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South Africa camps
Pafuri Camp update - September 2010 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
Temperatures are on the increase at Pafuri. So much so that one day this month we recorded 43 degrees Celsius! But as we all know September is the beginning of spring. With the dawning of spring many of the trees, shrubs and flowers begin to show off their colourful petals. The acacia have started to bear pods and those shrubs and trees that fall within the caper family are displaying their white, pincushion flowers. A species of this family called the cucumber bush has started bearing fruit - its name describing the shape and structure of the fruit. The cucumber bush exudes a clear droplet of sweet sap, which ants attend to and feed on. In return the ants protect the shrubs from pests and any invaders which may threaten the bush.
As September is a dry month, there is a major concentration of animals along the Luvuvhu River, and the camp is a constant buzz of wildlife. Herds of elephant gather to cool off in the river, impala come down to drink, kudu and nyala congregate on the banks whilst a lonely old buffalo bull wallows in the shallows.
The lion of Pafuri made their presence felt as they roamed around camp for several days at a time. This is also the first year that we have had elephant herds walking and feeding throughout camp seemingly relaxed and unperturbed by guests and staff. This is fantastic for us on the ground that it shows us the rewards of our conservation efforts.
Whilst out tracking the Makuleke white rhino, the scent of death was lingering. On inspection the fresh tracks of a lion pride became evident. These tracks revealed some scuffling, most probably the sub-adults playing and chasing one another and then heading down towards a perennial spring to drink before making their way to a sandstone outcrop close by. The search was on - carefully taking each step in pursuit of finding the pride. Ears open to any sound, eyes scanning for any indication of a tan figure or three, but it was the scent of fresh lion scat that indicated the presence of the lion very close by. Approaching quietly, the pride lay sprawled and unaware on the rocks of a hill slope. Mission accomplished! On the way back the answer to the smell of death became evident when a carcass of what once was a buffalo calf was found.
For all the bird enthusiasts, September has been as fulfilling as every other month here at Pafuri. The likes of Pel's Fishing-Owl and Arnot's Chat have been seen quite regularly, as well as species not common to the area such as a White-browed Sparrow-Weaver, which has been sighted on several occasions close to the Big Baobab. Although this is not a common bird at Pafuri, certain areas reveal an ideal habitat for this species. While this is a communal nesting bird we only seem to see one, so we wait in anticipation to see whether more will arrive.
Other species seen:
Pafuri Walking Trail update - September 2010 Jump
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Kings Camp update - September 2010 Jump
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Africa showed us its entire splendor this month!
It is warming up now, yet still dry. This however entertains with the most amazing sunrises and sunsets Africa has to offer; with the dusty atmosphere the reflecting light of the sun creates the most spectacular colors on the horizon! There has been no sign of rain yet but we still have quite a few active water holes where the animals congregate to quench their thirst.
A new resident bull Hippo moved into “Makulu dam” and was keen to show the intruders his ‘weapons’ if they dared to challenge.
A few members from the resident clan of Spotted Hyenas were also seen cooling down a bit to relieve them of the heat we’ve been experiencing towards the end of the month. It is not uncommon for the hyenas to lounge around in water to cool down or even to hide their carcasses from the noses and sight of other predators and raptors.
In general sightings were of the beset quality I’ve ever experienced in the Timbavati.
The Leopards showed themselves non stop during the month and we had sightings of no less than 13 different Leopards! Eight of these we consider residents and offspring we see frequently and the other 5 are individuals that are slightly nervous and we see them only once in a while.
“Ntombi” is no stranger to the camp and I’ve included some pictures I took shortly after leaving on one of the afternoon drives!
Ntombi and her son have been extremely successful with kills in and around the camp. Due to all the attention from the game drives the youngster is now getting more used to and relaxed with the presence of the vehicles.
“Rockfig Jr.” and her remaining 10-month-old female cub also provided some exciting sightings!
One of them being when the little girl was left around “Hide dam” for 5-6 days while mommy was hunting. A herd of Cape buffalo came crashing in for a drink and the youngster had no option but to run up the stairs of the hide to stay clear of all the thundering hooves. Once there, curiosity took over and the little one learnt that the open hide is a nice, cool and secure vantage point while waiting for mommy. Since then we always check carefully at the hide to make sure we don’t surprise each other unexpectedly when stopping for a sundowner.
The young and beautiful “Xinope-nope (Shinope-nope)” male was seen on a few occasions and he is just growing to be such an amazing young male Leopard that could hopefully become dominant in the Southern traversing soon.
The “Argyle” male shared a sighting with the “Mahlatini” male Lions. He played as opportunistic as Leopards can be. Sitting on nearby rocks while the three Lions were feasting on a Buffalo kill he pondered and successfully planned a feast for himself!
It was “simple”. As soon as the three left the carcass to sleep, he would run down, jump onto the kill and gorge himself whilst being very attentive to the movements of the Lions. As soon as one moved he ran back to safety. This carried on for a while and soon the Lions “treed” the Leopard! He was then kept up there by one male sleeping right under the tree whilst the other two guarded close to the kill.
This was truly amazing to see and once again just shows how adaptable and opportunistic a Leopard can be.
The “Mahlatini” males were seen twice. The first sighting as described above and then another of them also on a Buffalo kill. This time they shared with three Lionesses and a young male. We are not completely sure about these Lions but we think they could be members of the old “Jacaranda pride”.
The “Xakubasa” pride visited us twice very briefly. The one sighting we had of them they managed to kill an adult Zebra and fed on it for nearly two days.
The second sighting was close to the camp. As last month the “Timbavati boys” from the South managed to hear some commotion caused between the “Xakubasa pride” and the three young “Schoble males”. The young boys killed a calf out of a Buffalo herd but got chased off by the large Lionesses from the “Xakubasa” pride. This brief ordeal lured the “Timbavati boys” and they chased the pride back North.
The “Timbavati boys” and “Machaton” Lionesses made up most of our Lion sightings and this is largely due to the fact that the one Lioness is hiding four 7-8 week old cubs in the Nhlaralumi riverbed close to “Marco’s dam”. The little ones got used to the vehicles very quick but we only see them when the adults are present.
CAPE BUFFALO AND ELEPHANT
Numerous groups of both species made use of the water still available on our traversing area.
Three to four different herds of Cape buffalo moved through various zones of the traversing averaging about 300-400 in a herd! The largest herd is still the “Super Herd” that exceeds 1000 in number!
Herds of 15-80 Elephants were seen frequently and some of them even visited us here by camp at times.
Two packs of Wild dogs were seen during the month. One pack with 10 individuals and the other with 7 dogs.
The pack of 10 were seen most often and provided good opportunities for us to share these rare sightings with our guests. They are the SECOND most endangered predator in Africa after all!
As if we weren’t spoiled by the dogs we also had five Cheetah sightings! The first three sightings were of three young brothers and the other two of an adult female with a sub-adult.
I recorded six sightings of the rare Yellow-billed oxpecker with the large numbers of Cape buffalo in the area!
The last special sightings were of our two African Wild Cat kittens Masai and Serocco. They are now 4 months old and grow up in the camp to become ambassadors for their specie as they are not seen that often while out on game drives!
Morné and the Kings Camp guiding team.
Report written by, Morné Hamlyn.
Photography by, Morné Hamlyn.
Rocktail Beach Camp update - September 2010 Jump
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Rocktail Bay Dive Report - September 2010 Jump
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Makalolo Plains update - September 2010 Jump
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The heat is stifling in the day, making the pool very popular, although evenings are still cool and pleasant. We have had no reprieve of rain and are awaiting it with bated breath. The wind has been unusually strong for September which is very welcome at midday.
Landscape & Vegetation
The concession is extremely dry. 95% of the natural pans have dried up leaving caked mud at the base patiently awaiting the blessing of the first rains. Animals and birds of all shapes and sizes can then be found populating the pumped waterholes. Most of the trees stand bare of foliage causing the bush to be transparent, and all the leaves of various shades carpet the ground. The ordeal tree has sprouted new leaves of the brightest shade of green in preparation for early flowering, bringing with them the promise of rains and a lush, green landscape.
Christmas has come early in the wildlife department at Makalolo Plains for guests and staff alike. Roan antelope have been seen frequently and the majestic sable have made the pan in front of camp their favourite drinking place. Zebra can be seen in large herds in the open vleis, grazing on various grasses. We have had a tower of 14 giraffe frequent camp. The elephant, also attracted by the water, drain the pool and have wonderful mud baths daily, followed by dust showers.
