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AFRICAN SAFARI NEWS

June 2011

(Page 1 of 2)

Page 1 Updates
General Safari News - General information and updates from our partners in Africa
Wildlife News - Interesting wildlife sightings and photos.
Camp News - Camp specific news, including refurbs, rebuilds, accolades, etc.
• Monthly update from North Island in Seychelles.
• Monthly update from Kings Pool Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from DumaTau Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Savuti Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Zarafa Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Selinda Camp in Botswana.
Kwando Safaris game reports from Botswana.
• Monthly update from Mombo Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Xigera Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Chitabe Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Vumbura Plains Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Little Vumbura Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Duba Plains Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Banoka Bush Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Jacana Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Abu Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Kwetsani Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Jao Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Seba Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Tubu Tree Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Kalahari Plains Camp in Botswana.

Page 2 Updates
• Monthly update from Pafuri Camp in South Africa.
• Monthly update from Pafuri Walking Trail in South Africa.
• Monthly update from Camp Jabulani in South Africa.
• Monthly update from Kings Camp in South Africa.
• Monthly update from Leopard Hills in South Africa.
• Monthly update from Rocktail Beach Camp in South Africa.
• Monthly Dive report from Rocktail Bay in South Africa.
• Monthly update from Makalolo Plains in Zimbabwe.
• Monthly update from Little Makalolo in Zimbabwe.
• Monthly update from Davison's Camp in Zimbabwe.
• Monthly update from Ruckomechi Camp in Zimbabwe.
• Monthly update from Mana Canoe Trail in Zimbabwe.
• Monthly update from Toka Leya Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Lufupa River Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Lufupa Tented Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Kalamu Lagoon Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Shumba Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Kapinga Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Busanga Bush Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Mvuu Camp in Malawi.
• Monthly update from Mvuu Wilderness Lodge in Malawi.
• Monthly update from Mumbo Island Camp in Malawi.
• Monthly update from Chelinda Lodge in Malawi.
• Monthly update from Desert Rhino Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Palmwag Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Doro Nawas Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Damaraland Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Skeleton Coast Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Serra Cafema Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Ongava Tented Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Little Ongava in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Ongava Lodge in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Andersson's Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Little Kulala Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Kulala Desert Lodge in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Kulala Wilderness Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Governors' Camp in Kenya's Masai Mara.
• Monthly update from Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge in Rwanda.


GENERAL UPDATES
Sefofane Zimbabwe luggage allowance change
Going forward, the C206 Cessna aircraft used by Sefofane Zimbabwe will only carry four passengers plus the pilot. In doing so, the luggage allowance has been revised to 20kgs (44lbs) per person (including their camera equipment and hand luggage) - in a soft bag, no wheels or frame.


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WILDLIFE NEWS
Aardwolf mating seen at Mombo Camp
Location: Mombo Camp, Okavango Delta, Botswana
Date: 9 June 2011
Observer: Callum Sargent
Photographer: Dave Kaplan

On the afternoon game drive from Mombo, the guide heard a strange sound - something unusual and not familiar to any of us. Upon inspection and to our astonishment we came across a pair of aardwolf that were mating in broad daylight!

Aardwolf generally emerge from their burrows about an hour and a half before sunrise, often attending to their territorial duties which are then followed by intense feeding throughout the night, returning to their burrow at sunrise. They are therefore not often seen in the day in the first place, and to see them mating as well made this into the sighting of a lifetime.

The copulation lasted around 25 minutes and the animals were not bothered by our presence. The female then shrugged the male off and casually scuffled off. The male did not pursue the female and began to perform his territorial duties such as scent-marking and pasting.

Aardwolf mating at Mombo Camp  Aardwolf mating at Mombo Camp  Aardwolf mating at Mombo Camp

Aardwolf are solitary animals except during the mating and breeding season when single pairs are formed. The male temporarily shares the home range of the female but returns to his own when the breeding season is over. While pairing with one female the male may wander off and mate with the females of other pairs. This behaviour, known as fraud mating, is unique and accounts for up to 40% of matings. This means that the female has pups from different males in one litter and the male often raises the young of another. The young leave the parents at an age of four months and become solitary, at which time the parent-pair also breaks up.

After successful mating, the female goes through a gestation period of between 90-110 days, giving birth to 2-4 pups. As aardwolf feed almost exclusively on harvester termites (Trinervitermes), which are most abundant during the rainy season, this gestation period means that the litter will be born at a time with the most available food resource in the rainy season. The young become weaned at an age of 3-4 months, at which point they leave the natal range and begin to actively forage.

At 9-12 months the young within the litter become independent and shift to the solitary lifestyle. Adult females will generally have a litter interval of around 12 months depending on environmental conditions and general health.



DumaTau Lioness Mayhem Amongst Baboons
Location: DumaTau, Linyanti Concession, Botswana
Date: 30 June 2011
Observer: Thuto Moutloutse
Photographer: Bernard De Luc

Whilst on a Wilderness Explorations (Migration Routes) trip, the group was on morning game drive at DumaTau Camp, along the Linyanti River. This area has become famous for world class game viewing and the now-flowing Savute Channel. A full myriad of predator species are also strongly represented in the area, including lion, leopard and wild dogs.

The group's attention was drawn to the ruckus alarm calls of a baboon troop, emanating from the riparian thickets. Upon closer inspection and following the' worried gazes' of the frantic baboons, the explorers found a lone lioness who had just killed a female baboon only minutes before.

Lioness killing baby baboon    Lioness killing baby baboon

In this situation, baboons will often chase the predator off but not in the case of lion. The troop watched on helplessly as the lioness started feeding. Just as the dramatic nature of a kill started to set in with the guests, Thuto, the Explorations guide, noticed a baby baboon trying to clamber to safety up a nearby tree - probably the offspring of the fallen baboon.

Unfortunately for the youngster, the lioness spotted it and being an opportunistic predator, she took full advantage of the easy meal. Some would say rather ruthless but that's nature and it was certainly was not a sighting for the faint hearted! This was also a sombre reminder of the stark reality of the African savannah food chain and endless circle of life and death.


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CAMP UPDATES
BOTSWANA
Little Mombo receives a make-over
Little Mombo's main area has been refurbished with more emphasis on space and flow between the lounge and outside area. The wooden decking has been extended, together with a larger pool and new bar area.

Little Mombo make-over    Little Mombo make-over 

Little Mombo make-over4    Little Mombo make-over

Little Mombo make-over    Little Mombo make-over

The configuration of the main area at Little Mombo has changed slightly and the deck has been expanded quite substantially, providing more areas for outside dining and relaxing.

The new Vumbura Plains North
We are pleased to advise that after the unfortunate fire we had last year, and a longer than anticipated re-build, Vumbura Plains North is fully operational again. The main area has been re-designed slightly with a larger sunken lounge and glass doors to provide protection from the elements when needed. The fire deck has been moved closer to the bar area and there are brand-new softs and furnishings.

New Vumbura Plains North  New Vumbura Plains North 

New Vumbura Plains North  New Vumbura Plains North

New Vumbura Plains North  New Vumbura Plains North

The main area at the north camp of Vumbura Plains has recently been reopened after an entire rebuild. It has kept all the functionality and beauty of the old main area, including the unique bar, but has added a new feature in the form of glass doors. This new feature ensures that the fantastic openness of the old structure with its spectacular views of the Okavango has been retained but that greater comfort in the event of wind or rain is now available for our guests.

New Vumbura Plains North  New Vumbura Plains North 

New Vumbura Plains North  New Vumbura Plains North


NAMIBIA
Serra Cafema Closure Update
Unfortunately we have had to postpone the scheduled opening date of Serra Cafema to 15 August 2011, in order to complete the necessary maintenance and building work. We do apologise for any disappointment or inconvenience caused as a result of this closure. Where possible, we are accommodating guests at our Skeleton Coast Camp as it offers a similar experience, or amending itineraries to include alternative options. Your journey specialist will make contact with you regarding any affected bookings.


