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Sefofane Zimbabwe luggage allowance change
Going forward, the C206 Cessna aircraft used by Sefofane Zimbabwe will only carry four passengers plus the pilot. In doing so, the luggage allowance has been revised to 20kgs (44lbs) per person (including their camera equipment and hand luggage) - in a soft bag, no wheels or frame.
Children in the Wilderness Botswana Camp
In December 2010, Children in the Wilderness (CITW) held its annual week-long program at Jacana Camp and Wilderness Tented Camp respectively. Since its inception in 2001, CITW Botswana has been hosting 96 kids per annum over a four-week period; the same numbers were hosted in 2010 and all programmes ran smoothly and were outstanding successes. This year, the participants came from Gumare, Tubu, Seronga, Eretsa, Betsa, Gunatsoga and Gudigwa villages. A press day was also held on the 18th of December and many Botswana government senior officials made a great effort to attend.
Chintheche Inn Reforestation Project
25 Feb 2011
Chintheche Inn has started a reforestation project to try and rehabilitate areas that have been deforested in the area.
We have already built a nursery on the property to raise seedlings for distribution. We provide the seedlings free of charge to environmental clubs that we identify in the area or set up. We have employed an experienced nursery manager and nursery assistant to run the project.
By the end of 2010 we had established 15 clubs and distributed 10 567 seedlings. Each club is expected to clearly mark the land they are providing, prepare the soil for planting and provide labour to do the work. The nursery manager supervises the process and makes sure everything is ready for planting. After the seedlings are planted, we monitor each club closely to make sure the seedlings are well looked after. We also provide education to the communities to teach people how to use the trees in the most effective and sustainable way.
We have focused on distributing three types of seedlings:
• Senna Siamia - These trees will provide a sustainable source of firewood. They are fast growing and will be ready to use after 4-5 years.
• Mbawa and Mtanga Tanga - These are indigenous hardwood trees. They will be planted to replace hardwood that has been chopped down.
• Fruit trees - These will be planted to provide communities with extra food and an extra source of income.
This year we will be doubling the size of our nursery. It will also be an important year for following up with our existing clubs. We have to make sure that seedlings are surviving and being looked after properly. Community awareness is very important as we need to get people to understand why it is imperative for them to conserve trees. We will be involving Children in the Wilderness (they have two tree sites already) this year to get the children involved at every stage of the process: tubing, seeding, distributing and planting. In future we would like to have communities set up their own nurseries.
This year we would like to identify bigger areas of land that have been deforested. A lot of hardwood trees are being chopped down but not replaced. We are going to assess the needs of these areas and try to provide enough seedlings to reforest them. Consequently we will be growing a lot more indigenous hardwood seedlings this year than we did last year.
We hope we can greatly expand this project over the next few years and see sustainable results. In the end we need people in the communities to understand the need for tree conservation and our goal is to get these communities to start actively conserving their areas by themselves.
2010 International Year of Biodiversity - and Wilderness
The International Year of Biodiversity was a unique opportunity to understand the vital role that biodiversity plays in sustaining life on Earth. Below are a few thoughts of where Wilderness fits in.
The question for Wilderness was: what contribution ecotourism can make to overall biodiversity conservation? After all, biodiversity is a critical asset for tourism and for biodiversity to survive in a global context; entire habitats and ecosystems need to be more formally conserved rather than isolated fragmented tracts of land. From a tourism aspect, conserving biodiversity makes perfect sense. In the end, it is ultimately protecting our 'product' for the future.
Since our humble beginnings more than 28 years ago, our initial tourism ideology has metamorphosed into a leading conservation business - an ethically-responsible ecotourism and camp operator. Low-impact tourism as land-use practice has been the key business mantra, and today we help conserve over 30 000 square kilometers (11 000 square miles) of pristine south-central Africa and associated Indian Ocean islands. Eight biomes are covered. Many endangered and vulnerable species, such as black rhino, African lion, African wild dog, Seychelle's White-Eye and Wattled Crane, occur in numbers that are of global population importance for these species. A fact that has been bolstered through solid research projects to gain a better understanding of best future conservation methods of key species and also through the reintroductions of indigenous species.
Through the survival of certain mega-fauna indicator species such as rhino which need large territories, it is safe to assume that entire habitats continue to function normally, ultimately perpetuating biodiversity. Investing heavily in renewable energies is also a top priority for Wilderness going forward.
By selecting ecotourism and conservation as primary land-use we ultimately help protect biodiversity and vital carbon sinks. We have matched what communities would earn from other far more destructive land-use practices such as hunting, mining, livestock and subsistence farming and forestry monocultures - all unsustainable in the long term.
Wilderness Safaris Plants Trees
Wilderness Safaris and Africa Geographic magazine have joined forces to plant over 2 000 indigenous trees in South Africa's Eastern Cape this year, as part of the sustainability and carbon emission offset programs of both. There is an urgent need to rehabilitate South Africa's last-remaining Afromontane forest patches in order to save the less than 1 000 critically endangered Cape Parrots remaining in the wild, as well as for the many other biodiversity and community benefits which these trees bring.
Fascinating Archaeological Find at Mombo
Location: Mombo Camp, Mombo Concession, Botswana
Date: 23 Feb 2011
Observers: Tony Reumerman, Brandon Kemp, Attorney Vasco, Ryan Green
Photographer: Ryan Green
Usually the news from Mombo Camp concerns the wildlife and their various fascinating interactions. This story is about something altogether different, but just as interesting.
One afternoon we spotted a pair of Blacksmith Lapwings behaving oddly on a open sodic clearing near Hippo Hide, and thinking they might have a nest there, walked over to investigate.
We didn't find a nest, but some rather strange looking stones, which immediately caught our interest, as stones are nowhere to be found in the Okavango Delta owing the deep Kalahari sands. The stones appear to be rhyolite, and most certainly had been shaped by human hands. The closest deposit of these rocks is in the Tsodilo Hills area, approximately 120km to the north of the Mombo Concession in a straight line.
It would appear that people - migrant hunters or fisherfolk - had travelled down the Panhandle region of the Okavango to Chiefs Island, bringing these objects with them. They are roughly hand-sized, and appear to be some form of pestles, along with a larger stone that appears to have been a mortar of some description (mortar and pestles are used for grinding). What had us intrigued is a circular depression in the centre of this object, roughly the size of a marula nut, which is possibly what it could have been used for - to crack them open to extract the nutritious kernels.
Exactly when and by whom these were left here is a matter of conjecture, but it would follow that the stones had lain there for a considerable length of time. It was quite a sensation to hold an object that could last have been held by another human being in an entirely different epoch, and just for a moment, be transported back in time.
Of Eagles, Owls and Frogs…
Location: Savuti Camp, Linyanti Concession, Botswana
Date: 04 Feb 2011
Observer: Grant Atkinson
Photographer: Grant Atkinson
The rainy season arrived late in Botswana's Linyanti Concession this summer, but when the first real rains came, it certainly made up for it.
One specific storm created shallow pools all over the normally dry parts of the Linyanti. This triggered an immediate breeding stimulus from the amphibians, and the chorus of sound created by the different species on the night following the first rains was astounding. Since then we have enjoyed steady rainfall, and the woodland has taken on a lush, brilliant-green dress, and the ponds and pools are literally brimming with smaller life forms.
The frogs, while busy eating insects, in turn attract their own predators. Some of the most successful of these are birds. Storks, hamerkops, egrets, eagles, kites and owls are some of the most successful frog hunters. The frogs in turn have evolved their own survival and anti-predator strategies in turn. Some species like the larger toads, and the banded rubber frog, have toxic glands or poisonous skin to protect them. This certainly seems to give the toads a degree of protection from predatory birds as they move about more freely than many other species. Another option and the one which is most widely used by the frogs, is to remain hidden underwater during the daylight hours, and emerge only after dark. This works well but has one fatal flaw. When the frogs mate, they tend to get very preoccupied and expose themselves on the water's edge, or come right to the surface. This gives birds like Tawny and Lesser Spotted Eagles as well as Yellow-billed Kites a chance to grab them.
When the frogs come out to feed at night, they are also predated on by certain owl species, like the pictured African Barred Owlet, which catch them with ease.
The rainy season is a good time to be a raptor in the Linyanti...
Hippo chases Snouted Cobra
Location: Little Makalolo Camp, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe.
Date: 02 Feb 2011
Observer: Jaelle Claypole
Photographer: Graham Cochrane
We enjoyed a very different encounter recently. It was a dramatic sighting of a hippo actively attacking a snouted cobra. This was all while enjoying sundowners and a spectacular sunset from an elevated platform at Samavundla Pan.
The banded-phase cobra, which was around 1.5m in length, was initially seen swimming across the pan in our direction. It then inexplicably changed course and began heading directly towards a small pod of three hippo. When the cobra got within two metres, the large male hippo lashed out at it - we were unsure as to what had happened amidst all the splashing of water. We then caught sight of the snake again - this time swimming, as fast as it could, with the hippo thrashing the water behind it in hot pursuit. The snake eventually slithered, unscathed, from the water and the male hippo joined the family group again.