There has been a hive of activity around us. Four cheetah have been seen together looking for a morsel to eat. Lion are always a special sighting and are usually seen relaxing under a tree in the midday heat, cubs chasing tails and playing with each other whilst mothers keep an eye on the mischief makers. We were also rewarded with numerous white rhino sightings of a mother and baby. The hyaena den is a hive of activity as the hyaena pups grow bigger. And a striped polecat was seen one night darting across the road before disappearing into the dense foliage.
In the beginning of the month a female elephant passed away and a lion and lioness were soon seen at the carcass. The vultures waited eagerly in surrounding trees and the jackals could be seen trying to break free and steal a bite to eat. Later, a second male lion joined the feast and shortly after this a lone baby elephant was killed by one of these male lions. The next day, the hippo family that live in the pan were out grazing and one of the lions decided to try his luck and grab the baby hippo. Luckily for the hippo it dashed back into the water only with a few scratches.
Animal sightings can be summed up as follows:
Buffalo, bat-eared fox, cheetah, common duiker, eland, elephant, leopard, lion, roan, white rhino, sable, steenbok, warthog, waterbuck, African wild cat, wildebeest, and zebra.
Birds have responded to the seasonal change by making their nests in the camp. Currently set up are Arrow-marked Babblers, Black-headed Orioles and Red-headed Weavers. The increase in temperatures has caused the birds to spend most of the day at the bird baths in camp and on the out edges of pans.
The first migratory bird to be seen in the area were Yellow-billed Kites in early September. The total number of bird species seen in September was 96.
Camp and Guests
This month has had a wonderful flow of guests which has kept all the staff busy and happy.
During the end of the month we had the Wildlife and Environmental Society (WES) pan count. Some staff members went out to greet all the counters and drove them into the Wilderness Concession showing them where to go, we hear it was hugely successful and we cannot wait to get the resulting numbers of animals and birdlife species seen.
"Staff, View and Elephants drinking from the pool" - Anita & Larry
"The early morning and sunset game drives, the fabulous cultural exchange, extremely intelligent and welcoming camp staff. Couldn't be better - keep it up! Our experience far exceeded our expectations." - Nita & Jim
"Great learning & discovery experience, extremely friendly staff and guides - they make the trip!" - Sharon & Steve
"Every member of staff we met was friendly, helpful and enthusiastic. Even though we were just another in a long string of guests, we were made to feel special and appreciated. Truly an outstanding team!" - Josh & Trish
Staff in Camp
General Manager - Caro
Management - Jeremy & Tammy
Pro-guides - Godfrey, Bryan, Dickson
Learner Guides - Wallace
Trainee Guide - Richard
Hostesses - Kate, Cynthia & Tracy
Makalolo Team - Alois, Andrew, Charles, Chris, David, Emmanuel, Ephraim, Fazo, Ishmael, Jerry, Jordan, Konani, Last, Malaki, Mgcini, Mpikelelo, Nathan, Nyajani, Robson, Seliot, Starr, Thembelani
Environmental - Jaelle
Central Stores - Charmain, Cosam & Leonard
Tailor - Stanley
Workshop - Todd, Mawa, Justin, Casper, Cornellius, Thabani, Victor
Construction - Elliot M, Elliot T, Dumisani, Mgcini
Little Makalolo update - September 2010 Jump
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Climate and Temperature
Summer is in full swing at Little Makalolo - which is hard to believe after the chilly winter which lingered well into August. The daily temperatures soared to over 30 degrees Celsius every day, coupled with cloudless hazy skies and a welcome wind cushioning the wave of heat, blowing with particular gusto in the middle of the month and covering everything (and everyone) with a fine layer of Kalahari dust. One can only imagine what the 37 degrees noted on the 27 September would be like without the wind!
Landscape and Vegetation
Despite the theory of Zimbabwe having only three seasons, the soft, bright green nodes and different coloured buds on the ordeal, false mopane and duiker berry trees heralded a hint of spring. These are brilliant contrasts to the rest of the scenery which is fast drying without any sign of rain. Haze and smoke from bush fires added to the dusty heaviness of the air and the natural waterholes and pans are a jigsaw of dried, cracked mud. Those that have a water pumped into them are a shimmering grey oases. The grasses have thinned out at a remarkable rate and it is difficult to imagine any plant reclaiming the bare soil.
The animals of Hwange have given us some truly spectacular sightings this month. The rare and elusive white rhino, with her calf, was spotted by guides twice and on one occasion guests on a walk saw them from a distance. With the recent global reports on this species, it is very rewarding to find such a special pair in their natural habitat.
The other big game seen this month, in vast numbers, has been elephant and buffalo. The elephant visits to the Little Makalolo pan seem endless; a steady grey procession of over 15 herds a day have kept guests in awe. Those experiencing these animals from within the logpile hide watched in envy as they cooled off in the water and mud. Extensive herds of buffalo, sometimes over 750 in a herd, have also kept guests entertained as a mass of solid black-brown bodies converge on waterholes in a halo of dust. Three seem to have decided that Little Makalolo is also good home and can be seen most days around camp.
As a first for Little Makalolo this year, an aardwolf was spotted. These are a rarity and appear similar to the other members of their family, the striped and spotted hyaena, but are a more slender build. In addition, instead of having the reputation of devouring anything and everything, these creatures eat mice and birds and are capable of depleting termite populations of up to 200 000 insects during its nocturnal feeding.
The two male lions which dominate the Ngweshla area were spotted with a female feeding on an elephant carcass. With such a large meat source, they were seen there over the course of a few days until their bellies could not possibly hold any more and then spotted hyaenas, jackals and vultures took their turn.
These same lions were seen just short of a week later feeding on what was left of this feast. Hunts or attempted hunts on a variety of other game such as impala and buffalo were seen over the course of the month and nothing is quite as impressive or chilling to see as the coalition in predatory mode. The little cub from another group is still attracting "awws" from our guests now that its mother has introduced it to the pride. Its diminutive size is really apparent when clambering over its other massive relations.
The cheetah were not to be outdone, and one particular male has been in the limelight a few times. As a 'smaller' big cat, it was intriguing and spectacular for some guests to watch a male kill a young wildebeest - he seems to be specialising and favouring this diet as more attempted hunts on this species have been seen over the course of the month. On one game drive, guests were treated to a viewing of four cheetah, speculated to be a female with her three sub-adult cubs. They were very relaxed and allowed some fantastic photo opportunities for those fortunate enough to see them.
The leopard have also posed beautifully this month with one male being sighted quite frequently around camp itself, usually by guests on their way back from night drives. A mating pair was seen early on a morning drive, the male leaping into the road followed by the female emerging from the bush. Another was seen after having killed an impala, reclining in the safety of a tree with its meal.
The hyaena population has just welcomed another two little members to a known den. The endearing little things are darker than their adults with plenty of energy.
Eland, kudu, sable and roan have been seen regularly. The sable are a magnificent stark black contrast to the golden landscape. There are also good numbers of steenbok, waterbuck and impala.
As the land warms up the migratory birds have arrived or popped in en route to a further exotic destination. The Carmine Bee-eaters have delighted guests and guides alike as a vivid rosy red and blue blur in the sky, whilst more intra-African migrants such as Plum-coloured Starlings with their shiny purple backs and pure white undersides also add colour to the scenery. Since their return last month there have been regular sightings of Yellow-billed Kites - a pleasure to watch patrolling the skies.
In camp itself, the Red-headed Weavers are busy building beautifully neat and compact nests in a bid to impress females, and can be seen flying back and forth with twigs and decorative leaves for their homes. A good sighting was of a Three-banded Courser, an attractive little bird which is widely but sparsely distributed in Zimbabwe. The Arrow-marked Babblers seem to have taken it upon themselves to keep a running commentary about what is happening in the area, whilst the Black-headed Orioles have made a much softer, melodious contribution to the airwaves over the course of another month. A total of 120 different bird species were recorded this month.
