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South Africa camps
Pafuri Camp update - July 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
The weather has been fine in July, except for the cold mornings and evenings as we are still in the core of winter. We have been lucky with very lovely warm days of between 25 and 30° C; no rain though, compared to last month, to settle the dust. We did experience a cold bout in the middle of the month, where the morning temperatures dropped to zero.
The vegetation is still looking good due to the late rains which we received, but the animal activity along the river is prolific as that is where most of the palatable vegetation is found.
During the month we had had some excellent game viewing and one cannot complain on what is seen out there. There have been huge herds of elephant, buffalo as well as eland and their calves, which were encountered daily on game drive and at camp. In front of camp, the game viewing has been phenomenal, as breeding herds of elephant come to drink daily at their favourite spot right in front of camp. A hippo bull and two old male buffalo have also taken residence along the river and often feed around camp.
The Pafuri Pride of two lioness and six cubs are very active along the river, using the thick vegetation and abundance of prey to their advantage. We have been lucky to witness a number of kills along the river, mostly of nyala. On one occasion, Godfrey and his guests were on their way back from Crooks' Corner when they came across the pride. Shortly after finding the pride, the lions caught a nyala bull right next to the road. All the guests in camp were able to enjoy the sighting. It is good that the two females have been so successful at hunting, as they need to provide for their cubs.
It would be safe to say that July was the month of unusual sightings for us at Pafuri, as a brown hyaena was spotted twice on the western side of the concession towards the end of the month. We also had a great sighting of common reedbuck along the Limpopo floodplain. There is a very small population of these antelope along the floodplains and they are very elusive, there strange alarm call being the only clue to their presence in most cases.
We were all very excited when we came across two giraffe close to the main road. It is the first time in five years that giraffe have been spotted in the area. For some reason, the giraffe that were reintroduced into the area did not settle in and moved further south into Kruger. The hyaena have also made an appearance - we came across two individuals feeding on an impala carcass.
We had a total of 15 leopard sightings during the month, a couple encountered on foot by the Trails group. To close off the month, a morning game drive spotted a female leopard and her cub which were quite relaxed in the presence of the vehicle. That same day on the afternoon drive, a group were on their way to Lanner Gorge and came across a pair of mating leopards.
Birds and Birding
Winter birding this year has been good as most of the pans still have water in them. Water birds such as Sacred Ibis, Common Greenshank, Comb Duck, Spur-winged Goose, Black-winged Stilt, Grey Heron, Goliath Heron, African Openbill, to name but few, are plentiful at the pans. We came up with a total of 233 birds this month. Other special birds such as Pel's Fishing-Owl and Three-banded Courser has been sighted several times.
Heritage and Culture
Thulamela archaeological site has some interesting history and our guests who booked it have enjoyed this history thoroughly. The Thulamela archaeological site is a Cultural Heritage Site managed by the Kruger National Park and we are privileged to be close to it (about 15 minutes' drive). We continue to offer community tours to those who want to experience the culture of the Makuleke people.
Pafuri Walking Trail update - July 2011 Jump
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Camp Jabulani update - July 2011
Kings Camp update - July 2011 Jump
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Armed with blankets and hot water bottles we brave the cold to search for Africa's great wildlife here at Kings Camp in the Timbavati.
July was great and once again we shared some amazing sightings with our guests.
Sightings of general game exceeded our expectations as we still have a lot of water and palatable vegetation around to support their needs.
We had lovely sightings of these spotted beauties right from our Northern to the Southern parts of our traversing.
Up North the 'Argyle' male entertained us with his presence, especially when he stole a kill from his son ('Vyeboom' male). Both of them stayed in the same area for two days showing some amazing interactions between themselves as well as between them and the ever present Spotted Hyenas.
Leopards are masters of the undergrowth and expert hunters. They use their disruptive camouflage to great effect whilst hunting as they get as close as possible to prey and into a suitable position before they burst with an attack. The bite is usually at the throat or to the back of the neck, and they try to muffle the distress sounds as quick as possible to avoid attracting unwanted visitors. Being solitary and medium sized, leopards are very opportunistic and will take prey as small as insects to prey double their size in weight. They also readily scavenge, and like the 'Argyle' male stealing from his son; it is a meal reward without spending the energy.
'Ntombi' and her boy (now about 18months old) now spend very little time together. This surprisingly relaxed boy is about to venture into the known leopard world of being solitary. Their paths are splitting and 'Ntombi' is already exploring further parts of her territory, possibly to mate again.
'Rockfig Jr.' was seen a few times, but it looks like she may have lost a litter of cubs. She was seen mating again and hopefully this time around we'll have more luck.
Other leopards recorded:
• 'Tumbelea' female (South)
• 'Xinope-nope' male (South)
• Unknown male (South)
• 'Kuhanya' female (North)
• 'M'bali' female (North)
We saw very little of the two dominant male coalitions. We received news that the 'Mahlatini' up north mated with a lioness from the 'Xakubasa' pride! Will we see cubs in three months? Maybe white? Only time will tell…
The 'Timbavati boys' down South were apparently spending time with one of the Southern prides to mate with lionesses there.
The 'Machaton' pride is going strong and in July we recorded them on Giraffe and Buffalo kills.
The highlighted sighting was the Giraffe kill right at camp in the riverbed. For three days the guests had guaranteed lion sightings with amazing interactions between them, vultures and Spotted Hyenas. Great photo opportunities!
The 'Xakubasa' (White) pride was on our traversing for a quick visit and we managed to see them twice. They are very healthy and the two 2year old white lionesses are growing to become strong and beautiful lionesses.
ELEPHANT AND CAPE BUFFALO:
Both species frequented our traversing in masses. With all the water still around we had amazing sightings mainly around the waterholes and dams where the vegetation are more palatable.
Quality and quantity galore! We have never been so spoilt and saw rhino's almost every other day. Various groups of them were seen over the whole traversing!
We had two Cheetah sightings, Wild dogs twice, and I got to follow a female Caracal for more than half an hour!
Caracals are rare to see, mainly nocturnal and shy, so by my books this was a top class sighting!
South African, Chennai Super Kings (CSK) & Nashua Titans cricket all-rounder, Albie Morkel and the owner of the CSK team, Gurunath Meiyappan with friends, visited Kings Camp. They had amazing luck on safari and promised to return for more.
Skye and Ken Kemp had their wedding at the camp and shared their special moments with us at Kings Camp.
Leopard Hills update - July 2011 Jump
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Winter is in now in full swing and the crisp mornings followed by warming golden rays mean prolific wildlife activity throughout the endless sunny days!
It has been a rather bizarre month for our regal lady of Leopard Hills. She spent well over a week way out of her territory in the east on Singita property, what on earth was she doing all the way over there (15km away) you may all ask?
She was persistently following a dominant territorial male (Kashane) while he moved through his territory so she could mate with him. His territory only just fringes on hers in the south east but she is so determined to mate with every possible male who may come into her territory in the future. She is cleverly ensuring that her next litter of cubs will be accepted and given every chance of survival.
She ventured back home towards the end of the month and was confidently marking her territory and even ambled through the lodge in the middle of the day as if she hadn’t been away at all. When she arrived back from the east she looked rather skinny, possibly not feeding sufficiently for a few days with her mind focused on Kashane. This led to her stalking some impala rams in hot weather and bright sunshine at 10am! We were captivated by the concentration and patience she displayed during her ambush for over an hour…only for an alert ram to spot her at the final hurdle and prolong her hunger!
