with pups, herd of approximately 1 000 buffalo, leopard chasing and catching a squirrel, pride of seven lion feeding on a young buffalo carcass, common waterbuck in camp, elephant and general game. The camp also recently ran its first cultural village trip for enthusiastic guests.


NAMIBIA
Quad-biking on Kulala Wilderness Reserve
We now offer an eco-sensitive guided quad-biking activity on the Kulala Wilderness Reserve (Kulala Desert Lodge and Kulala Wilderness Camp) which allows guests to take in the unique fauna, flora and epic scenery of the reserve from a very different perspective.

These bikes can be easily shifted between camps to accommodate bigger groups and guests from Little Kulala will be able to make use of them too, on request.


SOUTH AFRICA
Rocktail Beach Camp
The scheduled camp activity rates for 2011 have been reduced by 40% - making it even more affordable for our guests to enjoy outings to locales in the area, such as snorkelling at the picturesque Lala Nek and Lake Sibaya - the largest freshwater lake in South Africa.

Road transfers are now also available between Richard's Bay and Rocktail Beach Camp. This is based on a minimum of two guests and a maximum of six. These happen in an air-conditioned vehicle (Hyundai H1 Microbus) and bottled water is provided. The duration is about 230km one way (approximately 3 hours).


ZAMBIA
The River Club - Great Value For 2011!
River Club's peak season rates have been reduced to be the same as the shoulder season, resulting in the same rate for the entire 2011. When booking guests at Wilderness Safaris' Premier Camps in Zambia, remember to ask you consultant to request The River Club's prestigious Livingstone and Rhodes suites. These lovely suites, with their expansive decks, private plunge pool and private garden, are sure to enhance any itinerary. There is no suite supplement charged!


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Seychelles
North Island Update - October 2010              Jump to North Island

Weather
With the official end of the south east monsoon season we look forward to the interval of mesmerisingly calm seas before the ensuing north-easterly winds once more begin to blow for the duration of the summer (although with particularly less aggression). The seas finally started to settle down towards the middle of October and eventually became calm at the very end of the month.

During this transition between the seasons it is not uncommon to have days of perfectly calm seas as the wind remains undecided which direction to blow next. We treasure these days when the seas resemble the surface of a frozen lake with only a whisper of a breeze detected on the surface of the water, and even the tip of a dorsal of a dolphin can be spotted before it breaks the surface.

The ocean's visibility has also been slowly improving throughout the month, especially on Twin Anchors which had been quite cloudy at the beginning of the month. Interestingly, during the transition of the seasons, the currents around the islands can be quite unpredictable and do not follow the general rules of the winds, making for some interesting dives.

Wildlife Sightings
Our ever-elusive lemon sharks have returned and have repeatedly been spotted swimming casually up and down the shoreline just behind the wave break on main beach. These juveniles remain in the shallows for some time before returning to the depths where they are not to be seen again. Lemon sharks can grow to as much as three metres in length but we tend to only spot juveniles close to shore.

October has been a fantastic month with regard to turtle sightings. Up to seven turtles have been spotted on several dives and snorkelling trips. There has also been as much activity on the surface as there has been underwater and boat riders have also been fortunate enough to spot turtles on almost every trip. Almost all the turtles spotted have been hawksbill turtles except for a few exciting sightings of green turtles - including a pair of the latter mating at the surface. A very inquisitive turtle has been recorded off Petti Anse repeatedly throughout the month. Perhaps this is 'Fred', a turtle we named in 2007 after he repeatedly swam up to divers and snorkellers to investigate them.

Again, scores of juvenile spotted eagle rays have been seen in the bay in front of the restaurant. While this is not unusual during this time of year we have also spotted numerous sub-adults on and around the outer reefs off west beach which is quite unusual. On one particular snorkelling trip at Aquarium, a large school of eagle rays swam inches from our guests at the surface of the water.

A large school of enormous bumphead parrotfish were spotted on Twin Anchors towards the end of the month. While these graceful creatures have been spotted here, from time to time, they have never before been seen in these numbers. These large fish are normally lethargic in their movements, however they can sometimes engage in short spurts of energy as they dart from place to place. This behaviour is probably more likely to be expected from dominant males and it has a lot of snorkellers feeling a little uneasy and heading back to the boats - a very exciting experience to say the least.

Last, but not least, a timid school of four adult dolphins were spotted just off North East Point toward the middle of the month. Unfortunately soon after arriving, the dolphins quickly disappeared.

Reef Monitoring
Our reef monitoring project is coming along successfully. Karin and Tom are conducting their thesis on the effect coral bleaching has and is having on the shallow coral reefs around the Inner Islands of the Seychelles. While the criteria for the trial reefs included reefs that were no more than approximately four to five metres deep, we managed to convince them that Sprat City and Coral Gardens (on average 11 metres deep) should also be included in their research due to the unique nature of the reefs, as well as the fish and coral diversity found here.

Because of these depths, less time is spent on these reefs at one period due to the restrictions of decompression time. Nonetheless, three transects were completed on Sprat City and a further two on Coral Gardens. While we have made our own informal recordings of the state of the reefs over the last few years, it will be interesting to compare our findings and recordings with those of Karin and Tom. Similarly it will also be very interesting to compare the state of the North Island reefs with those that have been monitored on the other Inner Islands. The project will be run over three years, allowing for a substantial amount of time to make some definite deductions from the data. We will continue our own informal recordings on several small sections of the reefs to keep a track of the small scale changes that take place from season to season.

Camp News
An extremely productive, informative and challenging meeting was held on 15 October with the entire dive team. Linda Vanherck and Sheena Talma were our guest speakers. The idea was to highlight our marine environmental initiatives and ideals as reinforced by the environment department. The information was extremely well received and emphasised some sensitive topics such as fishing and what can be fished, if anything. This allowed for further exploration into Wilderness Safaris' ideals and conservation initiatives which we should be adapting for our own marine environment. The general idea was to instil a sense of ownership and pride in the underwater world, specifically focused on the waters of the Seychelles. We also covered topics such as sustainability, public awareness and certain species degradation.

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

No report this month.

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DumaTau Camp update - October 2010               Jump to DumaTau Camp

Wildlife Sightings
October has been a very good month in terms of wildlife sightings. The leopard population is thriving in the Linyanti, possibly due to the small population of lion in the area. The numbers of unknown leopard in the concession is on the rise, and one sighting of two females fighting for territory took place mid-month on the south bank of the Zibalianja Lagoon. Unfortunately one female leopard death was recorded next to Osprey Lagoon; the cause still unknown.

