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No report this month.
Wilderness iPad Application Launched
July 2011 - Wilderness is pleased to announce the launch of the "Wilderness Window," an exciting iPad application that is aimed at bringing the world of Wilderness to our travel partners and guests via this innovative digital medium.
The Wilderness Window is a visual feast, using a variety of ways to navigate through the offering. Users are introduced to the ideals of the 4Cs and thus to the ethos behind Wilderness. They can then "meet" a number of Wilderness staff (under the People icon), explore the camps by using an interactive Map, or simply click on the Tent or Binoculars icons which will bring up our full range of camps and Explorations, with information expressed via our beautiful images.
There is also a News section, as well as a Gallery of our latest wildlife photography; these sections are updated on a monthly basis.
The emphasis is on a beautiful, intuitive exploration of the Wilderness world.
The Wilderness Window is available now on Apple's iTunes Store under the name "Wilderness Safaris".
Xigera Camp 100% Solar Powered
July 2011 - Wilderness is thrilled at the news that yet another camp has 'gone solar.'
On the 13th of June 2011 the generators at Xigera Camp were turned off and the power for the entire camp was switched across to a new photovoltaic solar plant consisting of a total of 135 solar panels producing a maximum of 30kW of renewable energy - enough power from the sun to run the entire camp - including all fridges and freezers. All water is heated by evacuated tube solar water geysers or thermodynamic geysers.
In Botswana the following camps are fully or almost fully solar powered: Zarafa, Selinda, Kalahari Plains, Banoka and now Xigera. Plans for the remainder of this year are to roll this technology out to Mombo, while 2012 will see the same for DumaTau and possibly Vumbura Plains. Similar roll-outs are continuing in the other countries, leading to a full embracing of renewable energy within Wilderness.
Savuti Hyaena vs. Elephant
Location: Savuti Camp, Linyanti, Botswana
Date: 25 July 2011
Observers: Savuti guides and guests
Photographer: James Weis and Grant Atkinson
On an early morning game drive out of Savuti Camp, whilst guiding a group of photographers, we came across an incredible scene. A clan of spotted hyaena were provoking a small herd of elephant. The hyaena were specifically honing in on a young elephant belonging to one of the adult females in the herd.
By the time we caught sight of the elephants, the baby elephant had already been injured and the hyaenas had tasted blood. The herd comprised two adult female elephants, as well as several teenagers and the hyaenas had managed to create a sense of panic within the herd. The elephants kept trying to escape, but after a few hundred metres they would stop and turn, and this would give the spotted hyaenas another chance to attack - the bold predators would approach on several fronts at once. Just as a female elephant would turn on the hyaenas, other members of the hyaena clan would dart in behind her and grab hold of the baby elephant.
We witnessed several attacks like this, and each time the mother elephant managed to turn and charge at the hyaenas, scattering them in all directions. The spotted hyaenas managed to maul the baby elephant again and again however, and it was hard to believe that the little elephant managed to stay upright.
We watched the intense struggle for almost two hours before the bush got too thick for us to follow any further. At that time the little elephant was still running hard, despite his injuries, and the hyaenas appeared to be tiring of the chase.
We never got to see how it all ended, but the scenes witnessed on that drive will stay with us forever.
A great sighting of lion for Mvuu Camp
Location: Liwonde National Park, Malawi
Date: 18th July 2011
Observers and photographers: McCloud Kaliati and Douwe Fischer
For the past couple of months we have been hearing lions calling in Liwonde National Park, but have not been able to see them. Finally, on 18 July 2011, this changed and we caught a glimpse of one of them.
The night of the 18th, we were out on a late night game drive with a school group. We had jumped in our game drive vehicle and gone into the night to see if we could spot some of the nocturnal animals we usually see. After about two kilometres we saw a hippo and we stopped the vehicle to have a look at it; at the same time, we heard a lion roar. He sounded as if he was only about two kilometres from where we were. On the floodplains at South Mtangai we saw very fresh tracks, but they were heading the opposite direction.
Later on we were heading north on the main road trying to see if we could get some more sightings on the north side of the camp. All of a sudden I saw this strangely shaped rock to the left of us. But I had driven that road often enough to know that there was no such rock on that particular road. It took me half a second to realise that we were actually looking at a lion!
It turned its head towards us and then it was quite clear it was the young male lion whose tracks we had seen for the last couple of months. McCloud switched off the car immediately and tried to keep the guests quiet. This was quite hard however as he was very excited – this being the first lion sighting we've had in the park since 2005!
The lion was just sitting there underneath a tree only eight metres away from the road. Luckily he did not seem at all bothered by us and we radioed back to camp to let our other guests know so that they could have a chance to see him as well. All in all, we enjoyed viewing him for a good 25 minutes before he moved off.
As this was the first sighting we decided on a name for the big cat: Titus – a cool name for a lion. Hopefully we'll see Titus more often now after making this first contact.
A Refreshed Xigera Camp
A number of positive changes have been made at Xigera Camp during its recent refurbishment. The rooms have received significant attention including re-canvased sides with new windows/blinds. Both the shower and toilet now have an individual door and a sliding door to the outside shower has also been added.
The main area has also undergone redesign with the bar now looking onto the channel. The buffet area has been repositioned and a small, cosy library area has now been included. A new, lower foot-bridge (with drawbridge mechanism to allow boats to pass) has also being built to avoid disturbing the view from camp. The novel and popular sand-pit where animals tantalisingly leave their tracks has been retained. A new star deck has also been built for dinners, star talks and private dinners. The camp has already gone green with the latest in solar technology now providing all power requirements as well as a new above-ground sewage treatment plant.
Abu Camp and the Elephant Experience
With the imminent release of one of the Abu elephant cows and her calf (Gikka and Naya), and our focus on a more holistic elephant experience, only three of the herd are currently able to be used for riding. A total of 5 guests can ride at any one time. Other guests either walk or mokoro alongside the elephants or enjoy a separate game drive or boating activity.
Abu is all about elephants. So much so that not only do you spend your days with them but also your nights. On a recent trip to photograph the camp we were privileged to spend the evening with the herd at the new 'Elephant Star Bed' that perches above the elephant boma.
The spacious deck and the mosquito net above the bed allow fantastic views of the night sky and the beautifully appointed bathroom below the deck means that you have every necessary comfort until your day begins again the following morning. Thanks to James Gifford for some of the images used here.
Odzala - Congo
We are pleased to report that we are progressing well with our exciting new destination of Odzala - a Wilderness Collection project in the virgin rainforest of Odzala-Kokoua National Park in the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville). With a revised opening date of May 2012, two camps in this area will use responsible lowland gorilla-orientated tourism as a catalyst to spread the rainforest conservation message both globally and locally. More information will be sent out in these coming weeks.
Lango Camp will be within the park in a savannah area that has already delivered sightings of huge flocks of African Grey Parrots as well as thrilling mammal species such as forest buffalo, colobus and putty-nosed monkeys. Tracks of red river hog, elephant, lowland bongo, sitatunga, spotted hyaena and leopard were also recorded. Ngaga Camp is sited in a scenic forested area, where the emphasis will be on the tracking of habituated lowland gorillas, and viewing them in their natural habitat, accompanied by researchers.
Camp design will be based on traditional Pygmy architecture with both camps being raised 3-4m above the ground in the mid-canopy. The base structure will be built with indigenous hard woods sustainably sourced, and local bamboo and raffia palm matting will also be used in the individual units. Rainwater collection will be a feature of these rooms.
No report this month.
North Island Update - July 2011 Jump
to North Island
July has seen some fantastic diving with great sightings! Unique and diverse diving conditions throughout the month were experienced, coupled with fantastic visibility most of the time. We did experience a slight drop in water temperature as well as some large swells and strong currents.
