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Wilderness Safaris Camps Shine on 2011 Condé Nast Traveler Gold List
Wilderness Safaris has begun the new year extremely well, with a number of its camps once again featuring prominently on Condé Nast Traveler’s Gold List. The Gold List is well known as a list of “the best places to stay in the world” and is compiled from votes by the readers of Condé Nast Traveler magazine in the USA.
This year, Mombo and Little Mombo again topped the Africa and Middle East category with the highest overall score of 98.4. Mombo was followed closely by Jao Camp with 94.3, while other Wilderness camps that achieved outstanding overall scores were DumaTau Camp in the Linyanti and Vumbura Plains Camp in the Okavango Delta.
These properties also excelled in specific categories, such as best location, best food, best design and best activities. Mombo and Little Mombo, Jao, DumaTau and Vumbura Plains received perfect scores of 100 in the Best Location category, while Mombo and Little Mombo achieved 96.3 in the Best Food group and Vumbura Plains scored 100 under Best Design. In the Best Activities category Mombo and Little Mombo attained a score of 100, while Jao and DumaTau both scored 97.1.
Wilderness Safaris is thrilled to once again have received such wonderful accolades from the discerning readers of Condé Nast Traveler. Excellence in location, service, and wildlife experiences while helping Africa is a true expression of the Wilderness vision.
Wilderness Safaris and Africa Geographic Team up to Plant Trees
Date: January 2011
Ecotourism company Wilderness Safaris has joined forces with Africa Geographic magazine to plant over 2 000 indigenous trees in the Amatola area of the Eastern Cape in 2011, as part of the sustainability and carbon emission offset programmes of both.
The brainchild of bigFIG Digital Media, who manage Africa Geographic’s expansion into the digital media space, this project is in collaboration with local communities, NGOs and government departments, thereby ensuring that the trees are suitable for the area, make a meaningful contribution to communities and are well-looked after.
Says Simon Espley, Africa Geographic director and CEO of bigFIG: “During the first year of this project we will plant over 2 000 Yellowwood trees in the Amatola area of the Eastern Cape in collaboration with the Wild Bird Trust, the Cape Parrot Project, BirdLife South Africa, Rance Timber and local communities.”
The iziKheneni project has purchased the entire stock of saplings from two community-run nurseries
Dr Steve Boyes, trustee of the Wild Bird Trust says: “There is an urgent need to rehabilitate our 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 biodiversity and community benefits which trees bring. Aptly name ‘iziKhenene’, meaning Cape Parrot in Zulu/Xhosa, this tree planting project will focus mainly on South Africa’s national tree, the Real Yellowwood (Podocarpus latifolius).”
Derek de la Harpe, Sustainability Director at Wilderness Safaris, stated, “We have helped to purchase the entire stock of saplings from two community-run nurseries, and local women from the surrounding communities will be paid to plant and care for the saplings. We are also looking to continue this project into the future, thus providing sustainable income for the community.”
Wilderness Safaris and Africa Geographic challenge all tourism industry participants to meet or beat their efforts so as to bring about a truly sustainable tourism industry in Africa.
Hogsback village showing the impact of human development
Dramatic Pafuri Male Lion Conflict
Location: Pafuri Camp, Kruger National Park, South Africa.
Date: 06 Jan 2011
Observer: Sean Carter
Photographer: Sean Carter
Pafuri Camp guests enjoyed an amazing experience recently. It was a battle on a grand scale between two male lions. One of the males is the six-year-old adult, a territorial male who has dominated the area for the past three years. He is also the father of the younger male (about three years old) who is his oldest offspring and the first cub sired during his 'reign'.
The dispute was over one of the females that was on heat, and ended with the sub-adult male inflicting some intensive blows and ultimately getting the prize of the female - this time. If these two males stay together they could become an impressive coalition and very good for the lion dynamics of the area as a whole.
It is not unknown for fathers and sons to form coalitions although it by no means the norm and we anticipate that this will not be the last conflict of this nature that we observe between the two.
Some other good news on the lion side is that the sister of this younger male had her first litter in August 2010 and has two cubs of her own. The cubs are alive and healthy, both doing very well. This female and her cubs are seen quite often now - these lions and the sub-adult male already mentioned are frequently seen quite close to Pafuri Camp itself, this point forming the centre of the range given that the cubs do not range as widely as the adults are able to.
There was also another pride of females seen two weeks ago with two very small cubs, so that's three more lions on our concession at the moment! For recent visitors, not such good news is we haven't seen the snared lioness since 28th of December. The pride that she is a part of has been rather elusive of late however so we still hold out hope.
All in all, some incredible lion viewing opportunities at Pafuri Camp at the moment.
Successful lion snare removal at Pafuri
Location: Pafuri Camp, Kruger National Park, South Africa.
Date: 13 January 2011
Observer & Photographer: Walter Jubber
A sub-adult female was noticed recently on the Makuleke Concession with a snare around her neck and was duly reported to the necessary Park authorities to try and help the animal. On the 13th of January, Kruger National Park veterinarian Markus Hofmeyer was in the Makuleke Concession for other reasons and happened to enquire about this unfortunate young lioness. A while back it seems that this female, offspring of the pride male Nkanu, had become entangled in a wire snare which was cutting deeply into her neck.
Later that afternoon, rather serendipitously, we came across six sub-adult lions, which included the snared female, while tracking some buffalo! I got on the radio to inform Sandra Basson (Pafuri Section Ranger) about our discovery and got things underway. Sandra in turn was able to get hold of Markus, to attempt to tranquilise the lioness and remove the life-threatening snare. We watched and stayed with the six sub-adults, keeping tabs on their movements, while we anxiously awaited the arrival of Markus, Sandra and the rest of the team, which would play a pivotal role in the process of removing the snare.
Luckily the lions had no intentions of moving anywhere and simply lay resting. We watched as one of the young males tried to lick clean the snare wound which must have been painful and of major discomfort to the young female. It was record timing when everyone was on the scene for the operation to commence, getting Markus in close enough proximity to tranquilise the female using a dart gun.
He took aim and fired - the dart struck its mark, and the young female went down immediately, right next to the road without any complications. The next step would be positioning us between the rest of the pride members and her, so Markus and Louis could go to work. Sandra's assistant was called into position, his vehicle being used as another barrier so that we could isolate ourselves from the inquisitive cats.
The snare was removed, and an antiseptic spray was administered to the wound to help prevent infection and help speed up the healing process. A series of antibiotics were injected and blood samples were taken. The good news was that no extensive damage had been done to the trachea and the wound was very clean, probably due to help from the pride members as they licked the wound.
Once all treatment was over, the antidote countering the effect of the tranquilising dart was administered. The female was observed to make sure that she made it to her feet without any complications which she did.
It is likely the lioness will make a full recovery and it is thrilling to have been a part of saving her life.
First sighting of Pel's Fishing-Owl at Banoka Bush Camp
Location: Banoka Bush Camp, Okavango Delta, Botswana
Date: 19 January 2011
Observer: Sinda Mkwananzi
Photographer: Max Baitseng
This morning we had an amazing sighting at Banoka - right in camp! It was the first sighting of the much sought-after Pel's Fishing Owl at Banoka Bush Camp since the camp opened and it was a wonderful one.