Oftentimes when we have dreams, reality does not match them. For a long time I have dreamed of visiting Africa and here I am. Little Makalolo surpassed my dreams. From the narrow focus of our computers, our vision was expanded across the savannah, into the tall grasses and trees and finally, we are seeing the world. You create a very welcoming environment for your guests while maintaining an extremely efficient operation - not an easy task, so thank you. Every staff member we met was gracious and welcoming. And our guides, with your passion and love of nature and your country, combined with boundless knowledge, you just opened our eyes. You might be part animal, we think. because you always knew where to go and when. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you. - Greg & Darlene
To the ellie of Little Makalolo & all my good friends - Thank you so much! Till next year. Much love - Iva
We love it here! Thank you for making us feel right at home. We will miss you all and all the incredible, magnificent and fascinating animals you took us to see. Thank you for making our honeymoon so special. We will be back! - Samantha & Matthew
Staff in Camp
The bustling team at Little Mak have been headed by Charmaine as Manager with Sibs as Assistant Manager, both making sure everyone knew where to be and what had to be done as the peak of our season came into full swing. Charles, Lewis and Bulisani along with Sibs made sure guests' eyes were opened to a variety of the gems Hwange has to offer, their enthusiasm infectious. Kim and Shayne made sure everyone kept their water bottles topped up in the heat, and all the right levels of salts and sugars were obtained through the spread provided by the kitchen at mealtimes!
Davison's Camp update - September 2010
September has seen the slow retreat of winter, although the mornings are still a little chilly. However, by midday, the temperatures reach around 37 degrees Celsius! As is usual at this time of the year, the horizon is obscured behind a layer of dust, which produces the most incredible sunrises and sunsets. Thankfully the worst of the wind headed out with August, but there are still a few gusty days where whirlwinds come skidding across the landscape, sending a spiral of leaves and debris into the air.
Vegetation, Landscape and Water
The bush is drying out immensely, with the bushes and trees losing the majority of their greenery. The grass is golden brown and becoming sparse, even in the densely populated areas of the concession. The false mopane still gamely hang on to their dark green leaves, however even some of their leaves are yellowing. They still produce their bright red seeds keeping the hornbills and vervet monkeys happy. In contrast to the dry landscape, the ordeal tree has a full bloom of new leaves. The kudu berry is alive again with its soft, velvety leaves delicately unfolding daily.
The water situation is becoming dire as it usually does at this time of the year, with most of the pans without pumps being empty of the precious liquid. Pumped pans are struggling along bravely, but do suffer when herds of 400-plus buffalo come down for early morning and evening drinks followed closely by 70-odd elephants.
Game viewing from camp has been great with one group of guests seeing four of the "Big Five" - elephant, lion, buffalo and leopard - at the waterhole in one afternoon. Leopard have been spotted five times this month with one very brave leopard coming to quench his thirst at the small waterhole at camp. As soon as he realised he had been seen, he slunk off into the dusk.
Guests have been extremely lucky with lion sightings this month. The Ngamo Pride were clearly frightened off at one point as we only saw their tails disappearing into the grass, leaving their kill to vulture and around 23 jackal squabbling over the unfortunate wildebeest.
The pride of lion from Linkwasha have also been very busy, in particular one of its females. On the first occasion she brought down a young elephant and sat with it for four days, eating whenever she felt the need. The very same female was also seen stalking a herd of about a thousand buffalo. Guests and guides alike watched as she got within two metres of the herd, watching and waiting for the right unsuspecting calf to wander past her. The entire herd walked past without noticing her presence. She didn't make an attempt on this occasion - either not finding an appropriate victim or simply not hungry enough to use precious energy in a chase.
The same lioness, the previous evening, came down to the waterhole for a drink and was quickly spotted by an elephant cow with her young calf. It wasn't evident whether the elephant was chasing the lioness for fun or to get rid of her presence. Just as the lioness would relax and move her attention to a herd of buffalo in the distance, the elephant would reappear from nowhere and chase her around the palm trees again. Eventually the elephant and calf left the lioness resume her interest in the buffalo. Stalking them quietly, she again covered good ground without being noticed. Having targeted a small calf, she soon made her strike, however the buffalo realised her intentions and took off at full speed leaving the lioness far behind.
Spring is definitely in the air as steenbok males are seen determinedly pursuing females. The courtship display can be quite comical yet painful for the male as females are seen on a daily basis playing hard to get and even kicking the male in the head!
Davison's guests were privileged to be the first to set eyes on the rhino in the Makalolo Concession this year. They watched a mother and calf graze peacefully by the vehicle. It is good to know that they are still around and safe.
One afternoon a guide and guests spotted a tiny Kittlitz's Plover sitting on her nest and then standing up and uncovering an egg almost half her size. The plover proceeded to cover the egg by quickly kicking sand onto it and then running as fast as possible towards the pan trying desperately to move the attention away from her nest. The egg seemed to vanish in the sand, leaving guests surprised as to how the mother would find it again.
The migrating birds seem to be back in full force. The Yellow Billed-Kites have once again taken over the skies. The roads are also now littered by nightjars on the evening drives back into camp. The Southern Carmine Bee-Eaters having also returned to the area keeping everyone entranced with their striking colours and aerodynamic displays. The Ngamo vlei has been graced by flocks of European Bee-Eaters filling the sky with their melodious songs.
A baby White-backed Vulture has provided our guests with hours of entertainment. The little thing, still covered in fluffy feathers and unable to feed itself, must have fallen out of a nest but thankfully the mother seems to be feeding it still and its power of camouflage has kept it alive for the last week, undetected by predators.
'Game viewing was fantastic - Staff were fantastic with the kids - Well done Guys - We really enjoyed.'
'Fantastic lion, elephant and giraffe sightings! Hospitible, friendly, excellent staff!'
'Beautiful rooms, warm welcome, excellent food, awesome guides, last night's entertainment was great fun.'
'Having snacks and wine the first evening by the waterhole with at least 100 elephants - a complete and excellent surprise.'
'The Kittlitz's Plover was our highlight, while she was sitting on her eggs!'
Ruckomechi Camp update - September 2010 Jump
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Apart from a few windy days towards the end of the month we have enjoyed perfect temperatures and little sign of the heat of October we are expecting. As Ruckomechi Camp is situated right on the riverbank, the breeze off the water is always helpful in keeping the temperatures down and a pleasantly cool escape can always be enjoyed in the swimming pool.
Landscape and the Zambezi River
The last few waterholes on the concession have now dried up, so the only inland water now available is in the large pan behind camp and although still relatively full in comparison to previous years, we are noticing it drop almost daily. The generally dry bush has been contrastingly vibrant with colourful blossoms of various plant species such as the aptly-named flame creeper with its vivid red blooms and that of the rain tree.
The Zambezi River is relatively low at the moment and the water is currently very clear; the small channel in front of camp now just centimetres deep.
September once again proved to be a phenomenal month for wildlife sightings in the Ruckomechi Concession. Wild dog, lion, cheetah, leopard were all seen either hunting or on kills, some on several different occasions. A host of smaller mammals, birds and reptiles have also added to the daily sighting records.
The wild dogs were seen several times in the month, often resting under thickets along the Ruckomechi River. The pack currently comprises 26 in total, a full compliment including the eight pups which are now following the adults and arriving at the kills soon after the adults. This month, the pack killed an impala which they chased right past one of our game drive vehicles. Several other hunts were also observed in the open mopane woodland areas, and one of particular interest was a hunt observed under a full moon where an impala was singled out and then brought down. This was a very exciting evening.
Elephants have seemed to have taken over Ruckomechi Camp as they eagerly seek out the nutritious pods of the winter thorns in camp that are now covering the ground like a rust-coloured carpet. They often roam around the confines of camp and are a continued presence around the guest tents, a true highlight for many.
Lions were absent for the first part of the month but of late the two females, mother and daughter, killed an adult zebra, enjoying a well deserved feast that lasted several days. Just recently we observed the females sizing up a full grown buffalo.
Porcupines, honey badgers, serval and many other nocturnal species have been seen out on the evening drives. Of particular mention was a sighting of a serval hunting catfish in the lagoon close to the camp. An old lone bull eland has become familiar to the camp too as he also has a taste for the abundant winter thorn pods.
Birds and Birding
Birding has been phenomenal with many different exciting happenings. On a walk, a Peregrine Falcon stooped and killed a flying Cape Turtle Dove, moments thereafter landing on top of a tree to pluck and eat it. Yellow-billed Storks and herons are taking advantage of the drying pans, feasting on the trapped water life. Southern Carmine Bee-eaters have transformed the Zambezi riverbank into a frenzy of activity and colour as they start breeding.
As September is typically a very busy month for us, the team of guides has been assisted with a variety of freelance guides, coming through to assist us over several weeks. We also welcome Elizabeth and Abel to the team - their enthusiasm and assistance has been greatly appreciated and we look forward to having them settle in and become part of the family. We also had Belinda and Sara helping out briefly during the month. We are grateful for the support during this busy period.
