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AFRICAN SAFARI NEWS

March 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 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.

Children in the Wilderness Botswana Camp
In December 2010, Children in the Wilderness (CITW) held its annual week-long program at Jacana Camp and Wilderness Tented Camp respectively. Since its inception in 2001, CITW Botswana has been hosting 96 kids per annum over a four-week period; the same numbers were hosted in 2010 and all programmes ran smoothly and were outstanding successes. This year, the participants came from Gumare, Tubu, Seronga, Eretsa, Betsa, Gunatsoga and Gudigwa villages. A press day was also held on the 18th of December and many Botswana government senior officials made a great effort to attend.


2010 International Year of Biodiversity - and Wilderness
The International Year of Biodiversity was a unique opportunity to understand the vital role that biodiversity plays in sustaining life on Earth. Below are a few thoughts of where Wilderness fits in.

The question for Wilderness was: what contribution ecotourism can make to overall biodiversity conservation? After all, biodiversity is a critical asset for tourism and for biodiversity to survive in a global context; entire habitats and ecosystems need to be more formally conserved rather than isolated fragmented tracts of land. From a tourism aspect, conserving biodiversity makes perfect sense. In the end, it is ultimately protecting our 'product' for the future.

Since our humble beginnings more than 28 years ago, our initial tourism ideology has metamorphosed into a leading conservation business - an ethically-responsible ecotourism and camp operator. Low-impact tourism as land-use practice has been the key business mantra, and today we help conserve over 30 000 square kilometers (11 000 square miles) of pristine south-central Africa and associated Indian Ocean islands. Eight biomes are covered. Many endangered and vulnerable species, such as black rhino, African lion, African wild dog, Seychelle's White-Eye and Wattled Crane, occur in numbers that are of global population importance for these species. A fact that has been bolstered through solid research projects to gain a better understanding of best future conservation methods of key species and also through the reintroductions of indigenous species.

Through the survival of certain mega-fauna indicator species such as rhino which need large territories, it is safe to assume that entire habitats continue to function normally, ultimately perpetuating biodiversity. Investing heavily in renewable energies is also a top priority for Wilderness going forward.

By selecting ecotourism and conservation as primary land-use we ultimately help protect biodiversity and vital carbon sinks. We have matched what communities would earn from other far more destructive land-use practices such as hunting, mining, livestock and subsistence farming and forestry monocultures - all unsustainable in the long term.


Wilderness Safaris Plants Trees
Wilderness Safaris and Africa Geographic magazine have joined forces to plant over 2 000 indigenous trees in South Africa's Eastern Cape this year, as part of the sustainability and carbon emission offset programs of both. There is an urgent need to rehabilitate South Africa's last-remaining Afromontane forest patches in order to save the less than 1 000 critically endangered Cape Parrots remaining in the wild, as well as for the many other biodiversity and community benefits which these trees bring.


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WILDLIFE NEWS
Five hours of the best game viewing at Pafuri
Location: Pafuri Camp, Makuleke Concession, Kruger National Park, South Africa
Date: 09 March 2011
Observer: Sean Carter

I was hosting six great guests who are all birders and therefore I knew the pressure was off about searching only for big game or the "Big Five." Our second evening together proved to be quite incredible.

We headed out on our afternoon drive along Luvuvhu West. Our plan was to drive to a recent elephant carcass which has been fascinating to view, as well as being a hive of activity. On the way there we bumped into a lone elephant bull, the first of what would turn out to be a very rewarding few hours. When we arrived at the carcass, as expected, there was an entourage of vultures (Lappet-faced, White-backed, White-headed and Hooded) and a number of hyaena picking the bones dry. The smell was quite unbearable and it wasn't long before everyone in the vehicle was ready to head off.

As we drove back towards camp we were called with the news that we had just driven past a leopard. Needless to say we turned around and headed back finding the camouflaged leopard lying flat in an appleleaf tree. She was extremely relaxed and we watched her from 30 metres away for about 45 minutes. She eventually stretched and gracefully climbed down the tree. She had been watching impalas in the distance and we followed her towards them. The impalas were quick to spot her and started panicking at the same time as a huge herd of buffalo appeared. All of this was taking place at the same time as the sun was setting over the Hutwini Mountains ahead.

Leopards playing in a tree at Pafuri Camp    Leopard in a tree at Pafuri Camp

We had just lost sight of the leopard when we heard a faint mumble behind us. Lo and behold there were two rhino making their way towards us. This was by far the best sighting I have had of rhino at Pafuri as they were in the open instead of making off into the distance which has been my usual experience.

At this point we chose to head back to camp, having had a fabulous evening, but on the way decided to pass the airstrip to see if could catch a glimpse of the male lion which had been spotted in the area that morning.

We did hear the lion calling, but unfortunately our luck had run out as our search proved hopeless. However, we did see a baby chameleon, a greater bushbaby, an African wild cat, two Barn Owls, an African Owl and two Pel's Fishing-Owls before getting into camp.

After a celebratory dinner I was heading to the staff village only to come across a lioness 20 metres from the boardwalk. Another incredible day in Africa!



Leopard on the Lookout
Location: Savuti Camp, Linyanti Concession, Botswana
Date: 06 March 2011
Observer: Lets Kamogelo
Photographer: Lets Kamogelo

The green season in the Linyanti Concession is a fabulous and fascinating place to be, as Savuti Camp guide Lets Kamogelo can attest. While out on a recent game drive, Lets was following the territorial male leopard known to guides and visitors alike as the DumaTau male. He is a large, powerful leopard, and has been resident in the area for well over five years.

This big cat was moving quietly along the edge of the Linyanti floodplain when Lets noticed a change in his behaviour. The leopard had seen some warthogs moving in the distance, and he began to stalk them. At this time of year the grass is several feet tall in the area, and the warthogs vanished from sight.

Climbing a tree to find the warthog    Leopard on the look-out for a warthog

Not to be defeated that easily, the leopard then showed off some of his skills in trying to relocate the warthogs. First he climbed a tree, and scanned the area. Once he had a bearing on the warthogs, he descended rapidly and set off in their direction. But the moment he entered the tall grass, he once again was no longer able to see his prey.

He then stopped in a clearing, rocked back on his hind legs, and sat upright, almost like a meerkat (suricate) would. He held the position just long enough to capture the adjacent photo of him in this position. Then he took off, again trying to close the distance on the warthogs.

Despite all his best efforts though, on this day the luck was with the warthogs, and they caught sight of him and escaped.



The Kittens (and Cubs) of Tubu Tree
Location: Tubu Tree Camp, Jao Concession, Botswana
Date: 15 March 2011
Observers: Justin Stevens, Jacky Collet-Stevens, Brooks Kamanakao
Photographers: Cathy Kays, Brooks Kamanakao

With anticipation growing daily we were finally shown the new kittens of Tubu Tree. Since the beginning of November, when the Jao Concession lion pride was last seen together, the daughter looked as if she was ready to give birth any day. She disappeared for a while only to be seen in December again - looking thinner and obviously lactating. Then she was seen in the daytime hunting, even hunting out front of Tubu Tree Camp on the floodplain. This got everyone excited and all decided to try and follow to get the answers to all the questions of how many cubs there were, where they are, male or female etc.

One of our questions is now answered as camp guide and guests recently investigated a Hooded Vulture sighting and found the mother feeding on a wildebeest. Having heard an unusual sound, they decided to sit and wait it out to see what would happen. Their patience was rewarded when over an hour later, just before full darkness, four little ones came out to join mother. What a sight - they were able to catch a couple of pictures and spend a little time with them before they went back into hiding.

Lioness and cubs at Tubu Tree Camp    Leopard cub at Tubu Tree Camp

Tubu Tree Camp is known for the leopards too and of course they were not to be outdone by the lions: our resident queen leopard, Boat Station Female was also seen lactating on the 23rd of November 2010. She also kept her cubs hidden for a while and then sightings started up again and tracks were seen of a little one with her, which just added to the anticipation for cubs.

