(Page 2 of
South Africa camps
Pafuri Camp update - October 2010 Jump
to Pafuri Camp
Weather and Landscape
As always, October is one of the driest months of the year at Pafuri. Most pan systems and natural springs have become dust bowls and the once-surging waters of the Limpopo have been reduced to nothing but sand. The Luvuvhu River remains the only life source for animals in this parched month.
The good news is that the rains are on the way; in fact we received a much needed 27mm on the last two days of the month, which thankfully settled the dust. Only hours later, we started seeing new leaves budding on some of the trees. Temperatures soared to a blistering 48°C on several days with an average of 35-40°C being the norm.
With the dwindling water resources and extreme heat we have been seeing an abundance of game on the banks of the Luvuvhu and at the last water reserves of a few pans. At one time we saw up to 45 warthogs grazing and drinking near one of the isolated pans. On an afternoon game drive one can expect to see at least ten different species of mammals in the first 15 minutes, including impala, nyala, bushbuck, chacma baboon, vervet monkey, elephant, buffalo, zebra, warthog and waterbuck.
The ever present elephant during the dry season have impressed many a guest. It's always a pleasure to lounge on one's own bed and watch the breeding herds and bulls frolicking in the Luvuvhu River below. We are seeing them on almost a daily basis, sometimes recording as many as 400 in one day. The same can be said of buffalo as we often see huge herds consisting of up to 300.
Predator sightings have been relatively good this month. The booming call of the lion echoes through the valley almost every night and we have been seeing them on average of every third day. The dominant male and the two sub-adults were seen regularly around the confines of Pafuri Camp. At the end of a game drive one evening we were not greeted by the usual smiling face of the host in the turning circle but rather the impressive being of a male lion smartly splayed out in front of the walkway leading up to the main area.
The elusive leopard still lives up to its name with only four sightings this month. Their tracks are seen on a daily basis and they are often heard calling, but it is a lot more challenging trying to catch to a glimpse of them.
We have had some good success with white rhino this past month. We've seen a cow and calf as well as a bull on quite a number of occasions around Mangala Floodplains and on the way up to Lanner Gorge. What is more exciting is that a black rhino was captured by a camera trap as he was drinking from a spring on 2nd October. This is a first for the area and although no one has seen it with their own eyes yet we hope to catch sight of this exceptional animal soon.
Other interesting sightings this month included an aardvark on the airstrip, African wild cat hunting, two common reedbuck, about 50 eland and 12 wildebeest.
With the summer rains approaching the bird life becomes even more astounding around Pafuri. Commonly seen migrants already include European Bee-eaters, Broad-billed Rollers, Violet-backed Starlings, Wood Sandpipers, African Cuckoo and Wahlberg's Eagle to name a few. The Pel's Fishing-Owl was seen a record number of 18 times this month. One particular evening we saw five of them including the two that sat perched in front of the main area as we sat down for dinner under the stars.
Other rare sightings include Great Spotted Cuckoo, Eastern Nicator, White-browed Sparrow-Weaver, White-backed Night-Heron, Racket-tailed Roller, African Finfoot, Böhm's Spinetail, and oddly enough, two Verreauxs' Eagles feeding on a White-backed Vulture.
Pafuri Walking Trail update - October 2010 Jump
to Pafuri Walking Trail
Kings Camp update - October 2010 Jump
to Kings Camp
With the arrival of summer, veld conditions have not changed much over the last month.
The bush still looks very dry and forlorn with the temperatures having reached a high of 47 degrees Celsius a few weeks back. We are in desperate need of some rains.
The sparse vegetation makes for fine game viewing but the herbivores are not finding it easy with a shortage of graze and browse material. Nevertheless certain trees have started to flower and are showing signs of greening up even without rain. The deep root systems allow these trees to access any moisture deep within the soil layers.
We kick off this months report with the good news that the 4 lion cubs born from the legendary Machattan pride are doing very well. The cubs are now 12 weeks old and are being seen regularly on our game drives. The mother is unperturbed with our presence and will allow us to spend a lot of time with them. We are however still respectful and sensitive to the mother and her cubs and will not allow the cubs to be viewed without the mothers attendance. It appears that 2 of the cubs are female and the other 2 are male.
The cubs managed to get their first real carnivorous meal as mom lead them to a fresh kudu kill that she made. With meat added to their diet, their little immune systems will strengthen and they will begin to gain weight increasing their chances of survival. I have to mention that this pride generally has a poor track record when it comes to raising cubs in the past. This has been due to a number of reasons but I remain optimistic and confident that the dominance of the fathers, “The Timbavati males” in this region will ensure that these cubs survive.
These big boys were rather successful hunters this month and for those of you who visited us last month will recall and recognize some of the images I captured of them on some of the kills. They managed to down one of Africa’s toughest animals, an old male Cape buffalo. The fight lasted several hours and he was finally brought down in the early hours of the morning. We watched these majestic males feed for 3 days before they decided to leave the last scraps of the carcass for the jackals and hyenas to finish.
Our leopard sightings were outstanding this month with no fewer than 68-recorded sightings.
“Ntombi” and her cub were seen most often during the month. In fact it is not uncommon to find her walking in the camp as the game drive vehicles return from the afternoon drive.
She is managing well to feed her demanding son having made several kills during the month. This little male can be a handful at times and as he grows so does his demand for food increase.
Our most infamous leopard in the Timbavati, “Rockfig Jnr” leopardess has the largest territory of any of the other female leopards in the area. She covers an expansive range and has no problem defending it too. Her territory lies adjacent to “Ntombi’s” territory and up to date, both headstrong females have avoided any possible hostile contact with each other.
“Rockfig’s” cub is now 12 months old and is doing exceptionally well. She recently attempted and succeeded with a first kill close to an area where she was born. After killing her prey, she proceeded to stash it neatly up in one of the viewing hides. Morne has taken images of her in the hide and they can be viewed in last months report. I think that she is now old enough to be officially christened with her name. This we will announce on the blog during November.
Cheetah sighting are always special for any wildlife guide due to the rare status of these magnificent animals. Unfortunately, most people are unaware of the endangered conservation status of this species in Africa and it is up to us wildlife guides to make the general public aware of its vulnerable position. It would be a tragedy to see the extinction of the fastest land mammal on the planet.
Cheetahs are included on the International list of vulnerable species as well as on the US Endangered Species Act: threatened species - Appendix I of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species).
Approximately 12,400 cheetahs remain in the wild in twenty-five African countries; Namibia has the most, with about 2,500. The South African Cheetah Conservation Foundation has close links and assists in training and sharing program successes with other countries where cheetahs live, including Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Iran and Algeria. The organization's international program includes distributing materials, lending resources and support, and providing training through Africa and the rest of the world. We were fortunate to witness this rare animal on as many as 8 times during the month. Most of the sighting came for a young coalition of 3 males.
On several occasions much to the delight of the guests whilst have breakfast, several large herds have frequented the waterhole for a drink. In one herd I noticed a very young calf and I immediately got in the vehicle and manage to capture these images of the calf.
Elephants are incredibly interesting mammals. A female elephant’s social life revolves around breeding and raising of calves. A female will usually be ready to breed at around the age of 12. When she first comes into estrus, it is only a very short period that she is receptive and it lasts only a few days. Females announce their estrus with olfactory and vocal signs to potential mates.
After a very lengthy gestation period of 22 months, the mother gives birth to a calf that weighs about 115 kg and stands over 75 cm tall. As is common with the more intellectual species on earth, they are born with limited survival instincts and instead rely on their elders to teach them what they need to know as they develop. Due to today’s human pressure on the wild elephant populations, from poaching to habitat destruction, the elderly often die at a younger age, leaving fewer teachers for the young. The consequences of this for the next generation are not yet known.
A new calf is usually the center of attention for herd members. Adults and most of the other young will gather around the newborn, touching and caressing it with their trunks. The baby is born nearly blind and at first relies almost completely on its trunk to discover the world around it. During the next 4-5 years the mother will provide a calf with nutritious milk.
That’s all for this month dear friends.
Take care and kind regards from the Kings Camp Rangers and Trackers
Report by Patrick O’Brien Head Guide Kings Camp
Rocktail Beach Camp update - October 2010 Jump
to Rocktail Beach Camp
The chaotic weather that we had last month has continued into this one. The wind has not been able to settle in any particular direction, and neither has the sea, but the gaps between the battling winds produced lovely flat seas with some great visibility.
Children in the Wilderness
The month began with the Children in the Wilderness (CITW) programme visiting our camp at Rocktail. Every year a group of underprivileged children from the local community come and stay and are given the opportunity to learn about nature and conservation by experiencing it firsthand. A first time experience for all, the children came out with us for an ocean experience. Most had never been out at sea on a boat and for one little girl it was her first time on a beach so this was a special outing. They literally had a whale of a time and all sang "Shosholoza" the whole time whilst on the boat. They got to see a manta ray gliding around under the surface and two humpback whales. They watched as the whales moved forward and suddenly, as though with a flip of a switch, the two became extremely active breaching and tail slapping for quite a while.
Diving and wildlife sightings
A great start to the diving this month was at Gogo's where we enjoyed warmer waters than we had currently been experiencing and a visibility of about 25 metres. About 40 minutes into the dive we spotted a marble leopard grouper. Waiting for our guest to look up to get his attention and looking back towards the grouper suddenly all we could see was a great white blur gliding in front of us. That is when we realised that it was not one but three humpback whales. It was really quite a sighting, and something which is uncommon to see when diving.