'We came for the wildlife and we sure got it - as I am writing this an elephant is passing in front of our tent!'
'Elephants on my deck! Elephants while enjoying brunch!'
'The proximity of the animals to camp is amazing. The wild dog on the impala kill was unique.'
'Proximity to elephants on a daily basis; Wild dog sighting on a kill; Wonderful time on the Zambezi River; Fulfilling a childhood dream of catching a tiger fish; 101 bird species recorded!'
Mana Canoe Trail update - September 2010 Jump
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Toka Leya Camp update - September 2010 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
Daylight hours are now exceeding 12 hours per day and temperatures are rising over 30 degrees Celsius (90ºF), offering a warm feeling of summer this September. With nighttime averages not dropping below 14.4 degrees, it is probably the most comfortable month of the year at Toka Leya Camp.
With the sun high in the sky and not a single drop of rain now approaching five months, the water level of the Zambezi River continues to drop. The rapids along the river become increasingly more adventurous and new islands, rocks and beaches keep appearing. Where the inland vegetation slowly turns bone dry and yellowish, the Zambezi shores still provide ample green vegetation.
Wildlife and Birding
Situated right on these green riverbanks, Toka Leya Camp has seen formidable wildlife sightings throughout the month. Amazing scenes have taken place from both the comfort of camp and during our activities. With superb bird, mammal and reptile sightings we have enjoyed every single day of September.
For those bird enthusiasts, the Rock Pratincole has reappeared. As the last of the intra-African migrants to come back to the area, this strongly gregarious bird is seen in small, loose colonies of approximately 20 pairs. A species threatened by habitat loss through dam construction, lake creation and siltation of rivers, it is the exposed emergent rock groups in Africa's fourth largest river system that provide a safe haven for these creatures. The bare rocks surrounding the first rapid 200 metres down from Toka Leya is a brilliant place to observe these magnificent birds. Dusk and dawn are the times when the insectivorous birds feed on flies, beetles, moths and grasshoppers.
It is during this dry time that the Rock Pratincole breeds, using shallow depressions or cracks in the rocks that are surrounded by flowing water. Most of their nests are found within two metres of the water and we are on the lookout to spot the first juveniles. How exciting!
Other common, but magnificent bird sightings included the White-backed Night Heron - seen in his favourite lazy position during the day, resting in a tree or bush - Squacco Heron, African Golden Oriole and Senegal Coucal. Also frequently spotted last month - and an absolute pleasure to the eye - is the Yellow-billed Stork. On boat trips we often spot a stork feeding in shallow water along the river banks. It's amazing to see how he hunts, dipping his head quickly and efficiently into the water to snatch his prey.
With regards to mammals, one morning a herd of eight elephant entered the east flank of the camp passing Tents 1 to 4, slowly eating their way through the green vegetation. Eventually the herd decided to take a mud bath at the creek next to the reception area. The guests and the staff had a wonderful time observing and enjoying the beauty of the scene.
Other mammals around camp included large herds of buffalo, impala, warthog, solitary bushbuck, rhino and hippo. Giraffe also frequented the area in search of fresh green vegetation. A large group of baboons took it a step further and chose to reside with their whole group on the roofs of two of our guest tents. Heard loud and clear, day and night, the baboons stayed in camp for nearly two days. Jumping, chasing one another and using the roofs as slides, the scene was comical. However, when they finally moved off we had to make a few repairs....
Apart from activities focused around wildlife, Toka Leya offers the chance of a cultural visit to a rural Zambian village. Being relatively close to a few local communities, Toka Leya Camp is involved in initiatives that support these villages. Simonga, a local village we sometimes visit, makes a huge impression on guests. In the month of September guests donated various materials to support the local school. Pens, exercise books, erasers, puzzles and other things were met with lots of big smiles and huge enthusiasm.
During this last full moon, visits to the lunar rainbow at the Victoria Falls offered an outstanding and different experience. This is probably the last month of the year in which to admire the lunar rainbow in all its glory due to receding water levels; the moment captured on camera is one of exceptional beauty. With water levels expected to increase only at the start of next year, it's going to be a long wait before we are able to witness this astonishing natural phenomenon again.
Unforgettable journey, loved the elephants by our room and all 5 rhino! Thanks for the warm, warm welcome and hospitality! Stay well!
Beautiful camp, friendly people, excellent food, beautiful country! Thanks for sharing!
The camp and the activities were fabulous. The staff were very friendly and the rooms were very nice. The Falls were spectacular! We were also happily surprised by the large amount of wildlife. Thank you!
Lufupa River Camp update - September 2010 Jump
to Lufupa River Camp
Lufupa Tented Camp update - September 2010 Jump
to Lufupa Tented Camp
Summer is well and truly here with day time temperatures now in the mid-thirties. There was a slight build-up of moisture in the air early on in September, but this has since dissipated. However we expect the moisture to return in anticipation of the first rains towards the end of October. Evenings are pleasantly cool with temperatures reaching on average a comfortable 18 degrees Celsius.
The desiccated landscape has come alive with flowering trees, providing a stark contrast with the parched, almost arid grasslands. Rain trees in full purple bloom have actually started to 'rain' - an amazing phenomenon caused by a spittle bug. The spittle bug, or froghopper, bores into the wood with its needle-like mouthparts and extracts the tree's xylem fluids. After absorbing the nutrients from these fluids, the remaining water is ejected from the tree to form large quantities of frothy substance called cuckoo spit. This drips onto the ground below forming puddles, as if the tree were in fact raining!
Guides have been working extra hard this month to ensure that guests are able to witness some of the creatures which Lufupa is famous for, and they have done a great job! Leopard sightings have remained constant, although you have to catch them early before Mercury rises. Night drives have been the most productive with wonderful sightings of leopard, white-tailed mongoose, civet, large spotted genet and other small nocturnal critters. We have had our fair share of lion sightings this month too, with a new pride of five lioness and a sub-adult male spotted on a number of occasions. We even caught them with a freshly caught zebra - unusual prey for lion in Kafue National Park.
There was great excitement amongst the guides during the latter part of the month when the Three Ugly Sisters, a trio of female wild dog were found with two strapping males! The vagabonds have been roaming the area alone for the past two years in search of a splinter group of males to band together with. We have high hopes that they will mate and den in due course, adding a new pack of painted wolves to a population that is in decline and under severe threat.
Boat trips along the emerald-green Kafue River have been thoroughly enjoyed by all, especially now as the seasonal pans and waterholes have all but dried up. One morning guests were lucky enough to see lion, leopard, elephant and buffalo from the comfort of the boat; not to mention the many antelope species frequenting the river to quench their thirst.
Following the arrival of our first migrant bird at the beginning of August - the Yellow-billed Kite - we have been watching the skies for the appearance of our other summer visitors. They are yet to come, although we do expect to see more in the coming weeks. However, the Pennant-winged Nightjar has been recently spotted on night drives.
As we eagerly await the rains we expect to see a concentration of animals along the banks of the Kafue and Lufupa rivers and we also look forward to seeing the arrival of the impala lambs, wildebeest and zebra calves.
Management in Camp
Kalamu Lagoon Camp update - September 2010 Jump
to Kalamu Lagoon Camp
More and more trees are losing their leaves as new colours come to life. The land is becoming drier and the waters of both the Luangwa and its oxbows keep dropping. Temperatures are still rising as we edge closer to summer changing the game patterns. Sitting at the waterhole is greatly recommended after brunch as new species start showing up.
It was an exciting month at Kalamu Lagoon Camp, seeing animals that only appear in the driest part of the season. Roan antelope, though now a regular sighting, have reappeared. We have worked out that if we watch the Lagoon just after mid-morning, a herd or two will come and drink. However be prepared to wait - so patience and a good book will come in handy.
Birding has been productive as we see the returning colonies of Bee-eaters gracing the shores of the Luangwa. These migratory birds have given us great photo opportunities this year as they have started nesting in areas which are easy to get to. As is usual for September we are also seeing the return of the Yellow-billed Kite. Whilst some bigger water bodies still hold water, most are extremely low which have attracted an abundance of bird life. We have seen some incredible flocks trying their luck at fishing in the shallow waters.
What has proved to be most exciting is the Walking Trails and this has been enhanced by the fact that the bush has opened up due to the dry weather, which makes for great visibility. We have noticed on a lot of these walks that there is an increase in elephant in the area as we found ourselves dodging the huge mammals and on some occasions were forced to divert from the originally planned route - an elephant won't give way to any traillist!
