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South Africa camps
Pafuri Camp update - April 2011 Jump
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April is the start of our busy season, both at camp and also for Pafuri Walking Trails which reopened their tent flaps during April. Summer is going away and winter is around the corner; the mornings and evenings are starting to become cooler. Temperatures were lovely this month and we had few days with rain that settled the dust.
We had some fantastic big game sightings this month. The Pafuri Lion Pride were seen regularly and often used the area around camp. Around mid-month for example we had just left camp when we found two large lionesses crossing the bridge over the Luvuvhu from south to north. They both looked pregnant. They headed towards the airstrip where they lay up for a while, later wandering off towards Hutwini Mountain.
The following day one of their pride mates, another large lioness, was seen with her two cubs (3-4 months of age) near Reedbuck Vlei. An exciting sighting of the two males followed a tracking expedition by two of the guides who were thrilled to locate these impressive animals on a nyala kill. They then radioed the game drive vehicles in the vicinity to come and enjoy the sighting. Later on the two males went towards the river to drink water and look for cool shade.
Leopards also royally entertained us on a few occasions this month, while the low rainfall during April meant that the elephant densities in the concession increased. Together with buffalo herds and buffalo bulls, elephant were seen on most days and game drives this month. We have also had breeding herds of elephant in the Luvuvhu River in front of the main deck and tents a few times; as conditions dry out further we expect this to become an almost daily occurrence.
General game, as always, has been very good especially in the riverine areas and floodplains where nyala, kudu, bushbuck, impala, warthog and zebra are abundant. Recently all these species as well as wildebeest have been concentrating around camp.
Although some of our summer visitors have headed back north on migration we also had some great bird records this month and recorded 243 species in total. Intra-African migrants such as the Woodland Kingfisher and its cousin the Grey-headed Kingfisher were seen throughout the month although the former has stopped its trilling calling. This is a sure sign that both species are due to head north soon.
Perhaps our birding highlight at the moment is the activity at the inundated Reedbuck Vlei. The waters of this pan are seasonal and when full it is very attractive to a host of species; currently there are impressive numbers of African Open-bill, Yellow-billed Stork, Grey Heron, African Darter, Reed Cormorant, Dwarf Bittern, Black Crake, Great White Egret, African Jacana, Spoonbill, Black-winged Stilt and many more. As the water begins to evaporate and expose the abundance of catfish, in 5 months or so this pan will become a focus for even greater numbers of birds.
Given that we undertake regular excursions to the nearby Thulamela archaeological site for many of our guests, we recently did a workshop there with all staff including camp managers, front of house staff and new guides, the intention being to familiarise everyone with the site itself and what the experience is like. This little walled royal settlement is certainly an impressive 500-year-old site with a great atmosphere on top of a hill overlooking the Luvuvhu Valley.
As we enter the dry season now we are expecting even greater densities of animals around the camp, especially elephant, buffalo bulls and different types of antelope. The Luvuvhu River in front of camp is the main attraction of game and predators are also frequently seen around camp as well. Afternoon game drives along Luvuvhu River are highly productive this season and as guides we cannot wait.
Pafuri Walking Trail update - April 2011 Jump
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14h00 Accompanied by our guides Brian and Geoffrey we begin our trail by leaving from Pafuri Camp headed west towards Mangala Trails Camp, our base for the next three days. Roughly halfway through our walk our attention is caught by load of alarm calls, up on the hillside to our right hand side. The sound was similar to baboon alarm calls, but turned out to be a small herd of kudu. Brian took a look through his binoculars, and there to his surprise was a leopard - "guys, look - a leopard out in the open!" We all managed to catch a glimpse of her as she slipped away into the hillside, moving away from us. We tracked her path by the alarm calls of klipspringer further up the hill. So that was a pretty cool start ... what next? This is only Brian's second leopard sighting on foot, in probably a thousand walks.
18h00 We trail into our camp, the site is beautifully laid out in a glade of ana trees, and the sun is setting to the west. Nancy welcomes us with sundowners and gives us an introduction to the camp routine. It's not long before we are enjoying hot showers. Dinner around the fire side is served; lamb chops, salads and dessert.
06h30 This morning we are up early and set out following lion spoor, headed towards Mashasiti Spring. A beautiful morning walk westwards, and up over the mountain to the natural spring, unfortunately (!) we did not pick up the lions, they seemed to have vanished into the wilderness.
15h00 We set out for an afternoon game drive to the Limpopo River in the north, a welcome rest for our tired legs and aching feet. We stop briefly to photograph the White-fronted Bee-eaters, going about their business in the golden light. At a bend in the Luvuvhu River we are entertained by a breeding herd of elephant, approximately 30 individuals with several youngsters, one still pink around the tummy. They had just crossed the river, the water level mark was halfway up the adults and we wonder just how the babies had managed to cross safely. The herd go peacefully on their way and we turn towards the Limpopo River to enjoy the sunset and an adult beverage or two.
We are close to camp on the way back when we come across three hyaena. They seem to be enjoying the early evening, very relaxed and probably just getting started on their evening hunt. This marks the start of a very interesting 24-hour period. As we arrive in camp, Nancy lets us know that the three lionesses had passed close by the camp! After delicious chicken kebabs we collapse into our beds - which by the way were unexpectedly comfortable!
06h30 We decide to drive east before beginning our walk into the Fever Tree Forest. It takes an unusually long time to get there as we are confronted with all sorts of sightings. We witness an African Harrier-hawk (Gymnogene) raiding a hornbill nest before flying off to a nearby tree to feast on the chick. There is plenty of general game around and it is impala rutting season, so the snorting sounds - impressively reproduced by Geoffrey - keep us entertained.
It's not long before we meet up with our breeding herd of elephants; they are feeding on our left, while on our right is a large group of kudu. Suddenly we spot an African civet, most probably disturbed by the elephants. The civet ambles along next to our vehicle giving us an unusual daylight sighting, and then quietly disappears into a thicket to wait until evening.
