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South Africa camps
Pafuri Camp update - January 2011 Jump
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January saw the dramatic arrival of the summer rainfall. We had a total of 131mm of rain this month of which the majority was captured in 24 hours around mid-month. Fortunately the rains have cooled the temperatures down and most days have stayed below 40 degrees Celsius. The bush continues to be green and lush and the animals look healthy. Unfortunately the fever tree forest adjacent to the Luvuvhu River is currently inaccessible by vehicle because of the amount of rain received.
The pans on the Luvuvhu and Limpopo floodplains are all full of water and are attracting a lot of water birds. Pafuri is one of the best birding areas in the Kruger, a known fact by any anyone in local birding communities.
Game viewing has been great this month too, with substantial lion sightings. We had no fewer than 22 days of lion sightings this month. Practically every guest who stayed with us had the good fortune to see at least some members of our lion population. By the last week of the month we didn't have to go far to find them. There was a mating pair (sub-adult male and female) which spent a week only three kilometers from camp. Their activities attracted the territorial adult male in the area on a few occasions as well.
Buffalo were also regularly seen and a substantial herd of more than 100 spent many nights during the month adjacent to camp. The plains game and other ungulate species have also gathered in the area in good numbers. Eland sightings were good this month and at one sighting we saw up to a herd of 60. General game sightings such as impala, warthog, nyala, kudu, zebra, waterbuck, bushbuck and more were seen in big numbers and most of them with their newborns. Although blue wildebeest numbers are low in the area, they were seen with calves on a number of occasions. Elephant have also been seen regularly this month, albeit not within the same concentration levels of the dry winter months. There are a number of bulls in the area seen often, while we spotted two separate breeding herds which were more elusive.
Leopard were seen on a number of occasions, including a few sightings of a female with two cubs near Lanner Gorge. Other rare sightings this month were porcupine, Meller's mongoose and honey badger.
Although the grass is long and the bush is thick at present, game viewing is still excellent. We have also extended our activities to the south of the Luvuvhu River and these game drives brought sightings of species like giraffe which we do not encounter often in our core area. Pafuri continues to excel in game viewing, birding and scenery.
Pafuri Walking Trail update - January 2011 Jump
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Kings Camp update - January 2011 Jump
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I hope you all had a blessed start to 2011 like we have!
It has been raining beautifully and we had amazing sightings of general game in the area. The grass is green and still very palatable. Daily sightings include large numbers of Impala, Zebra, Giraffe, Waterbuck, Kudu and Wildebeest.
Due to all the water around we also regularly have great sightings of water birds in the area.
Leopard sightings were good as always. We shared special bush moments with our resident leopards from the South right up to the North.
Ntombi and her 10 month old boy were seen frequently in the nearby vicinity of camp. One sighting that stood out was when she didn’t allow him to climb into a tree to join her for a rest. He attempted a few times, but once he realized that there wasn’t enough space he let it be and rested on the ground below. The youngster is now almost as big as his mother, so her kill rate needs to increase to supply both of them with enough food.
Rockfig Jr. and Tumbela (14 months old) spend less time with each other now. Tumbela was seen more regularly than her mother and on quite a few occasions with smaller kills of her own ranging from scrub hare to Steen buck and baby impala. Mom still collects her when a sustainable kill is made and this typically ends with an over-excited Tumbela driving her mother insane to get to the kill in a hurry. Tumbela will probably associate with her mother for another 4-6 months before tension between them will split them apart. Tumbela has a great chance of survival as she learned expert skills from her mother and successfully started making kills at only 11 months old.
Xinope-nope spent most of his time between Reflection Dam and Tanda Tula camp. This young male is growing to become a beautiful adult and has amazing presence in the area. He was seen on Impala kills twice and still frequent on the turf we regularly see him in.
Now for an update regarding some of our Northern Leopards
The 13 year old M’bali female surprisingly reappeared on the Jaydee property. This is the oldest leopard we currently follow in our traversing and many of you may recognise her as the “bad luck” mother when it comes to raising babies. She seems to be back in parts of her old territory in areas we haven’t seen her in for ages. She has now lost her Canine teeth on the left side of her mouth and only uses the remaining ones on the right to make kills. She is still successful and we saw her on kills four times during the month.
We’ve been lucky seeing the Argyle male a few times in the month. This large male leopard is just an amazing sight to behold and satisfies many of our guess with the quality of the sightings he provides.
The Xakubasa pride provided us with the most regular lion sightings during the first two thirds of the month.
One particular event stands out. The pride killed a giraffe close to Hide Dam and managed to seed there for four days. Both male coalitions were in close proximity to the kill and we feared that they would loose the kill soon but luck was on our side, and theirs, and none of the males showed up.
We did however witness some amazing interaction between them and the Rockfig Clan of Hyena. There were 10 of them and daily they would put so much pressure on the five lions. These are very brave Hyenas (I have witnessed them in many fights with lions) and a pride of lions with a very low tolerance for them. The lions did turn out victorious and managed to finish the whole carcass before the hyenas moved in.
The Machaton pride made up for the remaining third of our month’s lion sightings. All four of the cubs (all male) are still alive and looking very good. They did share a kill with the Timbavati boys and it looks like the cubs will be getting come cousins soon!! The other young lioness is approaching the end of pregnancy and may give birth very soon in February. Watch this Blog!!!
The Timbavati Boys spent most of the month far down south with another pride of lionesses. Two of them did visit a few times but most of our “maned” lion sightings belong to the Mahlatini Coalition.
These three lions were seen on numerous occasions following herds of buffalo in from the Klaserie and Umbabat reserves.
CAPE BUFFALO & ELEPHANT
The Buffalo heard move slower now with all the water and green grass about. Sightings were mostly of bachelors in close proximity to the dams and water holes.
Numerous elephants moved through the traversing, but closer to the end of the month the numbers got lower and more bachelor groups showed up.
Very few sightings during the month, but we did on a few occasions see a group of three roaming the North and North –Western parts of our traversing. I think our resident bulls may be following females in neighbouring areas, so we’ll wait for them to finish with their “honeymoons”.
The pack of 10 wild dogs was seen frequently and entertained numerous guests with special sightings of very rare animals.
We had one sighting of the Rockfig Clan of Hyena that deserves special mention in this section. It was a very hot morning and the clan decided to leave the shade they occupied close to the kill the lions had and moved to Hide dam for a swim!
It is not uncommon to see then resting in shallow water when it is hot, but to see the whole clan swimming and playing in the water was very special and indeed rare enough to put it into special sightings.
Cheetah sightings are less frequent than the wild dogs and right at the end of January we got to see three of them east of the camp!
A research team is based in the far south of the reserve and they send out regular newsletters updating us on Cheetah numbers in the area and how certain individuals are doing.
Hope to see you soon!
Morné and the Kings Camp guiding team.
Report written by: Morné Hamlyn (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Photography: Morné Hamlyn
Rocktail Beach Camp update - January 2011 Jump
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It has come to the end of the first month of 2011 and what a fantastic month it has been. January began with a bang. Everyone gathered in the main area and started the count-down to the New Year. As the clock struck midnight bottles of champagne were popped and everyone gave a loud cheer. Many of the kids who were in camp (and even some of the adults) jumped in the pool and the party really got started. Many people only headed off to bed after two o'clock in the morning.