Sprat City and Coral Gardens have been our most visited sites this month with the increasing winds of the south-east monsoon bringing heavy conditions to North's windward shores. Sprat City has been particularly lively with the seasonal sprats finally returning to their favourite reef, immediately changing the appearance of the reef, springing it into life. The exact reason for their seasonal visit is unknown but thought to be related to the dropping sea temperature and cold currents flowing nutrient-rich water over the reef. The sprats actually include four different fish species: hardy-head silversides, slender sweepers, naked fusiliers and a small species of barracuda. Once in the area, they number in the hundreds of thousands, staying close to the reef and in large schools for protection. Their arrival, in turn, attracts larger numbers of predators including the blue-fin kingfish, giant kingfish and southern pompanos which have been a real treat for divers this month.
A more occasional visitor has also been spotted this month, with one of the staff encountering a pair of large, grey reef sharks, swimming through the rocks at Aquarium on the island's south-east point. A near-threatened species, the grey reef shark is larger, almost two metres in size, and more robust, than the more commonly seen white-tip reef shark. The grey reef shark's aggressive nature allows it to dominate many other reef sharks despite its moderate size. It will display aggression by hunching its body, dropping its pectoral fins and thrashing its body side to side whilst swimming. Known as a threat display, this is rarely shown to divers or snorkellers unless provoked or cornered.
Turtles have also been seen in large numbers this month with a large green turtle being spotted at north-east point and the resident juvenile hawksbill turtles still regularly seen at Twin Anchors on Silhouette. One dive in particular brought an incredible encounter with the small turtle approaching the divers and inquisitively circling the group before proceeding to follow the divers for the next 15 minutes along the reef before surfacing for a fresh breath of air. It is clear to see why this individual has chosen Twin Anchors as its home as its favourite food of sea sponges and anemones are in rich supply on the healthy reef formed on the granite boulders.
July has also seen a drop in sea temperature with 26-27° C being the average temperature below 10 metres. These cooler seas bring increased chances of spotting the giant whale sharks on their annual visit to the Seychelles Archipelago. Sightings have already begun this month close to the main island of Mahe after spotted by a micro-light aircraft.
July has seen some heavy sea conditions with swells reaching in excess of four metres and wind gusts of up to 25 knots. This has meant some bumpy boat journeys, but carefully selected dive sites have ensured some fantastic dives. These strong winds have blown throughout July except for a two day period where all wind and waves dropped leaving a glass-like surface and crystal clear seas with over 30 metres visibility all around the island. According to locals, a calm period like this is unprecedented in the month of July. Needless to say we made the most of the conditions, encouraging all to jump in and join us for some unbeatable diving and snorkelling!
Kings Pool Camp update - July 2011 Jump
to Kings Pool Camp
"Three - two - one - Diantsha!"
This is the Kings Pool war cry, which means "Kings Pool rocks!" and has recently been chanted all over our radio channel by guests, guides and managers at every good sighting and is shouted out by all our guests on their return back to camp after every morning and afternoon activity.
Some of our favourite 'diantsha' sightings this month are as follows:
Some of our guests were lucky to witness our resident wild dog pack kill and eat a kudu bull. True to their nature, the dogs gobbled up as much of the carcass as possible but then left the kill to return home to their den to regurgitate some food for their waiting pups.
The following morning, our vehicles returned to the carcass, hoping to catch a few hyaena chewing on the leftover bones, but instead found a young lioness feeding on the scraps. While watching the lioness feed, a very bold male leopard appeared and boldly walked up to the lioness, sitting down about five metres away from the kudu remains. After about ten minutes, the leopard stood up and walked away, then turned, made some really deep growls and charged the lioness. In a cloud of dust, the lioness sprang over the carcass and wrestled the leopard to the ground, and pinned him there until he calmed down. Once calm, and fully submissive, the lioness casually walked back to the carcass and continued to eat. The leopard, thankful to be alive, bolted out of the sighting!
A sad and powerful recent sighting observed by our guides and guests this month was an attack of our lion pride by two nomadic male lions. The males arrived in our concession late one evening and were heard all night roaring away, announcing their arrival. Our resident male lion answered the calls but started heading out in the opposite direction. The two nomads continued to approach the Kings Pool area and headed straight on to the den site where our lioness was suckling two cubs. As the nomads got closer, the lioness and the cubs made a desperate run for it, deep into the heart of the Kings Pool area. The chase continued for a few hours and then the two males stopped and retreated back to the comfort of their own territory. The chase sadly proved to be too much for one of the lion cubs, who just could not keep up and died along the way.
The area is full of elephant, and most water courses are bursting with hippo and crocodile. A few snakes have started to reappear after a cold winter and a massive Southern African python was seen on an early morning walking activity.
The Queen Silvia, the Kings Pool barge, is still in full operation and always gives guests an opportunity to take great sunset shots across the Linyanti. Elephants crossing the mighty waters are often spotted and there is always a few hippo breaching along the way.
Plains game has been outstanding, with large numbers of giraffe, waterbuck, kudu, impala, red lechwe, warthog, baboon and monkey to name a few.
It was a very exciting wildlife month here at the Kings Pool and the sightings, like the weather, are getting better and better.
Managers: Warren, Callum, Virgil, Kozi and Chef Ben
Guides: Diye, O.D, Ndebo and Lemme
Thanks to O.D our head guide for the images.
DumaTau Camp update - July 2011 Jump
to DumaTau Camp
Savuti Camp update - July 2011 Jump
to Savuti Camp
Zarafa Camp update - July 2011 Jump
to Zarafa Camp
Weather and Landscape
The weather during July ranged from pretty cold nights with temperatures dropping to -3° C on some mornings and warming pleasantly to 29° C by midday. The 'bush babies' or hot water bottles were a hit with the guests who clutched onto them during the cold mornings. We did experience some rain bearing cloud build-up which resulted in a couple of light showers during the second week of the month.
The cold weather brings clear skies and some incredible star-gazing. The best viewing was during the bush dinners, which we have around a roaring fire out of camp. With the aid of our SkyScout you can identify or locate stars and planets in seconds; as a result we've seen some stunning constellations, stars and planets.
The most exciting news of the month is the arrival of the new born puppies from the Selinda Pack. On our first visit to the den, we briefly saw three tiny little heads pop out of the den and then back in. A couple of days later, we visited the den again, and this time we found 13 pups scampering around outside the den. The pack has denned in a very similar area to last year's den. The pack is often seen hunting around the south-eastern section of the reserve, between Zarafa Camp, their den and the Selinda Spillway. The den was opened for viewing a month after the pack began denning, and we visit the site for two days and then leave it for a day, in order to try and minimise our disturbance on the pack.
Some good news to report is that Mmaditsebe (our well-known resident leopard) is heavily pregnant. She successfully managed to raise her previous offspring, now almost two and a half years old. This sub-adult male is now totally independent and we had some great sightings of him hunting and successfully killing his own prey. Mmaditsebe spends most of her time around Zarafa Camp so we are hoping that she will settle with her new offspring. Another resident female leopard, known as Amber, and her sub-adult female cub have also been spotted regularly close to Zarafa Camp.
It looks like the pride of three lions we see regularly has split. The two sub-adult males were spotted west of the Selinda airstrip a few times, while the pregnant lioness spent most of her time this month around Joubert Island and east of Zarafa Camp by Shumba Pan.
The Selinda Pride of 16 animals is still hanging around the Selinda Spillway. All the juveniles are still around and are growing fast. This is great news considering the high mortality rate that young lion experience. We had great sightings of this pride this month.
There was a female cheetah with two cubs sighted on numerous occasions, although they are still a bit skittish around the vehicles. Hopefully they will stay in the area and become more habituated to the vehicles.
July has been a great month for general game sightings. Not a drive goes by without guests seeing a huge variety of animals. Herds of buffalo, numbering over 30 sometimes, big herds of giraffe and the rare roan antelope that venture out of the woodlands to come and drink some water on the floodplains have all been seen. These have all contributed to the great overall experience offered on the Selinda Reserve. Blue wildebeest are always around, as are zebra, normally moving to the lagoon for a drink. Large herds of elephant have been seen more during July as well, with two or more good sized herds of up to 35 moving close to camp every day. With the jackalberry and African ebony now fruiting we had more than eight elephant bulls visiting the camp and spending almost half a day picking on those berries before crossing the lagoon to go and enjoy the fresh water lily and papyrus in the Linyanti swamp.