Territorial males can be highly aggressive, particularly when females are in oestrus, and are known to attack anything in sight.
The Prodigal Son returns to Mombo
Sighting: The Prodigal Son - dispersal in a young male leopard
Location: Mombo Camp, Okavango Delta, Botswana
Date: February 2011
Observers: Martin Kays & Ryan Green
Photographer: Martin Kays & Cathy Kays
In mid-June 2009, we began a project to monitor the dispersal pattern of a young male leopard in the Okavango Delta. Motsumi, the son of the well-known and much-loved Jao leopard Beauty, was selected for the project. At the time Motsumi was around 14 months and was largely independent of his mother. We obtained permission from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks to go ahead with the project and a team consisting of Martin Kays, Dr. Rob Jackson and Peter Pearlstein darted the young leopard and fitted it with a VHF tracking collar supplied by the Botswana Predator Conservation Trust.
Following Motsumi's revival on a large island some 8km south-west of Jao Camp we monitored his progress through regular aerial tracking sessions. For the remainder of 2009 it appeared that he moved slightly further south in the direction of Xigera and Nxabega Camps. Nonetheless, neither of these two camps ever noted a young collared male leopard and our monitoring of Motsumi was limited to blips on the radio telemetry. Despite extensive searching in early 2010, both on the ground and from the air, we could not relocate the young leopard and, fearing the worst, we approached Dr Tico McNutt from the Predator Conservation Trust and did an extensive flight from the southern most part of the Delta all the way up to the Jao Concession with no luck. We agreed that both parties would opportunistically monitor Motsumi's signal when in the air above the Delta but at this stage we were losing hope.
In October 2010 it seemed our fears had been realised when Dr. McNutt picked up a mortality signal from Motsumi's collar about 8km north-west of Mombo. He tried again the following month and couldn't locate the signal at all. At this point we concluded that either Motsumi was dead or the battery on the collar had died.
Imagine our surprise at the end of January 2011 when we were asked by the Mombo guides for photos of Motsumi's spot pattern and also the frequency of the collar. To our surprise the collared male leopard located by the Mombo guides north of camp was indeed our 'prodigal son' Motsumi. He was alive and well 19 months after his release and now a nearly three-year-old male leopard. He had crossed the Boro River and its floodplains and associated permanent swamps, moving some 35 kilometres east-north-east of his natal range and where we had collared him.
A few days later, together with David and Cathy Kays, Kai Collins and vet Dr. Rob Jackson, I flew into Mombo to remove the collar from Motsumi and allow him to (hopefully) settle into what might become part of his new territory. Poster Malongwa and Ryan Green were there to meet us and help with the final part of the project which ended successfully with having removed the collar and Dr. Jackson confirming that Motsumi has grown into a healthy adult leopard. We wait with bated breath to see whether he does indeed establish a territory at Mombo and what becomes of this fascinating individual.
Wildplaces Africa and the Uganda Safari Company
Please note that this is not something that we have ever encouraged, nor do we expect it will happen again, but the Rangers and guides were all amazed at the following incident. It was not in any way created by outside influence, it was just 'one of those things':
The Weldon family from Canada recently came out on safari with The Uganda Safari Company. They had a fabulous trip to Kidepo and Semliki, but the experience at Bwindi with the Nkuringo group of Gorillas has taken the cake. A young female gorilla approached the 'matriarch' of the Weldon clan. Mama Weldon backed up as she had been coached to do by the UWA rangers. The gorilla followed, so Mrs Weldon backed up again. She could back up no further as there was another gorilla behind her. She sat still and looked at the ground. The gorilla then reached out and gently grabbed Mama's hand. This is a no-no of course, but it happened, and the rangers couldn't stop it.
The gorilla clasped her hand in both of hers and brought it up to her nose, inhaling gently. Rangers were cautiously telling everyone to back up some more. The gorilla then grabbed the hand of Mama's daughter and sniffed, then did the same to the other daughter, Mrs Weldon's sister and her two children. This continued to the other sister and her son. One by one she observed & sniffed and satisfied, she moved off. Later, the rangers decided that the gorilla group were aware that they were in the presence of another family and this very rare event was like one family greeting another on an outing. Just as the viewing experience was drawing to a close, the final coup de grace: a young gorilla reached up and pinched Mama's bottom.
Chitabe Lediba Rebuild
A refurbishment of Chitabe Lediba is currently underway. The tents will be as spacious as those at Chitabe Camp, each with unique styling, and even more emphasis on privacy and improved ventilation. Other enhancements include a new pool, state-of-the-art kitchen and an enlarged main area which will include 'private corner' seating for guests. Behind the scenes improvements will include a new solar installation to supply the staff village with 'green' lighting. This is phase one of Chitabe's solar project.
Xigera Camp Refurbishment
Some exciting upgrades are scheduled for Xigera during February and March 2011, including: - Building a new star deck and footbridge - renovating the main area to maximise views - extending the bathroom areas of all rooms.
Off-track driving at Kalahari Plains Camp
As with any camp situated in one of the national parks in Botswana (Mombo and Xigera for example), we adhere to the park restrictions which include no night-drives and no off-road driving. This is applicable to Kalahari Plains as well and while the area and scenery is spectacular and game viewing can be great, there may not be opportunities to get very close to wildlife while on an activity due to Central Kalahari Game Reserve regulations. This should be taken into consideration when the camp is booked for keen photographers, who need to be made aware of this prior to arrival.
Abu Camp Closure Dates - Amended
The refurbishing of Abu Camp has been slightly delayed until 2 April 2011. So, as at present, all new and existing bookings will be accommodated at Seba Camp at a reduced rate, while still including the elephant experience.
This refurbishment will bring new accommodations for Abu guests comprising six beautiful, decked Bedouin-style structures. They are larger than the original Abu tents and will include an entrance leading into the bedroom and seating area. The bathrooms will feature both internal and external facilities, hand-finished to the highest standards.
All-new DumaTau Camp
Whilst the original DumaTau Camp will re-open on 01 March 2011 following some maintenance, we are excited to announce that we are in the process of building an all-new DumaTau Camp which will open a few kilometers away from the current location overlooking the picturesque Osprey Lagoon. A confirmed opening date and further details will be announced later in 2011.
Ruckomechi Camp 2011 Opening Date
Ruckomechi Camp will be opening from 1 April instead of 1 May this year, closing 20 November, to take advantage of the increased demand for Zimbabwe. If the rains prevent the Mana West airstrip from being used, then guests will fly from Victoria Falls to Chirundu and be transferred by boat to the camp.
Horse-riding in the Sossusvlei Area
This highly enjoyable activity, taking in the beautiful desert area, is possible from any of the camps in Kulala Wilderness Reserve and is offered in the immediate vicinity.
Wilderness Air News
A Cessna 208 Caravan is now permanently stationed at Victoria Falls to assist in better servicing increased guest volumes into Hwange and Mana Pools National Parks.
Hot Air Balloon Safari
In 2010, Wilderness Safaris launched the first hot air balloon safari experience on the expansive Busanga Plains, Zambia. It met with such success that it remains a key activity in the Kafue region for the upcoming year.
This unique experience is available from 1st August until the end of the season in mid-November and in addition, is offered complementary with any 3 night stay at either Busanga Plains, Shumba or Kapinga camps.
The Garden Cottage has been completely raised. In May we plan to open the new and improved version of the much loved family hideaway. Two full sized bedrooms, a private lounge and dining room and an exclusive plunge pool will ensure that a family can relax not only in complete privacy but also whilst enjoying luxurious comfort. Of course every single Tongabezi activity will be available and your valet and the activities manager will happily ensure that your visit to the area includes the most exciting excursions.
Easter at Tongabezi
Easter is a demonstration that life is essentially spiritual and timeless. Concepts that are naturally at home in Tongabezi. Our 2011 Easter program includes a special breakfast on the banks of the Zambezi, a shuttle to a Livingstone Church service, a hosted lunch at the seventh gorge, afternoon tea, a traditional Easter egg hunt and dinner to the background of the Tongabezi African Choir.
Special Children's Program at Easter
Starting on Friday 22 April 2011 all our smaller guests will meet their personal valets. The weekend will be a creative carnival of fun with indoor activities ranging from building toys to drumming lessons and traditional African games. Specialized bush walks outdoors; teaching kids to track spoor, survive in the bush and learn about trees, birds and nature along the way. Kids from 9 years old can also join in a selection of river activities including canoeing with a qualified guide.
Kaya Mawa, Likoma Island
A welcome break after the end of the first year of the new Kaya Mawa. We have been thrilled by the feedback, particularly heartening from those who returned to Kaya for a second or third time and loved the changes.