Sinda, the electrician from Wilderness Safaris office, had the honour of spotting this wonderful giant bird. Never having seen it before, he saw the brown colouring and spots and concluded that it was a baby leopard - only to find out when he notified the manager that it was a Pel's Fishing-owl. There was tremendous excitement amongst the entire staff at being able to see a bird that is considered one of the great sightings for birders, and we have been watching it since it was spotted this morning. In fact, it remained next to the office in a mopane tree, perching beautifully and watching us work all day while I was writing this story - amazing!
We have had many wonderful sightings so far at Banoka Bush Camp, but this one ranks the best of them all. We are hoping that he makes this tree his usual perch to which he retires during the day when he rests up. The Pel's is the largest of Africa's three fishing owls, a shy, quiet bird known for its ability to detect fish by watching the ripples on the surface of the water. Due to habitat loss, it is increasingly rare, but thankfully the Delta's pristine condition ensures that it can still be found here. However, any sighting is still considered extremely lucky - and so we were!
We applauded Sinda for his eagle eyesight in picking up this beautiful bird. Had it not been for him, we might not have seen it at all.
What an excellent start to the new year of 2011.
Manager - Makata Max Baitseng
Chobe Game Lodge closed for a short period near the end of 2010 at which time major refurbishment work was completed to the main building and the two room wings of the lodge. Included in this were the complete re-build of the Chobe Game Lodge Suites of which now each suite boasts a beautiful new infinity swimming pool. Further work was done to the gym, Chobe Spa and back of house at Chobe GameLodge.
Each year one Desert & Delta Safaris' lodge receives an extensive refurbishment, and 2011 will be the year of our beloved Xugana Island Lodge! This small, intimate lodge sits on an island in one of the Okavango Delta's finest locations, overlooking Xugana Lagoon. The new designs of the interior will be themed around the fascinating history of the lodge and will feature an insight into the legendary guides and pioneering explorers of the area. This history will be complemented by brand new furnishings and fittings to the lodge, including beautiful hand made cabinets, cupboards, leather couches and chairs as well as documented history in script and images which reveal the pioneering efforts of early explorers to the Okavango Delta. Each of the eight suites will be themed on eight of the early Okavango Delta pioneers and explorers.
The redesigned suites will increase in size by almost two-thirds and feature an extended wooden deck which faces the tranquil waters of the lagoon. The lodge is now closed for the refurbishment and will reopen on 15 March 2011.
The advent of the Savuti channel flowing has brought about incredibly positive environmental change to the area. To make use of this to best advantage, Savute Safari Lodge will be building two new channel facing suites. The lodge willstill only have 12 suites as two of the original garden suites will now be used for management and guides/pilots accommodation.
General maintenance work and back of house refurbishments will be done at Camp Moremi, Camp Okavango and Leroo La Tau properties.
Chobe Savanna Lodge closure for refurbishment has been scheduled to coincide with the annual flood of the Chobe River for this year and will therefore be closed for refurbishment from 01 April 2011 to 01 July 2011. Repair work to the power supply is underway. Parts and cables have been ordered and repair work to the power supply will be completed as soon as possible. Camp Closures are already underway at some properties and others will close in February and March 2011 for their refurbishment. All camps will be open and functional by middle of March 2011.
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.
North Island Update - January 2011 Jump
to North Island
Kings Pool Camp update - January 2011 Jump
to Kings Pool Camp
DumaTau Camp update - January 2011 Jump
to DumaTau Camp
Currently closed, DumaTau's sounds of the wild have somehow encroached into camp. You can hear the zitting of the cisticolas, the chirping of squirrels and even the rumbling of the elephant in the distance. The human noise which has been eliminated is leaving nature to do the talking. With the rains continuing to pour each day, the bush is becoming denser and grass is already covering some of the human footpaths within camp.
We have now become accustomed to the hippo family that emerges from the water right in front of the main area late in the afternoons. They seem to be conscious of the lack of presence of humans and graze around the tents without being disturbed. It is indeed such a delightful sight to see these big creatures during the day and one cannot help but feel the size of the animals as rather intimidating.
Kudus have now become a common sight around camp, as well as a warthog family with seven young. On two separate occasions, we have seen the elusive leopard. The first time it was seen walking in front of the main area and on the other occasion it perched in the tree outside tent number 2.
Two big male lion have made their presence felt during a quiet evening by loud roars and then this was confirmed the next morning as fresh tracks were found. Later that morning we found the lion pacing the area not far from camp.
The ever energetic wild dog did not spoil the show as they too patrolled the lands, in and around the DumaTau Camp, keeping the herds of impala on their best alert. On one afternoon trip towards a neighbouring camp we met two packs, one on the way up and one on the way down. Interestingly they were herding in the same direction and one can only wonder what pleasantries could have been exchanged when they finally clashed.
To sum it up, the month ends on a wet note with 229ml of rain over the month and despite this we have had some good game considering no one has been out on safari to actually find it. The dream lives on!
Managers in camp:
Gideon Mvere, Abbie Kula, Gabbi
Savuti Camp update - January 2011 Jump
to Savuti Camp
The month of January belonged to the elephants at Savuti. Sitting in silence on the bank of the Savute Channel, one late afternoon, we watched a herd of elephant crossing the water. With the sun setting in the background, it was the perfect way to end another day in Botswana.
The elephants played in the water well into the evening, submerging their gigantic bodies and raising their snorkel trunks in the air for oxygen. The younger members of the herd looked anxious not to get into the deep water but were soon encouraged by the elders to get in and join the fun. After playtime was over the herd gathered on the opposite bank and quietly disappeared into the dark.
Back in camp we have a hippo that appears to be making the open waters in front of the main deck his home. The hippo has been seen on several occasions moving quickly past the front of the camp, however as the month drew onwards he became far more relaxed, even taking his time to get out the water on the opposite bank for some midday grazing.
Our guests have enjoyed some special predator sightings with the leopard, who continue to mate. The cheetah has also been seen frequenting the airstrip, a lovely surprise for guests as they arrive in the Linyanti Concession.
The wild dog have been as busy as always, entertaining one of our many photographic groups as they chased down and killed an impala, finishing the meal in minutes.
At the end of the day, with the sun setting over the clear waters of the Savute Channel, we sit with guests around the fire, enjoying interesting discussions on the every changing ecology of this unique landscape. We look forward to welcoming our new arrivals in February and are eagerly waiting to see what Savuti will reveal to us next.
From the Savuti Team
Kago, Abbie, Stuart and our guides - Ron, Tank, Lazi, Goodman and Moxs
Zarafa Camp update - January 2011 Jump
to Zarafa Camp
Weather and Landscape
January is usually not the wettest month of the year. This year has been an exception, with over 250mm falling so far this year and only around 120mm in the same period last year. It has transformed Zarafa from what was quite a green camp to an amazingly lush and beautifully overgrown wilderness - the feverberries are thick with leaves and the undergrowth is packed with grasses and herbs. Out of camp, the roadsides are bursting with new growth overflowing onto the roads. With the constant rains and overcast weather, the roads have admittedly become a little muddy and boggy in places, making for adventurous drives.
The lagoon has rapidly risen to levels on a par with the peak floods we received last year. It has again seeped across the landscape, flowing over grasses, bushes and around trees into areas we would never have imagined we would ever see water. We expect the levels to drop slightly after the rains subside later in the season, but if they continue as they are, the water levels may reach new heights even before the floods arrive in the middle of the year. We've heard however that there has been a lot of rain in the catchments of both the Kwando and Okavango this year already.