SOUTH AFRICA
Camp closure
The Last Word Bishopscourt and The Last Word Long Beach will be closed for a few weeks during low season for maintenance and small improvements. The dates are as follows: The Last Word Bishopscourt 15 May 2011 - 30 June 2011, and The Last Word Long Beach 1 July 2011 - 31 July 2011.

Table Mountain Annual Closure
Apologies for the short notice, but the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway in Cape Town will close for annual maintenance from 18 to 31 July 2011. The cableway will re-open for business on 1 August 2011, weather permitting.

At the Cape Grace children are not just accepted, but welcomed in style. Amongst other they offer kids an African story time and gingerbread man decorating; Junior bath time accessories, themed toddler's bed linen, and dressing gowns and slippers for the children to enjoy whilst in the hotel; and age appropriate children's gifting throughout their stay.

South African National Parks (SANParks) has advised of the closure of Nguni Lodge concession in the Addo Elephant National Park. The Nguni Concession holder has advised that they will be closing the lodge at the end of May 2011.


EXPLORATIONS SAFARIS
No report this month.


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Seychelles
North Island Update - June 2011              Jump to North Island

No report this month.

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Botswana Camps
Kings Pool Camp update - June 2011               Jump to Kings Pool Camp

Weather and Landscape
The cold mornings of the African bush are upon us and forfeiting your warm blankets and comfortable beds can be testing, but with the amount of action happening around Kings Pool Camp, one cannot afford to miss the chance of witnessing some of the amazing game viewing and encounters which we have been experiencing.

Water levels have subsided considerably, water sources are becoming more isolated and the vegetation has started to thin out a fair deal. This all adds up to some incredible game viewing.

Wildlife
The high elephant population in the Linyanti area always blows guests away. At this time of year it is not uncommon to see up to 300 of these majestic giants on an afternoon activity. Game drives often bring you up close and personal to this iconic species of Africa, but one of the greatest ways to potentially view an incredible spectacle is from our private barge, the Queen Silvia.

Double-decker barge on the Linyanti River    Wild dogs seen around Kings Pool Camp

As the dry season encroaches, elephant numbers increase drastically as migrating herds and individuals make their way into the Linyanti from as far afield as Angola, heading into the Caprivi strip of Namibia and finally crossing the Linyanti River to find favourable feeding and watering grounds on this vast concession. This crossing is what so many of our guests this month have been astounded with. The sight and beauty of a hundred-plus elephants, ranging from newborn babies to the enormous bulls, swimming across this natural boundary as the amber sun begins to dip into the horizon is hard to explain. All this while sipping down a refreshing sundowner on the immaculate double-decker barge, slowly drifting along the beautiful Linyanti River.

Predator sightings and interactions this month have been astonishing and plentiful.

Elephants around Kings Pool Camp    Wild dogs around Kings Pool Camp

The resident pride of lions has been seen on a regular basis in June. This is largely due to some very exciting news. One of the lionesses has given birth to three adorable cubs with which she is denning on an island to the west of Kings Pool Camp. They have yet to be photographed as they are very well concealed in a palm thicket, but the begging calls for their mother's milk can be heard from within. The pride male is often in the vicinity of the island and has been seen swimming across to them on frequent occasions providing phenomenal photography opportunities.

Lion cubs are not the only addition to the predators of the Linyanti. A wild dog pack of 11 has started denning in an unused termite mound. With the den being off limits to safari vehicles for the first month as not to put pressure on the dogs to move den sites, only the Wilderness Trust research vehicle has been able to confirm that we have six new wild dog pups! The pack has been on top form, hunting regularly and often on the move. Keeping up with hunting wild dogs can be challenging and guests have to hold on tight as the experienced guides follow them at 40km/h through tough terrain in the hope of seeing the hunt unfold.

On one fresh and nippy morning guide OD came across freshly stamped tracks on the road just outside camp heading westwards. Judging from the tracks he could see they were moving swiftly and most likely on the hunt. A cautionary word to the guests told them it was going to be a bumpy ride but if they were to stand a chance of seeing them they would have to move fast. Soon after finding the tracks, OD heard impala alarm calls coming from a northerly direction. Taking the fastest route possible into that direction he saw the tell-tale white tails of the dogs waving excitedly in the air as they ran. Suddenly their pace increased and the group saw that they were hot on the heels of a young kudu cow, an unusually large prey for the pack. After several minutes the kudu had lost the battle and the dogs were making quick work of devouring the carcass. The energised yelps of excitement and victory sounded in the crisp morning air. Amazingly, within 20 minutes the kudu was complete devoured and the dogs headed back towards their den site where they would most likely regurgitate some of the freshly eaten meat for the alpha female who remained at the den site with the pups. A truly memorable sighting.

A guest remarked the other day: "Wow! Stay at Kings Pool, throw a stick and you'll hit a leopard!" While this might be slightly exaggerated, the leopard sightings this month around Kings Pool have been off the charts. With up to four different individuals being seen in one activity, one can only conclude that Kings Pool must be one of the greatest places at this time of year to view this elusive cat in its natural habitat.

Mongoose seen around King Pool Camp    Leopard sighting at Kings Pool Camp

General game has too been plentiful with large herds of zebra, giraffe, kudu and impala being seen daily. Hippo are frequently seen in and out of the water. The most cunning predator of the water, the crocodile, is often seen lazily cruising the river in front of camp. The resident baboon and monkey troops provide daily entertainment and watching them go about their business from the comforts of the room is always a treat.

We have also had some unusual sightings for the month, which included five sable antelope on the airstrip, four roan in front of camp, and the lion pride feeding on a roan carcass.

Birds and Birding
Birding has also been great for this time of the year when the masses of summer migrants have left us. The beauty of birding is the fact that there is always something going on which fills in the gaps between mammal sightings, building a complete safari experience. We had some unusual sightings for the month, which included three Wattled Cranes, Slaty Egret, and Rufous-bellied Heron.

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DumaTau Camp update - June 2011               Jump to DumaTau Camp

Weather and Landscape
The month of June was unbelievable, highlighting the many benefits of the cold winter months.

We experienced some very cold mornings for most of the month, but we were soon warmed up by the African sun when it stretched its rays over us. Generally, June and July are windy months for us, but we experienced very temperate weather as the wind hardly ever picked up above a slight breeze.

Most of the waterholes in the mopane woodlands have dried up, forcing the associated wildlife to head for the open water sources. The vegetation has taken a knock, due to frost and has thinned out a fair deal.

Wildlife around DumaTau Camp    Giraffe at DumaTau Camp

Wildlife
Now that the DumaTau barge is working, we have been lucky on a couple of occasions to hang around with elephants crossing Osprey Lagoon. As the Savute Channel has been opened, we decided it would be good to do boat rides from DumaTau, through Zibadianja Lagoon and onto the channel. We were amazed at the concentrations of game along the entire route; we encountered many elephant that were crossing the water courses, giraffe that were drinking and lechwe that were bounding. We also encountered many buffalo and hippo and on one occasion, a male lion.

The famous Savuti Pride has been very active around camp during the month, as we found them on a kill twice not far from camp. One of the females is pregnant and we suspect she will give birth within the next month, so she has to build up her reserves for the pending strain on her body. At the same time, the previous cubs need to prepare themselves as we suspect that they will be evicted from their natal range by the dominant male, who has been visiting the females regularly. He has been hostile towards the cubs, often sending them dashing away before any physical contact is made. Once the sub-adults are evicted, they will wander far as nomads, weaving through other lion territories, until they are strong enough to take over a territory of their own.

There is a new pride hanging around the southern banks of the Savute Channel. It appears that this pride consists of one large dominant male, two females and three cubs. On one occasion, we came across the pride when they were feeding on a baby elephant. It was not clear if the lions had made the kill, or if they were scavenging. As these lions are very large, it is likely that they may have made the kill under the cover of darkness.