We are again interrupted in our plans to start our walk - this time it's a column of Matabele ants; they have just raided a nest and are making off with the eggs! We decide to start our walk from this point and the next few hours are happily spent walking along, exploring porcupine digs and aardvark burrows. In the fever tree forest we encounter an elephant bull; he even allowed us to pass by while he mud bathed and fed amongst the forest.
Oh but wait, I forgot to tell you about Reedbuck Vlei... this is an incredible place at present, surrounded by lush green grasses and fever trees, the pan is filled with all sorts of water birds, everything from open-bill storks, yellow-billed and spoonbill storks, to green-backed herons skulking in the shadows, to terrapins and ornate frogs. It is quite a while before we can tear ourselves away to continue our walk.
At Crooks' Corner, the Limpopo is filled from bank to bank, the resident crocs and hippo are tucked away around the corner in the Luvuvhu, Fish-eagles and Purple-crested Turaco capture our attention, and there is even a snake swimming along towards the view site!
15h00 And after all the excitement of the day, Brian wants to take us up to Banini Pan on the Limpopo floodplain. Talk of Dwarf Bittern gets my attention, and so we head off. Not even 10 minutes into our journey and we are stopped by rutting impala. Two males, with horns locked are engrossed in their challenge. We sit and watch, totally ignored by the impala. The next moment a third male comes charging out of nowhere and pushes the pair off into the bush - WOW - I even caught the encounter on video!
We arrive at the spot, and after a short walk to the water's edge, there in front of us sitting up on a bush - is a Dwarf Bittern. The long lens comes out and I click away, until Brian and Geoff spot Diderick's Cuckoo, Red-billed Teal and White-faced Ducks - it's all too much!
Time moves along and the sun is setting - it's time to head back. In front of us however is a herd of buffalo who have come to drink, and to our right, two elephant bulls amble towards us splashing through the pan ... what to do? Brian and Geoff are cautious; we sit quietly until it's safe to walk back to the vehicle. By now it's dark and time to get back to Nancy and dinner.
Eventually we pull into camp, Nancy is there to welcome us again, this time she asks if we heard the lion roar? Brian is immediately interested and gets the direction, we haven't even got out of the vehicle yet, and Brian thinks we should investigate, we drive back to the junction where Brian checks for tracks, there they are - we change direction - back the way we have come, only to spot a large male lion approximately 200 metres back, walking along occasionally roaring for effect! This was an insane 24hr period! But it was time to rest, climbing into our tents to the enchanting sound of a Wood Owl duet above us.
Well what is left to tell? I think you get the picture - the Pafuri Walking Trail was an incredible experience. But this report is long enough, I will just mention that as we walked back to Pafuri Camp, a loud growling sound to our left was heard by everyone, and a lone lioness scampered away. No time to get her picture!
Caroline Culbert & Friends
Camp Jabulani update - April 2011
Kings Camp update - April 2011 Jump
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The Timbavati is still amazingly green and lush for late April and this is due to excellent rain that we received at the end of March.
Cloudy and cool conditions dominated most of the month of April with a few very cold days experienced. The migrant birds have all started to gather and congregate in preparation for the migratory journey to the northern parts of Africa and as far as Europe.
The wildlife sightings were plentiful and it was especially pleasing to see large numbers of giraffe and zebra herds daily in near vicinity to the camp. As we left the camp on drive at 06h00 in the morning, we were frequently confronted with no less than 12 giraffes standing at the entrance of the camp. A great way to start anyone's day! Large herds of buffalo are currently moving in the area and it is not impossible to see many as 600 during a single game drive.
The Machaton pride still produces the majority of our lion sightings especially now that they have 9 cubs in the pride. Both lactating females are looking good and manage to provide for the ravenous cubs with no problem. Game is abundant at the moment and the lionesses are working non stop to feed the family. Prey killed included several impala, one zebra and one wildebeest.
The most astounding sighting for the month was when the pride was located one very cold morning resting in the open plains on the Eastern side of our reserve. Only a few vehicles responded to the sighting as they were not doing much at the time. Later on in the morning, a vehicle went to check on them only to find that they had killed a Zebra and were feasting. They must have just killed it that morning after the last vehicle had left them. When I arrived twenty-five minutes later, every lion member in the pride including one of the Timbavati males were feeding. The lionesses together with the cubs fed from the one side of the carcass while the big boss feasted on his own on the opposite side of the Zebra. After about twenty minutes, one of the lionesses suddenly got up and moved away from the kill leaving the remaining two lionesses and the cubs continuing to feed. This immediate change in number of adult females at the kill allowed the male to exert pressure and dominance over the other two and in a flash he yanked the remains of the Zebra away from the pride. He dragged it off a distance to the cover of a nearby tree to feed. Amazingly though the unperturbed male allowed his 9 offspring to feed happily with him on the carcass but the lionesses were not welcome. This kind of behaviour is not commonly seen amongst male lions. Most of the time male lions will claim all rights to a kill and prevent other members of the pride including cubs from feeding from the same carcass with him. I have seen this behaviour before in a male we knew as Woza Woza that once controlled the Kings area as his territory.
Ntombi leopardess and her sub adult son were frequently seen on our game drives. He had his first birthday last month and is thriving having equalled the body size of his mother already. The growth rate of a male leopard cub is astonishing equalling his mom size at just over a year and continuing to grow rapidly until adult size. He still lacks confidence around the game drive vehicles and I am sure that he will remain slightly nervous in the future. The only reasons I can think of is that we are all have different personalities even the leopards do. Extra caution is taken when he is viewed as not to stress him. He did however impress us all at the end of the month when he claimed his first large kill, a young impala. What really impressed me the most was when he took his kill up into a tree. Not only is he proving to be a competent hunter but also a fast learner.
Another piece of valuable news is that I am convinced that our most precious female leopard, Rock fig Jnr is pregnant again. I noticed that she looked as if her tummy was distinctly distended at the last sighting of her near to the camp. If this is correct then it would be safe to say that we could have new leopard cubs shortly.