Impala    Leopard resting

The Savuti lioness and two sub-adult males are still doing well and covering a wide range of territory. They have been seen between Bottle Neck Bridge and the Dish Pan area, attracted by the good population of breeding herds of buffalo around the open floodplains of these locations. The two males are becoming stronger by the day. Their hunting techniques on big game such as buffalo and zebra have impressed us. During the month they were seen hunting and bringing down a fully-grown buffalo by themselves while their mother escaped up a tree. At least two sightings of a zebra kill were also recorded. The male lion are now showing maturity as they have started chasing their mother from small kills and they are defending their carcasses from hyaena packs quite successfully.

The two wild dog packs are still in good condition. We have seen some separation of the LTC Pack in the past three weeks due to them losing each other on a hunt. To date seven adults and four puppies have become separated from four adults. The Zib Pack is still intact with nine adults and six puppies and they are keeping themselves well fed on pregnant impala who are battling to run fast as their bellies swell.

Wild dog pack    Elephant at the camp

The elephant population in camp has increased. With dry season in progress, the camp vegetation and habitat seems to be the answer to elephantine troubles as they cool off in the shade and feed on our nutritious trees and bushes.

Staff in Camp
Management: Kago (KG), Gabbi, Mia, Abbie and Gideon
Guides: Lazarus, Ron, Lazi, Mocks and Bobby

Photographs
Thanks to Kago (KG) and Gabbi

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Savuti Camp update - October 2010               Jump to Savuti Camp

A quick breeze blows off the Savute Channel which has a momentary cooling effect on the surrounding area. The last remaining rays of sunshine beats down on the dry and sandy road ahead and all is still except for the periodic movement of water when the hippos in the Savute Channel break the surface for air. In the far distance dust is being flung into the sky like smoke from a small fire; a very small heartbeat-like thud can be heard in the background.

The dust haze gets bigger and bigger and the thudding slowly gets louder and stronger until it reaches a point where it can be felt underfoot and the dust becomes a dark cloud blocking out the late afternoon light. Suddenly, the bush above the Savute Channel gets torn apart by a wall of solid beasts pushing through the vegetation as one unit towards the water below - the buffalo are here, and they are here in massive numbers!

Weather and Landscape
Summer is definitely here at Savuti as daytime temperatures climb into the low 40s (Celsius). Dark and ominous rainclouds have filled the afternoon sky on the odd occasion, but rain has still not come and the shallow, inland seasonal pans are completely dry forcing all game to come down to the Channel for water. In light of this, game viewing along the Channel is amazing and guests don't have to drive far from camp to see large herds of buffalo, zebra, wildebeest and elephant; obviously with predators taking full advantage of this situation.

Wildlife Sightings
Wild dogs have been a big highlight this month and guests at Savuti Camp have witnessed all three packs throughout the month. All three have had pups and guests have had a great time watching the young dogs learn and study behaviours from their parents. Sadly, at the end of the month, guests witnessed lions destroying three of six pups belonging to the Zib Pack, but as is our policy and the Wilderness philosophy, we do not interfere with the complex workings of this natural system.

Lion, leopard and cheetahs have been seen regularly this month, usually just behind the big herds of plains-game and antelope that come through to the lush green, grassy banks of the Savute Channel to eat and drink. As if in line, hyaena are always lurking just behind the cats, eagerly waiting to snatch a snack off the predators. This will often lead to battles between the hyaena and cats or simply amongst the hyaenas themselves.

Another great sighting this month has been the roan antelope; guests out on game drive have bumped into roan regularly and some of the females' stomachs are looking rather swollen, so we hope to see them drop their young just after the first rains.

Guests visiting Savuti Camp in November can expect some big afternoon thunder showers which will cool the air to more agreeable temperatures and should provide for some dramatic sunsets.

Staff in Camp
Managers - Cheri Marshall, Anna Butterfield, Kemmonye Wright and Warren Baty
Guides - Tebogo 'Tank' Mogale , Kane Motswana and Lets Kamogelo

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Zarafa Camp update - October 2010               Jump to Zarafa Camp

Weather and Landscape
October has had absolutely no problem living up to its title of "hottest month of the year". But Zarafa Camp is a paradise shaded from the heat by a huge African ebony tree; add a frosty gin and tonic and a seat facing out towards the cool waters of the Zibadianja Lagoon where wildlife drink and play and life couldn't be much better.

With the heightened temperatures there is no doubt that the first rains are not far off, and indeed we have heard of some localised rains within Botswana. The buzzing of cicada beetles is intensifying and everything and everyone in the Selinda Reserve appears to be holding their breath in anticipation of rains. They are especially welcome this year in order to wipe out evidence of the big bush fires which have swept across our concession, fueled by the heat, winds and dry land. Fire, however, is crucial to the natural cycle of wilderness areas and, come the rains, these areas will all be rejuvenated and teeming with life.

Wildlife Sightings
As usual, the animals of Zarafa have not let us down. With woodland pans drying up, many animals have been forced down to the shady tree line and fresh waters of our game drive areas. Camp has also been wonderfully productive, with a steady supply of elephants moving through to drink and play in the lagoon. At this time of the year elephants are at their highest concentrations along the water and so sightings of these magnificent beasts have been especially frequent and rewarding.

Zarafa remains on the boundary zone of two wild dog pack territories and the month has brought sightings of both the 14 strong Savuti Pack and 15 strong Selinda Pack. The Selinda Pack has been particularly prevalent, killing impala in camp on three different occasions. One was killed right next to the water and the commotion caught the attention of the local lagoon crocodile, who slid into the fray and stole the kill off the dogs, all of this visible from camp's main deck!

Wild dogs

There have been five different leopard sightings in the area, and in particular regular viewings of a female and her cub as they are frequently close to the camp. One morning she had killed a baby tsessebe not far away from camp and guests observing them were treated to a surprise when wild dog arrived and chased both her and her cub up a tree.

On the subject of spotted cats, cheetah sightings have been uncommon in October. However, one group of guests were treated to a particularly interesting sighting of a leopard chasing a pair of young cheetah brothers.

Lions continue to be relatively scarce around Zarafa Camp itself but a longer morning drive or day trip to the northern parts of our concession will frequently yield sightings of these powerful cats. One of the lionesses has some very young cubs which are very special to see.

We will wait for the rains and hopefully next month the news will come from a wet Zarafa Camp!