He has really come into his own lately, his dominant walk and commanding presence while busy patrolling is awe-inspiring. He has been very busy staking his claim on his territory and one morning we tried to follow him for hours on the scent of a young unidentified male he was chasing off.
She hasn’t been seen as frequently this month, she is still mostly in the south and middle of the western sector trying to establish her self and claim a territory of her own.
Metsi and cubs
She has been mostly far in the south and west of our traversing area! Only 1 of her cubs has been seen for the last 2 weeks so we suspect that the other young male has been killed by one of the territorial males, Xhinzele or Kashane.
The remaining cub is now 14 months and very relaxed with vehicles even when on his own. He is spending a lot of time on the western boundary possibly as the dominant male leopards are less active in this area and he can keep a low profile.
Metsi will be pushing him out to fend for himself soon however they do still demonstrate a close bond when they are seen together
He has been seen more than usual this month in the east of our traversing area, mostly when he was mating with Hlaba Nkunzi. He is a magnificent male in his prime (6 years old) and the largest leopard in the west. We hope to see more of him in the coming months!
Thrilling news is that the lioness with the two young cubs (around 9 weeks) has been very visible around Leopard Hills this month. She has teamed up with the short tail lioness with the two 7 month old cubs and all six have been seen together regularly. It seems the two lionesses are leaving the cubs hidden quite close to each other while they team up to hunt together. The older lioness with the 10 month old male cubs has been spending more time with the 3 Mapogo males and they all shared a large female buffalo kill during the month leading to some fierce interaction amongst the “Pride”.
There has been some fervent interaction between the three males as they contest for mating opportunities with the Ximungwe lioness who is still possibly in oestrus. We hypothesise that this female is battling to conceive as she has been seen mating with them for a while without falling pregnant. The younger two Mapogo managed to kill a female buffalo near the Sand River one night with the assistance of one of the lionesses. The arrival of the oldest Mapogo a day later when he picked up the scent of the kill resulted in quite a scuffle, the younger two were reluctant to share their hard earned meal but the older male held his own!
During the month the seasoned old males also had a scuffle with their sons, the two young Ottawa males, attempting to force the three year olds out of their territory! One of the Ottawa males has quite deep scarring on his back around the spine and his rear legs from the scuffle! They are resisting moving out of the Mapogo’s territory even after being injured and are still up in the north across the Sand River. It will be fascinating to see if they move off and begin a nomadic life looking for a territory or if they fancy their chances of challenging their fathers when they are a little more confident and stronger.
Parades of Elephants are bountiful this month especially along the rivers and drainage lines , we have had a number of great sightings from the deck of the lodge. Apart from spending much time with the parades along the Sand River we have also enjoyed them digging in the dry river courses for the crystal clear water that lies beneath.
We are so blessed with consistent and quality viewing of white rhino, spending time with them is often rewarded with fascinating behaviour. The highlight of the month was watching 2 bulls sparring for dominance, it was not a full on fight between dominant territorial bulls but more a tussle for dominance by 2 young aspiring bulls. See video highlights.
There have also been regular sightings of the female with the 4 month of old calf who is very relaxed with vehicles.
The large herd of around 500 has made an appearance towards the end of July! The old bulls (Daggaboys) have been moving between the Sand and Mabrak rivers a lot. An obstinancy of 5 old bulls are seen often around Leopard Hills and are imposing in their total disregard for the vehicle and arrogance!
The mild mid winter mornings are the optimum time of year to view hippo out of the water. The raft that resides at the aptly named Hippo dam are all back there after spending much of the summer spread out along the Sand river, see picture below.
The female with the tiny 7 month old calf has been on Leopard Hills property the whole month moving between a few different waterholes.
Painted Dog Pack
What a truly gratifying and memorable 4 months we have spent immersing ourselves in the social and reproductive behaviour of one of the most engaging yet endangered mammals on earth!
They have now resumed their nomadic lifestyle as the pups are now old enough (16 weeks) to run with the pack. They do still sometimes make use of different termite mounds as short term dens for the pups while out hunting! The pups are also getting old enough to begin joining in on some of hunts which is all part of the learning process.
Well the good news is that 6 of the 8 pups are still healthy and growing fast, we know 1 pup was killed by lions on Sabi Sabi but are not sure what happened to the 8th pup. The fact that 6 have made it this far is a credit to the experience of the Alpha pair and the hard working pack, so we now have a pack of 12 dogs! A far more successful breeding year for the pack than last year when only a couple of pups made it
Biting a sibling’s tail, all part of the development of hunting skills.
When a kill is made the pups are mostly allowed to feed before the adults get to eat. They are allowed to eat first until they are a year old, which is the time that the hierarchy in the pack should be firmly established. The pups are dependent on the pack for 12 - 14 months.
So while we don't know when the pack may appear on our traversing area we do eagerly await their periodic hunting forays to delight our guests for the rest of the year.
Spotted Hyaena Den
WOW!! We have been spoilt here this year with young wildlife! No sooner have the painted dogs resumed their nomadic lifestyle than we discover a Spotted Hyaena den with two 4 to 5 month old cubs! The cubs are very relaxed even when the mother is away from the den and we have enjoyed some wonderful viewing of their interaction and curiosity exploring their new world.
It seems like they are two male cubs with one slighter bigger than the other and more dominant. Clans use particular den sites for years whereas others may use several different dens within a year or even several den sites simultaneously. These may be separated by up to 7 km! Usually the lower ranking females use a den away from the communal den for their litters so we assume this mother is a lower ranking female. She could decide to move dens so let’s hope she stays at this site for a while…
Some unusual sightings this past month.
A stand off between a sub adult african fish eagle and a goliath heron (The world’s largest Heron). The young raptor is in a phase where he is starting to become territorial and the large heron was an unwanted imposter. After chasing off the Heron he proceeded to nonchalantly have a drink right where the heron was standing!
A one eyed spotted eagle owl! Lucky for this individual that owls rely more on their hearing for pinpointing prey than their eyesight!
We observed a very unique kill, a lilac breasted roller had caught a burrowing scorpion on the sand and had just bitten off it’s tail when we turned around the corner. The Roller was clearly not used such large meals and battled for a few minutes before swallowing the unlucky scorpion!
A very unusual sighting of 2 water monitor lizards mating, the male on top was extremely alert and constantly looking around in case another male was coming to steal his female!
A tree squirrel sunning itself on a chilly winter morning with the safety of the nest hole close by!
A rare sighting of a yellow billed oxpecker in the extreme south of it's range.
Rocktail Beach Camp update - July 2011 Jump
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Rocktail Beach Camp was quite a hive of activity this month. Guests of all nationalities enjoyed the treasures of the unspoilt Maputaland coastline and some of the marine delights too!
There were also some surprises in store as far as weather was concerned. Usually the winter months are relatively rain free, but July surprised us with some wet weather. Whileother parts of the country were experiencing snow, we received a total of 15mm of rain though so it was minimal.
While the cooler days weren't really ideal for beach activities, they did have most guests enjoying each other's company while socialising around a board game and some steaming hot chocolate. Most days this months were sunny however, allowing guests to enjoy the outdoors in one of the most pristine coastal forest areas in the country!
