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AFRICAN SAFARI NEWS

August 2011

(Page 1 of 2)

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

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


GENERAL UPDATES
Wilderness Safaris in Travel + Leisure's World's Best 2011

Wilderness Safaris once again achieved high rankings in Travel + Leisure's World's Best Awards. The World's Best Awards, in their 16th year, is voted for by readers of the magazine.

Since 2004, Wilderness Safaris has been annually recognised and featured in the 'top 10' of the Top Tour Operators & Safari Outfitters. This year we were honoured to be placed fourth.

In a new category, Top Tour Operators & Safari Outfitters for Families, we ranked third, which is very encouraging in a world that favours multi-generational travel with all ages. For the past few years we have been encouraging "Family-friendly safaris" at many of our camps, and it is gratifying to see this acknowledged by readers of Travel + Leisure.

In other categories, Mombo and Little Mombo Camps were ranked 9th in the category Top Lodges & Resorts in Africa & the Middle East, as well as 20th in the World's Best Hotels.

Travel + Leisure annually invites readers to complete a survey and rate properties or tour operators on a range of characteristics. For tour operators and safari outfitters the characteristics include staff/guides, itineraries/destinations, activities, accommodations, food and value.

Wilderness Safaris is pleased to have achieved such consistently high rankings in these awards, based on reader votes and thus on the personal experience of discerning travellers.


Wilderness releases Ground-breaking Sustainability Report

Wilderness is proud to announce the release of its ground-breaking integrated report for the 2010/11 Financial Year.

As a company listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange, Wilderness Holdings Ltd is bound by the corporate governance standards of the King Code and Report on Governance (King II). However, the company chose to comply with the standards of the more advanced King III, which incorporates the guidelines of the Global Reporting Initiative on sustainability reporting.

Thus, in addition to the usual Annual Financial Statements, we chose to include a Sustainability section structured around our sustainability strategy, encapsulated by "the 4Cs": Conservation, Community, Culture and Commerce. This we believe is ground-breaking and will set a new standard for the ecotourism industry.

Therefore, the sustainability section of the report echoes our 4Cs sustainability framework, with separate chapters that cover i) Commerce, ii) Conservation - biodiversity, iii) Conservation - environmental management systems, iv) Community - internal, v) Community - external, and vi) Culture.

Each of these chapters reports on a specific subsection of the sustainability indicators that have been adopted by all companies and brands within Wilderness over the last year. They also set models for future measurement and performance targets - for example in the reduction of carbon emissions.

We believe this type of integrated report will challenge others within our industry, and indeed in other industries, to consider the merits of integrated reporting and the positive impacts business can have on the environment.

We also believe that our honest embracing of this process has allowed us to look at ourselves critically - which in turn has already lead us to minimise any negative impacts as well as maximise our positive impacts on the environment and the wild places that we love.

This year sees the first fully integrated report of Wilderness Holdings Ltd, with full disclosure on all aspects of the business, including the usual Annual Financial Statements.


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WILDLIFE NEWS
Lion takes on Elephant at Kings Pool
Location: Kings Pool Camp, Linyanti, Botswana
Date: 7 Aug 2011
Observer: Camp managers
Photographer: Virgil Geach

Typically, the afternoon time in most camps, when things are not too busy, is a great time for the camp managers and guides to take a break for the day by going on a mini game drive. This is generally a leisurely drive around the concession that is also a good way to stay up to date on animal movements in the immediate area and where to focus upcoming drives with guests.

Last week, while out on such a drive, camp guides Virgil and Callum tracked down our resident male lion walking along the banks of the Linyanti River, through the Kings Pool Camp area. The lion was walking slowly through his territory, stopping every ten minutes or so to roar loudly as part of his auditory territorial demarcation.

LIon walking along the banks of the Linyanti River    Lion leaped onto the back of young elephant

The lion continued to slowly walk alongside the water's edge when he walked into a small breeding herd of elephant. The elephants, accustomed to the lion, hardly budged and simply moved over to allow the lion to continue past. The lion however suddenly charged the elephants, specifically targeting a small teenage elephant in the herd.

The elephants panicked, kicking up dust and trumpeting frantically, but the lion ran straight through and leaped onto the back of the young elephant. Once on the elephant's back, the lion must have realised that he was a little out of his depth and simply jumped off and continued to walk on rather nonchalantly. The young elephant, still terrified, stampeded off in the opposite direction.

Generally lions, especially males, will not attack large mammals like elephant or rhino on their own unless they are fairly hungry. Perhaps this male, being an opportunistic predator, thought he would try his luck. Certain lions in northern Botswana have specialised in hunting elephant in recent times, as portrayed in Dereck and Beverly Joubert's wildlife documentary 'Ultimate Enemies: Elephants and Lions'.



Leopard Learns a Lesson at Savuti
Location: Savuti Camp, Linyanti Concession, Botswana
Date: 05 August 2011
Observers: Grant Atkinson and Lets Kamogelo
Photographers: Grant Atkinson and Lets Kamogelo

Guests staying at DumaTau and Savuti camps recently enjoyed some interesting predator interaction along the the Savute Channel. This occurred between a female leopard and her sub-adult daughter.

A female leopard that we see quite often had killed a young male impala, and taken it into a stand of tall grass to feed. After a while she disappeared into the woodland and returned with her almost fully grown sub-adult female daughter in tow. The young leopard was extremely hungry, and immediately they both started feeding on the impala.

Leopard dragging impala carcas up a tree    Leopard with carcas in a tree

Later that day, just after sunset we were again watching the sub-adult leopard as she started to become restless. She took hold of the impala carcass and began dragging it through the tall grass. This was a difficult task as the carcass was heavy, and kept getting caught up on vegetation. Eventually she managed to get it to the base of a leadwood tree. The adult female leopard just watched as her cub struggled.

The petite female then tried to drag the carcass up into the tree, but it kept hooking on branches, and the weight of the impala dragged her down. She sat for several minutes breathing deeply, holding the carcass firmly. After moving around the tree to a different angle, she tried again, and this time made an almighty effort that caught us by complete surprise. In a moment, she had made it to the first fork of the tree trunk, where she paused for a second. Then, she powered her way higher again, the heavy carcass pulling her head down into her chest, and her muscles all heaving as she inched her way forward. At one point the whole carcass swung off the branch, dangling directly from her tightly-clamped jaws, but she did not let go.

Mom and daugther showing affection

She crouched down on the branch to regain her strength, then slowly inched her way ever higher. Eventually she reached a spot on the tree where she was able to wedge the impala into place, and then she rested. Over the next two days she remained in the tree almost continuously. On three occasions she came down to interact affectionately with her mother, but only once did she let her mother feed again.

As the available meat on the impala carcass dwindled, the young leopard became more and more possessive over it. At one point after she had climbed down, the mother leopard raced up and got to the carcass, but her daughter chased after her. There was a lot of hissing and scuffling in the leaves, and the mother leopard came down the tree, leaving her daughter to keep on eating.

To those of us watching, it was almost as if the mother leopard had stood back on this one, in order for her youngster to learn what it took to 'tree' a large kill, and then to defend it. They both left together during the night.



Hog Horror at Wild Dog Den
Location: Linyanti Adventurer Camp, Linyanti Concession, Botswana
Observers: Thuto Moutloatse
Photographers: Thuto Moutloatse

Whilst on a safari with a Wilderness Explorations group through the Linyanti, we had the privilege of visiting the wild dog den of the Linyanti pack which is made up of 12 adults and nine new pups that are about 10 weeks old at present.

We spent most of the afternoon with the dogs, enjoying watching the interaction and getting a small insight into the daily life of the pack while raising pups.

Wild dog antics    Wild dog pup at Linyanti Concession

While we were watching the pups playing around outside the den, we suddenly noticed a very determined warthog running in their direction; seemingly "coming home" to a familiar burrow. The three adult dogs that were looking after the pups sent them underground, before getting up and chasing the warthog. Instead of it running off however, it turned and ran for the closest cover. The warthog went down, tusks first, into the same burrow the pups had disappeared into moments before!

This left us all horrified, wondering about their imminent fate.

The warthog appeared again, turned around and backed into the hole. One of the adults went in after the warthog and immediately reappeared flying out of the den with a lot of noise, dust and the warthog hot on its tail. The dogs chased the warthog around and around the den - while it kept seeking safety by going in and out of the den. They eventually managed to chase it off, bringing this dramatic encounter to a close.

Silence descended, and we were all watching the den, all waiting, slightly traumatised - holding our breath, hoping the puppies were still alive. One of the adult females called to the pups repeatedly, for what felt like hours. After a long wait one pup appeared briefly, before going back down the den, but there was no sign of the rest of them. We were all shocked at what had just happened.

Suddenly, much to our excitement the alpha female came back from the hunt, covered in blood, ready to regurgitate to her pups. She called to them, getting more and more anxious when they didn't immediately race up to greet her like usual. She kept calling and calling and eventually the same little one appeared again.

Our hearts sank with the thought of only one of the nine pups having survived the ordeal. Suddenly the other eight bounded out of the den, hungrily greeting the alpha female!

The mood went from sombre to joyous in a moment - and we all cheered (silently) that they managed to survive what must have been the most traumatic event of their short lives up to date.



First Ever Sighting of Pel's Fishing-Owl at Chintheche
Location: Chintheche Inn, Lake Malawi, Malawi
Date: 13 August 2011
Observers: Chintheche Inn staff and guests
Photographers: Fiona and Robert Maida

In the early morning hours of 13 August 2011, we were first alerted by a distinct high-pitched wailing call coming from the denser trees near Chintheche Inn's pool area. The characteristic call of a fledgling Pel's Fishing-Owl is described in Robert's 6th Edition as an eerie eeeyoow. This is exactly what we were hearing. Upon further investigation something large, orange and with intense black eyes was starting down at us - a juvenile Pel's!

Pel's Fishing-Owl at Chinthenche    Pel's Fishing-Owl at Chinthenche

Today, the incidence of Pel's Fishing-Owl along Lake Malawi's shorelines is very low, and in some areas totally absent. Its Malawian stronghold seems to be along the Shire River in Liwonde National Park much further to the south; in any event, they seem pretty difficult to find north of Monkey Bay. Even surveys specifically looking for this sought-after species at Senga Bay have been unsuccessful in any confirmed sightings at known roosting and nest sites. While there are no doubt resident birds in the northern reaches of the Lake these seem to be only in extended areas, with few human settlements or fishing villages and with sufficient forest and quiet tributaries.