Buffalo at DumaTau Camp    Hippo at DumaTau Camp

Leopard sightings have been good at DumaTau, as we have found two separate females feeding, one on a baboon carcass and the other on an impala ewe. There has been a male who has been quite active, moving between these two females.

Birds and Birding
The bird life has been outstanding for June, especially considering that we are in the middle of the cold winter months. As is the story of life in Africa, water sources attract all kinds of life forms. This has been true for the birds, as many species can be seen along the water courses.

Staff in Camp
Managers: Kago, Tlhalerwa, Abbiela, Friedman, Lindi Samonsala, Maria Mistelske and Lebo.
Guides: Ronald, Masule, Nyaladzi, Monyatsi, Mmoki, Boatametse, Kgosietsile, Rakaru and Tebogo.

Photos taken by Kago.

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Savuti Camp update - June 2011               Jump to Savuti Camp

Weather and Landscape
The chilly mornings and evenings have signalled the arrival of the winter months. With the colder weather comes the crisp, clear air and beautifully deep blue skies. The vegetation and small water pans have begun to dry out; resulting in greater concentrations of game along the channel's edge.

The moon over Savuti Camp

This month offered a rare astrological sighting. On the evening of the 15th of June we witnessed a total eclipse of the moon. We shared the experience with our guests through the evening, interrupting dinner to stop and see the changing colours on the moon as the earth cast its shadow. The younger members of the group spent dinner discussing the phenomenon and how it occurs.

Wildlife
A short drive along the channel reveals large herds of elephant, zebra, kudu and waterbuck, providing brilliant photographic opportunists for both guests and guides.

This month the guides have explored the less travelled areas of the Linyanti Concession, including the southern bank of the Savute Channel. This area has become difficult to access due to the longer travelling distances since the return of the water. However, with the use of the canoes as a quick transfer across the channel, the southern bank has once again been opened for game viewing and it has proved to be hugely productive as well as strikingly beautiful.

Elephants crossing channel    Falcon over Savuti Camp

On one chilly evening we heard the stressed calls of elephant from the opposite bank of the channel. The deep roar of a large male lion was also heard not far from camp. All this commotion, together with the familiar cries of the resident hyaena clan, was a clear sign that something was happening under the cover of darkness. The next morning the guides immediately headed to the south bank, where they found a small lion pride feeding on a baby elephant. The pride, consisting of a lioness, a large male and three small cubs, had managed to kill the elephant the previous night. It was the large numbers of vultures in the trees above that gave them away as they fed on the carcass beneath the thicker vegetation. It was a unique sighting that signified new and interesting things to come from the southern bank.

A pair of honey badgers paid us an unexpected visit before dinner one evening. Whilst chasing each other along the walkway, one lost his way and found himself in the camp's lounge where guests watched in amazement. After realising he had made a wrong move, the surprised creature quickly disappeared under the deck.

The start of the winter has been a little chilly but we have enjoyed the magic that comes with it. Over the rest of the season we look forward to more evenings gathered around the fire with guests, with the comfort and warmth of all the extra blankets and hot water bottles. Let us not forget the beauty and excitement of the environment around us and what it has to offer.

Staff in Camp
Managers: Stuart, Kay, Noeline & Kris.
Guides: Lets, Ace, Goodman and KG.

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Zarafa Camp update - June 2011               Jump to Zarafa Camp

Winter is now upon us here in northern Botswana. Our overnight lows are dipping to 5° C but fortunately, and typically, our midday temperatures rise to a very comfortable mid-twenties touching 30° C. Even as the waters continue to push into our area, the dry season has begun; we haven't had a single drop of rain during June. Ironically, it's during our dry season that we have a lot of free-standing water. The flow of water in the Okavango Delta system as well as the Linyanti Swamp system due to massive rains in Angola earlier in the year, is resulting in higher than usual water levels in the Zibadianja Lagoon, Selinda Spillway and Savute Channel. Yet winter continues and our "dry" season unfolds with many trees losing their leaves, vegetation being grazed and dying back revealing game sightings not often encountered during our wetter summer months which are characterised by much dense green vegetation.

Wild dog looking into the sunset    Arrow marked babbler at Zarafa Camp

With the free-standing water in the surrounding waterholes all but dried up, the concentration of game along the Zibadianja Lagoon and adjoining waterways is phenomenal. We have large breeding herds of elephant moving in and out of the tree-line here to drink from the lagoon regularly. We even have had them coming through camp and drinking in view of our deck pools, which was an absolute spectacle for our guests.

By far the highlight for us is the denning of our wild dog pack. We estimate that on the 12th of June 2011, the puppies were born in the same den used last year. We have had some awesome encounters with the dogs while they have hunted as far over as Zarafa Camp and have been moving around the edge of the lagoon and even seen on Joubert Island crossing shallow water towards their den. At present the den site is closed to vehicles so that we can give the dog puppies some time to settle. In the very near future though we will be able to have scheduled visits to the den and this will provide our guests with a once-in-a-lifetime experience watching them rear their young pups and all the super interactions between the members of the pack during this time. We have had the adult pack hunting around camp frequently to the point where a young male impala was chased into the lagoon in front of the deck and stayed put in the water until long after sunset.

Our lion pride has been flip-flopping between the northern and southern sides of the Selinda Spillway, providing guests with some fantastic sightings of the whole pride, which totals 16. The pride also includes a coalition of two big males. They have made a few kills of warthog and Cape buffalo of late.

Our herds of Cape buffalo are now starting to arrive, not in massive numbers just yet, but they are coming. The Burchell's zebra are also beginning to show up. This is going to make for interesting times as these two species are some of the favourite prey items for lion.

Leopard sightings are good at the moment too; however they are starting to become a little elusive what with the dogs beating tracks all around their territories. It's all a fascinating wildlife cycle - the presence of the lions makes the wild dogs skittish who in turn are increasing their boundaries around their den and this causes the leopards to skulk away too. Mmaditsebe and Amber have been seen fairly regularly as well as the big Savuti leopard male.

The general game has been superb too with excellent sightings of roan antelope as well as the usual amounts of kudu, red lechwe, giraffe, hippo and many of our small friends like banded mongoose, dwarf mongoose etc. Our primate friends, the vervet monkeys and chacma baboons, keep us company around camp too.

On the birding front we are having regular sightings of Wattled Cranes, Saddle-billed Storks, Slaty Egret and Southern Ground Hornbill, all of which are fairly endangered and rare in some parts of the region. We also have a resident Jacobin Cuckoo whose "parents", through a sneaky brood parasitisation by its mother, are Arrow-marked Babblers! What is absolutely amazing is that it calls, moves, and behaves exactly like a Babbler!

The camp has been really busy in June. We have had an excellent mix of guests who have all loved their stays as the wildlife encounters and sightings have been excellent and by the look of things promise to continue as the sun marches us further into winter. We have had some really excellent bush dinners out at Shumba Pan and Bush Brunches over on Joubert Island. The lunar eclipse on the 15th saw us all moon-gazing from the main deck between courses of the evening meal. HES Zibadianja, our pontoon boat, has been plying its trade up and down the lagoon and was even the platform for an adventurous fishing expedition by some guests.

We've hosted 50th, 60th and 70th birthdays of late and, oh yes, and a 39-and-a-half birthday too this month and all in all we have had a lot of fun.

Yours in conservation,
The Zarafa Team

Photographs by John Hilton

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Selinda Camp update - June 2011               Jump to Selinda Camp

Weather and Landscape
We have been looking to the stars a lot this month, especially for one exceptionally unique event: the full eclipse of the moon on the 15th June 2011. I am sure just about every newsletter in the southern hemisphere has documented what an extraordinary night that was. We made quite the party of it at Selinda, with an evening of photography spilling from the moon shots to laser and light photographs of our honeymoon couple that we had in that night.