There were numerous humpback whale sightings both from the Dive Centre boat and from the camp itself as the mammals continue with their annual migration. The guests who enjoyed our 'Ocean Experience' boat safari which is offered from the Dive Centre, had some truly amazing outings, with whales breaching and spy hopping just to investigate who was enjoying their presence.
Birds & Birding
Once the weather improved so did the birding activity including sightings of Rosy-throated Longclaw, which is always a big hit for any keen birder. The coastal forest was alive with the calls of the Sombre Greenbul, Yellow-bellied Greenbul and of course Red-capped Robin-Chat. The melodious sound of the bird life in the area always tends to add to that feeling of absolute relaxation, especially in the picturesque landscape of Rocktail Beach Camp.
Fishing along our stretch of coastline was rather quiet during July with no large fish being caught. The shad are still around in large shoals and made for great fun on light tackle. ALL the fish caught at Rocktail are released, as we follow a strict catch-and-release policy.
There were also numerous quad biking excursions which were thoroughly enjoyed by those that decided to enjoy this fun filled activity.
So we wave goodbye to the month of July and welcome in the new month of August! All of the Rocktail Team look forward to a great month, and we look forward to meeting and hosting all those who aim to join us for some fun!
Rocktail Bay Dive Report - July 2011 Jump
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Makalolo Plains update - July 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
The month of July has come and gone and it was certainly not the warmest. Every night temperatures dropped as soon as the warm African sun dipped below the horizon. A chill could be felt in the air already, an indication that another cold night was waiting for us. Our lowest temperature recorded was -2° C, and then averaged around 18° C during the day. Many of our guests were shocked at how cold it can get, as the general perception is that Africa does not get cold. The hot water bottles were very popular, often joining the guests on their morning game drives. As we are edging into summer, we did experience a fair deal of wind during the month, a comforting though that the winds are bringing the warmer temperatures closer.
The plains which have been covered with grass have changed completely, becoming bare, dry and dusty. Most of the trees have become completely bare, and those which have held onto some leaves, have turned totally yellow and brown. We have reached the point when the wildlife goes through very tough times as palatable vegetation and moisture have become scarce. The dry conditions are also ideal for runaway fires, so we have been keeping a watchful eye for any smoke.
Despite the icy weather and freezing winds that have been sweeping across the plains of Makalolo, the mammals that inhabit this wild savannah have been turning out in high numbers. Huge herds of buffalo have been seen moving through what's left of the dense undergrowth. Dust clouds reaching high into the sky as thousands of hooves kick up the remaining tufts of grass, were seen from a far as buffalo raced towards a waterhole.
Elephant numbers are always on the increase during our dry season and our plunge pool is being used more and more every day. These huge elegant beasts, once finished quenching their thirst by the pool, move in to camp to feed on the few remaining leaves that are left on the silver cluster-leaves, creating quite a variety of noises for our guests to listen to as they lay their heads to rest after a day of activities.
We had an interesting sighting of a common herbivore. Generally speaking, giraffe are very stable and elegant on their long legs and move in a very graceful manner. On one afternoon, a giraffe arrived at the waterhole in front of camp for a drink, nothing out of the ordinary. A dazzle of zebra were making their way towards the waterhole, and somehow they managed to spook the giraffe, which exploded into a panic of movement. The adjoining image speaks for itself!
On the predator side of things we were treated to a number of sightings of lion, leopard, cheetah and even wild dog. We also had a handful of white rhino sightings.
Other mammals that have been seen over the last month include zebra, kudu, waterbuck, eland, roan, sable, hippo, ostrich and much more. This time of year you are sure to get that checklist all ticked off!
Birds and Birding
The bird life in and around camp has been incredible to say the least. African Golden Orioles have been seen many times throughout the camp and out on drives, with its stunning appearance and call, it has been the talk of the month amongst many guests. Bradfield's Hornbills are still prolific, as well as Retz's Helmet-Shrike.
Birds of prey have been in action and have wowed guests with their aerial acrobatics in front of camp, while they pick out Helmeted Guineafowl, one by one for a tasty evening meal. The main culprits of this brutal display have been the Martial Eagle, African Hawk-Eagle and Bateleur. This has kept the owls on their toes, constantly on the look-out.
"What a marvellous finale for our safari experience. So much wildlife up close, knowledgeable guides excellent food, wonderful accommodation with a knock-out view, thank you, thank you!" Sharon (USA).
"I don't think it gets much better than this! Everyone was so gracious and helpful - guides were spectacular! Accommodation was excellent!" Warren (USA).
"These were fond (wonderful) memories of a visit to this area back in 1998, where we had a few days at Little Makalolo, our first real entry into the Southern African bush, so many years later, we're back again, and it's better than ever!" Gretchen and Everett (USA).
Staff in Camp
Managers: Katt and Ryan.
Guides: Godfrey, Lawrence, Livingstone, Douglas and Elias.
Little Makalolo update - July 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
This month the elements of weather have been tantalising us with promises of summer around the corner with midday temperatures reaching 29.6° C, but winter is still lurking with cold temperatures ranging from 0 to as low as -6.7° C! When we were almost convinced that winter was over we would unexpectedly wake up to a freezing morning making it impossible for all of us to move away from the fire.
Most trees have lost their leaves due to the extreme cold. The teak trees around camp are popping their seeds and you can hear the pods splitting. The large-leafed false mopane trees are still green and the ordeal trees have turned a beautiful yellow shade.
Large herds of elephant have been passing by the waterhole daily, stopping for a drink and slowly moving on into the thicker woodlands. The hyaena has been very busy and very vocal. One evening, five hyaenas were spotted at the waterhole in front of camp having a quick drink before moving on.
A leopard has been heard calling on a number of mornings, very close to camp, and on a game drive one was sighted in a picture-perfect moment on a termite mound, his rasping voice clear in the chilly winter evening. Another sighting was of one male in a tree with his kill, still fiercely protective of it despite its secure position high in the branches. The other big cats have also been sighted, a family of three cheetah on one occasion. The lion prides had to enforce their presence by treating our guests to not one, but two kills. We came across the prides on two different occasions, feeding on a zebra carcass and on an elephant carcass.
Other great sightings for the month were aardwolf, roan, sable and oryx.
Birds and Birding
On the more feathered front, an exciting sighting for us was that of a White-breasted Cuckooshrike and a pair of Arnot's Chat that were nesting, which is strange for this time of the year.
"The caring of all people, the kindness, the eyes and ears for detail - outstanding. I think this will be hard to top because I wasn't looking for luxury but for authentic experiences and services which I found here." Gygax (Switzerland).
"The best 3.5 days of adventure we have had in our lives - spectacular. The location, the animals, and the staff most of all!" Bill (USA).
"I use words to colour my world and yet cannot find the perfect or even nearly right ones to properly capture the feeling of what I am witness to - rugged beauty at every turn, perfection beyond imagination. There are no mistakes here - all is exactly as it should be, simple and profound, lacking nothing. THIS IS AFRICA, may it always be so." Joel (USA)
Staff in Camp
Managers: Rania Mutumhe, Sibahle Sibanda and Shayne Templer.
Guides: Sibs, Charles Ndlovu, Honest Siyawareva and Bulisani Mathe.