Pel's Fishing-Owl at Chinthenche

This sighting therefore is the first record of this species for us and certainly a great find. Indeed, the large trees and quiet surrounds at Chintheche may just become the perfect permanent haven for this bird. And our Chintheche Reforestation Project may further increase suitable habitat for this owl species in the future.

We are hoping that this individual will stick around to excite many more visitors and birders. Who says a Chintheche visit is just about lazing on the beach!



The Clash of Clans
Location: Seba Camp, Abu Concession, Botswana
Observers: Seba Camp Staff
Photographers: Joseph Molekoa

It is a rare day that there are no guests in camp in the busy month of July but one that does come along does not go by idly. It was such a day at Seba Camp. Staff were using this opportunity to busy themselves around camp, giving it a good spring clean, when the sounds of numerous hyaena cut through the morning. The typical high-pitched yelping, whooping and hysterical high-pitched giggling noises made by hyaena broke the peaceful rhythm, encouraging everyone to drop what they were doing to investigate what the ruckus was all about.

Alpha female's injuries  Alpha female getting mauled   Hyaenas fighting

Right in front of the mess tent at least a dozen hyaena were engaging each other in fierce battle, snapping, snarling, biting and literally ripping at each other. Staff watched in horror from the safety of the front deck, while these ferocious creatures tore into each other, no one side willing to admit defeat, despite a lot of blood and gore. It seemed, at first, quite evident that this was a territorial dispute.

Hyaena can live in clans numbering up to 90 individuals in certain areas, that defend group territories, making territorial battles a serious matter. Territorial disputes normally arise due to food resources or in defence of the clan den. The hyaena clans around Seba are normally quite tolerant of each other and one can only surmise that this fierce battle might perhaps have been due to the fact that one of the clans had recently produced pups and the other clan approached too close to the den. Although, looking back at the photographs and chatting to the guides, it now appears as if another scenario might have been playing out.

A hyaena clan is led by a dominant female known as the "Alpha" female. The first-born female of the alpha female is the natural successor to her mother should she become too infirm to lead the clan. As the battle ensued, it became apparent that one particular, rather mature female appeared to have been targeted, suggesting that perhaps they were witnessing the dethroning of the alpha female by her daughter. If this was the case, then it makes the whole incident even more of a privilege to witness. Although these fights appear extremely cruel, we have to accept that this is one of nature's ways of thinning out the infirm and survival of the fittest. Perhaps it was time for the princess to become queen?

Injured hyanea   Fighting hyaenas  Hyaena pups at the den

The fight continued all morning and progressed right through the camp ending up under one of the guest tents where the victim was being severely mauled. She eventually managed to get away but not without some serious injuries. Both her ears were ripped off and she looked in extremely poor shape. She dragged herself into the lagoon in front of the guest tent and lay there for ages looking as if she would never emerge again. But, to the great surprise of all the spectators, she finally managed to drag herself up slowly and disappeared into the undergrowth. The bets were on that she would just lie somewhere quiet and perish.

To everyone's surprise, she has subsequently been seen near Abu Camp. Her injuries are healing slowly and to the amazement of all, she is a survivor - but presumably her fighting days are over.

And the den? Well, that is sporting some cute cuddly hyaena pups!

Anne Marchington



Puff Adder Bites off More than it can Chew!
Location: Kings Pool Camp, Linyanti, Botswana
Date: 22 August 2011
Observers: Jemima Middleton, Callum Sargent, Big Ben and Chef Ben
Photographer: Callum Sargent

Alarm calls from a squirrel and several birds coming from outside the camp office made us wonder what was upsetting them. We found a squirrel shouting his lungs out from a tree, about a metre above the ground, staring directly downwards. Oddly enough, the squirrel seemed to be staring at a Greater Blue-eared Starling lying lifeless on the ground. Only then did we notice a young puff adder lying very still amongst the dead leaves next to the starling, perfectly camouflaged by its cryptic colouration.

Alarm calls from a squirrel    Puff adder attacking a greater blue-eared starling

We surmised that the starling must have landed close to the snake, and the snake had launched an attack. The potent and large amounts of cytotoxic venom injected into the starling would have killed it swiftly. What ensued after this was fascinating...

The starling seemed to be far too big for the small adder to swallow, but this did not stop it from trying to engorge the feast. The puff adder inspected its prey from all angles trying to find the best way to take in the starling. Eventually finding the bird's head, the snake began to work its mouth around it. The ability for the snake to unhinge its jaw enables it to swallow prey much larger than its head.

Puff adder attacking a greater blue-eared starling    Puff adder attacking a greater blue-eared starling

The adder managed to engulf its prey to just past the bird's shoulders before eventually realising that this time it had bitten off more than it could ... swallow. About 45 minutes later, the puff adder was still trying to get its meal down without success. Eventually the snake reluctantly abandoned its giant feast, empty-bellied and hopeful of a smaller meal.

Callum Sargent


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CAMP UPDATES
BOTSWANA
Water activities in the Linyanti Concession, Botswana
With the rebirth of the Savute Channel, and greater inflows into the Linyanti River itself, the waterways of the Linyanti Concession area are now offering new opportunities to explore. It is possible to create unique combinations of activities like canoeing, walking and boating, depending on time of year and water levels.

At Savuti Camp canoeing is proving to be an extremely popular activity depending on local water conditions. This camp also has boat activities on offer. Game viewing can be excellent from the boat, with elephant, giraffe, buffalo and hippo sighted frequently. There have even been sightings of lion and leopard and on one occasion to date, cheetah! Boat rides can be taken in the morning, at midday, or as an afternoon activity.

At Kings Pool Camp a barge is on hand to explore the Linyanti River. Late afternoon cruises are most popular, when the possibility of encountering animals coming to the river to drink is at its best. The barge is also able to be used for special occasion activities.

DumaTau Camp offers boat cruises in the Linyanti River. These trips offer excellent bird watching, as well as the possibility of seeing mammals. During midday and afternoon cruises, there is always the chance of seeing elephant drinking at the river, or even crossing the water.


NAMIBIA
Developments in Kulala Wilderness Reserve, Namibia
Kulala Wilderness Camp will be closing permanently from mid-April 2012. Kulala Desert Lodge will be closed from mid-January to mid-April 2012 inclusive to rebuild the main area and add 6 more rooms (5 twins and 1 family).

Scheduled to re-open in mid-April 2012, Kulala Desert Lodge offers a great product in this area due to its' close proximity to the gate/access to the dunes and this will then be coupled with a remodelled and larger main area plus 6 more rooms providing additional capacity. Alternative arrangements have been made for any affected existing bookings – both during the closure period of Kulala Desert Lodge and when Kulala Wilderness Camp ceases operating.


SEYCHELLES
North Island - Condé Nast Awards
North Island has been voted the second best Overseas Leisure Hotel in the Middle East, Africa and Indian Ocean category, in Condé Nast Traveler's (UK) Readers' Travel Awards 2011. In addition to garnering a score of 97.56 out of 100, North Island also ranked ninth in the overall World's Top 100 destinations. We are particularly pleased at Condé Nast Traveler's statement that readers "reckoned North Island deserved a royal ace for environmental friendliness." This indicates the incredible success of the "Noah's Ark Project" on North Island, which sought to return the island to a pristine state in which indigenous species of the Seychelles could live and thrive.

CNN has also selected North Island as "one of seven resorts worldwide that celebrities love and where they can rest and relax without fear of paparazzi invading their privacy".


SOUTH AFRICA
With a couple of changes and new additions - it's created a whole new look!

Once we had finished Suite One, we took full advantage of having builders on site! The Leopard Hills Team along with Willie got stuck into changing the upstairs dining Room. We extended the top half of the dining room and placed large wooden sliding doors, which gives you an incredible view of the watering hole and an open view of the Bush.

By removing the thatch roof above the bar and hanging a Knob thorn log, it has created a totally different look and a new warm feel!

Leopard Hills refurb    Leopard Hills refurb

Leopard Hills refurb    Leopard Hills refurb

Leopard Hills refurb    Leopard Hills refurb

Sure this New Look Dining Room will add to the Leopard Hills experience and create a true bush atmosphere!

Look forward to having each guest return and experience this new change to the Dining Room!

The Leopard Hills Team


ZAMBIA
River Club Wellness Centre Fire
The River Club (TRC) unfortunately lost their Wellness Centre to a fire which included the spa and gym. If desired during their stay, TRC can arrange transfers for guests to alternate facilities such as the Golf Club gym in town and all applicable costs will be charged to the client. The River Club still has a good running/walking nature trail, tennis court and swimming pool – if guests wish to exercise. The rebuild is likely to commence at the end of the year, and we will advise on these developments.

Lufupa Bush Camp and Wilderness Explorations' Kafue's Rivers and Plains
The recently refurbished Lufupa Bush Camp is proving to be a great hit for guests on Wilderness Explorations' Kafue's Rivers and Plains and for FIT visitors wishing to stay in this remote corner of the Park.

The camp, situated in scenic riverine woodland on the Kafue River at the Kafwala Rapids, consists of four thatched en-suite African styled huts with covered patio. The cement floors and mortar walls keep the units cool during the day and warm at night. The camp has a cozy library and main area and meals are often enjoyed overlooking the rapids themselves or under the stars.

Mammal viewing in the area includes frequent sightings of rarer sought-after species such as Lichtenstein's hartebeest, oribi, yellow baboon and defassa waterbuck. A pack of wild dogs was seen recently and lion and leopard also move through the area. Another highlight to any stay here is a boat trip on the Kafue River for its variety of water birds and hippo.

Wilderness Explorations' Kafue's Rivers and Plains is a wonderful means of experiencing the Kafue National Park and all it has to offer. Our current season ends 31 Oct 2011 and something to definitely keep in mind in 2012 for safari goers searching for a more holistic experience.


EXPLORATIONS SAFARIS
No report this month.


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Seychelles
North Island Update - August 2011              Jump to North Island

Unlike the hawksbill turtle, numbers of green turtle females coming on land to nest differ substantially from year to year. Hence, after 2010 having been a fantastic green turtle season at North Island, with a spectacular 156 tracks, it was a pleasant surprise that 2011 continued with relatively high numbers (66 tracks). Hence more exciting turtle activities to share with guests and colleagues!

Turtles seen at North Island      Hawksbill turtle at North Island

Our general "watch-but-do-not-touch" policy on North Island means that we interfere only when turtle nests are in danger. This was the case with one nest that was laid too low on the beach on the 23rd of July. Elliott Mokhobo (Environment Assistant) had therefore been keeping a close eye on the marked nest during his daily early morning patrols. On the 3rd of September, it was found in grave danger of being washing away. Together with Linda Vanherck (Resident Biologist), they decided to intervene. Enthusiastic guests joined forces to save the nest that contained 162 eggs (on average a turtle lays between 150-200 eggs). The eggs were put in a foam box, covered with sand and taken to the environmental office.