Our winter months are an outstanding time for viewing the stars. The cold clear cloudless nights provide exceptional viewing. Our bush dinners, above all else, allow us to see the universe completely clearly in an open site raised from the floodplain; there are no trees to hinder viewing from the horizon. We have even seen the International Space Station and many other satellites overhead and countless shooting stars of course. We have been able, with the help of binoculars, to see the moons of Jupiter. This is a must to see if you visit Africa.

The weather does get a little bit chilly in June; it is our winter after all. There are many positives to this of course. The breakfasts round the camp fire for one. Apart from a couple of days with frost on the grass, our abundance of blankets, hot water bottles and lined ponchos has kept the chills at bay. The daytime climate is just perfect with daytime temperatures reaching a maximum of 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) is very pleasant and means that many of our guests have enjoyed whole days out in the bush as it does not get too hot. Rather than coming back to camp we offer a picnic in the bush with a traditional wicker basket and all you need.

We are well beyond the peak water levels of August last year and Selinda is now quite literally an island. It is very exciting as new and existing waterways keep opening for our boating and fishing activities.

Wildlife
Tea time at Selinda is generally around 3pm. One couple were rather late one afternoon. It turned out they were marooned in their room, surrounded by a herd of 30 elephant. It was incredible for them to watch the social interaction, unable to move anywhere, before the animals moved on and swam through the Selinda Spillway. You don't have to be out of camp to see exceptional wildlife at Selinda!

What makes us so lucky at Selinda is our diversity of wildlife. Generally if one animal is not around then there will certainly be something else to see. Some guests boated to the south side of the concession in search of wild dog, as they are seen regularly there. Of course they saw many hippo on the way and large journeys of giraffe before finding a male leopard. The dogs put in an appearance, successfully hunting an impala, witnessed by the group, before the guests headed back to camp.

In another memorable activity a group set off in search of lion. On the way another vehicle alerted them to the presence of our resident cheetah brothers, so they turned around and off they went to find them 30 minutes away. On the way a female leopard popped up, presenting herself on a dead leadwood tree for some fantastic photos. On to the cheetah brothers, and another kill as these cats took down a warthog. The radio went off again..."Tau Tau Tau!" No time for a coffee break, the team drove off to see those lions, all 16 of them, including little cubs playing with mum and dad. All before brunch time back in camp by 1pm!

The hyaena pups, at their den approximately four kilometres from camp, are continuing to grow but still hold some level of cuteness.

One night a honey badger provided us with a unique sighting as he caught and devoured a three-metre python right in camp. He hid it in the nearby bush for a couple of days but came back regularly to feed. A leopard has been seen around camp.

Any Selinda newsletter would not be the same without a mention for our now infamous Mr Scarface, our hippo. Despite being battered, and still showing quite the open wound on his right flank, he is seen daily.

Birding
Year-round, Selinda will always provide great birding opportunities, with or without our migrants of the summer months. Even from camp the bird life that can be enjoyed is outstanding. The must see is the Collared Palm-Thrush. According to bird books it should not even be here, but we have them breeding in camp!

Dickinson's Kestrel have been seen daily. Whilst having breakfast we can see a pair hunting among the Red-billed Quelea flocks. Another sought-after bird is our Bradfield's Hornbill which is also a common resident around camp.

Other News
Game driving at Selinda is our core wildlife viewing activity but it certainly is not the only one. With the current cooler days walking has become more enjoyable. In fact, one couple completed an all-day walk with their armed guide and a surprise picnic provided halfway through the day. They came across a wide range of game including viewing great interaction with elephants.

Canoeing has expanded with the increased water levels as well as the fishing and boating.

Selinda is a great place to expand your photography skills, there are just so many opportunities from wildlife to landscape photography. We have been providing photography classes this month giving some added tips for guests who would like to get more out of their cameras. This is particularly useful for those who have just bought an SLR and would like to venture beyond the realms of using the automatic settings.

The hide, as ever, has been used extensively. We had our first-ever sleep-out as four brave intrepid adventurers from Kentucky stayed the night on the day beds. This is highly recommended as an incredibly unique wilderness experience.

A new stock of wine in our cellar prompted a number wine tasting evenings. Without revealing too many secrets, this takes the form of the guests guessing the grape of each wine having been given some safari themed clues as they go.

The release of Dereck and Beverly Joubert's The Last Lions has prompted a huge amount of interest in their movies. Although we have yet to receive a DVD copy, we have been showing the Joubert's classics such as Eye of the Leopard and Relentless Enemies in our newly refurbished library. This is ideal to get out of the sun for an hour or so after lunch.

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Kwando Safari Camps Update - June 2011

Kwando Concession
• Another amazing month at Kwando and I think the best sighting has to go to Lagoon - we received this from the camp.

Lagoon camp               Jump to Lagoon Camp
• We found the lions regularly and had good sightings of them. Still one pride with the two new males and two females together, so they seem to be settling in the area. Most of the lions are following the buffalos close behind.
• Some relaxed leopards did appear, with sightings of a mother and son, and also a male on his own. Wild dogs also flushed the mother and son out of a thicket and the leopards had to seek safety in a tree.
• The three cheetah brothers were mobile and wandered around, but we had no luck watching them hunt. They do look healthy though, so there is no concern.
• The dogs headed into the mopane woodland, which makes tracking them much more difficult. That doesn't stop our guides, and they do find them, but sometimes only after tracking them for hours. The dominant female is heavily pregnant, and they will have to den soon – already quite late for the time of year.
• Elephants are in abundance, from big breeding herds to solitary bulls, you name it. And the buffalos are frequenting the area in big numbers too.
• General game sightings were also good, with lucky sightings of sable, roan and even eland.
• After dark we saw caracal, African wild cat, side stripped jackals, black backed jackals and hyenas.
• The highlight of the night drives was the rarely seen pangolin!

Lebala camp               Jump to Lebala Camp
• The big lion pride was seen again, and they seem to be doing well. All were having a feast on a wildebeest – lots of full bellies and sleepy lions afterwards. Later they were seen following tracks of their favourite dinner; buffalo.
• Leopards provided us with very good sightings. We saw a very relaxed female with a cub several times and also a relaxed male. The male was seen once with a warthog kill, and the female with the cub was seen feeding on an impala.
• The three brother cheetah were observed several times on a hunt, but unfortunately they had no success on these occasions. However they look very healthy which means they made kills at other times.
• We have big breeding herds of elephants in the area, with lots of babies. They seem very relaxed, which makes it possible to observe them closely. There are also bull bachelor herds around, with some enormous guys.
• Buffalos are back, and there are big herds in the floodplains. One herd was estimated to be around 500 individuals. The bulls seem are in fighting mood and the lucky winner gets to mate with the females.
• Birdlife was very good, with African spoonbills, martial eagles, dabchicks and Hottentots teals.
• Hyenas were the masters of the nights. The carcass of a female buffalo left a rather fragrant scent, which led to no shortage of hyenas having a feast.
• But we saw also serval, African wild cat, civet, caracal and one brief glimpse of an aardvark!!!!

Kwara & Little Kwara camps               Jump to Kwara & Little Kwara camps
• Lion sightings were in abundance in June. Our intimidating coalition of seven male lions were seen once all together – truly formidable sight. That just shows how lucky the guests are who are there at the right place at the right time.
• The lions pulled down several zebra this month, but perhaps the best viewing was provided by the lions feeding on a hippo. All the action happened at night, so it is difficult to know the full story behind the scene. However, evidence suggested that the lions had killed it – a rare event, as its risky business for them to attack such a big and strong animal.
• Kwara was also lucky with leopard sightings – the highlight was a female with two cubs, feeding on an impala up a tree.
• Sadly, the cheetahs were keeping a low profile this month, with the three brothers just being seen a couple of time. There were quite a few days where there tracks were found, and the good news is that the tracks of a female with the three cubs were also seen, so it appears they are doing fine.
• Toward the end of the month four wild dogs appeared in the concession. They are in good condition, but unfortunately the guides can not tell yet if the dominant female is pregnant or not.
• The elephants are definitely back in force. We have a lot of bull elephants in camp, making it challenging for guests to go between their room and the main area without a large diversion. Out on the drives we are also seeing large breeding herds more often.
• Birdlife is good with good sightings of ground hornbills and wattled cranes. Of course there are the more common species around like the majestic African fish eagle, and lots of water birds!
• General game is plentiful. Giraffes, red lechwes, impalas, common reedbuck, steenbuck, waterbuck, hippo, greater kudu and tsessebe.
• The night drives were blessed with sightings of serval, African wild cat, large spotted genet, side stripped jackals, hyenas with two cubs, and chameleons.