Despite closing for a couple of months (reopen 15 Mar) nothing ever stops. We are busy redesigning the old Honeymoon Island. The plan is to have some lovely deck areas which everyone can go and enjoy, and also a secluded spot specially set aside for massage and therapies on the rocks right by the water's edge.
Meawhile Ndomo House is in the final phase, landscaping, finishing the pool and connecting the water and electricity is all that remains. It is already proving to be a popular addition to Kaya Mawa for 2011, opening 01 April.
Finally we are very excited that Ulendo Safaris will be starting up scheduled flights to Likoma linking us to Mfuwe, a great way to visit Norman Carr Safaris, at a much reduced rate to last year and offering great discounts to Likoma for those staying just that little bit longer with us.
Kalamu Trails in Zambia
Set in the Luamfwa Concession in the southern sector of South Luangwa National Park, Kalamu Trails explores the Luangwa River and its diverse environs. With some slight recent enhancements to the route it is proving to be an exhilarating walking trail. Guests begin at Kalamu Lagoon Camp for one night before going on to explore the untouched northern banks of the Luangwa River on foot. Nights are spent at the unique Kalamu Star-bed Camp and Chinengwe Riverbed Camp.
Kafue's Rivers & Plains - Enhancement for 2011
Lufupa Bush Camp, opening in 2011, is situated on the lush banks of the Kafue River at the pretty Kafwala Rapids, downstream of Lufupa Tented Camp, which it will replace on this Discoverer Exploration. We are thrilled to be able to develop a camp and area suitable for our Explorations as well as our FIT guests and look forward to the 2011 season.
The all-new Delta Adventurer will appeal to those looking to explore the Okavango Delta in Botswana, the largest inland delta system in the world. This is an exciting new adventure where you'll be exploring this ecosystem by foot, traditional mokoro and game drives.
The first camp, Xigera Mokoro Trails, is set up on an island in the remote Xigera area, exposing the permanently flooded inner Delta. Here the islands and serene waterways enable up close and personal encounters with birdlife and wildlife. A light aircraft charter takes one to to Khwai Discoverer Camp just north of the Khwai River where woodland meets floodplains, wetlands and grasslands. The area is home to an array of large mammals and predators.
Migration Routes Enhancement
All Migration Routes until 31 May 2011 will be upgraded to Toka Leya Camp and from 01 June to 31 December 2011 to either Toka Leya or The River Club - all at no additional cost.
North Island Update - February 2011 Jump
to North Island
Kings Pool Camp update - February 2011 Jump
to Kings Pool Camp
As the sun slowly sets at the close of another great African afternoon, a range of vibrant colours reflect off the great Linyanti River as it leisurely meanders downstream. Just before the colours disappear completely, the tranquil water surface explodes, and the last afternoon light sparkles off of each water drop as a hippo breaks the surface in front to breath.
Most guests to Kings Pool will agree that hippo are part of the Kings Pool package. They are often seen breaking the surface of the waters in front of camp, exiting the water at sunset and returning to the still morning water at sunrise.
Hippo males have been fairly aggressive towards other males this month and two hippos have died from male territorial clashes. These carcasses have been located close to camp on two separate occasions, attracting numerous vultures and other carrion eating birds as well as hyaenas, jackals and on the second carcass - the lion.
Another recent addition to the Kings Pool package is a resident male lion. Guests have heard his majestic roar calling his lioness and cubs on most mornings and evenings. These contact calls have been so close on occasion that they can be heard above the cracking and rumbling of thunder and lightning during a typical summer storm. This male lion has also attracted the attention of another two males form the concession next door and they have been making brief visits to the Kings Pool area. The Kings Pool lioness and cubs have also been playing their part in entertaining our guests this month. The cubs always put on a good show as they pounce, run, stalk, bite, and play attack each other - fun, fun, fun!
Elephant are never far from the area, with breeding herds slowly moving through camp and the big males moving around without a care in the world. Our guests this month have had the pleasure of spending an afternoon on the Queen Silvia - the Kings Pool double-storey barge - and witnessing elephant crossing the great Linyanti River. From the upper deck of the Queen Silvia, looking down on a small herd of elephant swimming, playing, splashing and at some points fully submerged with only their trunks out of the water for air is truly a magnificent sighting - just add a gin and tonic and a beautiful sunset and life cannot get much better.
A trip to Kings Pool would not be complete without seeing a leopard or two. Our guides found male leopards, female leopards, climbing leopards, leopards with kills, shy leopards, sociable leopards, young leopards and old leopards during the course of the month.
General game has been out and about on the concession. Most guests have returned from morning or afternoon game drives having seen giraffe in big numbers as well as good sightings of impala, waterbuck, lechwe and warthog just to name a few.
Unusual and rare sightings this month have included roan antelope, cheetah, wild dog, Osprey and Bat Hawk.
So all in all, quite an exciting wildlife month here at Kings Pool and we have a good feeling that times are going to get even more interesting. We are eagerly waiting to tell more great tales and adventures of our great camp and the surrounding area next month, until then cheers from:-
Managers - Warren, Big Ben, Lindi, Lops and training manager Kriss
Guides - Khan, Diye, O.D. and Lemme
Photos: Thanks to O.D. our guide
DumaTau Camp update - February 2011 Jump
to DumaTau Camp
Camp News: Management Induction Course
February saw DumaTau spring to life again with the arrival of 15 managers eager to be inducted into the Wilderness Safaris Botswana family. Some managers had been with Wilderness for many years, others were brand new, and all were ready to share valuable experience and expertise.
With the help of the Wilderness Training Department, we were exposed to all aspects of management, from administration, to wildlife and birding, to vehicle recovery and maintenance. The days were long and a great deal of information was disseminated, but this group of managers was up to the task. We changed tyres (all punctures were of course planned for learning purposes...), examined Land Rover engines and tried our utmost to identify all the local flora and fauna.
While two weeks does not an expert make, we each came out the other end much the wiser! A few amateur birders emerged from the woodwork as well as some keen mechanics and a professional singer or two. A large part of the course was dedicated to guest speakers representing all of the company's departments, including staff welfare, staff and guest health, operations, administration, branding and training. 2011 will be our "year of service" and the air was abuzz with fresh ideas and a renewed commitment to the standards and practices that make Wilderness unique.
The course was not restricted to the makeshift lecture hall. Hours were spent driving and walking in the bush. For those not based in the Linyanti Concession, this was a perfect opportunity to meet the residents that draw visitors to the area. The DumaTau male leopard provided the greatest excitement. The group was preoccupied discovering the inner workings of a pool pump and the intricacies of a vehicle engine, only to be alerted by the persistent alarm calls of monkeys and baboons. Minutes after Tony predicted that a leopard was walking through camp, we spotted the mature male emerging from the woodland adjacent to the DumaTau floodplain. We jumped in the vehicles and were able to follow him as he walked along the water's edge, posed on a termite mound and finally settled on the branch of a large leadwood tree for a nap. A second group found him again after lunch under a big jackalberry tree and he proved the perfect photographic subject. It is not often that one has the opportunity to spend such a long time with a mobile leopard, and we consider ourselves very lucky.
Other sightings included the Gymnogene (African Harrier-Hawk) and the Citrine Wagtail. On a drive home from Kings Pool Camp we were privy to a haphazard mating attempt by the surviving DumaTau male lion and one of the Linyanti females, who were joined by the second Linyanti female and her young cub. Just a few nights later guides were alerted by lion calls not far from camp, which led to the discovery of two big nomadic males south-east of DumaTau. These males are regularly seen patrolling their territory between Kings Pool and Selinda Camps.
As always, the camp itself has been the setting for more than one special sighting. A female leopard arrived in camp last week, just in time to welcome the elephants back. One of our regular bulls was spotted a few times by Tents 4 and 5, and a breeding herd surprised us behind the camp kitchen. With the return of rains this week, we look forward to welcoming guests into a lush camp pumping with wildlife action!
Many thanks to Tony, Kath and Nikki, the Training Department, guest speakers, and Kago and the DumaTau staff team for hosting a wonderful induction and treating us to their warm hospitality. We are confident that all the managers who participated in the course returned to their perspective camps with inspiration for a productive 2011.
Thanks to Kago "KG" Tlhalerwa, Helena Atkinson, Cayley Christos and Abiella Schneider-Friedman
Savuti Camp update - February 2011 Jump
to Savuti Camp
The first three weeks of February were unseasonably dry and hardly any rain fell at all during this period. Some rains and cooler weather returned toward the end of February, however due to the results of the first three weeks the roads becoming quite dry, and many of the seasonal pans becoming quite shallow and muddy. Elephant viewing was good through the month as a consequence, and at times elephant densities were similar to what we see in the dry season. Some herds were close to camp, but most were seen along the Linyanti River.
We enjoyed some good sightings of all the major carnivores, with the single male cheetah that frequents the area showing up twice, once on the airfield and once near Dish Pan. He appears to be doing well despite the loss of his coalition partner some time ago.