Finally we had some sightings but with the bush being lush and thick it made it hard to follow. One morning drag marks were spotted going across the airstrip and into the bush. Just a few metres in, there she was with an impala kill and one little cub who was full energy and a little shy of its safari vehicle encounter.

This now leaves us with three young male lions just over a year old and four little lion cubs making a total of seven young lions running around, coupled with two one-and-a-half year old leopards and another young leopard cub. The questions is now how many kittens can Tubu Tree have? Never enough, it seems.



Hyaena Showdown at Tubu Tree
Location: Tubu Tree Camp, Jao Concession, Botswana
Date: 23 March 2011
Observers: Kambango Simimbo & OP Kaluluka
Photographs: Chris Preachuk, Gord Petes, Merilee Zetaruk and Hans Schroeder
Report: Justin Stevens & Jacky Collett-Stevens

Tubu Tree Camp is known to be an island dominated by cats - but recently the hyaena have decided enough is enough. While the cats have kept us in awe in the past week with some spectacular sightings from lion cubs swimming across a channel and lion chasing a leopard up a tree to steal its kill, to a female leopard standing upright on her back legs, they have still been outdone by the hyaena.

The week started off with a splash as three hyaena were spotted in the middle of the road... a flooded road that is! They were having a blast in the water and we watched them for almost two hours rolling around and relaxing - just having a good long bath. With a hunch that there might be a hyaena den in the area, our guide, along with his guests, were led to it by the hyaena themselves.

Hyaena swimming at Tubu Tree Camp    Hyaena young at Tubu Tree Camp    Young hyaena chewing on a vehicle at Tubu Tree Camp

Over the following days we spent much time with four young ones, two juveniles, and about four adults near the den. They entertained their audience beautifully as they played amongst each other and fed on a baby zebra nearby. Guests were also treated to the curious youngsters trying to make lunch of our vehicle. It seemed as though the runner boards did taste good from their continuous chewing...

Hyaena are typically known to scavenge but the fearless foursome here at Tubu Tree like to find their own food sometimes; and at the risk of their own lives too. One morning we heard what sounded like hyaena fighting, so we headed in the direction of the noise. Four hyaena were seen jumping in all directions looking intently into the shallow water. Suddenly a huge jaw with sharp teeth was seen snapping at the hyaena which gave them a real fright, but this did not stop these hungry dogs from coming back and continuing the fight. A crocodile must have been crossing through the shallow waters to get to deep water when the hyaena came across him. The battle went on for some time and the tired crocodile finally succumbed to the jaws of death. The jubilant hyaena dragged their prize out of the water and started their feast.

Hyaena killed a crocodile at Tubu Tree Camp    Hyaena killed a crocodile at Tubu Tree Camp

Less than 48 hours later, near the bush dinner setting, the guides tried unsuccessfully to follow fresh lioness tracks and what looked like drag marks of a kill. As the guests joined us for pre-dinner drinks the air was suddenly filled with howls of hyaena and lion. The drinks were put off for a while as guests jumped onto the vehicles and headed off to watch what we thought would be a showdown for food. This was not the case as we found no kill on the scene; rather there were four hyaena attacking an exhausted lioness. She was helpless as they surrounded her and would jump in biting at her as she tried to defend herself. The battle went on for over an hour. The hyaena teased the poor cat as they would leave her for a couple of minutes and as she tried to escape they would attack again. She was badly wounded in the fight and we all thought that her days were numbered, however they eventually backed off and let her disappear into the bush without pursuing her.

The hyaena fun didn't stop there. That afternoon guests came across a female leopard hunting impala. She soon jumped on her intended prey and suffocated her planned dinner quickly and quietly. As she started to pull the carcass to safety she was inundated by the fearless foursome who chased her away without much fuss and devoured her meal in no time at all.

The hyaena are clearly trying to take over the island of Tubu Tree Camp which leaves us with only one question: Who will the hyaenas take on next?



Sights of Sosian
Location: Sosian - Kenya
One early morning this week, the Sosian guides were out on a game-drive with some unsuspecting guests looking for one of the packs of wild dogs in the area when they bumped into them hunting along the river. The pack of 11 (whose pups are still in the den but due to emerge any day now) chased a male impala into the river and managed to drag it out onto the bank. Not a bad effort for some mangy ol’ dogs!

Wild dog pack hunting    Wild dog pack hunting    Wild dog pack hunting

Swallow-tailed Kites are nesting on Sosian. Not  normally seen nesting this far south, these are one of the smallest of the raptors and it is very unusual to see them in Laikipia. They are local migrants and it is hugely exciting to have them nesting here.

Swallo-tailed Kites    Leopard sighted in Sosian

We are seeing a new leopard near the ranch house. First she was seen on night-drives closeby and is very placid. So much so that this week we had some biltong drying on our verandah, hanging on a washing line from the ceiling and at 2 am she was spotted on her hind legs reaching up and pinching some! But don’t worry, she prefers our special recipe of home-made biltong using finest Sosian Boran beef to our guests so they are quite safe.


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CAMP UPDATES
BOTSWANA
Camp Refurbishments
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.

Deck area at Little Mombo

The rebuild of Vumbura North is starting to take shape, keeping with the general feel of the rest of camp, and we should re-open the camp totally again at the end of March.

Meno a Kwena Update - by David Dugmore
The steadily increasing regional rainfall this decade is influencing the hydrological extent of the Okavango Delta deeper into the Kalahari. This phenomenon is based on a cycle that shifts between wetter and drier peaks every forty years. The Boteti river, a major drainage channel of the Okavango Delta, is now in full flood throughout the year and so attracts water dependant wildlife from deep within the delta, and nomadic species from the seasonally dry Kalahari. Meno A Kwena Tented Camp is even more ideally located for both riverine habitats and wildlife with relatively easy access to the saltpans of the Kalahari.

This fact is particularly important for tourism and wildlife viewing opportunities that produces a wider variety of wildlife and habitats than the Okavango and Kalahari individually. To this end, we encourage safari travellers to visit this unique area that most certainly completes a Botswana safari experience. There is perhaps no other area in Southern Africa where, on a single days drive, one can see hippos wallowing in the river and meerkats darting across the saltpans.

Please note that due to the higher than average rainfall and Okavango water levels there will be numerous areas of the Okavango inaccessible later in the season when the floods peak. Despite this, Meno A Kwena Tented Camp will be accessible all year round by air and road so we are confident we will not be forced to close, as many other camps and lodges might be, should the annual flood reach estimated levels this year.


ZIMBABWE
Camp News
Ruckomechi Camp 2011 Opening Date
Ruckomechi Camp will be opening from 1 April instead of 1 May this year, closing 20 November, to take advantage of the increased demand for Zimbabwe. If the rains prevent the Mana West airstrip from being used, then guests will fly from Victoria Falls to Chirundu and be transferred by boat to the camp.

Davison's Camp
Getting to camp
Did you know that there is more than one way of getting to Davison's Camp? You can fly by light aircraft from Victoria Falls Airport direct to our private airstrip near camp, or you can self-drive (2x4 or 4x4) or you can catch a road transfer from Victoria Falls. Those planning to self drive should enter the park at Hwange Main Camp and follow the signs through the park and onto Ngweshla Campsite where guests leave their vehicle and join their guide for an afternoon game drive through to our camp (departure from Ngweshla to camps is 13H00 accordingly guests must arrive at Ngweshla camp before 12H30). Those doing a road transfer from Victoria Falls will transfer to Hwange Main Gate and travel in the camp vehicle from there through the park to Davison's Camp.


NAMIBIA
Lianshulu Camp
Camp closure

After much consideration and with reference to the market demand for beds in the Caprivi region of Namibia, we have regrettably decided that as of 1 June 2011 we will no longer be operating Lianshulu Lodge. We remain positive about the potential for this area as an important part of an elephant corridor between Botswana and Angola/Zambia, but in the face of an unfavourable exchange rate which has impacted on our operating costs and also the affordability of this destination in traditional markets, we do not believe it is sustainable to continue operating in the immediate future.