While daytime temperatures were reaching in the high thirties at the beginning of the month, the clouds and rain in the second half of the month kept temperatures at a relatively constant 33°C every day dropping to around 20°C at night.
The general game viewing during January has been fantastic. Roan antelope herds are often spotted on the open areas west of the lagoon with a number of youngsters. There have also been many young wildebeest calves, zebras and ostrich chicks seen during the month. We still see the warthog piglets and are enjoying watching them grow up, but we can't help the feeling that they have not fared as well this year compared to last year.
The Selinda Reserve is a very special place to see elephants in large herds. This remains the case as many enjoy the lagoon and its surrounds while others have ventured into the thicker mopane scrublands and forests. Many transfers have had to be delayed due to these vast herds, however game drives have been enhanced with sightings of these amazing creatures coming down in large numbers to drink and wallow in the water of the lagoon.
With the wet, muddy and overgrown conditions around the lagoon, reedbuck have had to retreat further out onto the reserve. These usually shy creatures are now being seen almost daily.
A very rare sighting occurred this month - a bat-eared fox! These animals have not been seen often since the lagoon started flooding southwards in 2007 over an extensive grassy area that stretched up towards the tree line. This area used to be a perfect habitat for these creatures as they enjoyed the low sage bushes and soft, sandy soils which characterised it.
Hippos are notorious for being lazy creatures that spend most of their days in cool lagoons and waterways with their heads just above the water. However, when their offspring, females or territory are threatened these docile animals will become alive with activity. A group of guests witnessed an incredible fight between two bulls this month.
The two leopard cubs that we are getting to know well are growing into adults very quickly. They are both about a year old and are still very relaxed around the vehicles. Although Mmaditsebe's cub is often seen on his own, we always get the feeling that she is not far off. The cub wanders out of the safety of the feverberries along the edge of the lagoon every so often, but returns quite quickly back into the undergrowth and protection of the bushes again. Amber and her cub, however, are a little more elusive as her territory is within the thickets behind our headquarters and with the recent rains, the grass has grown very tall and the bushes even thicker.
The Selinda Pride continues to dominate the northern parts of the reserve. These lion now have two young cubs in addition to the four youngsters from last year, so they are developing into a good, strong, pride. The pride occasionally wanders southwards over the Spillway and towards the airstrip, perhaps only to check that there are no interlopers wanting to take over.
Down here in the southern parts of the Selinda, we were fortunate enough to have spotted a new cheetah to the area. A lone male came through and spent around a week or so in the open areas around the lagoon. We have also seen a mother with three young cubs in the south-western section of the reserve.
With the lagoon expanding its footprint each day, the birdlife has also increased and the reserve has become a wonderful place to see a huge variety of water birds. Any trip along the edge of the lagoon will reward you with a variety of egrets and herons, storks, kingfishers, pratincoles (in huge numbers) and plovers.
At the end of January, Tess and Stu left Zarafa after just over two and a half years at the helm. It has been a privilege to work with them as they are inspiring and professional people. Replacing them are Alex and One, a young and dedicated couple, who are sure to stamp their mark on the camp. They have had a lot of experience in the bush. Alex has guided for many years in Chobe National Park and the Okavango Delta and managed camps for the last three years. One has been running safari camps in the Okavango Delta for the last five years.
Selinda Camp update - January 2011 Jump
to Selinda Camp
Rain has been quite a dominant factor this month, which is only too apparent as the Selinda Spillway water level has rocketed. Two forces control the Spillway - the localised rainfall and also the floodwaters coming in from Angola which peak around August. What was not been expected was that the water levels would be as high as they were at their peak last August. Therefore we are expecting some record levels as we head towards the flood season. It is exciting for us as new channels will open perhaps all the way to Zibidianja Lagoon which connects onto the Savute. The good news is that ducks are not the only water lovers as we have witnessed this month.
Prior to the big rains at the very beginning of the month, many migratory birds flew into the drying spillway to feed on exposed fish and snails. Open-billed Storks, huge numbers of the Woolly-necked Storks, White Storks, the rare Slaty Egrets, both Great White and Pink-backed Pelicans covered the small pans formed along the Selinda Spillway.
During the day, cloudless skies have revealed the soaring of the Marabou Storks and many Yellow-billed Kites as they scan the earth to locate their daily feast. Paradise Flycatchers continue to nest throughout our tree island and a Pygmy Kingfisher darts around the camp and even decided to have a bath in the sink of tent 5 one morning.
January is a ripe time of the year for almost everything. There are more fish for the crocodiles to feed on, more leaves and grass for herbivores, more meat for the carnivores and more water for them all. There is abundance for everyone.
The elephants still rank as the most common sighting. The mopane woodland is filled with these enormous, silent beings. The rain does not seem to bother them at all. Most animals will stand still and helpless in the pouring rain, however the elephants seem to enjoy it and simply continue feeding.
We have a new kid on the block. One morning we followed our resident female leopard for a while. We knew that she was not in the mood to hunt but that she had another mission to accomplish. Underneath a big fallen log she gave a call and suddenly a tiny cub appeared - the second leopard cub of the year! The mother has been moving her cub around but we still hear the indistinguishable barking in the evening when mother calls on her cub.
After a long split, the Selinda Pride has finally re-united. Hunting is no longer as easy as picking up a quick snack in the form of a young, helpless antelope and therefore the re-union has strengthened their numbers quite substantially to sixteen. Most of the cubs are female; a good sign for the future of the pride as females will tend to stay within the group.
The three local cheetah were also spotted alongside the channel. They were waiting in ambush for some large kudu males who were drinking. The kudus left the water looking rather suspicious and therefore when a cheetah charged, most of them scattered to safety. The kudu in which the cheetah had his eye on also managed to flee from sharp claws by jumping a three metre tall blue bush, making it impossible for the cheetah to proceed. The cheetah did not go hungry for too long as they were spotted again the following morning feeding on an impala.
One morning we came across some rather unusual interaction involving a cheetah, a leopard and a black-backed jackal. We found a cheetah in a prone position having encountered a leopard. We are not sure what would have happened between the cats if a black-backed jackal had not stepped on the scene - clearly by accident! Suddenly it looked like the cheetah was intending to pounce on the jackal which is in itself unusual prey item for cheetah. The jackal scarpered, spooking the leopard at the same time and dissipating this very unusual crowd which had been gathering.
The Selinda wild dogs have been coming and going. Their young are now fully grown and therefore the distances covered per day have grown substantially. We had a New Year's Eve treat as we watched them chase an Impala. However, this was exceeded by the spectacle, some two weeks later, of the dogs tirelessly trying to split a herd of about thirty wildebeest. While adult wildebeest are too big for the dogs to take down, their young are still fair prey. The dogs circled the herd and darted in and out independently in irregular frenetic fashion causing panic. The wildebeest were just starting to tire as darkness fell and the outcome was masked from our vision. We are sure that the dogs did not go hungry for much longer. We look forward very much to see them more regularly in 2011.