We had a number of guests doing the advanced PADI course who had to brave some fairly rough water. For their deep dive, the sea was too rough to go all the way to Solitude, so we went out to sea with the depth finder on, found a 30 metre drop and we went in. The visibility was surprisingly good and at the depth of 30 metres we could see the huge swells all the way to the surface so we sat motionless on the sand and were serenaded by whale songs, a wonderful experience.
We have had some great sightings of the biggest fish in the sea - the whale sharks! One sighting was at Coachman's Ledge; everyone was kitted up and waiting for the count to drop in when Clive spotted it. Everyone de-kitted and jumped in quickly to have a swim with it. On other occasions we saw one on the way back from an ocean experience, one on two separate dives where they swam over us, and then a mother and son who were doing a Discover Scuba and a Refresher course saw a turtle and a whale shark. We never seem to tire of swimming with these huge, gentle giants.
There have also been some lovely surface sightings this month. Humpback dolphins have made an appearance again this month. They are always such a special sight as they are highly endangered from over-fishing and they are also very shy. The same day, after seeing the humpback dolphins we were given a" PG" show by two loggerhead turtles that were mating. This is a very rare sighting and was the first time Clive had ever seen it happening in all of his years at sea. The turtles didn't even seem to mind the audience.
We have started seeing more male turtles during dives and have seen some turtle tracks on the beach announcing the beginning of turtle season. This is also usually an indication that warmer water is on the way so we look forward to next month.
Sijmon and Debbie de Wall who got engaged here at Rocktail Bay in March came back for their honeymoon. We would all like to say a big congratulations to the two of them and wish them all the happiness in the world.
Another congratulations goes to Tara and Ashley, the assistant managers at Beach Camp. They have been here for just over a year and have just completed their PADI Open Water Course! Just in time to head back to the Alps in Switzerland!
Fabian and Caroline Coquemont, Richard La Velle and Harry Hancock for completing their PADI Discover Scuba Diving.
Tara and Ashley Rowe for completing their PADI Open Water Course.
Russel Friedman and Karel Nel for completing their PADI Advanced Course.
Thanks to Sijmon de Wall
Rocktail Bay Turtle Sightings Report - October 2010 Jump
to Rocktail Beach Camp
The Turtle Season has kicked off at Rocktail Beach Camp with a bang. So far we have had five sightings of turtles moving up onto the beach in order to nest. One leatherback turtle has been seen and four loggerheads, which had both guests and guides alike very excited; an excitement which rippled through camp after the successful drives. Some guests even braved some vicious weather conditions to revel in the opportunity of seeing these vulnerable creatures of the ocean.
Due to the vulnerability of these species of turtle, guests have shown an avid interest in conserving these marine beauties. Through little persuasion from staff we are proud to say that seven turtles have been adopted by our guests. Proceeds will go towards the equipment needed to measure, tag and monitor the turtles.
Gugu and Mbongeni (The Turtle Team) have kept our guests intrigued with their knowledge and stories of past sightings.
Weather conditions have been rather trying this month. As summer approaches we have seen some rather harsh conditions including howling winds and sombre rains. The first huge thunderstorm took us by surprise and had even the bravest soul quaking from the tumultuous thunder claps that hovered above Rocktail Beach Camp one night. The guests were all tucked safely in their beds by the time it hit us and so breakfast the following morning saw a hubbub of thoughts and excitement over the affair.
The Beach Camp Team look forward to keeping you fully posted on the turtle findings of the rest of the season!
Makalolo Plains update - October 2010 Jump
to Makalolo Plains Camp
To say the weather was 'hot' would be a gross understatement of the temperatures we have been encountering. We recorded a 42.3 degrees Celsius high and a low of 11.3 degrees. Guest siesta times were spent enjoying the swimming pool and watching the thirsty animals coming in to drink. Even the elephant and hippo infested waterholes look inviting. At the beginning of the month the wind started stirring up the branches of the tall leadwood trees and by mid-month the clouds started gathering, teasing us with the promise of a wonderful Zimbabwean storm. We did finally receive 0.25ml, a start to hopefully a much needed good rainy season.
Landscape & Vegetation
Many of the natural pans have dried up, some becoming mud baths. The borehole pans have been under extreme pressure from large herds of elephant and other game. The teak trees have now lost most of their leaves and the teak woodlands are very open allowing easier game viewing. On the other hand, the areas covered by ordeal trees have been swathed in a brilliant green. Other trees have flowered and all the camel thorns are now flushed with green.
October has been an excellent month for game viewing as the animals have been forced to drink from the pumped waterholes. The highlight has been the white rhino. At the beginning of the month we successfully managed to track the rhinos down on foot. The rest of the month we had a number of sightings, especially of the mother and her calf.
Lions have been seen regularly in many locations on the concession, from single animals to large prides and small cubs to big males with great dark manes. We have seen them both on walks and from vehicles. Some of the guests have been lucky enough to see some of these lions on kills. The largest pride seen this month was 13.
Leopard sightings have been more frequent than usual, often spotting them draped over a large branch of a tree. On one occasion a curious leopard walked right up to one of our vehicles. The other large cat, the cheetah, has been seen occasionally. We have seen a number of these cats alone; some hunting through the open grasslands of the concession. Some guests were even lucky enough to have their breakfast while watching a cheetah sitting at the pan in front of camp.
Hyaenas have been busy feasting on dead elephant, buffalo and any other creature who has not managed to survive the dry period. One morning we walked right into five hyaena feeding on a dead buffalo. They ignored our presence as we stood by and watched. At the hyaena den near camp we saw four cubs of two differing ages.
Other interesting mammal sightings this month included a honey badger, a black mamba trying to catch a squirrel, a reasonably large python, numerous roan, polecats, African wildcats and porcupines.
Probability sightings for October:
Giraffe - 100%, hippo 100%, elephant 100%, buffalo 90%, zebra 90%, wildebeest 87%, kudu 81%, roan 68%, spotted hyaena 65%, sable 65%, lion 61%, waterbuck 61%, eland 32%, leopard 26%, side-stripped jackal 26%, cheetah 16%, reedbuck 16%, wildcat 13%, rhino 3%, caracal 3%, porcupine 3%
The birding has definitely picked up with the arrival of migrants such as Barn Swallows and European Bee-eaters. The birds of prey have been very active around waterholes and we have seen a stream of eagles visiting the waterhole in front of camp. The most noticeable are the Yellow-billed Kites who sweep down to catch their prey from the skies. There has been an increase in the numbers of birds nesting around camp. The most visible is a large colony of Red-headed Weavers just outside the offices. Occasionally a male will peep at his reflection in the window and then comically will aggressively attack his reflection! Near camp a Dark Chanting Goshawk was seen eating an owl chick, but we failed to identify which type of owl.
Camp and Guests
The mixture of guests this month has kept things ever-changing and exciting for the staff in camp. We have enjoyed the diversity of American guests from different states and a variety of other nationalities. The guests have enjoyed our wildlife sightings and other activities on offer here at Makalolo Plains Camp; from rhino bush tracking, surprise bush picnics to romantic private deck dinners to name a few.
We would like to welcome Japhet to the team. Japhet will be driving tractors and helping out in the maintenance department. The entire staff body has been kept very busy and had a wonderful month. An exciting experience was helping Jaelle, wherever possible, with her anti-snaring project. Kate and Robynne were lucky enough to help out with the darting of a young male lion. The new blast freezer went up to help supply all camps with much needed ice through the hottest month of the year.
Guest Comments and Highlights
"Really excellent guides and game viewing was exceptional."
"Cynthia set the tone - extremely friendly and sincere. The drives were extraordinary - the guides went out of their way. The traditional night - the staff was genuine and talented. The lion kill and hyaenas with their babies were the highlights."
"This was my favourite location on our whole trip - staff makes the big difference - delightful and insightful" - Nancy
"We had a lovely time, we will never forget it. Especially the last night where Tracy set up a dinner for two in front of the pool looking towards the elephant drinking. Great Job!" - Cruz
"The friendliness and professionalism of your staff was extraordinary. We felt like a member of a loving family. Thank you for a wonderful time" - Ray & Ann
Staff in Camp
Management: Caro, Jeremy and Tammy
Guides: Godfrey, Bryan, Dickson, Lawrence and Richard (Trainee)
Hostesses: Kate, Cynthia and Tracy
Little Makalolo update - October 2010 Jump
to Little Makalolo
Climate and Temperature
The average minimum temperature was a warm 20 degrees Celsius and it did not take the hazy mornings too long to warm up to an average maximum of 39 degrees. This October recorded the highest temperatures in two years in Hwange of 41.9 degrees. The specks of clouds on the horizons were under constant supervision as we anticipated the rain we so desperately need. Strong wind picked up midway through the month increasing the speed of the on-coming cloud. Finally the skies were covered and we received our first millimetre of precious rain on 20 October. Anyone watching would have thought this had been 10 inches for all the excitement and impromptu rain dances which it sparked! With the rain, the temperatures dropped, making life here more bearable and our rainy season officially kicked off.