All Photographs by Alex Mazunga
Selinda Camp update - July 2011 Jump
to Selinda Camp
Weather and Landscape
In July, we experienced typical northern Botswana winter conditions. The evenings were mild, averaging around 6° Celsius and then warming up to 30° Celsius by midday. As expected for this time of year, we did experience a fair deal of wind mostly during the afternoons. We were surprised by a few drops of rain which fell during the middle of the month, but only enough to just wet the ground.
A real highlight for the winter month was the amazing night skies experienced on most evenings. The crisp, clear and dark nights were dotted with stars, planets, galaxies, meteors, satellites and the moon- it truly was beautiful!
Water levels in the channel were very high but have started to slowly drop as the dry season is setting in.
On the predator side of things, the Selinda Pride was very active throughout the month, giving our guests some outstanding sightings. At the beginning of the month, an old hippo bull which we often encountered north of the camp died, presumably from natural causes. This opportunistic lion pride was quick to cash in on this and fed off of the carcass for a number of days. Later on in the month, the pride took down and killed five buffalo - three calves, one bull and one cow. This all happened less than 500 metres from Selinda Camp in a very muddy area; perhaps the felines used this to their advantage. Hyaena and various vulture species happily took the task of cleaning up the scraps.
Cheetah have have also been seen in the area again, which was great as they usually disperse when the lions are as active and present as they have been.
On the canine side of things, the Selinda Pack has denned and had pups. We think that the pups were born around the 10 June, so we only visited the denning area in the second week of July, just to be sensitive to the dogs and allow them to settle into their den undisturbed. Guests were treated to some excellent sightings of the puppies then from around 11 July when they appeared for the first time - 13 puppies in total! This is excellent news for the Selinda Reserve and its wild dogs.
The serval are around as well, with regular sightings by guests as they return to camp in the evenings. Spoor of a caracal was also spotted on a game drive road not too far from camp.
General game has been outstanding, with large herds of elephant all around the camp. This month, we have become very well acquainted with an old elephant bull, which has become known as Mr Selinda. He spent most of the month very close to camp, constantly feeding and remodelling the vegetation around camp.
The camp has become home to a pair of honey badgers, who visit the camp nightly under the cover of darkness.
Birds and Birding
July was a great month for birding, and provided us with some fantastic winter birding. We have been lucky as a Slaty Egret has taken up residence in the area in front of camp. This is superb news, as these birds are regarded as vulnerable. Other sighting of note was the huge flocks of African Openbill which were seen soaring above the Zibadianja Lagoon.
Camps Update - July 2011
• July was yet another fabulous month for sightings.
Lagoon camp Jump
• Five of "our" lions killed a buffalo this month. Other than that we found them most of the time doing what lions do best: sleeping.
• Good sightings of relaxed leopards. We followed a female on a hunt but she had no luck, despite her looking very hungry. But two days later we found her with an impala carcass in a tree.
• The three brother cheetahs killed a kudu, and looked well fed at all the other times we saw them.
• The den of the pack of 11 wild dogs has been found. For this month though we haven't seen the puppies yet, but it can only be a question of a few more days! The den is in the mopane woodland about 1.5hrs from camp. A rough ride but worthwhile doing it!
• As in Lebala, there is no shortage of elephant sightings in Lagoon. The same accounts for large buffalo
• Still very rich on water bird life, a boat cruise is highly recommended!
• General game was plentiful too. There we saw giraffe, wildebeest, zebra, tsessebe, warthogs, waterbuck,
steenbok and even eland.
• Serval, African wild cat, side stripped and black backed jackal, hyenas and honey badgers were seen after
dark, but the highlight for a lot of the guests was a magical sighting of a pangolin
Lebala camp Jump
• The big pride of lions – currently number 19 individuals! - was around at the beginning of the month. Then they went a bit into hiding, but appeared again towards the end of the month. The first few times they were seen at a zebra kill and later at a wildebeest kill. The sighting towards the end of the month was on a giraffe kill.
• It was an exciting month for leopards. First we saw mother and cub feeding on a baby elephant carcass and then on an impala carcass in a tree. A male leopard was seen with a porcupine carcass in a tree. One of the quills was stuck in his check and this could lead to a major infection. We hope it won't affect him.
• We also had an extended visit from the three brother cheetah, which spend a lot of time on the Lebala side. Hunts were observed but no kills.
• Loads of elephants everywhere! Breeding herds as well as bachelor herds, and they also come into camp often, crossing the water in front of the lodge.
• Big buffalo herds are becoming a common sighting at Lebala, especially at their favourite drinking points along the river. Bulls continue to fight each other within the herds over mating rights.
• Birdlife was rich in water bird species, but also lots of raptors. Among others we saw martial eagle, black
chested snake eagle, tawny eagle, various bee eaters, goliath herons, pied kingfishers and ostriches.
• Highlight of the general game was sightings of roan antelopes. The more general ones were giraffes,
zebras, steenbok, impalas, hippos, kudus and red lechwes. We also saw various mongooses including the
dwarf and the slender.
• At the night drives we encountered hyena, honey badger, large spotted genet, civet, serval and porcupine.
Kwara & Little Kwara camps Jump
& Little Kwara camps
• As far as lions go, we saw a lot of the boys this month. Sometimes two, sometimes three, sometimes four together. However, the girls were responsible for the best sighting. Four females with three youngsters, managed to kill a giraffe. Unfortunate for them four males took over the kill from them the next day, but the sighting still provided some good observation of lion behaviour.
• Several sightings of leopards: we seem to have now a male and a female in the area who are very relaxed. On one occasion we were able to follow the male leopard for two hours. He was hunting impalas but had no luck in the end.
• This month the female cheetah and the three cubs were found many times. Once, we stayed with her for an hour, observing how she was hunting impalas. The cubs had to go hungry though, because their mother didn't manage to make a kill this time.
• Elephant sightings are great. We have breeding herds with babies and bachelor herds. The later still do come into camp very often and stay for a while, before moving on to the next spot.
• For the birders and even the non-birders, there was a great highlight on one of the boat cruises: the highly elusive Pel's fishing owl. This large, honey-coloured eagle with huge black eyes and is something that the Delta is renowned for, but is still difficult to find. A long crested eagle was also sighted this month, which is another rare species to see.
• The so called general game is also doing very well. Water levels are slowly receding with nice green grass growing on the edges. Among the species seen were giraffes, waterbuck, impalas, common reedbuck, tsessebe, zebras and a lot of hippos.
• After dark we saw servals, African wild cat, civet, spotted hyena and one swimming honey badger!
• The lions visited the waterhole in front of camp several times this month, but were being elusive when we were on game drives.
• Again a sighting of the female leopard, and she was very relaxed. Observed her hunting, but no catch.
• Two more visitors came to the waterhole; two male cheetahs. We were lucky to see the female with her two cubs several times.
• A lot of bull elephants drinking from the waterhole, both in front of camp and on the waterhole further in
• Giraffes, springboks, oryx, steenboks, kudus, impalas are also around, mostly close to the waterhole.
• The two heavyweight birds, ostrich and kori bustard delight everybody. We also have lots of doves and
sand grouse at the waterholes, and they are busy trying to stay out of the way of the black backed jackals.
The jackals stroll around the waterholes often looking for a bird that doesn't pay attention.
• A very unusual sighting this month: brown hyena seen in the morning drinking from the camp
waterhole. These animals are much shyer than the spotted hyena, and are rarely seen.
• It looks more and more like the lions consider our camp as their home. If they are not in camp, we find them normally not far from the pan.
• There were a few leopard sightings, something we don't see too often down here. Two males were spotted
one week and a female another week. All very relaxed leopards and one of them actually walked through the camp.
• The female cheetah killed a springbok not far from camp, and a male was spotted at the airstrip.
• Two wild dogs were seen again this month once, but only a brief glimpse. Still, good to know that such a rare species is surviving in an area that they are not well known for inhabiting.