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Selinda Camp update - October 2010               Jump to Selinda Camp

Weather
Where is the rain? This is the question on everyone's lips at this time of year in the Linyanti. Evidence of the scorching heat can be found just by looking at the vegetation around us, however while the majority of it is brown and brittle some of the trees are in full spring bloom such as the acacias, the rain trees and the moporota (sausage trees). Signs of summer can be seen at the bird bath at camp as we notice an increase of bird species attending to themselves. These include migratory European Bee-eaters, seasonal African Paradise Flycatcher and vocal Black-headed Oriole.

As the rain hasn't made its appearance and the bush is so dry, a bush fire swept through the concession with ease, consuming vast stretches of savannah grasslands. Those who have benefited from this are the Yellow-billed Kites and Bee-eaters as they flock to feast on the mass of insects flushed out by the heat and flames. However, if the rains come soon, sweet grass will sprout attracting antelope and our blackened concession will turn into a lush green paradise.

Selinda Canoe Trails Update
As October comes to a close, so does our canoe season. The guides and crew have taken a well-deserved break after a long, busy season. The water in the Selinda spillway is still flowing amazingly, but for how long we are not sure. However, before the close of season there were certain areas of the trip where guests and crew alike had to drag their canoes. The final trip ended on a high as guests saw herds of buffalo, wild dog and an abundance of bird life. Our very competent chef, Dollar, who has delivered exceptional food on these trails will be moving to our premier Zarafa Camp next season. He will be sorely missed on the Canoe Trails.

Wild dog pack   Little friend   Elephant

Wildlife Sightings
Predators have been exceedingly active this month. There seems to be a shifting presence of either lion or wild dog on a week-by-week basis. For a few days we see the Selinda lion pride in the northern part of the Reserve and then they seem to vanish overnight giving other predators access to the area, such as the wild dog and even the three cheetah brothers, which we have also seen occasionally.

The Selinda Pride seems to be ever-expanding and the new additions have brought their total up to 16. One evening we spotted the whole pride together, and it was captivating to see the various generations of lion from the old female right down to the youngest two-day-old cub. As there are so many mouths to fill, the pride has been killing almost on a daily basis, some of action followed by some of our lucky guests. An array of differing meals have exercised their taste buds - zebra, wildebeast, warthog, buffalo, giraffe and even aardvark.

Our vehicles seem to be providing great relief from direct sunlight on the plains, with the lion making use of them for shade. One morning four females and four cubs took the opportunity of using our vehicle for cover and a siesta. We were stuck for two hours as they had moved right under the car and were resting against the wheels - still far more entertaining than being stuck in the mud or sand!

The lion highlight of the month took place from our sundowner cruise - normally planned for great bird, hippo and elephant viewing. We came across the whole pride on the water's edge, having just made a zebra kill. Even more surprising, a few moments later a crocodile gained the confidence to climb out of the water and try to steal the zebra carcass from the four females. A tug-of-war and some hesitant aggressive charges from the lion didn't deter the crocodile. However, this all came to a sudden halt as the large male lion charged from behind a bush startling the crocodile. He grabbed the whole carcass and retreated with it into the bush. This left the crocodile isolated and surrounded by the rest of the pride. So with nothing left to do he fled back to the Spillway. All this action taking place within metres of our guests and their cameras.

The wild dog sightings have been equally spectacular with the seven-strong pack and their six puppies spending a good ten days near Selinda. It is astounding to see how calm and relaxed such a rare and elusive animal can be in front of us, especially when they are rearing their young. They are incredibly accommodating when we follow them as they hunt, although on some occasions their persistence eventually becomes too much for us. However, we had a run of kills in camp and one just outside Tent 9 - literally as the guests walked out of their tents.

One special evening we were in camp waiting for the guests to return when a lone dog took down an impala by the steps of camp. We radioed our guides to let them know only to be told that they were watching their own kill only a few hundred metres away. The lone dog disappeared, but he came back with the whole pack a few minutes later. As they gobbled their feast a hyaena came along causing a stir. The pack finally retreated with the exception of one male who kept eating and even shared his food with the hyaena - a rare incident.

Another surprise sighting was seeing two dogs show interest in a catfish in the shallows of the Spillway, grabbing onto it and disappearing in the grasses to eat it. Finally we saw the pack swimming across the spillway, a great risk for them considering the crocodiles around.

In between predator viewing, October has brought us incredible numbers of elephant. As the dry season comes to a peak the herds move toward the water on the spillway. On a boat transfer from the airstrip to camp, only a ten-minute cruise, we counted 260 elephant coming down to drink. On a number of occasions boat trips into camp have been "inconveniently" delayed as the elephant have come down to swim and drink and block our route.

Bird Sightings
Birding at Selinda is outstanding as we have so many different habitats in the vicinity of camp. The uncommon Collared Palm-Thrush has been seen, as well as Wattled Crane and Purple Gallinule. A very exciting development for us is the eagerly anticipated hide which is now close to completion.

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Kwando Safari Camps Update - October 2010

Still hot, but the occasional thunderstorms cool us all off a bit. "Pula" is here and specially in Central Kalahari and Nxai Pan, the transformation will be stunning to see. A lot of the antelopes are dropping their babies, which is always a special occasion.
The other positive thing about rain is that it removes the dust and smoke atmosphere, which makes the colours appear much more striking. Sunsets are so much more spectacular with some clouds in the sky too. Its all becoming a photographers paradise!

Kwando Concession
• The relative dryness of the Kwando Linyanti region following extremely high flooding in the neighbouring areas has led to consistently good game viewing throughout the season. This promises to improve as the season progresses and the extremely mild winter hints at a long hot and dry summer. These conditions will all contribute to spectacular wildlife viewing throughout the northern regions of the country.

Lagoon camp               Jump to Lagoon Camp
• 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 to Lebala Camp
• Included in the general game was sightings of sable and roan! That got everybody excited, almost more than the Aardvark sighting, or the pair of porcupine with two young ones.
• Elsewhere, the hyena had a feast on a hippo carcass not far from camp.
• On the birding front there was a pair of wattled cranes with a tiny flightless chick spotted as well as Ostrich with nine offspring.
• Chameleons were spotted a several times on the night drives, together with honey badgers, servals and African wild cat.
• Wild dogs were seen on several occasions, hunting and having some interesting interactions with hyenas.
• The two cheetah brothers were seen regularly, and also one shy female. Let's hope there is love in the air…
• Lots of elephant herds to see now and big herds of buffalo. The waterholes in the woods are all but dry and all the animals have to come to the rivers, which makes them more visible to us.
• Lions are plentiful, with cubs, kills and large roaring males. One couple appears to be on honeymoon at the moment, so we are expecting more babies. Leopards were sighted too. There are several males and females in the area and one very relaxed male has been sighted several times, including one occasion where he was spotted with an impala in a tree.