ZAMBIA
Lufupa Bush Camp
We are proud to announce the opening of the new Lufupa Bush Camp in early May 2011.

This camp is situated along the Lufupa River in the Kafue National Park in Zambia and is a perfect combination with Musanza Bush Camp. Offering a unique and true Wilderness experience into the most productive and diverse parts of the Kafue National Park.


MALAWI
Mumbo Island Camp
New reed bungalow set to change the face of Mumbo

Our wonderful walk-in safari tents have now done ten years' service and one of the tents which receives a lot of wind and rain during the rainy season has been retired. In its place now stands a beautiful reed bungalow. Making for robust wind and waterproof walls, this building style is very eco-friendly: Reeds are cut and bought from the remote surrounding villages providing income and at the same time clearing the choked riverbanks of these villages. Over time, all the tents on Mumbo will be replaced with reed bungalows, but in the meantime, those lucky enough to book Tent 4 will be the first to experience our new style!

Chelinda Camp
New Walking Trails at Chelinda

We now offer exciting trails across the sweeping grasslands of Nyika National Park and to Fingira Rock. Our new trails cater to individuals with all levels of fitness. We provide light one-day hikes to more challenging overnight treks. Those attempting to reach Fingira should prepare for a tough but rewarding walk. Fingira Rock, a large conical rock which rises above the surrounding miombo woodland, has long been famous for the many Stone Age relics around its base and in the caves of its lower slopes, including clear evidence of Iron ore smelting kilns. It is 22km south of Chelinda.


EXPLORATIONS SAFARIS
Great Wilderness Journey - March 2011
Our Great Wilderness Journey - a Discoverer Exploration - took us from Toka Leya Camp close to Victoria Falls, then Savuti Camp in the Linyanti to Chitabe Camp in the edge of the Okavango Delta, finishing off at Jacana Camp in the heart of the Delta.

The flight from Livingstone to Kasane for our boat cruise along the Chobe River was a great start, offering wonderful aerial views of Victoria Falls and the Chobe River. With all the recent rains I did not expect to see so many elephants along this scenic river as we did, and a few even swam across, affording us great view of these pachyderms. We also saw two lionesses walking along the banks of the Chobe - we don't get to see such sights that often.

Leopards seen while on journey    Female leopard feeding on a huge python    Leopard seen while on journey

Our stay at Savuti Camp produced some memorable wildlife sightings including two male lion, lots of elephant and general game. Another highlight was having Southern Carmine Bee-eaters following our safari vehicle for some time, picking off insects that flushed out of the grass as we drove along.

At Chitabe, en route to camp from the airfield we saw a female leopard feeding on a huge python of well over five metres. After three days the leopard abandoned the now rotting carcass. On inspecting the python's skull we found distinct bite marks answering our question of the leopard had indeed killed the python herself. Just goes to show that they are indeed opportunistic predators. The following morning, whilst watching two male lion, we were called by another safari vehicle for a sighting of mating leopards. The same leopards were seen again the next day and now with a third young male leopard, that stayed high up in a tree to avoid the adult male. Occasionally the young male ventured down the tree and a little closer. The adult male would then just charge at it though - sending the young male back up to the relative safety of the higher branches.

Also whilst at Chitabe, we followed a male cheetah for five hours and watched him trying to hunt impala twice, without any success though. A pack of wild dogs were seen on our last morning, the alpha male showing a lot of interest on the alpha female and I suspect mating was going to take place soon.

Cheetah at Chitabe    Elephants at the Chobe River    Jao Floodplains teems with red lechwe

The trip culminated with a wondrous water experience at Jacana Camp. Good bird sightings on both boat activities and on drives, included the endangered Wattle Crane and Slaty Egret. We also saw a male lion on the edge of the beautiful Jao Floodplains which was just teeming with red lechwe.

The accommodation on this specific trip was revised slightly from the usual itinerary to include Savuti and Chitabe Camps. Exploration safaris can easily be tailor-made to accommodate any guest needs.

-All images by Victor Horatius-


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Seychelles
North Island Update - March 2011              Jump to North Island

March has been yet another great diving month with numerous sightings of the usual suspects and some new ones. The conditions have been great and while the sea has not always been calm, the visibility has been fantastic.

Sprat City was a particularly interesting reef over the last several months. Our first visitor was a giant nurse shark, well in excess of 2.5 metres, It was spotted hiding in the shallow caves to the south of the reef. This is normally white-tip reef shark territory but there were far fewer adult white tips than usual in March.

Apart from the shark sightings, we have also recently had great views of octopus and hawksbill turtles on the same reef. One turtle in particular was repeatedly spotted both hiding away in the caves and roaming over the rest of the reef in search of food, although it has since moved off.

We have again spotted a small hawksbill turtle near the cliffs around West Beach bar. This turtle seems to prefer this particular location and has been spotted here on several occasions. This spot is also great for snorkelling and apart from the chance of a turtle sighting, there were also numerous schools of blue-banded snappers, wave trevally and the passing flash of the ever determined lunar fusiliers.

A unique sighting this month was that of a brindle bass spotted on a dive at Cathedral on Silhouette Island. This particular species is the largest bony fish found on coral reefs and it can grow as large as 2.7 metres long, weighing up to 600kg. They feed on a variety of larger marine life, including small sharks and juvenile turtles. They are fairly common in shallow waters and are also traditionally territorial although we have not previously spotted this individual, or any others for that matter, on any of our reefs.

A further fantastic March sighting was of a school of over 200 reef squid while on a snorkel trip to Aquarium. Reef squid are known to communicate using a variety of colour, shape, and texture changes and in addition to using these techniques for camouflage, they also use them in courtship. Reef squid also have the remarkable ability to send one message via colour patterns to a squid on their right, while they send another message to another individual on their left.

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

No report this month.

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DumaTau Camp update - March 2011               Jump to DumaTau Camp

Weather
We looked forward to heavier rains this month, only to be taunted by cracks of thunder and ominous storm clouds that often passed overhead. Days have been hot, with temperatures as high as 40 degrees Celsius, but we can feel winter's approach. The late March mornings were a bit chillier although the scent of freshly cooked pancakes help us out of bed as the sun rises.

Wildlife
Out on drive, the guides and guests have been met by an abundance of predators. Leopard, both wild dog packs and visiting lions have all made for a busy month and a promising start to the autumn.

The two nomadic male lions discovered close to DumaTau last year were found again this month. The brothers are based on the southern bank of the Savuti Channel. They patrolled the area towards Kings Pool Camp, exchanging calls with Silver Eye's brother, who is the lone and dominant Linyanti male. Since the arrival of these lions, the dominant male has extended his roaming area further north, together with the Linyanti females and his cub, in order to avoid a confrontation with the two newcomers.

The Savuti Pride, consisting of a female and her two sub-adult cubs, has also concentrated on the southern bank of the channel. The female was showing signs of oestrus and moved further west, perhaps following the intruding males. A meeting between the resident male and these two lions could significantly alter the dynamics of lion dominance in the Linyanti, and we will be following the story closely.

Leopard at DumaTau Camp    Mantshwe cheetah at DumaTau Camp    Cheetah at DumaTau Camp

Perhaps because the Linyanti lions restrict their movements largely to the north east of the concession, leopard and wild dog have been sighted frequently close to DumaTau. A shy female leopard has even been found sleeping on the camp boardwalk- twice! On both occasions she disappeared into the thicket as soon as she became aware of us. She also left a souvenir in the form of a baboon skeleton. She killed it behind the kitchen and dragged it up a tree on the southern side of camp.

The DumaTau male leopard has been seen mating with two different females this month - the Zibidianja female and an unidentified female. His son, the Zibidianja male, lost a kudu kill to a pack of hyenas at Hippo Pan, and he has also been passing through camp.

