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South Africa camps
Pafuri Camp update - August 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
The beginning of the month was very cold even though everyone had hoped it was the end of winter, but it lingered for most of the month. Towards the end of August, the weather improved with some lovely warm conditions, showing that spring is around the corner.
As this is one of the lowest rainfall areas in the Kruger National Park, the concession has become extremely dry and dusty, and the August winds blow over the open ground, stirring up the dust. The dry season really does highlight the importance of the Luvuvhu River, as it provides all the wildlife with moisture and the opportunity for a cool wallow and mud bath, resulting in good hunting opportunities for all the predators along the riparian vegetation.
We started off the month with a tall surprise. The Pafuri area is not known for giraffe, but on the 2nd of this month, two male giraffe were spotted in the concession. It was not only a surprise for us but also for the other animals in the concession - it was funny to see the impala giving off an alarm call when they encountered them! In 2005 when Pafuri Camp opened, five giraffe were reintroduced to Pafuri as part of the Makuleke Large Mammal Reintroduction Project. The five individuals seemingly did not like their new home and headed south back into Kruger. The towering herbivores made a brief visit to Pafuri again in 2006 and left again. We're hoping these individuals will like it here and stay...
The game viewing in front of camp is just getting better and better every day; on the 4th, during siesta time, the peace was abruptly broken when a crocodile killed a baboon! This was witnessed by guests who stayed in the tents on the eastern side of camp. For some of them it was thrilling experience and for some it was a sad moment to hear the poor baboon screaming in panic.
The resident buffalo bulls are seen almost every day and there are huge breeding herds of elephant coming down frequently to drink right in front of camp. On the 30th while our guests were enjoying brunch, two male warthogs had a tussle next to the river in front of camp. As the boars can be quite large and heavy, the fight got quite physical, and one was pushed into the river - where he fell straight into the jaws of three clairvoyant crocodiles that couldn't have planned it any better. Unfortunately for the crocodiles, their luck ran out, as the large pig managed to get loose and scramble to safety with only minor injuries and a severely bruised ego.
The effects of the dry season are becoming clear, as the large male baboons have started the gruesome business of feeding off of young antelopes. This practice happens all the time, but we have noticed that it happens more frequently when it gets very dry. We presume that the baboons do this to get to the moisture in the blood and perhaps even milk that the young calves have suckled. This is a very dramatic practice to see, sometimes quite unpleasant. On one occasion, a baboon seized a small nyala calf in front of camp. Encouraged by the screams and cries of the young antelope, a number of other baboons tried to grab their share of the kill, which resulted in a fight. In the process of the domestic disturbance, the carcass fell out of the tree and onto the river bank. It barely touched the ground and two crocodiles lunged out of the river to claim their prize.
The leopard sightings this month have almost broken records for us at Pafuri. We had leopard encounters on 20 days of the month, with 29 different encounters. Our feline highlight was when we found three leopards feeding on a carcass at once. We had these spotted felines around the carcass for a couple of days.
The Pafuri lions were very vocal, as we heard them almost nightly and would find their tracks on every drive. We had to work a little harder for our sightings this month, as we often had to track them, but this really enriched the experience when we found them and viewed them from a safe distance. It truly is a magical experience to view animals whilst on foot.
A huge herd of eland has been seen occasionally at Makwadzi Pan and others with their babies were seen between Reedbuck Pan and N'wambi Pan. Apart from these herds that consist of about 40-50 individuals, lone eland bulls have been seen as well around those two pans.
Elephant are plentiful this time of the year, and there have been large herds between 30 to 60 seen frequently on game drives. Buffalo herds are also plentiful along the Limpopo floodplains and other pans with water.
Birds and Birding
Birding is always phenomenal at Pafuri! On the 6th, while birding at Reedbuck Vlei, Pink-backed Pelicans came soaring overhead.
On the 8th a huge flock of Pink-backed Pelicans were seen flying over Makwadzi Pan towards the east, most likely on route to a coastal lagoon in Mozambique. Other birds that are not common in this area but have been sighted this month are Lesser Jacana and Racket-tailed Roller.
We had a total of 233 birds this month.
Culture and Heritage
Our guests continue to enjoy the past history by visiting the Thulamela archaeological site. Some guests who want to experience the cultural aspects are taken to the Makuleke village to go and meet the local people who share our culture with them.
Pafuri Walking Trail update - August 2011 Jump
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Camp Jabulani update - August 2011
Kings Camp update - August 2011 Jump
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Leopard Hills update - August 2011 Jump
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The first migrant birds have returned bringing with them warmer days and much anticipation of the spring reawakening! Quality of wildlife sightings are peaking as vegetation is low, so to all our lucky guests pack some sunscreen and head for the Hills!
During early August she was roaming far and wide still spending much of her time in the east and only momentarily popping back to her core territory here at Leopard Hills to scent mark. We relished some wonderful displays of her distinctive sawing call as she announced her presence to all. This was not just for benefit of the other females but also for Xhinzele in particular and since he found her in the middle of the month they have been together for most of the last 2 weeks. We can finally confirm that they have copulated, unbeknown to Xhinzele she may already be pregnant with either Kashane's or Ndlevane's offspring though!
This means she has been confirmed to have mated with the 3 different males that overlap her territory, Xhinzele who owns the core of her territory, Ndlevane (Pronounced In-dlev-arn) just south of Leopard hills and Kashane in the east. So now we anxiously await the appearance of a bulge as she begins to check on her preferred den sites!
Most of his month has been spent in the north of his territory on the Sand river where he has been patrolling frequently on the southern bank! There has been a brief stand off between him and the Mashiabanje male south of the river, these two are sure to have a more serious tussle soon!
Along with Hlaba Nkunzi he has also been seen mating with the Xikavi female who holds the territory further north along the eastern stretch of the Sand River.
She has reappeared this month further in the north and west as she continues searching for a vacant territory somewhere between those of Metsi and Hlaba Nkunzi. It seems like there is less pressure from experienced territorial females in the south and east, why she doesn't' settle there we don't know. Possibly other females putting pressure on her from the east towards Singita! See the map at the end of the report showing territories of females!
Metsi and cubs
Wonderful news is that the missing cub has reappeared during the month and is looking well. These youngsters are not tolerant of each other and the more relaxed one has chosen to hide out close to our lodge this month! They are both looking very skinny, finding the going very tough fending for themselves.
Metsi has already been seen mating with the Ndlevane male. This tough older rather shy male occupies the territory South West of Leopard Hills below that of Xhinzele. They were mating extremely frequently (20 times and hour), such a high frequency means she is probably at the end of her oestrus cycle and has possibly conceived already. See video highlights for mating footage.
The incumbent ruler of the east made a few appearances again this month and delighted us with his imposing presence, he is the biggest and most established territorial male in the west. He does roam a very large territory which stretches towards the middle of the Sabi Sands. He was observed mating with an unknown female in the south east during the month.
This young male (Almost 4 years) has been occupying the south west and seems to have taken up a territory down there. This means we currently have five territorial males in our traversing area of 10 000 hectares which is unusually high and territories are much smaller than usual since the departure of the Tegwaan male seven months ago.
Three of these are strong young males approaching their prime (three and a half to five years old). Something has to give soon and we will surely witness fierce interaction and possibly some combat between these powerful adversaries!
Holding true to their fierce reputation they managed to kill no less than 3 buffalo bulls "Daggaboys" during a month of plenty for themselves, the Ximungwe lionesses and their cubs. They have filled out their impressive physiques and are looking bulkier and tougher than ever. The highlight of the month was undoubtedly the morning the whole pride of 13 converged on Leopard Hills and were roaring from all directions.
See the classic video footage opening up this months video highlights of the intense competition amongst the pride over a young kudu they had just killed…the audio is incredible, turn up the volume! Watch out for an 8 month old cub somersault!
Let's begin with some heartening news…one of the Ximungwe females that had no cubs has been briefly seen atop a koppie with 3 brand new tiny cubs, hopefully some images will follow shortly.
The dismal news is that one of the young 3 month old cubs has disappeared but the remaining young male has been readily staking his claim as part of the pride. He experienced his first buffalo kill during the month along with all the intense competition amongst the pride that accompanies a big kill! He is going to be one really tough little chap with the other four older young males (8 & 11 months old) to deal with!
Parades of Elephants are in abundance again this month especially along the Sand river, herd sizes have swelled as family groups converge on the plentiful food and water available there.
We are privileged to consistently view a number of females with young calves currently as well as the odd sighting of the various dominant bulls patrolling. Crashes of sub adults are also commonly seen and sometimes number over five animals.
We are being spoilt with a large obstinancy of 500 hundred currently in our northern traversing area as well as a "smaller" herd of 200 in the south.