Kwara & Little Kwara camps               Jump to Kwara & Little Kwara camps
• General game is very good. Tsessebe and impala normally drop their young at this time, and in the next few weeks we'll see a lot of newborns.
• On the elephant front, we can report that there are not only numerous bachelor groups around camp, but also many large breeding herds.
• For the birders, the migrants have arrived in force including carmine bee-eaters, woodland kingfishers etc. Secretary birds were spotted a lot, as well as wattled cranes, saddle-billed storks and lots of raptors. And at night time the frogs sing you gently into sleep.
• One of our three cheetah males have become fathers. We saw a female cheetah with four cubs on a few occasions.
• Other predator sightings included lots of lions, leopards and also the rare wild dog. The lions killed a pregnant giraffe, near to Kwara camp and resulted in a large and often messy meal, which was not for the faint hearted.

Nxai Pan
• Big numbers of elephants are attracted by our waterhole in front of the camp.
• Very nice to relax one afternoon in the pool and have a gin and tonic for sundowner, watching the elephants.
• We've been lucky with the predators this month. Lions were seen with their three month old cubs.
• Leopard and cheetah are also on the list.
• General game was good too; wildebeests, zebras, impalas, springboks, honey badgers, black backed jackals, steenbucks, kudus etc
• Birdlife was also very good, with excellent raptor sightings.

Tau Pan
• What you hear at Tau Pan at night are the black backed jackals calling. There are a lot of them around and it is nice to lie in bed a listen to their eerie calls.
• With the clear air due to the rain, the night skies are spectacular. Stars so clear and numerous you have can hardly believe it!
• General game consists of gemsbok, wildebeest, steenbuck, red hartebeest, springbok, common duiker, kudu etc. and all are seen in great numbers.
• Predators were not shy this month.
• A pride of ten lions was observed doing what lions do…..sleeping.
• Also the leopards were out and about and we had some good sightings of them.
• Cheetahs, even mothers with youngsters were spotted regularly.
• Birds sighted to name a few included black kite, yellow billed kite, brown snake eagle, bateleur, lapped faced vulture, kestrels, kori bustard, secretary birds etc.

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Mombo Camp update - October 2010               Jump to Mombo Camp

Weather and Landscape
The usual heat of October has built up in anticipation of the coming rain. We had a sprinkling of rain on 22 October, which cooled it off temporarily. After this, for the rest of October we experienced overcast, cloudy days which held little promise of more rain. It is as if the landscape is waiting, breathless, sucking in any moisture possible. This said, life seems to be budding everywhere; each day the trees become greener, the mangosteen trees provide for a bounty of fruit and the wild figs bunch plentifully on laden branches.

baobab tree

Wildlife Sightings
Towards the end of the month, the mournful call of the Black Cuckoo heralded the arrival of more summer visitors, and finally on 29 October, the ecstatic trilling of the Woodland Kingfishers was heard for the first time. The first antelope newborns have been lead by the red lechwe and we have spotted many young frolicking in the shallows of the floodplains.

The Mporota Pride are hunting buffalo again. In just a week they killed three of the group we call the "dagga boys" that graze near camp. The second of these kills took place in the plain between Mombo Camp and the staff village, and the night reverberated with lion snarls and growls as they consumed the buffalo flesh. The hyaena joined the night's chorus with their whooping, and in the morning all that remained was a pile of bones, one lioness and one solitary hyaena making off into the treeline.

Mporota pride with kill   

The third confrontation happened on the plain in front of camp. Both the pride and three buffalo were initially visible from the deck as everybody gathered for tea. The bulls faced the lions on the edge of the treeline, but nothing happened until later in the evening. As dusk fell, 11 buffalo bulls made their way towards camp to shelter for the night, and shortly after dark we heard the deathly bellowing of what we assume must have been a straggler in the herd.

Apart from a brief sighting of three younger members of the pride slinking by one evening as we admired the first sliver of the new moon, we have seen them on a zebra carcass in the Mporota Floodplains area and on a giraffe close to the staff village. The Mporota Breakaway Pride were also in the area for the latter kill and so we speculate as to whether they were in fact the ones to have made the kill, only to be chased off by the larger Mporota Pride.

A few days ago, high tea was cut short as we spotted lion in furious activity out in the floodplain in front of camp. Our guides rushed out to the scene to find the Mporota Pride fighting over the carcass of a large male warthog. At one stage we thought the Jao Male had killed a cub in his ferocious defence of his share of the kill, but the youngster eventually recovered enough to move out of danger - a hard lesson learned!

Another couple of prides spotted this month were the Western Pride - the pride that accommodates the female lion who looks like a male - and the Mathata Pride. The latter were seen mainly in the vicinity of Suzy's Duckpond and its environs. One morning we watched them stalk and kill a warthog. As the pride were crowding onto the carcass, a breeding herd of elephant charged and scattered the whole pride. Two cubs and a sub-adult were lost in the confusion, although they have been reunited with their pride after a couple of days.

Tiny black hyaena pups      Birds at Mombo Camp

The floodplains to the west are teeming with life as the receding waters leave behind a bounty of new grasses. One afternoon, we saw a huge congregation of about 150 elephant, red lechwe in vast numbers, herds of zebra and impala, kudu along the treeline edges of the plain, baboons scattered everywhere ... a scene from the beginning of time! A little further on, just when we thought it couldn't get any better, we came across the Mathata Pride - a carpet of almost two dozen lion in the shade of an ebony tree.

Legadima the leopard came to visit us for three days in the middle of the month. We would sometimes see her on the walkways, in the open area near the management accommodation or in the sausage tree below Tent 2. All guests in camp got great daytime sightings of her as she lazed about in shady spots, although we had to be extra cautious when escorting guests at night, as Legadima would often move around at this time. We saw evidence of at least three kills she had made: two Spur-wing Geese and what appeared to be a steenbok.

Legadima the leopard    Serondela a white rhino

One of the highlights of the month was the sighting of Pula, Legadima's daughter, suffocating an impala ram when a troop of baboons spotted her. The large males charged her, and Pula took evasive action. Once she was out of sight, the baboons lost interest and moved off, leaving the still-prone impala lying flat. A hyaena then arrived to investigate the commotion, however seeing nothing and - as there had been no blood involved in the hunt - smelling nothing, he too eventually departed. To our utter surprise, a few moments later the impala gave a huge gasp, looked up in complete state of shock as his body shook to and fro. After a while he looked around groggily, leapt to his feet, and made off into the bush!

