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AFRICAN SAFARI NEWS

March 2011

(Page 2 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.


South Africa camps
Pafuri Camp update - March 2011               Jump to Pafuri Camp

Weather
We have had very unusual weather for this time of the year. We received very little rainfall and recorded only 15mm. It was a very hot and humid month with the highest temperature reaching around 44°C.

Wildlife
March was an exciting month in terms of game viewing. We are very proud that wildlife in this region is going from strength to strength every day. We have seen huge herds of buffalo right on our doorstep on the access road throughout the whole month. The largest herd counted was about 400 of these great beasts. In general elephant congregate around camp and within the Pafuri region during the dry months and seeing as we are heading towards this season we have not been surprised to see the herds slowly coming back.

Animals at the water hole at Pafuri Camp    Lion at Pafuri Camp    Elephant at Pafuri Camp

In February we had an outstanding amount of lion sightings and this month, although not as good as the last, we still had 17 recorded sightings. Pafuri Camp is situated not far from the Luvuvhu Bridge which increases our likelihood of seeing lion as they use this bridge to cross back and forth over the river. When we do not see them we still hear them roaring which is always an excitement at night time for guests as it gives everyone a real feeling of being out in the middle of nowhere in Africa.

General game has been excellent. Species such as wildebeest are always a joy to see in these parts as they were reintroduced to the area; and it makes it even more exciting when we see them with their young as this indicates that they are taking well to their home. We are starting to see rhino patrolling areas that we have never seen them use before - areas we have easy access to. This is probably due to the nutritious grass currently in those areas. We hope to see them more often in these parts as they multiply.

Buffalo at Pafuri Camp    Lion at Pafuri Camp    Wildebeest at Pafuri Camp

Birding
When it comes to birding our guests are lucky to have guides who know and understand the Pafuri Concession. Our guides have been showing off the roosting area of the Pel's Fishing Owl - always wonderful to see! The pans are still full of water and for this reason waders are bountiful around these areas. We have seen as many as 265 species this month, which is a sign that the migrants have not flown off yet. Some of the great birds seen this month include Little Bittern, Dickinson's Kestrel, African Crake, Lesser Moorhen, Verreaux's Eagle, Amur Falcon, Squacco Heron, White-backed Night-Heron, Eurasian Golden Oriole, Great White Pelican, Lesser Grey Shrike, Olive-tree Warbler, Icterine Warbler, Willow Warbler and Dusky Lark.

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Pafuri Walking Trail update - March 2011               Jump to Pafuri Walking Trail

April is the start of our walking trail season and staff went to set up the trails camp for a test run with the reason of improving the product. We spent one night at the camp and while preparing our dinner we heard three lion roaring within a kilometre of the camp. Twenty minutes later, as we were enjoying our tasty lamb chops, boerewors and pap, we heard the rustling and low groaning of lion nearby. We shone our torch in the direction in which the noise was coming from and low and behold we captured a male and female heading in our general direction. We watched them until they disappeared, intermittently roaring while they headed towards Pafuri Camp. In the morning on our walk back to camp we heard them roaring again, only to find the third male lion passing us, not even 150 metres, away and heading towards a troop of baboons and herd of impala alarm calling. We radioed camp to let them know so that they could bring their guests to the sighting.

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Camp Jabulani update - March 2011              

No report this month.

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Kings Camp update - March 2011               Jump to Kings Camp

The third month of the year has passed and so we share with you what we saw....

GENERAL
The bush is getting drier at this stage and we are really hoping for some later rain in April to help us through winter. That said, the dams are still quite full and the vegetation around the riverine is still green and lush. Therefore we recorded very good sightings of our general game such as Kudu, Zebra, Wildebeest, Waterbuck, Warthogs and many more…

Kudu at Kings Camp    Zebra at Kings Camp

Due to a few kills made by Leopards we also had a fair amount of Hyena sightings during the month. We are not sure where the Rockfig clan is denning at this stage but we are planning to follow the tracks from Hide dam to the areas of biggest activity to see if we can find it.

Hyena at Kings Camp

LEOPARD:
Leopard sightings were good during the month and here we have to highlight three individuals that contributed to most of the sightings during the month. They are Xinope-nope (young male from the South), Tumbela (Rockfig jr.’s daughter) and Rockfig Jr.