Large breeding herds of elephants moved in and out of the area daily. On certain days we had to search for a long time in order to find them and then the next day as you leave the lodge for the drive you bump into them on your doorstep. Large numbers of calves were seen in the herds and my feeling is that we are seeing different family groups mixed together to form larger breeding herds at this time of the year. I also think they are benefiting from the green vegetation found along the Nharalumi River after the good rains I mentioned earlier.
Winter is around the corner now and shortly the veld conditions will change making life more difficult and challenging for the animals to sustain peak condition.
As mentioned in the last report, buffalo herds are back in our area in large numbers and it is quite a sight to see more than 300 bovines feeding around a land rover. Occasionally the guests feel a bit nervous to be surrounded by such a large number of animals but we reassure our guests that all is fine and that they don't have to be anxious.
That is all for this month's dear friends and guests. I hope you enjoyed the report.
From all of us at Kings Camp, have a great month.
Head Guide of Kings Camp
Photography: By Patrick O'Brien.
Leopard Hills update - April 2011 Jump
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As the weather starts cooling down the game viewing heats up!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It was in this month that hlaba nkunzi lost her last cub to the Xinzele male. This means that she will come into oestrus and will start mating again. Gary and his guests saw her flirting and trying to mate with the xinzele male. The interaction between the 2 leopards was great. And all this was out in the open plains. We did follow up the next day and she had followed him down towards the river but then walked into the hippo dam females territory, a fight ensued and Hlaba nkunzi was chased back south to her territory.
The meetsi female has been wondering into a few females territories, as you saw in a previous blog post she was in Hlangisa's territory, this maybe one of the reasons why we have only ahd a view of only one cub for the last week or so. It is possible that one is exploring and hasn't been with the mother, but we will keep you updated on this.
Hlangisa has been a ball of fun as usual. She is always a pleasure to view and her name suits her down to the ground, "Playful".
He has definitely been stamping his authority on the south and west of our traversing. He has been seen to calling, marking and causing all over havoc with all the "girls" in the west.
As we all know these last remaining 3 mapogos are getting on in their life. We had reports from the east that theere was a the southern pride slowly moving closer to our traversing area. It was only a few days ago that the mapogos went east and from the reports they chased the other pride far back east.
They are still quite fragmented around the west and we haven't seen all 5 lionesses together for a very long time. The older lioness with the 8 month old male cubs has been close to leopard hills in the last week after she killed a huge male kudu by herself. The 2 male cubs are looking very strong and healthy. The short tail lioness with the 2 four month cubs is also doing well and we have been seeing her regularly. Due to the females being quite disjointed they are vocalising a lot to communicate with each other, impressive to hear from the deck of lodge in the mornings and evenings.
We have been very privelaged to have 2 huge herds of buffalo join up in the south and an estimate of 700 individuals was seen on the plains, what a site!!!!
We have had some wondrous elephant sightings this month and there are a number of large herds with lots of young calves around at the moment! To spend time with a parade of elephants is always a treat and we had a remarkably memorable sighting with a herd in the open grassland the other day.
The calves were interacting and then 2 white rhino appeared on the scene and one young male calf decided he would try and show them who truly is the king of the pachyderms! A huge musth bull elephant then appeared and there was a lot of rumbling and interaction between the females and this bull who was clearly interested in one of the oestrus females.
The old hanging lip male, Makamisa has made his appearance on a few occasions in the last month, he really is a magnificent specimen of a male cheetah. We watched him strolling around the south of our traversing area, scent marking with awe inspiring confidence against the sunset one evening.
Painted Dogs Denning
With fewer than 5000 left on earth there is a buzz of excitement here at Leopard Hills as we have an African wild dog den here for the first time in over 10 years.
We have seen this pack on and off over the past year when they have come over from the east to hunt! After chatting to some rangers in the north east near the Kruger boundary we discovered that a large pack of 22 wild dogs had put pressure on them and pushed them towards our side to search for a den site!
We know how these animals can move massive distances and are extremely hard to find and follow at times so to have a confirmed den site is a real treat!
Latest news on the pack of 6…
They are soldiering on, 1 young female dog confirmed killed by a lioness and some close calls with a leopard and even rhino while out hunting in the last week! This leaves the 2 females, Alpha male, older short tail male and 2 yearling male helpers, so only 6 left in the pack.
There were 2 females that fell pregnant in the pack, usually it is just the Alpha female! We think the subordinate female fell pregnant as an insurance litter in case something happened to the Alpha female or her pups. This pack is only 6 dogs so it is imperative that they breed successfully this year.
There are naturally 2 dens with both females falling pregnant but it seems only the Alpha female's is still active…
We had an amazing experience a few days ago while listening to the pups down below in the first den. We previously assumed that these pups we could hear down in first den were the Alpha female's however the events that unfolded the next day were a big surprise…
Now we couldn't see which female was hidden down in each den and when rangers arrived at the first den the following morning they discovered 2 dead pups lying on the road and no more pups have been heard at this den since. The Alpha female has emerged from the other den site and the subordinate female is now running and hunting with the pack again.
What seems to have happened is that the Alpha female has killed the subordinate female's pups (the ones we heard) so that the small pack can focus solely on providing for her pups when they emerge. If the pups were killed by hyaena or lions they would have been eaten. So now we wait expectantly until we can hear and see any sign of the Alpha female's pups down in the other den…
Getting to know the pack…
The pack consists of the Alpha male, Alpha female, old short tail male, 2 young males and 1 young female. See images below.
Below is an image of the Alpha male (on the left), he has very distinctive white markings on his rump, also look at his white bushy tail (males tend to have more white on the tail than females) . On the right is a young yearling male.
This image below is the Alpha female (on right) heavily pregnant a few weeks ago and the young female that was killed on the left. Look at the different colouration of the much older Alpha female, more tan in her coat and faded with time.
The below image is the older short tail male peering down into the Alpha female's den which is a modified disused termite mound. His coat is also very tan with age.