There were a few lion sightings that took place. Most were of the lioness known as the Savuti Female and her two sub-adult male offspring. For February they seemed to be spending most of their time to the west of Savuti, and we found them eating a kudu quite close to Zibadianja Lagoon. We are hoping they will cross the river and move a little closer to their old haunts around Savuti in the months ahead. The Linyanti Pride was also seen on a few occasions, usually to the north of camp.
The Linyanti wild dog pack put in some good showings for us too. All four pups are still alive, and the pack is maintaining its size of 11 animals in total. They were finding it a little harder to hunt than in the earlier months of the summer, when baby impala were easy pickings. They caught a baby kudu close to the Linyanti early in the month that we were able to see. Late in the month they moved east and out of our game drive area.
Spotted hyaena sightings remain quite consistent, especially in the area along the Linyanti.
Undoubtedly the star of our month in terms of the carnivores was the DumaTau male leopard. He was seen a number of times, two of these occasions found him mating with females. In another incident we watched him attack an adult female warthog. As he was trying to subdue the warthog, her two adult companions attacked the leopard, one from each side, butting him with their tusks in his side. He let go of his victim, but after they had all fled, managed to follow the wounded warthog and finish her off. Aside from a bit of a limp, he appears to have come through the warthog attack in one piece and was seen again a few days later again hunting warthogs. He obviously has a taste for them despite their dangerous defences.
The Savute Channel itself is maintaining quite a high level. On some days there are hippo in front of camp, and waterlilies are growing along the channel in profusion. Carmine Bee-eaters added colour to the grassy edges of the channel.
Anna Butterfield and Grant Atkinson
Zarafa Camp update - February 2011 Jump
to Zarafa Camp
February has been a month of change in terms of the weather. We have experienced hot dry days with temperatures soaring between 36 and 38 degrees Celsius, overcast days, drizzling mist-like rain and thunderstorms lighting up our evening skies. We've received just over 20mm of rainfall this month which is quite unusual for this time of the year because February is a month in which we usually expect heavy rains.
The most exciting news of the month was the re-appearance of the female cheetah with her two cubs that we have got to know so well. They had not been seen since early January and we were not sure where they had gone - perhaps along the Savute or towards Kwando. They spent a couple of days with us around camp before heading off again.
The smaller lion pride consisting of one adult female and two sub-adult males were seen every day for a week this month. One afternoon, at around tea time, our guests and Zarafa staff watched them for over an hour hunting some red lechwe from the main deck. The next day one of our guides found them again close to camp at Shumba Pan where they were trying to hunt a wounded sub-adult hippo with no luck. The hippo went back into the water and they spent the whole day waiting for it to leave the pan. However later that night the rest of the hippo's pod came back and the lion had no choice but to move away.
The Selinda Pride has been pretty scarce this month compared to January when we saw them often. The sighting we did get of them was near the Selinda Spillway where 11 of them were seen feeding on a hippo for few days.
Leopard sightings were excellent this month, as we saw our entire resident leopard compliment. Two of our adult females were seen together one morning and they were challenging each other and marking their territory. Guests enjoyed the experience for about 20 minutes before the cats parted and went off in different directions. As you know leopards are solitary animals so seeing two adult females together is very rare.
The Selinda Pack of wild dogs were seen only once this month along the tree line road north of Zarafa very close to the boat station. The pups are growing rapidly and getting bigger and bigger by the day.
As always, the elephant are around. A number of breeding herds have begun returning to Zarafa and spending time in camp. On one occasion, an old bull decided the best place to feed was between the office and the staff village, he was in camp the whole day and night and he ended up lying down where he had been browsing. He blocked the pathway that the staff needed to use to go to bed, so instead the staff ended up walking through the bushes to get to their homes.
Selinda Camp update - February 2011 Jump
to Selinda Camp
Weather and Landscape
The Botswana summer continues with warm afternoons, but as the year progresses the evenings have been getting enjoyably cooler. The scattered clouds brought some rains but nothing compared to the levels of January, so the Selinda Spillway has dropped slightly. Often a cool breeze picks up in the afternoon, which passes through the camp providing a freshness ideal for post-game drive relaxation. Some pans are quickly drying up due to this rise in temperature, and it is in these pans where we see the African Fish Eagles and Hamerkops gathering for easy meals of exposed catfish and frogs. The common wild fig and the African mangosteen tree fruits are ripe, thus providing more food for the baboons.
February has been unusual in that it has provided sightings of some of our rarer mammals. Cheetah ranked as one of the most popular sightings of the month, for the guests that is. For the lion, the cheetah just brought about infuriation.
One afternoon we followed a solitary cheetah as he scent-marked just about every tree he came across. At a certain tree that he chose not to mark he instead jumped onto it and climbed into the branches before jumping back down quite quickly. He had clearly spotted something he wanted to hunt. Crouched down he was preparing himself for a kill, however the kudu sensed his presence and all scattered and alarm called as they fled.
On another occasion we spotted the same cheetah rambling along before we lost him to the Kalahari apple leaf bush. We continued our game drive and drove round to a drier part of the channel where we came across a pride of lion. The female had just spotted two warthog grazing alongside the channel and as soon as she gave the pride a signal they abruptly moved into stealth mode and formed a horseshoe shape to trap the warthogs. We were so sure we were about to witness a kill when suddenly our cheetah appeared from out of the bush making his way towards the warthog, completely unaware of their presence. He startled the little hogs and thinking that the danger was only coming from the cheetah's side, they stretched into full speed right into the lion. The lion, by this point has lost their rag with the cheetah and instead set their sights on him, chasing him away while the two lucky warthogs skipped off into the bush.
Hippo have been exceptionally active this month with a lot of action as males vie for territory. On an afternoon drive we found a hippo pool full of blood. Two hippo had just finished fighting and the medium-sized one was seriously injured. Two days after this incident we went back to the pan to find the hippo dead. We assume that he bled to death. The vultures circled above and their presence in the area attracted the Selinda Pride - it is here where we saw the whole pride of 16 feasting on the carcass.
As ever we have had frequent sightings of the Selinda Pride. We are extremely happy that all the young cubs of 2010 are flourishing and surviving into sub adulthood. They tend to follow a circuit around the concession providing a good diversification of game for us. As soon as they move further north or south the doors open up for more sightings of leopard, cheetah and the highly endangered wild dog. These sightings can, unusually, be experienced all in one day.
Two guests who had just arrived at the airstrip were expected for brunch immediately after their transfer. They finally arrived four hours later having seen a leopard taking an ostrich. This is not only uncommon food for these cats, but was an unusual time for them to hunt - at midday. Having killed it, the leopard started burying the carcass in an attempt to hide the smell from scavengers. However as she started eating a hyaena arrived and chased the cat off her prize. She initially climbed up a tree out of harm's way and then as she watched the hyaena drag the ostrich off, the leopard decided to chase the kill. Eventually giving up she returned to find that there had been some meat left behind in the fracas, so she picked up what was left and headed out into the open through the long grass. Normally a leopard would take her kill up a tree for safe storage, however she clearly had alternative motives for her risk - a set of cubs hidden somewhere.
The guests then headed back to camp, but were clearly more interested in seeing what else was out there so they quickly returned to their vehicle only to be rewarded with a sighing of a cheetah and her five cubs and then wild dog hunting later in the evening.
Sydney the elephant is back in camp! He is pretty calm and came to say hello over dinner a couple of times during the month before kicking over one of our flood light in what appeared to be a show of defiance. He spent a couple of mornings at Selinda allowing for some fantastic close-up photography for the guests.
Finally, it was as if the pair of Wattled Cranes knew that it was Valentine's Day as they flew in to feed on the Spillway on this special day. There could not have been a more fitting bird or animal that reflected the romance in the air. Both extremely elegant and monogamous life partners, our guests smiled at the irony as we enjoyed watching them from camp.
The Selinda Hide continues to be a great new asset to the camp. With regular use during bush brunches and sundowners it seems to have an incredibly relaxing effect on our guests. One could attribute it to its extreme tranquillity or to the glass of wine which is being consumed as we watch and listen to the hippo and other wildlife busy around us.
Camps Update - February 2011
• No report this month.
Lagoon camp Jump
• Although closed for rebuild, the staff onsite have not had a shortage of visitors of the four-legged variety. The resident male elephants have been in to inspect their favourite trees, and to make sure that everything is where they left it. They appeared happy to discover that the fruiting marula was exactly where they left it, though the tent it used to be next to has changed somewhat in shape. A small amount of confusion occurred in regards to the new pool deck – a large elephant managed to squeeze himself through a two metre gap between the edge of the deck and a large tree, which he then had to turn around and backtrack through.
• Lions were seen regularly strolling along the road outside of camp, and heard even more often.
• Best sighting for the time the camp was closed however, was of wild dogs. The builders were quite surprised to see an impala charging through where the main area was about to be built, swiftly followed by a group of dogs. Sadly for the impala, it didn't manage to make it to room 8….