Our resident "Daggaboys" are one member short after the Mapogo killed one of the older bulls during the month. The remaining four are still a little edgy and we had a chuckle the day after they lost their companion when a warthog spooked them and these four 800kg brutes went hightailing it in the opposite direction! A smug looking male warthog stood proudly marvelling at his stature while the "Daggaboys" had flashbacks of 3 Mapogo's in hot pursuit!
The unusual story and peculiar behaviour of the bull hippo with the adopted 8 month old calf continues. His constant grunting is still emanating from the waterhole close to the lodge in the early mornings and evenings and his prodigious dung splattering around the waterhole is very visible.
We laughed so hard the other day when we bumped into them on their way back to the waterhole and the bull had just been dung splattering with the little calf obediently following behind him…poor little chap covered in Hippo dung! Sure he is missing mom more everyday. See video highlights.
Painted Dog Pack
The pack is now stable at eleven dogs, five sub adult pups have survived which is a fantastic survival rate (62 % of the litter of 8). They wander onto our traversing area every week or so while on the hunt and it is always a delight to spend some time with a painted pack we have come to know so well!
For those who have never heard a painted wolf contact call go and see and hear how they call into the ground in the video section. Thanks Duncan for the footage!
In the last few days the new den site of the female with the two 6 month old male cubs has been discovered only one kilometre from where her previous termitaria was located! We can confirm that she is a low ranking female in the clan after we observed another female arrive at the den the other night and she behaved very submissively towards this younger female!
Everyday sightings have also been steadily increasing and we have enjoyed more frequent sightings on drive as well as nocturnal wooping cackling calls around the lodge! Duncan even saw one run between the suites and down past the camp pan while he was on the pathway one morning.
Rocktail Beach Camp update - August 2011 Jump
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Rocktail Bay Dive Report - August 2011 Jump
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Makalolo Plains update - August 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
From the start of August, our windy month, we have experienced temperature extremes from a minimum of -0.4° C to a high of 34.1° C. Our average minimum temperature for the month was 7° C and our maximum average was 30° C. The weather is certainly warming up and bringing us the summer we were all counting the days to. There is no more need for the hot water bottles in the tents at night, or on the early morning game drives!
We are seeing a steady change in the landscape and vegetation at Makalolo Plains Camp. Trees are rapidly shedding their leaves and in place of sand-covered patches of land, you can now see piles of leaves. The vegetation is thinning out very quickly going into our hotter months. Our sandy roads are getting thicker and thicker making driving in the deep Kalahari Sands very interesting and fun at times.
Mammal sightings in August have been pretty good in all respects. The ever-present elephants can still be seen in large numbers. One group of guests was lucky enough to see a huge herd of over seventy elephant while out on game drive. There have been quite large numbers of giraffe seen as well as the return of the large herds of wildebeest. There are still some big herds of buffalo around too, which almost always brings the return of our apex predator, the Makalolo lions.
A very special sighting for our guests this month was when a large herd of buffalo took refuge around the camp on a dark, moonless night. An eruption of sound and commotion broke out during the darkest hours of the night, when a clan of hyaena managed to take down a young buffalo. The cackling of the feasting hyaena was heard for the rest of the night. As morning broke, the guests began to make their way down to the main area for breakfast.
The preconceived predatory roles had changed, as a group of lions had stolen the kill from the hyaena who had been chased off. The guests and guides were able to view the feeding felines from the safety of the camp.
We were also treated to some fantastic sable sightings, which occurred almost every second day. Other sightings of note include cheetah, brown hyaena and leopard.
Birds and Birding
Our bird sightings seem to be climbing in August, which we are very excited about. There is an abundance of bird life around. A few of the birds that have been sighted this month have been an Ostrich with babies, Cattle Egret, Marabou Stork, Red-billed Teal, Hooded Vulture, White-headed Vulture, Martial Eagle and African Harrier-Hawk. Emerald-spotted Wood-Doves and Black-collared Barbets have returned to the area as we have not seen them since January.
"Excellent staff and guides, superb! Food was best of our entire 19 day safari through three countries!"
"Every game drive was a special adventure. Staff was consistently warm and helpful, willing to share their knowledge. Visit to village and school was enlightening and inspiring."
"The lodge vista is outstanding. The staff gave excellent service and the safaris were so exciting."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Katt and Ryan.
Guides: Godfrey, Lawrence, Livingstone, Douglas and Elias.
Little Makalolo update - August 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
August has been a month of extremes as far as temperatures have been concerned - most mornings have warmed up to a relatively warm 9° C, but winter hung on and it would suddenly plummet to a frosty 2° C on a few occasions. Luckily this was only once or twice and otherwise August has given us a taste of what is to follow, pushing the mercury up to 34° C a number of times. The days have been hazy and the clear blue skies are turning murky as the dust increases and a cloud of smoke from bush fires has moved in. As expected for this time of year, we did experience a few gusts of wind as the seasons undergo their annual change.
It has been unbelievable how fast the landscape has dried out - the grass has thinned a lot and the waterholes are now surrounded by growing expanses of sand as the numbers of animals moving to the water increases. The teak, ordeal and apple leaf tree leaves were turning orange and gold at the beginning of the month and have now become a crispy brown; most of them have now started to fall to the ground, exposing the naked tree structures. The pods from the teak trees have started splitting open, scattering their seeds in a Frisbee-like manner. The only trees which have managed to hold onto their green colouration are the false mopane trees, which stick out now like green oasis.
Little Mak may have had a record of leopard sightings this month! These notoriously elusive cats have been seen on numerous occasions throughout the month. Generally speaking, most of the leopard sightings occur at night but this month we got to see these beautiful creatures in full light, making the experience even more sublime. To take it one step further, some guests were very lucky to have two separate daytime sightings on the same drive.
The highlight for the year took place late in the month. On the 23rd August, a young baby elephant died of natural causes near one of our guest rooms. It was only on the 24th that we were able to get near to the carcass as we waited and watched herds of elephants pass the mourning mother and her young to 'show their last respects'.
After some time, we had to move the carcass away from the guest tent as it was starting to decompose and become very smelly. On the night of the 24th, we were surprised that we did not hear the characteristic cackling sounds of excited hyaenas at the carcass. Charles, one of our guides, suspected that a leopard had taken advantage of this and visited the carcass under the cover of darkness.
The following night, the silence was broken and an epic battle unfolded. After suspecting, that a leopard had been visiting the carcass, Sibs and his guests decided to stake out the scene and see if the spotted feline did indeed visit the carcass. Soon after stopping, three hyaena arrived on the scene, most likely attracted by the ripe smell of carrion. Sibs immediately alerted the other vehicles. After the hyaena had been leisurely gorging themselves for about 30 minutes, two leopards appeared out of the darkness, one of them being a large male. The bulky male immediately charged the hyaena trio, chasing one off. The other two hyaenas launched a counter-attack, sending the smaller leopard scuffling up a tree, but the large male remained on the ground.
Strangely after this, one of the hyaena continued to feed, while the other two moved off to the waterhole and began bathing. After standing his ground with two hyaenas, the leopard's ego must have been inflated as he now took full charge of the carcass and chased the third hyaena away, which joined his companions at the waterhole. The big feline began feeding immediately. Sensing that the coast was clear, the smaller cat came down from the tree and tried to join in on the feeding. The bigger leopard now decided he was going to be greedy and chased the smaller one back up the tree, emitting a loud growl that was heard by the staff at camp!
This ruckus was not only heard by the camp staff, as another two hyaena arrived on the scene, clearly excited and showing signs of interest. They regrouped with the three other hyaena at the waterhole and attempted to regain their meal. The feeding leopard tried to defend his kill but numbers and weight were against him, and he was sent up the same tree that his companion was in. Another leopard could be heard calling from the darkness on the other side of the waterhole.
This truly was an amazing experience which goes against all the rules as far as the predator hierarchy goes. All of our guests had the opportunity to marvel at this encounter.
Lion calls were heard on most nights, our guides often finding the impressive tracks of the dominant male while out on the morning activities. On one cool morning the whole Ngweshla Pride was found relaxing under two of the leadwood trees in front of camp and the guests and staff had tea and coffee whilst watching the huge females come down for their morning drink. The pride stuck around the full day, only moving off to the shade and relatively cooler thickets close by.
Another highlight for us was when the guides found a group of six wild dogs on a game drive. These beautiful animals were in an excitable mood and it looked as if they were preparing for a hunt but the guests still had a fantastic performance before they disappeared from view.
Large buffalo herds have been seen walking across the open grasslands and kicking up clouds of dust, visible long before the mass of black bodies appear. The interaction in these huge herds of often around 300 animals make for interesting viewing, especially when joining the increasing number of elephants congregating around the waterholes.
On the antelope front, this month has been very successful - one noteworthy sighting was that of an oryx. This magnificent antelope can be found in the park but are a rare sighting. Roan and sable herds have also been particularly generous, coming out of the thicker bush and allowing guests super photographic opportunities. Littlest but not least, the dainty steenbok have been counted by the dozen feasting on the new green shoots sprouting on the firebreaks.