To our minds, there is no better place to celebrate the beginning of 2011 than in this extremely beautiful wilderness area. Its long deserted beaches, thick coastal forests, untouched coral reefs, rolling grasslands and possibly one of the largest freshwater lakes in South Africa are sights to behold.
It is here at Rocktail Beach Camp that one can enjoy walking for kilometres along the beach, sometimes without seeing any other people. You can also swim in peace in the warm Indian Ocean without any crowds or noise. If you are lucky enough you may even encounter a turtle coming out of the sea onto the beach to lay her eggs, as a few of the guests that have visited us this month were fortunate enough to witness.
The month of January is the end of the turtle egg-laying season and marks the beginning of the hatching period. The turtle drives have been really popular and have been pretty successful. On most drives either loggerhead or leatherback turtles have made an appearance. They come up the beach, dig holes, lay their eggs and then return to the sea. This is as far as a turtles motherly instincts will go. From here on, the eggs and hatchlings are on their own.
We were also fortunate enough to see a few of the first hatchlings breaking free. It is unbelievable to imagine that something that small (smaller than the palm of your hand) can grow into a creature almost two metres long. It is incredible to see them digging themselves out from under the sand and struggling to scramble down to the sea. Quite a few succumb to the crabs, which kill them and then feast upon them. It is only the lucky ones and the really determined ones that make it to the sea. Unfortunately we have noticed that some of the nests have been raided. Honey badgers, monitor lizards and mongooses tend to enjoy turtle eggs as part of their diet. This is part of nature!
Turtles have also been seen in abundance on scuba dives. On these dives we've also had a number of other species spotted such as the green and hawksbill turtles. What is wonderful about Rocktail is the exclusivity of diving. There are not many places left in the world where you are diving on your own. These days you can expect to see lots of boats floating above reefs waiting for their many divers - but not here.
Below the surface one can see numerous brightly coloured tropical fish and often we also encounter turtles, moray eels, nudibranchs and others. This month the divers have also seen manta rays on a few occasions and some of the lucky ones have even come across whale shark.
You don't have to be a scuba diver to see the wonders of the sea at Rocktail as we also offer great snorkelling right from the beach. A short drive from the camp is a place called Lala Nek, where there are shallow rock pools where one can snorkel. This is an amazing place and at low tide one can see numerous different types of brightly coloured fish, including, amongst others, various species of angelfish, lionfish, butterflyfish, boxfish, triggerfish and lizardfish. Some lucky guests have seen blue-spotted ribbontail rays or even an octopus or two.
The walk down to the beach is a very pretty one. Coconut Road runs right through the coastal forest, where one can sometimes see red duikers, vervet monkeys, dwarf mongoose and those fortunate enough may even see a suni (one of the smallest antelope in southern Africa). The guided forest walks are also popular. Although the birds are not easy to see one can hear their beautiful calls ringing through the trees. The forests echo with the calls of Gorgeous Bush-Shrikes, Trumpeter Hornbills, Livingstone's and Purple-crested Turacos, Brown Robins and Black-backed Puffbacks. This area also has an amazing population of butterflies. Some of the more common ones include citrus, mocker, and green-banded swallowtails, white ladies, blue pansies, mother-of-pearls, blood-red acraeas and gold-banded foresters amongst others. This area is really a lepidopterist's dream.
There are also many other interesting creatures and insects that inhabit these coastal forests. Towards the end of Coconut Road, as one is about to go down to the beach, there are some fascinating nests in the trees. They consist of bundles of live leaves that are woven together with a white silk. These are the nests of the tailor ants. The adults cooperate with each other to pull the adjacent leaves of a tree closer together and then some of the adults take the larvae from the old nest and hold them in their jaws, causing the larvae to emit a silk which is used to bind the living leaves together and form a ball-like nest. These are quite complex structures and, considering how they are made, are quite wonderful to see.
One morning one of the guests was walking down to the main area from her room when she came across two snakes have a fight. They were wrapped all around each other. She quickly came and called some of the guides and managers. When we arrived there we witnessed an olive whip snake devouring an eastern green snake. It was really fascinating to see.
The trips to the nearby community and to Lake Sibaya are also popular. The road to Lake Sibaya passes through some beautiful open grassland, which borders the coastal forest and, on the other side, the ocean. This month we have seen numerous European Rollers, European Bee-eaters and European (Barn) Swallows hawking insects in the grassland. These birds, as their names imply, have travelled a long distance to visit us here in our summer months. Lake Sibaya is a great birding destination and we often see Fish Eagles, White-breasted Cormorants, Pied Kingfishers, Purple Herons and Rosy-throated Longclaws there. We often have great views of hippos and even crocodiles.
January is now at an end and we are all looking forward to seeing what February brings. Hopefully we will see you here.
Rocktail Bay Dive Report - January 2011 Jump
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Makalolo Plains update - January 2011 Jump
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This month has been warmer than we expected or hoped for. The temperature high was 35.5°C and the low dropping to only 23.1°C. The cloud cover varied from completely overcast to absolutely clear skies. Rain has fallen randomly over the month and mostly between 1 and 3pm which provided a cool breeze for the afternoon nappers. We had 12 days this month without any rain at all but we did record 26mm in just one day. The total rainfall for the month was 180mm.
Landscape and Vegetation
Vegetation during the month of January at Makalolo Plains has been drastically changing due to the season. The sandveld soils cater for trees such as Zambezi teak, ordeal and peeling bark ochna, which are flourishing and creating thick woodland in some parts, whereas open grassland areas, such as Little Somavundhla, are being dominated by weeping love grass which is highly nutritious to fauna. Parasitic plants such as witch weed are also establishing a residence in the area. Also striking, and decorating the bush, is the flower Zambezi wine spike that can easily be confused with the gladiolus species.
Considerably less game was seen on the plain in front of camp than in previous months. The main sightings were however plains game - mostly zebra, impala, warthog, kudu and some good sightings of a big herd of sable antelope near Somavundhla Pan.
On 24 of January a cheetah was seen near the pump watching a herd of impala. Two days later a big herd of elephant crossed the plain without showing any interest in drinking water or taking a mud bath. This is most unusual for these large animals. During the drier months of the year they tend to get quite loud and cantankerous near any source of water, pushing and shoving their contemporaries for the chance to plunge into the pans.
One of the most exciting reports this month was the sighting of four rhino at Ngweshla picnic site.
The last day of January was a very quiet day for the hoofed members of the concession. They were probably keeping a low profile due to the lion sighted at Ngweshla and a big male at Little Sam. Clearly nobody was taking any chances! In the afternoon however elephant were everywhere in front of camp.