• Springboks and oryx dominate the scene as usual, but there are also kudus, wildebeests, hartebeest etc.
The black backed jackals are numerous and you can hear them calling every evening.
Mombo Camp update
- July 2011 Jump
to Mombo Camp
The month of July has had its share of temperature swings: we have had some bitter cold snaps interspersed with some beautifully warm days reminiscent of spring, although it might be a bit premature to start predicting the weather to warm up any time soon - we still have August to get through!
The waters in the floodplains continue to recede at an ever-increasing pace; and we see more and more animals venturing into the open spaces the waters have left - the red lechwe being the first to take advantage of the nutritious new shoots of grass, followed by herds of zebra and wildebeest, while the impala and kudu stay in amongst the tree lines. The acacia woodlands to the centre of the island are almost completely dry; the last rainwater pans leave a tracery of cracked mud and sunsets glow red in a dusty haze. It is the time of the year when grasses produce their seeds and a multitude of birds take advantage of this: flocks of quelea, Scaly-feathered Finches and various canaries move as one organism as they burst through the bush - even Meyer's Parrots are seen on the ground in considerable numbers feeding on the nutritious kernels.
With the colder temperatures and the bush thinning out, predators have been a lot more active longer into the day, and we have had some fantastic sightings this month.
Lion sightings have been the highlight of most visitors' stay - and with the receding waters we have started to see the Mathatha and the Mathatha sub-prides more often, as well as the Mporota break-away pride once more. The Mporota Pride held centre stage last month, but in July, it has been close as to which has provided more exciting viewing.
One afternoon, the Mporota break-away pride gave us a fascinating insight into the interaction between the dominant super predators of the area when one of their hunts was spoiled by the over-eagerness of the resident hyaena clan. The pride had been patiently watching a herd of wildebeest approaching them in the airstrip area, and one of the females circled around to drive their chosen victim towards the rest. What they hadn't noticed was the clan of hyaena paying them as close attention as they were towards the wildebeest. As the hunt came to a conclusion, two lions had the wildebeest in their clutches; one at the nose and the other on the hindquarters, the hyaenas pounced into action, nipping at the lions' heels. In the dusty chaos of snarling and biting, the wildebeest managed to escape, leaving the lions and hyaenas empty-handed, the lions being forced to flee the hyaenas' superior numbers.
We had a dramatic night at the end of the month, when we were woken at 1am by a tremendous noise - the Mporota Pride had cornered one of the resident buffalo bulls in front of Tumoh's house. The battle raged for over an hour, the 23 lions pitted against the enormous strength of the bull. In the early light of morning we found the entire pride still there, some gnawing on the scraps of the kill, the rest lazing in a digestive stupor. Closer inspection of the various pride members revealed that one of them wasn't moving - an old female had been mortally wounded in the fight with the wily old bull.
That afternoon after the others had moved off, Poster recovered her body, and laid her to rest at the foot of the Mporota Tree in the western floodplains after which her pride is named.
Leopard sightings have also been excellent this month. We enjoyed a continuous week of Legadema sightings, where she was found in the Leadwood Forest near Eastern Pan with a kill which she kept and guarded for three days, then we found her again in the sausage tree on Maun Road, again with an impala kill; a hopeful hyaena lurking nearby. After three days of great photographic opportunities with her she left the area and next appeared in the broken baobab tree next to the soccer field, where she spent the day cocooned in its hollow trunk before emerging at sunset to wander around the camp, culminating in a "photo-shoot" on the steps of Little Mombo! Finally at dusk, she wandered off across the bridge, her attention focused on a herd of impala.
The new dominant male leopard of the area, Lebadi, has been seen a few times, and was seen to be mating with Slim Girl, one of the females in his territory. He is slowly becoming more habituated to vehicles, tolerating our presence a little more each time we see him.
Another great experience we have had is the presence of a pair of Pel's Fishing-Owls in camp. We have seen them regularly at night as they hunt catfish in the shallows, and on three occasions have seen them with fresh kills. These rare birds compete with the African Fish-Eagle that haunt the camp by day - at night the owls take over on silent wings, their booming calls echoing through the trees.
The lone wild dog and her jackal clan are still seen in the Siberiana Road area - occasionally accompanied by a hyaena or two. She is still in excellent condition and appears to be making kills regularly. Sometimes these are taken over by the bigger and stronger hyaena before she can share the spoils with the jackals, but given her hunting success rate, this doesn't seem to bother her that much.
We have been privileged to have two rhino sightings in July; both of Serondela, the white rhino bull who dominates the territory closest to Mombo.
In camp, the monkeys still swoop and crash through the trees; baboons, parrots, the resident warthogs and humans are still enjoying the fruits of the jackalberries and sycamore figs. The young large-spotted genet becomes bolder by the day, and is seen in the vicinity of the bar almost every night, while a pair of porcupines shuffle around in the undergrowth outside.
The breeding herd of elephants with the tiny youngster are also still seen around camp quite often, and it is a pleasure to observe the diminutive little creature tumbling around after its mother, attempting to mimic her actions and get the hang of using its trunk!
Pictures by Ryan Green, Cisco Letio and Wendy Whelan.
Xigera Camp update
- July 2011 Jump
to Xigera Camp
Chitabe Camp update
- July 2011 Jump
to Chitabe Camp
Weather and Landscape
As we have just passed the pinnacle of winter, we did experience some cold mornings and evenings but the midday temperatures were moderate and comfy. As expected for this time of year, it was a fairly windy month as the seasons are undergoing their annual change.
The water levels have started to recede, exposing a fair deal of vegetation which will no doubt become popular with the herbivores. Having said this, with the high levels of water experienced this year, the Gomoti has swelled over the channel and continued flowing over a number of roads and into the floodplains.
The month of July sees the return of a couple of predators who have been a bit absent of late. This has sparked renewed vigour in our guides and guests, which have been often extending the game drives into the afternoons.
The first sighting was of a female cheetah with four cubs. This was a new female for Chitabe, as the female that we usually encounter has a collar, so she is easily recognisable. It is great to have new cheetah moving into the area. We really hope that this new feline will be successful in rearing her young and that they settle into the area. Towards the end of the month, we also encountered a large male, who was also a new individual in the area. The cheetahs are being seen around the Gomoti area, to the east of the camp. We will keep you updated on these spotted predators in the months to come.
Another great sighting our guests enjoyed was when they came across a group of boisterous lions. On the subject of lions, we have been experiencing consistent leo sightings as the lion have been enjoying the high game densities in the area. The same can be said for leopards, who were seen almost on a daily basis.
As July has formed the trend of returning some high profile wildlife species, the wild dog were seen towards the end of the month. Our guests got to experience the excitement of the pack hunting. We followed the active pack as they chased down an impala for roughly five minutes, before grounding it and devouring it. This particular pack has denned in a very secure location which is fairly far away from the camp. A wild dog census is underway in the concession to establish how many wild dogs have taken residence in the area and this month, Dave Hamman managed to capture the first images of the pups from the above pack. From the images, one can see that the pups are in good condition and are being fed well.
The general wildlife has been excellent with large congregations of different species forming. Perhaps this is why we have been experiencing such good predator encounters.
"Luke's quiet knowledgeable approach to guiding ensured we shared some amazing viewing moments. His persistence in tracking down the pair of male lions was a wonderful display." Tony and Vanessa.
"The staff - they were so warm, inviting, and enjoyable. Great sense of humour and just downright fabulous!" Jennifer.
"Chitabe's understated attention to every detail is hugely impressive. The manager has a totally authentic attitude - caring and interested but not patronizing or pretentious. The staff are incredibly pleasant to all the guest. Thuso, our guide was a superb bridge between the human and animal moulds at Chitabe: his knowledge was substantive, when he wasn't sure of an answer he would find it out for us, and he was always pleasant, humorous and quick witted. Well done to all for creating a unique environment and an unforgettable experience." Rob (RSA).
Staff in Camp
Management at Chitabe Camp: Trevor, Alex and Tiny.