Landscape and Vegetation
"There are two Africas and I do not know which I love the best - the green, lush, bright country when the sap is running and the earth is wet; or the dry, brown-gold wastes of the drought, when the sky closes down, hazy and smoke-dimmed and the sun is copper-colored and distorted." - Doris Lessing
This October has really shown the beauty of these two extremes, albeit only a tantalising preview of the former. The pans shrank visibly in the high temperatures and although these were continuously pumped and nurtured they struggled to maintain the water that was in such great demand. Natural waterholes are most definitely a faint memory as they lie cracked and dry waiting patiently for the sprinklings of the rain. Unfortunately the little that we received was not even enough to dampen the soils but we hope that will quickly change as the rainy season is still ahead of us. The vegetation seemed to be in dispute - the bright green shoots and foliage on many of the trees versus the sparse golden grass and rapidly expanding areas of bare sand. The false mopane and teak trees provide a little more shade than the previous months and elephant are now seen taking refuge in their more luscious leaves during the midday heat.
The amount and variety of game seen over the course of the month has persuaded guests to slap on the sunscreen, top up water bottles and brave the high temperatures. The scarcity of water has meant that the pumped pans are a hive of activity; herds of hundreds of will come down to drink and a thousand buffalo will emerge from a cloud of dust all at once to quench their thirst. Elephant have stayed close to the water to keep themselves cool and a highlight for many guests is simply sitting back and enjoying a sundowner watching these giants drinking and cooling off in the water.
Despite the heat, lion sightings have been fantastic; the cooler mornings and evenings have been the best times to view these big cats in action. We started the month watching two females with eight cubs feeding on at wildebeest kill at Mbiza. Viewing our resident prides has made for some special guest experiences especially watching five cubs playing with four lioness as the male looked on.
The large male cheetah in the Linkwasha area seems to specialise in wildebeest kills and was seen for a few days around a kill which he had moved into the cover of some blue bushes. He seems to be established and he even joined guests watching elephant at one of the pans for sundowners one evening. Three cheetah cubs were seen at Little Imbiza in classic cheetah pose on top of a termite mound and they also provided guests with handsome family photographs. A caracal was also spotted fleetingly this month, in contrast to one of the other more secretive cats, the leopard, which rewarded guests by posing in the branches of trees or on the night drives in the red glow of the spot. The very elusive zorilla, also known as a striped polecat was seen on one evening drive, whilst a pair of wild dog melted in and out of the early evening darkness.
One of the best night sounds has to be the haunting whoop and call of the hyaena. This animal has been one of the few to have benefited from the harsh dry season by preying on those animals which have not been so fortunate. These opportunistic carnivores have been seen frequently on carcasses or with very full bellies splashing themselves off in what remains of the pans. On one occasion Charles and his guests set off on their early morning drive and encountered a very curvy hyaena heading down to the water hole for a drink. Coming into the same waterhole were a herd of sable. Charles was just explaining that the sable's horns were a deadly weapon and they were an antelope not to be reckoned with as they are sure to put up a good fight, when suddenly one of the bulls charged the hyaena. Too full for a speedy escape and taken by surprise, the hyaena was trampled by this large sable before making a beeline for the treeline. Although the hyaena probably walked away slightly bruised, he was lucky not to have sustained more injuries.
A white rhino and her male calf have understandably been the ultimate game viewing reward for a few privileged guests. Although there has been evidence of rhino activity for the past three months we have not been lucky enough to have regular sightings of these armored mammals until this month. The excitement was tangible whenever the pair were spotted - either grazing together across vast open grass plains, or when drinking at the golden pans at sunset. Whatever the time of day the magic and meaning of seeing such a pair was not lost on anyone.
A summary of sightings for October:
100% probability for elephant, buffalo, hippo, steenbok, common duiker and baboon, 97% for zebra and springhare, 94% for giraffe, 84% impala, kudu and vervet monkey, 77% black-backed jackal, 74% warthog, 71% spotted hyaena, sable, waterbuck and wildebeest, 65% lion, 58% roan, 48% eland, 39% leopard, 32% reedbuck, 26% cheetah and large spotted genet, 23% side-striped jackal, 16% tree squirrel, 10% square-lipped/white rhino and striped polecat, 6% gemsbok, 3% wild dog, caracal, honey badger, white tailed and banded mongoose, lesser bushbaby and tortoise.
With summer well on its way, the diversity of birdlife has been phenomenal. The swift little Paradise Flycatchers, the Plum-coloured Starlings, Crimson-breasted Shrikes and the Racket-tailed Rollers have all been vivid bursts of colour delighting guests. Kori Bustards have been seen driving off competitors in impressive displays and an assortment of nests are being built in a frenzy by many different species getting ready for the next generation. A Pennant-winged Nightjar ended off another beautiful dusty, hazy day in Hwange by softly flying across a starry sky like a free kite.
Staff in Camp
October called for a real rallying of the Little Makalolo team and this scorcher of a month was met with energy, dedication and humour of our staff. We greatly appreciated the help given on numerous occasions by Alfred and Brian, two guides who assisted a busy team over the course of the month.
"I came to Zimbabwe 18 years ago and loved the country. I am lucky enough to come back and appreciate the highly professional expertise of your guides and the style and comfort of Little Makalolo, as well as the perfect management of it. Thanks to all of you" Hubert & Francoise - France
"We spent four amazing days at Little Makalolo on our honeymoon and had an unforgettable holiday.The staff were all extremely friendly and helpful and the guides knowledgeable - thank you especially to Lewis, our guide, for providing us with so much interesting information and showing us such a diverse array of game". Lisa & Greg - South Africa
Davison's Camp update - October 2010
October has lived up to its reputation as being the hottest month of the year with a maximum temperature of 44.5 degrees Celsius recorded - the highest in the last three years. Night temperatures were also high, with a low of 31 degrees recorded one night. However, the heat was chased away with the first few drops of rainfall, which were much appreciated, towards the end of the month. The terrific build up, with the plenty of wind and lots of crashing thunder, however relinquished very little moisture from the sky.
Vegetation, Landscape and Water
The beginning of the month saw the bush dry out even more, which we never thought possible. The animals flocked to the waterholes in enormous herds, fighting over what was left in the pans. A few of the animals were looking a little weak from lack of nutritious vegetation.
The kudu berry trees around camp have been feeding the birds and monkeys with their juicy berries which seemed to appear overnight. The Southern Yellow-billed Hornbills entertained guests with their fighting and squawking over their gooseberry-sized green prizes, doing acrobatics all over the bushes.
The rain at the end of the month seems to have awoken many a species of creepy-crawly which appear from all crevices. The shiny little tok-tok beetles are out again, shuffling around looking for things of interest.
With water being so scarce this month we have had a wide variety of animals coming down to the pumped pan in front of camp. From beautiful kudu, eland and sable to predators such as lion, cheetah and leopard - all have attended to their thirst. Buffalo and elephant appear from out of the treeline and head in droves towards the water, often fighting it out between them as to who has the right to drink first. Of course the elephant tend to win this fight and then turn the waterhole into a mud pond as they bathe and splash about. The large herds of buffalo have been quite spectacular with some reaching up to 700 strong, kicking up huge sand clouds surrounding the camp.
There has been no shortage of lion sightings this month with the king of the beasts being seen nearly every day. Some guests were lucky enough to witness three lioness taking down an unsuspecting buffalo who failed to pay attention to the warning barks of the baboons in the surrounding Ilala Palms. A pride of seven also casually made their way past the front of camp early one evening following a herd of buffalo and waiting for the right moment to start their hunt.
Cheetah have been out and about. A male was spotted sitting at Scotts Pan patiently waiting for a herd of wildebeest to approach, while another was male mobbed and chased away by the baboons at Linkwasha. We have also been fortunate enough to see four cheetah at the pan in front of Davison's Camp.
Leopard have kept to themselves mostly this month; however one was seen relaxing in an ebony tree at Back Pans and our resident leopard who was investigating the area around Tent 8, quickly realised he was being watched and swiftly moved off into the bushes.
A highlight in October was the sighting of the female rhino with her calf. They were seen peacefully grazing near the airstrip on the first occasion and then again at Mandundumela, where guides and guests were also treated to the elusive gemsbok.
With the start of the breeding season we have seen many warthogs with newborn piglets. It is always a comical site seeing the little things with their tails in the air, trotting frantically to keep up while their mother casually saunters down to the pan for a drink. One morning, these little piggies had the guests in stitches as they attempted to make their way past a baboon who was planted firmly by the pan. At first they would try and brave their way past him but at the last minute would dash back a couple metres leaving a trail of dust rising from their little hooves. Eventually, when their thirst became too much for them to bear, they plucked up enough courage to sneak past and get a drink from the pan.
The summer migrants have certainly returned. Yellow-billed Kites are in abundance, especially at the pan, feasting on western olive toads who have emerged with the first rains. The kites' aerobatic displays and squabbles over these tasty amphibian morsels have been a fascinating daily observation. Others have joined the frog feeding frenzy such as a solitary Saddle-billed Stork, a pair of Fish Eagles and a Tawny Eagle. Ground Hornbills also joined in and have been frequent visitors to Ostrich Pan in the early mornings; their haunting calls an almost constant background hum during the predawn silence.
Jacobin Cuckoos have been seen while the call of the Red-chested Cuckoo has been echoing around camp in the early mornings. Broad-billed Rollers have settled into camp and their raucous cacophony can be heard throughout the day from the eastern side of camp.