Rocktail Beach Camp update - April 2011 Jump
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The month of April at Rocktail Beach Camp was fun-filled and a little cooler than the last month as we start to move closer towards the winter season. There were a few days of lingering rain which ensured some good family time around a couple of board games and with the smaller children enjoying movies in our Kids' Room. This weather did not stick around for long however and soon everyone was having the usual fun in the sun while enjoying the beach and many activities!
Easter Weekend is always a bumper weekend at Rocktail Beach Camp, where the hustle and bustle of daily life is soothed away into a relaxed and fun experience. There were a few kingfish species landed by some of the more lucky anglers, usually in the 3-5 kg range which provided great excitement.
The Dive Centre was also a hive of activity with many guests relishing the opportunity to explore the wonders of the pristine marine environment that we are so blessed to have on our stretch of coastline! Please look out for the Dive Reports for all the information of what we experienced.
Rocktail Beach Camp is also very excited about the newly implemented a la carte lunch menu which is a move away from the regular buffet lunches that we served in the past.
May is upon us and we look forward to a wonderful month on the Maputaland Coast, surely with some cooler temperatures but the warmth of hospitality will ensure great fun is had by all.
Rocktail Bay Dive Report - April 2011 Jump
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We can begin to feel winter's chill moving in, and the Cape Gannets, mostly brown juveniles, are starting to arrive. They normally come up for the winter months from the Cape around the same time as the humpback whales, so we are keeping our eyes peeled for the first tell-tale spouts.
The first unusual sighting this month was seen by Scott and Riley Houston. Scott has been doing his Dive Masters Course with Michelle over the past 12 months and was leading a dive at Aerial when he spotted a bowmouth guitarfish! This species (Rhina ancylostoma) to quote Dennis King, is "Prehistoric in appearance with its broad rounded snout, wing-like pectoral fins and ridges of thorn-like protuberances over its head and back." This is a very rare sighting for scuba divers! The specimen we saw was a giant, at least 3 metres in length resting on the seabed. We managed to creep in slowly till we were just a few metres away and were eye balling each other for a good 10 minutes.
The very next day after a lovely dive at Pineapple, it was just Darryl, Nicky and me on our safety stop. All of a sudden Darryl grabbed Nicky and was pointing out to see, I swam next to them expecting to see a large shark of some sort but instead there was a huge bill swimming straight toward us, and at about three metres away it turned and we were looking at a enormous black marlin in all its glory. It was close enough that we could see its beautiful markings as it came past. To see this magnificent creature is a very rare and special experience and it will definitely be in our top dive sightings for sure! Our intrepid camera-woman managed to snap a shot or two. Well done Nicky.
On a dive from Yellowfin Drop to Brewers Garden, Michelle spotted a cuttlefish about 3cm long. This little creature is a master of disguise blending into the reef and changing the texture of its skin from frilly to smooth and continually flashing different colours to suit its surroundings. Full marks to Michelle for spotting this as when it was motionless it was virtually invisible. Another rare sighting was of a pink sea cucumber; normally they are brown, black or grey depending on the species.
Other dives in that area have been very fruitful this month too with sightings of grey reef sharks, manta rays, tasselfish also known as bartman and a purple weedy scorpionfish (Rhinopisa frondosa) all on Coachman's. Lots of turtles have been spotted - hawksbill, green and even a loggerhead were seen. We mostly see loggerhead turtles in the summer months when they come here to mate and nest.
Another interesting find: Darryl was on his way back from a morning fish and he noticed hatching tracks coming down the sand dune; on investigation he found that six hatchings had made their own way to the sea. On digging down he found two dead leatherback hatchings and two more barely alive - these are really late babies as most nets have hatched by mid-March. We managed to revive the two hatchlings and release them far out at sea, to give them a fighting chance.
On another dive, we spotted a small yellow head sticking out of the reef at Aerial and went to have a closer look - it was a yellow moray eel with green eyes, something we had never seen before. After consulting the books, it turned out to be a golden moray eel (Gymnothorax melatremus). These small and rare moray species are found through out the Indian Ocean but have only been recorded at a few scattered locations. Adults only attain a maximum length of around 20cm - a unique find.
Rowan Williams, the "Manta Man" managed to conjure up his tricks again, after his trip last year when he and Darryl tickled a female manta ray for ages; he was under a lot of pressure to produce another manta experience. As we stopped behind Island Rock to take off our life jackets Michelle thought she saw a dolphin, but low and behold, it was a four-metre manta ray! I donned my mask, snorkel and fins and jumped in so that we would not loose the manta. The ray was so relaxed, gliding only a metre or so below the surface. As Daniel and Thomas got into snorkel, a second manta came gliding in. A great time had by all - mantas and snorkellers. Thanks Rowan! Then over the Easter weekend we had five manta sightings in only two days whilst on scuba. - But where are the whale sharks?
Congratulations to the following divers
For completing their PADI Discover Scuba Diving:
Lee-Anne and Chris Peyper
Andries van Staden
For completing their PADI Open Water Courses:
Anal, Daniel and Thomas Bosman
For completing their PADI Advanced Courses:
Niclas and Lenny Muller
For completing their Emergency First Response Courses:
Karin and Josh van Marken
Scott and Riley Houston
For completing his PADI Dive Master Course:
Yours in diving,
Darryl, Clive, Michelle & Catherine
The Rocktail Dive Team
Makalolo Plains update - April 2011 Jump
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With winter around the corner, temperatures are slowly dropping, the days are getting shorter and the mornings carry a chill in the air. Thankfully, towards mid-morning it warms up a little and some days are even quite hot, reaching temperatures in the 30s. The highest temperature for the month was a scorching 38.9°C and the lowest was 9.9°C.
We haven't received much rain in camp this month, although the horizon is often dark with thunder clouds and lightning displays that fascinate many of our guests. In total, we received only 49mm, most of which fell at the end of the month in a big storm that unfortunately caught our guests by surprise on a game drive. That one storm sent down 29mm of rain!