Davison's Camp update - July 2011
Weather and Landscape
The month of July was cold at the beginning but warmed up by the middle of the month. We have experienced mostly clear skies, with a few odd cloudy days and quite a few windy days. The lowest temperature was -4° C and the highest temperature was 29° C.
Most of the trees are shedding their leaves and the grass is turning brown, welcoming in the dry season with full force. Most of the surface water has dried up, making the winter waterholes prime spots for wildlife.
As the focal points for wildlife activity, the waterholes have attracted large numbers of elephant, as well as buffalo and sable at midday. A myriad other herbivore species congregated throughout the day at the waterholes.
The predators are taking advantage of the abundant food sources by these waterholes. The waterhole in front of camp has been very popular with a male cheetah, who was often spotted hanging around, providing our guests with some great photographic opportunities. Cheetah were also seen at Ngamo Vlei and Mbiza.
It was a great month for the Linkwasha Pride of lions, as they have a few new additions to their pride. The mother is still very protective over the newborns, and has only allowed us a few glimpses of the cubs. The pride was also well-fed for a number of days as they were seen feeding on an elephant carcass for a number of days. We suspect that the elephant had died of natural causes. This provided us with some great sightings, as the dominant male was kept busy chasing jackals and vultures away.
Other great sightings for the month include aardwolf, caracal and African wild cat.
Birds and Birding
Generally raptor species nest in the winter months as hunting and foraging is easier during this dry period. As a result we have found various vulture species nesting and there is a Black-chested Snake-Eagle, which has built its nest very close to camp. The avian highlight for the month was the sighting of over 25 Great White Pelicans at Ngamo Pan and the ostrich courtship display at Back Pan.
This month, our guests really enjoyed the bush brunches, boma dinners and village trips, adding a cultural component to the Zimbabwean experience.
We say goodbye this month to Patience, our hostess who leaves us to start her new family. We wish you all the best for you and your family.
"A wonderful atmosphere which felt like a big family party. The staff were more than accommodating. Music and dancing were a highlight. Village trip was inspiring." Runze (Italy).
"PERFECT! The camp environment, the staff and the game viewing was just outstanding!" Joe and Sue (USA).
Staff in Camp
Managers: Chris, Andre, Tammy and Richard.
Guides: Dickson, Bryan, Honest and Kate.
Ruckomechi Camp update - July 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
We are generally blessed with warmer temperatures in this area of the country with a minimum of 11° C, and with summer on the approach, the maximum temperature recorded for the month was 28° C. As we are approaching the windy months, the cool breezes have started to get a lot stronger. There was often a strong wind from the east, starting around mid-morning and calming down by the afternoon. As a result, the skies have been cloudless revealing a magical canopy of stars in the evening and clear blue skies during the day. There have been a number of bush fires occurring on the Zambian side which is expected for this time of the year. The resulting smoke has caused a misty haze of smoke which has intensified the already beautiful Zimbabwean sunsets that we experience.
The dry winter season is starting to show its true colours, with the mopane trees, apple leafs and sausage trees starting to lose their leaves. However, now that the eastern floodplains are more accessible, it makes for an interesting contrast from the drying forests to the green lush floodplains.
Canoeing along the Zambezi River has always been an unforgettable experience, particularly this winter when we witnessed the arrival of the African Skimmers in June and the Southern Carmine Bee-eaters in late July. The long awaited closure of the Kariba floodgates meant a horrid time for the hippo as they fought duels for long forgotten territories. The seven-kilometre canoe trip from the Nyakasanga River to the Little Ruckomechi mouth has been highlighted by the duet calls of the African Fish-Eagle, while they feast upon the catfish trapped in shallow pools and the increasing number of elephants crossing the river to feed on the islands. As the valley warms up the animal activity will increase along the Zambezi River but before then we always cherish the beautiful sunsets the river provides.
July has displayed an extraordinary number of unforgettable sightings of a full array of wildlife, including the ever-present elephant, large moving herds of buffalo, the stalking cats and also the smaller creatures like honey badgers, porcupines and the busy dwarf mongoose.
The animals have congregated in huge numbers along the river in search of water, moving away from the drying pans further inland. With the nutritious ana tree seed pods starting to fall, the elephants have entered a bit of a frenzy as they move from one ana tree to the next, hardly leaving any tasty pods for the other animals who are lucky to come upon a tree undiscovered by elephants.
At the beginning of the month we had a brief sighting of two beautiful nyala bulls. These secretive antelope are not often seen so it was definitely a treat! Unfortunately, because they tend to prefer the thicker vegetation they did not stick around for long and quickly moved back into the cover of the bush.
Towards the end of July, we have had some mischievous nocturnal visitors. A honey badger made nightly appearances and was often seen after dinner, foraging under the boardwalks. Every morning, new holes dug by the honey badgers, were found dotted through the camp. At the end of the month, the badgers struck gold when they managed to dig into the kitchen and eat like kings.
Again we have been exceptionally lucky to have two sightings of pangolin! On both occasions they were found foraging in the mopane woodland looking for tasty ants and other arthropods.
Moving into the predator department, we have been very lucky with wild dog, experiencing some outstanding encounters. We regularly had sightings of a group of two wild dog, and on one occasion, we had the privilege of following them on a hunt. It was exciting to follow the dogs as they tried to catch an impala ram. The hunt turned out in favour of the impala ... this time. We had occasional sightings of another pack, which numbered six in total.
The Ruckomechi Pride was very busy in the last two weeks of July, killing three buffalo in that period of time. This has provided a lot of entertainment for guests at Ruckomechi. The felines would generally spend at least two to three days on their kill, often needing to viciously chase the hyaena away. After the lions had fed to their hearts' content, they would abandon the carcass, allowing the waves of hyaena to finish the rest off, another great experience enjoyed by our guests.
Birds and Birding
July has been great month to view the colourful birds of the Zambezi. We have had very good sightings of the Lillian's Lovebird and Meyer's Parrot feeding off the snow berry bushes. Large numbers of Southern Carmine Bee-eaters have started to arrive, transforming any spot along the river to a colourful hive of activity.
We have also had some good birding around camp, with a Fork-tailed Drongo following the staff around catching any insect that gets disturbed. Early one morning, the guests witnessed a kill by the library, as a Grey-headed Bush-Shrike killed a flap-necked chameleon.
Richard Fyns-Clinton, Zimbabwe's 'Foodie' joined us in camp to teach our chefs the new winter menu. There was plenty of music and laughter in the kitchen as tasty new and different dishes emerged. We also had Crystabelle Peech join us for 10 days at the start of her university placement in the hospitality industry.
Mana Canoe Trail update - July 2011 Jump
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With six trips this month it has been a relatively busy one for Mana Canoe Trails. It has however been a successful month and once again the magical aura of the 'Mighty Zambezi' has impressed many a guest. We have had some fantastic sightings as well as breathtaking scenery as winter slowly begins to release its grasp on the Zambezi Valley.
Weather and Landscape
The weather has been varied throughout the month. Starting relatively mild and sunny it turned and became cold, overcast and strong winds started blowing downstream making for very fast canoeing and then blowing upstream making canoeing very difficult and nearly resulting in the premature ending of a trip - which luckily was not the case. The second half of the month was however much more pleasant and nights were cool, perfect sleeping weather and the days were warm, sunny and on occasions windless creating a mirror effect only broken by the bow of the canoe and the stroke of the paddle, near perfect conditions for canoeing on the river.