Probability sightings for the month:
Baboon - 48%, bat-eared fox - 6%, buffalo - 10%, duiker - 10%, elephant - 16%, giraffe - 32%, hippopotamus - 68%, spotted hyaena - 10%, wild dog - 3%, impala - 61%, black-backed jackal - 29%, side-striped jackal - 6%, kudu - 42%, lion - 6%, slender mongoose - 3%, vervet monkey - 6%, porcupine - 3%, roan - 6%, sable - 16%, springhare - 16%, tree squirrel - 23%, steenbok - 23%, warthog - 13%, waterbuck - 42%, wildebeest - 45%, zebra - 55%
Now that the summer rains have begun in earnest and the trees and grasses have begun to flower and set seed, the summer migrants and resident birds are in full flight. The Amethyst and White-bellied Sunbirds are feasting upon the Zambezi teak flowers and the abundant insect life that is flying about. Shaft-tailed and Paradise Whydahs are seen on a regular basis and many of the cuckoo species can be heard in the woodlands but only fleeting glances can be had.
Both the Whiskered and White-winged Terns have been seen along with many raptors and water birds all trying to feed on the abundance of frogs to be found in the near saturated marsh areas. Large flocks of Woolly-necked and White Storks can be seen joining vultures and other raptors trying to catch thermals in between thunderstorms whilst the European and Red-breasted Swallows join the bee-eaters trying to catch the emerging flying ants, which at times can attract a large number of species such as Hooded Vultures, Tawny Eagles, Black and Yellow-billed Kites. All five species of the magnificent rollers are in residence and can be seen performing their 'rolling' courtship flight, and the Red-crested Korhaan is a regular sight, undertaking his suicidal somersaulting act. The young of several different species can be seen and heard begging for food and undertaking their first flight, and many species like the Southern Masked-Weavers can be seen preparing their nests for a second brood.
Camp and Guests
Makalolo has been very quiet this month. This however has given us a lot of time to do some maintenance around camp. The boardwalks and furniture have been re-varnished, the tents and main area have had a good spring clean and everything has been polished and tidied in preparation for guests arriving in February.
We also welcomed some new staff into camp this month. Elias Chiga is joining us as a learner Guide. Tendai Mdluli has taken up residence at Makalolo as General Manager. The Makalolo team wishes them both a warm welcome.
Sadly, we said goodbye to Bryan who moved to Davison's and Dharmesh who has gone on study leave before going back to Ruckomechi Camp.
Staff in Camp
Management - Kate and Tammy
Guides - Godfrey, Bryan, Elias and Richard (Trainee)
Thanks to Graham Cochrane
Little Makalolo update - January 2011 Jump
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Climate and Temperature
The weather has definitely kept us on our toes this month - 142mm of rain in total and a two-week stretch of cloudy skies had many people seriously considering investing in a pair of gumboots. However when the sun did come out, everything dried rapidly and we reached a maximum temperature of 33 degrees Celsius one day and the average maximum was a toasty 31 degrees. The single figures of winter are a distant memory and the average minimum was a pleasant 21.4 degrees Celsius. With the rain, the humidity levels have risen but a slight breeze has made most days idyllic.
Landscape and Vegetation
There can be no doubt that everything is making the most of the rains - the stark sandy environment characteristic of Hwange are no more. Instead lush green lawns, some turning into jungles of grass, grow in its place. The natural pans which had disappeared are now decent-sized bodies of water, while the larger ones are mini-lakes.
Driving through the Wilderness concessions, one could be forgiven for entertaining the thought of life jackets on Land Rovers. Some of the puddles gently lap the bonnet of the vehicles driving through them, whilst the terrapins making their homes here surf expertly on the resultant waves. This month all the trees, shrubs and grasses have flourished into pretty hues of green and buds of colour from orange, purple, yellow, blue and pink to snow-white.
Although the bush is wet and thick, sightings have continued to be good. The exotic sounding zorilla or striped polecat was seen on two different evening drives. These neat little creatures are a nice 'tick' on anyone's species checklist. We also had good viewings of bat-eared fox, despite their size and being quite elusive animals. One family of two adults and five pups were spotted hunting in the long grass, their big ears and dark faces looking intent on the next meal, whilst another, consisting of one adult and four cubs were also seen.
Plains game has been thriving and are all looking healthy as they gather in the open areas - the zebra, wildebeest, buffalo and impala all have little miniatures in their herds, already keeping up with their parents on impossibly slim legs.
Giraffe viewings have been good too as these elegant giants curl tongues of up to 42cm around foliage and the thorns which they feed on. Elephant herds still emerge from the bush to drink from the waterholes in the afternoons. A few good herds of sable were seen despite these antelope not relying heavily on water, while kudu were seen a number of times including some bulls locked in combat made for some superb photographs. The waterbuck are in their element and the warthogs are enjoying the swampy edges of the pans, whilst baboons and vervet monkeys peep out and look on from the dappled leaves and branches of the trees.
The lion sightings have continued to impress us. Individual males have been seen on their own on a few drives and it is always very humbling to see these great cats emerge or disappear into the grass at will, or walk down the road completely unconcerned about a vehicles presence. The oldest female in the Linkwasha Pride was seen on the road with two cubs. She started calling and then, eyes and ears, walked in an easterly direction. Suddenly three more cubs tumbled of the thick brush. Only a few minutes later the black-maned male also presented himself and posed for a few photos. On other occasions prides sighted were in hunting mode and one adult female was seen feeding on a wildebeest kill.
Probability sightings for the month:
Leopard, bat-eared fox, civet, honey badger, side-striped jackal and slender mongoose - 3%; spotted hyaena, striped polecat, serval and roan - 6%; eland - 13%; tortoise - 16%; lion and banded mongoose - 23%; duiker - 35%; sable - 39%; springhare and tree squirrel - 55%; buffalo - 58%; kudu - 61%; warthog - 65%; black-backed jackal and waterbuck - 68%; hippo and steenbok - 74%; giraffe - 77%; wildebeest and zebra - 81%; vervet monkey - 87%; elephant and baboon - 90%; impala - 94%
The birdlife around this time of the year is quite spectacular and many guests leave as keen birders - rattling off names like Black-winged Stilt, Verreaux's Eagle-Owl, Gymnogene, Racket-tailed Roller, African Golden Oriole and Little Banded Goshawk. The water birds are here in their droves and some of the marshy areas are amass with ducks, waders and storks, while the air is filled with swallows, swifts and bee-eaters.
A large Martial Eagle was seen perched on a tree near camp, sending the guineafowl, francolin and other smaller birds into a panic. Paradise Whydahs can been seen dipping in and out of the tall grass feasting on the seeds and a pair of Crowned Cranes roosted in front of Little Mak for the better part of January, their hooting calls complimenting the chorus of frogs and crickets warming up in the evenings.
"Lion cubs, mating giraffes, bee-eaters catching dragon flies and a big male elephant taking a drink from the pool during our romantic dinner in camp - just a few of the Little Makalolo memories we will treasure!" Steve & Rachelle - USA
"Thank you Little Mak Team for everything! You made our stay fun, comfortable and romantic (ooh la la!) This was an awesome way to conclude our bush travels in Africa and gave us many memories - to last a lifetime for our honeymoon." Katie & Johnny -USA/Russia
"We would like to say thank you to all the little Mak staff - it's been the most amazing stay! Thank you for the special honeymoon dinner at the pool, what a special and unexpected touch! Hopefully we'll be back soon to see you all again." Rich & Wendy - Zimbabwe/UK
Thank you to Carly Morgan
Davison's Camp update - January 2011
January has been a very wet month, as the summer rain has comfortably settled in, with 84mm of rainfall recorded. Many of the concession roads have become a muddy myriad of puddles, overflowing pans and depressions.