Landscape and Vegetation
With the predominantly dry weather this month, the vegetation around Makalolo Plains shows more shades of brown and yellow every week. The grass is drier and is starting to thin out and, in general, the landscape is beginning to show that winter is on the way. With the leaves starting to fall and grasses dying off, the bush is not as dense as it was during the rains which does make game viewing a little easier. The pods on some of the trees have dried out and are bursting, showering the ground with seeds; particularly the large false mopane (Guibourtia coleosperma), which is good news for the Yellow-billed Hornbills that congregate in these trees to feast on the young seeds.
April has proved to be a very exciting month indeed with some brilliant sightings. One particular sighting comes to mind - we were lucky enough to come across a large leopard, who was skulking around a pack of wild dogs who were feeding on a kudu! It really was amazing to see this elusive creature together with an endangered species - epitomising the essence of conservation.
We also came across a pride of 15 lions feeding on a large male buffalo. The pride continued to gorge on the carcass for two days until they all had their fill. The next link in the food chain took over instantly with a number of hyaena taking over the feeding frenzy. The sound of the hyaena's powerful jaws crunching on the carcass was really something else. There were seven hyaena in total on the kill, some of which were kept busy fending off the vultures who were patiently waiting for a bite to eat. Some of the hyaena were submerging themselves in the water, coming up to take a breath, much like the hippo does; this was the first time some of our guides had ever seen such behaviour from this species. Overall, the wildlife sightings have been brilliant this month.
April was filled with some pretty good birding throughout, but the highlight took place right in front of Makalolo Plains Camp. The ever-present Guineafowl were scratching away in the grass in front of camp one evening when they all suddenly scattered into the trees. The presence of a Steppe Eagle had caused the sudden flurry amongst the fowls. The Steppe Eagle hung around for about 30 minutes; it tried twice to catch a Guineafowl and cashed in on the third attempt. The eagle then flew off into the distance with a juvenile fowl in its talons. Needless to say the Guineafowl disappeared for a few days but returned not too long after to their usual eating spot and roosting trees.
The Spur-Winged Geese have been seen in abundance, also in front of camp, feeding in the pan and nearby grass. We are looking forward to seeing what the month of May will bring us in the way of bird sightings.
In our ongoing effort to make Makalolo Plains Camp a more environmentally responsible camp, we are delighted to say we have completed installing solar lighting in most of the camp.
"The meals were fabulous. The service was extremely efficient. I think this was my favorite camp and that was a very hard decision to make." John and Merry (USA)
"The staff was so much fun and worked as a team. The guides stayed for after dinner discussions by the fire. Learning about the culture, the environment and of course all the animals." Peter and Ulrich (UK)
"30 lions in our three days, leopard, wild dogs, ostrich! Wonderful location overlooking the waterhole. Great food! Outstanding staff performance." Bob and Sue (USA)
Managers - Katt & Kate
Guides- Godfrey, Lawrence
Learner Guides - Elias, Livingstone, Douglas, Robert
Little Makalolo update - April 2011 Jump
to Little Makalolo
Davison's Camp update - April 2011
Weather and Landscape
As March merged into April, the humidity continued and the rain built up persistently, but never fell. Later on though, we did have a few thunderstorms and overcast days granting us the gift of 47.5 mls of rain. During the days we have had oppressive heat and humidity, making it hard to believe that winter was on its way. But then it contrasted with the rapidly cooling evenings and chilly, misty mornings, reminding us not to fool ourselves and that winter is fast approaching. The days are starting to shorten and the brisk, chilled morning air keeps us all huddled around the campfire in the morning sunrise.
The warm daytime temperatures continue to dry out the vegetation and natural waterholes, causing Ostrich Pan to become a busy thoroughfare as animals stream in to quench their thirst. The vegetation has slowly started wilting, turning a wintry shade of brown. Notable in the changes are the brilliant yellow autumn colours of the Ordeal Trees (Erythrophleum Africanum), with their fallen leaves littering the landscape.
April was a very fruitful month, as our guests were constantly treated to some outstanding sightings of a myriad animal species.
In the claws and teeth department, we encountered the Linkwasha lion pride on numerous occasions during game drive. The pride at the moment numbers 12 and consists of four females, one male and seven cubs. We were privileged to witness a number of hunting attempts, often made on buffalo, zebra and warthog. As a rule of thumb, only 33 percent of attempts are successful; having said this, our guests got to witness the spoils of success on two occasions, one being a buffalo and the other a warthog. We also came across the Ngweshla Pride feeding on a buffalo kill. The pride of 24 fed off of the buffalo for a number of days before moving off, thus allowing the spectrum of scavengers to play their part.
Davison's Camp was visited by the Mbiza Pride on Easter Sunday. The pride came down to river right in front of camp while the guests were enjoying brunch.
Leopard-wise we have had a number of good sightings, with one leopard often visiting the camp during the evenings. We had a superb cheetah sighting on the road leading to Ngweshla.The feline was very relaxed and allowed for some great photographic opportunities.
It became a nightly ritual to hear the unmistakable call of the spotted hyaena close to camp, as we often had two regular nocturnal visitors and even five on one occasion. African wild dog made an appearance and were seen feeding on a young buffalo kill at Linkwasha - this was outstanding as wild dogs are not common in the area.
On the non-predator side, we came across warthog sounder that was 13 strong, definitely not a common sight as the general size is around 5 - 8 animals per sounder. Another unusual sighting was a confused springhare hoping around in broad daylight across the open area in front of Davison's Camp. It hopped all the way around the pan until it found a hole near camp.
A record size herd of 24 giraffe were seen at Ngamo. Talking of numbers, we saw a herd of roughly 600 buffalo at Mbiza - showing that Hwange still has great herds of these animals. During a walk at Wexau, we had a brilliant sighting of a small spotted genet in a tree just above our heads. The small carnivore was reluctant to move and gave us good photo opportunities.
Davison's Camp has held onto the title as a great destination for sable antelope, as they could be seen on a daily basis coming down to the waterhole providing some sublime photo opportunities. On the arrival of the herds the small brown calves are often seen skipping and playing happily around the pan.