Management at Chitabe Lediba: Moalosi and Derrick.
Guides: Phinley, Ebineng, Thuso, Luke and Gordon.
Images by Phinley and Dave Hamman
Vumbura Plains Camp update
- July 2011 Jump
to Vumbura Plains Camp
July has been a curious month here in the northern Okavango Delta, with nothing being quite as it seems - or, perhaps, quite as it should be. Winter sneaked up on us and has flown past. We were waiting for the colder weather to arrive, and to our enjoyment, it never did and now winter is almost gone. It did get fairly cold in the mornings, but not for long - as soon as the sun spread its rays over the land it warmed up to a very comfortable temperature. All the excitement and adrenalin experienced on the morning drives also helped to warm everyone up.
The changes in this area have been dramatic over the last few weeks - the annual inundation, which at one point threatened to overwhelm us, has gone into full retreat and is receding daily. Sandbars appear as the water drops on each side of them, and the deeper pools are becoming isolated. Terrible news for the fish and frogs still within, but great news for the wading birds. Large stands of damp sand have been exposed, and the baboons and warthogs are relishing the water lily bulbs and roots left behind.
Fields of golden yellow grass rattle in the winter breezes - in the areas untouched by the annual inundation, or from where it has withdrawn, the overall impression is of very dry country, already searching the cloudless skies for rain, or maybe even ready to welcome the hot, flickering reptile tongues of a bushfire...
Animals too are feeling the throat-pinch of thirst, and beginning to trail along the dusty paths to the edges of the water. As the water level recedes still further these trails become longer and thirstier, and the best concentrations of game are found along the intersection between retreating water and re-appearing, rejuvenated land.
Areas recently released by the water are often the most fertile at this time of year, and the profusion of tracks - hooves, webbed feet and claws in the clay and mud tells its own tale. The muddy water is probed, sifted, splashed, as the relentless search for food goes on. Few aquatic creatures escape - even a frog too big to be swallowed by a Hamerkop was repeatedly thrashed on the sand until enough of his bones were broken for him to become a meal.
So now, in the grip of this meek mid-winter, we have a land of contrasts spreading out before us. Dry grasslands give way to water logged areas, and the animals must give way also, and follow the waters. These stark contrasts conceal many surprises. Puddles of water can hide holes deep enough to contain a Land Rover wheel and cause an unplanned halt; seemingly firm ground can give way into a quicksand.
None of this however can detract from the magic of winter game drives. Wrapped up warm, clutching a "bush baby" (hot water bottle), you clamber eagerly into the truck and sway out across the bridge through the reeds and over the swamp, and into a realm of wonders.
July has been, among other things, a time of elephants. Herds of gunmetal-grey leviathans, like ships of the line, lurch through an ocean of golden grass, following the matriarch's instincts to the nearest water. Treks through dry land seemingly do nothing to improve a pachyderm's mood, and some of the elephants are starting to become somewhat bold, which in turn makes for some great photographic opportunities, as a cloud of dust billows around a shaken head and flared ears.
As the water supply becomes more concentrated, so too do the elephant herds. We have seen groups of over 50, as different matriarchs have had the same idea at the same time - proof that great (if ponderous) minds do think alike - and led their followers to congregate at reliable water points. These concentrations are truly remarkable events to witness, with elephants of all sizes delighting in the water. Even their normal lumbering gait goes into fast forward as they near water. Youngsters especially cannot contain themselves as they break into a canter, their trunks filled with the scent of refreshment. Only reluctantly do they eventually tear themselves away, in response to the matriarch's rumbled summonses.
Whilst elephants may have been the most frequently encountered animals over the last few weeks, they have not had a monopoly on magic moments. Every area has its special animal, the creature that seems to symbolise a place, to embody its spirit and distinguish it from every other corner of Africa - and ours is the magnificent sable antelope.
These striking creatures, with their clownish face paint contrasting with the regal sweep of their scimitar horns, are found only in a few places in Botswana. The Kwedi Concession, of which Vumbura is the heart, is just such a place. No trip to Vumbura can be considered truly complete without time spent with these antelope, the chocolate coloured females and the jet-black adult males making for unique safari moments.
Even as we marvel at the sable, we cannot help but notice other changes around us. The summer migrant birds are long gone now; the bellies of the female impala are slowly becoming convex with new life. The buffalo herds eventually despair of the desiccated grasslands, and move to the flood margins, leaving swathes of trampled, sun-bleached grasses in their wake. The sky is almost entirely cloudless, and of such a shade of blue that your eyes ache to gaze on it. The winter winds worry the last of the deciduous leaves, harassing them until the moment when they let loose their grip and tumble and float to the ground.
The feverberry bushes are skeletal now - the once dense clouds of green tethered to the earth by silvery-grey trunks have withered and fallen away. Visibility is excellent; it's a great time of year to view and photograph wildlife. As the colours leach from the backdrop, so the more colourful animals are thrown into sharper relief.
That's the theory, at least but no-one told the leopards, who despite a fatally beautiful coat, manage to melt into invisibility at whim. So stealthy have the Vumbura leopards become in their hunting, that they have been able to achieve remarkable feats of evasion and infiltration. A fully-grown buffalo has nothing to fear from these spotted serial slayers, but a calf is a different matter. To snatch one from a herd is perhaps the ultimate act of bravery coloured by camouflage that a leopard can carry out. They are perfect opportunists, waiting for the sublime opportunity. Confusion, panic, a herd in disarray - a bleat in the grass, and the helpless calf finds itself storm-tossed high in the branches of a sausage tree.
We have had some wonderful leopard sightings this month, not least when the dogged persistence of one of our guides paid off and he was able to furnish his guests with an entire day of leopard viewing, during which they were privileged to witness arboreal acrobatics and a cat nap, whilst not daring to close an eye themselves for fear of missing a moment in the life of this most sublime of cats. The guests were enthralled - for hours at a time; they did not lose that lovely feline.
And no description of colours in the bush can be complete without the painted wolves - the wild dogs loping through the brittle stems of winter grass, loping out of every impala's waking nightmare. Their teeth perfectly adapted for slashing and tearing at impala bellies, carried along on tireless legs. The horror, the horror - the wonder of a wild dog hunt, rocking and rolling effortlessly along...
Once our resident Golden Pack has killed, they instantly turn tale and rush off to the east, to the den we are sure they have, but which we have not yet been able to find. The alpha female is evidently lactating, and the eagerness with which her pack mates race off to regurgitate tales of the hunt and still quivering impala flesh, tell us almost all we need to know.
Somewhere in a disused aardvark burrow, or beneath the echoing halls of an empty termite fortress, a new generation of wild dogs is slowly pawing its way into the watery winter sunlight, blinking, sniffing taking in all the sensory overload that is Vumbura in July.
It's been yet another amazing month here at Vumbura, and we hope you'll come here soon to share in it all...
Here are the comments of some of the guests who spent time here in July:
"Best trip ever!"
"The highlight was OB's tracking of the leopard and his passion - superb!"
"The professionalism, warmth, and kindness of the staff have made our trip an unforgettable one. Your investment in treating people right is commendable. Emang was an exceptional guide! Hot water bottles for game viewing were terrific!"
We would tend to agree, but most of all we'd love for you to come and judge for yourselves. With very warm winter wishes from your July Vumbura team: Julian Muender, Nina Reichling, Tendani Van Der Est, Britt Twyford-Vaughan, Lorato Bampusi, Nick 'Noko' Galpine, and Wayne Vaughan.
Little Vumbura Camp update
- July 2011 Jump
to Little Vumbura Camp
Weather and Landscape
The morning temperatures were fairly cold throughout the month, averaging around 13° C, but as soon as the sun came up, things warmed up quickly reaching highs of around 30° C. As July is usually the peak of winter, it appears that we got off lightly with mild weather. Towards the end of the month we did experience windy conditions, but this is usual as the winds are bringing the summer months ever closer.
The water levels have started to subside, exposing much welcomed winter graze for the herbivores. It is amazing how quickly new vegetation starts to grow in these fertile soils and with the absence of cold frosty weather. These new shoots contrast the surrounding vegetation as it is changing to shades of brown and gold.