On the 16th of September, a little earlier than expected (as normally green turtle nests hatch between 55 to 60 days after laying), we were overjoyed to see our first hatchling break the surface. Subsequently, the foam box was inundated with turtles and over the next five days we released a total of 140 hatchlings that had successfully hatched out of their eggs.

Releasing hatchling    Hatchlings making their way to the ocean

Nests in the office in the past have shown a lot of variation in synchronicity of hatching, with some hatchlings all emerging simultaneously and therewith allowing for a release in bigger batches, making it safer for them to reach the deeper waters where predation is less. This nest's hatchlings emerged in smaller batches, ecologically not good, but giving us more opportunities to share the excitement of witnessing babies begin their amazing journey to the great unknown.

The statistic that only 1 in 1 000 or even 1 in 10 000 (when poaching occurs) turtles will reach a reproductive age sure left guests and staff convinced of the continued need for conservation of this endangered species.

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Botswana Camps
Kings Pool Camp update - August 2011               Jump to Kings Pool Camp

The month of August has once again been jam-packed with phenomenal game viewing and some very memorable moments. Kings Pool continues to rock!

The once water-filled pans of the Linyanti interior are now vacant dust bowls which have forced the majority of the wildlife in the area to move to the banks of the flowing Linyanti River and Savute Channel. With temperatures reaching the mid-thirties at midday, the animals dare not venture far from their fluid life source.

Sunset over Kings Pool    Wild dog seen around Kings Pool

There is seldom a moment during the day where an animal of one sort or another cannot be seen from the main deck of Kings Pool. With a vista to die for, the addition of a herd of elephant, a journey of giraffe, a raft of hippo or as was the case this month, a strapping male lion, the camp radiates a natural atmosphere fit for royalty.

The number of predator sightings this month has been astounding. Leopard have been seen on almost a daily basis. With up to three separate sightings in a morning or evening activity, Kings Pool remains one of the best destinations to view this elusive cat. We have estimated that there are approximately eight individuals (four adult females, three adult males and one sub-adult male) operating within a 25km stretch of the Linyanti River. With overlapping territories and the desire for prime real estate, along with the ever-present competition from their arch rival, the lion, conflict is inevitable.

This brings us to an enthralling sighting for the month that will remain in the memories of the lucky Kings Pool guests who were here at the time for years to come...

On a brisk morning, very shortly after the guests had departed on their morning game drive, Moses came across some fresh female leopard tracks not far from camp. After using his excellent tracking skills, he eventually came across the leopard, who had been successful in hunting an impala and was now engorging herself on the fresh meat. She had managed to drag the kill underneath some cover but she was still fairly exposed. This was already a mind-blowing experience for the guests and they were more than happy to see such an elusive predator at close quarters. Suddenly the leopard stopped her feeding and looked behind her. It seemed as if she had heard something but the guide and guests could not see anything. In a split second, chaos erupted! A male lion must have picked up the scent of the fresh meat and came darting straight toward the young female. She scampered away immediately with the lion hot on her tail. She found a tall leadwood tree that she managed to climb in a second. The male lion, not particularly accustomed to climbing trees, launched himself up the tree trunk and tried his best to get to his adversary. His weight was just too much and the incredibly powerful cat was eventually forced sheepishly to return to solid ground. The lion headed straight to the impala carcass and dragged away his stolen prize, leaving the leopard dejected and empty-bellied. An incredible example of the inter-species rivalry in the area.

African Barred Owlet seen around Kings Pool    Leopard seen around Kings Pool

Another exciting highlight for the month came in the form of three sightings of cheetah, another stunning cat that has not been seen too regularly lately. Some other highlights include:

The presence of three unknown male lions in the area; two of them seem to have come across from Selinda whilst the other has come from Chobe. Some interesting competition for the dominant male that may pave the way for some fierce clashes in the near future.

One of the original pair of lion cubs is still alive and doing very well.

The wild dog pack that had pups about eight weeks ago has managed to raise nine of the ten pups. A very good success rate that will hopefully boost the dog numbers in the area.

Wonderful elephant viewing, especially from the Queen Silvia barge where some have been lucky to witness them swimming across the Linyanti.

Several sightings of roan and sable antelope and common reedbuck.

Some great nocturnal mammals including: lesser bushbaby, honey badger, civet, large-spotted genet, porcupine, spring hare, scrub hare and spotted hyaena.

The bird life along the Linyanti has been prolific with some great specials being seen regularly. Birders have been excited by the Wattled Cranes, Arnot's Chats, Pink-backed Pelicans, Ross's Turaco (a very special tick), African Barred Owlet, and the Southern Carmine Bee-eaters that have just arrived from further north. All the fruiting jackalberry trees are swarming with various species of starlings, bulbuls and Green Pigeons. An orchestra of chirping and cheeping descends from the tree-tops as the birds squabble for the best fruit.

Elephant seen around Kings Pool    Best view of the elephants yourney

Kings Pool remains a definite 'itinerary must' that will not disappoint! With fantastic game viewing, a warm and welcoming atmosphere and some fabulous cuisine, this gorgeous and exclusive destination will blow your socks off!

3 -2 -1? DIANTSHA! - KINGS POOL ROCKS!

Guest Comments
"Amazing staff! Friendly, helpful and welcoming. Khan was a pleasure to be with and we appreciated his knowledge and enthusiasm!"

"Jemima, Callum, Virgil and Big Ben were all exceptional! Responsive, warm but very professional. Khan and Lemme - Fantastic! Great with our kids and very knowledgeable about the area. Loved the singing around the fire on our last night! What a memory!"

"Just an overall great experience! We feel your team has everything thought of! Wonderful!"

Staff in Camp
Managers: Virgil, Big Ben, Kozi, Callum and Jemima.
Guides: Ndebo, Lemme, Moses and Khan.

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DumaTau Camp update - August 2011               Jump to DumaTau Camp

After a very chilly July, we were happy to experience a steady rise in temperatures this month. Warmer afternoons were accompanied by an increase in fantastic sightings. Barely an afternoon passed without a predator sighting, and the Linyanti's countless elephants provided much entertainment in camp, knocking down several railings and reminding us to look both ways when crossing the boardwalks.

The wild dogs were certainly the highlight this month. The Linyanti Pack left their den at the end of July and have been spotted almost daily with their puppies, operating between DumaTau and the backflow of the Savute Channel. All nine pups are looking healthy and well fed; feeding this many mouths is no easy feat, and requires daily hunting. This month alone guides have witnessed four kudu and ten impala kills!

On one occasion, a kudu tried to take refuge in a channel, but the dogs managed to ground the kudu on the water's edge. Wild dogs are ruthless and successful cooperative hunters and their determination ensures that the puppies grow healthy and strong. While the whole pack is moving, the puppies are not yet ready to join the hunt, and remain behind under the watchful eyes of a designated babysitter. At the end of each hunt the adults return to regurgitate for very hungry and noisy puppies. While the hunt certainly makes for incredibly game viewing, there is much joy in watching the puppies interact with the adults and each other, running and playing with seemingly boundless energy. With lion activity largely restricted further east, the dogs have a good chance of surviving if they remain in this area.

Wild dogs seen around Duma Tau Camp    Cheetah male seen around Duma Tau Camp

Leopards have also provided guests with countless photographic opportunities. The Rock Pan female has been seen lactating since the beginning of August, and her cub was sighted at the end of the month. The cub is only three and a half weeks old, and is still being hidden and moved frequently by its mother.

The resident DumaTau male continues to delight us with wonderful sightings; it appears that his territory has been narrowed. He killed a baby zebra two weeks ago and was seen feeding for nearly a week. After fighting with an unknown male leopard he abandoned the kill, his face covered with battle scars.

Lion dynamics continue to develop within the concession. The Savute Female has given birth to two cubs, and it is suspected that the father is Mavinyo, a large male named for his broken canine. He and his brother have been operating around the Linyanti for some time, and are threatening the dominance of Silver Eye's brother, Romeo. Mavinyo has chased the Savute Female's two sub-adult sons out of the area, and guides suspect that he has killed at least one cub from the neighbouring Savute Pride. Tokolosi, the dominant male operating close to Savuti Bush Camp, is also avoiding the brothers. They appear poised to dominate the area, while Romeo moves further into the thick mopane, alone and quiet, not wanting to advertise his presence.

Finally, we are excited to report several sightings of a male cheetah. He looks healthy as ever, and was spotted with an impala kill around Dishpan Clearing.

Male Lion seen around Duma Tau Camp    Male leopard seen around Duma Tau Camp

As we delight in the presence and sightings of cats and wild dogs, we are also enjoying the signs and smells of spring. The apple leafs and knobbly combretums are in bloom, and the Southern Carmine Bee-eaters have returned, flying side by side with the game viewers, hoping to catch insects in the dust.

The snakes are also coming out of hiding, and we can already report at least one Southern African python sighting.

With temperatures rising, and breeding herds of elephant passing through camp on a daily basis, we expect September to bring even greater sightings and a wealth of excitement for guests at DumaTau!

Staff in Camp
Managers: Gerard Strachan, Claire Binks, Abbie Kula and Abiella S-F.
Guides: Bobby, Carlton, Mocks, Name and Tank.

Photographs courtesy of Claire Binks, Gerard Strachan and Abiella S-F

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Savuti Camp update - August 2011               Jump to Savuti Camp

Waiting on the jetty for our guests to return from their afternoon boat cruise on the channel, I could not help but notice the change. While the vegetation around the camp continues to dry out, the afternoons no longer have that crisp winter bite in the air. It would seem that summer is on the horizon.

As the guests approached I could see the excitement. They had seen something new. They climbed off the boat and broke the news to us. They had found a male cheetah. He was seen standing on a dead log, looking over the open grasslands on the edge of the bank. Our guest David Anderson managed to capture the moment perfectly. Thanks to David for allowing us to use his images in our newsletter.

We celebrated the unique sighting with sunset drinks on the Savuti Star Deck, which is proving to be a popular sunset spot for guests returning from the boat. With the sun setting over the channel it has to be one of the best places in the concession to watch the sun go down.