Camps Update - January 2011
• Water levels are rising in the delta, from the local rain. Airstrips are getting flooded and Kwando also had to close the strip for Kwara concession. We are using our neighbours strip at the moment. This is a common problem this time of the year, and because of the localised, but heavy rainfall it is impossible to avoid water getting accumulated on the airstrips.
• Anyhow, the rise of the water level at the moment is not to confuse with the annual floods. The flood will arrive much later, because of the small gradient between Angola and Botswana, it will take two to three month to arrive in the delta.
Lagoon camp Jump
• Closed until 1st March for a complete rebuild. We are looking forward to it opening on time and reports from those who have seen the new Lagoon say it is "breath taking".
Lebala camp Jump
• Lebala had a good week of predators.
• Several leopard sightings, one female with a cub. We hope all goes well with the offspring. On all the sightings were kills hanging in a tree, meaning the leopards are doing well at the moment.
• On the other hand the cheetahs were seen to have a kill only once this month. We are not worried though, since we don't see them every time when they have a kill.
• Wild dogs also were seen several times and added to the action. They are still hunting a lot of baby impalas, and it's good to have so many of them around.
• Birdlife is also very good, with a lot of the migrant species. Raptor sightings in general have been good.
• Side stripped and black backed jackals were seen and numerous sightings of hyenas.
• General game has been good too, with lots of elephant breeding herds.
• On the night drives porcupine, African wild cat, civets, honey badgers and servals were observed.
Kwara & Little Kwara camps Jump
& Little Kwara camps
• A pangolin and an aardwolf were the stars of this month. These shy and nocturnal creatures are hardly ever seen, and there are guides and trackers who still only saw their tracks, but never the actual animal. Some of them having worked in the bush for many years. What was even more unusual is that the pangolin sighting happened during daylight hours. I do hope that everybody got a picture…..
• A big python was also seen. The length was about 4m long, which is rather impressive. Guests ask often in camp about encounter snakes, and we see them only very rarely. Especially a python that size is very much a rarity. Snakes being shy in nature, try to keep out of our ways, and generally are only seen when they don't have an escape route.
• Breeding herds of elephants are moving back into the area, to the delight of everybody. Still not much to see of the buffalos, but they are normally not far behind the elephants. Impala, kudus, zebras, tsessebe, giraffes and wildebeests, plus all the birds rounded the sighting up.
• From the lions only one thing for this time. The magnificent seven were seen all together this month, and heard during the night. What a concert!
• Very good general game came to Nxai Pan with the rains. We see lots of zebras, wildebeests, spring boks, oryx, elephant bulls, steenboks etc.
• The elephant bulls in particular are responsible for the entertainment in camp. They do spend a lot of time on our water hole.
• Black backed jackals have four puppies and they can entertain you for a long time.
• Cheetahs were found regularly this month. There is a mother and daughter together and a coalition of two males.
• Also the lions showed a good presence, and came out in full force. Cubs, females and males were seen, together and in small groups.
• A lot of mating seems to be going on in the lion pride. We are all looking forward to the cubs. The headlines in the predator department made the wild dogs though. They saw four dogs, and it is extremely rare to see them in Tau pan. One had a collar on, which means that researchers are monitoring their movements.
• Bat eared foxes are a species, specialised to live in such dry area and also a species.
• Lions still visit camp almost every day. We see them also on the drives, and not only lions but also cheetahs.
• General game is good too. There are a lot of Oryx, a extremely well adapted animal to desert conditions. They are able to allow their body temperature to rise over 40 degree Celsius. A specially designed capillary system in their nose, makes sure the blood gets cooled down to below 40, so the brain doesn't get damaged.
Mombo Camp update
- January 2011 Jump
to Mombo Camp
Weather and Landscape
January in Mombo is a season of plenty. Abundant rainfall caused our rainwater pans, puddles and depressions to fill to capacity, our plants to sprout, and our animals to grow sleek and fat. Flowers dot the landscape, shrubs tangle together in the undergrowth, and butterflies and moths flit like jewels through the verdant shadows below the trees.
From insect to predator, there is an abundance to eat and drink, and the land takes on a splendour obvious to all. Young antelope gambol behind their mothers, vast nursery herds of impala are everywhere, and pale wildebeest foals gallop comically around with their herds.
Spectacular thunderstorms boil on the horizon, downpours lash at the earth while lightning fizzes through the sky. Extraordinarily beautiful sunsets dash our evening horizon and the Milky Way splashes across the night sky. The nights are raucous with the rhythmic chomping and splashing of the hippo as they wander past the camp, assorted with the chiming of the reed frogs and grunting of our resident buffalo bulls.
The rainfall figures for the month have been way above average with records showing that we have already received about twenty-five percent above the usual annual figure of 450mm. This should recede by the time the waters from Angola arrive, but we are still expecting a phenomenal volume of water in the Delta once again, as the new self-generating wet cycle of the region gains momentum. It is an exciting time to live in and visit the Okavango, as this event occurs once every few decades, resulting in fascinating transformations to the area, as well as the changing behaviours and number of its inhabitants.
Elephants have been seen in huge numbers in the concession from big breeding herds to smaller bachelor groups. One particular herd which we had never seen before held some members with wonderfully impressive tusks, leading us to assume that their usual haunts deep in the Delta are too inundated with water for them to utilise.
The woodlands have been taken over by huge numbers of plains game as they take advantage of the nutrient-rich growth and abundance of water in the pans. Herds of giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, kudu, buffalo and impala have been found browsing and grazing in these areas - sometimes in large numbers. The floodplain areas are mainly left to the attentions of the red lechwe and our herd of buffalo bulls at this time of year.
The Mporota Pride female has once again shown us her cubs, having hidden them away since November. The three youngsters look healthy and inquisitive, although it appears the mother is not spending much time close to the main pride as yet, perhaps still fearing the roughness of their affections. Their addition to the pride brings the numbers up to 25, the largest in the Mombo region.
The three Mathatha Pride cubs are a little older, and are also doing well as they grow and learn more each day.
Legadima, our resident leopard, was seen in open conflict with her daughter Pula recently. This is possibly due to Pula establishing and forming her own territory to dominate subsequent to mating with a shy male leopard last month. Sadly, it also appears that Legadima has lost her last cub, as we have seen no sign of it.
Slim Lady, the Roller Road female leopard, was found with a kill in a rain tree and for three days we were able to observe her and her cub as they played together and fed on the impala carcass.
Four new male leopard have been seen in the area, which is an exciting development. One sighting saw two males in the Roller Road area walking in parallel as if pacing a boundary. Another young male was seen crossing the airstrip heading north one afternoon, and most interestingly, an individual was found at the end of the month sporting a radio-collar. A subsequent investigation revealed this to be Motsumi, who was collared and released south of Jao camp almost two years ago. As the collar's battery life was about to expire, an operation to dart him and remove it was successfully performed.
The lone wild dog is about to become a movie star. A film crew will start filming her for a documentary about her extraordinary exploits with her surrogate family of jackals. She is still doing well and it is amazing that she has survived on her own, or with other species, for almost three years.
Rhinos have been hard to find this month as they have moved relatively far south from our usual game drive area, but they have been found on a couple of occasions. One occasion produced a family of three.
The bird life in the area is still wonderfully productive, with a multitude of storks, herons and waterfowl taking advantage of the plentiful water. Wattled Cranes have also been utilising the abundant resources. Two of these beautiful birds have taken up residence in the floodplain in front of camp, allowing us the chance to spend time observing them.