The hyaena den on Galloping Horse Road has been a source of delight for many a photographer. We have seen at least five tiny black pups, and their early morning and late afternoon antics make for some fascinating and entertaining viewing of these social predators.

The lone wild dog was seen resting away an afternoon with her two jackal companions when an aardwolf emerged from a burrow next to them. She has been seen before with an ensemble of hyaena and jackal, but never before with this other extraordinary mammal. It is unlikely that the shy and secretive aardwolf will join her "pack" as it feeds almost exclusively on insects.

Serondela, the big male white rhino, has been seen a couple of times this month as he has passed through the area on his territorial patrols. Poster, our rhino monitor also found a young white rhino, born to Piajo - her third calf after Kgosi and Nnana. Since March, she has been in an inaccessible area due to the rainy season and huge floods, and Poster estimates the youngster to be around seven months old.

Bird enthusiasts would love the various "fish traps" that the retreating floodwaters have left behind. Cutting the ponds off from the main channels, these waters become magnets for birds and other predators. In one sighting at Suzy's Duckpond, we counted 22 species of bird, from large Marabou Storks to dainty Black-winged Stilts and several crocodiles, which where feeding on both birds and fish.

Staff in Camp
Malinga, Cisco, Tsile, Moses and Tshepo.
Martha hosted Little Mombo, while Gordon, Tanya, Kathryn, Maatla and Ryan were at Main Mombo.

Photographs
Thanks to Tsepho Phala, Tsile Tsile and Ryan Green

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Xigera Camp update - October 2010               Jump to Xigera Camp

No report this month.


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Chitabe Camp update - October 2010               Jump to Chitabe Camp

Weather
Those of us who work and live in the bush will agree that the month of October has always been a month of anticipation. As each day passes the build-up to the first rains seems to increase. The little ball of mercury in our thermometer slowly inches its way up the tube and all living things seem to be holding their breath waiting for the heavens to break open and for the long awaited rain to finally settle the dust, drop the temperatures and bring about instantaneous relief. At the blink of an eye, the first sprinkling of rain transforms the dryness into lush green vegetation bringing about endless food and energy for a lot of the wildlife.

Wildlife Sightings
The first rains that we received certainly paid off. The tsessebe started dropping their young early in the month giving our resident wild dog, a pack of 20 adults and 6 puppies, a good reason to hang around. However, the heavily pregnant impala are waiting a little bit longer before delivering their exquisite little parcels.

We've had some amazing predator highlights this month, including some action-packed interactions between wild dog and leopard.

Leopard

Leopard are still abundant on the Chitabe Concession. Amazingly, in the area, we have a highly acrobatic leopard who has developed a penchant for raiding Vulture and Fish Eagle nests and devouring the hatchlings.

From July through to September, we were seeing a female cheetah with her two juveniles and we also recently spotted a single male on an impala kill. However, the humble and submissive cheetah seem to have moved off for the time being, making way for wild dog. There definitely seems to be a displacement game between the cheetah and the dogs. When one species is in abundance, the other becomes more elusive.

The three female lions have, so far, been looking after their three remaining cubs successfully. At the beginning of the month, we were upset when we discovered that the fourth cub was missing. The cause of death is still unknown, but there are strong suspicions that Johnny Walker, the lone male lion seen with the mothers for a short while, could be responsible for the tragic loss. In one instance the remaining three cubs were tucked away in a thick bush and one of the mothers was trying to lure Johnny Walker away. Fortunately, when the resident brothers reunited with the pride the following day, 'King of the Jungle' Johnny Walker was terrified and literally ran for his life.

Birding
The noisy Broad-billed Rollers moved in during the third week of the month. However we are still not sure what has happened to the Woodland Kingfishers. With the thirsty sky drinking all the surface water, the resulting lagoons have attracted enormous amounts of water birds, from endangered Wattled Crane to pelicans, herons, egrets, storks as well as kites, but not a sighting of Woodland Kingfisher. However, October was certainly a festive and social month for our avian friends in Chitabe.

Predator Monitoring Project
We have had immense support from the Botswana Predator Conservation Trust for our Predator Monitoring Project. Thanks to Dr. Tico McNutt and his team, the Chitabe monitoring team now has three sets of digital cameras and GPS units. An ID kit is being developed for each individual in our concession area. Thank you so much from all of us.

Pula
In Botswana the word for rain is Pula. A wonderful word which is also the name of our national currency as well as a word used when proposing a toast, so from all of us at Chitabe - Pula!


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

No report this month.

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

Weather
October is often known as the hottest month in the Delta. It is that period between the beginning of summer and the rains where we start to see clouds appearing on the horizon, tempting us with the promise of cool moisture, only to be burnt off by the sun as it climbs through its arc. Maximum temperatures were recorded at 42 degrees Celsius (107 F) - the pool becoming a favourite spot for guests after lunch in the interval between outings. We did, however, receive two days of intermittent rain which is certainly better than nothing, but we still await that magnificent thunderstorm which brings fresh shoots of grass and new life to the area.

Wildlife Sightings
Game viewing has been good once again this month with the Kubu Pride, consisting of four lionesses and one young male, seen on a regular basis as they patrol their area and hunt for impala, buffalo and sable.

Leopard cub exploring    Leopard at Little Vumbura Camp    Animals colling down

Leopard have been a highlight. Guide Rain saw three different leopard on one drive! This included a six-month-old cub not yet ready to leave its mother's care but exploring in the near vicinity. This cub is learning the art of stalking and hunting small animals independently whilst mum is out catching bigger prey. An exciting event was a male and female leopard spotted mating; hopefully this means we will welcome a new litter to the area soon.

Our magnificent male cheetah Vuka has been posing for pictures on termite mounds in the open plains, on an impala or tsessbe kill. Guests were following a leopard male on the hunt and watched as he walked very close to Vuka and a kill. Luckily for Vuka, the leopard did not see him hiding away and so our cheetah could settle down to a well-earned meal. It is common for bigger cats, as well as hyaena, to chase cheetah off their own kills.

Our resident elephant was found sleeping against the termite mound near Rooms 1 and 2 one morning. He eventually awoke when the sun got higher. Snorting and scratching his back leg he eventually wandered off to continue with his neverending search for food.

General game has been fantastic and we have seen plenty of elephant cooling off or drinking at any watering area possible. Buffalo herds, both breeding herds of approximately 300 as well as smaller bachelor herds of around 10 have been sighted next to the boat station. Giraffe, wildebeest, tsessebe and impala have all been seen grazing on the plains with the ever-present warthog wallowing nearby. Baboons and vervet monkeys are seen chattering amongst the tree tops as they hasten to pick off the ripest fruit before the rest of the troop.