With both flood gates having been closed for the majority of the month, the river has stabilised and normal order has been restored. This has led to many small channels and sand bars being created and once again resulted in a re-shuffle of the resident hippo population.
The valley is now very dry, having not seen rain for over three months and dust clouds can be seen rising from the hoofs and feet of all the grazers as they roam the plains and woodland in search of what remains of the grass. The browsing animals are however still able to feed on the abundant foliage of trees such as the ana tree, which flowers and fruits in winter. The last remnants of indegofera are still holding out, though the increase in traffic of large game has flattened the majority of its stands. The first of the large forest fires was seen racing across the face of the Zambian Escarpment, sending plumes of smoke which can become trapped in the evening by the bowl effect of the valley, catching the evening light, forming stunning sunsets.
July has been a prosperous month for game viewing, with many of the remaining inland water sources starting to become completely dry, so many of the animals have been seen coming to the four pools of Mana to drink as well as down to the river in the afternoons. Guides have however had to work hard as a lot of the game is still quite skittish this time of year and the river dynamics have changed, meaning many of the old, small game-viewing channels have now closed so sightings from the water are limited at this stage of the season.
We have been lucky enough to have a few sightings of nyala, lion on a buffalo kill and numerous sightings of wild dogs - always very popular with the guests. As the month progressed, more and more elephants have been seen in the floodplain areas feeding on the ana tree pods that have fallen as a result of the wind or that have been dropped by baboons and monkeys who have climbed the trees to feed on the flush of fruit. The hippos have started to regain some normality after the constant changes in water levels and are gradually starting to carve our more permanent territories in the channels that remain.
Birds and Birding
With 125 species of birds recorded this month it has not been as successful as other months but there have been a number of special sightings this month. We have had sightings of Rufous-bellied Heron, while Bat Hawks were a regular sighting for guests whilst enjoying a G&T at the end of a day's paddle. The first of the migratory Southern Carmine Bee-eaters were spotted towards the end of the month; soon the banks will be filled with colonies of Bee-eaters, making for great viewing and photography from the canoes. Once again a Pel's Fishing-Owl was heard calling on regular occasions but the sighting of one still remains elusive to the Mana Canoe Trails.
A Meyer's Parrot nest was discovered during a walk by guide Henry Bandure; it will be monitored over the next few trips to see if any youngsters appear. The African Skimmers tend to put on a good display close to our launching sight, a very nice introduction to the Zambezi for the guests.
"Dinner under the stars each night and lunch in the mighty Zambezi was amazing." Roger (USA)
"We loved the entire canoe trip with lots of hippo." Elise and Caroline (France)
"Henry was a phenomenal guide and Graham was a great host. The chef was fantastic." Jennifer and Nick (USA)
"The whole trip was incredible, from the actual canoeing to the camp sites to all the meals." Anthea (RSA)
Toka Leya Camp update - July 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
As we are in the middle of winter, the mornings are a bit fresh, however, the daytime temperatures have been rather warm, cooling off again once the sun sets. The sky has been clear, allowing the sun's warm rays to bathe the landscape and at night, the stars sparkle beautifully.
The vegetation has started dropping dry leaves which has greatly improved the visibility on the game drives and the water level in the river has dropped significantly - but there is still enough water and vegetation to keep the wildlife healthy.
The game viewing in Mosi-oa-Tunya has really never been a challenge but always gets better with the dry spell as the bush thins out and the surface water dwindles, forcing the wildlife to concentrate along the river. Fortunately, Toka Leya is positioned in a prime position for the dry season, allowing for some outstanding game viewing all around the camp. Elephant and buffalo have been particularly prolific, always being present around camp. This has provided our guests with some great photographic opportunities.
A number of bushbuck have settled around the camp, which is fantastic as they are usually very elusive and live in dense vegetation. They have become fairly habituated to the presence of people. A hippo cow has also taken to the area around camp, and feeds all around camp every night, returning to her favourite pool in front of camp at day.
White rhino sightings have been phenomenal, which really just adds to the success story of conservation in the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. The numbers of these bulk grazers has increased within the Park and it has become a stronghold for these endangered mammals.
A definite highlight for everyone was the beautiful sunsets over the Zambezi, often with silhouetted elephant in the picture.
"A very beautiful place with amazing scenery and wildlife. Terrific staff. Love the back of house and conservation efforts being done." Mr Nagid (UK)
"Wonderful accommodation, great activities and exceptional service. Thanks so much!" The Kasolowski's (USA)
"The green tour of the waste water processing was super educational and so different from other camps. Should be a must see for all guests! This was our favourite of the camps we stayed at. Keep it up!"
Lufupa River Camp update - July 2011 Jump
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Lufupa Tented Camp update - July 2011 Jump
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Kalamu Lagoon Camp update - July 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
Our days here are beginning to warm up and sitting in camp is very pleasant with the gentle breeze coming in across the lagoon. Temperatures ranged from 12 degrees Celsius up to 16 degrees Celsius in the morning and warms up to 30 degrees Celsius during the day and above, dropping as soon as the sun sets. The trees are looking beautiful as they are going through a transformation from leafy green into vivid, oranges, gold, and brown before the leaves fall off. The colours are truly breathtaking.
Our predator sightings have been fascinating with the best highlights being the leopards. Emmanuel and his guests watched a leopard hunt and kill an impala, hauling it up the tree and then enjoy its prey all the time with the guests watching. On another occasion, a Kalamu Trails group led by Sandy encountered a leopard from a safe distance. They watched the feline for about ten minutes before it slipped into the thickets. Our leopard sightings have been fantastic this month, with a total of 15 sightings for July.
An old bull elephant, which has become known as Stumpy, has been hanging around the camp for most of the month. He has provided our guests with some great sightings and entertained us all when he often chased hippo in the lagoon. We have also had various sightings of breeding herds with tiny calves. It was fantastic to watch the elephant come down to the lagoon to drink and wallow in the mud. Often they were accompanied by a number of buffalo who were visiting the lagoon for the same reasons.
General game has been astounding, with a large number and diversity of species visiting the lagoon. We could often see Thornicroft's giraffe, kudu, waterbuck, impala and bushbuck together at the lagoon.
Our Kalamu Walking Trails have been successful this month. Guests really enjoyed tracking animals on foot with Mwila, our professional trails guide. The focus of the walks shifts to the smaller aspects of the ecosystem, allowing guests to learn some tracking skills.
Birds and Birding
The birding in July was nothing short of amazing. We had some great sightings of Pel's Fishing-Owl. Whilst on the raptor side of the scale, we also had a great sighting of an African Fish-Eagle battling with a small crocodile over a large catfish. The eagle was persistent but ended up losing its meal to the reptile. The resident Crowned Cranes are still providing the guests with some great sightings.
Camp Activities and News
Kalamu Star-Beds Bush Camp has continued to be tremendously popular. Being positioned on the Luangwa River, guests had opportunities of viewing elephants crossing the Luangwa River.
We also have two permanent bird hides and one mobile hide in the concession now. The mobile hide is shifted around to different sites, depending on the water levels and game activity. The hides have provided great places to watch nature unfold in its most primal form, allowing the photographers with some of the best photographic opportunities.
"Thank you very much for everything, we enjoyed the game drives and some of the unusual sightings such as python, hyaena and leopard." Christina (Switzerland).