There have also been some great buffalo sightings on these trails and as described by our guide Luxon, who normally leads the trails, some of these beasts look at us as if we owe them something. This relaxed way of game viewing has enabled some really excellent photo opportunities and of great interest is the leucistic buffalo calf that we have seen this month. We have had some great giraffe sightings in some magnificent settings allowing for more Kodak moments.
Kalamu Star-Beds and Chinengwe Camps
The two trails camps have always been a special addition to our product and as we take more guests on the trails we have been able to tweak the experience to accommodate suggestions and needs, and generally make the trail a trip of a lifetime. As the heat increases in the Luangwa we have moved the Chinengwe Trails Camp to a shady spot along the banks of the river. Each tent has its own set of hammocks for afternoon siesta and dinner is still served in the white sands of the Luangwa River. Whilst we try and spend more time in the bush walking, our guests at Star-Beds have enjoyed the camp setting so much that we have shortened our afternoon walks a little so that we can enjoy sundowners overlooking the river. We also have made great use of the platform at the Lagoon behind the Star-beds where the game comes to drink. Sometimes we don't move all afternoon as there has been such great activity right in front of us.
A wonderful kick off to our first trip to Africa! You were all so warm and accommodating. The food was delicious and the property is so beautiful. Many thanks - B & J
This was the most beautiful and a fantastic safaris stay in Zambia! - A & M
We spent a wonderful and very exciting time in this beautiful camp and with the outstanding team. -R & P
Shumba Camp update - September 2010 Jump
to Shumba Camp
We have had an unusually windy September but the temperature has been rising daily and we are now experiencing highs of 38 degrees Celsius during the day. The nights have been wonderfully balmy and calm; perfect for dining under the stars in our boma or on the deck.
It has been a great month for seeing game at Shumba, and we have had especially active and amazing encounters with our namesake - the lion!
At the beginning of September we had a visitor join us for sundowners on deck at the camp. The female from the Busanga Pride had climbed up the gum poles and appeared to be comfortably enjoying the panoramic view of the plains that Shumba has to offer. After about half an hour she sauntered lazily back down into the grass to rejoin the pride and possibly find some dinner.
A week later, several guests were able to get some magnificent shots of the Papyrus Pride crossing a part of the Lufupa Channel not far from camp. They were leaping over the wide expanse of water and provided the guests with a rare opportunity to see some of the cats swimming (although probably not on purpose).
Towards the end of the month the Busanga Pride of lion brought down a buffalo and injured another. The buffalo with wounds has wandered off from the herd as it can no longer keep up and in all probability it will become the pride's second course or another predator's meal. However, the buffalo seem to have got their own back, as in the thick of the hunt, a female lion was pierced under her chin by a buffalo horn right through to her mouth. We will keep an eye on her and hope she recovers. The male lions, oblivious to the consequences of the kill, were spotted near Shumba Camp lazing around with their enormous, bulging bellies.
Three male cheetah fondly known to us as the 'Busanga Boys' were spotted in the first half of month but have disappeared back into the tree line for now.
Large herds of zebra and buffalo have been seen on the horizon of the camp. It is great to see the zebra come out and graze in more open areas!
In terms of birding, there has been a very positive count of the Lappet-faced Vulture. They are a globally threatened bird species so it is good to see so many of them. They were last seen circling and swooping around a carcass on Papyrus Island, believed to be a kill made by a cheetah.
'Boat trip, Outstanding staff, Balloon trip, Paul and Andrea, Helicopter Trip with Mario. We loved it all. A perfect end to our 3 week trip. You guys and girls are the best. Thanks for making our last stop Exceptional!'
'The very high standards of welcome and hospitality nothing was too much trouble. The great knowledge of the guides'
'Unsurpassed hosting - thank you Danni and Mulenga for your superb friendly welcomes after each game drive!Lex's guiding was excellent also - such knowledge, especially of birds! Don't know how to improve on perfection! As part of our honeymoon our stay at Shumba will remain in our hearts forever. Thank you the whole team'
'Seeing a 3-4 day old lion cub - wonderful experience and the boating with the hippos. The balloon ride was amazing.'
'Being with Idos throughout the stay. Very warm greetings from Daniella. A Stunning balloon ride which was totally unexpected and lovely, friendly people throughout the camp team'
'Friendly and 100% service orientated staff. Excellent management of camp, experienced tour guides, delicious meals and drinks, large and comfortable rooms'
General Manager: Daniella Ponter
Camp Manager: Mulenga Pwapwa
Guides: Idos, Lexon and Brent
Amazing photos thanks to guests Jose and Kitty Cortes.
Kapinga Camp update - September 2010 Jump
to Kapinga Camp
Weather and Water Levels
What a difference a few weeks can make! A month ago we were wading through knee-deep waters and now we are driving along dry roads thick with dust. The improved accessibility makes life easier for everyone, except the lechwes and the helicopter, that is! As September continued, temperatures climbed, with 38 degrees Celsius being the norm. Thankfully the evenings and early mornings can still be a nice 23 degrees or so.
The month started with exciting lion darting and collaring for the Kafue Lion Project. A vet and game capture specialist came up from South Africa to assist Neil Midlane (the Project Manager). We were lucky enough to join them when they collared two members of the 'Papyrus Pride'. Amazingly we found the pride ten minutes from camp. The magnificent male was darted first and the dart strangely didn't work, which resulted in one of the lioness actually eating it. The second dart activated perfectly. A lioness without cubs was also darted and within 15 minutes both were fast asleep - the only problem being that the female with cub was sitting somewhere in the bush watching the proceedings! With the aid of a pickup we moved both immobilised animals out into the open so that we could safely collar, measure and examine them. It was fantastic stopping a vehicle of amazed guests and asking if they wanted to touch a lion.
After the immobilisation had been reversed the family reunion was touching! As they nuzzled and rubbed each other, even the hardened pros from down south were going "aaawwhhh". It was a wonderful experience for all involved. It has been fascinating to see the data of the lion movements up and down the channel since their collaring.
The game viewing has been superb - as usual! The first sighting of the Kapinga Leopard this season was a highlight for guests. It was spotted at the turning circle by camp and was heading for the laundry. Other sightings include a herd of over 50 elephant trekking from the tree line to Kapinga Island every morning and back again in the evening.
From the hot air balloon, the sightings have also been magnificent, especially as the animals continue to become more relaxed around the balloon. Two young African Fish-Eagles were spotted in a nest, a puku giving birth and lots of hippo - all witnessed from above. And of course when you go out without a camera you end up witnessing the Papyrus Pride jumping and swimming the Lufupa Channel...
Guests have been wonderful. A 92-year-old gentleman who still loves being out in the bush gave us all inspiration. To sum it all up September has been a fantastic month - just the right combinations of game, guests and a bit of heat.
Camp Managers: Julia and Gilmour
Guides: Isaac and Sam
Balloonists: Paul, Andree and Eric
Helicopter Pilots: Mario (part time Chef also!) and Izak
Busanga Bush Camp update - September 2010 Jump
to Busanga Bush Camp
Weather and Landscape
Busanga Plains has been at its best as the swamp dries out, attracting large numbers of game to the banks of the Lufupa River and Lushimba Stream for water and palatable grass. It remains cool in the morning and heats up in the day with temperatures rising to as high as 36 degrees Celsius. It cools off again in the evenings once the sun sets. However we have had the occasion to dine outside around the fire in the boma under some prominent planets such as Venus and Mars, listening to sounds of the nocturnal wildlife.
Exciting events were witnessed this month with lion hunting not far from our vehicles. Both hunts were solitary kills by Mbuya, the old Busanga Pride lioness, hunting porcupine and then killing wildebeest. Another event was watching a wildebeest giving birth, with the calf instantly rising to amble alongside its mother.
Early one morning we had a memorable experience; the Busanga Brothers were roaring just outside our camp and waking everyone in camp. By the time morning coffee/tea was brought to the guest units the two gigantic males had moved to the front of camp. Jameson, one of our staff, couldn't light the fire in our front boma as the Busanga Boys were leisurely lying on the grass in front of the main area, silhouetted in the morning light. We escorted all the guests to the main area and enjoyed our breakfast while the male lion posed for photos, yawning and grooming each other. A wonderful way to start the day!