Lebala camp Jump
• Four lionesses were seen hunting zebra this month, sadly not successful when we saw them, but perhaps they were later?! Three brother cheetahs that were seen several times this month had obviously had more luck than the lionesses, and looked well fed and relaxed when they were found. A little later in the month they managed to pull down a large male lechwe – quite an impressive feat for cheetahs which are the 'lightweights' of the cat family.
• Quite early for this time of year, but the elephant herds have begun moving back from the mopane woodlands into the more open areas. This is great for our viewing – some of the herds group to 80 – 100 individuals – but does beg the question as to why they are here now rather than later? This may be something to do with the large amount of rain that we had in January and February – this promotes grass growth, so a change of diet from the mopane vegetation could be the reason.
• A great sighting of the Selinda pack of 12 wild dogs was seen towards the end of February – a tricky time of year to follow dogs if there has been a lot of rain. A hunt ended successfully with the dogs pulling down an impala – it's a matter of minutes for 12 dogs to kill and completely eat an impala – a much faster process than any of the other predators.
• The star predators this month were the raptors: enjoying the excess of insects – and the smaller birds that were feeding on them – the late afternoon game drives saw many of the larger raptors soaring overhead, looking for the chance of a meal. The bests sighting this month was that of a martial eagle (the largest raptor) that managed to kill a comb duck (formerly known as a knob-billed duck).
• General game sightings were good all around, with the addition of a herd of Eland numbering over 50 (huge but generally shy animals) as well as two sightings of roan antelope.
Kwara & Little Kwara camps Jump
& Little Kwara camps
• Cheeky elephant herds arrived in force, with the little ones in tow. The mums do their best to keep the kids in check, but the baby elephants antics are always cause for amusement. Afternoon and morning game drives have had regular sightings of these herds – a keystone species for Botswana. Luckily, the large herds are not so comfortable in camp, so we only have to contend with the odd male, who comes in for the fruiting figs and marulas. It would be a little more awkward to escort guests back to their tents around 100 elephants, rather than just one….
• The seven male lions that are often seen together in the Kwara concession – normally, it's rare to see so many males together – were having a bad 'mane' day when a fight broke out amongst them. Likely to be just a testing of each others strength, rather than a serious dispute over territory, it was still an impressive event. More than the actual sight of them fighting, it's the noise that is terrifying. The deep guttural roars that accompany a swipe of the paw reverberate around the bush, and the make the game drive vehicle shake when its at exactly the right pitch. The lions themselves couldn't care less about the onlookers – probably just as well!
• A little smaller and cuddlier than seven male lions, two one-month old cubs were also spotted this month. Being so young, the lioness is going to keep a close eye on them, and we are only likely to see more of them when they reach about 6 or 8 weeks.
• February is a great time for birds in the concession – particularly the last couple of years where flood waters have not receeded much. It's a good time for them to stock up on insects and seeds before commencing their flights back to their winter homes – a summer holiday in Botswana doesn't sound like a bad thing…. The woodland kingfishers – the most vociferous of the summer migrants – start winding down in their calls this month, and by the end of next month, we'll all be missing them.
• Leopard was seen several times this month – including with a cub. It was great to see the mother and cub totally relaxed – this bodes well for the future, as cubs pick up on how their mother's react, and if she is not disturbed by the vehicle, the cub will also be completely trustful of the cars as it grows up.
• Lions and cheetahs were regular seen in February – including lion cubs as well.
• You couldn't go wrong with the general game at Nxai Pan in February – huge numbers of zebras, mixing in with the oryx and wildebeest. Elephants continue to make their presence felt, especially at the water holes, with reckless spraying of mud over themselves and anything/one nearby.
• Although we did receive some rain in Tau Pan, compared with the Delta areas, where the flood waters are starting to creep down, the Kalahari will start getting drier and drier from now on. February is a lovely time of the year to enjoy the last bits of greenery, and certainly the animals do too. As things dry up, the antelope will find it harder and harder to find good sources of nutrition – hard to imagine now that in six months time everyone will be desperately awaiting the rain.
• Sightings remain good for general game – from the large to the small – including the manic ground squirrels that dash around the ground, to the elegant oryx and red hartebeest.
• The lions remain favourites – two males and two females that frequent the water hole at Tau Pan. Several good cheetah sightings, close to Tau Pan and further afield, including a female relaxing in the shade of acacia trees, non-chalantly observing a herd of springbok walk by.
Mombo Camp update
- February 2011 Jump
to Mombo Camp
Weather and Landscape
The water levels around the Mombo area resemble those of the previous year's peak inundation. When one analyses the graphs depicting the inflow of water coming into the Okavango, this can be attributed to the tremendous amount of rain the region received over January. In February, however, we received relatively little rain - a few overcast days interspersed with some glorious sunshine was the trend.
As the waters arrive, there comes the delicious smell of loam and earth mingling. Smell is the strongest memory sense, and year after year the same scent brings about the intoxicating anticipation of the life these waters will bring.
February has been the month of the leopard - starting off with the astonishing discovery of Motsumi, the male from the Jao area who was collared almost two years ago. He has made an incredible journey (taking over a year) to cross the permanent swamp to get to the Mombo area - a feat that would have involved not a small amount of swimming! His collar was removed by vet Rob Jackson. He has not been sighted again recently, but we hope the guides will find him once he settles down to a new territory. Read the full story here.
We have finally managed to get a good look at the shy male leopard, and have now named him Lebadi - meaning "scar" in Setswana - just looking at the photo of him you can see why! This huge male was seen around camp for a day, in which time he made three kills - two impala and a male red lechwe.
Legadema was seen mating with another male leopard. As yet unidentified, he is a large specimen who has proved to be very relaxed around the vehicles. Sergeant, Legadema's brother, was also seen looking very strong, relaxed and healthy. Slim Lady and her cub continue to be seen in the Roller Road area, often with kills in trees.
The Western Pride, with the maned lioness, have been forced to move further north onto the edge of the Mathatha Pride territory near Drift Molapo due to the rising waters in the floodplains. Their three small cubs have been seen a couple of times, and appear to be doing well. The solitary male that spends time with them was seen mating with one of the females near Croc Corner.
The Mathatha Pride are also seen regularly in their territory and have been hunting zebra regularly. The Western Boys, the magnificent males associated with this pride, have also been around often.
The Mporota Pride are seen frequently to the west of camp. The three youngsters are doing well, although their mother tends to keep them away from the main pride. The Jao Boys, two males, have also been in the area.
Our lone wild dog with her jackal "pack" has moved to the Siberiana Road area, and has provided some exciting viewing of her hunts. These are usually over very quickly, as the attendant hyaenas are quick to grab what meat remains as soon as they catch up with her. Her interactions with the jackals are fascinating to watch, as their behaviour is more wild dog-like in character as they greet her and encourage each other to move into hunting mode.
The old hyaena den that was abandoned over the wet season has once again become a temporary home. The two youngsters who were born there previously have grown into inquisitive little characters have been seen hanging around the area, this time with a tiny new sibling.
The large herds of elephants that passed through the area last month have thinned out considerably once again, although we do have regular sightings of solitary bulls.
The usual abundance of plains game never fails to delight us - the floodplains are filled with red lechwe grazing on new shoots in the shallow water, the treeline and woodland areas abound with zebra, impala, kudu, giraffe, buffalo and wildebeest.
One morning we came upon a Martial Eagle upon a kill. The prey looked like a juvenile Spur-winged Goose. We managed to spend quite some time observing the eagle as it fed on the carcass, giving us a chance to admire this magnificent bird from up close. Other bird highlights include Wattled Cranes - sometimes in groups of up to eight - Painted Snipes, Steppe and Wahlberg's Eagles and flocks of Ground Hornbills.
Mombo Camp closed for a few days for maintenance, and we had a "smashing" time at the old wooden bar, which has now been replaced with a beautiful new brass creation.
This month we bid a sad farewell to Gordon and Tanya, who are leaving Mombo but will remain with the company, based in Maun. We wish them every success with their new posts.
We are delighted to welcome three new staff members to Mombo: Attorney Vasco has been appointed the General Manager in Gordon's place, and we look forward to having his energy and passion a part of our team. Katie Horner and Claire Tinsley have also joined us - Katie from her previous post at Vumbura and Claire as a new addition to the Wilderness Safaris family.
Thanks to Ryan Green and Marko Simic
Xigera Camp update
- February 2011 Jump
to Xigera Camp
Climate and floods
We received a total of 68mm of rain in February, most of which fell during two heavy thunderstorms. Overall we have had superb February weather with highs of around 35°C and lows of 24°C.
The seasonal influx of waters has now begun - almost three weeks earlier than last year! The water in the channel is over 2.2 metres deep and the floodplain in front of camp is filling up rapidly and looking absolutely superb.
Xigera is a hive of activity at the moment with highly skilled craftsmen moving around the camp like an army of worker bees.