Birds and Birding
Another sign of the changing seasons is the arrival of the summer visitors and there was much excitement when the first Southern Carmine Bee-eaters and Violet-backed Starlings of this season were spotted. These colourful birds are like iridescent gems in flight, while the more earthy coloured African Hoopoes are a delight with their prominent headdress. A pair of African Golden Orioles have made their home around camp and their vocals range from a grumpy twitter in the mornings to a more liquid call as the day warms up. On one drive, a group of six Arnott's Chat were seen flocking together along one of the firebreaks which was an unusual and pretty sighting.
"It is always such a treat to be surrounded by people who love what they do. Thank you for the great viewing, drives, food, attention and genuine caring - for us and your world."
"Thank you for giving us such a great experience in such a wonderful place and atmosphere. The food was great and the drives were lovely. Thank you all."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Rania Mutumhe, Sibs Sibanda and Shayne Templer.
Guides: Charles Ndlovu, Lewis Mangaba, Sibs, Bulisani Mathe and Honest Siyawareva.
Davison's Camp update - August 2011
Weather and Landscape
This time of year it is all blue skies and sunny weather. The August winds have picked up and the windmills at the winter waterholes are pumping furiously to keep up with the large herds of thirsty elephants. The temperatures are rising and the early mornings and evenings are more pleasant. Towards the end of the month the minimums have risen to about 10° C and the maximums to about 30° C. On occasions small whirlwinds can be seen traversing the landscape, tossing leaves and twigs around.
There is an amazing transformation as the few trees that have leaves have dried out and the remaining grass is flattened. The visibility in many areas is in marked contrast to the thick bush of the rainy season. The Zimbabwe teaks have gone a chocolate brown colour as they dry and lose their remaining leaves. As it warms up there have been a few plants attempting to thrust forth a few new leaves and buds, but most of the plants are still dormant. A few Blue bushes have sprouted new leaves and one or two can be seen with flowers on. This is noticeable as butterflies are seen fluttering through the growth.
As the dry season progresses the game numbers increase at the winter waterholes and the visibility improves. This means our sightings are always good in Hwange at this time of year.
On the lion side we now have two large prides which we can see around Davison's Camp. There are also a number of nomadic sub-adults and stragglers around, which are also taking advantage of the abundant food source. The largest pride at the moment appears to be the Makalolo Pride, which is made up of about 17 individuals. The pride that has been very active around Davison's Camp is the Linkwasha Pride, which numbers 16 cats in total of which 11 are cubs, many of different ages. The youngest cubs are in the region of one to two months and are still hidden for most of the time. This pride provided great photographic oppurtunities as they were often very close to the vehicles.
On one occasion, when Dickson and his guests had stopped for sundowners, they were surprised by a warthog that came tearing towards the vehicle at full speed, with the Linkwasha Pride hot on its heels. The guests jumped into the vehicle at lightning speed and the warthog was brought down and devoured in full view of the guests!
We have also encountered other prides a little further into Hwange, for example we saw the Ngamo Pride when they were feeding on a wildebeest. We also found a young male lion approaching his prime years casually feeding on a zebra carcass at Ngamo. This is good news as there is no dominant male in the area at the moment, so this young male has a great opportunity to acquire a territory.
The other predator species also made impressive appearances throughout the month. We found a clan of hyaena feeding on a carcass at Airstrip Two. Another great sighting of hyaena was at the zebra kill at Ngamo, mentioned above. It was very clear that the young male lion was dominant as the hyaena respected the feline's right to his meal, moving in only once the lion had eaten his fill.
Leopard have been very active around the camp; on one occasion a young female was seen walking across the porch of one of the guest tents!
Going down the feline size scale, we had a fantastic cheetah sighting as well. We found a female feeding on a waterbuck carcass with her three cubs; this could possibly be the female that we encountered with three young cubs a couple of months ago. Another three sub-adult cheetah were seen at Backpans later on in the month.
A very rare sighting for us during August was that of a Selous mongoose, which was seen a few times at Ngamo. Other nocturnal creatures spotted were civet, small-spotted genet, porcupine and white-tailed mongoose.
On one occasion waterbuck, giraffe, elephant, warthog, sable, kudu, vervet monkey and baboon came down to our waterhole. Seeing eight different species of mammals at the waterhole at one time was a wonderful sight.
Roan sightings have been very good throughout the month.
Birds and Birding
Although August is a quiet month compared to the upcoming months as far as birding is concerned, we still had some interesting sightings. One of the odd sightings during the month was the presence of a Miombo Double-collared Sunbird in camp. These birds are not seen in the area, being far more common on the Zimbabwean Highveld. One morning it arrived in the office and landed on the computer where it allowed us to photograph it. It managed to fly out and probably headed off on its little migration.
On the airstrip one day we had another interesting sighting when a Klaas's Cuckoo was seen fluttering around in the open. It was hard to say whether it was looking for hosts or something to eat. Some Great White Egrets were also seen at Makalolo Pan. These haven't been around for some time and may be expecting some activity in the next few weeks.
Some toad species started calling in front of Davison's Camp and the warm temperatures might induce frogs to come out, providing more food for the birds.
We saw a total of 126 bird species this month.
"We loved watching the elephants as we sat around the fire. We really liked Robert, he was friendly & insightful." Ben.
"Excellent guides, great game drives, delicious food & drinks, friendly & helpful staff." Lanny and Sue.
"The walking trail was both entertaining & educational. All the animals at once coming to the waterhole was amazing." Henry.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Chris, Andre and Tammy.
Guides: Dickson, Bryan, Brian, Robert and Kate.
Ruckomechi Camp update - August 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
It is definitely warming up in the valley with a maximum temperature of 31.5° C having been recorded. August was a very windy month, with strong gusts passing over the entire concession. As a result, large amounts of dust have been pushed up into the air, which has been coupled with the smoke from the fires in Zambia and has caused a misty haze in the air. This has really caused the most amazing sunsets which are extremely rich in colour.
August has markedly brought with it a further drying out and thinning out of most of the vegetation. The landscape has become somewhat bare and has taken on a brownish yellow hue. However the evergreen mahogany tree gives a bit of colour to what would have been a dull picture indeed as they stand proud and conspicuous in the valley. The sausage tree is getting new leaves and flowering, giving the baboons some tasty and convenient snacks. The flowers of the shaving bush combretum which are now appearing are a welcome treat for the kudu as they happily munch on them. The wild mango is also flowering giving the baboons a nice variety in their diet. The purple pan weed gives a pretty covering with its purple and green flowers and generally add colour to the landscape.
August in the valley has certainly not disappointed on the wildlife front. From the "elephants of Ruckomechi," as they are fondly called, continuing to increase their numbers and presence in camp, to the big cats and the usual plains game giving us all a show much to the delight of our valued guests.
The leopard sightings in the concession were definitely fantastic this month with all of our guides having incredible experiences. The most memorable leopard sighting was of a large male that had just captured an impala ram. The impala was extremely lucky, as he managed to get loose and scramble to safety before a mortal wound could be inflicted by the leopard. We also found a courting couple which were clearly interested in each other. We gave them some privacy as they were fairly skittish.
The kings of the jungle have been out and about. A new male lion seems to have become cosy with our resident females, having been seen courting them on a number of occasions. The old duel between lion and hyaena continue, and on two separate occasions two lionesses have been seen chasing some hyaenas. A neighbouring pride made a brief appearance in the concession as we found many carcasses which fell to the claws and canines of the visiting pride.
The resident pack of six wild dogs has been seen on a number of days in the month. They have been hunting and on one occasion, guests came across them soon after a meal, as they were still covered in blood and all had bulging bellies.
The genets, civets and African wild cats have also made night drives an activity not to be missed. These nocturnal animals seem to have an internal clock at just after sunset whereby they all come out and roam the bush ensuring that our guests will see the smaller predators - no less exciting than the big ones.
Other special sightings were porcupine with two babies, water mongoose, nyala and side-striped jackal.
Birds and Birding
August has seen a host of specials and migratory species returning to the valley as well as impressive turnouts by those birds sedentary in the area. Numerous pools of water are shrinking and are swarmed by wading birds, all taking advantage of the aquatic creatures which are left trapped by the waning water levels.
Black-shouldered Kites and Yellow-billed Kites have been making an appearance, a sure sign that the summer migrants are returning.
Collared Palm-Thrush and Yellow-spotted Nicators are commonly seen and heard now in and around the inland dryer areas and the Southern Carmine Bee-eaters have become a daily fixture especially over the river. Within the camp itself, the smaller Blue Waxbills are regulars around the guest rooms and other camp structures.
Mana Canoe Trail update - August 2011 Jump
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August has been our busiest month yet this season, with a total of 47 guests, over eight trips, all managing to "conquer the Mighty Zambezi River". We have seen a multitude of game - birds, reptiles and mammals - as well as being able to experience the constantly changing scenery as the dry season takes a firm grasp on the Zambezi Valley and its occupants.