That same day we pulled out of camp towards Lufupa for a full day trip. It was a very successful day with good sightings of elephant, buffalo, Lichtenstein's hartebeest, roan, sable, kudu, Defassa waterbuck, zebra and a plethora of other unusual wildlife. It's amazing driving through so many different habitats such as the open plains, revirine forest, and miombo woodland through the open dambos. Bird life was also exceptional with sightings of Ross's Turaco, Pelicans, and Yellow-billed Kite.
We had a tasty lunch at Lufupa and then embarked on a boat trip up the Kafue River where we saw lots of elephant cooling off. We also searched unsuccessfully for the wild dogs spotted in the area that morning. On the drive back to the Busanga Plains we stopped for a sundowner along the Lufupa River, watched some hippo splashing and yawning at us and crocodiles enjoying the last bit of sun. We finished our day with two good sightings of leopard. This was certainly an exceptional day in the Kafue, encountering 37 different species of animals.
"Pleasant camp and lovely food."
"Well managed camp with good staff and excellent food."
"This place is like paradise, Kawanga, Solly and your staff - you are the greatest."
Staff in Camp
Camp Managers: Solly and Kawanga
Mvuu Camp update - September 2010 Jump
to Mvuu Camp
Desert Rhino Camp update - September 2010 Jump
to Desert Rhino Camp
The weather has been cold lately and there has often been a fine mist in camp until mid-morning. We have had hazy days with poor visibility but the sky has normally cleared beautifully for excellent stargazing in the evenings.
Wildlife and Landscape
We are still waiting for the first rains of the season and the area is very dry. Lucky there are a number of springs still producing water. The water they provide is essential for the rhino and other animals of the area.
Mammal sightings have been generally very good of late. Large herds of Hartmann's mountain zebra have been spending time around the Goabis Spring. We have also seen a number of breeding herds of elephant, with a huge tusker as well, in the Uniab and Aub Rivers.
Really exciting news is that three new rhino were seen between Orunendis and Kaias Springs. We think they moved into the area after the rhino capture in the Barab region. The group consists of a cow, calf and sub-adult cow.
At Salvadora Spring, the lioness with three cubs killed an oryx. The three cubs are all healthy and are nearly five months old. On the morning of the 24th, the lions moved off the kill and were replaced by five spotted hyaena. They polished off all the remains.
A real highlight for the month was the sighting of four cheetah near the Axab River.
We also saw a leopard crossing a rocky area in broad daylight.
The Honourable Minister of Environment and Tourism, Mrs Netumbo Nandi Ndaitwa, and a high level delegation visited us at Rhino Camp. They also visited the SRT Centre at Palmwag and met with the staff. The minister tracked and found rhino with us.
Helen and Jimmy
Ali, Clement and Me-Gusto
Palmwag Lodge update - September 2010 Jump
to Palmwag Lodge
A little rainfall was reported in the Hoanib River area earlier in September which has given us an indication that summer is just around the corner. It was only about 4mm but in a semi-desert area any rain is much appreciated.
For the first time in about six months the elephants have visited Palmwag Lodge - but in general elephant sightings have increased phenomenally throughout the area. Other species such as black rhino, lion and leopard have given us consistently excellent sightings throughout the month!
One that stands out particularly is the black rhino we found while the east wind was blowing. Despite the animal being downwind from us he was completely at ease and once he had caught our scent he moved off at his own relaxed pace.
Birding is always fantastic in the Palmwag Concession. There are successive sightings of Southern Pale Chanting Goshawks, Black-chested Snake-Eagles and Rock Kestrels. Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters have also been spotted lately with other migrating birds such as the Southern Masked Weaver - announcing the arrival of summer in the Damaraland area!
Two regular German guests have visited Palmwag Lodge for the seventh time. It is great to hear that they once again have had a fabulous time and they promise to return. The first time that they visited us was ten years ago and this time they brought friends of theirs for a three week self-drive trip through our incredible country.
Two trainers are currently visiting us and keeping everyone extremely busy. An opportunity for staff to take turns in having dinner in the restaurant has allowed everybody to experience dining from a guest's perspective. The staff have not only learnt from this but have had fun and the opportunity to dress in their finest traditional attire, paying homage to the incredible cultural blend that makes up the Palmwag staff.
Doro Nawas Camp update - September 2010 Jump
to Doro Nawas Camp
The last few days of September were extremely cold - it felt like winter had returned. It is still very dry and we eagerly await the year's few drops of rain.
The minimum temperature this month was 10 degrees Celsius with a maximum of 38 degrees. Strong, cold westerly winds have blown in thick fog that has lasted until 10h00 some mornings.
Wildlife and Landscape
There is a wonderful old camelthorn tree in the Aba-Huab River. It is probably almost 500 years old. It gives the area an ethereal feel.
A highlight for the month was the sighting of a cheetah. She was walking across the plains near Twyfelfontein. Usually there are a number of springbok on these plains and she was no doubt looking for one of her favourite meals.
Both the Rosy and Oscar elephant herds are back in the area. The Rosy herd has been absent for a month or so but now seems to be concentrating on the springs found on the Huab River.
A museum has recently opened in the Twyfelfontein area. It is called The Living Museum of the Damara People. Visitors there can enjoy performances from local people showing how they lived centuries ago. It is a wonderful spectacle not to be missed.
We particularly liked the guides, Michael and Coenie. Our stay was Very Enjoyable. Heather and Ron.
Our highlights were: sleeping under the stars, bumping along the back of a Land Rover, watching a family of elephants, listening to the sounds of the barking gecko, deep silence at other times, swimming in the pool and gin and tonic at sunset. Dee and Bob
Elephant drive was excellent. Easy to visit other points of interest in the area. Really enjoyed Ignatius as a guide. Guide is knowledgeable and very interested in what we wanted. Jackie and Ray
Managers and Guides in Camp
Coenie van Niekerk (Camp Manager)
Danize van Niekerk (Camp Manager)
Agnes Bezuidenhout (Assistant Manager)
Morien Aebes (Assistant Manager)
Theobald Kamatoto (Assistant Manager)
Pieter Kasaona (Trainee Guide)
Michael Kauari (Guide)
Ignatius Khamuseb (Guide)
Richardt Orr (Guide)
Damaraland Camp update - September 2010 Jump
to Damaraland Camp
The weather has fluctuated this month. At the beginning of September temperatures soared to 41 degrees Celcius and then in the middle of the month it seemed as though winter had come back - cool nights and mornings and relatively mild days. Towards the end of the month we noticed some clouds forming on the horizon and on 28 September we received our first raindrops of the season. The previous season was particularly bad in terms of rainfall so we are anxious to see what this season holds for us.
Wildlife and landscape
The animals have returned and it has been an exciting month at Damaraland camp. Herds of oryx have started drinking at Slangpos Spring and the area is teeming with Ostrich. Some of our guests have been lucky enough to see cheetah as well. There are currently two that move between the Springbok and Huab Rivers. On 18 September we were surprised to discover the remains of a leopard kill in the Huab Riverbed. These cats are quite common but are hardly ever seen, however we occasionally find signs of them like this kill.
We have started exploring an area to the south of Damaraland Camp and have discovered three petrified forests and quite a lot of petroglyphs. We also found an area that looks like it might have been a temporary village. It seems as though the area might also hold a lot of game as there are plenty of zebra tracks and we saw numerous oryx and kudu.
The elephants are still in the Huab River area. They move freely between Doro !Nawas and the Peters Pools area. One herd has moved north and is now close to the village of Bergsig. We were surprised to hear that a few lion have been spotted in the Bergsig area and we understand that there is also a fair bit of bit of lion activity south of the veterinary fence towards the Palmwag Concession.
Towards the end of September we had our quarterly joint management meeting with the Torra Conservancy board. It was indeed a very constructive and positive meeting. The Torra community holds 40% shares in the joint venture with Wilderness Safaris. At the end of our contract the camp will be wholly owned by the community.
Finally a group of elephant decided to visit the nearby Fonteine Farm and help themselves to the vegetation in the newly fenced garden. For some reason the electricity was down so the elephants had no problem pushing the fence down. One of our guides assisted in getting the elephants out and on their way.
"Wonderful place, fantastic location and great people."
"Thank you for a perfect two days with very special trips, brilliantly guided by Johann. We loved the elephants, the birds and learned so much, and yet feel well rested and very well fed! Thank you all. We hope you find the elusive black rhino and we feel privileged to have seen the bushman paintings."
"Thanks to Daniel and all of the team. Our stay was perfect. Maybe one day we'll meet again."