Leopard at Kings Camp

Xinope-nope was seen frequently around ‘Impala dam’, ‘Donga lookout’ and Marco’s dam. He still walks around with pride and seems very confident about the area he traverses. We shared a lovely sighting of him in front of our neighbour’s camp while he was feeding on a Chacma baboon kill. Baboons are generally very clued up when it comes to Leopards, but as masters of the undergrowth our spotted friends know all too well how, where and when to ambush some of the younger members of baboon troops.

Tumbela the leopard at Kings Camp

Tumbela spent a lot of time along the Machaton river and was seen mostly around two dams along the riverbed. At first she “camped –out “around Machaton dam where numerous guides witnessed the 16 month’s antics with the other animals that came to quench their thirst. Since she was a tiny cub, her and her brother (he passed 8 months ago) used to stalk and pounce at larger animals like Buffalo, Elephant, Giraffe and Kudu. It is very natural for young cats to test their skills but it often gets risky and ends in close calls. Patrick witnessed, at this dam, her attempt at a Buffalo calf. If the calf’s mother didn’t react as quick as she did Tumbela would have had a good meal. She pounced at the calf that brushed past the thicket she was hiding in from the large herd of Buffalo drinking. We also saw her eating an Egyptian goose she managed to kill close to the water.

From there her mother collected her for a kill she made close to Entrance dam. They finished the Impala in less than 24 hours and Tumbela took rest at Entrance dam while her mother, Rokfig Jr., was found already hunting again 2 kilometres from there. Here she had another close shave with the Buffalo that came for a drink. They surprised her where she rested behind a log right next to the water. As witnessed by other vehicles she got unnerved and jumped out right into the herd. At first they all scattered but then one of the youngsters actually got hold of her and pressed her to the ground with his smaller sized horns. That saved her life as this Buffalo couldn’t lift her up with shorter horns and as he tried she managed to scamper off and into a flimsy tree for safety. Let’s hope she has learnt a valuable lesson from this!

We also had good sightings of the Northern Leopards and saw Kuhanya, the Argyle male and the young Argyle jr. a few times.
One sighting that stands out was of the large Argyle male fighting with his 2 year old offspring that tried to steal his kill out of a large Boer bean tree. This happened at night and I did not get good images of the fight.

LION:
This month's sightings were mainly of the Machaton pride and their 9 cubs. You have been introduced to the four larger cubs and last month to the five newbie’s.

Now the lionesses’ move them to kills already and we often get lucky enough to see the three lionesses and all nine cubs together. They got interrupted by one of the Timbavati boys at Marco’s dam after they killed a young Buffalo and lost the kill to him.

A few days later though we found them at Machaton dam and they all walked down the road to the East, straight to a big juicy male Waterbuck kill. They fed for two days uninterrupted and headed back to the Machaton river for a good rest.

Machaton pride at Kings Camp    Machaton pride at Kings Camp

The Mahlatini males also visited a few times and offered good sightings East of Java dam where the killed a female Buffalo.

ELEPHANT AND CAPE BUFFALO:
Large herds of Elephant frequented the areas where there is good drinking and swimming water. Most sightings were around Makulu dam and Peru dam in the North and around Machaton and Marco’s dams in the South.

Elephants at Kings Camp    Elephant herd at Kings Camp

Cape Buffalo herds were very prominent following the water. Up to five herds was reported on some drives by various guides in the traversing. Of course we also have our ever present bachelors resting in the “Jacuzzi” wallows.

Cape Buffalo resting in the water    Cape Buffalo at Kings Camp

WHITE RHINO:
Both Mtenge-tenge and the Nhlangula males frequented their respective territories and we saw some increased movement from the West of larger ‘crashes’ of females and youngsters coming onto our two properties (Kings Camp and Jaydee).

White rhino at Kings Camp

Two of our newest regulars are known as Rose and Maria, a female and youngster combination. Maybe you’ll soon have a chance to see them too.

SPECIAL SIGHTINGS:
Wild dogs again made the special sightings list and few guests were indeed vey lucky to see them at Kings Camp.

Wild dogs at Kings Camp    Wild dogs at Kings Camp    Wild dogs at Kings Camp

The second special sighting was of a young African Rock Python. We spotted this snake crossing the road. We all jumped out for a closer look. Without pressurising the creature we all had a good opportunity to see Africa’s largest constrictor in its natural habitat.

African Rock Python at Kings Camp

Take care and see you soon!!
Morne' Hamlyn and the Kings Camp guiding team.