Wild dogs were the stars of DumaTau in March. Guides have seen the dogs nearly every day - a pattern we feel privileged to report given the status of these endangered predators. Both packs have been seen in the area, but it appears that they have avoided each other so far. While the condition of the LTC pack has deteriorated somewhat, they still boast 11 members.

The healthier Zib pack is 12 members strong. We hope to continue enjoying the company of both packs over the coming months.

Game drives need not end when guests depart for home. Some animals prefer the airstrip - an open stretch of land where predators can be spotted more easily than in the surrounding mopane and apple leaf vegetation. Ostrich, elephant and giraffe are all frequent visitors.

The lone Mantshwe cheetah has been taking advantage of this abundance of prey. Despite the sad loss of his brother, his routine has changed little and he continues to enchant us with his lively hunting attempts.

This month has been made particularly special by the elephants. Our resident bulls provided us with daily entertainment as they tiptoed politely over the camp boardwalks. From the kitchen, to the bar and back again, the giants kept us on our toes, appearing suddenly along the pathways and leaving the odd broken railing and plank in their wake.

Our soccer in the Wilderness Team, the Linyanti Elephants, has been undefeated this year. We beat the Maun Donkeys 2-0, and went on to win 1-0 against the Wilderness Air Warthogs. We are headed to the final game next and we will be putting our best efforts towards winning the tournament. This event, now in its second year, is a wonderful teambuilding exercise for all staff involved, whether they are players or supporters. By gathering together for some friendly competition we hope to raise awareness and donations for Children in the Wilderness, our environmental and life skills programme for local children.

Soccer in the Wilderness Team

As we enter the colder season at DumaTau, we look forward to lively evenings around the fire, delighting in the daily dramas of the inhabitants who make this concession a paradise we feel lucky to call home.

Staff in Camp
Managers: Kago "KG" Tlhaerwa , Abbie Kula, Abiella S-F, Gosego Banda and Kgabiso Lehare
Guides: Bobby, Lazi, Moses and Ron
Photos: Helena Atkinson, Kago "KG" Tlhaerwa and Abiella S-F

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Savuti Camp update - March 2011               Jump to Savuti Camp

No report this month.

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Zarafa Camp update - March 2011               Jump to Zarafa Camp

Weather
We've received a lot of rain this March of which 100mm fell in just three torrential downpours. In between storms the weather has remained cloudy and humid with temperatures ranging between 16C in the early morning and rising to around 38C during the day.

Wildlife
Around camp the elephant are making almost daily appearances; sneaking out from the tree line onto the floodplains and into the lagoon. Sometimes we see just a few bulls and sometimes large breeding herds of over 20 individuals show up, including at least five or six tiny babies. A bull which we have regularly seen over the past few months seems to have made Zarafa its home for the time being. He has been spending his days and nights walking around camp and feasting on the fever berry trees and the abundant fresh grass.

One night at around 1am we heard a big bang close to camp. The next morning we discovered a huge brown ivory tree, close to the main area, had been pushed to the ground by one of the big bull elephants. The walkway which joins the main area from the kitchen was dislodged 7 feet off the ground - pushed up by the roots of this big tree.

Further away from camp, huge elephant herds of up to 40 are once again congregating on the open floodplains of the Zibadianja Lagoon and woodlands north of Zarafa. Other general game has been great this month with a large variety in the surrounding areas.

Ivory tree pushed over by an Elephant

The wild dog continue to surprise us. One afternoon some of our guests were watching a pack of 12 near Shumba Pan not far from camp. It was not long before the dogs spotted some impala and immediately the chase was on. The dogs eventually chased the antelope through camp. Guests who had decided to stay in camp that afternoon also got to see this wonderful sighting as the animals passed through.

The Zarafa Pride (one adult female and two sub adult male) once again played their part superbly as they gave us some great sightings. On a morning game drive the pride was seen feeding on a full grown kudu bull. That afternoon, guide Dux and guests went back to check on the pride's progress, only to find that they had moved off. Dux tracked them down to the Zarafa solar plant. The timing was perfect as we could see impala in the distance which the lion had also noticed. Before we knew it the hunt was on and the lioness managed to circle the impala and herded them towards the males. It obviously ended badly for one poor candidate even though the impala were in full panic mode and alerting the entire region of the happening. This was an unforgettable experience for the guests.

Another hunt by these swift and alert lion took place right in front of the main deck at camp. This time they were not so lucky and eventually let their prey take off.

Leopard sightings have also been great this month. Almost all our resident leopard were seen at some point, either close to camp or further afield. Steve, our guide, and guests found one of our sub adult male leopard hunting and followed him for couple of hours one morning. The leopard came across a waterbuck herd. As the leopard was stalking, one of the youngsters picked up the leopard's scent and the tables turned horribly for the cat as the waterbuck chased the leopard up a nearby tree. What a great sighting for guests to see - one of Africa's super predators running away from its prey!

Camp News
March started off with a fantastic surprise bush brunch at Joubert`s Island for our honeymoon couple who had the whole camp to themselves. This was followed by a romantic private dinner in their room with bubble bath. What an amazing way to celebrate your honeymoon in Africa.

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Selinda Camp update - March 2011               Jump to Selinda Camp

Weather and Landscape
The weather this month was perfect. The afternoon showers provided a refreshing relief from the warm days and cleared the air to reveal stunning blue skies. The hint of cloud remaining on the skyline provided us with the backdrop for some beautiful sunrises and sunsets. The clear skies allowed the stars to be enjoyed as we dined al fresco watching the constellations of the Southern Cross, Orion and of course the largest full moon in almost two decades. This cosmic event is known as a Super Moon and is the point in which the moon is closest in its orbit to the earth when the earth, moon and sun are aligned. A combination of the two will cause the moon to appear to be 14% bigger and 30% brighter than usual. We had a totally clear night for this event on 19 March and one could almost not look directly at the moon as it was so bright.

The Selinda Concession is now looking very green and the scenery is at its most beautiful at this time of year. With the abundant nutrition in the grasses and trees, our wildlife is looking healthy and strong and the youngsters are flourishing in great numbers.

Activities
Selinda Camp offers a wide range of activities. Game drives form the core of these but we also like variety. Walking has been immense fun this month. In complete safety with an armed guide, guests have been able to use the longer grasses to their advantage and walk with giraffe. We have a number of canoes which we use to appreciate the Selinda Spillway and watch the wilderness pass us by from a different perspective.

Fishing is also an option now, having taken a respite in January and February. Within the first week a guest from Vermont, USA, caught a 9.5kg barbel. It dragged the boat for 25 metres and after a 15-minute fight he finally landed the fish. Other fish available at that moment are African pike and bream. If you catch all three in one sitting, you will receive the accolade of the "Selinda Slam" - just a bit of fun to tell the folks back home! Naturally all fishing is strictly on a tag and release basis.

Boating also continues to be popular with the guaranteed sightings of many hippo and wonderful waterbirds. An evening sunset cruise is recommended as the photographic light is at its softest and watching the sun going down over the water is unrivalled.

Hippo at Selinda Camp    Guests at Selinda Camp

Wildlife
In camp, Sydney the elephant honours us with his presence every now and again, but there is also a new "kid" on the block. Yet to be named, this so-called "kid" is in fact a 10-year-old bull elephant who seems to be enjoying the nutrition that can be found around camp. One evening he bumped into old Scarface, the injured hippo, which has also become quite the regular visitor. There was clear irritation from both parties with the elephant trumpeting in frustration and Scarface showing off his tonsils in which he was most likely trying to tell the big beast to "back off". The battle of egos just goes to show that the camp is not actually ours and that we are mere custodians.

The predator action has greatly increased this month. The Selinda Pride have been moving in and out of our vicinity. They departed for about a week, which allowed a few members of a rival pride to bravely prowl their territory. Within two days of the invading lion investigation, the Selinda Pride were back in full force, ensuring that their territory was free of their rivals.