After closing on 16 February for a three-week camp refurbishment, the action has been non-stop with a number of superb upgrades underway. These include a star deck, a beautiful new bar area overlooking the channel, a general revamp of the main lounge, dining room area and guest rooms.
The most exciting news is that Xigera will be going completely green in the next few weeks. We will be switching off our diesel generators as we change over to renewable energy with the installation of a solar power plant that will produce 100% of the power requirements for Xigera.
As part of the improvements we are also constructing a brand new entrance bridge across the channel, which will replace Xigera's landmark bridge. Although the demolition of the existing bridge will mark the end of an era, it has become necessary as the water-levels have increased over the years.
The first part of the month, prior to our maintenance closure, once again offered some superb experiences with a number of great sightings of Maadipala, our resident leopard, and her cub who is a deft climber and is often a beacon that guides us to the small family. Maadipala was very accommodating after killing an impala close to the airstrip as she allowed everyone a wonderful view of her and her cub as they ate their feast.
With the waters rising so early this year, we have moved the boats back to the camp, and have already been enjoying boating activities directly from camp. The final few swimming trips at Xigera Lagoon took place before the waters covered the remaining sand banks.
We are ready to start our full-day boat trips to Chiefs Island where we look forward to spectacular scenery and wonderful game viewing as we cruise through over 60 kilometres of pristine floodplains, and papyrus-lined channels.
Although we have missed the continual stream of guests for half of the month we have taken the opportunity to stop and enjoy the wonderful bird life around the camp. The Woodland Kingfishers have continued to be vocal and prove to be a challenge for anyone trying to capture their wonderful wing displays on camera. The deep call of the Pel's Fishing Owl fill the night, as do the Fiery-necked Nightjars with their "Good Lord Deliver Us" call.
A beautiful male Bataleur was seen feeding on prey in the road. The eagle, in prime condition, remained on the ground in spectacular light for a long while before taking to the skies.
We look forward to welcoming guests to our freshly revamped camp when it opens again on 10 March.
Staff in Camp
Mike & Anne Marchington, Julian & Nina, Lops and Lindi.
Guides: Ace, Onx, Barobi, Teko & Luke
Chitabe Camp update
- February 2011 Jump
to Chitabe Camp
Vumbura Plains Camp update
- February 2011 Jump
to Vumbura Plains Camp
Landscape and Water Levels
The arrival of the annual influx of water in the Okavango changes everything. This year the waters are already flowing high and fast but this could also be a combination of the plentiful summer rains which we have received and the gargantuan influx of water we had last year which never quite receded.
In a wonderland that positively vibrates with life, it should come as no surprise that even this inundation has a pulse; it is as much a living thing as the creatures which depend on it for survival. Arriving in two distinct surges during the year, the timing and relative size of the waters shape much of what will happen in the Delta.
We believe we experienced the first surge this month, which is in line with that of last year. If we continue to follow the same pattern we will get the second influx in May.
The transformation of the region is something to behold, the deeper channels have begun to spill over and fan out across the floodplains. Taking the path of least resistance, in many places the waters have flowed along some of our game drive tracks.
The wildlife of the Vumbura area is quick to exploit the new opportunities that arise. Hamerkops patrol the fringes of the water, leaving prints in damp sand as they stalk hapless frogs. Small, brave fish venture out into the floodplains risking life and limb of becoming prey to one of our flying friends.
It can be a wonderful surprise to see a monitor lizard or small crocodile swimming across the vehicle path. These vehicles are almost as well-designed for the life aquatic as any of these reptiles, snorting through their snorkels as they push through the water. They allow us to watch herds of elephant crossing stretches of water, pausing to dip their trunks for a cooling draught, or to see the swoop of a fish eagle, talons trailing as it stretches to snatch an unwary fish that has strayed too close to the surface.
Animals that are equally at home in water and on land are very much in evidence at the moment. Vast herds of buffalo carve their own highways through the grasses and sedges as they advance, trailed by small clouds of cattle egrets and cackling oxpeckers. As a leopard springs into action just a moment too soon, alert lechwe run for the safety of the water, crashing through the shallows as they power away from danger. The leopard is left in their spray to ruefully watch them run.
Every animal and bird we see now is reflected, or splashing through, water. Mirror images of lion striding purposefully along drowned game trails, or each droplet of water squirted through an elephant trunk is caught by the last ray of sunset.
As the waters advance, they tend to concentrate the game in areas. We can lose access to some of the more peripheral areas of our concession, but the shrinking dry areas now contain an abundance of game.
Cheetah tracks have been sighted suggesting that our resident male cheetah may soon be stalking closer to Vumbura, and the wild dog are making their presence known, turning the tables on a clan of hyaena that had been harassing them. The hyaenas soon retreat before the assault of the far more nimble and agile wild dogs nip their backsides and bruise their egos. As surely as the waters will continue to return, the hyaenas will be back.
It is going to be an incredible winter here in northern Botswana, so be sure not to miss it. With very best wishes from your February Vumbura team: Virgil Geach, Keedo Sebere, Britt Twyford-Vaughan, and Wayne Vaughan.
Little Vumbura Camp update
- February 2011 Jump
to Little Vumbura Camp
After a very rainy January and an enormous storm right at the start of the month, February proved be rather dry, hot and sunny. This is a wonderful escape for all our guests coming from cold winters in Europe and North America.
A good sense of smell is invaluable for a guide! The smell of dead prey is always luring, although hardly ever alluring. Despite the fact that a large male lion was lying with his rather bulky zebra prey right by the road, with the bush being is so dense it would not have been noticed had the smell not been present. From here the sense of sight takes over and guests marvelled at spending time with one of the males of the East Pride savouring and guarding his prize for several days.
There were also plenty of other lion to be spotted including many females with their playful cubs which kept everyone well entertained. A number of leopard sightings have been recorded, including one leopard caught on film trying to catch a porcupine. Another exciting predator out and about was the wild dog, which is always a treat to see. Even the elusive sable antelope made himself known throughout the month. One was seen near the airstrip, relaxed and none too bothered by our presence.
Elephant and hippo have also delighted the guests in the past few weeks. A male elephant was observed standing with his forelegs on a termite mound so that he could scrape the bark off a tree with his tusks and feast away scarcely acknowledging the wide-eyed gazers in the safari vehicle not twenty metres away.
Staff in Camp
Guides: Rain Robson, Kay Bosigo, Sam Setabosha and our trainee guide, Moreri. Management: Brett & Roxanne Sinclair, Precious Boitumelo, Cara Moroney
Duba Plains Camp update
- February 2011 Jump
to Duba Plains Camp
Banoka Bush Camp update
- February 2011
Jacana Camp update
- February 2011 Jump
to Jacana Camp
The sun has been out the whole month with only two days of rain in which we received 30mm. Daily temperatures have been very pleasant, with the average daily maximum just less than 33 degrees Celsius and minimum temperatures at night cooling to an average of 22 degrees.
The early mornings are beautiful with a light breeze coming from the east as is normal for this time of the year.
Wildlife and the Environs
Slowly trickling down the road, from the lowest point filling every crevice and pathway the water slowly spreads through the floodplains. Mice, snakes and insects move to higher ground, along with other mammals. As nature works, the movement of these smaller animals attracts larger predators looking for an easy meal.
This inflow of water also causes the large grey elephant herds to slowly make their way south to their winter feeding grounds. Every year they visit their favourite stopovers on their long journey. Many of the older elephant seem to enjoy a respite at Jacana Island. They go about their feeding here exactly as they would in any other location. They enjoy the richness of the fruit trees in the form of figs, palm nuts and long grasses that have remained untouched during the summer months. It comes as no surprise to us when we hear the slow melodious sloshing of water and the unmistakable crack of branches breaking under the great weight of these elephants as they arrive on the island and spend their evenings feeding amongst the tents and other buildings at camp.
The lion sightings increase at this time of year. Most unusually, but an adaptation these great cats have made in the Delta, we see them swimming through the channels and across the floodplains in search of suitable prey. The late afternoon and early morning bird calls are broken by the crescendo of a lion roaring.
Between the water lilies a hippo rises and blows a cloud of steam to clear the water from his nostrils. Happily he spends the long days in the protection of the water waiting for dusk before making his long return journey to his nocturnal grazing grounds to fatten up. He returns once again before sunset to his daily aquatic shelter.
Special birds sighted this month included Pel's Fishing Owl, Wattled Crane, Pygmy Geese, African Finfoot, Rosy-throated Longclaw, Slaty Egret and African Skimmers to name but a few. Larger birds include African Harrier Hawks, Western-banded Snake Eagle and a large population of African Fish Eagles.
The family unit will soon be ready for its first occupants - we can't wait to see the finished product!
As usual we have had a varied amount of guests from all over the world coming to enjoy nature at its best. To all of you, we hope to see you soon again and to those prospective travellers we wait to welcome you to Africa at its most beautiful!