Weather and Landscape
The weather has been unpredictable this month, August is traditionally our windy month, but this year, we have experienced very temperate conditions with the occasional gust of wind. The lack of wind has resulted in a smokey haze forming, due to the dust and the bush fires in Zambia. This haze has created the perfect conditions for some outstanding sunsets. It would be safe to say that winter has finally left us, as the majority of the month was characterised by hot, dry conditions.
The Zambezi valley is now very dry and many of the animals have to travel long distances inland in search of food. The hippos in particular, have been covering large distances in order to satisfy their huge vegetarian appetites. On average, a hungry hippo can travel around 8km a night, as this has become evident by the myriad of hippo paths scribbled all over the landscape. The sausage trees were in full flower at the beginning of the month, and now the flowers are rapidly being replaced by fresh green shoots, attracting many a herbivore, especially the elephant. The ana trees are also dropping their seed pods, which are being relished by large numbers of herbivores.
This month has been a particularly good month for animal sightings - lions have been seen on numerous occasions on game drives as well as on walking trails. On one trail, the group encountered a mating pair of lions, from a safe distance of course.
A leopard was seen on two occasions hanging around the second camp. The second time we saw this feline, it had killed a young warthog and stashed it up a Natal mahogany tree; this made it easy for us as we knew that the leopard would return to its meal, and it did.
Large herds of buffalo and eland have been seen on a daily basis. During an afternoon game drive, the group came across a herd of buffalo which was no less than 300 strong. Nyala have also provided good sightings this month; the usually shy and elusive animals have been seen at relatively close quarters in open areas, providing perfect photographic opportunities for our guests.
The usual plains game have also proved good; zebra, warthog, impala and waterbuck have all been seen coming to water or feeding on and around the floodplain in large numbers. Hippo activity has been prolific on both land and in the water. The dominant bulls were constantly heard honking and tussling for prime territory.
Birds and Birding
The birds this month have once again been spectacular. With the majority of the inland water now dry many of the water-based bird species have now settled in either the small, slow flowing channels of the river or else we have seen them in the pools of Mana.
Rufous-bellied Herons and Crested Guineafowl have become regular sightings which is quite special for this area.
The Southern Carmine Bee-eaters have now started to return and are arriving en masse, a clear sign that the summer migrants are arriving. It is only a matter of time before the river banks are flushed with the magnificent red and blue plumage and calls of these attractive birds.
The Yellow-billed Storks have started fighting amongst each other as the breeding season is on the approach.
"Very experienced and friendly guides who love their professions." Mr Fritzsd (Germany).
"Dinner under the stars each night. Our guides (Matther and Henry) were great. Graham was a consummate host." Roger (USA).
Toka Leya Camp update - August 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
It has been a great month in terms of the weather as it was neither cold nor hot. The usual August winds were very welcome, creating a cool breeze through the camp which made the days so pleasant. As the river dropped, it really revealed the beauty of the Zambezi River as the beautiful white sandbanks are becoming exposed and many crocodiles and large pods of hippo have been seen sunbathing on the islands.
We have noticed that as the bush is drying up more and more, the leaves are getting swept away by the August winds. Visibility has become good with the thinning bush, which has rewarded us with some great wildlife sightings.
General game viewing has been fantastic, as the visibility has increased and the mighty Zambezi River is receding, exposing a myriad islands which quickly get a healthy covering of palatable vegetation.
We have been greatly entertained by huge elephant herds which have been spreading all over the islands, enjoying the lush vegetation. We have also seen many 'snorkels' breaking the water surface, as these giant mammals work across the waterways from island to island.
As mentioned above, crocodiles have been prolific. However, this is not too much of a surprise as we are heading towards the period when these "flat dogs" - as they are affectionately known in these parts - are starting to nest and the newly-exposed sand banks make the perfect breeding site for them. Not to be missed were the big pods of hippo that have been seen on the sand banks basking in the sun and their concentration in the smaller channels is now very visible as the channels are getting smaller.
Birds and Birding
As usual, one will never go wrong in terms of birding on the Zambezi and the changing of seasons brings new varieties of birds.
We noticed that the Yellow-billed Kites have now arrived in their great numbers and are now a very common sight here. Of great interest are the numbers of the African Skimmers we have seen on the islands and we also noticed that they are breeding on White Sand Island. The most amazing thing with them are the numbers on one given island. One can spend the whole afternoon photographing these birds - as we did one afternoon with a group of guests; we all were trying to get something close to the Wilderness Safaris logo, which is a representation of this rare species. It was an exciting afternoon as this was a really great moment and the cameras just never stopped clicking - the day actually ran too short for all of us as we were having so much fun.
On the same afternoon which we had dedicated to birding on the river we were lucky to also see the shy and elusive African Finfoot. Although we didn't get really great shots of it, the bird brought a lot of cheering to the group as this was one of the birds that was on top of their list. A little while after we had the excitement of seeing the Finfoot, we stopped to photograph White-throated Bee-eaters and a Green-backed Heron flew into a dead log not too far from us. At first we carried on with the bee-eaters but Donald, one of our very experienced guides, was watching the heron and he suddenly asked us to look at the heron which was in a trance looking into the water. The joke was he probably is seeing himself in the reflection and can't believe how good-looking he was. This all stopped as the bird actually dived into the water, behaviour that most of us had never seen before, and in no time he came out with a small tiger fish which we all thought was too big for him to swallow!
One thing that can't go without mention are the extraordinary sunsets this time of the year. It is beautiful to see the Zambezi River swallow the African sun as it sinks into the horizon, providing the perfect sundowner opportunity.
"Never in our wildest dreams when we were children did we ever think we would ever visit the Victoria Falls. Saw more animals here than we could have asked for. Wonderful friendly staff. Thank you so much." The Jones family.
"Exciting stay with a lot of activities, fishing, game drives cruises and helicopter flights. We enjoyed it very much. Very friendly staff." The Bent family.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Petros, Gogo, Chipasha, Mavis and Amon.
Guides: Godfrey, Heston and Donald.
Lufupa River Camp update - August 2011 Jump
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Lufupa Tented Camp update - August 2011 Jump
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Kalamu Lagoon Camp update - August 2011 Jump
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The month started with the warm August breeze rolling across the lagoon as it has done for what seems like forever allowing a small breeding herd of elephants the pleasure of cooling off from the afternoon heat by rolling and splashing in the mud - much to the delight of our guests.
As the month has gone on, so the days have produced some fantastic sightings. We have had aardvark and porcupine sightings in the evenings, elephant only metres outside the guest tents and most special of all, two new leopard cubs which we were very lucky to be able to view playing on the shady forest floor. This was most special as they are only a few months old and for a first view they seemed relaxed and not camera-shy at all.
South Luangwa's reputation for great leopard sightings didn't stop there; we had so many sightings that one of our guides, Emmanuel, has earned the nickname of 'the spotted one', as he seems to find these elusive felines with ease.
One of the greatest things about visiting Kalamu Lagoon Camp and South Luangwa is the variety and diversity on offer. The biodiversity is astounding, with every biome and ecosystem offering something special. Throughout the month, there have been large breeding herds of elephant along the Luangwa River as well as huge rafts of hippo. This has really added to our Star Beds experience. For some of our guests, this was the highlight of their stay in Zambia. A big male leopard was also seen from the Star Bed Camp, strolling along the sand bank and having a leisurely drink from the river.
Our walking safaris have also been very popular during the month, with the opening of our Chinengwe Trail Camp. We had some outstanding encounters with elephant and giraffe while on trail.
We look forward to September, and expect the game viewing to only get better as the water levels have started to recede, making more areas accessible.
"Friendly staff, excellent food and a homely atmosphere. Amazing African night sounds. Thank you all." Patel and Amid (India).
"Wonderful accommodation, fantastic people, had a truly wonderful stay which we will never forget." Pam and Ferg (Ireland.)
"An oasis in the middle of the wilderness, what a gem!, We have enjoyed the relaxing views, spotted unexpected bird life, shared and learnt so much from the staff making our third trip with Wilderness Safaris so special." Dawn and Bob (USA).
Staff in Camp
Managers: Ashley and Tara Rowe, Solly Tevera, Mulenga Pwapwa and Evie Bwalya.
Guides: Mwila, Sandy, Emmanuel, Simonga and Karl.
Shumba Camp update - August 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
August has been the month of the biggest changes so far here in the Busanga Plains. At the beginning of the month it felt very much like deepest winter, with crisp evenings and early mornings. As the month draws to a close we still need a jacket in the evening, but the hardier types are now in shorts and t-shirts even around the morning fire.
At the beginning of the month water levels still prevented easy access to the camp from the treeline road, so the arrival of our very heavy vehicle with all the hot air balloon equipment was quite an adventure.
The plains have started to dry out allowing the myriad of herbivore species to take advantage of the palatable plains vegetation.