Other interesting species spotted have been Steppe Eagles, Western Banded Snake-Eagle and Kori Bustards, as well as a multitude of Carmine Bee-eaters and the ubiquitous Woodland Kingfishers that fill the air with their heady trilling calls.
The main areas of Little Mombo have been refurbished and the layout altered and enlarged, and the result is looking great. Regular visitors will find the changes have enhanced what is already a wonderful little camp to a more spacious and open design.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Martha at Little Mombo, Ryan, Kirsty, Vasco, Keedo and Katie at Main Camp, with Phil as our roving masseuse for both camps.
Guides: Tsile, Malinga, Tshepo, Moss and Moses, with Ban from Vumbura who joined us for a week.
Photographs: Ryan Green, Cisco Letio, Moss Tubego
Xigera Camp update
- January 2011 Jump
to Xigera Camp
Climate and Landscape
The wet season has finally arrived. While we never experienced more than a few days of continuous rain, there have been several downpours producing close to an inch of rain. The total of just less than 200mm of rain for the month was nicely separated by many sunny days. The average temperature remained at about 31°C with a maximum reaching 37.5 - which is very warm for this time of year.
The Delta water has risen quite a bit already, which is mostly due to the high rainfalls. The inundation is expected to be even higher than last year, the current high levels and rainfall in the Angolan mountains promise an interesting winter season.
The rising water not only allows us to boat further into the Delta, but also to do other activities. We have had several bush brunches in a beautiful spot overlooking some flooded plains, while the lechwe slowly move past.
Once again Xigera Camp has delivered on expectations. Several boat and mokoro excursions came across a group of elephant bulls. These bulls chose to hang around for a couple of weeks. They were seen crossing the deep channels, feeding in the floodplains, but also browsing on Xigera Island. The breeding herds are slowly moving back into the Delta and several could be spotted on the floodplain in front of camp, as well as around the airstrip.
The resident female leopard has been seen regularly, often with her almost one-year-old cub. On several game drives they were spotted hanging out in a tree, feeding on a kill, or just relaxing in the tall grass which hides them so well.
Although hunted, the impala population is growing strong. Last season's young, which are about three months old now, are running along with the herds and getting to know our area. It's great to see how quickly the young animals get used to the game drive vehicles and the people on them.
Other so called "general game" has been seen a-plenty. The giraffe have been putting on a show for our guests on the way from camp to the airstrip. They have a couple of young ones as well, which are great to watch, because they are still learning how to move those big bodies as gracefully as their parents do.
There is no better place for birding than Xigera Camp in the Okavango Delta. Four different kinds of kingfisher - Malachite, Woodland, Pied, and Giant can be seen regularly in and around camp. Our local pair of Pel's Fishing Owls are seen on a daily basis. These large nocturnal fish hunters hide in the tree tops during the day but make great photo models nevertheless.
The endangered Wattle Cranes have found a new favourite place outside Tent 4 on the plain.
The mokoro trips especially are great for birding as you cruise through the tall reeds without a sound. Being at the same level as the hundreds of different water bird species also allows for great viewing and photography.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Julian, Nina, Lindi, Lopang and Kgabiso
Guides: Ace, Barobi, Luke, Onx
Chitabe Camp update
- January 2011 Jump
to Chitabe Camp
The first month of 2011 has come and gone, and we had a fairly busy month hosting guests from Australia, Italy, Germany, the UK and the United States.
The month of January has had some good rainfall and we've recorded 295mls, which in previous years would have constituted half our annual rainfall. We've also had some spectacular storms, as only Africa can produce, with laser-like lightning shows coupled with thunder that at times literally made the earth shake.
The concession is alive with youngsters of all living creatures. Everywhere you look there is an enormous variety of birds - especially waterbirds - and animals and the flora is looking beautifully lush and green. It truly has become a paradise.
The wildlife sightings have been spectacular as usual, even with the rain. Chitabe can proudly announce a few new family members in our various groups of predators. The collared cheetah was found and to the surprise of everyone she proudly paraded her four new gorgeous cubs. However, it does appear that towards the end of January, she may have lost one of the cubs as we only spotted three little faces on the last few occasions that we have seen them. Mortality rates among cheetah cubs is high, so we do keep fingers crossed that the mother's good parenting skills will enable the remaining three to survive.
Our resident leopard are also sporting and nursing new offspring, together with our two small prides of lion. The Chitabe pack of wild dog have been seen only a couple of times during the month, which is normal as this is the time of year that they traverse their home ranges. Numbers fluctuate between 24 and 26 dogs, but we are pretty sure that the pack is still at full strength with a total compliment of 26 members.
Love seems to be in the air as our guests and guides spotted both leopard and lion mating. We hope therefore that we can announce some new arrivals in the near future.
All the general game including impala, giraffe and zebra are also in abundance and all proudly showing off their young. It is such a treat to watch these young animals running and playing with their herd mates, so full of energy and excitement.
Birding has been absolutely amazing. The summer migrants that visit us at this time of year are still keeping the camp and concession entertained by their beautiful song and chatter. Thanks to the rainfall all the floodplains and depressions have filled up, attracting a huge variety of hunters and waders, congregating together as friends.
During the last two weeks of January all the old rooms at Chitabe Lediba were dismantled and removed and the sites have been prepared for new structures. In addition to all new guest rooms, Chitabe Lediba will also be replacing the swimming pool and the decking surrounding the pool as well as putting in a new kitchen, laundry and a couple of storerooms.
To all those guests that were here to experience the month of January, we hope you had a spectacular stay and we at Chitabe say thank you for sharing this time with us and hope to see you again soon.
Thanks to Bill and Barton Barker; Sondra Lee and Debra
Staff in Camp
Managers: Trevor, Lieana,Tiny, and Jack
Guides: Phinley, Ebineng , Gordon , Luke, and Anthony
Vumbura Plains Camp update
- January 2011 Jump
to Vumbura Plains Camp
2011 has truly been a year of lions so far at Vumbura. The night air reverberates with the roars of the males as if in contest with the thundering skies. It is not just the lion that have leaped to life... The Okavango is bursting with vitality at this time of year, energised and rejuvenated by the life-giving rains. Everything responds, growing almost as we watch and transforming our beloved landscape into something new and quite wonderful.
We had some nights of very heavy rain towards the end of the month, and it is a pleasure to emerge blinking into a newly clean world in the morning. In the damp sand of the game trails, pressed deeply into the soft surface, the details of the previous night's comings and goings, the commuting and grazing and browsing of nocturnal animals on the move.
Roads can fill with water in a matter of hours - bone-dry one day; a small river the next. That wonderful summer sound of spray thrown up by Land Rover tyres, falling again on damp sand and grass. Crystal-clear rain water colonised within hours by schools of tiny fish, exploiting a brand-new habitat.
In turn they and other small creatures become a rich food source for all sorts of species. Soon the roads are lined with patient plovers and pratincoles, with swallows swooping in from above. The hammerkops seek out prominent perches from where they can survey the scene for amphibians.