Cheetah standing on a dead log at Savuti Camp    Zebras seen around Savuti Camp

But that was not the last we saw of the cheetah. Only a few days later he was seen, but this time on an impala kill. We were ecstatic to learn that the cheetah was in the area and thriving. Seeing cheetah in this area is rare and we look forward to the next sighting when he returns to the concession. It would seem that he does not stay long but rather moves in and out of the concession from time to time.

Another unique sighting not far from camp was that of a female leopard with her sibling. They were sighted by our guides Grant Atkinson and Lets Kamogelo.

This month it is not only the elephants that are being seen in large herds across the open plains along the channel. Buffalo and zebra have been sighted daily along the channel. They have been seen together, enjoying the large grazing areas along the channel's edge.

To signal the change of seasons our guides reported the return of the Southern Carmine Bee-eaters to the Linyanti Concession. These migrant birds have returned for the summer. A clear indication that summer is upon us. In the coming month they will return in greater numbers, providing excellent sightings and photographic opportunities for our birding enthusiasts. We also look forward to the well-known call of the Woodlands Kingfisher, a sure sign that summer is upon us.

Knobbly Combretum tree in full blossom

As if this was not enough; one morning we noticed that the knobbly combretum trees along the walkway had suddenly blossomed. This is clear evidence that we are heading into our summer season as these trees are often the first to blossom.

Having left the chilly mornings and evenings behind us we look forward to the summer season and all that comes with it. Until next time!

Staff in Camp
Managers: Helena, Stuart and Noeline.
Guides: Grant, Lets and Goodman.

This month's newsletter was done by Helena.

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Zarafa Camp update - August 2011               Jump to Zarafa Camp

Weather and Landscape
The cold nights of July have continued a little into August, sometimes dropping to only 4° C overnight. Morning game drives are still quite chilly, while the days have been very pleasant and warm, a little bit windy sometimes, often rising into the early thirties and are very sunny.

It is getting noticeably drier around camp and out on game drives, with the fever berry trees losing their leaves and the grass wilting and turning a pale straw colour. The knobbly combretums have started blooming while losing their leaves! The jackalberries are still laden with ripe fruit, which is attracting starlings, go-away birds, parrots, hornbills and vervet monkeys. The starlings, monkeys and baboons can be heard throughout the day, as they feast on the berries.

Lion seen around Zarafa Camp  Leopard seen around Zarafa Camp  Wild dogs seen around Zarafa Camp

Wildlife
Elephants continue to enthral us with their daily ritual of crossing the lagoon in front of camp, usually in the mornings during brunch or around tea time. On one occasion we counted around 40 elephants with tiny babies congregated in front of Tents 1 and 2 and were drinking and dust bathing while the other half was crossing the lagoon. The first group then passed the front of the main deck in a single file procession: babies with wobbling trunks, the big strides of the bulls and gleaming white tusks freshly washed in the water.

Lions are ever-present, but elusive at times. The highlight of this month was the three newborn lion cubs from our lioness. One of our guides (Steve) found her with her days-old cubs east of Joubert's Island on the 18th of this month - we hope all three cubs will survive. Her two previous cubs, which are now sub-adult males, have been chased out of their natal range by the dominant male, as he views them as competition from now on. The Selinda Pride, which consists of 16 individuals, has been spotted up north towards Andre's Pan.

Leopard sightings were abundant in August; we saw all of the Zarafa resident leopards. Mmaditsebe our well known female leopard, is heavily pregnant and we suspect that she will give birth very soon. We had some great views of this female leopard this month; she spent more than five days east of Shumba Island with an impala kill up a tree.

The Selinda Pack of dogs is doing very well and their 13 pups are thriving. This month was a very important month for the young pups that have been kept to the confines of the den for just over two months. The pups joined the rest of the pack on a morning outing. It was really funny to watch the miniature canines running and stumbling all over of the place while trying to keep up with the adults. It was a very educational experience for the young enquiring minds, especially when the pups encountered water for the first time close to the old Zibadianja Camp. The pups were not sure what to do and tried to avoid getting their tiny paws wet, but eventually, they had no choice but to follow the adults straight through the water. The pack travelled almost 10km that day and ended up close to the Selinda Spillway. The pack was seen back at their den two days later.

Photographs by Alex Mazunga

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Selinda Camp update - August 2011               Jump to Selinda Camp

August was a beautiful month, with the weather getting warmer and the landscape getting drier. This has resulted in huge numbers of elephant taking up a temporary residence in the area, as all the pans have dried up, forcing the wildlife to visit the Selinda Spillway.

The concession has been divided into two halves, as the Spillway has made its way through Selinda.

Elephant herd seen around Selinda Camp    Roan seen around Selinda Camp

With this we have been able to offer trips to the north which has provided great sightings of the Selinda Lion Pride, and then to the south with the Selinda Pack of dogs, which have denned in the mopane thickets and have 13 pups. As the pups are almost two months old now, they are beginning to venture out of the den, going a little further away every day. On one nerve-wracking day, the lions came very close to the den, but luckily the cubs were out and about, exploring with the adults. The pups have started to accompany the adults on their hunting forays, watching from a safe distance though.

Most people on safari yearn to see a lion kill while on safari. Our guests were treated to this on one occasion in a truly spectacular manner. The group was on their afternoon game drive when they found a couple of lions sleeping at the base of a termite mound. The sun was beginning to touch the western horizon, so it was a fitting place to enjoy their sundowners. Shortly after the G and Ts were poured, a kudu bull walked past the lions, who immediately came to life and sprang on the unfortunate kudu - clearly he was at the wrong place at the wrong time. The lions did not hold back in front of the guests and feasted.

We have also been entertained by a hyaena clan that has also denned, and is introducing their cubs to the outside world. On one occasion while watching the den, a sub-adult hyaena casually walked up to the vehicle and took an interest in the rear wheel, trying to use it as a chew toy.

Another mammal highlight for the month was the regular sightings of roan which we had throughout August.

The summer migrant species have started to arrive, with the Collared Pranticoles leading the arrival of the migrants. This is really an exciting time of year for any birder as the avian diversity really increases from now until next year April or so.

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Kwando Safari Camps Update - August 2011

Kwando Concession
•The pride of eight (that is 3 females with 5 cubs) were extremely hungry this month. They were found on a giraffe kill, and they feasted on that for several days. Other days they were observed watching giraffes from a distance and one lioness even climbed up a tree to have a better look. Later in the month their taste shifted to zebra, and they ate a whole zebra in one night!
• Tree climbing must be the latest trend in Kwara for lions, as another lioness was also found relaxing in a tree. She eventually clambered rather inelegantly down the tree and disappeared into thick bush, where we could hear small mewing sounds – she was obviously suckling cubs.
• Highlight for leopard sightings was a female trying to catch a baboon. But the baboons turned on her and chased her, and unfortunately injured her too. We hope she will be fine and recover soon.
• The cheetah mother and her three cubs provided wonderful sightings again. Many hunts were observed and several times they were found feeding on impala carcass.
• We hope to spend some more time with them next month.
• There are still lots of trees with fruits in the camp, and this attracts the elephants. Bulls come by regularly, and many dinners get interrupted by an elephant sighting, as does the escort back to the tent!
• Special bird sightings were slaty egrets and black crowned night herons. We also saw some Verreaux's eagle owls and an African marsh owl and two secretary birds. This is of course among the many other birds, which are too numerous to list.
• General game has been very good. To name a few, we saw giraffes, hippos, elephants, kudu, tsessebe, red lechwe, reedbucks, impalas, wildebeests, zebras and more….. After dark, we also saw African wild cat and chameleons, jackals, spotted hyenas and lion.
• A very unusual sighting this month was a honey badger fighting with the cheetah mother. Small but with a fierce reputation, honey badgers are the renowned for facing off against enemies that are much larger than themselves. It's likely that both parties were concerned about sustaining injuries, but luckily both the cheetah and the badger emerged unscathed and went their separate ways.
• The heronry is now in full swing with hundreds of bird congregated for nesting. That combined with the mesmerising waterways of the Okavango make for a very special afternoon on the river.

Lagoon camp               Jump to Lagoon Camp
•The pride of 5 lion – two lioness with three youngsters were seen many times in the month and one morning killed a buffalo calf and spent some time feeding on it.
• The 2 male lions are heard often at night and have also been seen regularly.
•Lots of leopard sightings in August, including a female leopard which hunted a francolin – a small snack for the leopard. Another female went for something slightly larger and killed a baboon and could be found with her kill for four days running.
• The three cheetah brothers were seen this month, though did spend a couple of weeks 'on holiday' keeping a low profile, before they eventually returned.
•Wild dogs – still 11 adults, but now we also have 9 puppies! They appeared out from the den at the beginning of the month, and guests are spending a lot of time at the den, watching the puppies gradually learn about their environment.
•A morning trip to the den typically consists of arriving to find the alpha female sleeping. A patient wait is usually rewarded with the rest of the pack returning to the den after a kill and regurgitating to the puppies. A daily occurrence.
• One guest out on afternoon game drive, spotted what the guide and tracker initially thought was a jackal only to have it confirmed as the alpha male. The car followed the dog to a waterhole where they watched him roll in the mud and quench his thirst. He then diligently led the guests to the rest of the pack who had just earlier killed a large adult male kudu with three twists to his horns. The dogs fed on it, then ran to the den and regurgitated food for the puppies and dominant female who was looking after the puppies, and then ran back to the carcass and continued to eat again.
•Lots and lots of elephants in the concession – herds, bulls, small bachelor groupings – every combination you could think of! Some are a little cantankerous with the vehicles, and so there is the odd flapping of ears and mock charges. Other elephants are relaxed and chilled, ignoring everyone and everything.
• Big buffalo herds grazing through the concession – sightings of the same large herd that was seen at Lebala camp.
• Bird sightings are not limited to the small flying kind: ostriches have been seen incubating their eggs, the male and the female taking turns sitting on the nest.
•General game has been plentiful and varied. The highlights were two herds of eland (the largest antelope in Botswana), and even sitatunga – the semi-aquatic antelope. There was also a wonderful sighting of an aardvark.