Game has been nothing short of astounding, and the camp has seen some incredible lion activity. Most notable was probably the two-hour stalk and kill by one of the Busanga lionesses at four in the afternoon. With a full camp and some visitors who had dropped in to do some curio shopping it meant that the whole thing was witnessed by 15 people from the deck. This was really a 'once in a lifetime' sighting and to have it with a glass of iced tea in hand was surreal.
The lionesses have also been seen from the deck on numerous occasions by staff and guests, prowling around the helicopter pad and various other favourite spots (like the camp manager's tent). The Papyrus Pride are now ranging down further south than they have so far this season, but we are still desperate to see the collared male and find out what he has been up to, which will give us a better understanding of the pride dynamics and movements in the area.
The other exciting news is that the two huge Busanaga males have been spending a fair deal of time with the Treeline Pride, which is currently nine strong. This is fantastic news, especially if the Busanga males are able to father some cubs in this pride too.
As the plains have dried out it also means that the larger herbivores are moving in and we can easily get to their favourite areas south of the camp. Zebra, wildebeest, buffalo and roan are now much easier to find!
Other great sightings for the month included two leopard sightings and a pangolin. These are both phenomenal sightings for us and caused much excitement amongst our guests and staff.
Birds and Birding
Bird life is always astonishing, especially because the water levels are receding and the summer migrants are starting to arrive.
Large flocks of Great White Pelicans have been arriving in Busanaga. We have also seen a number of juvenile Crowned and Wattled Cranes. The avian highlights for the month were the sighting of a Pennant-winged Nightjar and a Temminck's Courser.
Camp staff spent the entire month trying to get the 'perfect shot' of a Pied Kingfisher. We think we managed to get a pretty good image of one that was perched.
"Try to keep the high level of the Shumba Camp - it's simply wonderful!" Dieter and Christel.
"These three days in Shumba were just magical! What and outstanding warm welcome." Maxime.
"There is nothing to be improved! Delicious food, the best people... we were really touched - it's like paradise!" Anouk and Alessandra.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Julia Bauer and Zoe Namangonze
Guides: Lex Munama and Idos Mulenga.
Kapinga Camp update - August 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
Winter is still trying to hold on, as the early mornings and evenings are very chilly, forcing us to take advantage of hot water bottles and extra blankets, but as soon as the sun spreads its rays over us, there is no need for the winter gear. With summer fast on the approach, the daytime temperatures are very warm, making for very comfy game drives and activities.
There is still lots of water around, but we have noticed that the waters are starting to recede, making new areas accessible to us.
There is no single word in the English dictionary that can describe the memorable sightings for the month of August. At the end of last month, we thought that we had reached the pinnacle of wildlife sightings, but this was topped during August, again setting a new standard for excellence.
A real highlight for all in camp was the serval sighting we had from the comfort of the main area. Early one morning, while enjoying a hot cup of coffee, our guests were scanning the area in front of camp. Suddenly the secretive feline appeared, strolling out of the long floodplain grass, most definitely returning from a nocturnal hunting expedition.
Another interesting sighting enjoyed by our guests was when they encountered a mating pair of hippo. The courting couple were not put off by the game viewers and continued with their natural copulation behaviour, which often appears comical and strange.
Elephant sightings were also fantastic during the month, as we had some great interactions with the titanic mammals, sometimes at very close quarters. On one occasion we had a young bull casually stroll into camp and become grumpy with the helicopter. Often the young adolescent elephant are cheeky, looking to boost their ego at any given opportunity. The young bull was not sure if he should try and chase the strange object away or if he should come closer for a better look. Some guests were in the hot air balloon above, watching this young creature try and calculate what his next move should be, a fascinating experience.
Birds and Birding
Avian activity has been fantastic, offering constant activity and enjoyment. A truly magical experience was the balloon trips. Guests would return to camp raving about their aerial views of the area, often flying with curious Wattled Cranes, Crowned Cranes and African Fish-Eagles.
August has been a very successful month here at Kapinga Camp. We welcomed Andree (new Kapinga manager) and Paul (balloon pilot) and his magical hot air balloon back to the Plains for their second season. The guests have been blown away by the surprise balloon breakfasts.
Our camp was visited by Lobster Inc. (a hospitality service company), who really added value to our staff and camp. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed their visit and appreciated their knowledge.
"Thanks for a lovely stay and an amazing experience! Vincent
"We enjoyed our stay here. It was a short but great experience. Lovely lodge, warm welcome, good staff, nice food? everything we hoped for and expected." The Devoldere Family
"We loved it. Fantastic lodge, great landscape, unique nature and wonderful people. We spent unforgettable moments in this piece of paradise, also thanks to Andree, Phil, Paul and the entire staff we will never forget you. We will be back soon again to enjoy the paradise." Daniela and Simone
Staff in Camp
Managers: Andree, Rozel and Wouter.
Guides: JohnD and Phil.
Busanga Bush Camp update - August 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
Morning and evenings in the Busanga Plains are still quite chilly, but this creates great opportunities for our guests to sit by the fire before morning activities and after evening drives before and after dinner. The heat of the fire is accompanied by fascinating stories told by the guide and manager relating to Zambian culture.
After a very productive rainy season, the water levels are beginning to recede fairly quickly. Having said this, large herds of puku can be seen in the floodplain areas in front of camp. The sycamore figs surrounding camp are fruiting, and attracting lots of attention from our winged friends, being birds during the day and fruit bats at night. We did experience a very beautiful cloak of mist in front of camp on a couple of the cooler mornings.
The game sightings consistently improve as the plains dry out. Sightings of the Busanga Pride have continued to be great, with the two huge males often walking past the camp. The Papyrus Pride has been very active and allowed us a number of great sightings.
Our highlight for the month was a fantastic cheetah sighting. An adult female shared her young cub with our guests, providing them with some wonderful photographic opportunities. The cub was in good condition and looked very healthy; this is fantastic news for the endangered species.
Another rare species which has made a good presence this month was the situtunga, which have been hanging around Papyrus Island throughout the month.
The roan herds have started to return, and we expect more and more to arrive, as we have been experiencing the largest concentrations over October for the last couple of years.
Elephant activity has been good as ever, as we have often seen some big tuskers swimming in the Lufupa Channel, making for some great images.
Some of the other great sightings we had include serval, wild cat, oribi and big herds of buffalo.
Birds and Birding
Busanga Plains is a treasure chest for birders. We had some fantastic birding right in camp, as the fig trees are now fruiting; some fantastic bird parties have been attracted to the tasty fruits. We managed to record some very rare bird species from the camp, which included Olive Woodpecker, White-winged Tit and Bennett's Woodpecker.
The eco-tones on the edges of the floodplains have also produced some super species which included Rosy-throated Longclaw and Fulleborn's Longclaw. The riverine areas showed us Böhm's Bee-eater, Schalow's Turaco, Rufous-bellied Tit and Miombo Tit.
The hot air balloon rides have proven to be very successful, even producing a lion sighting from the air. It was fantastic, as we were cruising silently on the thermal not very high above ground, when we heard the dominant Busanga males calling from right below us. Now that the winds will be dying down, we will be able to do more balloon trips.
"I would have loved to stay here much longer than two nights. Busanga Bush Camp is also my favourite of the three camps which we have visited. Brent is an extraordinary guide and lovely person. I will treasure my memories of this safari."
"Thank you for an unforgettable experience in Zambia, as this was our introduction to this beautiful country. All of the staff was terrific, thank you the dinner on the porch was romantic, only to be interrupted by the lions... perfect!"
Mvuu Camp update - August 2011 Jump
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Mvuu Wilderness Lodge update - August 2011 Jump
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The water levels of the Shire keep dropping as the dry season continues and this makes for some excellent elephant sightings all along the river. During our boat safaris, we literally come within touching distance of the great beasts as we turn off the engines and drift quietly along the reed beds or past the ancient fever tree forests. Often we come across a whole herd eagerly quenching their thirst and playing along the water's edge.
We have often encountered a mighty one-tusked bull, which seems to have taken a real liking to the fever trees, as he is always covered in the yellow powdery substance that covers the fever trees.
Game viewing has been outstanding during the month, with so many awesome sightings, but the highlight definitely goes to the pangolin sighting on the 12th of August. Our experienced guide, Henry Matinga, spotted this elusive creature. This is only the second pangolin which he has seen in his 10-year bush career so he was suitably thrilled.
Our guests also got to enjoy an outstanding black rhino sighting. The rhino was very close to the road, and stood in the open for roughly 10 minutes, providing all of us with a great view. In typical black rhino fashion, he then came for a closer look, strolling right up to the vehicle.
Some other sightings of note include a striped polecat trying to catch a scrub hare, a herd of roughly 300 buffalo, two white-tailed mongoose fighting, and on a walking trail, two porcupines in broad daylight.