Some other interesting species sightings include: bat-eared fox, eland, side-striped jackal, roan and African wildcat.
Overall, Davison's Camp tallied up a healthy mammal list of 31 species over April.
This month was a good month for birding considering that many of the migrants have left or are leaving us. Some of the more interesting highlights are mentioned below, but these highlights should not detract us from the variety and abundance of birds we have been seeing. Twelve Marabou Storks were seen in front of camp. This is a fairly large group for this time of year.
An interesting air duel took place between a juvenile Ovambo Sparrowhawk and a Gabar Goshawk at camp. The Sparrowhawk then took on a Shikra. A melanistic Gabar Goshawk was seen at Wexau Pan, this being a dark variation of this raptor. On the way to Wexau we also found two White-headed Vultures building a nest. Pied Crows have been seen at camp and even though seen in the park before, may be a new sighting to camp. Also on the new species list for the camp are Ashy Flycatchers, which have been seen here in camp before, but not listed yet on Davison's checklist.
Yes, we do believe in the ugly duckling story. At Ngamo there were two beautiful Grey Crowned Cranes with a juvenile, walking through the pan.
A total of 167 bird species were documented this month.
"Meeting and being with you all - Game Drives 5 star! We saw wild dog on a kill, Lion every day, Hyaena on a kill - AMAZING! Thank you for all the memories." Karen - USA
"Thank you for making our honeymoon so incredible. We've loved every minute of our stay with you." - Philip & Muna
"Our guide was fantastic. He showed us a lot of hip animals, birds, trees and did some great efforts for us to take some great pictures." Kathleen - Germany
"Game drives, camaraderie with staff made the experience." Eric and Constance - USA
Staff in Camp
Mangers - Chrispen
Assistant managers - Andre and Tammy
Guides - Dickson and Bryan
Learner guides - Bryan, Sam and Honest
Trainee guides - Richard
Ruckomechi Camp update - April 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
This month does not feel like the beginning of winter, more so like the summer months with temperatures of 31 degrees Celsius being recorded most days, and a minimum of 19.5 degrees. It has also been very hot and sticky, with an average humidity of 70%.
The last of the rains left us in the first week of April with an enormous storm that caught us by surprise and saw us all racing around camp in an effort to stop everything from becoming soaked - in the space of ten minutes Ruckomechi Camp received a total of 23mls. The rest of the month has seen only the build-up of clouds and the lightning over the escarpment, tempting us with some cool showers which never arrived.
The bush is certainly starting to dry up and thin out. In contrast, the ana trees are in full bloom (as they flower in the winter months) and have a full canopy of leaves providing the herbivores with some important browse for the dry months. The variety of wild flowers are slowly diminishing, with the wild senna still bravely displaying its bright yellow blooms.
The Zambezi River has settled down this month, with no obvious fluctuations, the sand banks and trees left by the high water levels last month seem as though they are here to stay. A lovely big sandbank in front of Ruckomechi Camp provides us with early morning entertainment as the waterbuck have taken to sleeping there.
Guests have seen a variety of game this month, with highlights being leopard twice, once hunting an impala, but unfortunately for the leopard it was unsuccessful. Both cats were spotted in thick riverine vegetation during early evening drives. Guests were also treated to a lion kill - two lionesses were seen on the ridge at the back of camp gorging on a warthog that they had killed. From here the two felines moved off to rest very close to Tent 10. Although lions were heard calling most nights, they were rather elusive this month. Night drives were rewarding with some regular sightings of African civet, large spotted genet, honey badger, white-tailed mongoose and on one occasion, a female porcupine with her baby. This was such a treat for both guests and guides.
We had a beautiful sighting of cheetah during the month; a pair of spotted ears and black button eyes peering over the top of a clump of grass was all that gave this creature away. The cheetah made its way to the shade of a pod mahogany tree and enjoyed an afternoon siesta allowing our guests an awesome view of the endangered feline.
Elephant as usual have been regular visitors to Ruckomechi Camp. Their deep rumbles were often heard as the herds moved through the parking area, feeding along the way. There were lots of babies around during the month, with their little legs working double time to keep up with the adults as they looked for food. Every now and again, the little ones got bored and chased the ever present Cattle Egrets that follow them around feeding off of the disturbed insects.
A definite highlight was the sighting of the resident wild dog pack on the airstrip. The pack of 22 were clearly hunting - the guests watched in awe as the pack quickly chased down an impala, which didn't last long around 22 hungry mouths!
Birds and Birding
The birds have been prolific as usual, the Red-billed Hornbills entertaining us around camp with the youngsters clearly not worried at all about us and allowing staff to get very close as they hunted around the sand in search of ants and bugs. The older ones flapped away noisily within a couple metres.
On an afternoon cruise, an Osprey was spotted gliding above the vast Zambezi River. It was cruising on air thermals while keeping a watchful eye for any morsels down below. Suddenly it swooped to the surface of the water, and seized a sizeable fish. With its dinner in talon, it flew off to a perch to eat its catch.
The Yellow-billed Storks were looking particularly pretty in their pink breeding plumage, and were seen lingering around puddles of water, usually in flocks. The Marabou Storks also tend to do this with their ugly bald heads and dangling dewlaps, all standing around watching for frogs and equally appetising scraps to grab.
Guests were very lucky to spot a Marsh Owl on the way back to camp from an evening drive. It stood in the middle of the road for a moment, dazzled by the light from the vehicle and then quickly flapped away in to the darkness.
This month has seen the Ruckomechi Camp hosting the annual Children in the Wilderness programme. The camp was closed for 6 nights and filled up with under-privileged children from the surrounding communities. The kids are taught the value of the natural habitat and conservation, planting the seed of ecotourism with the hope of inspiring the younger generation. For more details on the Children in the Wilderness, please visit www.childreninthewilderness.com
Mana Canoe Trail update - April 2011 Jump
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Toka Leya Camp update - April 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
A really great month in terms of the weather as we all thought the rainy season had ended - only to be blessed by some spectacular storms towards the end of the month. The last week of April saw Toka Leya getting rain almost every afternoon, with one of the days recording more than 50ml of rainfall in one downpour! The onset of winter is clear now however, with the drop in morning and evening temperatures, resulting in the use of extra blankets and hot water bottles.