Game drives have become an interesting test of the guides' 4x4 skills and the consequent muscle power required to push vehicles out of the thick, gooey chocolate mud. While some early mornings have been chilly the days have warmed up during the day to a mild and comfortable 24°C. Humidity has been very high this month, especially after the frequent afternoon showers. We look forward to the February rain with anticipation - umbrellas, shovels and diff locks at the ready!
The vegetation around camp has responded with a flourish to the rains this month. With towering grasses stretching their abundantly seeded fronds well above our heads. A variety of species are thriving, to the extent of forming grassy green tunnels along our pathways and roads. The lush grassland sea stretches far into the horizon, while the rhythmic swaying of the light green stalks creates mesmerising waves and swells in the setting ochre sunlight. The early morning raindrops form sparkling jewels that weigh down the dancing kernelled heads in the brisk morning breeze. Tiny wildflowers are scattered about, their delicate flowers are colourful bursts amongst the looming grass stalks and fungi are emerging in varying shades of white, brown, red and purple.
The vast ocean of grass has done a fantastic job of concealing the wildlife this month, and the guides have had their work cut out for them in their search for the almost invisible animals. But, despite the persistent rain, slippery mud, tall grass and dense bush, the guides have had great sightings. The Back Pans Pride consisting of four lioness and their five cubs have been seen on a number of occasions, while Cecil, the male has awed guests with his impressive size and handsome face.
The largely insectivorous, bushy-tailed, bat-eared fox have been a regular sighting; two adults have been seen with their sub-adult pups around Linkwasha in the early evenings.
After what seemed to be a long period of not seeing elephant, the sightings this month have surprised us. Loan bulls, often in musth, as well as cow herds with youngsters have been seen on the move throughout the concession.
Zebra and wildebeest still dominate the open plains, their gangly foals are a source of great delight as they prance and gallop long-legged around the Ngamo Vlei area.
A journey of giraffe made Ostrich Pan their holiday home, hanging around for a few days, now only occasionally popping in for a visit. Warthogs and their little piglets lord over this pan, and are seen mud-bathing daily, before dashing off into the woodland with their bobbing aerial tails barely visible above the sweeping grass.
January ended with an exciting bang with a sighting of four white rhino at Ngweshla. They were placidly resting in the shade, it was fantastic to see one adult with an impressive horn, a sight that is becoming increasingly rare in Zimbabwe while another was de-horned and tagged, an indication that it was one of a few released back into the park.
Davison's turned into a bird sanctuary this month. Our resident Purple Roller couple are busily, albeit raucously, raising their three chicks. A baby Yellow-billed Hornbill hopped inquisitively into the office, and has been seen with its sibling flapping about learning the ropes with their frantic parents.
The muddy puddles on the roads accommodate Red-billed and Hottentot Teals as well as Sandpipers, Painted Snipes and Ruffs. A flock of Retz's and White-crested Helmet Shrikes are an ever present cacophony around camp while the Red-billed Francolins have moved into camp and have taken it upon themselves to awaken every creature with their crowing, cackling alarm bell which precedes the sweet melodious morning chorus.
The Guinea fowl have been seen bumbling along the roads with hordes of fluffy chirruping chicks tagging along behind. And the cloudy skies have been filled with raptors, kites and eagles, often congregating at a flying ant buffet as the alates leave their underground safe haven.
And so we soar into February, with anticipation of the water birds and young fledglings that will congregate in the soggy Ngamo wetland and the ever increasing puddles and pans around the concession.
"All FANTASTIC, rooms, meals, game drives and staff- WELL DONE''- Ward
"A truly unforgettable experience, the knowledge and passion of our guide was a highlight; you run a truly first class operation."- Kirkland
Ruckomechi Camp update - January 2011 Jump
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January has been a typically humid and wet month. It rained pretty much every day and we received 197mls for the month which has brought us up to 565mls recorded for the season.
Huge cumulous clouds have built up over the escarpment all month. One can almost see the rain sweeping in and then there is a mad rush to close up the front of the house and the library.
Vegetation, Landscape and the Zambezi River
The dense green foliage and vegetation of the landscape contrast beautifully with the backdrop of the stormy skies.
The Kariba Water Authority opened two of its floodgates early this year and on 23 January the Zambezi River widened its girth, cutting into our camp frontage. The front island disappeared and several albida and green thorn trees have fallen in the river. We have often joked since then that the star-gazing deck could possibly soon become a Jacuzzi!
This month has seen an ever lessening of game on the river frontage as all have moved back into the ridge and beyond where there is good forage and water is everywhere. Kudu and warthog were seen near Parachute Pan mid-month. A lone nyala was sighted on the Chirundu Road. A couple of bull elephant roam camp from time to time, keeping us on our toes with their sudden appearance. An impala, named Acorn by a member of staff, claimed the island in the front of house as his own until he had to make a swim for it when the water levels rose. We also counted 36 male impala stranded on the island in front of Basil's Tree, and it appears there are plenty of crocodiles hanging around the area....
The lion and hyaena have been vocal and we have seen their spoor throughout camp, but the floodplain at the back of house where the Zambezi is now flowing up the Charara has prevented any predators or plains game from venturing our way.
Other events include an Eastern Tiger Snake shaken from its spot as he took in some sun from a solar panel geyser on one of the rooms. At night the hippo have been somewhat vocal close to the staff rooms, keeping us all awake! Finally the baboons and monkeys are still ever-present and have kept us busy running after them when they find the sugar bowl.
Birds and Birding
We recorded 146 birds this month. Each day is greeted with the deafening drone of bumble bees that sound like World War II bombers coming at dawn, prompting a symphony of sound - from coucals calling in the rain to the purring of the Mourning Doves, the trill of the Woodland Kingfishers and cry of the ever present Fish Eagle.
We watched fascinated at each meal as a male Masked Weaver patiently wove numerous homes in the green thorn close to the library. Each time his fussy little wife tore them down.
A sad occurrence as the river rose this month was to watch the waders and plovers swooping over the rising waters unable to safeguard their nests. A pair of swallows have nested under the star-gazing deck only to be barred access by the water level. We have opened the firewood panels in the hopes they will get through that way.
Rapters have not been prolific, but a Gymnogene was spotted earlier this month, as well as a Western Banded Snake-Eagle.
Our guests will only be returning towards the end of March and therefore general maintenance has been the order of the day. Two new staff blocks are being built, as well as the new guest toilet, and the kitchen is being retiled.
Thanks to Johnny Russell and Carel van Helsdingen
Mana Canoe Trail update - January 2011 Jump
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Toka Leya Camp update - January 2011 Jump
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The first half of January was quite hot and dry with temperatures ranging in the high thirties (degrees Celsius), however this changed mid-month with the onset of cloud and rains. Days then became slightly cooler and more tolerable.