What a wonderful camp you run! Thanks for a wonderful stay. I may only have been a Wilderness Air pilot but you made me feel like a guest. Thanks Pieter & Danielle. Ps: the beef fillet was WORLD CLASS! - Graeme, Maun Botswana
The only bad thing is leaving! Wonderful staff and wonderful place. I felt very much at home and hope to come again. - Anne (Victoria, BC, Canada)
Words can't describe this very special place on earth. Thank you all for showing its beauty to me! - Megan (Columbus, OHIO, USA)
What a thrill to be back in the Delta and to watch the water rising. We love it! - Paul & Francoise (London, UK)
One of the most evocative settings we've seen in Africa... sunrise and sunset beyond compare - Thanks for your friendliness! - Pam & Steve (Seattle, USA)
Fabulous! Nature at its best. Saw the Pel's Fishing Owl and so much more! I could stay a month to write and take photographs. Thank you. Great food and hospitality too! - Charlotte (USA)
Staff in Camp
Managers: Pieter Ras and Danielle van den Berg
Guides: Joseph Basenyeng and Timothy Samue
Abu Camp update
- February 2011 Jump
to Abu Camp
Weather and Wildlife
Following the rains, the area is looking lush and green with plains game abundant on the short new growth. With the profusion of these mammals in the vicinity predators have followed swiftly and we have been spoilt for daily sightings of lion which are also heard roaring as they prowl their territories at night.
As the waters start to inundate the area once again, large breeding herds of elephant have made their way back into our concession and camp vicinity. They sometimes get very close to our herd while they are browsing. Big bulls have also been seen nearby which could mean the pitter patter of tiny feet in the future... future being the operative word as the elephant's long gestational period is 22 months! We will keep you posted.
The Elefun weekend that we hosted for Children in the Wilderness was a huge success. Children were able to explore the world of our wonderful herd and learn so much more from the mahouts and researchers about their roles. We would like to thank Kavango Air for donating the flights, and Passage to Africa who donated the funds for the weekend, thus making it possible for the children to attend.
Cathy, the matriarch of the herd, always so dependable in these situations, proved the greatest backdrop for class photographs. Even a few tears were shed as the children departed into the lowering sun on the final afternoon. These weekends are vital in securing the future of Botswana's natural habitats through our children.
To ensure that the guiding experience at Abu is maintained to the highest of standards, guides and mahouts alike completed a complex training course based in Maun. It generated a huge amount of enthusiasm from all of our staff, leaving them itching for our first guests to arrive.
As the camp building nears its completion and the final touches are added, we thoroughly look forward to welcoming our first guests into camp on 2 April.
update - February 2011 Jump
to Kwetsani Camp
Weather and Water Levels
We have had some spectacular lightning storms this month clearing up the skies for the following day. The water on the floodplains rose rapidly towards to the middle of the month indicating the first fluctuation for the year. Most roads are now flowing water channels and once again we are boating between the camp and the airstrip.
The magnificent herds of red lechwe are still in abundance and are seen each morning and evening grazing on the floodplain in front of camp. We have had sporadic visits by a number of elephant herds, but they seem to pass through without spending much time around camp. We have had a few elephant bulls visiting camp on a regular basis at nighttime. You can hear them breaking branches and chasing the hippos.
Although water is now in abundance, one hippo has stayed at Kwetsani and doesn't seem interested in exploring. He is seen regularly out and about in the evenings around camp and has taken to sleeping under the main building. Warthog and impala are still being seen on a regular basis and their little ones are growing up quickly. The two buffalo 'dagga boys', on the other hand, seem to have disappeared. They were seen a few times at the beginning of the month but have moved off for the time being. The rising water has probably sent them to higher ground.
Our laughing dogs, the hyaena, were heard calling and even left their footprints around the camp and in the staff village, but we have yet to see them.
Lion have remained elusive around camp, however they have made Jao Island their home for the time being and therefore we have seen them on a regular basis in this area. The male has also been seen on the Jao floodplains, seemingly calling for the females.
At this time of year the bird life in the Delta is fantastic. As water levels rise, the barbel (catfish) come out of the sand and mud and every Fish Eagle, Marabou and Saddle-billed Stork are there to take advantage of the prey. There have been as many as 20 Fish Eagles on one road feasting on the barbel and other fish. The smaller fishermen are also squabbling for space. Pied Kingfishers, Hamerkop, Slaty Egrets and Squacco Herons are also eager to fill their stomachs.
A pair of Woodland Kingfishers have successfully raised their young, however the chick seems unwilling to leave home. You can hear it moaning and calling for food even though we have seen it catch its own dinner. It seems that, like most children, they know that it's much easier to rely on their parents. The little thing is very relaxed and one can get extremely close to it for photos.
Kwetsani has just undergone its yearly maintenance and is 100% ready to wow every guest that visits us with a great looking camp. All our rooms and the main building have been given some love and attention, even the pool has received a new coat of paint.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Ian & Michélle Burger
Guide: Ronald Gaopalelwe
update - February 2011 Jump
to Jao Camp
The month of camp transformation has come to an end. Delicate sanding, vigorous sugar soaping, and intricate varnishing; these are but a few of the improvements the Jao team have personally participated in. We are now ready to welcome all our guests and show off our new masterpiece. Although we have been nose down in our work, the surrounding beauty has not evaded us. The harmonic sounds of the birds and the lushness of the flora are a constant reminder of the magnificent setting that we call home.
Water Levels and Weather
Slowly and silently creeping in, inch by inch, the water from the Delta is surrounding our island in a beautiful and magical way. There is still plenty of land and places to walk, but the shrubs and smaller trees on the circumference of the island are now hidden and lost under the rising water.
The sun is rising later and this adds to the slightly cooler mornings which we have experienced of late. As its orb rises higher in the sky the warmer we start to feel. By 11am we have another scorcher on our hands.
With our new walkways complete and dirt roads under construction we are ready for the full force of the flux of water to arrive. The more it rises the more adventures we have to fill our days - boating activities, mekoro and trips to islands where all the creatures of the wild seek refuge from the expanding water mass.
We have been privileged to receive some visitors at camp. The most bizarre of these has to be the crocodile. Due to water filtering through the island and the water table rising it has created numerous puddles all over. Our road to the workshop has been raised and there are some deep trenches next to this road. Water has run into these trenches creating small pools in which some crocodile have chosen to use these as to wallow in. Thankfully they are still youngsters as crocodiles can grow up to a length of 4 metres when fully grown. These lizard-like creatures feel at home in fresh water but they are able to travel on land.
Moving away from our scaly reptile friends but not too far from water we have the sitatunga. This timid animal is a rare antelope displaying similar features to the waterbuck. We received one of these delightful visitors to our island. The sitatunga is the only antelope which can swim before it can walk.
Lion have been active in and around the camp this month. Lion tracks were spotted in a number of places, however remained unseen until one day when, consumed with our chores of sanding, we spotted three lion walking over our bridge; one male and two females.
Outside camp we have also had some lion activity. Whilst making rounds to the airstrip to check on the maintenance and durability of our runway we had a wonderful sighting. A huge male sauntered across the strip with an air of authority causing us all to be very still and quiet. Just before lying down on his designated spot, he let out a loud booming roar warning all other males that this is his territory. After which he lay down and left a thunderous silence behind him.
Bugs, spiders, reptiles, impala and our mongoose family are only a few of the marvellous inhabitants of our island. Each creature - big and small - keeps this island alive with vibrant personalities and dynamic behaviour.
The birds have been our motivational song during all the hammering, sanding and scrubbing. Our feathered visitors are always perched on a tree not far away singing a joyful melody.
Last month we had a few rare sightings of a Black Coucal. This month we have discovered that there is a local Coppery-tailed Coucal gracing our camp. This beautiful bird has a tuft of coppery bronze feathers covering its body. They hastily build nests in grass or reeds and eat a wide variety of critters including grasshoppers, frogs and fish.
Our other island residents include the beautiful blue Woodland Kingfishers, the Meve's Starlings, Hartlaub's Babblers and Little Bee-eaters.
Last but not least, so characteristic of Africa are our Fish Eagles. They are a constant presence in and around the Jao Concession and their beauty and magnificence never cease to amaze.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Andrew Gaylord, Lauren Griffiths, Bradley White, Annelize Hattingh, Billy Mckechnie, Minette Wallace Marina Lungu (spa therapist) and Ollie Olepeng (spa therapist)
Guides: Kabo (KB) Kgopa, David Mapodise, Marks Kehaletshe, Cedric Samotanzi
update - February 2011 Jump
to Seba Camp
Seba Camp recently hosted a CITW project - the Elefun Weekend which was held in conjunction with Elephants for Africa, a charity dedicated to the conservation of elephants. Children from the rural subsistence farming communities of Tubu and Gumare villages were given the opportunity to meet and interact with the Abu herd in order to allay their fears and misconceptions of these animals. The programme was a success inasmuch as the kids arrived full of apprehension and mistrust of elephants, and left with a much deeper understanding of these gentle giants.