Birding was also very good during the month, as we had some unusual sightings. Some of these sightings were Great White Pelicans, a Scops Owl eating a small rodent of sorts and another Pel's Fishing-Owl eating a catfish.
Mumbo Island update - August 2011 Jump
to Mumbo Island
Mumbo Island Camp recently underwent an assessment for the 'Green Safari Project', which is in the process of rating eco-lodges in Africa for their green credentials.
Mumbo Island Camp scored top marks, and this is what one of the judges had to say: "I could not find a fault with the lodge's operation, and awarded Mumbo Island with the highest score of all the lodges we have judged so far. Keep up the great work."
Mumbo Island Camp adheres to strict principles of energy use - such as solar lighting and water heating - as well as the principles of eco-architecture, so the dining area, bar and water sport gazebo, are all hand built from timber, thatch and canvas.
Chelinda Lodge update - August 2011
The month of August produced some great leopard sightings of only the best quality.
During the second week of the month, we had two different leopard sightings over the weekend!
The first sighting was of a young leopard in a tree. What made this sighting interesting is that the feline appeared very nervous and was constantly looking into the thick vegetation below the tree. We couldn't see the reason but presume that perhaps a larger leopard was in the thickets. We stuck around for a while, but we could not make out anything in the dense vegetation. We did have an outstanding view of the leopard though.
The next day, the same group of guests encountered the next leopard. While driving through a burnt area, the group were blown away when they saw a large male, sitting behind a termite mound. He was very relaxed, unlike the leopard from the day before. The large male allowed us a fantastic view for over an hour before he stood up and disappeared into some dense vegetation.
The burnt areas have been very productive with general game, as the wildlife has moved into these areas to take advantage of the new green flash of sprouting grass. A large herd of eland was seen in this area with over 30 calves, no doubt attracting the predators.
Desert Rhino Camp update - August 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
As usual, the landscape is unbelievably beautiful with a blanket of tick grass among other kinds of desert adapted vegetation to be seen as far as the eye can see. There is very little surface water available, and where there is, we have been finding great densities of wildlife taking advantage of the water and associated green vegetation.
The climatic conditions have been dominated by eastern winds and early morning fog. The nights have been cooling down to 2° C, but it does warm up quickly once the sun spreads its rays over us, cooling down once again in the afternoons. With such lovely cool afternoons we have been offering a fair amount of walks and hiking for guests to be exposed to the beautiful scenery and small wonders of the Palmwag Concession. It has been very windy at times, but this is a sure indicator that summer is on the approach.
The wildlife has been promising, with some great sightings of spotted hyaena, suricates, lion, and kudu - all within eyesight of the camp.
A definite highlight for the month was when a bull elephant wondered right through camp, curious at his surroundings and coming for a closer look. Once he had satisfied his curiosity, he started feeding on the mopane trees around some of the tents. These desert-adapted elephant usually cover huge distances in their constant search for water and nutrition, so it was fantastic to see one at such close quarters for an hour or two.
Lion calls were often heard from around the camp fire most nights, sparking everyone's imagination as to what the cats were up to in the cover of darkness. It's no surprise that we have been experiencing lion activity in the area, when one looks at the amount of general game in the area.
The rhino tracking has been going fantastic, with successful tracking outings almost daily, which is fantastic as this provides Save the Rhino Trust with very important research information, as well as provide our guest with a unique conservation experience as well as some great photographs.
Birds and Birding
One of the most fascinating bird calls for us must be without a doubt, the frog-like duet of Ruppell's Korhaan, and pairs have been taking advantage of the grass cover around the camp. We also have a resident Grey Heron, which has started roosting behind Tent 3, leaving the camp in the morning, visiting a nearby spring, and then returning to its roost at night.
"The reason we chose this camp was its collaboration with the Save the Rhino Trust. Martin and his tracking team are doing a wonderful job, very informative, passionate and always focused on the Rhino's well-being and on-going conservation. A true privilege to be in the bush tracking with them." Luke, Katie and Alana.
"We were most impressed by the passion of the local people to actively preserve & conserve." Brian and Susan.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Helen, Agnes and Ian.
Guides: Makumbi, Ali and Raymond.
Palmwag Lodge update - August 2011 Jump
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Doro Nawas Camp update - August 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
August was characterised by very unpredictable weather. Towards the end of the month, we experienced foggy mornings which were accompanied by very chilly weather. This weather was caused by the cold Benguela ocean currents from the west coast. The rest of the month was nice and warm, with daily highs averaging around 25- 30° C, cooling down to around 10° C at night.
As we have had a very good rainy season, the conservancy is still covered by a thick cover of golden grass. Many of the trees have lost their leaves but the trees along the ephemeral rivers are still very green, drawing lots of elephant attention to them.
It has been a very dramatic month for the desert-adapted elephant herds as well as for the guests who had the privilege to view them. Three elephant calves were born at the beginning of the month. Unfortunately, two of the three calves did not survive as the many challenges that a newborn has to face proved too much. The two calves that passed away were battling to get to their feet, and after many fruitless attempts by other herd members, the matriarch decided that it was time to move off and unfortunately the calves perished. It was a very emotional experience for all involved, both human and pachyderm. It was however, a natural process and illustrated that only the strong will survive. The surviving calf seems to be doing well, and he has been named 'Jason', as he was born on the birthday of our Assistant Manager!
As it is warming up a fair deal, the ectothermic animals are starting to become more active as they are coming out of hibernation. On one occasion, Ignatius and his two guests found a common grass-snake on the windscreen of their vehicle in the morning. A pretty rare visitor to Doro Nawas.
"One word: Amazing! Our highlight was the welcome provided by a group of 11 elephants near our rooms the night after dinner. This made our trip! Keep up the great work!" Francesco and Stella (Italy).
"Beautiful location, great activities, extremely professional staff and warm environment." Cristiano (Italy).
"Beautiful surrounding, comfortable rooms with attention to every little detail. Thank you very much for everything. Our stay was beautiful." Maria (Italy).
Staff in Camp
Managers: Agnes Bezuidenhout, Morien Aebes, Theobald Kamatoto and Jason Lundon.
Guides: Pieter Kasaona, Michael Kauari, Ignatius Khamuseb and Richardt Orr.
Newsletter for this month done by:
Damaraland Camp update - August 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
The weather as always had a few surprises this month when we had a couple of cold nights with some mist pushing in from the west, but for the greater part we had wonderful warm and sunny weather. We even had one afternoon with light rain in the area.
The area is still cover in a golden carpet of grass from the abundant rains which we had in summer. Just about all of the surface water has dried up, so the winter waterholes have become very popular with the wildlife.
The wildlife highlight for the month was the sighting of a cheetah, which was seen strolling leisurely through the golden sea of grass, no doubt using this cover to its advantage when suitable prey was homed in on.
We also had some great sightings of the desert-adapted elephant as they have been sticking close to the riverbeds, enjoying the ana seed pods. We came across two tiny elephant calves, but unfortunately one of the babies died shortly after being born. The other calf seems to be doing well and follows its mother closely.
Nice dazzles of Hartmann's mountain zebra have been hanging around the airstrip, probably seeking refuge on the airstrip as the visibility is good on the airstrip. Having said this, lion tracks were found very close to the airstrip, perhaps the opportunistic feline is one step ahead of its potential prey.
Throughout the conservancy, we have been experiencing great sightings of springbok, kudu and oryx.
Birds and Birding
It appears that August was a month that highlighted the parental care of some avian species. We came across two different Namaqua Sandgrouse who were sitting next to the road, concealing their little chicks under their wings and belly. We also came across an Ostrich family that consisted of many chicks.
Around camp, we have been constantly entertained by the resident Pale-winged Starlings and Dusky Sunbirds.
Lobster Inc. (a hospitality training company) spent some time at Damaraland Camp. They provided service and wine training to the management and staff at Camp. The training was so much fun and people couldn't stop talking about it.
"The surprise boma dinner, camp location and the way that it blends in with the landscape, made this one of the most amazing places that we have stayed at. Thank you very much!"
"Our guide Johan was wonderful and made all of our game drives very interesting with his knowledge. The light touch of the camp on the environment and design added to the unique experience we had."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Maggie Vries, Elfrieda Hebach, PG and Erika Awaras.
Guides: Johann Cloete, Anthony Dawids, Albert Gaoseb and Willem Retief.
Skeleton Coast Camp update - August 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
"Every desert is but an orphaned beach, abandoned long ago by ancient seas. Thirsty sands that still dream of ocean embraces" Pierre Loti - taken from A Mournful Kingdom of Sands. What a perfect description of the Skeleton Coast Park. As golden grass turns grey, the Skeleton Coast looks even more desolate - and beautiful.
Cold, wet, foggy nights give way to starry skies and misty mornings, creating the perfect environment for lying in and watching the sun come up over the horizon. Weather changes has ensured the clear winter nights are the order of the day and cool winds make the harsh sun bearable. Cold shadows and hot sun make it difficult to decide where one wants to be.