Birds at Little Vumbura    Sundown over Little Vumbura

Fish and frog 'traps' are common sightings as the aquatic and semi aquatic animals get trapped in the evaporating pools of the once flooding waters. Birds such as the egrets, darters, stalks and kingfishers all feast on these helpless beings. The cunning crocodile has also learnt that they can get mouthfuls of frogs and fish by staying near to these waters. He often causes mayhem to the feeding birds as he heaves his heavy body into the murky water.

Other bird, such as the migrating Woodland Kingfisher and the colourful Southern Carmine Bee-Eaters are back with us. Pygmy Geese and Purple Heron are almost a guarantee during the short two minute transfers between Little Vumbura Island and the mainland for game drives.
As the sun sets on yet another magnificent, yet unique, day in the Delta, the hyaena start to call and go in search of food and the nocturnal animals come out to take the place of those that choose to sleep during the night.

Staff in Camp
From the guides during October, Kay Bosigo, Rain Robson, Sevara Katsotso and Sam Setabosha as well as your managers, Lorato Bampusi, Brett Sinclair, Roxanne Sinclair, Graham Simmonds and our American visitor Claire, we thank you for visiting our little piece of Paradise and for those who have not yet come, we hope to welcome you soon!

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

Weather
The bets are on as to when the first rains will bring some sort of sanity back to the crazy temperatures that we are experiencing currently. We get the occasional hint or threat of cloud building up only to be disappointed as it is once again dissolved by the heat of the sun.

Wildlife
If anyone doubted the strong lion populations at Duba Plains, they only had to experience the phenomenal viewings we have had during October. The Tsaro and Skimmer prides have been providing plenty of action, whether it is interaction between the two or with the herd of buffalo a thousand-plus strong. We have simply had amazing sightings day after day which highlights the reputation the area already had. We also have had the first sighting of the Tsaro Pride's young cubs which was a highlight for guests.

Lion    Playful lion cub    Lion cub

The long dry period has weakened our buffalo and our lion are taking advantage of this. Buffalo kills are being witnessed almost on a daily basis. One morning the Tsaro Pride killed three buffalo but were unable to enjoy their efforts as they were chased away by the Skimmer Pride who have bigger arsenal in their pride. The four sub-adult males are just too strong for the Tsaro females.

Despite fantastic big game viewing we must not forget the other wonderful wildlife that Duba Plains has to offer. The bird life, elephant in their hundreds, lechwe, reedbuck, tsessebe, jackal, bat-eared fox, pythons - and all set in magnificent scenery - Duba really is a special place.

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Banoka Bush Camp update - October 2010

No report this month.

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Jacana Camp update - October 2010               Jump to Jacana Camp

Weather and Landscape
Summer is here to stay at Jacana Camp! Scattered clouds dot the once endless blue sky and light up the sunrise and sunsets with the most unbelievable shades of soft pinks and gold. Midday temperatures are reaching in the mid to high 30s (Celsius) and cool down to the mid 20s at night. Orion makes his appearance early in the morning sky, and the light of the full moon on 24 October kept darkness at bay.

Water is steadily retreating under the warmer temperatures, making way for the rich green grasses that support life here in the Delta.

Wildlife
If you have not been to the Delta in October then this is definitely something to put on your to do list. The abundance of wildlife is unimaginable; hundreds of antelope graze the floodplains unperturbed by thousands of birds making their daily pilgrimage from their breeding grounds in the swamps to their feeding grounds on the drying plains. Breeding herds of elephants meander from island to island seeking out fresh leaves and scrubs. The sycamore figs, once again in fruit, are attracting them into camp on a regular, if not daily basis, creating some spectacularly close encounters with the great beasts. One of the big bulls took up residence on our island and kept us entertained for a while. Fortunately he was gentle and didn't cause much havoc except for the occasional broken railing while foraging for fallen figs.

Birding at Jacana    Elephant at Jacana    Elephant at Jacana camp

The increase in land around the concession, with the drying floodwaters, means bigger hunting grounds for predators; the local lion pride uses this to their full advantage. The two females and the new male lion have been seen regularly and are a sure highlight to any safari guest.

Boating and mokoro excursions around camp are also becoming increasingly popular as hippo concentrations increase and red lechwe start occupying the shallow waters around the islands. The heat is also attracting other animals to water and it is wonderful discovering a couple of buffalo close to camp in the midst of a mud pool, cooling themselves in the shade of a tree.

Elephant at Jacana    Elephant at Jacana

Fishing this month has been a hit! Almost every angler fulfilled his or her dream of landing a big tiger fish, known for its strong jaws and impressive fighting power.

Towards the end of the month we had the barbel run pass through our main channels. Every year, during early summer, the Okavango Delta hosts a unique and fascinating spectacle known as the barbel run. This phenomenon takes place due to receding floodwaters. As the water begins to warm up, catfish and barbel begin shoaling and feeding en masse along the edges of the channels. These runs can reach up to a couple of hundred metres in length and several metres in width. It is an amazing sight and the sheer numbers of fish got even the non-anglers excited.

Guest comments
"What a fantastic camp, staff and atmosphere. We are thrilled. Thank you very much!" - Rients and Charlotte (France)

"One of, if not THE very best holiday we ever had. Danielle and Pieter & team truly exceptional hosts. Thank you!" - Declan and Deborah (Ireland, Dublin)

"What an amazing place & lovely people. Thanks so much for your hospitality (and of course the close encounter with the elephant!)" - Fiona, Dawn, Justin - BBC TV London (UK)

"A trip of a lifetime. Will enjoy recalling through pictures over and over again." - Dianna (USA)

"Thank you so much for the hospitality. The experience is beyond words! Each day is a new adventure. Take good care." - Jacci (USA)

"Thank you Pieter, Danielle, Timothy, Kaizer, Joshua, GB, Joseph and Rebecca (etc) for a truly memorable stay. God bless & best wishes to you all!" - Wayne and Liz (Calgary, CANADA)

Staff in Camp
Managers: Pieter Ras and Danielle van den Berg
Guides: Joseph Basenyeng and Timothy Samuel

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Kwetsani Camp update - October 2010               Jump to Kwetsani Camp

Weather and Landscape
Summer has certainly arrived with temperatures rocketing into the mid 30s Celsius and in the evenings, dropping to the low 20s. We have had a few mornings where there has been some cloud cover and a promise of rain with no joy so far except for a few drops which aren't even worth mentioning. The floodwaters have been drying up before our eyes, so much so that transfers between the airstrip and camp are now done by vehicle rather than by boat. The channel to Hunda Island however is still usable by boat but we are not sure how long this will last. Other boating activities will soon be closed as we move toward vehicle and mokoro activities.