With these incoming rains and probably a lot more further up river, the Zambezi water levels have come up fast and the spray at Victoria Falls has become more prominent to the point that ponchos and rain gear have become a definite when visiting this natural wonder. The increase of water going over the falls has also given them a very different perspective in contrast to the previous drier months. Now guests can truly see the huge blanket of water which spills into the gorge.
Whilst some of the activities and areas such as the famous devils pool are closed due to the high waters, Livingstone still remains the haven of adventure and adrenalin. It seems there is always a new product on the market which attracts those who like their heart-rates to pump fast. Walking with cheetah and the Victoria Falls bridge tour are the two latest attractions.
Game viewing in the Mosi O Tunya Park has been really great. All guests that have come through this month have had the opportunity to see the big five complete with sightings of white rhino. Despite the grass levels and thick greenery, rhino are still making an appearance.
Giraffe and buffalo sightings have been very regular. Herds of buffalo are often seen from the board walk in camp and a few giraffe have also taken refuge in the area surrounding camp. Sam, one of our guides and his guests was lucky enough to see a pair mating - a rare sighting. There is an abundance of young around which seem to be thriving on all the healthy food around.
Summer is such a treat for bird lovers at Toka Leya as we have a huge variety of migratory birds around that are not commonly seen during the dry season. In addition to the migrants there are a few specialities that have been seen in the month. Rock Pratincoles have been seen as well as a few sightings of the African Finfoot. In addition, some real beauties such as African Pygmy and Hottentot Teals as well as the Pel's Fishing Owls were seen in the month. We had a group of real bird enthusiasts who passed though in January and who left feeling very satisfied at their healthy checklist from both land and water safaris. Among the birds of prey we had great sightings of the Tawny Eagles, Black-shouldered kites and a few sightings of Secretary Birds.
The village tours, as usual, have been an eye opener to a number of guests. They all come back from the tour with a feeling that they have learnt an important life's lesson. What seems to amaze them is how much a joy a young child will find in a very small toy, and the creativity of these children.
The city of Livingstone with its rich history and great museum is also amongst one of the favourites. Guides take guests through the city's rich history that once was the capital of Zambia.
We also had a number of guests who had a chance to take our back-of-house tour where they had a chance of seeing our waste water treatment plant where all the water used in the camp only returns back to the environment after undergoing a thorough treatment through the bioreactors. We also showed them our ozone generator which helps to get rid of all the impurities that might have survived the process. The water then goes to the wetland which is birding haven in the dry season. Some of it is also used in the watering of the plant nursery.
The wormery and the tree project are also some of the highlights and we have given a few guests the chance of planting a tree taking advantage of the wet season as the trees stand a better chance of survival, especially now that fewer elephants are around camp.
Most of our guests have a chance of sampling the camp evening entertainment. They seem to really enjoy the music which our local group produce using homemade instruments. It is always wonderful to see our guests get up and dance the night away to traditional Zambian beats.
Staff in Camp
Management : Petros Guwa ,Gogo Chisulo, Kawanga Ndonji and Cynthia Kazembe
Guides: Amon,Sam and Sandy
Executive Chefs: Kenny Lugayeni and Ronnex Malasha
Lufupa River Camp update - January 2011 Jump
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Lufupa Tented Camp update - January 2011 Jump
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January has been a wonderful month in the bush. As the wet season takes hold we see more and more newborns, however with the rains, the weather hasn't always been in our favour. However, it has resulted in the rapid transformation of vegetation. The bush is now thick and lush and gives us a real feeling of being in the wilderness. The maximum temperature reached this month was 28 degrees Celsius and the minimum was 20 degrees.
The rain and thick bush has not affected our game viewing. In fact we believe that it has improved it slightly as animals are now following paths of least resistance. This means that they will now travel along the roads as opposed to moving through the thick bush between the roads. We have had fantastic sightings of large groups of up to a hundred buffalo feeding on the verdant grass.
The diversity of species has been far greater than our dry season in the Lufupa Concession as it is literally swamped with wildebeest and zebra and many more other unique antelopes. The dambos are also packed with birds like African Openbills, Sacred Ibis, African Spoonbills and lots more. Generally it's been quiet on the carnivore side but their calls and tracks remind us that they are not far away. Nevertheless we have been blessed with a few sightings of wild dog and leopard this month.
Our boat cruises along the Lufupa and Kafue Rivers have been pleasant as we've watched pods of hippos and crocodiles on the banks. Elephants regularly swim across to the other side to graze. There is nothing as peaceful as watching colourful birds from the boat. Some of the best sightings have been Ross's Turaco, Schalow's Turaco, Pel's Fishing-Owl and African Finfoot.
Something worth mentioning is hearing the beautiful call of Red-chested Cuckoo and Diderick Cuckoo at this time of the year. The evenings are filled with the cacophony of frogs calling as they go about their task of locating a mate. All these sights and sounds are so characteristic of the African bush and while we try to describe these in words we cannot do the scene and night sounds any justice.
"Beat the African drum and dance to the tune!" It is wonderful to see guests joining the Kaonde traditional dance as well as singing. The African drum is a sign of life. In our African culture coming together in response to the beating of the drum is an opportunity to give one another a sense of belonging and of solidarity. It is a time to connect with each other, to be part of that collective rhythm of the life.
"Great place, good food and awesome people!" Margaret and Harris (USA)
"Great game drives, great hospitality." Maggie (USA)
"Amazing beauty, terrific staff, delightful guides and comfortable accommodation." Jan and Kathy (USA)
"Thank you for a unique experience." Warren (USA)
Kalamu Lagoon Camp update - January 2011 Jump
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Shumba Camp update - January 2011 Jump
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Kapinga Camp update - January 2011 Jump
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Busanga Bush Camp update - January 2011 Jump
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Mvuu Camp update - January 2011 Jump
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Game is in abundance at the moment at Mvuu. Hippos and crocodiles are regular sightings and other game such as buffalo, sable, warthog, kudu, waterbuck, impala are also doing well.
There were a plethora of Elephant herds seen during the month. One particular instance we tracked a bull for some time, only to be led to a herd of about 30. We have also seen them swimming and enjoying themselves in the water and mud opposite the Mvuu Lodge. There are also plenty of lone bulls seen on the banks of the Shire or scattered in the Park.
Despite the Rhino Sanctuary being closed due to the rains and road conditions, we are still enjoying rhino sightings. Rodger, our local black rhino, was seen quite regularly and is becoming used to our vehicles.
Some wonderful sightings this month include a pair of Fish Eagles spotted feeding on a big water monitor lizard near the river. We also saw Porcupine near the air strip, an African civet, a number of large spotted genet and a beautiful chameleon was found near Mkango Corer.
Birding has also been great this month with some wonderful sightings of Ground Hornbill and a Dickenson's Kestrel with its beautiful grey body and almost white head. Goliath Herons are also wonderful to watch as they hunt. Their slow stride in the water is so distinctive, almost causing no water disturbance. They can stand motionless for long periods of time before darting their beaks into the water to catch fish.