Lebala camp               Jump to Lebala Camp
• The 19 strong lion pride in Lebala was no less hungry than the lions in Kwara.
• They killed buffalo many times – sometimes several at once. Some guests were lucky enough to see the hunt of an adult male kudu from beginning to the very end.
• Leopard sightings were good too. The female leopard with her cub was seen feeding on a buffalo calf carcass. This is an unusual prey for a leopard, and also very heavy to drag up a tree. Hence the leopard had to feed on it on the ground and lost the kill to two hyenas.
• The three brother cheetah stayed in the area and we had several sightings of them. None of them hunting or on a kill, but they look generally well fed.
• Elephant sightings are a common sighting these days. Breeding herds with babies, but also bachelor herds. Of course there is the frequent visit into camp!
• The buffalo herds seem to grow, and are getting bigger and bigger. One sighting was reported at a herd of 2000 animals!!!
• Lebala also had a sighting of a slaty egret, to the delight of the guide. Other than that we have nesting activities from the secretary birds and tawny eagles.
• We were also lucky enough to see small herds of sable antelopes, as well as roan – both rare to see, and exceptionally beautiful animals.
• General game included giraffes, hippos, impalas, steenboks, tsessebes, red lechwes and black backed jackals.
• After dark we were successful in seeing African wild cat, serval, honey badgers porcupines and spotted genets.

Kwara & Little Kwara camps               Jump to Kwara & Little Kwara camps
• Lion sightings were in abundance in June. Our intimidating coalition of seven male lions were seen once all together – truly formidable sight. • That just shows how lucky the guests are who are there at the right place at the right time.
• The lions pulled down several zebra this month, but perhaps the best viewing was provided by the lions feeding on a hippo. All the action happened at night, so it is difficult to know the full story behind the scene. However, evidence suggested that the lions had killed it – a rare event, as its risky business for them to attack such a big and strong animal.
• Kwara was also lucky with leopard sightings – the highlight was a female with two cubs, feeding on an impala up a tree.
Sadly, the cheetahs were keeping a low profile this month, with the three brothers just being seen a couple of time. There were quite a few days where there tracks were found, and the good news is that the tracks of a female with the three cubs were also seen, so it appears they are doing fine.
• Toward the end of the month four wild dogs appeared in the concession. They are in good condition, but unfortunately the guides can not tell yet if the dominant female is pregnant or not.
• The elephants are definitely back in force. We have a lot of bull elephants in camp, making it challenging for guests to go between their room and the main area without a large diversion. Out on the drives we are also seeing large breeding herds more often.
• Birdlife is good with good sightings of ground hornbills and wattled cranes. Of course there are the more common species around like the majestic African fish eagle, and lots of water birds!
• General game is plentiful. Giraffes, red lechwes, impalas, common reedbuck, steenbuck, waterbuck, hippo, greater kudu and tsessebe.
• The night drives were blessed with sightings of serval, African wild cat, large spotted genet, side stripped jackals, hyenas with two cubs, and chameleons.

Nxai Pan
• Only a few sightings of lions this month, but one week we saw them three times.
• One night, Donald the guide escorted the guests back to their room after dinner, and then encountered a female leopard on the walk way coming back to the main area. She was a bit startled, turned around and walked off in the other direction.
• The cheetahs were seen regularly – particularly the mother with the two cubs All three of them were seen feeding on a sub adult kudu.
• Lots of big bull elephants around, but they are generally very relaxed and not bothered by us.
• General game sightings included Springboks, oryx, wildebeests, kudus, impalas, zebras, ostriches, steenboks, honey badger and jackals.
• The highlight again this month was the brown Hyena who came to the waterhole to drink one morning.
• The so called LBJs – little brown jobs – sometimes get forgotten when enjoying the birds at Nxai Pain, but there have been good sightings of scaly feathered finches and violet eared waxbill. The crimson breasted shrike is a little more obvious, and generally more appreciated by the novice birders!

Tau Pan
• "Lions seen daily" – it sounds like an advertising feature, but the resident pride have made it almost a reality. Regularly providing a floor show for guests having their early morning breakfast on the deck around the fire, it's another reason to drag oneself out of bed. They could be heard calling during the night, and looking through the telescope from the camp in the morning, the guides spotted a male lion resting under a bush. 20 minutes later, as guests were finishing off their cups of tea or coffee, the bush bursts into life, and two males, two females, and six cubs start strolling to the waterhole. All the guests jumped into the game drive vehicles and got to the water hole just before the mum and cubs arrived, to watch them gambolling around and playing in the morning light.
• Other predator sightings have included a few leopards this month, mostly resting up in the shade, and several cheetahs including two female cheetahs, one with three cubs, and one male cheetah. A more unusual predator sighting was of a brown hyena.
• Great birdlife, with excellent raptor viewing including Verreaux's Eagle Owl, martial eagle and pale chanting goshawks.
• The day drives to Deception Valley have been very productive, with large groups of wildebeest and other general game at the pans and excellent predator sightings of cheetah and leopard on the way there. One group of guests were happily watching a female cheetah relaxing, whilst guests in another car on the same road were watching a male cheetah catching and killing a young oryx.
• The resident honey badgers are getting a little cheeky – or perhaps we should say cheekier than normal…and have been found in the main area during the day trying to break into the canisters storing the tea, coffee and sugar! More strange behaviour from other animals: a daylight viewing of the rare and elusive pangolin!

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Mombo Camp update - August 2011               Jump to Mombo Camp

August is the month on the cusp between winter and spring, where the evenings are cool, chilly even, and the days varying between warm, almost hot even, and others with coolness borne on the southerly wind. With temperatures this ideal, it's no wonder that it is a very popular month to visit Mombo. The wildlife has also been of its usual excellent standard this month.

The waters in the floodplains continue to ease back towards the main channels, leaving a bounty of new grasses for herbivores to take advantage of as they move further and further out into the open spaces the waters leave in their wake. Several fish traps are starting to form, where water-filled depressions become isolated from other bodies of water, leaving fish behind, cut off and vulnerable to a plethora of predators. As these traps dry out even more, they will become a magnet for a multitude of birds as they take advantage of the bounty of fish.

The woodlands to the east are becoming drier and drier; the transitional zones on the edges of the receding plains become more of a focal point for animal activity - zebra are seen in considerable numbers, as well as giraffe, kudu and impala; the predators follow.

Eclipse at Mombo Camp  Camp visit from Lagadema  Local warthog living under the kitchen at Mombo Camp

Three prides of lion are still seen regularly - the Mporota in the west, the Mathata to the east, and the Mporota Breakaway holding the narrow area to the north and in between the two larger prides' territories.

The Mporota Pride came into camp on several nights this month; on one occasion they chased a buffalo bull right past the management houses and towards the dining room. A huge crash was heard, and the following morning a sizeable section of the walkway had been damaged as the buffalo had crashed though it to make his escape!

Since the old female was killed by the buffalo bull at the end of July, the pride has been very mobile in patrolling its territory, never staying long in the same place, and some of us imagine they might be searching for their missing pride member.

Legadema visited the camp a few times this month - the most notable one being when she spent the day at Little Mombo, cautiously avoiding the breeding herd of elephants that were feeding in the area. Eventually at sunset, she came out of cover and walked along the boardwalk towards Main Camp, pausing to pose on the deck next to the Mombo lounge before wandering the length of the camp. This was right as guests were returning to camp after their game drive, so we had to perform some evasive manoeuvres to keep out of her way as she made her stately way through the boma and under the bar. She sat on the termite mound next to the walkway at Tent 4, necessitating a "lock down" of the bar as nobody could move around while she was that close.

She eventually moved further down the camp, where she encountered the same breeding herd of elephants she had avoided earlier in the day. She crept right up to the female with a tiny calf and for a moment lay there, almost eye to eye with the elephant, before silently slipping off the deck and skirting the herd. She eventually walked the length of the pathway, as if surveying her kingdom, and was last seen outside Tent 1 before she melted off into the night.

Other leopards seen this month have been Blue Eyes, in the Suzy's Duckpond area, Pula and Slimgirl, who was seen mating with Lebadi again, as well as with a kill in the Roller Road area. It has been a good month for leopards!

Monkeys bouncing around the trees at Mombo Camp  Yello-billed Hornbill seen at Mombo Camp  Leopard seen around Mombo Camp

Serondela the white rhino has been seen a few times this month, also never staying in the same place long as he wanders his territory in search of intruders.

The wildlife in the camp's environs continues to keep us amused and fascinated - the local warthogs still live under the kitchen, the baboons and monkeys chatter and bounce around the trees, the banded mongoose troop fill the air with their chattering contact calls. The bachelor buffalo herd still come into camp at night from their grazing in the floodplain by day, while the large-spotted genet who frequents the bar at night has found a friend to accompany him! Stompie, our "friendly" elephant bull, visited a few times as well, mostly in order to show off his walkway-smashing skills, much to the ire of the camp carpenter!

Congratulations to Ryan Green for winning the Africa Geographic and Canon monthly photo competition, with an image of Baobab Bob, the iconic tree on the Mombo Concession.

Guides in camp for August were Cisco at Little Mombo and Malinga, Moss, Sefo and Tshepo at Main Camp.
Managers were Graham at Little Mombo and Vasco, Katie, Claire, Tumoh, Kirsty and Ryan at Main Camp.

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Xigera Camp update - August 2011               Jump to Xigera Camp

No report this month.


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Chitabe Camp update - August 2011               Jump to Chitabe Camp

Weather and Landscape
The month of August has brought with it the salubrious winds which have a relieving affect to the ever-increasing temperatures that are being welcomed by all after a very cold winter spell.

The most prominent feature of August is the beautiful flash of colour from the sausage trees. These trees are in full flower, which means that they are exploding with a deep cover of crimson petals.

Wildlife
The much anticipated return of the Chitabe Pack of wild dogs was an awesome sight to behold; at the first sighting the entire pack was spotted hunting. The pack consisted of 31 members, 11 of which were pups. Unfortunately, one week later we found the pack with four less cubs, and we suspect that the strong lion presence claimed the small canines.

Sunset over Chitabe Camp  Buffalo herd at Chitabe Camp  Male Lion seen around Chitabe Camp

But as nature has a way of balancing out everything, we found a female cheetah with four new cubs which are growing rapidly and look very healthy. Hopefully the cheetah has more luck in keeping her cubs out of harm's way.

Leopard sightings have been great, with regular interactions which always blew our guests away.

The predator sightings have been so good for two reasons. Firstly the general game densities are very high in the area and are fairly concentrated around any palatable vegetation and secondly, the vegetation has thinned out a fair deal, making game viewing much easier.

We had an amazing experience on the 25 August, which must surely go down in the Chitabe books, as some of the best game viewing ever!

Shortly after setting off on our morning drive, we found the Chitabe Pack actively hunting. We followed the highly mobile pack, which swiftly ran down three impala!

The pups were left in eye shot of the adults, who quickly gobbled down their meals. As luck was clearly on our side, the adult dogs ran right in front of the vehicle, through a shallow channel of water and to their pups which were very close to us. We watched as the adults fed the excited pups, by regurgitating mouthfuls of meat for the young carnivores. They then bounded through the water to the other side to get more food and then bounded back again to the puppies - a total of six crossings through the water by the pack was seen and all with the most beautiful early morning light.