"Star-beds is very special and superb place." Mr Robertson and Mrs Pearson (USA).
Staff in Camp
Management: Solly Tevera, Mulenga Pwapwa and Evie Bwalya.
Guides: Mwila Zulu, Sandford Sakala and Emmanuel Sauti.
Shumba Camp update - July 2011 Jump
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July was quite a month for Busanga Plains with Shumba Camp, Busanga Bush Camp and Kapinga Camp opening up for the new season. We received our first guests at the beginning of the month, and what a treat it was for everyone!
Throughout the month, our guests were treated to some amazing game viewing, which just got better and better as the water levels started to drop, making the northern sections of the papyrus area more accessible. We got a glimpse of the Papyrus Pride - our first for the season.
With the floodplains beginning to dry a little, crossing sections have become available, allowing the wildlife to pour into the plains. It became clear as to why the plains are revered as one of the most unique places in this incredible country. We had great sightings of roan, large breeding herds elephant and herds of 200-300 buffalo making good use of the low water and abundant grasses that the months of rain had kindly left behind.
With the retreat of the water the bush fires were not far behind and it wasn't long before the smoke started to drift effortlessly over the plains, mingling with the early morning mist to create an eerie but beautiful sight as the sun rose.
Shumba definitely lived up to its reputation, and provided fantastic lion interactions, whether it was the Busanga Pride stalking in the shallows or a mating pair in the middle of the road, our guests were constantly blown away by the feline action. On one occasion, a lioness came to inspect the camp at close quarters after the guests finished dinner. The lioness took a full tour of the camp, popping into the boma and walking right past the kitchen and bathroom area.
Three days later, the Busanga Pride made a kill right in front of Tent 1 and spent the entire afternoon feeding at their leisure. Over the next couple of days, the pride did not move far from the camp and then struck again, making a kill not far from Tent 6. This pride has really adapted perfectly to their aquatic surrounds making them the apex predators of the plains.
The camp is constantly serenaded by the honking calls of the large rafts of hippo scattered around the watercourses, and at night, in between all the other nocturnal sounds, one can hear the chomping sounds made by the hippo as they feed on the lush grass.
Birding has been fantastic, with large congregations of water birds all over the plains. This has been great as the bird life filled the gap in between game viewing, entertaining all our guests, birders and non-birders alike. A highlight was some fantastic sightings of Pel's Fishing-Owl in broad daylight.
Kapinga Camp update - July 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
A cold winter has headed Kapinga's way, however, guests were still eager to get out of their warm, comfy beds to witness every morning's spectacular sunrise, throwing the first rays of the sun on the chilly, wet Busanga Plains. Each with a hot cup of coffee or tea, a flickering fire and a hot-water bottle on their laps, none of the guests had "cold" in their minds for long.
Lion sightings have been plenty with top-notch viewings of all the prides in the area; Busanga, Papyrus and the Tree-Line prides, all providing awe-inspiring memories for our guests.
On a fantastic all-day safari, our guests were treated to the pleasure of viewing a pair of civet, two serval and a breathtaking sighting of a single male cheetah, who watched over the plains like a sentinel. His large, orange eyes fixed on objects in the distance, perhaps watching lions - whose territories he has briefly usurped for a spell of hunting. Our guests were then whisked back to camp on a magical helicopter ride where they were greeted by a breeding herd of 27 elephants, who provided wondrous company to watch the vibrant, scarlet sun disappear behind the towering fig trees.
Sightings on drives have increased as the water from the plains vanishes more and more each day. Guests were full of joy and excitement when they returned from drives and had to let loose on the Kapinga Camp staff on what the day in the Kafue National Park had in store for them, ranging from over 300-plus buffalo feeding to a single side-striped jackal scavenging the plains for leftovers. To top their stay, they had the perfect wildlife experience when the encountered two of the Busanga Pride lions mating under the African sun.
Birds and Birding
Fig tree branches have provided excellent refuge for the Böhm's Bee-eaters who have been honouring us with their presence this month. African Fish-Eagles showed off their aerial dances just a few metres from camp, while guests were having sundowners.
Out on drive we had an unexpected, mind-blowing sighting of two Grey Crowned Crane males, performing their courtship dance. This was an astonishing encounter as the cranes are only suspected to have this behaviour in the month of September; might this mean an early rainy season for the Plains?
"Super drives and very innovative entertaining events (i.e. the bush dinner). JohnD was the most memorable guide ever. Thanks for the memories." Nancy and Ted (USA).
"Wonderful place, wonderful experience, wonderful people, wonderful food. Thank you everyone, especially JohnD." Anne and Brian (RSA).
Staff in camp
Managers: Zoe, Ashley, Wouter, Rozel and Chris.
Guides: Sam and JohnD.
Busanga Bush Camp update - July 2011 Jump
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Although the Plains are now in the midst of a Zambian winter, at night and in the morning temperatures rarely go below 5°C and still reach up to 30°C in the afternoon.
Busanga Bush Camp made its grand opening this month in great style! A variety of swallows, starlings and bulbuls have taken a shine to our camp and nest in the palm and fig trees dotted around our island. As you stand in the main area or on the viewing deck, herds of puku and red lechwe can be seen grazing, the females nursing their young and the males dramatically locking horns. Herds of over 300 buffalo have been seen on more than one occasion, congregating on the floodplain or dambo that opens up outside the camp.
At this time of year the Busanga Plains are slowly drying up, but large flocks of birds still fill the sky and small islands of this beautiful landscape, making it a paradise for all, from the keen birder to the more inexperienced amateur. Everyone can enjoy great sightings of strange and wonderful birds such as the Crowned Crane, Saddle-billed Stork, Wattled Crane, Hamerkop, and many more, including the landscape's trademark African Fish-Eagle.
To top it off, as if to welcome Busanga Bush Camp into its new season, three lionesses from the Busanga Pride came to greet our safari vehicle in mid-afternoon, only to lead it right back to camp, just as the light was fading and our chef and waiters were putting the finishing touches to the dinner arrangements for our guests. The lionesses strolled through camp, resting briefly in the main area and by the boma fire, before setting themselves on our viewing platform for an hour or two, calling to each other while we sat and ate dinner!
As the Plains dry out, our resident lion are becoming more and more prolific, and have on several occasions been recorded on more than two kills in a day, as well as covering great distances. The males have been particularly active, and have even been spotted up to 40-50km from their central territory.
"Following the three lions into camp and the boat trip was amazing! Meeting the Jacqui and the rest of the team was great."
"We loved the Busanga Bush Camp so much, I can't think of a single thing I would change."
"Mating lions and the endless rafts of hippo were our highlight! Beautiful scenery, birds and animals; spectacular sunsets and lovely people."
Mvuu Camp update - July 2011 Jump
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Mvuu Wilderness Lodge update - July 2011 Jump
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Mumbo Island update - July 2011 Jump
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Chelinda Lodge update - July 2011
Desert Rhino Camp update - July 2011 Jump
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Palmwag Lodge update - July 2011 Jump
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Doro Nawas Camp update - July 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
Winter can still be felt at Doro Nawas and its surroundings as a gentle breeze of wind blowing from the north-east prevails in the early mornings. Morning hours and late afternoons are a little cold with the minimum temperature ranging between 8 and 14° C and a maximum of 18-22° C during the daytime.