Managers: Iván Phillipson, Ilze van der Vyver, Elizabeth Parkhouse, Elfrieda Hebach and Maggie Vries
Guides: Johann Cloete, Daniel Uakuramenua, Anthony Dawids and Francois Weitz.
Skeleton Coast Camp update - September 2010 Jump
to Skeleton Coast Camp
Serra Cafema Camp update - September 2010 Jump
to Serra Cafema Camp
Ongava Tented Camp update - September 2010 Jump
to Ongava Tented Camp
With the exception of one or two cold mornings and evenings, there has been nice warm weather for most of September. While the wind was still blowing, it began to die down towards the end of the month.
The first new green shoots can be seen on a number of trees which is a welcome sign of spring even though the area is still quite dry after a long winter.
This month again proved to be quite busy at camp as many animals are attracted to the waterholes due to the dry conditions. This encouraged many guests to enjoy their mornings in camp watching a wide variety of animals coming and going.
Both Ongava Game Reserve and Etosha National Park have been very productive. Ongava has given us great sightings of white and black rhino as well as lion. Cheetah have also been spotted as well as a leopard during one of our night drives.
At Etosha, the number of elephants at the various waterholes has been phenomenal; some guests have seen up to 60 elephants frolicking in and around the water at one time. Other guests witnessed a pride of lion feeding on an elephant carcass. A leopard was also spotted in the Park.
The seven juvenile lion from the "OTC" Pride have begun to leave to fend for themselves. Two of these, a young male and female, made their first kill alone early one morning close to the camp. We also noticed the same two one evening at the camp waterhole drinking with a black rhino - a nice sighting for both guests and staff.
Some guests were lucky enough to witness and even touch a wild rhino as a "notching process" took place at Ongava Game Reserve on some of the calves that have been weaned this year. In this case, the ears of the rhino are notched for ease of identification; in this way, our rhino can be monitored more easily and conveniently.
"The lion pride so close to the camp and watching the young lion eating at the kill. The journey into Etosha and seeing the pan was a highlight." Neil and Penny
"Walking close to White Rhino." David and Stella
"The time given to us by the staff for personal discussion and knowledge sharing. The time given by guide to ensure special interest. Amazing animal sightings and up-close and personal." Jane and Sue
"Watching the waterhole in the morning, driving with Leon and the sighting of the leopard. My birthday was also very special - champagne and cake." Ruth
"Excellent guide, Excellent lodge team, our first stay in "tents". Miss Patient took her first outdoor shower at the age of 61." Jal and Lee
"Loved the game drives. Accommodation very comfortable. Food was outstanding! Animals at the waterhole off front deck! Felt very safe and well cared for. Staff were wonderful! Would definitely recommend it." Anrie
Little Ongava update - September 2010 Jump
to Little Ongava Camp
Ongava Lodge update - September 2010 Jump
to Ongava Lodge
We had unpredictable weather this month. Some days we felt like we were experiencing mid-winter with temperatures only reaching 20 degrees Celsius. Otherwise it has been a warm month with temperatures ranging from 19 - 34 degrees.
We are still waiting for the first rain for the season. Many mornings have been overcast but the clouds generally disappear by midday. In the evenings we have been cooled by a south-east wind.
Safari excursions for this month have been spectacular both in the private reserve (Ongava) and Etosha National Park. With the lack of rain, the waterholes are hives of activity as animals seek to cool down and quench their thirst.
Walks and rhino tracking have been excellent this month as the vegetation is still sparse and tracks often head towards water.
The hide at the waterhole has been booked out for just about the whole month. Every night, guests have enjoyed watching black rhino, cheetah and leopard which come down to drink at the waterhole in front of the camp.
First class in all aspect, excellent location and layout we won't forget anything from here.
Management present for September:
Adriano, Agnes, George and Jason
Teacher, Mike, Henock, Willem and Kapona
Andersson's Camp update - September 2010 Jump
to Andersson's Camp
Temperatures this last month have been soaring into the mid-30s. However, after sunset a cool breeze brings relief and we are still experiencing comfortable nights. At this early stage there is still no sign of rain, and we only expect the odd quick thunderstorm later in October.
Wildlife and landscape
With the onset of spring we are already seeing soft fresh green leaves creeping out on the tips of the branches. Any grass that is still left after the previous rainy season is very dry and yellow.
However, the dryness has its advantages! We see an abundance of wildlife at the waterhole in front of our main area. Herds of blue wildebeest, oryx, kudu, springbok, impala, giraffe and warthog are our frequent guests. We also see the shy black-backed jackal in the mornings and at sunset.
Our lion are back and we hear them roaring almost every night and have seen them at the waterhole at sunset. Other regular night time calls come from the black-backed jackal and hyaena.
The bird life in the area is amazing at the moment. We see crimson-breasted shrike, southern yellow-billed as well as grey hornbills, southern masked weavers, short-toed rock-thrush and tiny sunbirds to name a few.
Andersson's Camp would like to welcome Alfonso to the team and wish him much success with us here.
Little Kulala Camp update - September 2010 Jump
to Little Kulala Camp
The desert is known for its topsy-turvy weather and September was no exception. The mornings began with strong, hot easterly winds ravaging the camp and its inhabitants. Then, on some afternoons, a strong cold west wind blew all the dust and sand back the other way and cooled the area down. These different wind systems caused some spectacular scenes around camp and in the dunes. One morning everyone woke up to a low lying mist shrouding the summit of Black Mountain.
The September minimum was measured at 8 degrees Celsius with an average daily maximum temperature of 36 degrees.
During the course of the month there were a few amusing animal incidents in and around the camp. One afternoon, under the baking sun, two springbok rams decided the waterhole wasn't big enough for both them. After about five minutes of equal contest, one of the rams sneaked in a low blow and with amazing strength managed to flip his opponent backward through the air, landing him on his back, feet flailing. Shortly thereafter, the defeated antelope fled in humiliation.
A carcass of a springbok ram was found in the Aub River. Judging by the worn-out horns, the ram was old and thus probably easy pickings. The neat way he was eaten (with the spine left intact), suggests he was killed and eaten by a cheetah.
Little Kulala is proud to announce the opening of our spa. Jenneth, our massage therapist, joined us in mid-September. We now offer full body, back, deep tissue aromatherapy, scalp and foot massages.
Gina and her husband Steven visited Little Kulala in September. She writes and sings her own songs, drawing inspiration from places visited. After the Little Kulala choir did their magic on their last night, Gina had a restless evening, composing her next album. In the morning she sang and harmonised with the staff for about two hours.
Environmental camp design fits with the environment well. Activities fantastic and thank you for the meals for your special attention for our meal requests. Laundry available made for easier packing.
Indescribable! Absolutely great! The dunes, the evenings with singing and dancing, just all!
Everything is extraordinary. It is a very nice place. We didn't want to leave Little Kulala.
Staff in camp
Managers: Daphne and Igna
Relief Manager: Carina
Assistant Managers: Corrie, Jason
Admin Assistant: Verona
Guides: Richard, Agnes, Theresa, Willy, Raymond, Elaine
Kulala Desert Lodge update - September 2010 Jump
to Kulala Desert Lodge
Kulala Wilderness Camp update - September 2010 Jump
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August surprised us with the early blossoming of trees in the camp surroundings. September was even more unusual. Hot east winds came howling over the Tsaris Mountains pushing temperatures to around 38 degrees Celsius. West winds made us unpack all the winter woollies and take out the blankets again - some nights dropped below 10 degrees Celsius. Some spectacular fog crept up on us some mornings, giving life to this very dry desert.
An agama has made his home on the balustrade outside the management office. He is very comfortably observing the comings and goings.
Some large herds of oryx came drinking at the waterhole with many young. The largest herd numbered about 30 animals. We have regularly seen two small calves so it seems that the dry winter has not completely stopped procreation on the reserve.
Our area is not only known for its beauty but also for the rich heritage of the ancient hunter-gatherers that moved through this area ages ago. In a small cave, halfway up a rocky hill about 20 minutes from the camp, there is a small etching of a man and a woman. We've also found some grinding tools in the area close to the etching.
Guests were treated to a cultural presentation one night before dinner. We discussed the different cultures of Namibia, concentrating on the tribes from which the staff at the camp hail. Raymunda Coetzee was the star of the evening when she came dressed in her traditional Riemvasmaker outfit.
Beautiful excursions, very lovely staff.
Enjoyed the sit down dinners with everyone. The peace and quiet of the area.