Seba Camp along with Children in the Wilderness believe that children need to be made aware of conservation issues and form a deep love of nature as they will soon become the custodians of our wilderness areas. Children's camps, such as the Elefun weekend we hosted as well as education, can have immeasurable future benefits for conservation. In line with this, Seba welcomes all children into camp. We have two family en-suite tented units, each comfortably sleeping six, with private plunge pools. They also each have a built-in tree house, sandpit and toy box, making it a perfect place for a family safari experience. Seba's facilities, specially its trained guides and empathetic staff make it ideal for guests of all ages to explore the Delta.
Herewith the Seba experience as seen through the eyes of one of our hosted families:
Ancient Noah had an ark.
He filled it up by day and dark
With mammals from the local zoo.
They walked the plank up, two by two.
And also, after quite a while,
The lizard and the crocodile,
The ostrich and the spotted owl
And countless types of fancy fowl.
Too bad he also packed some worms,
Some flies, some spiders and some germs,
Some poison snakes and biting gnats,
(But also friendly dogs and cats).
"Hark, come aboard." He used that phrase
As people talked weird in those days.
(Though far as scholars can distinguish,
We're sure that he did not speak English.
There is one fact that I abhor:
He did not pack one dinosaur
Or tiger with a saber tooth.
He plain forgot, that is the truth.
Could it be possible that Noah in fact parked his ark on Seba Island? We have had the trip of a lifetime. Thank you so much to Heather, Chris and all of their team, we could not have asked for more. The game has been outstanding, however I think the children's most memorable experience was spending a morning with Joseph and the Seba Mongooses - watch out, there may be a couple heading home in our suitcases!
Counting the days until we return and love from us all to our new family.
Tubu Tree Camp
update - February 2011 Jump
to Tubu Tree Camp
Water Levels and Weather
The much-anticipated waters have arrived early this year. Camp has been filled with excitement as we have watched the inundation rapidly filling the floodplains and channels. What were once sandy roads are now also water-filled, making driving around the area quite an experience.
There have been some beautiful displays of lightning and thunder in the late afternoons which then were not very forthcoming with rain. Sunshine has mostly blessed our land this month.
Sightings on Hunda Island were incredible this month. A leopard with two cubs - a male and a female - who are growing rapidly towards maturity have been frequently sighted in and around camp feeding on kills for a day or so until the hyaenas stumble upon their prize. At one stage they had killed an impala in camp while guests were there, which enabled everyone to spend a lot of time around the kill and the leopard. Another incredible leopard kill was made near the airstrip, and guests had a wonderful time watching a female and her cub feed on the impala carcass over a period of two days.
One morning, as we were clearing the airstrip in anticipation of new guest arrivals we got the feeling that something was watching us. When we turned around to see who the culprit could be, we saw a female leopard intently staring at us from behind a tree stump. When she saw that we were aware of her presence she gracefully slipped away into the undergrowth of an acacia tree.
On another occasion when we were clearing the airstrip we had to chase a herd of impala off the runway. While we were keeping an eye on where they were running we caught a glimpse of a large mammal ahead of us. It was the same female leopard which had eyed us out previously and had obviously decided that we were not a threat to her but were in actual fact trying to help her make a kill by herding the impala towards her. Her crouching position was saying it all, but the male impala, on which the leopard had set her eye upon, saw her in time and ran off snorting warning calls to all in the vicinity.
Proving to be an area for big cats, we also spotted a lioness gently walking across the runway, prior to one of the freight planes taking off.
Having come across a successful kill one morning, a lactating lioness present sat listening for about an hour before she made a low call, got up and walked towards the bush. Out scampered four young cubs. This was the first sighting of our newest lion cubs. On the same kill the next day, the male lion came to feed.
On another occasion, a herd of zebra seen grazing on the dry portion of the plains in front of the camp were blissfully unaware that lying in wait was a hungry lioness with her three cubs. In seconds the lioness and year-old cubs had chased down a poor unsuspecting zebra foal. This was an exciting day for the guests, who then later saw a leopard on an impala kill.
Elephant came into camp in large numbers this month, keeping the guests and staff from moving around the rooms freely. The same herd was spotted a number of times roaming the island, and then one day huge fun was had, or so it seemed, when the entire herd was seen on the floodplain rolling around in the mud and trumpeting for all in the vicinity to hear.
Two honey badgers have decided to make Tubu Tree Camp their official place of residence. They have been seen on numerous occasions marching into the camp during sunset and securing the area for themselves. The mother is the obvious commander-in-chief, even though she is smaller than her son. We stumbled upon the young male having secured himself a meal. Happily munching on a snake, he was not sharing his prize with his mother. She clearly did not like his table manners, snatched his food away and packed him off to bed.
On several occasions, our guests had a lucky sighting of some 'dagga boys' (old buffalo bulls). Other beautiful herds such as wildebeest were seen grazing on the floodplain each morning as well as giraffe and hippo being seen all over the island taking advantage of the abundance of food and water in the area.
A regular visitor at the bar, was the green spotted bush snake - often seen among the 'hard tack', and then later seen weaving his way across the deck towards the pool.
With the water coming in, many egrets are lining up on the water's edge, making a beautiful dividing line between water and dry land. Behind them, Reed Cormorants gather on a small island making for a wonderful sighing. Three Ground Hornbills vibrated the ground each morning with their unique trumpeting sound and every evening, a little African Barred Owlet flew to the marula tree at the bar to join us for drinks. Another interesting sighting was a Martial Eagle eating a tree monitor. We managed to get so close that we could hear him tearing at the flesh.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Billy Mckechnie and Minette Wallis, Dan and Charmaine Myburgh
Guides: Johnny Mowanji, OP Kaluluka
Kalahari Plains Camp
update - February 2011 Jump
to Kalahari Plains Camp
Weather and landscape
What an incredible month this has proved to be for guests and staff alike. Having only been operational since December 2009, we are still experiencing the first full seasonal cycle. As such, the Kalahari has continued to astound us with its seasonal gifts. We are now at the tail end of an excellent and well above average rainy season.
The guests' first impression of the reserve as they arrive at the airstrip is the chest-high grass. As they move through the area, they fall upon the short sweet grass plains, the woodlands and the pans adjacent to camp. The jet lagged traveller soon discards his weariness when he sees what is awaiting him.
Painted onto the landscape are hundreds of oryx dressed in striking white and black suits. Their beautiful features make them look like thespian figures in a dramatic kaleidoscope. Massive puff chested Kori Bustards doing courtship dances and cackling Korhaans fling themselves into the blue beyond with territorial fervour are a sign of the season.
The pans are not just dried out barren clearings as they first had us believe when they were cloaked in their dusty and austere July winter coats. The silver grey trumpet thorn thickets and purple pod terminalia hint of the underlying calcrete floor that seals the pan base a few feet under the nutritious clay overlay. Just add water and the effect is astonishing. The barren clearings are infested with giant bullfrogs, ducks, tantalisingly sweet nutritious grasses and exuberant colours.
One afternoon, while entranced by the sight and sound of a thousand-strong flock of Red-billed Queleas descending upon a pool of water, we looked up to see three majestic elephant bulls striding across the open plain in front of the camp. We had to ask ourselves the question - were we seeing things? Elephants in the Kalahari? We had no idea where they came from or where they were going, but we didn't see them again. Like an apparition, they were there and then they were gone and nobody at camp believed us until we produced photographic evidence. The mystery and intrigue is part of the fascination of the Kalahari - one of the earth's fast-diminishing places of undisturbed biodiversity.
Back to the fascinating clouds of queleas. As you watch them descend on the water pools they seem like a moving column of smoke and sound like the wail of high winds. This is why the hum of the Lanner Falcon swooping in for the kill at 160km/h was not heard. All we saw was the arrow-like shadow and felt, rather than heard, the deadly thump of its impact on its prey. As quickly as it struck it was back in the big blue sky. And this is also why we saw a pride of lion jump back in terror from the thunder of another wave of queleas descending on the waterhole. Wonderfully amusing!
The highlights were never-ending this month. As we watched a cheetah on Deception Valley a herd of 28 giraffe appeared and crossed the wide open plain in front of us. Cheetah were seen often and on one occasion we even saw a mother with her three cubs.
We had spectacular and regular lion sightings. One of the more memorable occasions was seeing the Sunday Pans Pride finishing off an oryx kill. Many wake up calls were heralded by the two giant black-maned 'Kalahari Boys' bellowing their dawn calls from the waterhole in front of the camp - an even more thrilling experience being one of our guests sleeping on the star deck above their rooms.
The end of the month heralded the onset of the leopard viewing season - a sign of the winter approaching. During this time our most frequent sightings occur in camp itself as the leopards wander about in search of water.
Last, and certainly not least, we saw a Pale Chanting Goshawk feeding on a snake. All in all, truly a memorable month in the Kalahari!
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