Studies of the Delta show that our local summer rainfall contributes between 5% and 35% of the annual floodwaters, and it seems quite possible that this year we are likely to be closer to the latter figure. The view from camp, especially as we watch the sun rise at breakfast each morning, is breathtaking. Sheets of silver water stretch around each tree line, and we are regularly seeing hippo in front of camp now. Red lechwe are also seen splashing from island to island.
The sudden arrival of so much water has again changed many dynamics at Vumbura. Some of the drier-country creatures, such as ostrich, seem genuinely perplexed, whilst others are revelling in this sudden abundance. We have had some wonderful and very entertaining sightings of elephant herds playing and spraying in new waterholes.
There is plenty of food for the browsers and grazers. For the territorial predators, the incoming waters can be a bonanza, but also a potential threat. The game is more concentrated, making hunting easier, but at the same time, lion prides and coalitions which normally avoid one another by staying in core areas of their territories are suddenly much more conscious of each other. For the guest, this is wonderful news as sightings become commonplace.
We made quite an unusual discovery this month as we came across the largely-eaten remains of a lioness close to the airstrip. She was one of the old girls from the Kubu Pride and we are still not sure how she died. Judging from the shattered femurs, hyaena had certainly feasted on her carcass. Here was a cat who had lived a long and contented life, in the happy hunting grounds of the Okavango Delta but whose last hour had come.
Who can say what fate befell her? Separated from the sorority of the pride, had the loping hyaenas finally caught up with her? Or have we been privy to the opening shots in a war for territory between our prides? Tragic though this loss was, it is merely another revolution in the circle of life.
A few days later we suddenly came across a possible culprit in this murder mystery in the shape of a male lion which none of us recognised. He was presiding over quite a scene: not one but two dead giraffe. Killing a giraffe would be a tall order for a lone lion but this adult male, resplendent in his black-streaked Kalahari mane, had done it. We suspect that he had surprised the female giraffe either during or just after giving birth, and in her weakened state he had been able to overpower her. Killing the new born giraffe, wobbly on spindly legs not yet under control, would have been far easier.
This new male lion spent days with his prizes, through sunshine and showers, and in all this time he was not challenged. His presence in this area however represents a significant threat to our resident Kubu Boys.
Who knows what the outcome could be, other than an exciting few months ahead as the flood constricts these great beasts into even narrower spaces. We expect phenomenal sightings and moments in the company of these lions - and all the myriad other species which make Vumbura such a great safari destination.
"Highlight: staff and guide professionalism and friendliness"
"Moronga was the best guide ever..."
"The drives were amazing! Our surprise candle light dinner was very special - thank you!"
"Thank you so much for adjusting to my gluten-free diet"
"Thanks to all staff - all are warming, welcoming people - pleasure to deal with"
With very best wishes from all of us in the January team, and hoping to see you here at Vumbura Plains during 2011: Britt Twyford-Vaughan, Wayne Vaughan, Katie Horner, Keedo Sebere, and Nick 'Noko' Galpine.
Little Vumbura Camp update
- January 2011 Jump
to Little Vumbura Camp
Duba Plains Camp update
- January 2011 Jump
to Duba Plains Camp
The month of January has come and gone and brought about plenty of changes with it.
There has been a major increase in water levels which has caused the Tsaro Pride to move closer to camp. The outcome is that we have pretty much seen them on a daily basis. Their diet recently has consisted mainly of warthog, red lechwe and tsessebe.
They have however lived up to their reputation and killed a buffalo towards the end of January. The unfortunate buffalo was a heavily pregnant female which the pride feasted on for a good couple of days. With the pride so close to camp our nights have been alive with sounds of lion and hyaena interaction. It is quite exciting when one walks to breakfast early in the morning to see lion and hyaena tracks on the pathway. It almost makes it surreal.
The resident male lion has been seen regularly and he has taken to hunting alone, as well as making regular visits to both prides on the concession which keeps him quite active.
The grasses have become quite tall and the bushes are rather thick. Nature sparkles with colourful butterflies, dragonflies, moths and flowers. The fruiting trees have increased the baboon and monkey activity around camp. We are flabagasted at how much food they consume as they literally feeding from sunrise to sunset.
The general game in and around the camp has been active. Hippo and elephant have been plentiful and we have had hyaena in camp almost every second day. The local populace of giraffe have been gracing us with their presence around the airstrip, along with Ostrich displaying their beauty. The lonely wildebeest is also looking healthy.
Bird life has been phenomenal. We have come across a Pel's Fishing Owl on three different occasions perching on the same tree together with the African Harrier Hawk. African Skimmers have been seen on a few occasions and the summer migrants have been offering fantastic sightings.
January saw the closing of camp for several days for our annual boot camp training programme. All the staff embraced the training and we finished off with a fun day full of activities ranging from the Mr and Mrs Duba talent show to a football derby.
Banoka Bush Camp update
- January 2011
The rains generally cooled down our concession this month which was a wonderful reprieve from previous months. During the day Banoka was mostly covered with cloud but at night we experienced some wonderfully clear skies which enabled our guests to see the wonderful stars which seem to shine more brightly from our continent.
Banoka's bush is beginning to look like a jungle as it grows thicker by the day. Beautiful flowers have become common, catching our eye with their striking colours. The mopane woodlands, known for producing protein rich food common in north eastern Botswana, are also a favourite of the elephant.
The game in and around Banoka continue to prevail in numerous numbers. Despite the bush getting thick there are still good sightings of animals. Elephant, the dominant animals of the Khwai area, are often seen with their young. Wild dog were seen by a number of guests this month which is always a highlight. There are two different packs which move around the concession. Both packs were spotted; one consisting of five dogs and the other are four strong.
The guests came upon a beautiful big male leopard hunting impala in the woodland which they watched for as long as possible before he dashed off into the forest. We wonder if the big leopard tracks we have found along the road belong to him, or if there is another leopard nearby.
This month we saw the hatching of 26 new ostrich chicks around the Banoka area. They have been seen again on the road a number of times with their parents. This is possibly because the road is clear and the ostriches feel safer slightly in the open.
With the camp only four months old the camp still looks sparkling and new and the staff are still rejoicing at the wonderful opportunity of being able to work in such a beautiful and natural environment. They love to make this camp a home from home for our guests, and we have had a lot of wonderful feedback from guests.
"The staff at Banoka are excellent, food is outstanding; hats off to the chefs for the great meals prepared for us during our stay at this camp"
Staff in Camp
Managers: Max and Kay.
Jacana Camp update
- January 2011 Jump
to Jacana Camp
The last month has been rather wet and the surrounding environment shows off its rewards. We had an amazing 408mm of rain in January which has kept the water level around camp rather stable. Daily temperatures have been very comfortable; averaging in the low thirties, with evening temperatures dropping to the mid-twenties.
In the night skies, Orion is the constellation to look out for and can be seen almost the whole night accompanied by Taurus and Gemini.
Camp and wildlife
Most of the month was closed for maintenance and preparing ourselves for the year ahead. This year we are building a new family unit that will be able to accommodate a family of four. Progress is going well and we should have it ready for use by the end of March. We also have a new thatch roof to compliment the thoughtful architecture of our main area and dining room adding to the beauty of this water wonderland.
During maintenance we don't venture too far from camp but this does not mean that the wildlife does not come to us. We have a new resident male hippo that helps to maintain grass levels (We don't need a lawn mower with him around).