General game sightings have been fantastic for the month, as many herbivores have massed along the receding water levels to take advantage of the palatable vegetation resource.
Our highlight for the month was the hyaena activity which we experienced on a daily basis. We came across a new hyaena den, which appears to be the home of six new additions to the hyaena pack. We watched as the pups emerged from the den for the first time, on weary legs and with partially closed eyes. It was great to watch how these young predators learnt and explored their new surroundings every day.
There have been large concentrations of elephant moving through the area, taking advantage of the jackelberry trees which are fruiting at the moment. We found that there were always other herbivores feeding closely to the elephant, surely taking advantage of some of the fallen fruits dropped by the elephant.
We have also had great sightings of buffalo, hippo, sable, giraffe, lion and leopard.
A number of flying mammals have taken up residence at camp - Peter's Epauletted Fruit Bats have settled around camp, their insect like call punctuating the evening darkness.
Birds and Birding
Birding has been great, offering our guests endless activity. A Lesser Striped Swallow has decided to build its mud nest in the camp library, constantly flying to and from the river with fresh mud to construct the cup shaped nest.
On mokoro trips, we have had various sightings of Pel's Fishing-Owl.
The Little Vumbura guiding team for July was: Cara, Ras, Lops, Dennis and Sam.
Duba Plains Camp update
- July 2011 Jump
to Duba Plains Camp
Weather and Landscape
The worst part of winter seems to have passed as we experienced warmer temperatures towards the end on the month. Daytime temperatures are generally comfy but the mornings are still very chilly.
The Okavango water levels have dropped significantly throughout the month, dropping roughly 20cm in July. Around camp, the water has receded from the tents and main deck and has become very shallow.
During the last month, general game has been very good with giraffe being seen on regular basis especially around the airstrip and north-west of the camp. It has been a great pleasure to watch these magnificent animals at close quarters from the camp.
We have had some outstanding sightings of side-striped jackals, who are just as active and cunning as their cousins, the black-backed jackals. We often watched them tirelessly search for food, occasionally resorting to feeding on various fruits. On the subject of canids, we encountered bat-eared fox on several occasions as there is a small group denning on Python Island. It is exciting to follow these interesting predators while on their hunting forays. We also had great sightings of spotted hyaena at night. We hear their calls and see their tracks daily.
On quite a few occasions we've had great sightings of civet, especially in the evening as they are nocturnal. We've also had many sighting of African wild cat. There is one that is often seen around camp, either around the workshop or at times along the pathway to the tents.
Although hippos are regularly seen in the channels on boat and game drives, they are occasionally seen out the water during the day. One morning we enjoyed watching two males involved in a serious territorial battle in one of the pools.
As always, red lechwe, warthog, reedbuck, waterbuck, bushbuck, banded mongoose, large grey mongoose, and tsessebe are in abundance. It seems some snakes are slowly becoming more active as the cold of winter begins to pass. A large Southern African python was seen moving across the road. We estimated the ectotherm to be around five metres long!
We had two very unusual sightings during the course of the month, when one group of guests found a pangolin feeding in the grass late in the afternoon. Another group of guests found a group of five Cape clawless otter frolicking in a small channel.
The famous lions of Duba Plains have had an interesting month, with the pride dynamics of the Tsaro Pride changing a fair deal. The pride has separated into two smaller groups. One of these splinter groups, which has been frequenting the western areas, is made up of three lionesses, one of whom has become known as Silver Eye, and two cubs. Unfortunately, we presume that one of the cubs has died as there were three cubs at the beginning of the month but we have not seen it for the whole of July. The other half of the pride has moved to the eastern side and consists of six females and six cubs. Occasionally the two sub-prides joined during hunting excursions but spent most of their time apart.
The dominant male has been seen regularly with both sub-prides and spends a lot of time moving between the two groups. He is in great condition and is in his prime.
The Skimmer Pride has been very elusive as we have not seen them for the entire month - perhaps they have relocated?
The buffalo herds were scarce for the first half of the month, but were seen daily during the second half of the month. On the 12th, the herd lost an old cow to the Tsaro pride - we witnessed the hunt which included Silver Eye. On the 16th, the same sub-pride caught a calf and another two three days later. It is an ongoing battle of survival between buffalo and lion at Duba Plains, with both species duelling it out, one day at a time.
We are seeing many elephants around Duba at the moment, mainly to the southern and western part of the reserve. Breeding herds are commonly seen and at times, lone bulls are found around the camp. They tend to move through camp towards the northern section of the reserve and then return (again through camp) towards the southern section again, leaving evidence of their visit around camp, with broken branches and large piles of dung in the pathways and large, deep footprints in the mud.
Birds and Birding
Birding at Duba Plains will never let you down. Recently we have been seeing the African Purple Swamphen (formerly the Purple Gallinule). This bird is usually shy and not often seen, but of late we have been enjoying watching this bird just near the camp on boat. Other birds seen almost on a daily basis include the African Fish-Eagle, Wattled Crane (normally in pairs, but up to seven have been seen), Lesser Jacana, African Jacana and many more. A Verreaux's Eagle-Owl has been sighted on few occasions, even the African Scops-Owl has been seen too.
Banoka Bush Camp update
- July 2011
Jacana Camp update
- July 2011 Jump
to Jacana Camp
Weather and Landscape
We were pleasantly surprised by the lovely warm weather at Jacana in July. We were expecting it to be much colder than the other camps, but in reality, it was definitely a few degrees warmer. The coldest temperature was around 10°C and midday warmed up to around to 21°C. Having said this, the "Bush Babies" or hot water bottles were very popular with the guests at night. We did experience some strong winds, but this is expected as the seasons change.
The water levels have started to drop and many of the channels are becoming shallow, exposing new areas which will soon become vegetation hotspots for the herbivores.
On one morning, a terrible scream erupted on the island just opposite Jacana Camp so we decided to go and see what was happening. We found a breeding herd of elephant huddled around a cow which had just given birth. The newly born was still trying to find its feet, standing for a few moments and then falling down. It was amazing, as the older relatives helped the little one onto its feet and tried to support it. This was truly incredible!
During a boat trip, on the channel just behind Jacana Camp, the guide spotted a leopard in a dead tree very close to the water's edge - it was an unexpected and exciting sighting. The feline allowed our guests to watch him for about five minutes, before he climbed down and disappeared into the bush.
In camp, we hosted some scaly visitors for a couple of days. The first was a two-metre Southern African Python, which took refuge around the main area. This was great as the vervet monkeys stayed far from camp! We also had a water monitor, who seemed adamant about digging under the office floor, but gave up as it was disturbed constantly by the office staff.
Birds and Birding
Summer is definitely in the air, especially as we are seeing a lot of the migratory birds coming in already. The mornings are kicked off with a lovely dawn chorus. There is nothing like taking five minutes longer, lying in a cosy warm bed, listening to the music of nature - it warms the soul and you just know that today is going to be another great day.
The Pel's Fishing-Owl was one of the rare species seen regularly, as well as a pair of Wattled Cranes. A Western Banded Snake-Eagle also graced us with his presence on several occasions. We have kept an eye on a African Jacana couple, who we believe are making a nest in front of camp - just so apt! The majestic Goliath Heron has also been hanging around and is always a marvellous sight.
"The lovely setting, the kindness of the staff, the knowledge of our guide Timothy, and the different animals was amazing. The managers were very attentive and the food very fine. Thank you for the wonderful traditional dinner and songs!" Jean & Claude (France)
"The isolation, the serenity, the beautiful people and the animal sightings! We loved our stay and hope to come back again! The most surreal experience of my lifetime and the food was incredible! It was a perfect stay and a perfect honeymoon! Dan and Charmaine were amazing and Francis was fabulous." Jason & Josephine (UK)
Staff in Camp
Managers: Dan & Charmaine Myburg.