Lion at Kwetsani    Cheetah at Hunda Island

Wildlife
Game viewing at Kwetsani Camp has been varied during October. Red lechwe, giraffe, tsessebe and wildebeest have moved to the floodplain to enjoy the seasonal grass on offer. The shy lioness have been passing through camp heading northwards on a regular basis, with the young male lion following close behind. The latter has also been sighted on several occasions on the floodplains.
Sightings on Hunda Island have been fantastic with our first glimpse of cheetah for a long time as well as the lioness killing a warthog right in front of our guests. General game is still great but it seems to be spreading out as the Delta dries up.

Elephant at Kwetsani    Hippo at Kwetsani

The number of elephant in camp has decreased and we now only see the breeding herds and a few lone bulls occasionally. Some of the bulls have been in musth and have been following the breeding herds. Musth is a periodic condition where there is a rise in the bull's testosterone levels and reproductive hormones. They also become increasingly aggressive during this period.

Baboons and monkeys have been squabbling over the mangosteen trees which are in fruit. The young male hippo sighted regularly at the boat jetty has held up a number of mokoro rides as a safety precaution. He still sleeps under one of the rooms and walks through camp regularly in the evenings.

The surviving baby bushbuck is growing up and is often seen with its mother sleeping under Tent 2. A small herd of impala continue to occupy our island along with warthogs. The three banded mongooses from Jao have also been seen around Kwetsani Camp and one of them looks to be pregnant.

We are also seeing an increase in numbers of reptiles as the water dries up, especially spotted bush snakes and Nile water monitor lizards. A two-metre monster version of the latter was spotted at First Bridge.

Birdlife
Birding is still out of this world at Kwetsani Camp. We have had nine sightings of Fish Eagles circling and calling over camp and we've seen a pair of Saddle-billed Storks in our marsh, to name a few specials. The Scimitar-billed Wood-Hoopoes have raised their chick and are now residents around the camp. We have had our first sighting of Woodland Kingfishers this summer and now that the sausage tree has new fruit, the Meyers Parrots are seen more regularly. As the fig trees are fruiting, there have been some nice sightings of Green Pigeons as well. The resident Vultures and Marabou Storks are always around as well as the Yellow-billed Kites. There have been good sightings of Wattled Cranes and at every drying pool of water, one sees a myriad different birds looking for a quick and easy meal.

Fish Eagles at Kwetsani    birdlife at Kwetsani

Guest Comments
"We had excellent field trips both on land and by boat. The food was excellent. The Monday meal night show was wonderful. The accommodation and service was great." Sheldon & Rosalind- USA

"Male lion & lioness with 3 cubs / lots of beautiful and amazing birds / amazing camp! Keone was simply terrific - great guide - he found the animals and birds & he is very knowledgeable! Appreciated the effort with my gluten-free diet / excellent food and service!" Jerry & Robin - USA

"Very, very friendly staff! The rooms are clean and nice! The food is amazing!" Sven & Alida - Switzerland

"It was wonderful! We were able to see leopards / giraffe / elephant but most exciting was tracking the lion. Everything was great!" Mike & Marjorie - USA

"We loved the area and the tree house accommodations! The staff were fun and pleasant! We saw lots of animals and beautiful birds. Thanks for the birthday cake - that was special!" Robert & Barbara - USA

"The entire four days was wonderful, ie, four days of delights! We can not think of anything that you could improve. This is a very special place, this includes your equally special staff!" Dieter & Penny - RSA

"Fantastic in every way! Amazing service at the camp with wonderful food and friendly staff. Our guide OP was outstanding. His passion and enthusiasm inspired all of us. I saw many more animals than I expected and felt safe throughout the safaris." Tammy - UK

"Amazing scenery, wildlife and food. Michélle & Ian - you are amazing hosts, thank you for being so welcoming. OP - you were the best guide we could have hoped for. Your knowledge was outstanding and your love and respect for the animals and plants of the Delta are an inspiration.
Thanks so much!" Kate - UK

"First day - saw lion in the evening and heard him ROARRRR! Cool! We saw a lot of different antelopes! The boat ride fun! Saw tons of birds! We love the Rosy-throated Longclaw & and Lilac-breasted Roller! They are really pretty. We also had a super scary experience with an elephant bull. He almost charged us three times. Scary and exciting at the same time, really. Tony says the elephant thought we were going to steal its grass." Araceli & Beatrix - Philippines

"Enjoyable stay. Saw 90 plus birds, lions, cheetah. Elephants and hippos in camp" John and Lynda- USA

Staff in Camp
Managers: Ian & Michélle Burger
Guides: OP Kaluluka, Anthony Mochoni, Keone Kekgathegile
Photographs; Thanks to Jason & Carolyn Soules and Michélle & Ian Burger

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Jao Camp update - October 2010               Jump to Jao Camp

Weather and Water Levels
The scorching heat of summer has set in with highs of 40°C and lows of 27°C. Even though colossal clouds have been forming, we still have had no rain. The only means of relief for our guests is a dip in the swimming pool, which is ever more enjoyable watching the beautiful scenery and sipping on an ice cold glass of wine. Meanwhile only memories of the floodwaters live - but they will be back again in six months.

Wildlife Highlights
Every month we speak of the fantastic wildlife sightings on Hunda Island. This month, we're happy to announce that these have only improved. The dried-up floodplains have allowed for more grazing areas for antelope and more running space for cheetah. Cheetah can reach speeds of about 100km/h which makes it the fastest land mammal in the world. Just like a ship's rudder, they use their tails to change direction very quickly, making them almost impossible to out-manoeuvre. One particular female was seen twice in a day and was fairly shy to begin with but soon relaxed around the Land Rovers.

Leopard has also been seen at in wonderful positions at Hunda; once in a tree sitting like a baboon and on another occasion in a mokoro!

The lion pride at Hunda has shown how skilful, agile and alert its members are. We followed two females for 30 minutes before they came across an unsuspecting warthog which was quickly pounced upon without any warning.

Leopard    Leopards    Elephant

As the land gets hotter we amuse ourselves watching elephant trying to cool off at the mud bath near the Jao Camp Bridge. They like to cake themselves with a thick layer of mud and at times, to make this easier, we even see them lying down in the mud bath. This not only helps them with regulating their temperatures but also helps to control the number of irritating insects that roam their big bodies. At other times, water is used as a substitute if mud is not readily available.