The local lioness has been a regular visitor swimming around the camp and waking us in the early mornings with her low rumbling roars. There are also many young elephant bulls checking up on the progress of our maintenance here at Jacana; sometimes spending the night.
Out on the floodplains there is also a big male lion prowling the islands, looking for unsuspecting red lechwe. These mammals abound in their hundreds to feed on the green grasses left behind by the evening rain showers.
So as the first days of February begin we would like to welcome you to come and spend a few nights, explore the waterways and unspoilt nature with us.
It will be an experience you will never forget.
There is an amazing array of birds around at the moment, the infamous Pel's Fishing Owls are constantly around camp and are frequently heard. A large group of Wattled Cranes also visit us every day walking the floodplain in front of camp. There are various Woodland Kingfishers nesting on the island and to top it all off the Western-banded Snake Eagle is also back with his awkward call announcing his presence.
"Run with compassion by Pieter & Danielle and their staff - this camp is very special". - Victoria & Jessica (Austria)
"Thanks to all for a wonderful time in an extraordinary lodge. And to Pieter for the storm photos!" - Tony, Catharina, Natasha, Alexia (Belgium)
"The migrating fish were amazing! Lovely time!" - Karen, Alexis, Jim, Scott (USA)
"Thanks for a peaceful and interesting stay. Pity is was not longer. Good luck for 2011! Tiger fishing was excellent!" - Allan, Amelia, Monique, Gerald, Karlien (South Africa)
Staff in Camp
Managers: Pieter Ras and Danielle van den Berg
Guides: Timothy Samuel and Joseph Basenyeng
Abu Camp update
- January 2011 Jump
to Abu Camp
2010 saw the completion of our new main area at Abu. We were closed for the first six months of the year in order to complete the work before we opened our doors again in June for the high season. Guests have really enjoyed the new amenities which has maintained its original style, however has been opened up and enlarged to receive more light and additional seating. A library has also been built, holding an extensive collection of elephant-related literature - a good place for guests to relax and read. Abu closed again on 15 October 2010 to allow for the final phase of construction - the tents - and will reopen at the beginning of April this year.
Abu's new accommodation will comprise six beautiful, decked Bedouin-style structures. They are larger than the original Abu tents and will include an entrance area leading into the bedroom and a seating area. The bathrooms will feature both internal and external facilities, hand-finished to the highest standards. A front deck looks out over the lagoon, perfect for that early-morning coffee or evening cocktail as the African sun dips below the horizon.
For those looking for an even more thrilling experience, we have constructed a "star bed" overlooking the elephant boma. Raised high above the ground, the open platform offers a unique opportunity to sleep under the stars and above the roaming elephant below. What could be more romantic?
The Abu elephant herd is doing well. The rains over northern Botswana have ensured a drop in temperature which is far more comfortable for these great beasts. Cathy remains the head of the herd. Little Paseka, the youngest member of our herd, is growing daily, albeit rather cheeky and confident. Her loyalty to her mother Shireni is wavering as she seems to be attaching herself to Kitty instead.
We are very much looking forward to welcoming 12 schoolchildren from the Gumare area into camp in early February. This has been made possible by the Children in the Wilderness and Elephants for Africa organisations. It is hoped that by educating these children about our elephants, they will become the future of conservation in Botswana. As we all know, education is priceless, and we support any endeavour to enhance people's knowledge through interaction with our truly exceptional herd.
This year we are looking forward to welcoming some new faces to the Abu team, and we are excited to receive our guests again in April.
Happy New Year!
update - January 2011 Jump
to Kwetsani Camp
Weather and Water Levels
Not only did the clouds bring rain this month, but they also made for some spectacular sunsets and sunrises. Normally during these summer months we have to lift our boats out of the water due to low water levels, however the impressive floods we received in 2010 and the good rain that we have been having has left its mark on the channels and smiles on our faces allowing for boating to continue. Motor boating is a great way of experiencing the Delta and taking in wildlife from the waters. However, the ultimate experience is the mokoro ride. Without a sound, a mokoro weaves its way over the shallows, highlighting how peaceful it is to move in nature's silence.
At this time of year we typically see less red lechwe, however they have continued to dominate the floodplains this month. The aquatic antelope have been sharing their plains with some of their seasonal friends such as zebra, a sprinkle of wildebeest and, although not seasonal, the impala.
Some of the big boys have been in camp. Hippo and buffalo have regularly been seen roaming under the raised walkways grazing and their communication sounds add depth to their presence.
Probably the most sought-after cat, the lion, has graced our presence this month. Broken Nose, a female, renowned in this area for her hunting skills, revealed her very young cub to us. She is not typically seen for very long and keeps to herself most of the time, but we were delighted to have a very special opportunity to watch her interacting with her newborn.
The Kwetsani Pride have also been sighted occasionally, with the male of the pride being seen regularly. One morning he marched in front of camp roaring for his females, but didn't get any answers. He then spent a few days with us in camp, strutting around and seemingly waiting for the females to make an appearance. When they finally joined him, they startled the locals: the tsessebe, impala, red lechwe, baboons and vervet monkeys.
The male was also seen one night on a game drive eating grass for some time before regurgitating it. He may have been doing this to dislodge some bones or food in his gut.
This time of year always brings our favourite migratory birds into the limelight. Woodland Kingfishers, Ospreys, Collared Pratincols, Yellow-billed Stork and Open-billed Storks form part of the gathering. Our trusty residents, the Slaty Egrets, Wattled Cranes and Maribou Storks always provide a good sighting too.
A special bird seen this month, twice, was the rare Black Coucal. Another wonderful sighting was a congregation of Fish Eagles in the Kwetsani plains, feeding on a dead barbel.
Obviously the month started with a bang, bringing in the New Year, but we had a few other celebrations throughout. We hosted some honeymooners, a birthday girl and a couple of significant anniversaries. This kept us well entertained and in the festive spirit throughout.
"Black Coucal, monitor lizards, hippo sighting at camp were spectacular. Florence was absolutely amazing, she really looked after us well. She is very calm and patient with guests. All the team were amazing. Such a lovely atmosphere. Lodge is stunning. Keep up the good work." Ian
"Excellent staff, very impressed by the effort they made to ensure a special experience. Superb experience all around. We had heard that the Delta is a special place and Kwetsani certainly made that true." Craig and Jodi
"We had a wonderful time in Kwetsani!" Michael and Marie
Staff in Camp
Managers: Tara Salmons, Ipeleng Pheto, Neuman Vasco, Billy McKechnie, Minette Wallis
Guides: Florence Kagiso, OP Kaluluka, Ronald Gaopalelwe
update - January 2011 Jump
to Jao Camp
Water Levels And Weather
It has been a wet January. The sky has been filled with an array of clouds from the layered stratus, wispy cirrus and most often cumulonimbus clouds have hovered over our island. The different cloud formations are quite spectacular and it is amazing to see their transformation during the day.
Water levels have risen slightly causing the water to trickle gently down the channels giving the landscape a fresher appearance. The water puddles all over the island are providing an abundance of drinking supply for all the smaller creatures. When the sun decides to peek its head from behind the clouds, a rainbow of colours is formed across the sky bringing a warm glow over the land. It is a month of mist and fruitfulness, both adorning beauty in their own way.