This month we have had some fantastic sightings of brown hyaena and black-backed jackal along the coast. Sightings of these coastal-adapted predators have increased this month from the past couple of months and have been really enjoyed by our guests.
One of the regular visitors to the camp, 'Geoffrey', the giraffe has been seen daily from the camp and has inspired some of his friends to come for a closer look at the camp, allowing our guests to have a closer look at them.
We were also very lucky in the cheetah department, as we came upon a female who made a kill not far from the camp. She allowed us a great view, as she fed to her heart's content, unbothered by our presence.
Birds and Birding
This month, our resident Black-headed Heron decided that he had had enough attention and left his roosting spot behind the camp; hopefully our feathered friend will return somewhere down the line.
The heron has been replaced by a number of Red-billed Francolins which have kept our guests entertained with their constant hustle and bustle and cackling calls.
"Best experience we have ever had. From the accommodation to our incredible guide, Kallie. This team of staff helped make our trip to Namibia more than just a memory. Kallie is simply the best! He showed us every animal you can imagine, and we saw a brown hyaena eating a seal!" Paul, Sam and Zach
"You took excellent care of us and provided an experience that will live in our memories for a lifetime, thank you." Mr Wheeler
Staff in Camp
Managers: Anthony, Madri and Rosalia.
Guides: Gert, Gotlod and Kallie.
Serra Cafema Camp update - August 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
This time of year the weather should be starting to warm up as we move away from the clutches of winter and into spring, but we have experienced very cold nights and mornings. We did have a couple of mornings where a blanket of coastal fog settled in the valleys, making for very scenic photos. By midday the temperature did warm up, providing very temperate conditions.
As the area experienced large amounts of rain during the last rainy season, there are still large stands of grass covering the ground; these grasses have turned to a very beautiful shade of golden yellow.
As the Kunene River has dropped substantially, we have been able to do boat cruises again. This has provided our guests with some great sightings of crocodiles, ranging from tiny hatchlings through to huge adults.
Good numbers of springbok have moved into the valley, possibly to take advantage of the moisture from the morning mist. They have been joined by impressive herds of gemsbok (oryx) that have taken residence in the same area.
Birds and Birding
We have been very lucky with ostrich sightings, as these large birds have also started congregating in the valley. We have seen a number of crèche groups, the young chicks scurrying frantically at the adults' feet, trying to keep up with them as they walk along.
Some birds have taken a liking to the newly refurbished camp, as a couple of Southern Masked-Weavers and Greater Striped Swallows have built nests around the camp.
After five months of being under construction, the new camp finally reopened on the 15 August.
We also had some staff changes during this time as we welcomed a number of new staff to the camp. The new additions to the team are Lucia and Samantha as waitresses, Jonathan as a guide, Wagga as a maintenance and handyman, and Lynette as the food and beverage manager.
"This is, by far, the best location with the best lodge with the best staff we visited. Thanks to everyone here for making our experience so fantastic." Francesco and Amanda (Italy).
"You made our stay and honeymoon unforgettable! Thank you so much - Serra Cafema is very special and we are already planning our next visit, we just have to come back and see you guys again!" Ingo and Eva.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Natasha, Ockert, Chvonnie, Lynette and Elizabeth.
Guides: Dawid, Gerhardus, Harry, Steve and Jonathan.
Ongava Tented Camp update - August 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
The weather of August has been characterised by cold mornings and evenings, but warming up by midday to very comfortable temperatures. As expected for this time of the year, we experienced a fair deal of wind, as the seasons undergo their phases of change. There were one or two cold fronts which reached us from Cape Town, which brought very chilly conditions. Nothing that hot water bottles, hot chocolate and a camp fire could not fix.
The landscape is drying out as the winter months have taken their toll, the mopane trees have started to lose their leaves but there are still some pockets of green at the base of the hills and rocky outcrops.
At the end of the month, a large bushfire broke out on a neighbouring farm, having the roaring wind as a catalyst, the fire spread quickly and moved into Ongava Game Reserve. Everyone joined forces and the fire was under control in two days.
Sightings this month have been rather good, especially around the winter waterholes in both Ongava and Etosha. Huge congregations of different species are constantly arriving at the water sources throughout the day, making for some great sightings and photographs.
The prevailing winds had a notable effect on animal behaviour, as the swirling winds often make wildlife skittish and seek refuge in the thicker vegetation.
Rhino sightings have been superb, with both species making an appearance this month. We often found both of the species arriving at the camp waterhole in the evenings for a drink, which was phenomenal to view from the deck.
There has been a lot of lion activity in Ongava, with a slight change in the resident prides' social dynamic. A young group of nomadic lions have begun moving around the camp area. We believe that these are the young lions of Ongava that were chased away last year. The group consists of four sub-adult males and a female, all looking very healthy and in good condition. The young males are becoming bold as we have heard them regularly practising their roars most nights. Due to the presence of this rogue group, the lioness with cubs that had settled around the camp for the past three months has moved off, making only a handful of appearances this month. The dominant pride male has also been active, as the game drives came across him mating with a female very close to the road. It is only a matter of time until he encounters the rogue group.
The camp waterhole continues to attract very interesting visitors. Apart from regular visits from rhino, during the early morning hours, the waterhole camera trap caught a brown hyaena coming down for a leisurely drink. We have also had loads of black-faced impala, Hartmann's mountain zebra, eland and giraffe coming to drink daily.
Birds and Birding
The Guineafowls have provided our guests with great entertainment at the camp waterhole. They are constantly scratching through the dust looking for food and chasing each other around. Ongava has also become a temporary stop-over for a large irruption of Red-billed Quelea, which are also fantastic to watch at the waterhole, as they arrive in droves to drink.
This monthly we sadly bid farewell to Silvia Morgante and Corne Cocklin, as they will be moving to Andersson's Camp as the new management couple.
"Loved walking on the first day and to see animals at the waterhole, such a wonderful viewpoint" Schrotenboer (Germany).
"The highlight was the fact that we were not in a fleet of safari vehicles driving around in convoy. Fantastic to see so many animal species grazing together in the wild." Marmo Family (Italy).
"Leon is an excellent guide; he really was the key in the success to our stay. Camp was just excellent in all aspects, service was very good, people very kind and helpful." Picot (France).
Staff in Camp
Managers: Gerda Van Niekerk, Silvia Morgante, Inge Kambatuku and Corne Cocklin.
Guides: Rio Aibeb, Festus Eiseb, Leon Basson and Shilongo Saukes.
Pictures taken by Silvia Morgante.
Little Ongava update - August 2011 Jump
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Ongava Lodge update - August 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
Over the course of the month we have experienced quite a variety of weather conditions. For the first half of the month, the average daily temperatures were moderate but towards the end of the month, we experienced a very cold spell, whereby the morning temperature dropped to -1° C. The one constant weather factor was the wind, which is usual for this time of year.
Over the winter months, the vegetation has dried up, and this, coupled with the prevailing winds, provided the ideal conditions for a fire. A fire broke out in some adjoining farms which spread to Ongava. After a joint fire-fighting effort from reserve staff, the fire was brought under control in two days, but not before scorching the northern section of Ongava.
As a result of the fire, animal concentrations have increased in the southern and eastern parts of Ongava, especially around the winter waterholes as there is still some palatable vegetation and water in these areas.
The wildlife sighting for the month occurred not even 400 metres away from the lodge, when three nomadic male lions took on a giraffe and were successful. This provided them with a good meal for a couple of days. We were surprised that the dominant male of the area did not arrive on the scene to take control of his territory; perhaps there is a wave of change approaching the Ongava Pride.
Whilst on the subject of feline kills, we were very lucky when we came across three cheetah feeding on a springbok. This provided our guests with some great photographs.
"Our guide, Mike was the best part of our stay. He made the experience very special for us." The Martinez family.
"I have been impressed by your commitment to conversation. Keep up the good work!" Barnett.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Agnes, George and Jason.
Guides: Kapona, Willem, Henock and Abraham.
Andersson's Camp update - August 2011 Jump
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Little Kulala Camp update - August 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
We are anticipating spring as the days are becoming gradually longer and warmer. Early mornings often surprise us with fog hanging low on the ground together with a very chilly temperature which forces us to take a jersey along on activities. Guests coming from Wolwedans said they experienced a temperature of -2° C with snow on the dunes! The weather patterns never cease to surprise and we experienced a day of winter rainfall toward the end of August and some unconfirmed reports of snow in Maltahohe, the closest small town.
Wildlife sightings have been rather good during the month, and as the environment is starting to warm up, the desert dunes are transforming into hives of activity, with activity from the big and small Namibian wonders.
The wildlife highlight for the month was the sightings of aardwolf. On one occasion, we came across two different sightings on the same drive, definitely not a common occurrence anywhere. We have also been very lucky with cheetah sightings, as we often encountered a female with four young offspring.