Nxai Pan
• It is good to hear that the lions and two sets of cubs are doing well and are in good health. By the end of the month the larger lion pride made a giraffe kill and that kept everyone happy for a few days.
• The female leopard was seen again too and is doing fine.
• A female cheetah with cubs was also sighted – cheetahs are always a highlight of a safari.
• Bull elephants are literally everywhere. Always a big group at the waterhole in front of the camp, but also almost around each corner. As are giraffes, wildebeests, springboks, kudus, impalas, gemsboks and a few zebras.
• Birders were delighted to see kori bustard, the heaviest flying bird. But also some raptors and some of the smaller species like finches, larks and prinias.
• Black backed jackals never disappoint, and are seen all the time, every day.
• The star sighting of the month was the Brown Hyena – it was a rare treat for all who saw it.

Tau Pan
•The lions have based themselves again at our camp. The waterhole in front of camp attracts them, and they appear to have settled in for good – several generations in fact, with the cubs one day being left at a 'nursery' near room 6, while mum went hunting!
• It was also great to observe a cheetah hunting this month: first it had to stalk slowly to reduce the distance between him and the prey (springbok). After that was achieved, the chase started. The cheetah missed this time, but it was still exciting to see the action.
• An unexpected bonus for the central Kalahari was a sighting of two wild dogs this month!
• An interesting observation on the birding side occurred: a Hammerkop catching insects. With no surface water around to try to catch fish or frogs, this bird adapted his hunting from aquatic animals to insects.
• There are lots of springboks and gemsboks around, parading along the road.
Black backed jackals are also in abundance and we also saw a lot of bat eared foxes.
• Honey badgers – a rare sighting in most places – are seen a lot around camp. We think they like the smells that are coming from the kitchen around dinner time!

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Mombo Camp update - June 2011               Jump to Mombo Camp

The month of June is one where winter's icy grip creeps across the land - we have had some eerily beautiful misty mornings, while others have been frosty, where every blade of grass, stem and leaf are covered in a glittering layer.

It also the time when the green inundated floodplains stand in stark contrast to the sere, dry duns of the higher acacia woodlands.

The floodplains are still holding water, although they are receding a little faster every day, leaving the first signs of the highly nutritious bounty of new grasses in their retreating wake. Sycamore fig and African ebony trees are now bearing fruit, and are alive with Green Pigeons, Meyer's Parrots, squirrels and the shrieking of monkeys and baboons as they gorge on the precious and nutritious fruit, which are high in vitamin C.

Misty morning at Mombo Camp    Busfires around Mombo Camp

The haze from distant bushfires combined with atmospheric dust blown up from the Kalahari create spectacular blood-red sunrises and sunsets; a fitting backdrop to the dramas that play out every day in the magical world of Mombo.

The lunar eclipse on the 15th of the month added a celestial element to the display of natural wonders that surrounds us, and it was a truly awe-inspiring event to witness - the dazzling brightness of the full moon slowly giving way to an ethereal darkness studded with stars and back again.

Game viewing this month has been of its usual high standard, with the Mporota Pride of lions once again holding centre stage. The three youngest cubs and their guardians were once again seen with the main pride more often, and they came into camp several times this month on hunting forays - once after a buffalo they had made an attempt on but managed to escape; twice on opportunistic raids resulting in impala kills. After feeding, they then melted away in to the darkness across the bridge once more. A few days ago they were seen feeding on a giraffe.

The Mombo Boys, as they have come to be known, are still biding their time in the no-man's-land between the Mathatha and Mporota Prides' territories north of the airstrip in the Siberiana Road area. They have no pride of their own, and continue to exist in this limbo until they build up the cunning, courage and strength to challenge the older, larger dominant males of these prides.

Leopard seen at Mombo Camp    Elephant infant visiting Mombo Camp

The female lioness with a mane has been the only representative of the Western Pride seen this month. We were following Legadema stalking an impala, when suddenly both animals pricked up their ears and looked in the same direction. The maned lioness emerged from the bush nearby, sending Legadema up a tree and the impala off into the distance, giving its characteristic alarm call.

Legadema has been seen on a few other occasions this month, one notable sighting had her with two kills - one an adult baboon, the other an impala ram.

Lebadi, the dominant male leopard of the area, was seen this month as well, and although he kept a wary distance from the vehicle, he appears to be becoming slightly more tolerant and habituated to game viewers.

The Ngonyama Female has also been seen this month, and she has a couple of injuries to her neck and shoulder, possibly as a result of a territorial conflict with either Pula or Legadema, whose territories abut hers.

The lone wild dog is still doing well with her foster packs of jackal, and she remains in the airstrip area for the time being; once the waters start to recede, we would expect her to once again move north to the Tippy's Road area.

A hyaena den has been found in the Roller Road area - where at least two litters of youngsters of differing ages have been seen. The elder pups' antics are a pleasure to watch as they cavort and play around the environs of the den, never venturing too far from one of the burrow entrances, ever alert to any sign of approaching danger.

Late one afternoon as we sat watching an adult female outside the den, we saw two tiny black pups not more than two weeks old emerge to suckle. Hyaena are born completely black, and their characteristic spots only emerge at a few months of age. To have an opportunity to observe a den like this at close range is an incredible, delightful and fascinating opportunity to watch the social interaction of these predators at close range.

The plains game of Mombo has also been seen in its usual abundance, with a large amount of zebra, giraffe, kudu, lechwe and of course impala, often in the same sighting.

After quite some time, we have had a rhino sighting once more. Serondela, one of the dominant bulls of the region, made a territorial patrol into our area as if to keep tabs on his range and check for any intruders. A waterline at the level of his shoulders bore testament to the terrain he had crossed on his visit to the north of his territory.

The sighting of the month must go to one that could even be the sighting of the year - that of two aardwolves mating. An aardwolf on its own is an unusual sighting, as these are very shy and secretive nocturnal animals- so to see two during the day and engaged in mating activity is a truly notable event.

Another youngster around Mombo Camp    Aardwolf mating at Mombo Camp

In camp, we are often entertained by our "resident" animals - during the day the monkeys and baboons swoop and crash through the trees, the warthogs snuffle around the undergrowth, while our troop of banded mongoose chitter and rush around the walkways. We have had a breeding herd of elephant frequenting the camp recently, and they have a tiny youngster with them, not more than a few weeks old. This adorable infant's antics have kept us amused as he follows his mother around, absorbing all the sensations of a new and fascinating world.

At night we are visited by a young large-spotted genet, who has become bolder and bolder as time goes on, and will often walk right past people standing in the bar or boma area, sometimes helping himself to biltong on the bar during dinner! Other nocturnal visitors we see quite often are a porcupine and a very relaxed, chubby, almost comical-looking African civet, who has been named Fatpants, due to her wobbling gait as she hunts mice and other vertebrates in the undergrowth.

The month of July promises to be another fascinating one of interactions, rivalries playing out among the various predators and prey, the receding waters moving out into the floodplains, leaving space for the grazers to follow after the nutritious new shoots of grass, and the endless cycle of life in the Okavango playing out once again. If you are planning to visit us this month, remember to bring your warm clothes, as the winter has truly taken hold!