In the beginning of the month we were eagerly awaiting the arrival of the baby mongoose. The family of mongoose were as ever, still scurrying around with two heavily pregnant females in their midst. Their bellies were nearly dragging on the ground. It was most entertaining to watch them walk a couple of metres and then have to stop to take a break; lying flat on the ground, legs spread out behind them. In the middle of the month we found the new-borns under our entertainment room all huddled together, eyes still closed. They are absolutely adorable and no bigger than a tennis ball. The family are moving around so we spot them in different places on occasion. This forms part of their defence mechanisms to keep the babies out of harm's way in case any unsuspecting predator becomes too curious.
A very rare, or should I say 'odd' occurrence took place in our staff village. A cobra and a python were seen fighting. Cobra's have a unique beauty and they move swiftly and nimbly while pythons have great strength and resistance. That's not the crux of the story though; whilst the two snakes were absorbed in their fight, a mongoose came out of nowhere and killed both snakes.
Moving onto the bigger animals - buffalo seem to be making themselves welcome on the island. Some were spotted in the distance during high tea and they have also been seen on various occasions during game drives.
We have had a great month of lion sightings. At night the sound of a lion's mighty roar is heard as it echoes through camp. As the guests set out for a morning game drive, our knowledgeable guides have already registered in which direction the lion will have headed. A sturdy male, as well as three females, have been in the area. One of the females has cubs and some guests were lucky to witness them playing in the grass of our floodplains. It is popular belief that lion don't like water or getting wet and in most cases this is true. However the lion in our part of the Delta have had to adapt to the wet, marshy land. I have often pondered on why our lion (especially the females) seem more muscular than those in other parts of Africa. Our guide KB puts it down to the fact that they swim; which of course they have to as there is always an abundance of water in the Delta.
Elephant are the biggest land mammal. They are playful creatures who can often be seen playing in water and spraying themselves. With all the rain falling and causing the water levels to rise, the elephant are slowly making their way back to camp. We had a quiet time in camp last month with our resident elephant migrating elsewhere. Now all the excitement and anticipation has returned as we spotted him a few times in camp this month. He's wonderfully cheeky and a great pleasure to have around as he adds great atmosphere in camp.
Last but not least, regarding our wildlife, are the lechwe's. Famous to the Delta, they roam our floodplains every day. They are similar looking to the impala except that they are furrier and the males' horns differ from the impala. They are semi-aquatic antelope and you will often see them skipping through water out on the floodplains. The most beautiful sight is to see a large herd of these mammals running through these plains. They move with such grace and agility and are always a treat for our guests.
Some of the common sightings worth mentioning are the white-browed Robin Chats, a fascinating small bird which is a wonderful bird to watch. They produce an amazing array of beautiful bird song. Breakfast is always celebrated by the Arrow-marked Babblers - quite literally! We have to warn guests to keep their eye on their cereal bowls if they are not the sharing types. They are not named 'babblers' for no reason. They will sit and babble amongst themselves all day long and even seem to squabble at guests when they chase them from their muesli. As mischievous as they may be they have certainly become a part of the family and breakfast simply wouldn't be the same without them.
The Wattled Crane, on the other hand is an endangered species; however we are blessed to still have a fair number in the Delta. Our guests had the pleasure of seeing these wonderful creatures dance this month. They pair for life and the courtship dance they perform are unique for each bird which are specially designed for his bride.
A uncommon sighting of a Black Coucal had some of our guests and staff ecstatic this month. The species has the role of sexes reversed with the males tending the nest while females are polyandrous and maintain territories. Studies on the hormonal system show that the females progesterone level is responsible for controlling the aggressiveness of females.
Fun Fact: A buffalo calf can stand within 30 minutes of birth and can run within hours
We hosted a wonderfully interesting guest this month - the founder of the International Crane Foundation. He has been all over the world studying and monitoring various crane species. It was wonderful to acquire so much knowledge from him.
The rains kept us from arranging bush brunches, but we entertained guests with other wonderful activities such as a wine tasting evening. A stunning array of the best South African wines were tasted and the most tantalizing cheese platter was served to complement the wines.
"Super duper time. Thank you for hosting us." Lesego & Pona
"Inexplicable experience! Keep it up guys". Portia & Isang
"A one in a lifetime experience. Awesome!" Oagile & Malibogo
"Caring and helpful service and very experienced guides. Luxury and bush - what more can you wish!" Ingrid & Hans
"Jao, the place of joy!" Irca & Jacky
"Thank you to all the staff. You are wonderful, keep it up.' Ingrid & Gothard
"Great place. Loved the birds" George
Staff in Camp
Managers: Chris Barnard, Andrew Gaylord, Lauren Griffiths, Bradley White, Annelize Hattingh, Marina-spa therapist, Desiree - executive chef
Guides: Maipaa Tekanyetso, David Mapodise, Kabo (KB) Kgopa
Tubu Tree Camp
update - January 2011 Jump
to Tubu Tree Camp
The year kicked off with a bang as Mother Nature's displayed her own terrific fireworks display for us. It was a wonderful way to bring in the New Year.
It has been a water filled month. We received close to 300mm of rain of which we received most of it from a few big downpours and some showers here and there with the sunshine following closely behind. The temperatures have been great with lows of 20 degrees Celsius and highs of 28 degrees making for a very comfortable month.
This month we shut camp for two weeks for our annual maintenance. The Tubu staff worked hard at giving the camp a fresh look and to do some deep cleaning and additional upkeep. With the staff hard at work in camp and not out and about looking for animals, the animals came to visit us instead.
The floodplain was full of elephant mud fighting this month. Some passed through camp, creating road blocks for us as we were hard at work. We also saw the old buffalo bulls known as the dagga boys, some reedbuck, wildebeest and zebra. However it was the predators that created the excitement. The young lioness that still hasn't shown us her cubs was seen hunting in front of camp albeit unsuccessfully. When our guests came back to camp we had an incident where a guest was standing at the pool and the lioness came around the corner right in front of the pool only metres away from our guest. They made eye contact, and very quickly the lioness retreated into the bush. The big male lion decided that he needed to pass though as well and then lay down for a power nap at the back of camp.
The hyaena have been serenading us to sleep every evening and their tracks have been seen in camp almost every morning. With the cool temperatures, it has made it comfortable for them to travel in the afternoons. They have also taken to sleeping in front of camp.
The Tubu leopard have been strutting their stuff. We've had numerous sightings of them in on the floodplain, crossing through camp under the curio shop and challenging the male lion with their calls. The two young leopard have been showing off and on one occasion the male tried to play with his sister. She was clearly not interested and after a while climbed a tree to move away from his persistence. As only a brother would do, he followed her up the tree, climbed over the top of her when she had made herself comfortable and then lay down right next to her.
The end of the month was highlighted by the return of the lechwe to the floodplain in front of camp.
"Highlights were definitely the close-ups of the leopards - once in a tree above our heads and once on the ground. Fantastic Guide Johnny gave us great coffee and sundowners in lovely locations and gave us great game drives - we learnt loads about the local wildlife, birds and plants!" Thomas and Alannah (Germany/Ireland)
"It's been an incredible experience. Other than the game rides, the animals and the great landscape, all the personnel of the camp are as good as they can be, and a fundamental part of the enjoyment of the three days safari." Guillermo & Constantino (Spain)
Kalahari Plains Camp
update - January 2011 Jump
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