Staff is amazing - so kind and welcoming and genuine. They made me feel pampered and special. Loved the setting and sense that you are treading lightly on the land as much as possible. Liked the room, the view, everything.
Staff in camp
Assistant Managers: Dios and Petronella
Guides: Dawid, Moses, Richard
Governors' Camp update - September 2010 Jump
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WE ARE DELIGHTED TO ANNOUNCE THAT GOVERNORS' CAMP HAS BEEN RATED BEST HOTEL IN KENYA BY TRAVEL AND LEISURE MAGAZINE'S BEST HOTELS IN THE WORLD 2010.
Weather and the plains
September saw a fair amount of unseasonal rainfall through the month, filling up the Musiara Marsh. The water came gushing under the bridge to the airstrip and on to the Mara River. The Mara River has been consistently high, mostly due to rain at its watershed in the Mau forest.
The temperatures have been very pleasant, rising to a maximum of 30 Celsius around mid day. After gorgeous mornings, it has mostly become overcast in the afternoons and raining on the odd day.
Storm over the Mara courtesy of John knott
The grassland plains have been mowed down by the migration, leaving a bright green thick mat with the unpalatable dried stalks left standing, giving the impression of dry grass from a distance.
The Wildebeest Migration
We have had one of the best migrations seasons ever! Dense concentrations of wildebeest and zebra have covered the plains. The herds have tended to group together at night, spreading out as the day progresses to dot the grassland. Similarly to the end of August hundreds of thousands of animals were to be seen from Governors camps looking out onto Rhino Ridge and to the east. Mid month they started moving around and over the ridge but returned again to The Marsh. The river crossings have been plentiful in September, from a few zebras to a few thousand wildebeest. The fat, ancient crocodiles still take the odd animal as they cross the Mara River, but are mostly content to watch from the sand banks as they have had their full. The river is littered with carcasses from panicked animals drowning because of the large numbers, high water and difficult exits. This is in stark contrast to last year's crossings where they mostly skipped across the river as it was so low, the crocodiles had to work hard for their meal then.
Wildebeest migration herd disturbed by leopard courtesy of Justin Grammaticas
Elephant and giraffe have avoiding the masses of wildebeest and zebra, with the occasional elephant family coming to the forest every few days or so. They are to be mostly found up in the acacia woodland areas at this time, where they are feeding. The large buffalo herd with their young still frequent the marsh and return up onto the ridge, the bachelor males looking from a distance resigned to the fact they are not wanted. With the bursts of rain and the promise of more, and the charge of greenery in the Mara many of the antelope herds have been mating. The males were seen rutting and asserting their territories, once the lines have been drawn and lesser males placated, they then get on with the business at hand. Gestation periods range mostly according to the size of an antelope, the smaller gazelles and impala approximately 6 months whilst the larger waterbuck and topi 7 - 8 months. This instinctual timing coincides with the seasonal rains that commence toward the end of March, giving the young new lush grass to graze on and taller grasses to hide in.
Elephant family courtesy of Justin Grammaticas
Beautiful wild flowers have started springing up amongst the shorter grass, 'tissue paper' flowers Cycnium tubulosum, fireball lilies Scadoxus multilorus bringing a contrast of red to the plains as well as the pyjama lily Crinum macowanii with its white and purple stripes.
Dung beetles of all colours and sizes are busying themselves attempting to clear up what the wildebeest have dropped. Termites take this mammoth job on too.
'Flying ants' termite reproductives have taken to the sky to pair up and start new colony's. Timed with the rains so the earth is soft they dig down to start a new kingdom. They are a delicious meal to a lot of animals as they are packed proteins to sustain themselves whilst they create workers - birds, aardvark, aardwolf, bat-eared fox, mongoose and more all eat them.
The resident baboons are spending a lot of their time along the roads as the runoff from the rain has produced thick new nutritious shoots which they are feeding on. They will sit for hours near the roads providing great entertainment.
The core part of the Marsh Pride of lions have been happily lazing around the Musiara Marsh area this month. The pride is basically divided in two; the two males Romeo and Claude and four females, three of which are with young having three cubs each. The fourth female was sighted mating with both males at the start of the month, Romeo dominating as Claude the older lion is not in great condition. The sub-adult group are spending their time up near Mbila Shaka and on occasion come down to the marsh. There are five males and four females together with a lioness, Lispy. Lispy towards the end of the month came into season and ventured down to the marsh and picked out Romeo, a good choice, and commenced mating. The Marsh Pride have been hunting at night. The sub-adult males took down the old buffalo bull outside of Governors' Camp which was a fair accomplishment even though he was in retirement and a little worse for wear. One of the more spectacular sightings seen below the marsh bridge was all of the sub-adults trapping a large male waterbuck in the water. The waterbuck held his own, facing off any attempts that were made toward it by the lions surrounding him. This started at dawn and went until well after lunch when the waterbuck bolted once the lions lost interest and lay watching.
Waterbuck and lion standoff courtesy of Daryl Black
The Ridge Pride is still doing well, staying up on the ridge where the wildebeest have been. They too had an interesting development; whilst on a walk the three lionesses and four cubs came across a mother cheetah and her two adult cubs which they promptly chased for a while. In their excitement they had not noticed the kill which the cheetahs had to leave in a hurry, but wandered on. They then spotted a hyena which had just killed a young wildebeest and chased him of his meal and settled into their easily won prize.
The Paradise Pride is in great shape. Dominating a territory that encompasses the main crossing areas means they have food coming to them instead of having to pursue their prey. However they choose to hunt at night and relax during the day, very rarely is this pride seen hunting during the day. The pride across the Mara river from them is very different. Often seen at the crossings hiding up in the croton bushes, they ambush the unsuspecting hoards of animals that have just tired themselves out swimming through the rapids. On one occasion a single lioness killed five wildebeest.
Notch has been seen on both sides of the river with his two prides, where his five sons have split and are seen east of the river up in the Croton bushes.
We have mostly seen the three cheetah boys this month who are not short of female admirers as other cheetahs have moved on.
Three cheetah brothers courtesy of Samuel Kiplangat
There has been one female cheetah and her two nearly fully grown cubs near double crossing, she did come to Rhino ridge but was chased off by the Ridge Pride. This is probably why she spends her time further away.
One other female cheetah has been seen near the Talek River, once walking right by Olive the leopard.
Olive is still as relaxed as ever, giving guests amazing views of her near the Talek River in the Croton bushes. Her two cubs have moved on, leopards are not very tolerant of their cubs once they come of age, there are very rarely any free meals once they leave home. The two cubs are sticking together for the moment, they need to build up their confidence before they secure territories of their own.
The young male leopard from Olives' previous litter is in a neighbouring territory, he has been spotted a few times, once dragging a fresh wildebeest kill across the ground into cover.
Leopard courtesy of John Knott
The Il Moran leopard near Governors' has rarely been seen as the Marsh Pride is so incumbent and she has retreated to the forest. A male leopard was sighted along the forest near the Little Governors crossing. Whilst waiting for a crossing one of our vehicles saw a female leopard being chased out of the adjacent bushes by baboons creating mayhem amongst the mounting herds of wildebeest. Once everything had calmed down, what presumably was an older cub ran out in pursuit of its mother and stirred the wildebeest into another state.
There are a couple of jackal dens up on the plains in old termite mounds, the youngsters are nearly fully grown but still dependant on their parents. At one site hyenas tried to dig out the young whilst the adults were running in and nipping at their behinds, the hyena soon ran off.
Jackal pups courtesy of Alex Millar
We also had two sightings of caracal in September which was very lucky, one mother had cubs too.
With high season well underway the camps have been as busy as ever. We have also had wonderful sightings of game in camp with elephants putting in regular visits to all camps, much to the delight of guests. Elephant families have been making a habit of turning up at Little Governors' Camp at lunchtime leaving camp staff to escort guests to a safe distance away to view these magnificent animals as they pass through camp!
Elephant family in Little Governors' Camp courtesy of Jean Monfils
The Governors' Hot Air Balloon Safaris have also been enjoying spectacular game viewing this month. On the 24th clients and crew enjoyed a beautiful flight, with a glorious full moon followed by a spectacular sunrise, they had the pleasure of seeing four rhino, three lions, as well as plenty of plains game, zebra and wildebeest. Rhinos have become a fairly regular sighting on most balloon flights much to the delight of clients and balloon pilots and we have enjoyed some lovely sightings of leopard in the branches of trees.
We hope to share the magic of our corner of the Mara with you sometime soon.
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge update - September 2010
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