Guides George, Jim, Justin, Mc Loud and Samuel who all won employee of the month last year were awarded a night with full board and safari activities at Mvuu Camp. They each brought their wives and two children. The families really enjoyed their stay and the children had a great time learning about the animals. Samuels son Nyika was especially excited as his dream came true when he saw elephant for the first time.
One of our mobile guides Bison celebrated his 65th Birthday today. We wish him a very happy birthday and hope he enjoyed the birthday cake which we made for him.
Desert Rhino Camp update - January 2011 Jump
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Palmwag Lodge update - January 2011 Jump
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This has been a whirlwind month with events, weather and wildlife.
While the rest of the country has been flooding, we have only received 35mm of rain so far this year. The bulk of it came in one massive thunder storm in which rain was pelting down on us almost horizontally. This storm caused the river to come down with a major roar and it filled up our beloved Van Zyl's Gat.
It has been fairly quiet on the concession due to all this rain with regards to wildlife sightings. However, animals in camp have been busy, with a porcupine making frequent visits and our resident leopard and her two cubs paying our staff visits on their way to the pool bar!
Januarie Kaisume and Flora Kenare, two of our staff members, tied the knot this month and sported wonderful Herero wear which was fantastic to see.
We welcomed in the New Year at the pool bar. The party was thoroughly enjoyed by all guests. We had a spit braai and candle lit dinner buffet which certainly kept our chefs busy.
This has been a month of many new faces and a lot of goodbyes. We would like to welcome Anna and Mervin to the Palmwag Family. We have also had to say goodbye to Tylves (Six), Soloman, Emile and Oupa Hermann.
Doro Nawas Camp update - January 2011 Jump
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The rest of Namibia is reported to have a lots of rainfall, however in the Doro !Nawas area the hot weather conditions prevail. Cloud build-up in the afternoon offers no rain reprieve; rather a cold westerly wind blows up in the afternoons and chases the clouds away. The temperatures rise between 24 and 33 degrees Celsius and 15 and 17 degrees in the evenings. The small amounts of rain that we have had is hardly worth mentioning, however it has seen small antelope searching for the greener pastures.
Wildlife and landscape
Since the rainy season has started, most of the regular elephant groups have left the Aba-Huab River for the mountains or plains areas. They leave the riverbeds every rainy season for the safety of their young and they also prefer clean water which they can now get further up. While it is a challenge for our guides to track them down at this time of year, it is a contest in which they are usually successful.
Common sightings on nature drives this month include red hartebeest, springbok and oryx. Red hartebeest which were introduced into the Doro !Nawas Conservancy are increasing in numbers dramatically. Kudu can also be seen congregating in the Huab River area.
On the drive out to the riverbed there are some wonderful natural springs surrounded by much greenery. These springs contain fresh clean water and are a huge attraction for birds which can be seen busying themselves in the area in the morning hours of the morning. Obviously wildlife is also attracted to these oases in the desert.
A puff adder snake, a common occurrence in southern Africa, was seen at Doro !Nawas under an euphorbia damarana bush where it is currently nesting. The thickness of the bush keeps the snake warm in the cool night air.
Lappet-faced Vultures can be seen soaring high in the sky catching thermals or perched in trees late in the afternoon when we take nature drives up to Mik Berg.
"All the staff were very kind and friendly." Montserrat
"We loved the large rooms and being made to feel so special by the staff. The Wilderness brand is a triumph." Greg
"Sunset, Twyfelfontein and the Living Museum were great." Oliver
"The most incredible sunset I have ever seen in my life happened right here at Doro Nawas." Kurt
"Sleeping outside under the stars is amazing!" Severi
Staff in Camp
Managers: Mulenga Pwapwa and Agnes Bezuidenhout
Assistant Managers: Morien Aebes and Theobald Kamatoto
Guides: Michael Kauari, Ignatius Khamuseb, Richardt Orr and Pieter Kasaona (Trainee Guide).
Damaraland Camp update - January 2011 Jump
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Some days have been very hot - but then, we are in the middle of summer! The central parts of Namibia have had a lot of rain and this seems to have cooled the land down a little, saving us from the extreme heat associated with the months of January and February. We have had a little rain too, however more is needed. The total for the month was 24mm of rain. We are looking forward to February, which is usually the time of the year that we get rain.
Wildlife & Landscape
The little rain received has given some life to our wilderness. We are seeing young grass shoots, the commiphoras and ana trees are covered with leaves and the latter are dropping seed pods. Due to the new grass and seed pods, which are very nutritious, antelope are being attracted into our area. Springbok and oryx tend to be the most common of these and they, in turn, are attracting predators. Some of the guides have been fortunate enough to share cheetah sightings with guests and there have even been a few lion sightings of a male who is visiting from the north. He has been seen in the reed bed down the Huab River which seems to be his home for the moment. These desert-adapted lion are fascinating and it is imperative that these creatures remain protected. Dr Flip Stander has done years of work and research on these lion and runs a project called "Desert Lion Conservation". For more information on the project please click here. http://www.desertlion.info/
The elephant are becoming scarce and are making life difficult for our guides who are under pressure to find them. With the falling rains they are on the move, which is normal behaviour for them. They are in search of the best fresh water and food. Small pools form in the mountains every so often and so these elephant will move according to these.
This is a great time of year for birding in Damaraland. Insects and seeds have become readily available and with this food supply breeding starts taking place. Rosy-faced Lovebirds have been nesting in the sides of the sand stone cliffs. They put on a wonderful show for us as they show off their beautiful bright green bodies, bright red faces and blue rumps.
A group of guides from Damaraland and Doro Nawas Camps decided to explore further afield. They did a three-day trip down the Springbok River and then they crossed over to the Huab River. On this trip the guides saw 11 species of mammals, including brown hyaena and a huge variety of birds. They have reported that some areas have had more rain than others and this was evident in the amount of game they found in these areas.
Guest News & Comments
Simon and Anne were inspired by the beautiful, breathtaking landscapes of Damaraland. They appreciated the opportunity to paint some of these landscapes from a very scenic spot.
"Thanks for everything at this amazingly beautiful place. I will never forget the yummy menus and your wonderful virtues and songs" - Mic and Katherine.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Iván & Ilze Phillipson, Maggie Vries and Elfrieda Hebach
Guides: Johann Cloete, Albert Goaseb, Daniel Uakuramenua and Anthony Dawids
Skeleton Coast Camp update - January 2011 Jump
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Serra Cafema Camp update - January 2011 Jump
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Occasional cloud build-up in the morning has kept us on our toes at Serra Cafema. Unfortunately barring a few drops of rain, the clouds would usually dissipate and leave us high and dry - quite literally! As for the rest, it has been very hot and humid with temperatures reaching around 35 degrees Celsius on most days. The temperatures at night have dropped off nicely, giving us some relief.
While we have had little rain, it has clearly not been the case in Angola. This is apparent from the considerate rise in the water level of the river. It is wonderful for us as our boat cruises are well received by guests and it is now an easy job to navigate over the sand banks and rocks which have been swallowed by the rushing waters.
Wildlife sightings have been great this month. Huge herds of oryx have been seen in the Hartmann Valley and closer to camp. They have moved closer to the river as the valley is becoming very dry.