Guides in camp for July will be Cisco at Little Mombo with Tsile, Moss, Moses and Sefo at Main Mombo.
Managers in camp will be Graham at Little Mombo, and Ryan, Kirsty, Martha, Claire and Tumoh at Main Mombo.

Photographs by Ryan Green, Colin Ma and Dave Kaplan.

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Xigera Camp update - June 2011               Jump to Xigera Camp

Weather and Landscape
Hot water bottles, blankets and ponchos continue to be a great hit this winter, with temperatures dropping to as low as 7? C at night and during the mornings. The campfire has been the perfect venue for cosy gatherings in the chilly mornings and evenings, with hot chocolate and coffee being the order of the day.

Water levels continue to drop after having reached their peak in May, and every day we need to reach a little lower to climb into the boats and mekoro.

Wildlife
At this time of year, when the water levels are still high, all the guest activities are centred around boating and mokoro rides.

Mokoro rides at Xigera Camp    Hippo seen around Xigera Camp

Guests continue to be mesmerised by the awe-inspiring beauty of the area, and the chance to enjoy the exquisite vegetation, as well as the smaller animals such as frogs. Viewing hippo and elephant from a mokoro is also a special experience that leaves one with a sense of relaxation and harmony. Guests going out by boat on day trips towards Chief's Island have been lucky enough to spot lion crossing the water as well as the elusive Pels Fishing-Owl.

Game viewing in general has been prolific, with regular sightings of giraffe, kudu, red lechwe, bushbuck, hippo, elephant and crocodile, among other species. A number of elephant have become comfortable around camp and often spent time feeding and sleeping around the camp. An old giraffe has also taken refuge around the camp, and was seen browsing off the trees above the tents daily.

Birds and Birding
The abundance of general bird life in this area, makes Xigera a haven for birdwatchers. Even the guests who are not avid birders have commented on the variety and quality of avian sightings, and how birding has opened another dimension to their safari experience.

As mentioned above, we have had various sightings of Pel's Fishing-Owl, as a pair have begun nesting along one of the water courses. Other regular specials include the Slaty Egret.

Camp News
The past couple of months have seen a hive of activity behind the scenes, with numerous renovations and upgrades taking place, most of which are now complete.

Our brand new walking bridge sports a drawbridge that now allows boats to pass through, even with water levels at their peak. On the other side of the dining area we have created our famous 'sand pit': a patch of sand that captures the tracks of any animals that may walk over the bridge and into camp. So far it seems that only the monkeys have been brave enough to make the crossing. There have been a number of leopard tracks milling around the bridge; possibly the elusive felines are still wary about the new bridge.

Pel's Fishing-Owl at Xigera Camp    Frog seen around Xigera Camp

Perhaps most exciting of all has been the installation of our new solar power system. This system means that we can now provide the whole main camp with power generated by the sun, allowing us to do away with diesel-guzzling generators, and so further reduce our carbon footprint adding to a true ecotourism experience.

Other improvements include a 'star gazing' deck, which has grown popular amongst the guests.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank Mike and Anne Marchington for all their hard work here at Xigera and wish them all the best in their new roles in the Abu Concession.

Staff in Camp
Managers: Gabriella De Moor, Gideon Mvere, Bonang Mambo, Julie Sander, Catherine Gill and KT.
Guides: Onx, Barobi, Teko & Moreri.


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Chitabe Camp update - June 2011               Jump to Chitabe Camp

No report this month.


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Vumbura Plains Camp update - June 2011               Jump to Vumbura Plains Camp

No report this month.

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Little Vumbura Camp update - June 2011               Jump to Little Vumbura Camp

Weather and Landscape
The days of June started off rather chilly, averaging around 10° C, but quickly warming up to a comfy temperature of 25° C. We experienced a fair deal of wind, but this is usual for this time of year in the Delta. The prevailing winds did provide crystal clear skies which really enhanced the Lunar Eclipse that took place in the middle of the month.

The water levels have started to drop around camp faster than expected. Perhaps the effects of global warming may be taking their toll on us, as the annual inundation used to peak from June to September, but for the last couple of years have been following the above mentioned patterns.

Mokoro trips along the channels    An elephant visiting Little Vumbura

Many trees have begun shedding their leaves, slowly transforming the environment into a winter landscape. Animals now have to search a little harder to find succulent vegetation. The jackalberries have started fruiting and this is causing much excitement amongst any passing elephants, who have been feeding heavily on these trees. On one occasion, an elephant bull was trying to shake some of the fruit out of the tree, which had a couple of baboons in it holding on for dear life.

Wildlife
As mentioned above, the jackalberries have been fruiting, attracting huge herds of elephant by day and large numbers of fruit bats at night.

Game viewing has been great during June, with loads of activity around any green clump of vegetation. Large herds of elephant and buffalo have been moving through the area, in search for the large quantities of palatable vegetation which they require. We have also had great sightings of sable, giraffe, hippo and lechwe. The latter have constantly been on the move, searching for the best cover of water.

Male leopard enjoying the spoils    Lion feasting on a buffalo carcass

The highlight for June was a buffalo carcass that had been killed by lions. We did not witness the hunt, but on a morning drive, we came across three lions feeding on the carcass. Once the lions had their fill, they moved off, allowing a young male leopard to enjoy the spoils. Once the leopard had eaten to his heart's content, myriad vulture species took over the carcass. When we returned to the scene the following day, there was hardly anything left - we assume that hyaena and jackal had visited the carcass during the night.

Camp activities
Even although the water levels have been dropping rapidly, we have still been able to do some awesome mokoro trips along the veins of channels, which have been providing some great birding, often producing specials such as Pel's Fishing-Owl. The guests have really enjoyed watching the sun go down from the floating bar after a rewarding mokoro trip.

Staff in Camp
Management: Cara, Precious and Tendane.
Guides: Kay, Rain and Sam.

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Duba Plains Camp update - June 2011               Jump to Duba Plains Camp

Weather and Landscape
As we are now in the middle of the cold winter months, the water levels continue to drop significantly, constantly changing the landscape, transforming it into a winter wonderland.

With the drying out of the landscape, the herbivores have to search harder for palatable vegetation, meaning that the large congregations that we had during the wet months are splitting up into smaller 'splinter' groups in order to cover a larger area to find nutrient vegetation. This in itself has a ripple effect on the whole natural habitat, showing that in an ecosystem everything is delicately connected with purpose.

Baffalo at Duba Plains    Baffalo at Duba Plains

Wildlife
General game has been superb, especially on the south-western part of the concession, where we have enjoyed watching red lechwe, kudu, waterbuck, water monitor lizards fighting and many more. We have also been lucky enough to have seen African civet, side striped jackal, wild cat and bat-eared fox, which are all quite rare in the surrounding areas. There have also been excellent elephant sightings, and the elephant seen at Duba seem to be particularly relaxed, giving our guests some fantastic photo opportunities.

In the predator department, the Tsaro Pride has been making regular appearances throughout the month. The pride is still doing well, with nine females and eleven cubs. The pride has been temporarily splitting up and meeting up during hunting bouts. As mentioned above, the herbivore movements have influenced predatory movements as well.

The dominant male has been highly mobile, checking on both resident prides - the Tsaro Pride in the south and the Skimmer Pride up north. He has been terrorising the male cubs from Tsaro Pride as he clearly feels they are grown up and should move away from the pride. The latest incident occurred on the 19th of June in the morning when he chased the male cub into camp and the mother was seen defending the cub furiously. This led to the pride crossing the main channel to the west of the camp.

Male lion on the hunt

During this month, the Tsaro Pride has been seen on a daily basis as they were following and hunting the buffalo relentlessly. Successful buffalo kills were recorded on the following dates, 5 June (calf), 8 June (cow), 15 June (calf) and 16 June (3 calves and a cow). The Duba Plains lions have clearly evolved and perfected their buffalo hunting strategy which is unique to this area.