Another species spotted around camp has been a family of Bradfield's Hornbills. They have set up a nest in a large false mopane tree close to Tent 3 and the male bird has been seen tirelessly taking tasty titbits to his mate, who can only be seen through a tiny slit in the tree trunk.
All in all, the onset of the rains have created amazing bird sightings, the pans are supporting healthy concentrations of waders and water birds, the skies are peppered with a large variety of raptors, kites, swifts, bee-eaters and vultures, while the greening thickets are home to all manner of chirping, tweeting and warbling.
'Everyone was exceptionally friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. Loved seeing the animals. The guides were excellent. Enjoyed the visit to the school and village.' - USA
'Lion kill of the buffalo was the highlight.' - USA
'Friendly, obliging staff. Ladies wonderful with the kids. Food wholesome, healthy and beautifully presented with candle lights etc.' - UK
'Seeing the lion family and to see a lion kill was amazing. Guides did an outstanding job.' - Switzerland
'Lion kill of buffalo. Such diversity of animals in one area. Rooms were very accommodating. Warm and friendly staff addressing us by name was a nice touch.' - USA
'All of it! The extra effort made for us since it was our honeymoon - drinks on arrival and private dinner - very much appreciated, making it a really extra special stay - Thank you!' - UK
Ruckomechi Camp update - October 2010 Jump
to Ruckomechi Camp
October has been very hot with temperatures reaching 42? Celsius during midday - which is no wonder that elephant are spending so much time in the Zambezi River. No rains recorded apart from a light drizzle on one day which helped cool things down a bit - albeit only briefly.
Vegetation, Landscape and the Zambezi River
The landscape is very dry at the moment. There are carpets of orange and red winterthorn pods, which are adding colour, but these are quickly consumed by elephant. The air is filled with the sounds of cicadas during the day, and at night, frogs are competing with each other.
The Zambezi River seems to have risen slightly and we are starting to notice larger quantities of smaller fish which we assume are kapenta (the local name for Tanganyika sardine). This small fish species seems to have made its way down the Zambezi River from when the floodgates of Lake Kariba were opened at the beginning of the season.
Apart from the hot conditions experienced this month, the concession has definitely rewarded visitors with fantastic wildlife sightings - including predators on a regular basis and elephant in close proximity to the dining room for most meals!
Cheetah, in a coalition of three young males, have currently chosen to wander the Ruckomechi Concession despite the presence of our resident lions. On an afternoon game drive the cheetah were sighted by guests and after watching them for a few minutes it became evident that they were in fact watching our lion pride females walking in the near distance. The cheetah held their position as the lion sauntered past into the riverbed. Only 30 metres away, the lion lay down in the shade of some croton trees for the next 40 minutes. The cheetah were fixated on the lion though while they lay sprawled, hot and totally oblivious to the presence of the cheetah. Only on the arrival of a breeding herd of elephant did the cheetah move off quietly. These three cheetah are now becoming a wonderful highlight on many a drive!
Elephant continue to parade in, through and around Ruckomechi Camp, often visiting each guest tent during siesta. The room hands and maintenance department are constantly repairing tents and boardwalks. Seeing these immense pachyderms swimming to the island in front of camp is now a common daily occurrence and an amazing spectacle.
Leopard has kept a lower profile this month, but those seen have definitely been a topic of discussion around the dinner table. Chacma baboons were heard barking on one occasion right in Ruckomechi Camp - a sure sign of a possible lurking leopard. The guides soon discovered a leopard feeding on a baboon up in a tree not far from camp...
Lion sightings have been quite showy of late, with different prides gracing the Concession from time to time. Two males, approximately four to five years old, have been seen but are still a little nervous. Three females killed a zebra right outside the staff accommodation and were present in the area for a few days thereafter. These lionesses are an offshoot of a pride of eight which move more in the Nyakasanga area and we are hoping they may become more permanent on the Concession.
A pack of 26 African wild dogs have been on the Concession this month. The eight pups now accompanying the adults away from the den will soon be joining the hunts. They have been seen often in the riverbed during the evenings trying to cool down after a hot day. Spotted hyaena are never far from them, hoping the dogs will make a kill and they can scavenge any leftovers.
Serval cats have also spoilt us with their presence on more than one occasion by performing their amazing jumps as they hunt in marshy areas for fish and frogs, every now and then pouncing on some unsuspecting prey item.
Birds and Birding
The skies are filled with added colours and sounds as the palearctic migrants return. Boat cruises are a definite highlight as both Southern Carmine and White-fronted Bee-eaters flock to the riverbanks to feed their chicks that we can now hear calling. African Purple Swamphen has been seen on the islands on many occasions as well as waders such as the Common Sandpiper. A Grey-headed Bush-Shrike was seen outside the library trying to attack a chameleon. Some serious birders in camp ticked a total of a 148 birds in three days.
'The night drives when we saw a civet, genets, leopard and a porcupine. Canoeing, walking, having a outside bath at five thirty as the sky turned pink.'
'Superb service and attention to detail from arrival to departure. The staff were fantastic, we were treated like royalty. A highlight was being delivered our bream (delicious freshwater tilapia) snacks, cooked to us on the river.'
'Large herd of elephant crossing the river, then seen again at brunch in camp.'
We welcome Graham Cochrane who will be taking over the Mana Canoe Trails from Johnny. We are very proud of our new learner guides who passed their examinations in September. Congratulations to Paul Mafuka, Tendai Marufu, John Russell and Clea Bridges.
Mana Canoe Trail update - October 2010 Jump
to Mana Canoe Trail
This is a spectacular trip; one of Africa's classic expeditions! For some excellent footage of this trail click here.
Below is an account of a trail conducted in early October 2010.
We launched by canoe from just upstream of Ruckomechi Camp at around 15h45. Guides Tendai and Henry had given us a thorough briefing on the river and its hazards while an elephant bull looked on from nearby shade. The peaceful bull was a suitably auspicious omen and as we joined the main channel of the Zambezi we certainly felt freer and less constrained by the urban world we had left behind just a day prior. Ahead of us lay more than 50km of wild Zambezi River, perhaps 2 000 hippo, some walking in the wilderness areas of Mana Pools National Park and three nights spent in charming dome tent camps set up by the seriously efficient and enthusiastic support team.
That first afternoon we got to grips with our canoes and the different paddle strokes used to maintain control of our craft. We saw our first couple of hundred hippo, a few elephant, plenty of waterbuck and impala and a myriad bird species including our first carmine bee-eater colony. We settled down around the campfire at Vundu campsite that night feeling more invigorated (and at the same time calmer) than in many months.
As the days passed we enjoyed some spectacular sightings of various creatures from the regal and heavily-set eland, to zebra, elephant herds and grand old bulls, impala, waterbuck and of course another few hundred hippo (including a couple in the woodlands while on foot and one that temporarily delayed our return to the canoes), some giant crocodiles and a few buffalo and hyaena. Lions, despite their tracks being abundant every time we set foot on land, eluded us. This was more than made up for though by a wild dog sighting.
We were on foot in the Nyamatusi Wilderness Area and Henry had spotted some vultures circling a few hundred yards from us. We trained the binoculars on them to determine whether it was worth following up and, noticing a hooded vulture land, decided to make our way to the site. Having already seen lion tracks and negotiated some tall 'adrenalin grass' our minds were on this large predator and we fully expected to find a small pride lying in the shade while the vultures explored for scraps. As we halved the distance, a movement at the base of a Natal mahogany tree caught our attention and as we registered the large, rounded ears, slight physique and short tail we got a jolt of excitement. 12 wild dogs lay next to each other in the shade. Through the binoculars we could see bloodstained chests and mouths and knew that they must have recently killed and eaten. They ignored the nearby vultures and we took this as our cue to approach.
Taking an oblique angle, cutting back, and then finally edging forward on our buttocks, we managed to approach to around 30 yards. The dogs tolerated us and even regarded us with some curiosity before we left them and continued on our way, passing a large herd of over 100 impala, a breeding herd of elephant with a month-old calf, two herds of eland and a smattering of zebra.
Back at the canoes there was time to reflect on the experience as we made our way downstream to the campsite at Ilala. This stretch of river - free of development on both the Zimbabwe and Zambian banks - is magnificent and is really an amazing way to end a trip which should enable you to find some peace and quiet to reflect on life.
Toka Leya Camp update - October 2010 Jump
to Toka Leya Camp
Weather and Landscape
At last the green season is upon us. The prolonged dry spell, lasting for not less than six months and two days, finally found its long-awaited climax towards the end of October. But apart from three beautiful days with powerful yet brief thunderstorms, October has been very hot and dry. Day time averages have been reaching a warm 35.2°C (95F) and nights have offered a cool retreat of 20.2°C (68F).
On 21 October we recorded the first clouds slowly moving across the skies. However, it was only on 26 October that we received the first thunderstorm with 2.5mm of rain. Clearing up quickly after the pleasant and cooling rains, it took until the 30th and the 31st before we received another 3mm of beautiful rain.
With the change of season, Toka Leya's face will rapidly start to change. Only a few days before the first rains fell, various trees such as the silver clusterleaf, the baobab and sausage tree started shooting their new leaves. Just imagine what Toka Leya will look like in the month of November!