Report written by, Morne' Hamlyn
Photography and clips by, Morne' Hamlyn

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Leopard Hills update - March 2011            

Another very special month of Game Viewing

Leopard
Metsi and Cubs
Metsi caught an Impala on the Southern Part of Leopard Hills property, which she then took her 2 cubs two. The guests were spoilt with the 3 Leopards around the kill, with all 3 in and out of trees, which offered some great viewing. The two Cubs added to the excitement with them getting in and out of trees and constantly stalking each other and being very playful as these young cats are.

Hlaba Nkunzi
She has been seen on the Leopard Hills property quite close to the lodge on numerous occasions and also back in the Lodge area, which is great having her back. Her remaining cub has been seen frequently, still on the Eastern Side of Leopard Hills Property, with Hlaba Nkunzi moving back to the North Western part of her territory and still going to the cub, but leaving her around that area.

Xinzele
This Male Leopard was around the Area of the Lodge again with him on the scent of another Leopard. We weren't sure of the identity of this other Leopard, but he was definitely on a mission! After going through some serious bush on the Northern Side of the Lodge, we spotted another Leopard which quickly moved away into some more bush in the distance. This Leopard wasn't relaxed and looked like a young male, which obviously wasn't too comfortable with the vehicles. Incredible seeing the interaction between the leopards, with Xinzele on the trail of this other Leopard.

There were some reports of this Male Leopard being treed by Lionesses on numerous occasions – seems like he's been given a hard time by the Lions in the area.

Never the less, this beautiful Leopard is still offering some great viewing as he's really settled into the area.

Male leopard at Leopard Hills

Cheetah
The Male Cheetah has been seen numerous times on drive, with him covering quite a lot of ground in the South. He was seen in a clearing where he went about his business, climbing on rocks to get a better look around and marking his territory as he went along. While he was calmly looking around he immediately jumped into long thatching grass leaping through the air after some Reedbuck, he covered a massive distance in a very short time – was great seeing this animal move!

Cheetah at Leopard Hills

Buffalo
There has been a herd of around 150 – 200 buffalo in the South, spending a lot of time in the open which has offered some amazing viewing. There are many youngsters in the herd, with some of them only a couple of days old. The herd was seen in one of the watering holes, having their morning drink and then moving off for their day's grazing, while some of the older males spent more time in the water cooling off. It wasn't long before the older males joined up with the rest of the herd, with great interaction between all the members of the herd.

Buffalo herd at Leopard Hills

Lions
Mapogos
The 3 mapogos have been seen regularly, at times 2 of the males together with the other following some of the Xhimungwe females. After following them numerous times before and after sunset, we we're privileged enough to Roar together while walking into the dark of the night.  The 3 Mapogos joined up on the Northern side of the Leopard Hills property, where they spent the whole day in shade. As the sun set they slowly started getting more active, with all three tightly bunched up, groomed and yawned where after they hauled their massive bodies up. Walking down the clearing towards the Lodge, at about 50meters apart, formed a "V – Shape" with the oldest in the front and the other two on the flanks – what an amazing sighting!

Xhimungwe Lion Pride
The females have been quite active, with the one mother being seen in front of Leopard Hills by the watering hole with both her cubs. She has been in and around the Leopard Hills property in the area of the Mabrak River, that's in the front of the lodge, with her cubs. The Cubs are estimated to be around 10 weeks old, which makes it so much more special to view them. As they aren't seen too often, it really is a privilege being able to view them.

Another of the Lionesses and her cubs were seen on a couple of big boulders, they were viewed for a good hour playing around, climbing into trees and showing some interest in their surroundings.

Lion cubs at Leopard Hills    Lion pride at Leopard Hills

On an afternoon drive there was some great interaction between two lionesses and a young elephant bull, these two lionesses were lying on the sand in the Mabrak River, which had water after the rain. This young elephant then approached and a real "Cat and Mouse" game started, with the Elephant being the "cat" – which was a great animal behaviour!

Kiara and Megan filmed this Impala Kill by some of the Xhimungwe's and they were joined by one of the Mapogos, what an incredible sighting.

Rhino
There has been 5 or more Rhino on the Leopard Hills property, spending a lot of time on the clearings and close to the watering holes. Being very relaxed, they offered great opportunities for the guests to get up close and personal with them and take some awesome photos of these beautiful animals!  Sightings have been plentiful throughout the reserve and as always great enjoyment.