Owing to the presence of lion we have only had sporadic sightings of leopard, cheetah and wild dog this month. It is only when the lion move further into the concession that our sightings of this trio increase.

March has also provided us with some great hyaena action. These fascinating, and often underappreciated, animals have been denning very close to camp. An alpha female is currently tending to two sets of young. There are two cubs that are four months old, and occasionally we see about four tiny cubs which can't be more than two or three weeks old. Hyaena, often perceived as an ugly animal, can only be labelled cute at this age. The strange aspect of this den is that the alpha female is tending to two sets of cubs which are too close in age to be both hers. This raises the question as to whether one set were abandoned and then adopted or whether the mother died or has been killed.

Our plains game viewings are predominantly based around a "baby and toddler" theme at this time of year. Youngsters are flourishing everywhere in the reserve. Some very lucky guests came across a newly born giraffe one morning. It was so "new" that the umbilical cord was still attached to the mother. Well-developed already, the guests witnessed the tiny giraffe taking it first few steps minutes after it left the womb. This is a once-in-a-lifetime viewing!

Featured Guide
Our featured guide for the month is Jonah Kamoge. Jonah has offered up some verbatim extracts from his daily diary:

1/3/2011 "The beginning of the month is very wet, but the rain cools down the sizzling atmosphere. It is this time of the year when we do not hope for more rain. The water level has taken a little rise both in the spillway and on some of the floodplains ."

15/ 3/2011 "The rain thunders, the winds start to blow and always a refreshing breeze follows. On the road a francolin runs in front of the vehicle, and everyone is laughing - all Red-billed Francolin that we come across seem to do the same thing. Then the amazingly colourful Carmine Bee-eaters fly toward the vehicle and surround us. They are feasting on the insects that are being disturbed by the movement of the land cruiser. We drive past a floodplain and again have a thrilling show - a Black Heron puts its wings up like and umbrella and fishes, a red lechwe leaps across the plains, an African Fish Eagle is trying hard to fly away with a 5 kilogram-size fish, and a black-backed jackal calls loudly to get the attention of its missing parent. Suddenly the whole sky is covered with smoking dark clouds and the first rain-drop lands, the second one drops, and then more - it's seriously raining now! We make ourselves comfortable with our waterproof ponchos and continue with the drive. Something small and dark far away is trotting into a thick blue bush to get better cover. We approach and find that it is a wild dog and enjoy his company for 25 minutes until the rain stops."

27/3/2011 "She is part of the Selinda Pride, but she seems to be happy with her solitary life. She hunts alone, kills alone, and eats alone, though tonight was different. She shared her meal with her robbers. We found her along the road, just as she was waking up from her long afternoon siesta. She took a short walk and elevated herself up on a termite mound. She got the visual of the two male warthogs, which she chose not to stalk; she seemed to be concentrating on something else far away - zebra. She chose a place in the tall grass, sat there and got into an ambush position. As the sun set the zebra started grazing and walking towards the tall grass where she was. With her brilliant hunting speed, she managed to catch a baby zebra and grabbed the throat to suffocate it to death, which took almost seven minutes to accomplish. She breathed her fatigue out before she could attempt to start feeding. She had only eaten a third of the kill before the hungry spotted hyaenas arrived and took the rest ."

29/3/2011 "It rained so much during the night and most roads are very wet. Even with a powerful land cruiser it is still a challenge. On a muddy road section we decided not to take the risk of getting stuck, so we drove back to a slightly better road. As we were about to take a turn, we saw a spotted hyaena. We followed her for a while on her way to the den and it is here at this den where we saw the almost newly born cubs. As the hyaena mother approached the den the two little black puppies came out to suckle. Five months back, at this same den we saw another set of tiny hyaena cubs. After half an hour of watching this absolutely fantastic sighting, the mother decided it was time to leave her puppies but one of the puppies came out and followed her. A mother knows and understands the dangers for a small puppy so she carried the pup in her mouth back to the den."

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Kwando Safari Camps Update - March 2011

Kwando Concession
•  Nice sightings of lions including the pride of 10 lions – 3 lionesses, 5 cubs and 2 males, and the so-called Moremi pride – another grouping of 10 lions.
•  One of the male leopards that are known to frequent the area created a buffet-style menu for himself by killing an impala as well as a water monitor lizard, and hanging them in the tree. He spent four days in the area, going back to feed on the impala, and what little remained of the lizard....
•  Our airstrip was temporarily closed for repair, which resulted in us using our neighbouring airstrip. Although a long drive to and from camp, it provided us with some excellent sightings of general game, elephants, and even a male leopard out in the middle of the hot afternoon, stalking warthog piglets.
•  It was hard not to find the lions, at one point in the month they just seemed to be everywhere! Yes, there is a fair amount of water about this year, but this does not stop Delta lions – growing up in an environment where their territories are flooded at certain times of the year, lions learn early that they just have to cope with the water, and swim across it. That doesn't mean they all enjoy it – a curling upper lip on a lion seems to convey the same amount of distaste as on a human! But they put up with it and cross when they feel they need to.

Lagoon camp               Jump to Lagoon Camp
•  First day of the camp re-opening, the wild dogs were seen on game drive killing a baby kudu. Not a bad start to the month. Sadly they then proved to be a little elusive – plenty of tracks and plenty of time spent tracking them – all part of the adventure – but it was a week or so before they were sighted again.
•  The lions spent a bit of time playing hide and seek with the guides – roaring at one end of the camp during the early morning, yet leaving no foot prints. No sooner had the guide driven out along the road in the direction of the call, than the snuck across the tyre tracks and vanished. Looping around, the guides were frustrated to see the furry paw prints right on top of where they had just driven. Eventually their work paid off, and the lions were found lolling around near the remains of a kill.
•  There actually seemed to be quite a reshuffle amongst the lions this month, with some lions that had not been seen before. Four males moved through the area that no one had seen before. One was particularly rambunctious, and would make random charges towards the vehicle, before losing bravado (and a healthy respect for the size of the car!) and slinking off. His brothers didn't seem overly impressed with this behaviour, and ignored him, for the large part.
•  Quite a few leopard sightings, with particularly memorable ones of a relaxed female who lost her kill to a male lion (all the effort made and no return!). Another leopard was found on an afternoon game drive, and didn't mind people watching him for over and hour and a half!
•  An unusual sighting of the three cheetah brothers – relaxing after an ostrich kill! Unfortunately we didn't see the actual hunt itself, but one can only imagine the combination of events that happened to bring down an ostrich... Legs and feathers everywhere... Not just a giant chicken, an ostrich has extremely powerful legs, and a kick from an ostrich can be quite disabling.

Lebala camp               Jump to Lebala Camp
• Closed for maintenance.

Kwara & Little Kwara camps               Jump to Kwara & Little Kwara camps
• No report this month.

Nxai Pan
•  Lions were heard calling most nights, and the resident pride was seen on several occasions.
•  An interesting sighting of a male leopard out for a stroll across Nxai Pan... probably not very enjoyable for the leopard as he was being continually harassed by black backed jackals. These much smaller animals work together to make the leopard know that he is not welcome at all in the area.
•  Early on in the month we also had two great sightings of leopards, including one male on top of a tree, and another male walking along West Road.
•  Still quite a few bull elephants in the area, and a small breeding herd were also seen drinking at the waterhole.