As it was dry for the majority of October, wildlife was concentrated around the riverine areas. Toka Leya Camp, being well placed, was right at the heart of the action. Large herds of elephant passed through camp during the month and giraffe, warthog, zebra, bushbuck, buffalo and impala were often spotted from the comfort of our rooms in camp. Pretty extraordinary was the sighting of a huge herd of buffalo found peacefully grazing with two enormous hippo near Tents 5 and 6.
One morning, with the break of dawn, five huge white rhino lazily made their way up to Tents 10, 11 and 12. The guests in these rooms had a real privilege of waking up to the second largest land mammal right next to their veranda. With only 11 000 white rhino remaining in the wild, an encounter with this prehistoric-looking animal is an impressive and rare sight. Weighing up to 3.6kg, white rhino mainly feed on grasses and leaves, and the grassy savannah area around our rooms is a great place for them to graze.
Bird life in October has been very exciting. With the creek in front of reception drying up, spectacular water birds have been attracted into camp. For example, the aquatic African Finfoot visited this quiet backwater throughout the month and was often spotted while on the hunt for food. A true underwater specialist with its long neck, sharp orange beak and opportunistic hunting tactics, it is a great bird to observe.
Other birds spotted at the very same creek included the Little Egret, Open-billed Stork and the Green-backed Heron; the latter probably being the most advanced hunter of them all. Spotted numerous times in a compact position perched on a branch above the shallow creek water, it looks intentionally elsewhere before it strikes. Feeding on insects like dragonflies and fish, this bird cleverly attracts its prey by capturing an insect and dropping in onto the surface of the water in turn inviting the fish it feeds on.
On another level the Open-billed stork, with its distinctive nutcracker-like bill, jabs its slightly open bill into the muddy ground, feeding on riverine snails and mussels. It also uses a remarkable technique for opening unwilling mussels by collecting them on the shore and leaving them in the heat of the sun until they open themselves.
Victoria Falls Activities
With the dry season reaching its peak, the water levels of the Zambezi are spectacularly low, particularly at the Victoria Falls. More than half of the rocky face of the Falls became dry at the start of October and even the bottom of the first gorge can now be seen. This water that flows over the Falls' edge during this month is roughly a tenth of the April volumes.
Located in the middle of the Zambezi River on the edge of the Victoria Falls, Livingstone Island is the place from which David Livingstone first saw the Falls in 1855. As an additional activity, we offer our guests the opportunity to visit the Island in October and they are able to share the same incredible views that Livingstone experienced. A famous feature of the island is the Devil's Pool. This Pool is probably the world's most exciting natural pool to bathe in - only between September and December, mind you! Situated not more than half a metre from the very edge of the Falls, the water you bathe in flows directly over the edge into the gorge far below you. This is the place to emerge yourself and really enjoy the sheer size of the Victoria Falls. The low water levels make the pool safe enough to swim in and it's often a highlight of any visit to Livingstone Island. Livingstone Island is within easy reach of Toka Leya. It is a great way of making the most of a Victoria Falls visit during low water periods.
"Toka Leya was a wonderful stop on our honeymoon. Game drives, sundowners, a visit to the Falls (and the Devil's Pool), river cruises and a village visit - all of it was just wonderful." NY USA
"Thanks you for a fantastic stay in this beautiful camp, all of you have really been extraordinarily service minded!" Stockholm Sweden
"Extraordinary experience at this camp! We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and hope to be back some day. The staff, the wildlife and the Falls were incredible! Thank you!" Chigaco USA
"Toka Leya was a pleasant surprise. We were going to see the Falls and then relax after two weeks of safari, but there are so many other interesting and enjoyable things going on that we never got time to relax!" United Kingdom
Staff in Camp
Managers: Bas and Suzanne
Executive Chef: Kenny
Assistant Manager: Kawanga
Trainee Managers: Zoe and Evie
Lufupa River Camp update - October 2010 Jump
to Lufupa River Camp
Weather and Landscape
It has been blisteringly hot here at Lufupa; thankfully however, there is a cool, persistent breeze coming off the Kafue River which is keeping us relatively comfortable at night. Finally, after a few days of cloud build-up we received our first summer rains triggering the budding of fresh leaves on the trees , the emergence of green grasses and surprisingly enough the birth of new impala. The minimum temperatures are still a pleasant 18-20 degrees Celsius and maximums reaching as high as 42 degrees!
The game viewing at Lufupa continues to be outstanding. Leopard have continued to delight us with as many as 30 plus sightings during the month - which could be translated to one sighting per day. We should also mention here that we have seen lion 38 times, including sightings of young cubs and lion mating.
The three wild dog sisters who were joined by two males in September continue to spend time together. With a bit of luck they will breed. We have had the pleasure of seeing them on a number of occasions during October. Other fantastic sightings worth mentioning are cheetah, sable, hundreds of elephant and hippo.
A warthog family, an elephant bull and a pair of hyaena sisters have made themselves at home at camp. The hyaena spend their day out on the plains and come home as the sun sets announcing their return with their high-pitched call. The elephant bull terrorises everyone as he trumpets and flaps his ears, but we love having all of them around us, so much so that we begin to worry if we don't see them.
The bird life has been remarkable with numerous sightings of the elusive Pel's Fishing Owl and a pair of African Finfoot, countless Raptors, Kingfishers, Herons, Storks, and Rollers.
An all-weather road and airstrip project is taking place which will facilitate easier year-round access to the Lufupa Concession. Through our future full-time presence, this project should also reduce poaching incidences in the rainy season. This will also have added benefit for our staff as we will be able to extend employment contracts and it will increase revenue for the Zambia Wildlife Authority.
Out of Camp Dining activities
Dining beneath the stars against the background of the African bush is a unique and unforgettable experience. We love to surprise our guests by whisking them away to a heart-stopping location and offering them a bush dinner. Typically, our Baobab Dinner commences with a gentle game drive to the baobab, where tables, chairs, campfire, hurricane lanterns, bush bar and bush kitchen are already set up. On arrival guests are invited to enjoy the campfire while Phinny our chef cooks on an open fire. The waiters entertain us by drumming and singing their traditional songs. After dinner, our guests take a short drive back to the camp.
"Exceptional lodge- we had a wonderful stay."
"Lovely relaxing stay, friendly staff"
"Lufupa Camp is a heavenly place! The leopards of Lufupa will be remembered forever."
Staff in Camp
Solly, Jacqui, Phineas, Mwami, Sophie and Cynthia
Lufupa Tented Camp update - October 2010 Jump
to Lufupa Tented Camp
Kalamu Lagoon Camp update - October 2010 Jump
to Kalamu Lagoon Camp
Weather and Landscape
As expected in the month of October, the temperatures rise and the waters levels sink to their lowest in the Luangwa River as well as in the lagoons. The dead-looking vegetation is however beginning to change and from mid-month we noticed a few trees sprouting their new spring leaves. The easterly winds have also picked up which firstly gives us a reprieve from the consistent heat, but which also indicates the start of the rainy season. The clouds starting forming towards the end of the month and while we did get a very small shower we know that we still need to be patient before the real rains hit the land.
After a long period of not seeing the pride of three lion which have frequented the area this year, we finally caught up with them at the Munina Confluence where they seemed to be feasting on the weakened buffalo. At this time of year, as the area dries out and the water points become fewer and further between, the buffalo have to travel longer distances between water and the grazing lands; the latter also being less nutritious than usual. Taking advantage of this, the small pride pulled down two buffalo, devouring one completely and only taking a few nibbles on the other - a gift for the scavengers perhaps? For images from this dramatic hunt click here.
The walking trails this month took us to two separate hyaena dens just near the Kalamu Star-bed Camp. Later in October one of the dens revealed a couple of tiny young pups that were still black in colour. The shy resident leopard that frequents Kalamu Lagoon Camp has resumed its regular visits and on several occasions has been heard rasping just outside camp. Recently it was seen at the top end of the lagoon. The wild dog pack was also seen at the Fiya Confluence looking particularly relaxed after a good feed.
The warthogs have dropped their young and it won't be long before the impala follow suit. Buffalo and elephant sightings have increased due to the dry, receding bush and the need to drink at the remaining water points which still hold the precious liquid. On one of the trails this month, the group saw a herd of more than a hundred elephants crossing the Luangwa River, a special sighting as the giants formed a queue and followed one another across the water.
Carmine Bee-eaters have been among some of special sightings for this month, bringing a dash of colour to the banks of the river. In addition, Broad-billed Rollers were also seen. Yellow-billed Kites have been some of the migrants we have seen, but strangely enough, it is the very vocal Woodland Kingfishers that we are used to at this time of year that we still haven't heard. We hope that next month we will report that they are back with us.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Petros and Gogo
Trainee Manager: Mavis
Guides: Luxon and Mwila
Shumba Camp update - October 2010 Jump
to Shumba Camp
Our plunge pool has been a hive of activity due to the long, hot dusty days we have been experiencing. The mornings are still fresh and crisp with gorgeous sunrises greeting us at our early breakfasts on the deck. The evenings have bought us clear, beautiful sunsets with the orange orb of the sun casting lengthy shadows and creating wonderful light.
On 23 October we watched as a storm gathered south of Shumba. The dark clouds shot out splinters of lightning and we heard deep rolling thunder, this was swiftly followed by the heavens opening up above us. When rain hits the plains the force of this rainfall kicks up tiny spores from the vegetation creating that wonderful smell of rain which is so unique to Africa.