A little further up the channel, the female leopard with her cub that had been seen the morning before was still peacefully feeding and was very relaxed in our presence.

Giraffe seen around Chitabe Camp    Leopard seen around Chitabe Camp

We had heard lions calling not too far from camp during the evening, so we thought since our luck was up, we should try to locate the next apex predator. We headed in the general direction of the calls and found some fresh tracks very soon. It was clear from the tracks that the lions were moving with intention, most likely hunting. After about 10 minutes of trailing we were gobsmacked when we found the above mentioned cheetah with her four cubs playing on a termite mound. By this stage everyone was overwhelmed by a sense of euphoria, but our journey was not at an end yet.

After watching the feline family for some time, the guides noticed that there was a variety of vulture species cruising in to the vicinity and dropping to the ground swiftly. We decided to see what was attracting the vultures. As we got closer, we saw that most of the vultures were landing in the trees and not on the ground - a sure sign that the predators were still present at the carcass. When we arrived at the scene, we found the Chitabe Pride feeding on a giraffe carcass. It was a family feeding, as the cubs were there as well as the dominant male. Shortly after we had arrived, a large herd of buffalo stumbled into the sighting, and instinctively chased the lions off of the kill and into some thick vegetation, where the lions could get some respite from the stomping hooves of the buffalo.

This was really a once in a lifetime experience, as we were in the right place at the right time. All of this action took place within two kilometres of camp!

Guest Comments
"Four games drives, two lion kills, two wild dog encounters and leopard - unbelievable!"

"BB was an excellent knowledgeable and wonderful guide. The entire staff made us feels very much at home and took care of our every need."

Staff was extremely friendly. They were very attentive to our kids. We were impressed with their personal attention to every detail. They also seemed like happy people.

Staff in Camp
Managers: Trevor, Masedi, Tiny and Lieana at Chitabe Camp. Moalosi and Ruby at Chitabe Lediba.
Guides: Thuso, Barberton, Gordon, Luke, Anthony.


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Vumbura Plains Camp update - August 2011               Jump to Vumbura Plains Camp

Weather and Landscape
With June and July behind us, we were hoping for some warmer weather and less brisk mornings.

For the most part, August lived up to our hopes, with a clear tendency towards more comfortable temperatures and less chilly gusts of wind coming across the floodplain. Winter managed to touch us with its icy grips once or twice, forcing everyone to collect around the fire before the morning activity and before dinner. The hot water bottles were also summoned to warm things up during these cold snaps.

The winds of change have been blowing for a large portion of the month, bringing the promise of summer closer and closer. The windy conditions often provided clear skies which were fantastic at night, especially from the camp dining area.

Sunset over Vumbura Plains

The dry season is at its peak, but the rainy season is slowly building up a presence, as we had a number of cloud-covered days.

Wildlife
The cool, dry mornings have allowed for some phenomenal game viewing. All the actors in the continual play of life and death have lived up to our expectations.

The lions, often the stars of the show, could be heard calling on a nightly basis, on the eastern side of the camp, across the floodplains. This made the morning activities very exciting, as the eager game viewers would strategise over a hot cup of coffee or hot chocolate as to where the lions could be found. We had a very good success rate, as we managed to locate the lions by sound and track most of the time. There have been quite a number of nomadic lion groups moving into the area, as the dominant male trio has been very active in the remote western areas. It is only a matter of time until the nomads will encounter the resident masters of the area. It could be a very turbulent time for the dominant trio, as the nomadic males appear to be around four years of age, making them a formidable force, capable of overthrowing the current dominant males.

The resident lioness, which we have been encountering very often, has her work cut out for her, as she has two sub-adult cubs and four yearling cubs which she has to hunt for, often carrying out the task solo.

With the increased lion activity in the area, one would expect the leopard activity to decrease, but this is not the case. The leopards have been very smart by shifting their activity to the tree tops. We have five individuals which are active in the area surrounding the camp. Almost every time we encountered them, they were in a tree, lazily feeding off of a carcass.

The wild dogs have also put on a great show, with the absolute highlight being an impala kill right in camp, underneath Room 5! Just after the guests had left on morning game drive, the Golden Pack (as they are called due to their unusually light colouration), came flying towards the guest rooms in hot pursuit of an impala. As these chases are very swift and are often over in a trice, we just managed to get some fantastic views of the dogs frantically devouring the unlucky impala ram.

Elephant at Vumbura Plains    Giraffe around Vumbura Plains

Apart from this encounter, we have often come across the pack in the process of hunting as they have the task of feeding their pups, which have been hidden at the den in the northern areas. We have managed to visit the denning site, which is cleverly situated in a dense stand of mopane trees. The 15 pups are around two months old and are looking very healthy and are growing quickly.

The influx of predators to the area has happened for one simple reason - the general game in the area is prolific. We have had fantastic sightings of a whole range of herbivores, with elephant herds heading up the herbivore activity around camp. Another treat we had for the month was the small herds of sable that we encountered on the fringes of the wooded areas.

Guest Comments
"Our journey was a very special time for our family which was made more wondrous by the warm, knowledgeable staff. Every need was met and our sightings made very special by our guides." Bruce and Joyce (USA)

"Absolutely exceeded expectations. The guide and all the staff were amazing" Jay and Michelle (USA)

Staff in Camp
Managers: Nick 'Noko', Kris, Lebo, Julian, Nina, Keedo, Aaron and Beatrice.
Guides: Ban, OB, Lazzy, ST, Mork and Zee.


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Little Vumbura Camp update - August 2011               Jump to Little Vumbura Camp

"Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colours, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night." Rainer Maria Rilke

Weather and Landscape
The mornings have been cool and crisp, and the evenings have been lovely. Daytime temperatures have been high, averaging around 32° C. Spring is fast approaching, and the Delta is starting to transform.

Various plant species are starting to blossom, with the sausage tree sporting the most colour at the moment. The deep red flowers are attracting a lot of bird activity, in particular the sunbird species which are enjoying the nectar and pollinating the flowers at the same time.

Cheetah seen sround Little Vumbura    Lion pride seen around Little Vumbura

Wildlife
As the water levels are receding rather fast with the help of evaporation, the transformation of the Okavango is attracting large numbers and variety of game into the new flash of greenery exposed by the receding waters. These palatable grasses have attracted large herds of buffalo, which in turn have attracted some ambitious lions. It has been amazing to watch one of the oldest battles in nature continue right in front of us.

Large numbers of herbivores have gathered under the sausage trees to try and take advantage of the tasty flowers which fall to the ground.

We have also had some great sightings of wild dog, sable and cheetah.

Birds and Birding
We have had some outstanding bird life around Little Vumbura which will no doubt only get better with the summer migrants arriving soon. Great numbers of African Openbills have been collecting in large flocks around the areas where the waters are receding.

Birds around Little Vumbura

The Southern Carmine Bee-eaters and Yellow-billed Kites have started to arrive and we are sure that the plethora of other summer migrant species will arrive soon.

The team for the month was: Frank, Precious, Keene, Ras, Sevara, Dennis Rain and Madala Kay.

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Duba Plains Camp update - August 2011               Jump to Duba Plains Camp

Weather and Landscape
Winter is slowly losing its tight grip over the Delta as we move closer to spring. It has been a fairly windy month, but this is expected as the seasons undergo their seasonal changes. Temperatures experienced over the month were very moderate and comfortable.

The water levels have gone down significantly and most areas that were under water are drying up, with the main channels becoming shallower. We expect the next surge of water in November when the first rains come.

Most trees have lost their leaves; however, trees like the jackalberry have provided lots of nutrition for the elephants, monkeys and baboons, which feed on the berries. They also provide food for a variety of bird species (as well as humans who also like these palatable berries).

Lion feeding at Duba Plains Camp    Buffalo herd seen around Duba Plains Camp

Wildlife
General game during the last month has been rather good. Kudu were seen almost on daily basis as there is a herd that frequents the camp area daily. The other species seen included warthog, red lechwe, tsessebe, reedbuck, waterbuck and a variety of birds that are found along the waters and land. Some occasional but exciting sightings included side-striped jackal, civet, African wild cat, giraffe and even pangolin.

As Duba Plains has become famous for its predator-prey interactions, in particular lion versus buffalo, August certainly did not disappoint.

The Tsaro Pride is the only pride operating in the Duba Plains area at the moment and the pride is surviving well as long as the buffalo are around. These lions have been seen almost every day over the last month, following and hunting buffalo or sleeping. The lioness with the youngest cubs (which are only around five months old) has finally taken the cubs to meet the other lions. Although she's battling to keep up with the highly mobile pride, she has been seen hunting and feeding with the rest and leaving immediately after getting satisfied to go and check the young ones. Warthogs have fallen prey to these lions whenever the buffalo herds are away.

Over the last month, the buffalo have been moving up and down and have frequented the western part of Duba Plains more than any other area. They would move across the main channel to the north and turn to the airstrip, spend a day or two and move on to the south or west. Every time the buffalo are seen, the lions would be just close by and members of the herd have fallen prey to these lions on several occasions. The latest was on the morning of the 21 August when three lionesses with four cubs killed a sub-adult female buffalo at Hamerkop Island. This followed another kill of a bull just a few metres away from Duba Airstrip on the morning of 18 August by five lionesses with six cubs. Palatable food for the buffalo is becoming scarce on the southern part of camp but there is plenty to western and northern part so it looks like they will continue to concentrate in these parts even if the lions stay close by.

Lilac-breasted Roller seen at Duba Plains

We have had constant sightings of elephants around our game drive area. Small breeding herds of up to 20 have been seen and lone bulls are often seen around camp. There is one young lone bull that stays around camp and has started pushing down trees and feeding on leaves, branches and berries. He once stepped on the board-walk (and broke it) in order to reach some tasty vegetation.

Birds and Birding
Whilst all the mammalian action was taking place, the bird life was also providing constant activity with a number of great species being recorded for the month.

African Fish-Eagle, African Jacana, Lesser Jacana, Wattled Crane, Southern Ground-Hornbill, Coppery-tailed Coucal and Black Crake have been common around Duba Plains. A Martial Eagle was also spotted during this period.

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Banoka Bush Camp update - August 2011

August was a great month for Banoka Bush Camp, with lion kills, lots of wild dog sightings, buffalo galore and sable in the area.

One of the lion kills was a highlight for many during August. A group of fly-in guests was welcomed by this sighting, as it all unfolded as they were offloading the plane. The kill took place in a channel of water, and it was a special experience to watch three fully grown lionesses cringe as they entered the water in order to get a full belly.