The Duba buffalo herds have split up but are concentrating beyond Leopard Point; surely the lion will follow suit and move to this area.

A male leopard was seen on the afternoon of 13 June at a small island near Four Eyes when our boating guide, Matt, was out on a boat cruise with guests. The leopard was relaxed and posed for pictures for some time. Leopard sightings at Duba are fairly rare due to the high lion density. There are many signs of leopard activity in the area, but they remain elusive in a bid to avoid direct confrontation with the apex predators of Duba Plains.

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Banoka Bush Camp update - June 2011

No report this month.

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Jacana Camp update - June 2011               Jump to Jacana Camp

Weather and Landscape
Temperature-wise the last month fitted considerably more into winter: cool mornings and cooler evenings gave way to the more temperate midday highs of mid-twenties. Clear blue skies and a light breeze provided us with the most striking night skies imaginable, and the Lunar Eclipse in the middle of the month was one to remember, enjoyed from the dinner table on our main deck.

The water levels have started to drop in the concession but there is still a substantial amount of surface water, causing the wildlife to spread all over the concession. The vegetation is still relatively thick for this time of year, but the cold weather is beginning to take its effect as the bush is clearly thinning out.

Lion around Jacana Camp    Elephant visiting Jacana Camp

Wildlife
At the crack of dawn, the distant drumming of a male lion's roar sounds across the water, waking the animal kingdom for the day ahead. After a cup of strong coffee and some breakfast the expedition begins, order of the day locating the lion pride on the Jao floodplains. Sitting snugly under a blanket-lined poncho with a hot water bottle dampens the blow of a cool winter morning and the promise of unrivalled sightings on the morning drive keeps the spirits high.

Slowly driving along the sandy roads the guide picks up fresh lion tracks and stops to interpret them. They are lioness tracks, crisp, fresh and visible to the trained eye with the morning light at a low angle. A little further down the road more tracks join up with the single prowling female's path, a multitude of little prints scatter the road and the tension builds. Suddenly around the next bend two female lions, six bustling cubs lie on the road and 20 feet from them, a big male lion basks in the sun. Could this get any better you might ask?

One of the lionesses leads the cubs to the safety of a palm thicket and leaves them there - let the hunt commence. Slowly working through the long grass the females pick up the scent of a worthy prey, a small group of red lechwe. Without a glance the lioness take station and one herds the prey towards the other. With no warning and the explosive speed and power of a hungry predator, she bursts from cover and runs right past the vehicle in pursuit of her quarry. Boom! The lechwe is down and nature goes full circle, for the next few days the lionesses will be able to provide for their young.

The vehicle pulls away and the morning continues for there are many things to find and explanations to be heard. The morning tea stop is filled with animated banter and sharing of photos of the hunt, "just another morning in the bush" states one of the guests, or was it?

The general game has been outstanding, rounding off every game drive to give a full safari experience.

Elephant have been very active in the area, drawn to the fruits of the makalani palms, which are being heavily utilised by the pachyderms. Believe it or not, this interaction is one of mutual benefit, as elephant are one of the biggest seed dispersal mechanisms for the palms.

Birds around Jacana Camp    Kingfisher seen around Jacana Camp

Guest Comments
"A beautiful piece of paradise." Tutu and Malebogo (Botswana).

"Fantastic hosts Pieter and Danielle. Joseph and "Red" sox were absolute stars, as was the entire team. Fabulous elephant, lion and cuisine. Thanks for sharing your magical paradise, what a great detox." Zoë, Paddy, Kate and Connor (RSA).

Staff in Camp
Managers: Pieter Ras and Danielle van den Berg
Guides: Joseph Basenyeng, Timothy Samuel and Bafana Nyame

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Abu Camp update - June 2011               Jump to Abu Camp

No report this month.

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Kwetsani Camp update - June 2011               Jump to Kwetsani Camp

Weather and Landscape
The beginning of the month was seized in the grips of winter as we experienced very cold conditions, which subsided slightly during the midday when the sun thawed out the environment, but this respite was temporary. As the evening drew closer, it brought the cold claws of winter with it. The second half of the month managed to shake the shackles of winter somewhat, providing moderate temperatures as the sun's rays were warmer and the wind had died down. The cold conditions were perfect for gathering around fire and exchanging stories from around the world all over a warm beverage of choice.

As the annual inundation reached its peak last month, we are starting to see the water level drop at a rapid rate, allowing the floodplains to open up, attracting a variety of wildlife in its wake.

Elephant around Kwetsani Camp    Lechwe seen around Kwetsani Camp

Wildlife
The wildlife activity around Kwetsani Camp this month has been great. Throughout the month, the mighty lion's roar was heard around the camp almost on a nightly basis. June was a tough and trying time for the Kwetsani Pride, which consists of two females and a male. Previously the pride had six young cubs between the two lioness, but we have not seen them the whole month and the females are no longer lactating. Unfortunately, on average only 50% of lion cubs reach their first year of age and then that number is reduced to 30% which reach adulthood. This is a stark reminder that only the strong will survive as nature can be harsh in her selection of the fittest. However, lions are resilient and the females will come into oestrus again soon.

As the water levels have dropped, a number of hyaena have made their way onto the island, launching a full attach on the prey species, in particular the red lechwe. We have found their menacing tracks around camp on a regular basis throughout the month. It is possible that the Kwetsani lion cubs fell victim to the intense inter-specific competition between the eternal enemies.

Hunda Island has proved to be very productive, especially in the leopard department, as there is a female and cub who seem to enjoy the attention of the game viewers, often providing outstanding sightings and interactions. Our guests witnessed these elusive predators feeding on a kill a number of times. We also had the pleasure of watching the mother stalking her prey, often resulting in a successful attempt. As the cub gets regular exposure to the vehicles, he or she will become habituated to the presence of the game viewers.

As the floodplains open, large herds of grazers are starting to arrive, forming impressive congregations of zebra, wildebeest, impala and buffalo. It is always amazing to watch how the different species interact with each other, often taking advantage of the keen senses of the other species and finding some comfort in the safety of numbers.

Male lion seen around Kwetsani Camp    Female leopard with cub around Kwetsani Camp

Birds and Birding
The birding highlight for the month, was the Wattled Cranes. These birds are endangered but are doing well in some areas of the Delta, showing the importance of wilderness areas being set aside for conservation. We have been seeing mostly pairs, which is once again great news.

Another interesting sighting which was common through the month, was the interesting nesting behaviour displayed by the Southern Yellow-billed Hornbills. A courting pair will search for a suitable hollow in a tree, usually created by a woodpecker or barbet. The female will then squeeze into the hole until she is completely inside the tree trunk. The male will be responsible for feeding the female who then pulls out her feathers and lines the inside of the hollow with them. The entrance to the cavity is sealed with mud, only leaving a tiny gap for the male to drop food into. The female will lay her eggs on top of the bed of feathers. She will remain entombed in the tree for roughly three months incubating the eggs and caring for the newly hatched chicks, the whole time being fed by the male.

Staff in Camp
Managers: Bradley White and Annelize Hattingh.
Guides: MT Malebogo and Gaopalelwe Ronald.

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Jao Camp update - June 2011               Jump to Jao Camp

Weather and Landscape
Another chilly month has passed by and another annual inundation has almost subsided.

As mentioned in the last newsletter, water levels had almost reached an all-time high in 2011. The water levels have dropped a fair deal, but there is still a lot of water around. This means that we still focus our activities around the water.

With the mokoro rides you can discover the smallest painted reed frog, and with the boat cruises you can find yourself gazing at a pod of 15 hippos all relaxing in a nearby pool. The annual inundation, whether coming or going, will always have its magic no matter how often you see it.