October has been filled to the brim with fantastic game in the plains. Mid-month, the male lion from the Busanga Pride sauntered past Shumba's main area while we were having breakfast. He looked magnificent, silhouetted by the backdrop of the sunrise. He let off a few loud roars and his misty breath was clear in the bracing chill of the early morning.
The Busanga Pride have begun their unique, seasonal tree climbing habit in an effort to escape the flies and heat. The guests captured some wonderful photos of the lion clawing up and down the trees.
In addition to this, the pride allowed us a few comical moments when we spotted them happily feasting on a dead hippo in the shallow water. One of the males suddenly clambered atop the carcass and started a bizarre exercise of barrel rolling on the body, obviously lasting for seconds before he fell right in the water below. The moggy quickly stood up, shook himself off and continued his feasting.
A hyaena has been seen for only the second time this season quite near to Shumba Bridge. This hyaena walks with a distinctive limp as he has a slightly damaged front leg. He is a resilient fellow and has persevered in spite of the lion presence on the plains.
Another noteworthy sighting has been a family of jackals. There is one female and one male in a den with pups. The den in which they inhabit is close to Busanga Bush Camp. This sighting is something new and unusual even for our most seasoned guides operating on the Busanga Plains.
Towards the end of the month, the three cheetah known as the Busanga Boys were stalking around the plains in full view, much to our guests' and guides' delight. Another cheetah, a female, has been on the plains with her cubs - a wonderful treat. We will be keeping an eye on her and the youngsters' progress. A solitary cheetah was also spotted by our hot air balloon which usually only brings fabulous sightings of buffalo, hippo and herds of puku and lechwe.
On the subject of the balloon, guests had a close viewing of a Fish Eagle nest complete with chicks. These nests tend to be very high in the trees and therefore the only way of viewing them is from above. It is clearly such an unusual sighting that it was a first for our balloonists and guests alike.
Amongst our usual large herds of lechwe and puku that roam the plains, many magnificent sable have been viewed on the game drives. Their numbers vary between 22 and 26 in each herd and are often viewed close to the treeline. These noble animals with their ringed horns that arch backwards over their shoulders are one of the most sought after antelopes for photography.
At camp, a serval has been seen right near Tent 1 in the late afternoon. We have been lucky with our serval sightings over the last six weeks as they are usually a rare sighting and have a very distinctive spotted, slender body with long legs and a small head. They are a wonderful addition to our many wild cat sightings. Lastly and certainly not least, a Crowned Eagle was spotted near the camp. This majestic and rare sighting was a welcome surprise to our keen birders!
As we wind up the season and welcome the rains, we hear hippos fighting over the mud pools in the night. Like us, they look forward to a great wet season which will fill our rivers and quench the dusty earth of theplains.
'Staff and service were wonderful. This is a smart camp that remains unpretentious and welcoming. Food was superb as well!'
'Good quality of game drives and outstanding knowledge of the guides of wildlife.'
'Fantastic skill and commitment by the staff - Wilderness' commitment to it's staff, guests and environment.'
'Gaining a greater understanding of how the animal's environment works - particularly the lions - beautiful scenery, warm knowledgeable staff.'
Concession Manager: Gilmor
General Manager: Daniella
Camp Managers: Julia and Mulenga
Trainee Manager: Chipasha
Guides: Idos, Lexon and Brent
Kapinga Camp update - October 2010 Jump
to Kapinga Camp
It is hard to believe that in a few days Kapinga will say farewell to our final guests of 2010. It has been a short, eventful season of just over three months. We have been truly lucky to have hosted fantastic people from all over the globe. We hope that we taught them as much as they taught us.
Weather and Landscape
There is nothing quite like the smell of the first rains in the bush at the end of a hot, dry, dusty season. The rains have brought a welcome change to the climate, although the land remains hot and bothered. Temperature highs range between 35-37 degrees Celsius with minimums in the region of 20 degrees. The few thunderstorms which have passed through bring strong winds, thunder and lightning, but they pass over quickly, often leaving behind a remnant of a rainbow over the plains before the land dries up again. The ponchos and brollies have been dusted off and are getting some good use before the imminent close of our camp!
Lion sightings have been fabulous and frequent this month, with regular sightings of both the Papyrus and Busanga prides. The Busanga Pride has lived up to its reputation and has been climbing and sleeping in fig trees - always a highlight for guests. Last night our guests patiently watched one of the Papyrus lionesses stalking a herd of lechwe, taking five paces, stopping for a few minutes, taking another five paces and so on. During her stalk, the vehicle got caught up in a heavy rain shower and darkness soon fell, but the lion, unrelenting, continued her stalk and eventually it paid off with a successful kill. Although difficult for our guests to see in the dark, every few minutes a bright lightning bolt eerily lit up the sky and they could clearly see the lioness and a lion, which now joined her, feasting on her kill. Our guests arrived back in camp very wet but highly thrilled with their experience.
Other noteworthy sightings this month include some fabulous cheetah sightings which have been a highlight for many.
The Kafue Lion Project has recorded some interesting data from the GPS tracking system of those lion and lioness which have been collared. During the wet season, when we are not here, this information will be invaluable to us as very little is known about where the lion go during this time.
Thank you to those who helped make this season so successful at Kapinga Camp. From our camp staff for their fantastic service and support, to the helicopter pilots for safely moving guests in and out of camp, to the hot air balloon operation people who have brought many happy memories to our guests, and last but not least to all of our guests who have made the season of 2010 one in which we will always remember. We hope to see you all again soon in the Busanga Plains!
"There are not enough superlatives to describe the location and staff. Five stars! Charming manager! Many thanks to all for a fantastic visit." - Mike & Michael, USA
"Excellent guiding and relaxing atmosphere of the camp. This place is quite close to heaven and we left a piece of our soul here. Wonderful staff and guide! Merci!"
Pierre & Corrine, France
"I cannot imagine that any accommodation, of whatever type, could match the level of service we experienced. All the staff were all so keen to go that little bit further to ensure our enjoyment." David & Anne, UK
Staff in Camp
Camp Manager: Emma
The Guides: Isaac & Sam
The Ballooners: Paul & Andree
The Pilots: Izak and Mario
The Researcher: Neil
Busanga Bush Camp update - October 2010 Jump
to Busanga Bush Camp
Mvuu Camp update - October 2010 Jump
to Mvuu Camp
Aerial census at Liwonde
This month, the annual aerial census took place in the Liwonde National Park. With the aim to count wildlife, it was conducted and overseen by pilot and wildlife consultant Derek MacPherson of Cluny Wildlife Management Service in close cooperation with Central African Wilderness Safaris, and funding from the Wilderness Wildlife Trust. The beginning of October, while the vegetation is still thin from the dry season, provides optimal viewing conditions for the survey. The views from the two-seater Bantam Microlight aircraft are superb. The Shire sluggishly winds its way through the spreading marshlands and the yellow fever tree forests in the Upper Shire valley spread about the plains, leaving anyone witnessing this sight speechless.
Doing the job requires superb flying skills by the pilot and eagle eyes and absolute concentration on the part of the observers because it is of paramount importance that one should not miss an animal. Scattered groups of elephant traverse the floodplains in search of green pastures and water, massive herds of buffalo are sighted loafing amongst the mopane trees and thousands of impala and waterbuck, as well as hundreds of warthogs and sable antelopes roam freely in the savannah grasslands - all of which needed to be counted.
All in all, an excess of 6 000 animals were counted. The exact numbers of species counted and an informed analysis will be published in the annual census report shortly and will provide an important tool for understanding population trends which will assist the wildlife authorities with management decisions.
The drier it gets in Liwonde National Park, the more black rhino we seem to spot during our ever-popular Land Rover safaris in the Rhino Sanctuary. Over the course of a week, we had the pleasure of seeing the horned herbivore on four different occasions. Most of the encounters took place close to one of the three active waterholes in the reserve. One young male which we found had just cut short his favourite pastime of wallowing in the mud and strutted his stuff in full view of the guests as he crossed the road only metres away from the vehicle. Many of the other guides at the camp and the lodge have had similar sightings recently.
We have also seen two male rhino fighting, and the long-lost male that escaped the sanctuary some months ago put in a personal appearance much to the delight of our guests and the accompanying guides. Samuel, one of our guides, was mock-charged by a big male one afternoon and he just managed to sneak in a snappy photograph before the boisterous boy beetled off into the bushes.
We were very lucky to spot a black rhino from the aircraft during the aerial census when the pilot flew sorties over the sanctuary to get a number on our break-in specialists, the elephants. Close to the southern fence line, the fully grown rhino jumped out of the bushes, looked up into the sky and brandished his long and prominently de-curved horn in a menacing way at the lofty intruders.
To our complete surprise and excitement, we had a very special sighting of lion between Namisundu and Kadunguzi (on the road to Mvuu Camp and Lodge). Other game sightings include immense numbers of elephant, in just one morning we spotted a total of 76 elephant drinking water by the western bank of the Shire River and on the same day we spotted a Pel's Fishing Owl perched up in the branches while on a boat safari.
Thanks to Samuel Chihana and Frank Weitzer
Desert Rhino Camp update - October 2010 Jump
to Desert Rhino Camp
Palmwag Lodge update - October 2010 Jump
to Palmwag Lodge
Doro Nawas Camp update - October 2010 Jump
to Doro Nawas Camp
We have experienced very hot days with temperatures averaging between 35 to 42 degrees Celcius, but thankfully the evenings cool down to around 17 degrees. The land is dry and the winds are still howling, which exacerbates the already dwindling grass, while animals scramble for the last morsels. Hopefully the rain will come soon.