The Zambezi River has risen to a point that we now have water flowing under the main area deck. This has changed the whole look of Toka Leya: guests now get off the boat straight onto the boardwalk as the water levels have necessitated the change of the drop-off point. This is no cause for concern at all as at this level the water spreads and is not that deep and as such has no effect to any camp structures except enhancing the beauty of the camp!
It has really sunk in now at this stage that whoever thought of building a camp on the present Toka Leya camp site had great foresight as this is not only close to the mighty Zambezi River and Victoria Falls, but being one of the few camps located in the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, game actually comes to us rather than us having to go out and search for them all the time.
Some white rhino have taken to grazing in one of the grassy patches adjacent to Toka Leya. On a few instances, these majestic creatures have been spotted from the boardwalk. It really is a humbling experience to view one of the rarest endangered species of Africa. Large herds of buffalo, impala and zebra also took refuge around Toka Leya.
Toka Leya also provided some solid birding as a result of the marsh areas which have formed from the rains. We did experience a slight increase in the number of bird species, most likely the migrant birds from further south stopping en route to feed.
Our Spa has been living up to expectation,s whilst our pizza oven has as usual produced delicious pizza. With our back-of-house being one of the areas we want to share with guests, we encouraged a lot of our guests to come through to the back of house to witness the daily operations and meet the various staff. This was a really positive activity, as the guests were really blown away by the environmentally responsible practices of the camp. Kenny, our executive Chef delighted all of the guests that came through the kitchen, with his wide knowledge on food and creativeness. His enthusiasm on this subject is endless.
As mentioned in last month's newsletter, Toka Leya has started a tree planting programme. We have set a goal to plant 50 percent of the plants in our greenhouse and start with new seedlings so that by the time we get to the next wet season we will have sizeable trees that can be planted.
This has been a welcome initiative with our guests who are conscious of environmental degradation and the effects of climate change.
"A beautiful lodge on a fantastic setting. The staff were friendly and helpful. The food was fantastic. A wonderful experience. We would love to return one day." Leigh and Anne - UK
"We were spoiled beyond belief! Toka Leya's team rock! The falls, the sunset cruise, the game drive, the spa etc etc. Impossible to choose a favourite. Thank you for feeding us so well also." Van Rensburg - RSA
General Managers: Petros and Gogo
Relief Managers: Solomon Tevera and Mulenga Pwapwa
Lufupa River Camp update - April 2011 Jump
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Lufupa Tented Camp update - April 2011 Jump
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Kalamu Lagoon Camp update - April 2011 Jump
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Shumba Camp update - April 2011 Jump
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Kapinga Camp update - April 2011 Jump
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Busanga Bush Camp update - April 2011 Jump
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Mvuu Camp update - April 2011 Jump
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Mvuu Wilderness Lodge update - April 2011 Jump
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Water levels in the Shire River are still quite high and we have still received some rainfall this month. April also saw some unseasonally late rainfall, but the dry season is definitely on its way. The early mornings have a pleasant chill, the skies are clear and we are about to enjoy a glorious few months when Liwonde National Park dries out. The river is at its peak now - very high - and will slowly start to recede in flow and level in the coming months.
Elephant herds were easily seen along the Shire River in March, as well as good numbers of zebra and kudu. By late April, the elephant started moving towards the river again, and we are still enjoying regular sightings of breeding herds and solitary bulls. Late April, on a boat safari, at least 145 elephants were seen cossing the river! Just in case you can't work out what the last adjoining image is - it is of a swimming mass and trunks of these elephants crossing the river.
Frustratingly we have still not seen the lion that has been heard roaring frequently. We have been regularly picking up this tracks though - the most recent in the Ntangai River area. Black rhino has also very occasionally been spotted in this area.
Another great sighting was of an African civet that was seen on a sand bank in the day. Not an uncommon species in Liwonde National Park, but this is normally a nocturnal species. They are very rarely seen during the day and was possibly scratching around for bird eggs. Night drives have been equally productive with three striped polecats seen on the airstrip - a very rare sighting for us!
Two Lichtenstein's hartebeest were also seen on the Masanje Road. Sable are still being seen regularly on the edge of mopane woodland areas. A very rare sighting of a Livingstone's suni, one of Africa's smallest and most secretive antelope, was enjoyed in thicket vegetation north of camp.
Some catfish were also seen in a drying puddle on the same road. Two species of catfish occur in Malawi - the sharp-toothed and blunt-toothed. This species was probably blunt-toothed owing its smaller size. What is interesting about catfish is that they can move overland if need be.
Six bushpigs and two Palm-nut Vultures were seen at a waterhole scavenging on an impala. The antelope appeared to have no marks on the body so perhaps it was a natural death. Bushpig, like all members of the pig family, are omnivorous and will eat meat if the opportunity arises. Fascinating sighting!
Birds and Birding
To find 'star' birds one does not have to go far from camp it seems! How's this for birds that were recently seen on a birding walk in this immediate area: Livingstone's Flycatcher, Böhm's Bee-eater, Dickinson's Kestrel and Trumpeter Hornbill.
Boat trips on the Shire River have been just as productive where sightings have included Brown-breasted Barbet, White-backed Night-Heron (one with a chick nesting incredibly close to Tent 7 of Mvuu Wilderness Lodge). The Mvuu Lodge lagoon is perfect habitat and is home to at least five of these birds. The Park's euphorbia trees are frequently decorated with large flocks of colourful Lilian's Lovebirds.
One pair of Brown-breasted Barbet is also nesting in the fever tree close to Tent 7. Seven different Brown-breasted Barbet sightings were recorded during April - very exciting and the population is possibly on the increase - great news for one of our rarest birds.