African civet around Jao Camp    Hyaena seen around Jao Camp

Wildlife
As always the resident hyaena has been on and off the island. Chasing impala, walking on the walkways and on one occasion, it even chased an African civet up a tree that was right next to the walkway. The civet was in a state of shock for some time, and did not bother about the people walking right past it.

Hunda Island is always a favourite to head off to for the day. The guides have been following an eight-month-old leopard cub which has been seen on its own hunting impala on many different occasions. At this stage of a young leopard's life, it still relies on its mother to a large degree to catch prey as it is still in the process of honing its hunting skill. On one occasion, the inexperienced feline was caught in the open by a bachelor herd of impala, who immediately started to alarm call. In this case, an experienced leopard would melt away into its surroundings, but this youngster stayed in the open. The impala rams did not like this and proceeded to collectively mob the leopard, quickly turning the tables and chasing her off - no doubt another lesson learned by the young mind.

As mentioned earlier, the water activities provide such an amazing all-round safari experience that is authentic to the Okavango. The wildlife seems much more relaxed in the presence of a mokoro.

Birds and Birding
With all the migratory birds heading for warmer conditions, the concession is still providing some great birding, still pleasing the most avid birders. The resident mongoose troop has suffered another casualty at the talons of the observant Martial Eagle, who seems to have acquired a taste for mongoose.

Martial Eagle seen around Jao Camp    Moon over Jao Camp

Guests have been admiring a Malachite Kingfisher, who has taken to entertaining our guests by perching on the reeds in front of camp and gorging itself on tilapia hatchlings.

Camp News and Activities
Now that the waters have receded, we are able to start with our bush dinners once again. With a hearty fire, scrumptious food and some wonderful wine from our cellar, guests were greeted with singing and dancing and after warming up at the fire they sat down to a beautiful meal under the African night sky, but, of course, it wasn't a bush dinner without having two hyaena coming to visit.

Staff in Camp
Managers: Andrew Gaylord, Lauren Griffiths and Neuman Vasco.
Guides: David Mapodise, Kabo Kgopa, Marks Kehaletse and Cedric Samotanzi


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Seba Camp update - June 2011               Jump to Seba Camp

No report this month.


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Tubu Tree Camp update - June 2011               Jump to Tubu Tree Camp

Weather and Landscape
The winter mid-morning sun is a welcome sight every day - warming up the chilly early mornings. The fleece-lined ponchos and hot water bottles were very popular for the first half of most morning drives this month, which was characterised by clear skies with the exception of some early morning mist cloaks. The clear, crisp skies made watching the Lunar Eclipse that took place mid-June a very special experience, especially for the honeymoon couple who enjoyed a private dinner under the eclipsing moon.

Lechwe seen around Tubu Tree Camp    Leopard seen around Tubu Tree Camp

The surrounding vegetation is beginning to thin out and take on the regular hues of the winter spectrum. There are still green pockets of vegetation, which have become major activity centres for the herbivore species, no doubt attracting the myriad predators.

Wildlife
June was a very dramatic month for the Tubu Pride. The young males in the pride were evicted by their father, the dominant male, in a very dramatic display of dominance and strength. In the process, one of the three young males was injured and carried a clear limp on one of his hind legs. Luckily their mother followed them and stepped in to help the three inexperienced males hunt, further showing them how to refine their skills.

As nature and instinct dictate, the lioness and her three sons know that it is essential for the young males to leave their natal range and establish a territory of their own, hence they have covered some ground. Towards the end of the month, we did not have any sightings of the group, but their calls were often heard in the distance.

We have had some great hyaena sightings, especially since one of the clans has a number of cubs that have taken a liking to entertaining the guests.

Leopard sightings have been good, as there is a cub that has caused much excitement amongst everyone as both mother and cub are very relaxed around the game viewers. The rasping call of the feline was heard for most nights of the month.

Giraffe seen at sunset around Tubu Tree Camp    Early morning mist around Tubu Tree Camp

Another spectacular sighting for the month, which was very memorable, was a sunset on the airstrip. There was a huge journey of giraffe, together with large dazzle of zebra being silhouetted by the waning sun, intensified by the winter dust.

Birds and Birding
The avian highlight for the month was the encounter we had with a feasting Martial Eagle. The thick-set raptor had caught a steenbok and was gorging itself in clear view for everyone to see.

Staff in Camp
Managers: Dan and Charmaine Myburg.
Guides: Johnny Mowanji and Moruti Maipelo.


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Kalahari Plains Camp update - June 2011               Jump to Kalahari Plains Camp

Weather and Landscape
Kalahari Plains Camp continues with its stunning wildlife experience. The dry season has already taken over the Kalahari, which brings changes to the colour of the environment, although green patches are still visible which attract herbivores - and hence big predators. There has been some variance in temperatures with the coldest being -4 ° C.

Wildlife
The general game sightings have been consistent throughout the month, with lots of activity at the waterholes and at the remaining green clumps of vegetation.

Giraffe seen around Kalahari Plains Camp

It is amazing to watch how nature adapts in order to derive as much as possible from the often harsh conditions. With the increased activity of game around the waterholes, the full range of predator forces have arrived to take advantage of the high prey numbers. The focus of the month was on the predator-prey interactions.

One morning in the second week of June we had a very rewarding morning game drive. Just a few minutes after leaving camp we saw a large herd of springbok frantically pronking (their characteristic leap into the air; see the second photo on the left). Immediately, we went to investigate and spotted two wild dog in the middle of herd. The dogs appeared to have difficulty choosing which springbok to go for. In the confusion, a herd of wildebeest came to investigate and collectively mobbed the dogs until they left. We continued to follow the pack, who were now on their way to a waterhole. We watched them drink and then continued with the drive. The population density of African wild dogs is naturally low, as they are rare in most protected habitats due to their nomadic habits and enormous home ranges. Wild dog sightings in the Kalahari are not common, so it was a wonderful bonus for both guests and guides.

Another rare sighting in the Kalahari are the leopards. We were spoilt by having two fantastic sightings this month. During a morning drive, we spotted the resident female at Mantshwe Pan about 10 metres away from the road lying down. She then got up and crossed the road in front of the game drive vehicle and started stalking some bat-eared foxes that were foraging about 50 metres away in the open. As there was no cover, the canines saw her and immediately ran away, leaving the leopard out in the open watching them run. She then moved off into some thicker cover and proceeded to stalk a flock of Guineafowl. This time, the odds were in her favour and she was able to get within pouncing range before the Guineafowl exploded into a cloud of panic. It was mind-blowing to watch the leopard leap up into the air and catch an unlucky fowl, which she devoured in no time.

The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is known to have one of the largest cheetah populations in contrast to other wildlife areas. As we approached the dry season, we had fantastic cheetah sightings during the month.

Springbok seen around Kalahari Plains Camp    Male lion seen around Kalahari Plains Camp

Close to camp, we often found the two-brother coalition, which often ranges along the pan system in front of camp providing the guests with some great photos, as they are very relaxed in presence of the vehicle. On an outing to Deception Valley, we came across a female with her litter of cubs which are in the region of four months of age. They, however, were not comfortable around the vehicle, so we viewed them from a distance. We also came across another female with cubs, who were feeding on a springbok. We immediately recognised this female as one which we saw in November. It was great to see the cubs were doing well and were very healthy.

The lion sightings in the Kalahari for June have been fairly good. The Plains Pride, which includes two black-maned males, three sub-adult males, two sub-adult females and three adult females, cover a very large territory as they need to satisfy their nutritional and territorial needs in this harsh environment. We were amazed as one of the adult females revealed her cubs to us on one of the game drives. We estimated them to be around two months of age. We are expecting to see more cubs as the other two females are pregnant and should give birth soon. We can expect more lion sightings as the vegetation thins out and the water supplies dwindle further.

During the month, we also had a number of fantastic aardwolf sightings as well as the odd Cape fox.

July promises to be a great month for game viewing as the predator-prey battle intensifies as the resources dwindle.

Fanie and Willie


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