Wildlife and landscape
As the elephant are going in search of nutrients further afield, our guides are using their knowledge and tracking skills to find the great mammals - they have managed to keep up a 90% success rate. However, the elephant do still visit us in camp and this is always such a wonderful sighting.
One of the young males of the Rosy elephant group was finally chased out of the herd. It is time for him to go out on his own, or to join a bachelor herd.
In mid-October we saw the Oscar elephant group in the Aba Huab River having just come from the mountainside. They were clearly thirsty and heading for De Riet to find water. However in the meantime they were extremely hot and to cool down they used water from their "pharyngeal pouch" to spray themselves behind the ears and legs. A "pharyngeal pouch" is a unique pocket that desert-adapted elephant possess to store water in their bodies for survival. This pouch can store up to ten litres of liquid and the elephant gain access to the water through their mouths. It is rare to see the elephant using his water supply and was thus a fantastic sighing.
One morning, in search of elephant, we passed a faidherbia tree in the Aba Huab River where we heard a lot of birds chirping. We stopped to have a closer look and caught sight of a Spotted Eagle-Owl sitting in the middle of the tree. Other bird species had surrounded it and were clearly chirping in disdain at the owl. Other birds were flying around the tree in all directions also having their say until the owl left. Clearly the birds were unhappy about his presence and were trying to protect their young in nearby nests.
A lot of kudu, oryx and springbok were spotted in the Huab River grazing on the green leaves of the Acacia erioloba tree and Salvadora persica bush. These tree and bush species stay green all year round and can survive on very little water.
A few months ago Damara Living Museum opened not far from Twyfelfontein, aimed at keeping the customs and cultures of the Damara people alive by showcasing them. Guests visiting Damaraland can see how the Damara people used to live. The museum shows off traditional clothing, how and what they ate and made medicine, perfumes and played games, and obviously how they once housed themselves. The trip ends with dancing and singing by representatives of the Damara Tribe.
"Danize is a very warm and welcoming hostess and all the staff are delightful! Michael and Action (guides) are excellent and very knowledgeable. A great Team! And we loved the singing!"
"We took the afternoon Nature Walk and went out to see the elephants. Both trips were excellent and we were amazed by the skills of the guide Michael - he was excellent in everything he pointed out, I cannot praise him highly enough! I have found that all the staff have been fantastic - so friendly and welcoming."
"Friendly staff, great rooms, being able to sleep outside under the stars, the singing on our last night - superb! Thank you."
Staff in Camp
Managers and Assistant Managers: Coenie van Niekerk, Danize van Niekerk, Agnes Bezuidenhout, Morien Aebes, Theobald Kamatoto
Guides and Trainee Guides: Michael Kauari, Ignatius Khamuseb, Richardt Orr, Pieter Kasaona
Damaraland Camp update - October 2010 Jump
to Damaraland Camp
Weather and Landscape
Light green leaves of the mopane tree have given us the tell-tale sign that summer is here, followed by more game in the area. The first clouds on the horizon anticipate the first rains in the Damaraland area, but we continue to wait in patience for this. The struggle for survival has been highlighted by the extremely dry years which we have had.
The temperatures have been giving us a seesaw effect this month with some scorching days of 41 degrees Celsius and some cool days; probably the sign of a cold front having moved up from South Africa. As is expected in the desert we have had a number of cold evenings.
With game moving back into the area our wildlife sightings have improved dramatically. On a few occasions we have seen oryx and springbok in front of camp. The oryx is one of the best-adapted antelopes able to survive in the desert. Their body temperatures can reach up to 41 degrees Celsius before they start sweating (in the form of panting) so as to conserve any water in their bodies if there is none available. Most interestingly they are able to keep any blood flowing to the brain 2 to 3 degrees cooler than the rest of the body. Their kidneys are also capable of handling 8% of brackish water.
As general wildlife returns to the area, the predators duly follow. We have seen a number of cheetah kills, and have deduced that they are keeping to a healthy diet with a certain appetite for ostrich. These carcasses have in turn attracted lots of Lappet-faced Vultures and we have seen them soaring through the skies on a number of occasions.
The two groups of elephants are still in the Huab River area. They made a brief visit to the Twyfelfontein area but returned after about five days. We have since found them moving between De Riet and Reenewoud which have a number of water points, keeping them in the area. Once we receive our first rains we expect that they will move away from the river which gives the land a chance to recover from grazing pressure. Although elephants can be destructive feeders, the low numbers we encounter and the natural migration of these herds gives the land a chance to regenerate.
The other group of elephants are in the Springbok River area. This group is very shy and prefer staying where there is less human activity.
A Grey Lourie (more commonly known as the Go-away-Bird) was spotted having a feast on the ana tree flowers, with evidence of yellow pollen all over his beak. So the seasons are definitely changing...
Camp and Community
October is celebration time, when the Riemvasmaker Festival takes place. This festival celebrates the culture and the people of the Riemvasmaker. It was a great success as people came from all over the region to attend the festival at De Riet and some travelled from as far away as South Africa. The festival took place from 8 to 10 October.
Staff in Camp
Management: Iván Phillipson, Ilze van der Vyver, Maggie Vries and Elfrieda Hebach
Guides: Johann Cloete, Anthony Dawids, Daniel Uakuramenua and Francois Weitz.
Skeleton Coast Camp update - October 2010 Jump
to Skeleton Coast Camp
Serra Cafema Camp update - October 2010 Jump
to Serra Cafema Camp
Ongava Tented Camp update - October 2010 Jump
to Ongava Tented Camp
Weather and landscape
The green leaves of the mopane are the only trees that are currently adding colour to the landscape. It is very hot and dry at the moment and we are all impatiently waiting for the "real" rain to bring relief to the land and wildlife, and of course to freshen the air for ourselves. We had a few drops earlier in October that brought about hopes of rain but it did not last for long. Many guests are enjoying the swimming pool to cool down in the afternoons; however the evenings are blessed with winds which lower the temperature.
The lions have been busy this month. The Ongava Tented Camp pride, including six cubs, has been around camp almost on a daily basis attracted by the waterhole. Our guests have thoroughly enjoyed watching them from their own private balconies or from the main area in camp.
As lion were so active at the waterhole, the numbers of other animal activity around the area decreased. However, due to the heat, some brave mammals try their luck, sometimes to their own detriment. One particularly hot day, a female kudu tried to approach the water but the lion didn't waste time in bringing her down and they enjoyed their feast in front of everyone in camp. The camera traps took some wonderful images of the scene.
Rhino and lion also put on a show one evening as they battled out the terrain of the waterhole. We can certainly say that this small oasis in front of our camp has provided us with much entertainment during October.
"Ongava is the most amazing site to watch lion probably in the whole of Namibia. Great wildlife and a feeling of safety despite all the lion in action nearby. Thank you to all for a great time." Peter and Anja
"This was the closest we got to the animals we wanted to see. We had a great night show with the rhinos and lions fighting for the water hole. Rio was fantastic." Juan and Luisa
"What a fabulous haven, quite unique and lived up to all expectation and some. Also the Oghoshi (lion) played their part perfectly." Thank you" David, Peter, Carol and Sarah
"Very friendly and welcoming staff. We felt the experience was one to take home with a smile. Thank you." Company party
Staff in camp
Managers: Gerda, Silvia, Inge, Corne
Guides: Rio, Festus, Bariar, Leon
Little Ongava update - October 2010 Jump
to Little Ongava Camp
Ongava Lodge update - October 2010 Jump
to Ongava Lodge
Andersson's Camp update - October 2010 Jump
to Andersson's Camp
Little Kulala Camp update - October 2010 Jump
to Little Kulala Camp
The weather during the month of October has been rather turbulent providing us with a few surprises. One would wake up to a beautiful morning and then half an hour later arctic winds would have us running for our jerseys. However, most of the days provided us with perfect conditions for dune adventures and other activities. Midday temperatures remained fairly constant at around 34 degrees Celsius, although at times peaking in the mid-forties. Cool nights followed at about 10 degrees.
For most of the month the desert-adapted wildlife kept themselves to themselves, however on one particular afternoon walk through the Sesriem Canyon, Richard, our head guide, came across a baby horn adder and although only a few centremetres in length, it is still as dangerous and toxic as its parents. It is difficult to spot such a small, wonderfully camouflaged reptile so it is important that we have someone like Richard around whose eye is trained to this.
On the topic of snakes, a spitting cobra was found close to the balloon take-off site. The snake was kind enough to pose for a few photos.
The Human Resources teams from all the regions of Wilderness were welcomed to Little Kulala for a two-day seminar. Apart from the work they accomplished they enjoyed a short getaway from city stress. They were treated to singing and a short performance by the staff presenting local customs and wearing traditional clothes.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Daphne and Igna
Assistant Managers: Jason and Corrie
Guides: Richard, Agnes, Theresa, Willem, Raymond and Elaine
Kulala Desert Lodge update - October 2010 Jump
to Kulala Desert Lodge
This month the weather has given us a little bit of everything; mist surprising us first thing in the morning, howling winds, a sandstorm that has been claimed by some locals to be the worst they have seen, extremely cold nights and of course, scorching hot days.