Whilst on the subject of lions, there have been two large nomadic males which have been frequenting the camp area as we have seen them a number of times, and we have found their tracks going straight through the camps main area on two occasions.

Lion with kill at Banoka Bush Camp    Southern Ground-Hornbills

It was also a great month for wild dog, as we had a number of fantastic sightings. To add more excitement to the above buffalo kill, a pack of eight dogs was found very close to the kill. Three dogs were also seen running past the back of camp, across the access road, which caused quite a stir amongst all at camp.

We have also been blessed with some good leopard sightings, especially in the Magotho area, where we have had regular sightings of a female with her two young cubs as well as an old female who wanders around that area.

We have also had a healthy serving of sable sightings. These beautiful antelope are fairly rare and are a real treat when seen. As the landscape is starting to dry out, the sable are drawn out of the well-wooded areas, making for excellent clear views.

Large numbers of elephant have entertained our guest both in and out of camp. Large breeding herds have been very active all around the camp, tirelessly feeding and dust bathing. All of the guests have thoroughly enjoyed watching these titanic mammals from the comfort of camp. The camp area has also been frequented by a number of porcupines, often spotted after dinner.

Puf adder seen around Banoka Bush Camp    myriad insect species

On the birding side of things, Banoka has produced some great avian highlights too. A pair of Wattled Cranes have taken a liking to the area in front of camp. Watching these graceful birds take off for flight is a real treat, considering they have a wingspan of up to 2.5 metres (8.5 feet).

Southern Ground-Hornbills have also been seen around the open areas which surround the airstrip. Now that it is warming up, a myriad insect species have started to emerge, which has kick-started the bird activity, providing constant bird action.

By James Moodie.

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Jacana Camp update - August 2011               Jump to Jacana Camp

Weather and Landscape
August is known here in the Delta as the month of the morning easterly, and this year was no exception. As with all things in nature though, the morning breeze is the harbinger of spring and eventually summer. For the last few months now the skies have been clear of clouds and the evening skies are just incredible. Average temperatures range from the high teens to low twenties, peaking in the low thirties. The days are lengthening and the evenings are welcome and refreshing.

Wildlife
The first new greens are showing in the trees and the water is slowly passing through the age-old channels towards the south. With the passing of the annual inundation, the floodplains once again become habitable by the many antelope and bird species that utilise the open spaces for safety.

Elephants around Jacana Camp    Camp activities - fishing

The resident hippo male has been a regular visitor after hours, assisting with the gardening chores making sure the grass is kept short on the island, and occasionally showing himself at tea time or arriving for breakfast.

We had constant elephant activity around Jacana Camp for most of the month. Our island was visited by both breeding herds and bachelor groups, which have been enjoying the blossoming trees.

Birds and Birding
As far as names go, Jacana Camp is aptly named, having two African Jacanas breeding and nesting right in front of our main deck providing us with hours of entertainment throughout the day. Not to mention the four breeding pairs of Malachite Kingfishers nesting on the island.

The area around Jacana Camp and the Jao Flats is renowned for the amazing birding that is to be found here and anyone looking for specials such as Pel's Fishing-Owl, Slaty Egret, Wattled Crane and Pygmy Geese is in for a good time!

The decreasing water means an increase in activity around the water's edge and water birds such as Little Bitterns and African Skimmers have been seen in the channel more frequently in the last weeks.

Camp Activities
The warmer months in this part of the Delta trigger a natural phenomenon which has become known as the Barbel Run, and is usually marked by bird-lined channels and inconceivable amounts of small fish leaving the shallow floodplains to brave the larger main channels in the area.

This is one of the best seasons to fish for the famed tigerfish, as well as bream species. Taking one of these fish on a fly rod or spinning outfit is one of the most sought-after experiences the middle to upper Okavango has to offer. So be sure to bring your fly rod with if you are visiting in the next month or two.

Birds around Jacana Camp

Guest Comments
"Just wonderful, food great, animals were great, such a different experience". Roueen and Des (Australia).

"Beautiful place to stay with excellent hosts, staffs and very good food." Carl and Socorro (USA).

"Thank you all. This must be one of the most beautiful places on earth, and you all made it a wonderful place to stay. Next time we will stay longer!" Pauline and Michael (UK).

Staff in Camp
Managers: Pieter Ras and Danielle van den Berg.
Guides: Joseph Basenyeng and Bafana Nyame.

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Abu Camp update - August 2011               Jump to Abu Camp
No report this month.

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Kwetsani Camp update - August 2011               Jump to Kwetsani Camp

Weather and Landscape
August started off with lovely, comfortable weather, and then all of a sudden we had a cold snap that lasted a week and then as suddenly as it turned cold, it became really warm, so August has ended on a good note.

The water levels have been receding rapidly, some areas almost drying up overnight. It is amazing to watch how the environment is changing very quickly and how the wildlife is adapting to deal with the changes.

Elephants around Kwetsani Camp    Mating water monitor lizards

Wildlife
Elephant have been very abundant around the camp, with both solitary bulls and large breeding herds making an appearance, often very close to the camp. It is amazing to watch these titanic herbivores feed; they are incredibly selective and will only eat choice bits when available.

The area in front of camp has been very productive, as there is always a large number of lechwe which have settled here. We have also had an old buffalo bull that has become a regular visitor to this area, possibly seeking the security of the lechwe herd. We also had a lone tsessebe come and visit on the last day of the month.

The hippo really entertained our guests this month, with their continuous honking and frolicking. On several occasions, we spotted large crocodiles, roughly around four metres in length, amongst the hippo pods. The hippos are tolerant of the crocodiles, which have a clear respect for the hippo and their large teeth. The smaller crocodiles seem to keep their distance from the pods and larger crocs.

On the subject of reptiles, we were amazed to see a pair of mating water monitor lizards. They are incredibly camouflaged, and only their movement gave their position away in a tree.

Hippo seen around Kwetsani Camp    Hyaena seen around Kwetsani Camp

Our guests have really enjoyed seeing some of the more common plains game, especially because there were usually great mixed species aggregations. It is a really beautiful sighting when a mixed herd of zebra and giraffe are seen feeding together.

The lion were quite elusive this month as we did not have many sightings, but we did hear them calling in the distance very often. This did benefit our leopard sightings however, as these shy felines become more active and less secretive in the absence of lion activity. We almost had daily sightings of the spotted cats. On one occasion, our guests got to watch a hyaena scavenge a kill from a leopard, who clearly did not want to risk the possibility of injury. On the subject of hyaena, we had regular entertainment from the hyaenas. A trio was seen feeding on a carcass right in front of camp one afternoon.

Birds and Birding
Every morning we were woken up to the resonating call of the three Southern Ground Hornbills. The Coppery-tailed Coucals would then add their beat to the symphony only to be joined by the collection of robin species found around camp.

We had some great sightings of Wattled Crane along the floodplains in front of camp.

Southern Ground Hornbills    White crane

Guest Comments
"The staff were wonderful and the location is the most special. The food was lovely and wonderful hospitality. For our honeymoon they made it so special - dinner alone by pool and a romantic room - wonderful! MT was a wonderful guide and really added to our safari experience. Thank you to Charmaine and Dan for your warm welcome and care. We will miss this place." Bradford Elizabeth

"The excellent guiding offered by the remarkable Florence was superb. The ambiance and hospitality of the camp was really appreciated. Charmaine and Dan were wonderful hosts and made sure that we were always comfortable. Thank you Dan for the Photoshop presentation." Clare and John

Staff in Camp
Managers: Dan and Charmaine Myburgh.
Guides: Florence Kagiso, Gaopalelwe Ronald and MT Malebogo.

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Jao Camp update - August 2011               Jump to Jao Camp

Weather and Landscape
The month of August had a few climatic surprises for us at Jao with the odd cold front moving through every now and then and making the early mornings chilly. Wind speed picked up at the beginning of the month; this is normal for August, the windy month. With spring coming to life it has overall been a pleasant month with temperatures picking up as August set in. In the west sunsets have been spectacular with an array of colours showing as the sun finally dips below the horizon.

As quickly as it comes in, the water is leaving us. The levels have dropped tremendously and here at Jao this has exposed more land in the area, and the floodplains are already coming alive with birds as they salvage food trapped in the shallow waters.

Impala at Jao Camp  Elephant around Jao Camp Elephants visiting camp

Wildlife
The rare and elusive pangolin has given some of our guests the opportunity to capture the memory and witness it carrying on with its natural behaviour in broad daylight. These odd-looking insectivores are exceptionally rare, making this sighting a once in a lifetime opportunity.

There has been a lot of elephant activity around Jao, with some breeding herds passing through in addition to the more regularly sighted bachelor groups that are quite sedentary. Towards the end of the month, we were frequently visited by two young males who we assume have just left their natal herd in order to begin their bachelor lifestyle.

Our resident business of mongoose seem to be getting bolder: they were seen dragging around a boomslang the other day, perhaps showing off their large meal as a trophy. They provide us with plenty of entertainment as they are constantly busy, foraging, playing and grooming one another.

As the water levels are subsiding, large herds of lechwe are seen around Jao Camp, being attracted to the new tracts of floodplain which have been exposed by the waning waters.

Birds and Birding
As you look into the clear blue skies you would notice the swift acrobatic glide of the Yellow-billed Kites, a sure indication that summer is fast approaching.

The month welcomed back some of our yearly visitors into the area, which include European Swallows, Red-footed Falcons, Collared Pratincoles and Black-winged Pratincoles. The African Openbills have taken to the floodplain areas as the water recedes, where there are ideal feeding conditions.

Most nights we are serenaded by the deep, hooting calls and screeches of the Pel's Fishing-Owl.

Bird around Jao Camp    Sunset over Jao Camp

Camp Activities
With the water continuing to recede, we now have access to our hide which has an amazing outlook to the west for breathtaking sunset panoramas, and the shallow waters allow for guests who are interested to give the ancient mode of travel, the mokoro, a go. With a bonfire crackling at the location, we have had formal bush dinners as well as drinks and snacks for a more relaxed feel next to a fire under a clear African night sky.

When planes are not landing, the airstrip proves to be an excellent location for the sun downer tradition, as you look at the impala, elephant, red lechwe and tsessebe crossing the runway with the sun setting behind them - an unforgettable sight.

A stay at Jao is enhanced by a tranquil and relaxing environment. Our spa has just that to offer and one can experience and appreciate the Okavango Delta in a different way altogether.