An African Crowned Eagle was seen feeding on a dead sub-adult impala. This species is ony infrequently recorded in the Park and is the most formidable of all African eagles, which has been recorded killing fully grown samango moneys and sub-adult bushbuck so it is possible that this was its own kill too.
By April, many of the migrant species have left us, but there are still loads of resident species to be seen.
All in all, a very productive month at Mvuu!
Mumbo Island update - April 2011 Jump
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Chelinda Lodge update - April 2011
Desert Rhino Camp update - April 2011 Jump
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March was a relatively cool month with temperatures seldom going above 28 degrees. There have also been a number of misty, quite wet days and Damaraland is very green. One evening we had a hail and wind storm that tore the roof off the carport and ripped two of the tent nets.
Wildlife and landscape
After the generous rains of the summer, the grasses are tall and there are flowers all over the place which is unusual for this time of the year.
We have had some excellent rhino sightings this month and two of the cows are pregnant so we are eagerly awaiting the new arrivals. The exceptional covering of grass around the camp has attracted an abundance of oryx, kudu and steenbok.
There has also been a lot of lion activity near to the camp and the great cats often fill the night with their roars.
"Everything is great don't change anything please! We leave your camp with plenty of memories. Food is very good and staffs are outstanding and friendly. The beauty of the scenery, and spotting black Rhinos on foot. Trackers are really doing a great job, its unbelievable."
Guides and managers
Camp manager: Helen
Assistant managers: Peter and Agnes
Guides: Ali, Makumbi and Raymond
Palmwag Lodge update - April 2011 Jump
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Unusually Wet Month
The immediate Palmwag area had enjoyed a total of 405mm of rain up to the end of April - the highest figure in the past three years. This has caused a few delays with arrivals and departures at the Palmwag Airstrip, but in the end everyone arrived where they needed to.
While the rest of the Namibian interior is still receiving regular showers, the big rains seem to have subsided in around Palmwag - for now.
A Few Surprise Sightings
The exceptional rainy season created a glut of water points and this has widely dispersed the wildlife during the first quarter of 2011. Animals have not been forced to the natural springs that occur in the area. Nevertheless, we have had excellent sightings of cheetah, a leopard and black-backed jackal.
The ample water in the rivers has resulted in increased sightings of bird species that enjoy the wetter conditions. Hamerkop, Egyptian goose, black storks and various plover species have all regularly excited guests.
Doro Nawas Camp update - April 2011 Jump
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We had an excellent rainy season in the semi-desert area of Doro !Nawas this year. We received more than 400mm of rain compared with the normal 150 to 200mm. Winter is approaching now and the temperature during the day is 25 degrees Celsius and it drops down to ten degrees at night.
Wildlife and landscape
It is all green around Doro Nawas at the moment and the area is full of vegetation for the desert-adapted elephants and other wildlife and we hope to see them close to the camp soon.
It is still a bit of a challenge to track the elephants since they moved up towards the mountains at the beginning of the rainy season. Despite this, our guides have managed to find them regularly. The Oscar family unit was seen about 60 km west of the camp drinking from the natural spring water flooding from the mountains.
Recently, our conservancy has started an oryx project which monitors various population dynamics and focuses on disease control. Our guides have spent some time helping with the collaring and counting of the oryx around Doro Nawas.
Cheetah are back in the area and three of them were seen hunting recently.
We knew the lodge from our first visit five years ago, so we knew about the excellent standard that is still the same. This time we could sleep outside and we saw 10 desert elephants. Continue! It's a paradise in the desert. Our guide Peter did a very good job. Zweifel.
Excellent guide Richardt, living museum experience, organ pipes, rock engravings and sleeping outside on the veranda was awesome. Great attitude of smiles from all staff. Paul and Pamela
Everything! Passion and commitment was displayed in the rooms, food and atmosphere. Thank you for your friendliness and hospitality. Lesha
Agnes Bezuidenhout (Camp Manager)
Morien Aebes (Assistant Manager)
Theobald Kamatoto (Assistant Manager)
Pieter Kasaona (Trainee Guide)
Michael Kauari (Guide)
Ignatius Khamuseb (Guide)
Richardt Orr (Guide)
Newsletter for this month done by:
Theobald Kamatoto (Assistant Manager)
Ignatius Khamuseb (Guide)
Damaraland Camp update - April 2011 Jump
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Skeleton Coast Camp update - April 2011 Jump
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Serra Cafema Camp update - April 2011 Jump
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Ongava Tented Camp update - April 2011 Jump
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The April weather was unpredictable. There is still a surprising amount of rain still falling. The clouds build up in the afternoons and then pour down during the night. The mornings and evenings are cooling down substantially now so we can feel winter creeping in.
Wildlife and landscape
Despite all the rain, the waterhole in front of camp has been busy with a number of zebra and waterbuck coming to drink while sampling the green grass on offer. There have also been some excellent rhino sightings on game drive.
Lion viewing was also very good this month with the two dominant males regularly providing a night-time concert. Their cubs are still difficult to see but they should become more habituated to the game drive vehicles in the months to come.
The wet conditions mean that there are still many flowers in bloom and a number of magnificent butterflies making use of the food source they provide.
The highlight of the week was a cheetah chasing and killing a springbok - we watched the event from start to finish.
Back in camp, we had the pleasure of watching a western stripe-bellied sand snake foraging in the main area.
"Great guide, very friendly staff, Fantastic stay. Will certainly recommend this camp." A. Hoss
"The game drives with our guide Rio (did a great job), animals directly at the camp and seeing the Cheetah." Gehrke.
Managers and guides
Pictures taken by Silvia Morgante and Corne Cocklin
Little Ongava update - April 2011 Jump
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Ongava Lodge update - April 2011 Jump
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Andersson's Camp update - April 2011 Jump
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Little Kulala Camp update - April 2011 Jump
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Kulala Desert Lodge update - April 2011 Jump
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Kulala Wilderness Camp update - April 2011 Jump
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Governors' Camp update - April 2011 Jump
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Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge update - April 2011
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