The mongoose that inhabit our island have been busy scurrying around looking for grubs, lizards, frogs and even snakes now that the territory has dried up. However they have also been busy on another job and we seem to have three pregnant ladies ready to pop. So in the next coming months we are sure to see more young running around.

Birdlife Highlights
The eight Spur-winged Goslings have grown up and are sporting their beautiful adult colours. All eight have been seen close to Room 1. The majority of the migratory birds have returned and one can see the Paradise Flycatchers making their nest in the dining area. Yellow-billed Kites have still been soaring over the camp but they were quickly forgotten about when one of the largest of all predatory birds, the Martial Eagle flew into their midst.
The Wattled Crane, even though the Okavango Delta has a large population of these, are always an exciting viewing for all and as they are an endangered species, we are happy to have them here in their numbers.

Cranes    Fishing

Activities
Fishing has always been a favourite pastime here at Jao Camp. With a wide variety and an abundance of fish in the channels everyone is bound to catch at least something. We had a group of ladies who caught just over 60 fish (pike and catfish) during a two-day trip! However the highlight is always when someone catches an impressive tiger fish. With razor-sharp teeth and interlocking jaws they have immense fighting power and are quite a challenge to reel in. Jim, a guest, and Jost, a member of staff, were lucky enough to land a 5.5kg monster.

Guest Comments
"My dreams have come true" - Reynolds, Ireland

"Had the best time. We will return!" - Heidi & Scott, USA

"A Water Wonderland" - Sarah & Colin, USA

"Simply Fantastic!" - Celeste, USA

Staff in Camp
Management: Andrew Gaylord, Lauren Griffiths, Jost Kabozu, Marina Lunga (Spa therapists), Olesego "Ollie" Olepeng (Spa therapist) and Neumann Vasco
Guides: David Mapodisa, Tee-Jay Lesifi, KB Kgopa, Cedric Samotanzi, OB Morafhe


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

Weather
The blustery winds, cloud build up and odd sound of thunder have been teasing us with potential rain but this has still not graced our beautiful land. Apart from this, as predicted we have been experiencing very hot and humid days, reaching temperatures of up to 37 degrees Celsius. This sets the scene for a day at the pool, sipping cool gin and tonics under the African sun with elephants and warthogs watching not far off.

The unpredictable weather is causing the landscape to change on a daily basis. This is all part and parcel to the unique and dynamic environment in which we live. We have had to move the boat station so that we can still make use of the boat and are even considering closing the boat channel between Jao and Hunda Island... we will just have to wait and see what the Delta has in store for us in November. However we still have our mokoro rides, boat cruises and fishing excursions at Hunda Island.

Wildlife
Our game drives and walking excursions have been nothing less than world-class this month. Catering for the real wildlife enthusiast, Tubu Tree Camp has the perfect safari recipe: a scenic landscape, an abundance of game and the majestic "untouched" wilderness. General game has been good including buffalo, elephant, giraffe, big herds of wildebeest and zebra, red lechwe, impala and, of course, plenty of baboon.

Impala    Leopard    Honey bagder

However, we have decided to label October as 'meat eater' month - cheetah, leopard, lion, honey badger, genet and hyaena have been the stars of the Tubu show! These amazing animals, amongst many others, have been the reason for yet another amazing month in the Delta.

Some of our guests have experienced daily lion and leopard sightings setting the bar high for their next safari. Even the very elusive cheetah has been sighted and after much time tracking the cat and speculating about it, we believe that he is back for now. With the receding floodwaters and growing plains the cheetah can now operate again. He had given us prior notice of his arrival in the form of spoor tracks and an impala corpse found with the signs of being a cheetah kill, however his presence is now confirmed.

The regular sighting of leopard has continued all through the month. The healthy population of this cat is prevalent with sightings all over the island, some close to the boat station, some in camp especially close to tent one, the kitchen and the workshop, some on the floodplain near guests having breakfast and even one on a mokoro.

As for the lion, unlike the big male that has proven too elusive for the guides with very rare sightings this month, the six lioness and cubs have been sighted regularly, even settling for the night in camp on one occasion. At night we have heard the impressive call of the big male that clearly stamps his authority as the 'King of the Jungle'.

Not only have the big predators kept us entertained by the smaller creatures have also caught our attention.

Spotted bush snake    Fruit bat

Spotted bush snakes have been seen regularly in camp despite their shy reputation. They like trees or can be found on the ground looking for small lizards, geckos and frogs. Due to their resemblance to the boomslang, these spotted bush snakes have often been perceived as dangerous, however they are harmless to humans and tend to shy away from any contact. They are perfectly built to kill small critters which was obvious when we were fortunate enough to witness one catching a small lizard.

Part of the Tubu Tree family are the fruit bats which live in and around camp, looking cute while making themselves at home in the trees and roofs. These dog-faced creatures sleep during the day and become active at night keeping some of our guests awake with their high pitched screeches.

Other animals that have made their homes at Tubu Tree Camp include honey badgers that have made a little 'highway' through camp. They even visited the guests at dinner one night as they made their way underneath the deck. However the most entertaining of them all is the little warthog family that enjoys hanging around the pool area at the boma. The two little ones have been a guest favourite with their constant playing and innocent fighting.

Finally the four big resident kudu bulls have been uncharacteristically relaxed and have allowed guests to come into close contact with them. This has resulted in a photographic dilemma as the animals are too close for any big lenses to focus upon them. This is opposed to the normal problem of being too far from an animal to get a good shot. Our welcoming sign should read - 'Welcome to Tubu Tree Camp, please bring your wide angle lenses'.

Birding
Large flocks of Open-billed Storks have moved around the floodplain in an attempt to get the freshwater snails that are exposed with the receding waters. Along with these, the Wattled Crane are also trying to get a piece of the pie. Other popular birds seen were a Giant Eagle Owl, Saddle-billed Storks and the ever present, but beautiful Lilac-breasted Rollers.

Lilacs

Guest Comments
"Wonderful! Great welcome from all staff. Mia & Rheinhardt good job!" Craig & Laura

"It was the most wonderful experience! You're doing an excellent job! Thank you so much for everything! Best ever leopard sightings!" Marco & Marina

"Thank you to all the TUBU Team, especially Johnny, Mia & Rheinhardt for an AMAZING stay!" Alan & Tori

"Great experience! Tremendous team! Really enjoyed this paradise!" Dirk & Carola

"Amazing sightings of leopard. Thanks to the best Mokoro poler - Johnny!" Francois & Stan

Staff in Camp
Managers: Rheinhardt and Mia Schulze
Guides: Izzy Ntema and Johny Mowanji

Photographs
Rheinhardt Schulze


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

No report this month.


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