Crocodiles, however, have become more scarce due to the high water levels as they can now move up the river far more easily.
Birds have been very active, building their nests along the reeds on the banks of the river. Most of these nests are made by weavers including the Masked, Golden and Lesser Masked Weavers. It's wonderful to see the various styles in which each species build their nests. The local Goliath Heron has also been spotted a lot this month near the camp.
As New Year is a special event we put on a real show for our guests. Our venue was on the banks of the river. We dressed up the tables and offered the guests a delectable buffet dinner. We then moved the guests to a dune where we had lit a campfire and sat under the tapestry of the beautiful desert night sky. We celebrated the New Year with champagne and many guests enjoyed the evening long into the morning.
"To all the wonderful Staff at SCF you have made our stay the BEST EVER! A huge THANK YOU to all for your efforts, thoughtfulness and charm. We will remember this experience and the special people and place forever. Beautiful scenery, fantastic food, wonderful massages. What more could you want. Plan to be back." Kim and Adino
"A wonderful three days. Dawid is the best guide. He knows everything about this beautiful area. The visit to the Himbas was amazing. As for the camp - very comfortable, good food, great service. Thanks to all." Barbara and Ken
Staff in Camp
Managers: Carina Losper and Johan Liebenberg
Relief Managers: Elizabeth Parkhouse and Carol Ndyepa
Guides: Gerhardus Jansen, Steve Kasaona, Harry Ganuseb, Dawid Tjongarero, Athur Bezuidenhout
Ongava Tented Camp update - January 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
The days have been quite hot and very humid during the afternoons when the clouds build up. We have had some big rain storms on the reserve and the lightening has been giving us some wonderful shows in the evenings.
At the moment everything is blooming. The entire landscape has changed and many shades of greens make up a wonderful backdrop. All sorts of creatures, including butterflies and insects have started to appear as well as moths in the evenings. The moths have given us quite a bit of run around this month as they seem to be attracted by red wine, which has caused much entertainment.
Animal sightings were a little tricky at the beginning of the month as we received a lot of wonderful rainfall. With the onset of the rains, wildlife is no longer restricted to using our waterholes anymore and are able to spread out.
Mid-month, less rain made for better sightings. Lion and rhino were frequently spotted in the Ongava Reserve as well as in the Etosha National Park. Guests have also been very lucky to see cheetah within our reserve. This is extremely rare because of the high concentration of lion in our area. Cats are particularly territorial, and as cheetah are smaller and do not form big prides, they have to avoid lion activity as much as possible for their safety. It is well documented that lion are known to chase cheetah away or worse, to kill them.
General game has been in abundance in both parks which is wonderful for this time of year. Along with the game spreading out due to water availability across the whole region, the bush is also a lot thicker which can prove tricky when looking for mammals. Elephant have been spotted, less regularly than in the dry season, but they always excite our guests. Elephant tend to migrate north during this season so to find them we either have to search hard or we have to travel quite a fair distance.
While wildlife sightings are fewer and further between, birdlife is prolific at this time of year. As we are in mid-summer all the migratory birds are back in our land putting on some wonderful shows for us.
"The staff's enthusiasm and attention to detail, friendliness and willingness to make special arrangements was wonderful. You made our stay memorable"
"Excellent guiding by Festus. We particularly enjoyed seeing lion and black rhino up close."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Gerda, Silvia, Inge, Corne
Guides: Rio, Festus, Bariar, Leon
Little Ongava update - January 2011 Jump
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Ongava Lodge update - January 2011 Jump
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Andersson's Camp update - January 2011 Jump
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Little Kulala Camp update - January 2011 Jump
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Kulala Desert Lodge update - January 2011 Jump
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The year started off with a bang! On 5 January we had a huge storm with very strong winds and great sheets of rain amounting to 43mm in about 20 minutes. Our brand new carpark got ripped apart and we had other minor damage, but that couldn't lower our spirits. The rain was lovely, everything felt refreshed and clean.
We were expecting a big group that day, but the Aub River was flowing so they couldn't cross it. After hard work, getting stuck and wet, Dawie, Kobus and the mechanics team managed to get the guests to camp at around 21h00. They were in very good spirits on arrival and enjoyed the unexpected in the Namib Desert.
For the rest of January we had a couple of really hot days with cloudy cool days in between and more showers as well.
The Namib is taking on a green colour and is changing daily with the last rain falling over the weekend of 22 January. The Tsauchab River came down on Saturday morning and was flowing until Sunday morning. Unfortunately the water did not make it into the Dead Vlei.
On one particularly hot morning that we encountered, a brown hyaena was found sitting in the waterhole. He was obviously just as hot as we were!
Due to the incredible amount of rain, green grass has sprouted and attracted the springbok. They were so busy eating during the month that it was rare to see one with its head up. Insect numbers have also increased, which in turn attracts the reptiles. An agama engrossed us this month as he perched on a twig by the road.
"The best omelette in Namibia was had right here at Kulala Desert Lodge! The staff were very friendly and smiling!"
"The staff are very friendly and helpful."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Dawie, Christa
Assistant Managers: Violet, Kobus
Food and Beverage Manager: Phillip
Relief Manager: Lona
Guides: Angula, Petrus, Jaos, George, Willem, Teek
Kulala Wilderness Camp update - January 2011 Jump
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The main highlight this month was the rain in the vicinity of the camp. Obviously this did mean that our humidity levels rose somewhat; leaving us sticky and hot for the majority of the month. However, we were blessed with soft drizzle in the mornings of mid-January and this seems to have transformed the reserve from the stark-looking yellow grass into a carpet of green. Even the small pan seemed to gather all the surrounding water seepage and gave the effect of a small lake for a few hours! The cloud and fog banks rested on the mountains across from the camp most days always leaving a promise of more rain to come. The rainfall for the month was approximately 27mm.
A crab spider visited one of our staff members. These belong to the anthropod family but their name derives from the fact that they look like a cross between a crab and a spider. Crab spiders have an incredibly long lifespan and use camouflage hunting techniques to catch their prey; they are also known to be passive hunters. This particular crab spider was sitting behind one of the couches, waiting for an unsuspecting insect to cross its path. Unlike any other species of spider, the crab spider can walk forward and backward like a normal spider but also sideways like a crab.
Since the arrival of the rains, along with humidity, our guides sighted an African Hoopoe and we have noticed an increase in Black Kites.
A very special sighting was a barking gecko during the day. These little geckos only make themselves known at dusk emitting a very distinctive clicking noise.
The agama that has been found on the balustrade at the manager's office made himself very comfortable again, checking on all the comings and goings.
Two Secretarybirds were also seen quite close to the camp in the riverbed, feeding on any reptiles that they can find.
Staff in Camp
Assistant Managers: Petronella and Dios
Guides: Dawid, Richard and Moses
Governors' Camp update - January 2011 Jump
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Weather and the Plains
January has been a typically hot month exceeding 30 degrees celsius around mid day with early mornings and evenings remaining fairly cool. We had a total of 92.5mm of rain through the month, receiving the most in the first 12 days and then very sparing light showers in the last couple of weeks.