Guides: Joseph Basenyeng, Timothy Samuel and Bafana Nyame
Abu Camp update
- July 2011 Jump
to Abu Camp
Weather and Landscape
Throughout July we've experienced a delightful mix of warm and cold weather with temperatures peaking just below 30° C and dropping to just above 0° C during the night. These cold fronts may have made for some fresh starts but they have also brought some magical sunrises, which have been especially beautiful when emerging through the low hanging mist - simply breath-taking from our raised dining area overlooking the floodplains. These special winter mornings have been equally matched by crystal clear night skies, which have been exceptionally good for stargazing. Our elegant bush dinners have looked stunning, lit up by a plethora of twinkling lights under the backdrop of the Milky Way directly overhead.
This month at Abu, guest have been enjoying the unique experience of approaching wildlife with our elephant herd; whether riding or walking alongside these magnificent animals there is no better way to approach a heard of giraffe, zebra, or wildebeest. Besides this and the stunning birdlife, we have had some great sightings of leopard prowling the grassy plains, and as the flood waters recede, we are once again seeing some small prides of lion. Our favourite for the month can be found daily around a certain abandoned warthog hole, where a very active hyaena den boasts a few adults, one tiny black ball of fluff and two, three month old puppies that spend their days boisterously crashing around.
Camp News and Conservation
We recently received permission from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) to release two elephants from their captive herd. Gika and her calf Naya were released under close supervision by elephant biologists who have been monitoring their settlement back in the wild. The elephants spent nine days in a release enclosure. Three hours after the gates were opened, the two girls left to roam freely across the Okavango Delta.
Satellite collars have been fitted to the elephants and provide a current GPS locations of the two animals. The collars and constant visual monitoring of the elephants has allowed EBS handlers round-the-clock surveillance of the elephants and their behaviour as they adjust to their new environment. The release has started well, and we look forward to providing you with updates on their progress.
update - July 2011 Jump
to Kwetsani Camp
Weather and Landscape
Now that winter is at her best, chilling the air leaving it crisp and fresh and turning leaves golden brown. The camp has a cosy atmosphere with a blazing fire at night and hot chocolate just waiting to be enjoyed. Waking up in the morning to a bright red sun rising on the horizon behind a silhouette of trees has been a treat for many of our guests. The days have been rather chilly and windy but by nightfall the wind seems to cease, leaving a calm cool air, perfect for snuggling around the fire and telling stories.
The water is starting to dry up as it soaks into the earth, leaving a playground for all animals to enjoy.
We have had a good game viewing month with a large variety of various bush creatures being spotted in and around our island.
We spotted a honey badger a couple of times this month, sniffing under the rooms looking for a bite to eat. One of our guides also saw two babies, which is wonderful news. They are a treat to see as they are quite comical and entertaining to watch.
The island has become a playpen for the elephants this month. Not only have we had some lone bulls milling around, but we have had a breeding herd passing through numerous times. The herd has been a great treat with all the babies exploring their new surroundings.
The buffalo, those bulk grazers, have been quiet this season due to all the water around, we have seldom seen them. However, twice this month a lone bull has been spotted. Once whilst guests were out on a mokoro activity and another when a huge bull sauntered past the camp.
Guests have had spectacular sightings of cats this month. At the beginning of the month we had lots of lion activity as the king of the jungle strutted his stuff with two females hot on his heels. The male has been wandering the area for a couple of months and it has been great watching him grow and seeing his mane get bigger. Out on activity, our guests had the very rare and lucky experience of seeing the females take down two red lechwe at the same time. A couple of days later they were spotted again feasting on a wildebeest.
Our elusive leopard friend on Hunda Island was seen catching a baby zebra. Soon after the kill was made, a cub emerged from the bushes. Unfortunately, all the excitement attracted a hyaena that swiftly stole the carcass from the felines. This is quite a sad but common occurrence in nature.
With the water dissipating slowly we are excited to see if new lions and other cats will venture closer to our island.
Hyaena have been on the island this month, providing nerve-wracking excitement as they try their best to get into the camp kitchen nightly. These dog-like creatures are great opportunists and will feed on just about anything.
Birds and Birding
With the constant chirps and sweet songs of our feathered friends of the Delta; we have been serenaded beyond belief this month. Their songs filter through the camp from dawn till dusk bringing a feeling of contentment and serenity to all.
As the sun sets on the horizon, the chorus of various owl species echoes through camp. We have had numerous owls making their presence known, from the Pearl-spotted Owlet to the rare Pel's Fishing-Owl.
A flock of Marabou Storks was often seen while out on drive but we also have a resident who perches on a tree at the back of the island.
"We have had a great time out here, thank you all for our good honeymoon time." Jooste and Caroline (RSA).
"We have had a most fabulous time. Thank you to all. Won't stop talking about Kwetsani." Peter and Jane (UK).
Staff in Camp
Managers: Bradley White and Annelize Hattingh.
Guides: MT Malebogo and Florance Kagiso.
update - July 2011 Jump
to Jao Camp
Weather and Landscape
The temperature in the Delta now has a large range over a 24-hour period, reaching lows of 5° C at night and soaring to up to 25° C at midday. The massive blue sky is rarely interrupted by a wisp of cloud, and there hasn't been a drop of rain in some time. This makes wonderful conditions for afternoon activities, which include game drives, boating and mokoro trips which are made possible by the water levels. Despite some water retreating, the levels are still rather high, which makes driving more exciting and boating spectacular.
The lions have been very active during the month, with the Jao Pride, which consists of a male and two females, being seen. Due to the opportunistic nature of predators, the pride made three separate kills over three consecutive days. Our guests were further treated when they got to witness the two lioness kill two red lechwe at the same time! With all of this action in the air, the hyaena force was ever-present, as we heard their calls nightly and found their tracks scattered all around in the mornings.
Elephant activity is very high with individuals often coming into the area around the rooms, and sometimes walking straight through the walkways. They even sleep behind the office and around the camp frequently, allowing our guests to get incredibly close to these stunningly graceful creatures.
The ever-popular island of Hunda still has a very high density of wildlife with leopard, breeding herds of elephant, zebra, giraffe, warthog, lion and a family of ostrich commonly spotted. We have been privileged to watch the young leopard, learning the ropes from her mother, as she is around nine months of age now.
Another exciting animal seen around Jao Camp are the two male and female sitatunga, an elusive aquatic antelope which is active mainly from dusk until dawn. There have been sightings of these on numerous occasions around Jao.
The hippo have also decided they prefer the reeds around the camp and each evening numerous hippo return to feed. After dinner drinks on the fire deck are a great place to hear them grazing and honking.
Birds and Birding
The entire Okavango Delta is an important wetland habitat, and provides brilliant feeding grounds for migrating birds and Jao is no exception. The diversity of bird life in the area is truly amazing. One particular highlight has to be the Pel's Fishing-Owl.These have been seen on low perches around the camp, near flowing water during the early evening hours.
There are also numerous Martial Eagles present, occasionally seen flying over camp, and often seen whilst on activities. The battles for territory between these fierce eagles are a sight to behold, with clashing individuals hurtling towards the ground with their talons locked.
A Malachite Kingfisher has decided to show off its brilliantly coloured feathers by sitting on posts on the bridge, only flying off when a vehicle gets within one metre of it. These little birds are also seen frequently on motorboat trips, flying a couple of metres in front of the boat for some distance, and at a surprising speed. The larger, black and white Pied Kingfisher can also be seen hovering a couple of metres above the water before diving under the surface to catch a tasty morsel.
Since the waters have partially retreated, we have had the opportunity to host sundowners for groups of guests. We welcome them after their evening activities with a bar and grill to cook tasty snacks and mix refreshing drinks for them in the middle of the bush! All guests had a fantastic time, drinking many gin and tonics whilst watching a beautiful African sunset to the sounds of laughter and lion calls.
Barbeques in the boma are very popular. Fine dining around a rustic campfire, with traditional dancing and singing is thoroughly enjoyed by guests and staff alike.