With the temperatures increasing, the reptile forces are coming out of hibernation and taupe, often showing themselves to the guests while out on activity. We have had regular sightings of puff adders and black spitting cobras.
Little Kulala had the honour to be chosen as one out of three camps in Namibia to be filmed and trained by Lobster Inc. (a hospitality training group). We had a wonderful and inspirational experience with Tim and Alistair who gave us all insight on true service, interesting wine facts and the importance of looking after our guests. There is nothing quite like a happy and satisfied guest departing camp who in turn always reminds us why we love working for Wilderness Safaris. We look forward to the training to be in full operation to better our guest experience.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Ivan Phillipson, Bona Flory, Emsie Skrywer and Elaine Cerva.
Guides: Clement Lawrence, Mu-gusto, Willem Rooi, Elaine Hutton and Abner Shigwedha.
Kulala Desert Lodge update - August 2011 Jump
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Kulala Wilderness Camp update - August 2011 Jump
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Governors' Camp update - August 2011 Jump
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Our guests have enjoyed some spectacular and very unusual wildlife sightings this month including huge herds from the migration crossing the Mara River, a massive rock python devouring a huge thomsons gazelle, a serval cat up a tree and a lioness giving birth!
Weather and grasslands
We have enjoyed lovely weather over the past month with clear and warm days with a few cloudy mornings. Early morning temperatures have been a little chilly (around 15°C) but the days have warmed up nicely with late afternoons averaging 32°C. A little rain fell this month which has brought on a green flush to the plains and caused the blooming of the white paper flowers (Cycnium Tubelsum) on the plains, baboons love to feed on these delicate flowers. Towards the end of the month there was some heavy rainfall up stream which has brought the Mara river levels up.
Wildebeest migration Update!
At the end of last month and the beginning of this month large numbers of wildebeest covered the plains around our camps turning them black as far as the eye could see. Then towards mid month the big river crossings began, many wildebeest were taken by crocodile and many more died whilst crossing the Mara River. Wildebeest frequently cross the Mara River in extraordinary places and often leaping off high sided river banks into the swirling depths below, then fording the river they reach the other side where they find that the river bank is too high to climb out. With sheer numbers of them of piling up there, many that get trampled and die. A good few get taken by crocodile, although many crocodile on the river are now saturated with all the feeding. Then towards the end of the month many wildebeest crossed over to the Trans Mara side and only a few pockets of them remain the in Musiara, Bila Shaka, Paradise and Rhino Ridge plains. However from Little Governors' camp we enjoyed views over the great herds from camp.
Photos courtesy of Dr Mark Levy.
Thomson and Grants Gazelles are abundant on these short grass plains. The strongest 'Tommie' males set up territories in home ranges using an exaggerated display posture and marking boundaries with their pre-orbital scent gland secretions. The females and their immature offspring form groups of 5 to 50 that wander through male territories. These groups change members and numbers from hour to hour, so no obvious patterns of hierarchy or leadership emerge. A few Thomson fawns being seen now and after a 51⁄2 month gestation females are capable of producing two off spring per year.
A large herd of Impala and a big troop of olive baboons frequent the marsh and surrounding areas along with Defassa waterbuck. More elephant have been crossing back into the Musiara marsh, having crossed the Mara River to get here the elephants are two toned showing the high water mark on their bodies, the young calves would have had to swim and thankfully they are generally good swimmers.
There are female warthog on Rhino ridge and Topi plains with 3-5 very young piglets, this is a little early for warthog. The mortality rate for warthog piglets can be high as 45% before they are 5 months old, they are quite susceptible to rapid change in temperatures and predation plays a major role either from large birds of prey and the regular carnivores such as Jackals, Lion, Cheetah and Hyena.
Hippos are being seen more often during the day either they are evicted bulls, staying out late or they may be stressed for lack of fodder, they graze on the river banks during the day. Generally hippo's spend all day in the water digesting what they have eaten during the night; they can eat in excess of 60kg of grass per night which they crop with their lips, with a relatively poor digestive system digestion is slow. Hippos release a substance called 'hipposudoric acid' in ultraviolet light or sunshine this substance turns pink. Hippos do not have sweat glands but much deeper glands or skin holes that release this secretion. Biologists suggest that 'Hipposudoric' acid functions both as a natural sunscreen and as an antimicrobial agent.
Photos courtesy of Ray Morris
Rhino have been seen more frequently again with a male on Paradise plains and a female on the west side of rhino ridge.
On the 5th August at 4,30pm there was a truly awesome sighting on the Bila Shaka plains of a very large African rock python that was constricting and then swallowing a fully grown male Thomson Gazelle. This phenomenon is seldom seen and for such a large serpent to be seen out on the open plains is all most Jurassic. Pythons and Boas have backward facing teeth and with an elastic jaw a large Python after constricting its prey is able to swallow sizeable prey to even that of humans. After the prey takes a breath the snake squeezes it in causing cardiac arrest. One of the major differences in the two constrictors is that Pythons lay eggs and boas give birth to live young.
Photos courtesy of Patrick Reynolds and Ray Morris
Towards the end of the month guests enjoyed a rather unusual sighting close to the Marsh, at the tree line they came across a female red buck who ran off and spooked a Serval cat hiding in the grass, the reed buck gave chase and the surprised serval promptly shot up the trunk of a tall Warburgia tree. Warburgia trees have long fissured trunks which obviously assisted the Serval. A Serval is a grass cat and not accustomed to climbing trees, they have large dish like ears which helps them pick up sounds of Rodents and various ground and nesting birds, they are also able to jump readily.
Photo courtesy of Sherri Maggee
Bila Shaka/ marsh pride now has around 15 members which includes five breeding females, six sub adults, two older cubs and two males (Romeo is younger and Claude who is quite old now). Joy's four cubs are now six months old. One of the older females has two young 3 month old cubs, on the 14th these little cubs and their Mum crossed a watered passage way in the Musiara swamp while the mother jumped over the little cubs swam below.
Photos courtesy of Ray Morris and Colin Gross
In the first week of the month two Lionesses gave given birth to 6 cubs of which one of them died and the remaining 5 are nearly one month old now. Some guests that were staying at Governors Camp witnessed and photographed the birth of three cubs and this is a very unusual sighting.
Photos courtesy of Dr Mark Levy
Since the last week the two lionesses have not been seen and we presume that they have moved these cubs into deeper cover. Lion cubs are born blind—their eyes do not open until roughly a week after birth. They can weigh 1-2kg's at birth and are almost helpless, they will begin to crawl a day or two after birth and begin walking around at three weeks. A lioness will often move her cubs to a new den site several times a month, carrying them one by one by the nape of the neck; this will prevent scent from building up at a single den site and thus avoiding the attention of predators that may harm the cubs.
Wildebeest and Zebra that are within the Marsh and the Bila Shaka river bed are the main prey at the moment. On the 18th the lioness short tail and four of the sub adults came into IL Moran Camp at 8.30pm and killed a Bush buck and a warthog 20 meters behind tent 10. They were feeding off this until 9.00am the following morning. This pride can often be encountered on a daily basis resting up in the heat of the day under a tree close to the road that serves the Governors Camps and passes close to the Musiara Marsh.
The three males have been seen between Rhino Ridge and Paradise plains. On the 19th they killed and ate a young 5 month old wildebeest. These males with the assistance of each other will feed on larger prey species than their female counter parts. Young wildebeest that were born this year are their main prey. A Female has been at Paradise and she has been preying on Thomson Gazelle and young wart hog. There is another female on the west side of Rhino Ridge she is feeding off young Thomson fawns and young warthog piglets. Another lone female is being seen on Topi plains.
Photos courtesy of Patrizia Cardinale
Olive and her 8 month old cub and her two year old son have been near the Talek River. 'Olive' has been feeding off young wildebeest and warthog. Her daughter was seen on the 25th and tried to hunt a sow warthog but the warthog got the better of them both. They were all seen again on the 30th.
Photos courtesy of Ray Morris and Patrizia Cardinale
A large male Leopard has been seen in riverine pockets of paradise plains.
The male near the croton thickets opposite the Mara River has been seen more frequently now.
The Female with two cubs who are about seven months old have been seen often now in the riverine tree line at the bottom end of the Bila Shaka river bed. On the 25th there was a young impala in a tree which they had been been feeding on.
Patrick the manager at Il Moran had a great sighting of an African Cuckoo Hawk female and two chicks, they were hunting (collecting food) in the grass near to Private Camp. This was a fantastic sighting as it hadn't been seen before. A juvenile Western Banded Snake Eagle was also seen yesterday near to Paradise, a male African Paradise Fly-catcher is being seen within Private Camp spending a lot of its time around the dinning tent at lunch.
On any one day can easily identify about 15 species in about 10 minutes! This includes vultures flying over, weavers, Purple Grenadiers and all sorts. A striking fly catcher within the camps is the Blue fly Catcher; it shows itself as it fans its tail.
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge update - August 2011
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