Tau Pan
•  Living up to its name, Tau Pan did produce some Tau – Setswana for 'lions'. Although the two males are regularly seen in the area, as well as two lionesses, it was the pitter patter of little paws that made everyone quite excited. Three lion cubs born in early March were seen with their mother towards the end of the month. If she does well and raises them without any trouble from competitive predators such as hyenas or other lions, these cubs will provide months of entertainment to future guests.
•  Since there is a source of water in the area, and sufficient game for the lions to prey on, the cubs stand a good chance. The two lionesses pulled down an Oryx this month, and were seen feeding on that.
•  Although cheetah are seen quite regularly in the Central Kalahari, one particular female cheetah with two cubs had not been seen in the area for over two months. We were delighted to see her again this month, with all three of them looking fit and well-fed.
•  Another surprise sighting was of four wild dogs hunting in Tau Pan. They spent some time trying to catch springbok, but were unsuccessful.
•  Even more surprising – signs of elephant activity was found along Passage Valley, including fresh dung. Perhaps making their presence felt, they also knocked down the Tau Pan signboard along the cutline.
•  March being the end of their denning season, honey badger activity is on the increase.... Time to start barricading the kitchen stores again against their greedy nightly attempts at break in!

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Mombo Camp update - March 2011               Jump to Mombo Camp

Weather
March brought with it further rains and inundation. The water crept up the floodplains in front of camp on its long journey from the Angolan highlands.

Wildlife
Game this month has been fantastic. Along with the herds of elephant, lechwe and other general game, there have been some great rhino sightings. Distant drives and patient tracking were rewarded with some excellent sightings and it's great to know that these prehistoric giants are doing well under the close watch of Poster and the anti-poaching unit.

Leopard at Mombo Camp    Lion pride at Mombo Camp    Playful lions at Mombo Camp

Lion sightings have been a daily occurrence and the antics of the cubs have been a continual source of entertainment. (These were the cubs first seen in December 2010 click here for photos of the new-borns) Of the initial four, three remain. They make a big effort to imitate the rest of the pride when they roar but normally only manage a cough or two.

Two of the western male lions were seen fighting with a lone male late in the month. Luckily the outnumbered feline was able to scamper off to safety, licking his wounds.

Legedima (female leopard) was seen on the walkway one evening. She made her way up from the main area towards Room 1, stopping in at Rooms 2 and 3. While the guides kept a close watch on her movements, we asked the guests to remain in their rooms while the leopard bathed herself at their doorsteps. The guests had a front-seat view of the beautiful cat that has captured the hearts of so many visitors.

White rhino at Mombo Camp    Soccer in the Wilderness tournament at Mombo Camp

The lone wild dog continues to enjoy the company of her jackal friends and she was seen regularly regurgitating food for them as they scurried around her excitingly. She is often seen at the airstrip resting in the shade of a tree before setting off on one of her regular hunts.

Staff News
The Soccer in the Wilderness tournament, which is an initiative to raise funds for Children in the Wilderness projects, arrived in the Moremi where the home team, the Moremi Lions, defeated the existing champions the Kwedi Sables. In a hard fought game under the relentless morning sun, the game was decided on penalties - the Lions won by three goals to two. We are much indebted to our star goalkeeper OB.

Staff in camp:
Kirsty, Graham, Claire, Katie, Tumoh, Vasco, Ryan and Martha at Little Mombo.

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Xigera Camp update - March 2011               Jump to Xigera Camp

No report this month.


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Chitabe Camp update - March 2011               Jump to Chitabe Camp

No report this month.


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

The last rumbles of thunder have faded into the distance and the flickering lightning is finally stilled. Summer is ending and the cool breath of the tropical winter touches us. It ruffles the surface of the water and shakes leaves which are already turning gold.

Here in northern Botswana we only really have two seasons: winter and summer. We spring suddenly into summer and fall into winter with no autumn to catch us. The grass seems to wilt slightly, and the leaves on the trees lose some vigour.

The flood paused briefly then retreated and we are waiting for the second pulse to sweep through the delta. The bush telegraph tells us that the waters have reached Seronga, the main village in the community trust which lies some 50km to the north east, on the fringes of the Okavango. So it can only be a matter of weeks now before the second pulse reaches Vumbura.

Landscape around Vumbura Plains Camp    Sunrise at Vumbura Plains Camp

There is nothing quite to match a cool morning in the bush, coffee in hand while rearranging the branches in the camp fire with the other. The earth opens one orange-rimmed eye along the horizon and all the light of a new day comes streaming into the world.

Wildlife
And what a month it has been for game viewing. Possibly the best thing about being on safari at Vumbura is the sheer variety on offer. The advent of winter has coincided with a return of the buffalo and elephant herds. The breeding herds of elephant congregate at favourite feeding spots and lone bulls burst out of the papyrus beds into the channels in a welter of spray.

The first pulse of the flood has opened up many areas to exploration by boat and mokoro. It has given us the chance to enjoy spectacular sightings of lechwe running through the shallows, spray catching the sunlight as it jumps off their hooves.

We even had one sighting of a very elusive sitatunga, emerging briefly from the reeds - but we had to go up on a scenic flight in a helicopter to manage that.

Back on the ground, the predators have made the most of the game concentrations occasioned by the start of the flood, and they have provided many of the most memorable highlights of March. One female leopard has been seen several times close to the Camp. On another occasion we had a wonderful sighting of an unidentified juvenile leopard knocking down a guinea fowl in flight. The startled bird did not gain height quite quickly enough, and the agile cat was able to bat it down with its forepaws.

Aerial view of Vumbura Plains Camp    Flowers at Vumbura Plains Camp

We currently have a new male lion on the concession. His provenance is unknown, and his actions so far have meant that his precise intentions are, too. He is spending most of his time in the eastern part of our concession, occasionally venturing towards the heartland of the Kubu Boys' territory. His roars attract their attention, but he melts away as they come to investigate.

He has successfully mated with the females of the Eastern Pride, thus siring a new generation of lions whose roars will hopefully make the trees shake into the future. It will be fascinating to watch the drama unfold with the lion dynamics through the winter.

Guest Comments
Meanwhile, here are the thoughts of some of the guests who shared this wonderful corner of Africa with us during March:

Outstanding staff including all personnel! The performance by staff - singing and dancing - was wonderful!

Our guide OB was extremely knowledgeable ... very good at passing on this knowledge as well as information about the communities and their traditions. We really enjoyed this.

Thank you so much for the private dinner in our tent - it was an incredible experience!

Felt like staff were "family" welcoming us to their home!

Staff in Camp
With very best wishes from your March Vumbura Plains team: Wayne Vaughan, Britt Twyford-Vaughan, Nick Noko Galpine, Ras Mundu, Lopang Rampeba and Lorato Bampusi.


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

No report this month.

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

Weather and Water Levels
March has seen some late rains that have resulted in the area experiencing higher water levels than normal for this time of the year. We therefore are really happy to say that our jetty on the other side of the channel has been completed and has proved to make boat transfers to the vehicles much easier.

Wildlife
The Tsaro Pride are living up to their reputation and made two sub-adult buffalo kills in one morning. This was just one of their many hunts during the month, and it seems that red lechwe have also caught the pride's eye. The guides have recorded many sightings of the pride watching the lechwe very intently and have logged many attempted hunts - some more successful than others. The lechwe are one up when it comes to water, so as long as these little antelope are near some form of this liquid they are more likely to outrun the lion. There is still nothing more satisfying than dining on the deck in the evenings and being surrounded by the clamour of lion roaring not far from camp.

Tsaro Pride killed two sub-adult buffalos    Playing on a tree stumb    Elephant family at Duba Plains Camp

An unusual sighting this month was an aardwolf that was spotted on an afternoon game drive. Although fairly skittish, the excitement of having this elusive creature in our presence was felt by both guests and guide.

The camp got its fair share of activity this month as we have had a number of elephant enjoying the fruit on our trees. Kudu have also ensured that our pathways are littered with their tracks in the morning after a long night of feeding on the succulent grass between the tents.

Cosmic Event
We were lucky enough to experience a Super Moon during full moon on the 19 March and it was celebrated in style with a sundowner which turned very quickly to a "moonriser." A Super Moon, known to scientists as a perigee-syzygy, is the point at which the moon is closest in its orbit to the earth when the earth, moon and sun are aligned. A combination of the two will cause this Super Moon. The result is that the moon appears to be 14% bigger and 30% brighter than usual. This cosmic event occurs every 18 years and therefore was last seen in 1993.