The vegetation is starting to show signs that the dry season is catching up, by thinning out and becoming sparser offering predominantly sourveld graze, causing the wildlife to cover larger areas in search for winter nutrients. The mopane trees are still holding onto their foliage, which has now taken on the kaleidoscope of winter colours. Surface water is becoming scarce and wildlife activity has picked up a large deal at the winter water holes and river beds which still have some good browse in the form of the flowering ana trees.
The month was characterised by the cool south-westerly winds, picking up in the afternoon, blowing in from the cool Atlantic Ocean, causing the golden grass to mimic the ocean's waves.
We have had some great elephant activity during the month, as the pachyderms were seen almost daily, concentrating their activity close to the available water sources. The Oscar herd has welcomed a new addition to their herd as one of the females gave birth towards the end of the month. The mother has been protective over her calf, but we were able to get a few glimpses of the baby.
We encountered a very rare and unusual incident this month, when guides Pieter and Michael came across the Rosie and Oscar herds together. The elephant were clearly in a distressed state and there was a lot of vocalising and trumpeting. As the situation calmed down, the game viewers moved in for a closer inspection, and to their surprise, they found that the elephants had trampled a black-backed jackal. Possibly the elephant felt threatened in the presence of the canid with such a young calf in the herd.
Guided walks have been very popular during the month, allowing the guests the opportunity to enjoy the smaller components of the ecosystem. It is amazing when one looks at how some organisms have adapted in order to survive such arid conditions. The adjoining image shows Richard explaining the adaptions of the welwitchia plant to a guest.
Trips to Twyfelfontein have been very popular as the drive to get there is often very rewarding and very scenic - to say nothing of the amazing ancient rock art to be seen once we're there.
Birds and Birding
Birding has been great during the month, with huge flocks of Red-billed Quelea and Lark-like Buntings visiting the area to take advantage of the dry grass seed. We have had some great sightings of Lappet-faced Vulture cruising on the thermals as well as a juvenile Martial Eagle which has been hanging around a rocky outcrop.
We are proud to announce that Gideon Gawiseb (the bar man) is the Doro Nawas Service Hero of the month for June.
Imelda, our service hero of the month of May enjoyed a fantastic day out on a game drive with her friends.
"We really enjoyed the staff members, we felt like a family. Thank you very much. Keep the hard work that makes this amazing place for people to enjoy. "Aiden and Elspeth.
"Please continue to do what you are doing. We loved our stay in every way! The staff are all so wonderful, warm, friendly and patient. We enjoyed learning Damara words and phrases, nature walks and drives. Visiting the Damara living museum was particularly special as well as the evening when the staff sang for us. We are very happy that Doro Nawas shares a partnership with the local communities and hope this will grow throughout Namibia." Catherine and Bob (USA).
"Wonderful rooms, best meals so far in Namibia, A special thanks to Rina, she was attentive, always smiling and interested in our activities, life in Canada etc. A big thank you. "Counture (Canada).
Staff in Camp
Managers: Agnes Bezuidenhout, Morien Aebes, Theobald Kamatoto and Jason Lundon.
Guides: Pieter Kasaona, Michael Kauari, Ignatius Khamuseb and Richardt Orr.
Newsletter for this month done by:
Damaraland Camp update - July 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
The weather at Damaraland Camp has been very cold and misty in the mornings and evenings but fairly warm during the day.
After the huge amounts of rain that we received in summer, there is still a lot of grass cover in the area, as well as green trees along the dry river courses. The ana trees are in flower, providing the desert-adapted elephant with some tasty and nutritious browse.
As mentioned above, the desert-adapted elephant have been enjoying the flowering ana trees along the riverbeds, resulting in some great sightings of these amazing animals which have adapted so well to the harsh environment.
The highlight for the month was the discovery that Johann and his guests made while on a drive. The game viewers came across an elephant calf that was not more than a couple of hours old, and the mother was very relaxed, allowing the group to experience the tender bond between mother and newborn calf. It is amazing to see these huge animals thrive when you think of their daily nutrition requirements. The new calf it is a great addition to the Oscar Herd as this group of elephants is called.
Great congregations of springbok, oryx and Hartmann's mountain zebra were found throughout the month, enhancing the wilderness experience. Ostrich were also common during the month, and we often found tracks of spotted hyaena dotted along the roads and in the riverbeds.
Birds and Birding
Bird life was very productive in July, with huge flocks of Lark-like Buntings dominating the grassy fields. The dry riverbeds also provided some great bird activity, churning out a number of specials including a couple of Namibia's near endemics. We recorded regular sightings of Bare-cheeked Babbler, Carp's Tit, Ruppell's Korhaan and Benguela Long-billed Lark.
With the increase in prey species such as the Lark-like Buntings, raptors were very active. We had great sightings of Lanner Falcon, Black-chested Snake-Eagle and Lesser Falcon, all displaying their aerial agility while hunting.
Around camp we had the constant bubbly call of the Bokmakierie and frog-like croak of the Ruppell's Korhaan to entertain us daily. A Dusky Sunbird has taken a liking to the various aloes in front of camp. We also had a fantastic sighting of a Red-crested Korhaan.
Damaraland Camp has been an inspiration to young minds lately, having the school kids over from the Jacob Basson Combined School, and talking with them about their future concerning conservation and the environment they live in. Speakers were Maggie (manager) and Jonathan (guide) whom did an excellent job motivating and inspiring their young minds for a brighter future.
We also welcomed Willem Retief as the new guide, and said farewell to Daniel Uakuramenua.
'This really is a wonderful camp that blends in beautifully with the environment. The staff are very friendly and always smiling, making us feel at home at all times. A real highlight was the boma dinner- a great surprise!' Torsten and Molly (Holland)
Staff in Camp
Managers: Maggie Vries, Elfrieda Hebach, PG du Preez and Erika Awaras.
Guides: Anthony Dawids, Johann Cloete, Albert Gaoseb and Willem Retief.
Skeleton Coast Camp update - July 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
Golden sheens with a tinge of green can be seen in the Skeleton Coast Park as the wind ripples across the open grass plains. Memories of rain and the assistance of mist help the environment to thrive in the Skeleton Coast. With the Hoaruseb River bed having dried out somewhat it makes it possible to experience the magnificence of it beauty once again.
Cold, wet foggy nights lends an eerie aspect to the environment. Weather changing from cold fog-laden nights to hot summery days confirming that weather in the Skeleton Coast is as always very unpredictable. East winds plaqued the camp for ten full days during July ensuring that no one forgets summer is on its way.
"The End of an Era" - a quote taken from Dr. Flip Stander as we bid a heartfelt farewell to the three remaining lionesses of the Hoaruseb Pride. Morada, Tawny and Maya, the three lionesses who had made the Hoaruseb River their home, were found dead by Kallie (Guide) some 15km east from Purros. It seems they were poisoned. Members of staff from Skeleton Coast Camp assisted Dr. Stander with the sample taking and burning of the three lionesses. Tears of sorrow were shed for all the hopes and dreams that all had had for the return of lions to the Skeleton Coast.
The poisoning of these beautiful lions is still under investigation by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism.
More sad news came in the form of a young male elephant's remains found some 300m from Purros. The cause of death of this elephant currently unknown.
On a brighter note, some more elephant herds have been seen in the Hoaruseb River with several very young babies frolicking in the sand and water. Watching these young elephants test their trunks is an experience worth seeing.