The grass plains have mostly remained fairly short, lush and green where the animals have kept it cropped. Up on Rhino ridge and towards paradise plains it has grown beautifully to about half a meter. The short green grass is perfect for the plains game at this time as it is the most palatable and nutrient rich, it also means the predators are much more visible.
Photo courtesy of John Hetherington and Catherine Rouse
We have had vast herds of zebra and a few small groups of mostly male wildebeest move in and out of the northern boundaries of the Masai Mara Reserve tantalising the Marsh pride of lions. These animals are part of the resident Loita migration which spend their time between the Loita plains near the rift valley escarpment in the east and the Masai Mara reserve. We have had better rains in the Mara hence the large herds of Zebra, but the wildebeest cows have moved over to the Loita plains in preparation to have their calves in February and March.
We have also had some amazing migratory birds through the Mara. The Steppes Eagle which has flown all the way from the Russian steppes, Violet Backed Starlings which migrate around Kenya following the fruiting trees, European Bee-Eaters, Eurasian Rollers, Pallid Harriers, Common Kestrels and a few white storks. Huge flocks of many types of swallows, Swifts and Martins flying ahead of the rain storms picking off the insects that have been startled into flight.
Mocker and Green-banded Swallowtail butterflies have been flitting through the forests, and there has been a large presence of the raucous Black and White Hornbills. As the Warburgia Ugandensis trees continue to fruit the baboons have taken to sitting under the trees feasting, they eat everything but the skins. Up above in he branches the parrots eat out only the seed and conveniently drop the rest of the fruit down on the baboons waiting below.
The Mara River was flowing strongly until the last week of the month where it receded to a very shallow level in some places. The hippos have all squeezed into the deeper pools on the bends of the river, also this close quarters living has resulted in a few more fights than usual. The females with their new young of about 4-8 weeks try to keep their distance from the larger pods of boisterous hippos for their safety.
Photos courtesy of Samuel Kiplangat and Vo Van Dung Delobel
The new generation of plains game are in great condition after the rain with plenty of lush green grass to eat. The warthogs have probably had the most casualties thus far. Lions usually wait until the grass is longer and the rest of the plains game have moved on before they target the warthogs, this year seems different.
Through the month many of the elephant moved on into the acacia areas in the North and East of the Mara as it started to become drier. Acacia trees retain moisture in hot dry conditions as they have a thick bark and small twice compound leaves (pinnae) which can be held horizontally for sunlight or vertically to reduce transpiration.
Photo courtesy of Ann Aveyard
Elephants get a lot of their nutrition from these trees as well as medicinal value, depending on the acacia and the part eaten. Maasai will actually make a tea from fresh Elephant dung to alleviate stomach problems.
The Marsh pride of lions are spending their days between the long sedge in the Musiara Marsh and the Bila Shaka river line. At night they are moving out of the reserve hunting zebra, but returning to the marsh first thing in the morning to avoid the Maasai and their cattle. The pride have mostly been together throughout January, we saw them all early one morning feeding on a Topi a stones throw away from the Musiara gate and rangers houses. I am sure they had a sleepless night. The lionesses were seen killing three warthog in one day, catching them just before disappearing into their burrows. Whilst they were feeding on one of the kills a leopardess we are not familiar with, not far away was observing them nonchalantly in a tree. The very next day they killed a further two warthogs. Claude the elder of the two pride lions, seems to be recovering fairly well, his limp is much better now. This is good news for the safety of the pride and to ensure his progeny grow up to adulthood.
The sub-adults from the first litter of the Marsh pride have been up on Rhino Ridge, the females on the Bila Shaka side and the four males on the Mara River end and Paradise Plains. The four males have marginalised the 5th male sibling as he is in bad shape. We are not so sure what happened to him but he started with a very bad limp and some puncture wounds, next his whole front left fore- leg was missing. He has managed to survive so far, it has been reported to the warden and are awaiting results.
Photos courtesy of Ann Aveyard
The Ridge pride are on the South Eastern side of Rhino Ridge toward the Talek River. It seems they are keeping their distance from the sub-adults of the Marsh Pride. They are not seen as frequently as they are some distance away now and are in some tough terrain. They were sighted feeding on a buffalo one day which is a good sign as it shows they are in good health as a buffalo is no small task to take down.
The paradise pride lionesses have moved out from the Croton thickets. As the Mara River is so low they cross over regularly. At the main crossing, next to the river bank on the Mara Triangle side they had killed a young hippo. The pride were feasting on it first thing in the morning when a whole pack of hyena came over to investigate and started haggling the lionesses. They managed to keep them at bay until they had a good feed, but were eventually worn down and left the remainder to the hyenas which made short work of the remains. Notch the patriarch lion and one of his sons have been sighted a few times, whilst the other four lions have been covering a huge area and have not been seen much. The four males have reportedly on two occasions killed the cubs of a pride between the Talek river and the Ol Keju Ronkai river. As they are further away and do not see them regularly, we are unsure as to whether they are attempting a pride take over or not. This would be ambitious as they already have the paradise pride territory.
The three cheetah boys have been in the area the whole month. Some of our guests had a great sighting of them bringing down a hartebeest. There were two male hartebeest on the top plains completely absorbed in fighting for a territory, when the cheetahs happened on them. Before the hartebeest realised what was going on one of the cheetahs had stealthily run up and was on one, whilst the other hartebeest managed to flee.
Photos courtesy of Ann Aveyard
The mother cheetah and her two sub-adult boys brought down an adult topi, they managed to eat a fair amount before a few hyenas pushed them off. Its a tough life being a cheetah, but tenacious as every they persevered and the very next day they took down a Thompson Gazelle and ate the whole thing undisturbed.
The cheetah mother with the single cub was seen with an impala kill near the marsh in the evening, whilst she ate the Il Moran leopard sat in a nearby bush watching.
The single male cheetah with the patch on his left shoulder (looking more like discolouration than mange) has been active in the area this last month. He has killed a bush buck and an impala near the riverine forest, the impala was actually stolen by the males of the local baboon troop. Unfortunately the cheetah had a second bad encounter where he was mobbed, once again, by baboons, he ran off and we have not seen him since.
We have heard that Shakira and her six cubs are far off in a closed area of the Mara, hopefully getting some peace.
The resident Il Moran leopardess has also had a couple of close encounters with baboons; whilst she was relaxing in a tree a group of baboons were taunting her and calling out below the tree. Leopards do not like this, a couple of days later she got her own back and was seen eating a baboon in a tree.
Photos courtesy of Ann Aveyard
There were a couple of sightings of the big male leopard along the forest down towards private camp. Olive and her two cubs are still well even after a few adventures. She was spotted hunting a warthog through the bushes, made a chase but missed. She was then chased up a tree by a hyena. Olive unknowingly walked too close to a lioness with very young cubs and was chased off. She then got into a flight with the lioness and has some bad claw marks on her rear to show for it.
Her young male cub from the previous litter has been seen fairly regularly patrolling his territory along the Talek River. And another lesser known leopard east of the main crossing at the Mara river had a reedbuck kill up in a tree along a small river line.
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge update - January 2011
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