Our guests frequently enjoy a relaxing range of treatments at our day spa, at the hands of our experienced spa ladies, Kelly and Virginia. Treatments include Intonga massage, hot earth stone massage, aromatherapy, detox body polish and mud wrap, and many more. With such a wide array of treatments there is something to cater for everybody, even the kids!
"Six days is not long enough. Excellent happy staff, stunning food, so good to chill out in the spa, incredible back yard, thanks to all, truly amazing Jao, we WILL be back." Paul and Barbie (Australia).
"Wonderful stay and what a way to start our first safari!" The Fong family (USA).
Staff in Camp
Managers: Billy Mckechnie, Minette Wallis and Ipeleng Pheto.
Guides: Cedric SamotanziI, Maipaa Tekanyetso, Bee Makgetho, Kabo Kopa and David Mapodise.
Newsletter by: Daniel Perlaki - volunteer worker.
update - July 2011 Jump
to Seba Camp
Weather and Landscape
Although we have had cold mornings this month we feel that this winter has not been as cold as previous years with temperature fluctuations between 7° C and 28?C. We did experience a fair deal of wind, but this is normal for this time of year as the seasons are changing.
The water levels are starting to subside slowly, but we did experience a very high water flow this year.
We had a most exciting incident at Seba this month. In broad daylight, we noticed the hyaena behaving very strangely, running through and around camp all morning. By lunch time there was a lot of noise going on and Joseph went to see what was happening. Two hyaena clans decided that camp was a good place to act out their territorial battles. Two females were attacking another female so aggressively that they ended up ripping off both her ears and mauled her head very badly. She took refuge in the lagoon in front of camp and lay there for ages. Everyone thought she was dead, including the aggressors, who eventually lost interest and skulked off. A short while later, to our total surprise, the injured female got up and walked off. There was a lot of blood and we were convinced that she would not survive. However, she has recently been seen a few Kilometres away from camp and although she is badly scarred, her battle wounds seem to be healing well. For more images, please click here
The hierarchy in hyaena packs is a very serious matter and this appears to have been what sparked off the whole riot. What is even more amazing is the resilience of these animals. Apart from this amazing interaction, the Seba hyeanas have been entertaining us with their young cubs, which are great to watch.
The felines this month have been a bit elusive, but we have however, had some good leopard sightings. With the subsiding flood waters, the lions are able to expand their territories again and their roars are being heard closer and closer to camp.
Large numbers of elephant are active around camp, with their attention being drawn to the makalani palms. It is amazing to watch these huge herbivores shake the palms with little effort, until the fruits fall down. They systematically move from one palm onto the next, ultimately enjoying the tasty fruits but more importantly, distributing the seeds further down the line.
General game has been good with regular sightings of kudu, tsessebe, warthog, zebra, impala, lechwe, bushbuck and giraffe. We had a fantastic sighting of a young giraffe suckling from the mom.
Birds and Birding
Seba camp is a great place for bird sightings and we are proud of the fact that we have two important breeding colonies hosting communal nesting sites of Little Egret, Grey Heron, Rufous-bellied Heron, African Openbill, Green-backed Heron and Reed Cormorant. We have also discovered a nesting colony of Slaty Egret, a bird that many keen birders flock to the Okavango Delta to see.
A pair of Saddle-billed Storks are nesting close to the boat channel on the way to the picnic area.
Our raptor sightings have also been good this month. The guides have reported a pair of nesting Bateleurs, good sightings of the majestic Martial Eagle and a pair of African Hawk-Eagles.
The above are only a fraction of the myriad of bird species that we have in the area. One big favourite with photographers however is capturing a row of the beautiful Little Bee-eaters, all sitting huddled on a twig seeking warmth on a cold early morning.
Camp activities have been quite varied this month due to the subsiding water levels and we were able to offer bush walks, which were very popular. Our boating and mokoro activities are still a firm favourite coupled with the usual game drives as well as night drives to view those ever elusive night creatures.
Our guests have been treated to lovely moonlight bush dinners with a candlelit table setting, a scene straight "Out of Africa" as well as some lovely bush brunches, thanks to the lovely temperate days that we have experienced in July.
Mphoeng Ofithile and Danielle Spitzer have been running the elephant research program this month while Dr. Kate Evans and Sim Buckingham have been on leave. During July, Mphoeng was invited by the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute to a professional training course on large carnivores, ungulates and grassland vegetation. This was held at the Dibatana Research Camp. Seba guests continue to enjoy the presentations given to them by the research team, this being one of our main attractions to the camp.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Heather and Chris Nel, Meshack Jack.
Guides: Matamo Mate and Joseph Molekoa.
Tubu Tree Camp
update - July 2011 Jump
to Tubu Tree Camp
Weather and Landscape
The days have started out cold and windy, changing into lovely warm days. The temperatures have varied from a cool 5°C to a warm 26°C. You can feel spring is in the air, but there is still a winter chill, which has brought in cold, windy days, due to snow falling in South Africa.
The water levels have dropped drastically but there is still some water in front of camp. Due to the water dropping, we've had to move our mokoro station a bit further from camp, so a mokoro activity now includes a game drive.
We have been really spoilt with lots of hyaena sightings this month. The four little pups are getting bigger by the day, due to them being able to feed regularly, be that from the odd leopard kill that they steal or from a kill which the adults have made.
After an afternoon drive, the guests arrived back at camp, and could not contain their excitement - clearly they has seen something amazing. They came across a clan of hyaena feeding on a zebra carcass, which we presumed they killed themselves. Not too long after the guests got to the sighting, their guide spotted a male leopard coming out of the bushes, attracted by the sounds of excitement and fresh smell of blood. At this stage most of the hyaena were gorged, but the alpha female was still feeding on the carcass. The male leopard managed to sneak in for a nibble. At this stage the hyaena did not seem to bothered with leopard's presence.
As our attention was focused on this interaction, we did not notice that a female leopard and her cub, which we assume to be six months old, was also sneaking in closer to the dinner table. The female feline quickly snatched a hind-quarter and bolted away with the cub. A hyaena was clearly irritated by this and immediately charged the male leopard, who climbed up the nearest tree. This is really an unusual occurance, as interspecific competition between predators is normally fierce.
The leopards have also kept us on our toes, as they have been to camp many times for a brief visit: Often a secretive visit during the darkness of the night for a quick drink from the bird bath, only leaving behind their tracks as a clue.
With the jackalberry trees being in fruit, we've also had lots of activity in the tree tops and on the ground, as most of the animals and birds fight for their share - oh and don't forget the fruit bats. The elephants have done quite a lot of "remodelling" of trees to get to these tasty little fruits. The elephant have also enjoyed the fruit of the makalani palms, which hang high in the leaves, and the only way to get to them is to shake the tree so that the ripe fruits fall to the ground.
To top off a great month, the birding has been fantastic. The guests have spotted Rosy-Throated Longclaw on more than one occasion as well as Ostrich which have mated and have laid a few eggs already. Now it is the waiting game to see how many of those eggs hatch. Mom and dad share sitting on the nest and the other partner is never far either. They are very protective parents, but the eggs have a very high chance of being eaten by hyaena and jackal.
We've also had the Southern Ground-Hornbill family coming to visit the camp a few times.
"The food was wonderful and all staff helpful. Both Hein and Eloise were terrific hosts who established a family- comfortable atmosphere for all. On safari - watching leopard fail to kill a steenbok. Being challenged by a pair of honey badgers, all amazing experiences." Denise (UK).
"Our guide Johnny was the best. He went out of his way to ensure we experienced this great wilderness in every respect. Sharing his knowledge with us was very much appreciated. We also appreciated the manner in which Eloise engaged in discussion and her breadth of knowledge." John and Carylon (USA).
"The food, the animals in camp, the staff and managers and also the housekeeper's attention to detail was incredible. We thought this camp was on par with Mombo, if not better in terms of the animals, atmosphere around camp, management and food." Joel & Lauren (RSA).
Staff in Camp
Management: Hein Holton & Eloise van der Walt.
Guides: Johnny Mowanji, Kambango Sinimbo, and Moruti Maipelo.
Kalahari Plains Camp
update - July 2011 Jump
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