One of the regular visits to the camps waterhole is an gemsbok (oryx) with no horns; this time we were lucky enough to get a snap of him.
Kobus caught a Namib sand snake in one of the staff rooms. The snake is completely harmless, part of the Psammophis family and a very common resident to the area.
The termites have been at work around the camp and we regularly see them carrying dry grass into their holes.
Kulala Desert Lodge is happy to announce that four new rooms have been built and completed and are now ready for occupation. The team did a fantastic job and completed the task at hand in very adverse circumstances and in record time.
We are also now the proud owners of eight quadbikes. This new activity on the Kulala Wilderness Reserve will allow guides to take guests into the mountains and down to the riverbed in the hope of catching sight of some of the fascinating desert-adapted wildlife. The educational drive will also show off our magnificent landscape while capturing some of the interesting facts of the flora and fauna and fragile desert environment.
The Kulala Choir would like to thank Jannie Coetzee at Namchem for the lovely t-shirts which they have received. The choir performs to our guests every second night and on special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries. Their beautiful singing, along with the catchy African rhythms, has most guests singing and dancing along with them making for some wonderful evenings.
"Highlights were the exquisite setting and being able to sit on the balconies and enjoy the magnificent view of the red sand dunes."
"Our stay over all was an excellent, first introduction to our two week trip to Namibia. We felt the lodge fitted seamlessly into the landscape - well done. The friendly, efficient staff added to the experience of the camp. We are glad that our holiday supports the employment for Namibian people."
"A very professional undertaking indeed. Excellent location and surroundings, helpful and welcoming staff and first class hospitality. If we get the chance, we'd love to return."
Staff in camp
Managers: Dawie and Christa
Assistant Managers: Phillip, Kobus, Violet
Guides: Angula, Albert, Petrus, Willem
Kulala Wilderness Camp update - October 2010 Jump
to Kulala Wilderness Camp
Mother Nature had us a little confused this month. It is supposed to be spring going on summer but she decided to give us a last bit of winter chill. Hot water bottles had to come out of storage and we sold many a fleece at the curio shop. Added to that, fog came in from the ocean and we experienced a sandstorm unlike any we had ever seen in all our time here. At first we thought it was mist rolling in but the wind reached us soon enough, tossing and turning anything that was not heavy or bolted to the floor.
One of our guides, Dawid, had taken his guests out for a dune excursion one morning, when he came across a dancing white lady spider. He pointed out the spider to the guests and got a big surprise when the spider ran up onto his arm.
Another rare sighting was of an oryx with one crooked horn. This beautiful animal was spotted in the dry riverbed close to the camp.
Kulala Wilderness Camp is very excited about the new quad biking activity on offer! On our very first trip, a woman of 86 years old joined in the fun - showing that you're only as old as you feel!
We bid a fond farewell to Marvelin Mbimbo, who left us to go across the road to Kulala Desert Lodge, another Safari Adventure Company camp. Good luck Marvelin, we will miss you!
Assistant Managers: Dios and Petronella
Guides: Dawid, Richard, Moses
Governors' Camp update - October 2010 Jump
to Governors' Camp
Weather & the plains
The Masai Mara had plenty of rain in the first two weeks of the month, with rain showers becoming isolated and lighter towards mid month and drying out in the last week.Towards the end of the month the midday temperatures were higher, reaching around 30 Celsius and the days longer. The sun is rising noticeably earlier with first light at 6am. The grass on the plains has been short and lush, it would be a couple of foot higher after the unseasonal amount of rain we have had over the last months, but for the constant grazing by the zebra and wildebeest. Fireball and Pyjama lilies dot the plains bringing unexpected splashes of colour to the grasslands.
The Wildebeest Migration
October has been a great month for the wildebeest migration, the vast herds moving around a little more, following the smell of rain and searching for the new nutritious growth. From one day to the next they moved around, travelling from the marsh area, over Rhino Ridge and to the Talek River and back again. The last two weeks of the month saw the majority moving south towards the Serengeti, but some large groups remained in the area and we managed to see some really good river crossings. The crocodiles were still hunting the wildebeest as they crossed. There have been huge herds of zebra moving into the long grass which still stands at this late stage, followed by the wildebeest and topi. These immense herds have been providing spectacular game viewing from the hot air balloon.
The resident Loita migration has settled back into the Northern part of the Mara. The Loita plains to the east which can be seen on the flight to Nairobi before the rift valley drops away has not received the rains that the Mara has.
Photos courtesy of Justin Grammaticas
Our very large resident buffalo herd with all its maturing young has spent most of its time in search of any remaining long grass that the zebra and wildebeest may have graciously left behind. They return every few days to the marsh for water or drink from the pools left by the seasonal streams leading to the Mara river. The buffalo herd practiced a great survival tactic, giving birth to their young whilst the migration were in the area, this meant their main predators, lion and hyena were busy preying on easier game.
Most plains game had their calves in October in anticipation of the November rain. The gazelles and warthog gave birth toward the start of the month and the impala, topi and hartebeest at the end. Right now there are some very anxious and protective mothers, bounding away from the slightest threat with their calf following in hot pursuit on their precarious legs.
The elephant have some very young calves too, still so small they fit easily under their mother's chest and with a thick protective coat of bristled hair.
Photos courtesy of Justin Grammaticas
We have had a few migratory birds through the Mara: European and White-fronted bee-eaters, Montague and Pallid harriers, Common Kestrels, Steppes Eagles, African Cuckoos, Spoon-billed storks. There have been a couple of rare sightings of Egyptian Vultures.
The trees and lianas in the Mara River forest have been flowering and fruiting, one in particular the Turrea floribunda has flowers and has a beautiful scent almost like Jasmine. The Pristemera polyantha seeds have dropped off and fly away cleverly as mini helicopters. The bright red fruit of the Lepisanthes senagalensis is a big favourite with the baboons as well.
We have had few sightings of the rhino our side of the river, but on one occasion a male just stayed undisturbed whilst our guests managed to get some great shots and spend some time with him. The ballooners have been lucky enough to see the mother and calf and a male rhino on many of their flights and game drives.
Photos courtesy of Justin Grammaticas and Sue Lawless
The Mara River hippos are very content as they have plenty of grazing, although moving further out on to the plains than usual. There has been the odd mating, but no serious fights and territorial displays, so all fairly peaceful in the river.
The Marsh Pride of lions have been spending their time at the Marsh in front of the Governors' Camps as they have for the past few months now, they are seen as far as Bila Shaka river, which is still closeby. The pride hunt at night and are found coming back to the marsh after following the wildebeest which are on the move further afield. The lioness with the three younger cubs tends to stay behind. The pride males are mostly with the pride, the older male Claude happy not to move very far as he still has a bad limp and has become dependent on the lionesses. The sub-adults from the previous litter are spending all their time away from their maternal pride. The five males have been moving along with the wildebeest towards Paradise Plains, they had killed a young hippo which is quite a feat for the young fellows.
Photos courtesy of Sue Lawless
Two large but young nomadic males slipped into the Bila Shaka area where the sub-adult females have been and mated with two of them. Being too young to have cubs, these females took exception to the intrusion and fought them off. The nomads have not been seen again.
The Ridge Pride has not been seen much with only two reported sightings of two of the lionesses and four cubs. They may be confused with other lions as they follow the migration into other territories.
The Paradise Pride has also been fairly elusive. The three females and their six cubs being seen on most days near the main crossing area. The other females and cubs must be further into the croton bushes or have moved across the river. The five males which are nearly the same size as Notch now with deeper darker manes have been moonlighting elsewhere. Only two have been seen a few times with Notch. Notch has been mating with a single lioness, she has not been sighted after their ordeal either.
Finally we have found Shakira, the cheetah last seen nearly a year ago with three large cubs. She was first spotted beyond Talek river toward the Ol keju Rongai river and not alone, she has six 4 - 5 month old cubs. She is definitely one of the most successful cheetah mothers in the Mara. We presume her three cubs are still well and somewhere in the Mara Triangle west of the Mara River. Shakira has been killing most days, we had a wonderful sighting of her taking down a fully grown Grants Gazelle and all the cubs called over to feast.
The female and her one cub with the bad eye have been seen regularly, she has jumped up on a few cars as well much to peoples delight.
The three male cheetahs were around the Governors area the first few weeks of the month, then venturing further over the Talek river towards 'Look out hill'
We had a short time with the mother and two male cubs at the beginning of the month, she then moved on into the Ol-Kinyei area and has as yet not returned.
Photos courtesy of Alex Millar and Samuel Kiplangat
Olive the leopard has been seen regularly and together with her two sons on occasion, who seem reluctant to leave home. Olive disappeared for a couple of weeks during the month, some people believing she may have been pregnant and could have a new litter, we will be sure to keep you posted.
There have been sightings of the female with one cub higher up on the Ntiakitiak river as well as another female not too far away up on the Talek river with her two older cubs.
The Il Moran leopard has been around, preferring the denser growth of the forest and keeping away from the company of lions and baboons during the day. She has been seen up at the marsh hiding behind fallen trees and keeping a low profile. Late in the evening once the baboons band back together to head back to the trees she relaxes and will become a bit more visable.
Otherwise there have been a couple of fleeting sightings of male leopards along the forest line near the camps.
We hope to share the magic of our corner of the Mara with you sometime soon.
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge update - October 2010
to Page 1