Guest Comments
"Thank you for an incredibly magical stay!" David and Francesca.

"We had an amazing time! Our guide Bee was great! We saw so many lovely animals - the accommodation was spectacular." Hannah and Adrian.

Staff in Camp
Managers: Anthony Mulligan, Kalinka Mulligan, Billy McKecnie, Minette Wallis, Andrew Gaylord, Lauren Griffiths and Neumann Vasco.
Guides: Maipaa Tekanyetso, Marks Kehaletse, Bolatotswe Makgetho, Vundi Kashamba and Cedric Samotanzi.


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Seba Camp update - August 2011               Jump to Seba Camp

Weather and Landscape
It's that time of year again where we begin to shed our layers, do away with the 'bush babies' (as we call our hot water bottles), and try out the swimming pool - it is getting hot!

Over the past two weeks summer seems to have sprung over spring with a vengeance, and it's difficult to fathom now that not too long ago we were still walking around in our heavy jackets. The campfires still cast their glow on the surroundings in the early mornings and evenings, but serve a purely aesthetic purpose now with the increase of positively balmy temperatures.

Water levels continue to drop, allowing access to areas that were inaccessible to vehicles during the peak of the flood.

Elephants around Seba Camp    Elephant at Seba Camp

Wildlife
Elephants really do seem to gravitate towards Seba Camp. Almost every night we have breeding herds moving through camp, sometimes making walking back to tents a rather interesting affair. During the day they are content to walk right in front of the deck, absolutely unperturbed by all of us. On one particular morning we were interrupted from our early morning breakfast by the consistent and startling "roar" of an elephant. As the sound came closer we all got up, expecting to eventually see a large bull elephant. To our surprise we found that it was a young bull, about four years old. We watched, astonished, as the perturbed animal walked slowly past us, rumbling and "roaring" as he went. He continued his dramatic vocalisation for well over an hour.

In fact, with the bellows of our three resident hippos echoing through camp at regular intervals, the calls of the ever-present hyaenas, insomniac coucals calling all night, lion roars, as well as all the other usual night sounds, Seba is a veritable animal amphitheatre at the moment.

We have been delighted to see female leopard tracks through camp on a number of occasions this month. We haven't managed to spot her yet, but hopefully time will tell. Guests have, however, been treated to some wonderful leopard sightings. A mating pair of leopard and a sighting of a hyaena stealing the carcass of an impala from a large male leopard were some of the highlights for August.

We are lucky to have an abundance of general game in the area, and guests are having regular sightings of large herds of buffalo, lechwe, tsessebe, giraffe, kudu, impala and, of course, elephants, among other animals. Cats are often relatively elusive in the area, but guests have consistently seen lions with cubs, as well as a mating couple. The hyaena den close to camp has also been a great attraction and is home to a number of pups, two that are about five months old, and three about seven weeks old.

Leopard at Seba Camp    Roan sighting at Seba Camp

We have experienced a number of roan sightings throughout the month. This is a very special sighting in the Jao Concession. A small nucleus group has settled in the area for the last ten years or so, which is growing in number at a slow rate. The guides have figured out the general movement patterns of these rare ungulates and have been successful in locating them.

Birds and Birding
The bird life in this area is spectacular. After the old airstrip was discarded about two years ago, Collared Pratincoles and African Skimmers moved in and built their nests there, which has been a great source of excitement.

We've also got two communal roosting sites for Slatey Egrets, African Openbills, Rufous-bellied Herons, and two breeding pairs of Wattled Cranes. We've located the nesting site of a pair of African Fish-Eagles near the bridge, and Saddle-billed Storks nesting near the Abu Picnic Site.

Of course the recession of the water means that prey items such as crustaceans and fish are now more exposed and accessible, attracting a plethora of hungry wading birds.

Camp Activities
This month our guests have spent a lot of time on the water. With the warmer weather the Painted Reed Frogs are surfacing again, and the sunsets have been spectacular! There's been good fishing as well, and two weeks ago one of our guests caught and released a 1.5kg Nembwe.

Dr. Kate Evans, the elephant researcher based at Seba Camp, continues to conduct excellent talks on elephants, an apt subject considering the remarkable numbers of these animals in and around camp.

Our music-filled bush dinners continue to be a huge success, and guests have been encouraged to learn the local songs and dance styles. We've started organising morning teas and afternoon sundowners in various locations so that guests arrive to a fully set up and serviced site - always a welcome and wonderful surprise!


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Tubu Tree Camp update - August 2011               Jump to Tubu Tree Camp

Weather and Landscape
Spring is almost upon us. The cool, windy days have warmed up - finally. The temperatures now vary between high teens in the mornings to high twenties in the afternoons.

At the beginning of the month, the sausage trees had lost all their leaves and a day or two later the new leaves were already starting to sprout to accompany the bright crimson flowers which are in full bloom, attracting lots of birds to the area.

The water levels in certain areas of Hunda Island have dropped considerably, in some places, like the western side of the airstrip it has dried up completely.

Wildlife
This month we had a change in sightings with regards to predators. The hyaenas have taken a small step back and have allowed us to enjoy numerous leopard sightings. We still see the hyaenas often especially during bush dinners at Kalahari Pans, where they arrive just after dessert, perfectly on time to provide some after dinner entertainment. There are currently four pups, which are around nine months of age, that have taken on this task of entertaining our guests, but always under the watchful eye of their mother.

Pangolin seen around Tubu Tree Camp    Pangolin seen around Tubu Tree Camp

The leopards have kept us thoroughly entertained this month. Our feline highlight for the month was when one of the managers spotted a female leopard stalking some lechwe on the south-western side of camp. The lechwe had not seen the predator, and the ancient sequence of events of a hunt unfolded right in front of us. The leopard had snuck up into striking distance, suddenly springing into action. The lechwe ran straight into some thick vegetation. Kambango and his two guests jumped into the Land Rover and headed to the area for a closer look. When the game viewers arrived, the kill had been successful as the leopard was lying next to the carcass panting heavily. All of our guests got some amazing photos of the feline feeding on her kill before sunset. As the darkness of night rolled in, it brought with it the hyaena forces, which stole the kill from the well fed leopard.

We also had a great sighting of this leopard's cub, which is about one year old now. We found it lying in a tree which was overlooking an Ostrich nest that had chicks in it. We were wondering if the predator instinct would kick in with this young leopard, but it soon just came down the tree and disappeared into the vegetation.

The elephants on Hunda are prolific, as we would often find large breeding herds enjoying the island vegetation. There are three or four bull elephants that have made Tubu Tree Camp their home, providing constant activity as they try to satisfy their monstrous appetites. They have kept us on our toes when guests or staff walk around the camp, doing daily chores or just going to their tents.

Another highlight for August, as it was a first for many, was the sighting of a pangolin.

Birds and Birding
We have also been spoilt with the birding this month. As water is drying up in areas, small schools of fish and crustaceans are getting trapped by the receding water, which attracts large amounts of water and fish-eating birds. Large flocks of Yellow-billed Storks, Great White Pelicans, Pink-Backed Pelicans, Great White Egrets, Black Egrets, Sacred Ibis, African Spoonbills, Marabou Storks and lastly, the Saddle-billed Storks have all been seen together enjoying the feast set out for them by Mother Nature.

A family of Southern Ground-Hornbills have been to camp at least once a week, and the last time they were here, they introduced a new chick to us. They are now a family of six.

Yellow-billed Storks seen around Tubu Tree Camp    Activities around Tubu Tree Camp

Guest Comments
"Hyaena feeding on a zebra, giraffe, baby elephants, Kambango, Hein and Eloise, I really admire your enthusiasm! Go on like that; it was a great experience to stay in your camp." Marco and Maya

"A true highlight finding a pangolin. When you see the staff excited at such a sighting you know we have seen something special, thank you Hein. Finding a leopard in the tree was pretty special too. We could not recommend Tubu Tree Camp more highly. From in-house hospitality - to the great knowledge of our guides and managers. We thank you for our great African - Botswana, Delta experience. Am sure we will return." Simon and Lou

"Game drives were terrific with Johnny. The camp is unique in design and feel. For us, the highlight is the family atmosphere, the warm and welcoming feeling given to guests, the "above and beyond the call of duty" service by Hein, Eloise, Johnny and everyone else. The surprise dinners, especially last night with just four guests, was special." Richard and Marcia

Staff in Camp
Managers: Hein Holton and Eloise van der Walt.
Guides: Johnny Mowanji and Kambango Sinimbo.


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Kalahari Plains Camp update - August 2011               Jump to Kalahari Plains Camp

Weather and Landscape
With summer fast approaching, the daytime temperatures at Kalahari Plains are already starting to soar, having reached 48° C on one occasion! However, winter still has a grip on the area, as the temperature is still very cold during the night and mornings, dropping to 4° C a couple of times.

The area is reaching the pinnacle of the dry season. This has had a clear effect on animal behaviour and has worked in our favour most of the time.

Wildlife
Many of the herbivores have moved out of the pans and into the woodland areas, in search of palatable vegetation and possibly some shelter from the energy sapping heat. What makes this interesting is that many of the predator species are territorial and now have to start extending and overlapping their territories so that they include prey species.

Lionesses at Kalahari Plains Camp    Cheetah cub around Kalahari Plains Camp

A group of three lionesses has commandeered the waterhole in front of camp, which is a good opportunistic move as there is a constant flow of prey species coming to the water for a cooling drink. We know that one of the females has cubs as we can see that she is lactating, but up until this month, we have not seen the cubs. Whilst on a bushman walking excursion, which took us past the waterhole in front of camp and some thick clumps of vegetation, the group suddenly heard a low growl emanating from a clump of vegetation. The group stopped in their tracks and then slowly backed off. We returned shortly with a vehicle, and this is when we came across the young cubs for the first time. The two other adult females ran away, but the mother and her cubs sat tight, allowing us a great view of the cubs.

During August, we had a number of different cheetah moving across the reserve. As the wildlife has spread more widely over Kalahari, the cheetah have no choice but to ensure their home ranges included resources, causing them to stretch their territories. We had a great sighting of a female and her cub, which we presume is around five months of age.

Honey badger taking on a black mamba    Honey badger taking on a black mamba

Our highlight for the month was a great sighting provided by our resident honey badger that hangs around camp. We have seen this badger catching ground-nesting birds and a variety of arthropods, but he really did surprise us with his chosen meal on this occasion. The badger ambitiously took on a black mamba. It seemed like he had done this before, as he knew exactly where to attack and where to avoid. The badger swiftly attacked the snake and bit the head off before the snake could administer its lethal venom.


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