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Banoka Bush Camp update - March 2011

No report this month.

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Jacana Camp update - March 2011               Jump to Jacana Camp

Weather and Water levels
March started off rainy and overcast. In two days, we watched the water level rise by 5cm. Some Angolan guests told us that southern Angola was experiencing unusually heavy rains - this means we could be in for some heavy floods this year. The water levels dropped again later in the month however.

Fishing Season
The fishing season opened on 1 March, much to the excitement of the keen fishermen and women. We are looking forward to all the stories of the 'big fish' that got away. For fun, Dan cast out in front of Jacana and his first attempt caught him a good-sized bream.

One morning, our guests went out and managed to catch two tiger fish. One was a relatively good size but the second was huge. Their guide, Joseph Basenyeng, coached our guest through the process of pulling it in. The photograph shows his delight with the catch.

Tiger fish catch at Jacana Camp    Elephant around Jacana Camp

Birding
As always, the bird life around camp has been exceptional. A highlight for the month included a Fish Eagle swooping down, lying on the surface with its wings spread open for several seconds, and then powerfully lifting itself up out of the water with a large bream in its talons. All this happened in front of camp and guests took some wonderful photographs.

The dead palm tree near the boma provided delight and tragedy this month. The Burchell's starlings gave wonderful entertainment as they fed their chicks through an opening in the trunk. Every ten minutes or so, they would arrive to feed the tiny beaks. Unfortunately, the activity did not only attract our attention. Some squawking alarm calls drew our eyes to an approaching monitor lizard. Despite desperate bombing attempts by the parents, the thickset lizard scuttled up the trunk and into the nest. He emerged a little while later with a full belly.

A number of birds are still raising chicks and much to our delight, we came across a jacana male with four young ones. He did not seem to mind us, and in fact seemed to entrust us with the safety of his family when another jacana approached. He left the chicks with us and flew after the intruder in a rage. Mission accomplished, he rounded up his babies, tucked them snugly under his wings and tottered off to another spot, giving us the opportunity of a lifetime to capture the birds on camera.

The pygmy geese that live in front of Jacana Camp also hatched their chicks and we watched the day-old birds trying desperately to keep up with mum and dad.

Avid birders relish seeing the Pel's Fishing Owl, which roosts on an island opposite Jacana. Several times this month we were lucky enough to get a good sighting of the pair. A couple came to Botswana 24 years ago on their honeymoon just to see if they could find the Pel's Fishing Owl. They were unsuccessful then. They returned this month and decided to extend their stay and come to Jacana in the hope of seeing the owl and it was all celebrations when, after a quarter of a century, they did

.Genet visiting Jacana Camp    Small creature at Jacana Camp

Mammal sightings
One morning, we were woken by the snoring of an old elephant bull. He lay against a huge termite mound, fast asleep and completely undisturbed by us taking photographs of him. At one point, he dozily got up, changed his position, lay down and promptly began to snore again. One night, at dinner time, the same bull sauntered into camp and began to eat the grass to the side of the boma - it was a wonderful opportunity to watch the great animal at such close proximity. Two mornings later, he thrilled a new group by standing on his back legs reaching for some figs above the stairway to the library area.

A young genet, often resident in camp, came to join a group of guests one evening - he into the dining room. Later on, he found his way into the kitchen, jumped onto the beam and ever so calmly watched the preparation of desert.

One still afternoon's siesta suddenly erupted with the angry sound of two male baboons having a serious disagreement. They chased each other around the circumference of the island. The argument lasted about 20 minutes, and as suddenly as it erupted, it stopped, allowing us to doze off again in the heat of the day. Later we saw one of the baboons had his cheek torn open.

Steenbok, lechwe, impala and tsessebe were common sightings in March, as was a Cape clawless otter, that glided gracefully past camp every two days or so.

One cool morning, the guests went out for a boat cruise, and were not far out of camp, when the calmness of the morning erupted as two hippo bulls violently clashed, coming high out of the water and creating waves that made the boat bob.

Camp staff
Managers: Dan and Charmaine Myburg
Guides: Joseph Basenyeng and Timothy Samuel

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Abu Camp update - March 2011               Jump to Abu Camp

Our first safari after our reopening launch was a huge success with a full camp of guests loving the rebuild and even more importantly fully embracing the life-changing elephant experience for which Abu Camp is renowned.

Opulent new Abu Camp Launched
The stunning new Abu Camp accommodation is the epitome of seclusion and indulgence. Made up of six beautiful decked Bedouin-style structures, each private villa is fitted with distinctive furnishings, exuding an air of opulence. Outdoor living space has also been extended with private decks overlooking the lagoon. During the day guests can enjoy an insightful elephant experience with the Abu elephant herd, many of whom have been rescued from captivity, abandonment or injury, with the definitive aim to rehabilitate and where possible re-release into the wild. An extensive new camp library is the perfect place to relax and guests can also sleep in a one-of-a-kind 'star bed' in the elephant boma listening to the rumblings of the elephant herd below.

Accomodation at Abu Camp    Facilities at Abu Camp    Facilities at Abu Camp

Guest Experience and Wildlife News
We were thrilled that guests used the elephant boma star bed for the first time to great acclaim. Our pioneering honeymoon couple insisted that it was 'the best way to start married life' when they slept out on their second night. In fact their rave reviews almost had us making up bed rolls to fit all the other guests up there the following night.

Another highlight of the safari was the bush dinner that guests are treated to the night before they leave. The camp staff had set up the most immaculate table and served a sumptuous fillet steak. It was all so fantastic that nothing more could have been asked for - although with Abu being Abu more was on offer and while we sat around the fire we were serenaded by hippo grunting in the nearby lagoon and lions roaring in the distance. A short night drive back to camp revealed Africa at her finest with nocturnal sightings of genets, African wild cat and our resident leopard who revealed himself after being heard for the two previous nights.

New Camp Staff
A strong new management team has been brought into the fold. Both the General Manager, Sarah Humble, and the Front of House Manager, Emma Knott, bring with them a wealth of knowledge and experience. Assistant Manager Takesure Masuka has been an invaluable contributor as well.

Elephant experience at Abu Camp    Sunset over Abu Camp

The multi-talented Sarah is a registered nurse and cordon bleu chef and has been living and working in the Okavango since 1999 when she became general manager of a horse-back safari operation. There's nothing that Sarah won't put her hand to or deal with.

Sarah recruited Front of House Manager Emma from the UK at the beginning of 2011 where she had previously been working in marketing for the safari industry. Having worked with exclusive clients her insight into guest expectations is second to none. Working front of house, she will ensure that guests receive everything that they need or want, and she strongly believes that there is nothing that can't be arranged.

It is also safe to say that the opening of Abu Camp could not have run so smoothly without the help of Assistant Manager, Takesure Masuka, who has been with Abu Camp for four years following five years at Jack's Camp in the Makgadikgadi Pans. His wealth of experience, attention to detail and easy smile guarantee that behind the scenes no stone is left unturned.

Here's to Abu Camp and her future successes!

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Kwetsani Camp update - March 2011               Jump to Kwetsani Camp

General
Kwetsani re-opened in March after a month of improvements. Many guests commented on how good the camp is looking with a number of them enjoying romantic turndowns and private dinners. We served a number of dinners out in the bush and took pleasure in stunning sundowner stops.

Weather and water levels
Most days in March were clear to partly cloudy but there were some spectacular afternoon and evening storms. The water levels dropped at the beginning of the month but they had begun rising again towards the end.

Elephants at Kwetsani Camp    Buffalo at Kwetsani Camp    Bird at Kwetsani Camp

Wildlife
The lechwe are still in abundance and with the water rising, a small herd has taken to sleeping next to the swimming pool which makes for excellent viewing in the morning.