A herd of 60 gemsbok (oryx) were spotted by guests and guides in the Skeleton Coast Park while on a sundowner drive. Cape Fria excursions have reported sightings of some 30 jackals and two brown hyaenas in the area which made for an exciting day for guests and guides alike.
Swarms of Red-billed Quelea have made Skeleton Coast Camp their home, ensuring guests wake up to a joyful song. With poise and elegance a Black-headed Heron has graced us with an extended visit at the camp.
"Truly an adventure - some moments of terror - some moments of rapture. Incredible! Thank you for everything" - Greg Guthridge (Canada)
"Thank you for a spectacular experience! Amazing memories. The team was great" - Barb and Fred West (Canada)
It is with sadness that we bid farewell to Johan and Bertha the Relief managers for the North-west. Their laughter, friendliness and presence will be sorely missed here in the Skeleton Coast Camp.
The rest of the management and Guide team in the Skeleton Coast still remains that same.
Anthony - Manager
Madri and Rosalia - Assistant Manager
Gert, Gotlod and Kallie - Guides
Serra Cafema Camp update - July 2011 Jump
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Ongava Tented Camp update - July 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
July has been a cold month that has been windy, dropping the temperatures even further with the chill factor. On one or two occasion the morning temperatures have almost dropped to 0°C, but as soon as the sun's rays arrived everything thawed out. By midday the temperature was generally warm and comfy.
The vegetation has become very dry as all the plants relocate their nutrients to their root stocks. This, coupled with a prevailing wind, provided the perfect conditions for a veld fire to thrive. During the third week of the month, a runaway fire broke out in Etosha National Park. Camp staff went to the Park's aid in putting the fire out and prevented it from coming into Ongava, but the fire did burn a large portion of Etosha between Andersson Gate and Okaukuejo. This has presented the wildlife with yet another challenge in the dry season.
Sightings this month has been good but a bit slow, with the cold temperatures the animals are moving around a little later than they used to. They are also coming to the waterhole late in the morning so lunch at camp is always very exciting with lots of animals joining in at the waterhole.
At the Ongava Tented Camp waterhole, we have both species of zebra coming to drink, the Burchell's zebra as well as the Hartmann's mountain zebra; this has provided the perfect opportunity to point out the differences between the two species.
The Ongava lion cubs are growing very fast and they are a great attraction for guests as well as the staff. The cubs are now about six months old and are getting very curious of any movements that are around them. The guests have been able to take some great pictures of them close to camp while the lioness moves them around the area. On a sadder note, we suspect one of the pride females has died, reducing the pride to three adults and the cubs. Hopefully the cubs will be able to survive the many challenges that they will encounter.
The white rhino calf that was spotted for the first month in June has been seen at the waterhole in the evenings quite regularly and it's very much appreciated by all the guests. Black rhino have also been coming to the waterhole quite late at night. The camera trap at the waterhole has captured a number of great images of some unusual visitors under the cover of darkness including porcupine, brown hyaena and African wild cat.
Two Etosha elephant bulls have taken up residence in Ongava for the second half of the month by pushing over the fence. They have been elusive, but their tracks are found all over the roads. Perhaps the duo will take up a permanent residence in the area?
Birds and Birding
Both species of Flamingo are still present at the Etosha pan and can be seen when a full day drive into Etosha is done. This is a great treat for twitchers and non-birders, as it is unusual for the Flamingo to be here at this time of year. Back at the camp waterhole, we are continually entertained by a flock of Helmeted Guineafowl, who are constantly chasing each other around the waterhole. As the sun goes down, huge flocks of both Double-banded Sandgrouse and Namaqua Sandgrouse collect at the waterhole, drinking and sponging water into their breast feathers.
"The wonderful game drives and the extremely kind, friendly and courteous staff" The Reed family (RSA).
"Shilongo is a very competent and knowledgeable guide, he has a very lovely manner and we enjoyed being guided by him very much" Mr and Mrs Davidson.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Gerda Van Niekerk, Silvia Morgante, Inge Kambatuku and Corne Cocklin.
Guides: Rio Aibeb, Festus Eiseb, Leon Basson and Shilongo Saukes.
Little Ongava update - July 2011 Jump
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Ongava Lodge update - July 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
During the month the weather warmed up a little as a result of the prevailing easterly wind. Temperatures have been ranging between 18° C in the early morning to 31° C at midday and cooling down in the evenings, bringing the daily average to 24° C.
July and August are the pinnacle months for the dry season and the vegetation has started to thin out dramatically making game viewing much easier. The animals are concentrating around the winter waterholes in huge mixed aggregations, all with the same goal in mind - to quench their thirst. The waterholes in front of camp have been particularly productive, with constant activity throughout the whole day and night.
Game viewing has been spectacular in both Ongava and Etosha, highlighting how well the wildlife has adapted to the harsh environmental conditions. The best game viewing was done at the winter waterholes, which provided activity all the time. Huge herds of eland, oryx, kudu and black-faced impala collect at the waterhole.
The Ongava lion pride has developed an interesting tactic to aid in their hunting strategy - we have found them a number of times on top of the Ongalangombe Waterhole hide, using the elevated position as a lookout point, scanning the surrounds for any thirst driven prey. It is still a work in progress as they have not made a kill in the vicinity of the waterhole, but we are sure they will hone this skill and take full advantage of it.
The waterholes in front of camp have been great, allowing our guests the luxury of viewing the myriad wildlife from the comfort of their rooms. What has really been fantastic at the waterholes is the rhino activity. Both black and white rhino have made it a daily routine to come for a drink in the evenings, allowing us some great close up views of the fantastic animals. The two species often drink at the same time, which is an excellent way to highlight the physical differences of black and white rhino to the guests.
In the middle of the month, two Etosha elephant bulls decided to visit Ongava and spent a couple of days enjoying the mopane stands. We have only seen them a handful of times, but their presence is clear by their tracks and feeding signs. The adjoining image is of one of the visiting bulls.
Birds and Birding
Birding has taken on another form at Ongava during July. Huge flocks of Red-billed Quelea have arrived, swarming the waterholes and grassy plains in search for seeds and grain. Red-billed Quelea have been described as the most abundant bird species in the world, forming enormous flocks that can darken the sky. It was a real treat to watch them arrive at the waterholes in front of camp and drink. They resemble a school of fish and move as one huge ball of activity. On one occasion, a Shikra darted into the middle of the flock, causing a frantic explosion of Quelea in all directions. The Shikra cashed in and won a hearty meal before flying into the canopy of a nearby tree and starting to feed. Some of Namibia's near endemics have been seen close to Camp, such as Hartlaub's Spurfowl, Ruppell's Korhaan and Ruppell's Parrot.
This month, the lodge was visited by John, a chef trainer who spent some time spreading his knowledge amongst the kitchen staff. We have changed our menu, which has received great feedback from the guests and left the kitchen staff energised and excited.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Agnes, George and Jason.
Guides: Kapona, Willem, Michael and Abraham.
Andersson's Camp update - July 2011 Jump
to Andersson's Camp
Little Kulala Camp update - July 2011 Jump
to Little Kulala Camp
Kulala Desert Lodge update - July 2011 Jump
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Kulala Wilderness Camp update - July 2011 Jump
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Governors' Camp update - July 2011 Jump
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Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge update - July 2011
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