Elephant activity around the camp increased this month. A few bulls regularly rested around or under the rooms and some mangosteen trees near the boat station came off second best thanks to their hunger.

Sightings on Hunda Island have been amazing with guests seeing three different leopard on one drive. The lions on Jao have been seen regularly and a new pride has also formed in the area.

The warthog sounder that lives in and around the camp is now living near one of the staff rooms and they provide fascinating viewing and interesting encounters. Likewise, the four mongoose who live around the rooms are frequently seen.

Bird Life
The bird life has been superb with excellent sightings of a few rare species. Some guests were lucky enough to see a Galanule on Hunda Island. Our Verreaux's Eagle-owl pair are also still in attendance and we see or hear them on most days.

Iguana at Kwetsani Camp    Sunset at Kwetsani Camp

Guest Comments
You set a lovely and relaxed atmosphere. We really felt at peace here. Loved the mokoro ride and entertainment by the staff. Sighting highlights - leopard and cub, group of elephants on Hunda Island. Bob and Janet - USA

Honestly, we really enjoyed the boat ride in the rain last night! Watching the storm come in and feeling the wind as we flew through the water made the experience very fun. Molly and Elizabeth - USA

This whole "First time in Africa, First camp" experience has been tremendous. The staff, guides and managers have all been exceptional. Florence and Dichaba gave us the time of our lives. Robert and Gabrielle - USA

Camp Staff
Ian and Michélle Burger
MT Malebogo
Florance Kagiso

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Jao Camp update - March 2011               Jump to Jao Camp

Water levels and weather
The searingly hot months have passed but the last few days of summer have been hot and particularly humid. The perfect way to embrace the conditions is to lounge by the pool with a view of the delta paradise and a G and T in hand.

The water levels have dropped a bit with the heat but there is still plenty of water for the various aqauatic activities and we are waiting in anticipation for the second push of the floods to arrive.

Despite the heat, the changing of seasons is obvious on the trees. A beautiful array of colours is visible across the island.

Elephants visiting Jao Camp    Wildlife at night around Jao Camp    Python trying to swallow a monitor lizard

Wildlife
The wet terrain has forced some animals onto our island so there has been some excitement and adventure. Hyaena have provided the greatest entertainment in March. They are relatively new visitors to the island this year and they seem to enjoy our boma, often paying a visit after dinner. As the light fades and dusk sets in, the echo of their unique call is heard resonating through camp.

Evidence of another predator was also found this month. Remains of an impala kill were found on the island with lion tracks surrounding the carcass.

A more elusive cat also made its presence known. We saw a serval on a few occasions, sitting quietly in the tree with its eerie eyes looking for prey. These cats are timid so it is a real treat to have one on the island.

The elephants are back; exploring our island and walking at their own leisurely pace, often browsing near the walkway in camp. There have been mostly bulls in camp but we have been lucky enough to see a few breeding herds on the island.

Also in camp, we had the privilege of seeing a python next to the walkway trying to swallow a monitor lizard. Monitor lizards are large and very muscular, reaching up to a metre in length. The python was coiled around, constricting the last breath out of the lizard. It had its jaws wide open, attempting to swallow its prey. As we watched in awe, the powerful monitor managed to shake and wriggle its way free. The snake slithered back into the bushes, no doubt looking for another unsuspecting victim.

The mongoose that live in camp have added to their number. The little ones have now grown and their awareness and agility have increased with each passing week. About three of the females are pregnant again.

Martial Eagle at Jao Camp    Martial eagle at Jao Camp

Birdlife
With the water levels high, guests have been venturing through the channels on boating activities. The jacanas have hatched their chicks and there are a number of proud fathers looking after their young.

A highly-skilled guest managed to capture a fantastic martial eagle scene - the mongoose family was scurrying about when one of them was snatched by the massive eagle.

Guest news
With the increased water levels, we are now using Hunda Island for game drives. Hunda is a 45min boat ride through the delta channels and there is always an abundance of birdlife on the way. We generally spend the whole day on Hunda - picnic basket, well-stocked cooler box and surrounded by incredible wildlife.

Fishing season has once again opened and so far it has been productive with guests catching and releasing a number of species.

Comments from our guest comment book
What a great place! Wonderful game drives. Frederick - USA.

You've redefined our standard for luxury in the bush! A very special start to our time in Botswana. Nick and Stephanie.

Words cannot convey how wonderful this experience has been for us! Thank you so much to all of you for making our honeymoon and Giles' birthday so incredibly special! Lots of love and blessings to you all. Giles and Bev - USA.

Staff present
Bradley White, Annelize Hattingh, Ipeleng Pheto, Minette Wallace, Billy Mckechnie, Ollie Olepeng

Guides present:
Maipaa Tekanyetso, Kabo (KB) Kgopa, David Mapodise,


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Seba Camp update - March 2011               Jump to Seba Camp

Climate and Water Levels
The lagoon straight ahead of the main area at Seba Camp seems to have subsided slightly this month. There is, however, still plenty of water and we are still getting the odd thundershower in the evening which is keeping it replenished. The total rain received in March was 99mm which is 50% more than we received in February.

Giraffe at Seba Camp    Bird at Seba Camp

Wildlife
The guides have been away training this month before the arrival of guests in April and therefore game drives have been few and far between. However, we have had one very exciting visit by a cheetah passing through camp. Other animals keeping us entertained near camp are elephant, giraffe, impala and zebra. We also spotted two ostrich at the airstrip on a recent visit.

The elephant that come into camp are really enjoying the fruit of the marula tree in front of Tent 1. They spend the night eating and sleeping against the anthill at the tent. In the morning they move off to find a new adventure before their return in the evening. Our lagoon, which usually only houses one hippo at a time, welcomed three hippo all at once. It was a great sight to see and it's always wonderful to hear their great groaning voices booming in the area.

Facilities at Seba Camp    Flowers at Seba Camp

Camp News
Six journalists from South America visited camp for a night. They managed to get a game drive and a boat cruise into their busy schedule. Dr Kate Evans, our elephant researcher, joined us all for dinner in the evening - the journalists showed a lot of interest in the elephant research which has been done at Seba.


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

No report this month.


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

As the rainy season tapers off we look positively toward the onset of the cool, dry winter months ahead. The crisp winter skies turn azure-blue by day and the endless Kalahari expanses taper toward the curvature of the earth. The velvety black night skies explode in celestial glory to expose some of the planet's finest star gazing.

This is the time to sleep out on your roof deck under the curving arc of the Milky Way where the silent shower of shooting stars are to the inky blackness what the bellowing lions roar is to the silence of the night. This is the time and place for romantics and dreamers where one needs to look no further for miracles.

The cool days lend themselves to full-day drives across the vast Kalahari landscape. The endless seas of savannah grasslands will dazzle your senses and transport you to the great plains of yore. The long drives over the ever-changing Kalahari landscapes give you a liberating sense of freedom in this vast African wilderness and provide the reward of finding predators and prey. Midday is often spent enjoying a leisurely picnic amongst the swirling herds of oryx and springbok and possibly sharing a neighbouring tree island with a pride of Kalahari lions.

Don't believe the rumour that the Kalahari is a summer destination only. Naked and disrobed of its summer gown, the essence of the Kalahari's other personality is revealed. Honey badgers can be seen in unheard of numbers foraging on the exposed plains with the strange association between this species, Pale Chanting Goshawk and black-backed jackal portrayed in stark, close-up detail. This remarkable communal relationship can be observed up close and personal on guided walks at this time of the year. Walking here is a unique experience and this is the first time that guests have been allowed to use this form of activity in this unique environment. These walks, accompanied by experienced specialist walking guides allow guests to experience the intricate detail of the Kalahari landscape up close and personal. Walks with the camp's San/Bushman staff provide an insight into the survival of these ancient people in this unforgiving landscape.

With this in mind, we approach our second year of existence at Kalahari Plains in the Central Kalahari, with a sense of expectation and suppressed excitement.

Russel Crossey


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