Elephants
Elephant Herds have been plentiful this month, with amazing sightings of breeding herds and bachelor herds. While viewing some of the Bull Elephants, some of them pushed each other around and created quite a scene with the sounds of the tusks clashing and trees breaking.  There was a massive Breeding herd of Elephant on one of the clearings, with them being very relaxed they moved along feeding, with some of the youngsters putting up a real display crashing through some brush.

Great Elephant activity this month with them in huge numbers.

Wild Dogs
The Wild dogs have been in and out of the traversing area during the month, with them being on the boundary of Leopard Hills Property for quite some time. The one female looked very interested in starting a den site close by, but they have moved east in the meantime. Hopefully they will return soon, as they're always incredible viewing.

During the month of March we've had some huge thunderstorms that delivered quite a bit of rain. The one evening the rainfall exceeded 100mms, which made the Mabrak River in front of the Lodge come down. The Sand river has been full for quite some time and the Waterholes are all filled up which is great, as winter isn't too far away.

Mabrak River at Leopard Hills

It has truly been an amazing Month with many special sightings and great moments. Can only imagine what April will hold, looking forward to the coming month's game viewing.

Thank you to everyone visiting in March and to everyone coming in April, we're all looking forward to meeting you and sharing our special place in Africa with you.

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Rocktail Beach Camp update - March 2011               Jump to Rocktail Beach Camp

The month of March at Rocktail Beach Camp kicked off with a flurry of excitement due to the turtle season drawing to a close. Our guides' passion to capture any information that the last two weeks of the season had to offer was contagious. At this time of the season most turtle sightings are not of massive turtles laying eggs, but rather of their offspring hatching. These sightings are incredible and guests and guides alike are awestruck by these tiny creatures clumsily making their way out of the sand. Once they reach the surface the danger begins as they patter into the vast unknown towards the calling ocean - their home!

Land and Seascape
Rocktail Beach Camp was a hive of activity this month as the families staying with us enjoyed the sunshine and of course the wonderful activities on offer. While we had great beach weather, we only received 9ml of rain in the entire month. The lack of rain does affect the dune vegetation which was hungrily in hope for a good soaking.

Baby turtle making its way to the water    Thumbs-up from Rocktail Beach Camp

With the winds predominately blowing in from the east we had a few 'swarms' of bluebottles washing up onto our shores at high tide. While this display of nature is usually disliked due to the pain that these small critters inflict with their long, trailing tentacles, they are also an important function of nature. Bluebottles are an important food source for some species that inhabit our shores - the juvenile turtle for one. The turtles use them as one of their first food sources while they are making their way out to sea in search of the mainstream currents. Ghost crabs also relish the bluebottles, leaving only miniature tracks and drag marks towards their hole, where the bluebottle is eaten.

Fishy Tales
The month also saw the coming of the equinox on 19 March. This is also labelled as the "super moon" which means that the moon is closest to earth along its orbit. This only happens every couple of decades and will play havoc with the tidal movements due to the gravitational pull of the moon. This means that the high tide comes in about 1.5 to 2 metres higher than it usually does.

The equinox attracted a number of fly fishermen to our camp in the hope of bettering their chances of harnessing the sheer brute strength of the giant kingfish. This much sought-after species can weigh as much as 50 kg and beyond and therefore it is a privilege and a joy for any fisherman to tussle with these "bullies" of the surf. It is often considered to be a highlight in the life of a saltwater fly fisherman, due to the strength and blistering runs that have left most anglers with many a fishy tale of "the one that got away". It is also extremely important to note that any species targeted or caught on fly at Rocktail is tagged and released - left to cruise the ocean once more and possibly to fight another day!

View under water at Rocktail Beach Camp    Earth Hour at Rocktail Beach Camp

After all this talk there were no giant kingfish landed over this period, however, while trying to entice one a 66cm brassy kingfish was reeled in, which definitely lived up to the species' name and truly acted like the king as it left the reel screaming and bending at a 30-degree angle for some time. After a fair fight and one or two measurements the fish was released. It is a truly a great feeling to harness that amount of power and then to watch the fish sidle back to the depths, maybe a little wiser and totally unharmed.

The guests that were present to witness the tussle were quite astounded at the strength of the fish and the tap dancing of the angler alike! Many stories were shared and laughs enjoyed during the evenings meal back at camp.

Camp News
One of the biggest highlights this past month was "Earth Hour" at Rocktail Beach Camp. On Saturday 26 March all power was switched off at 8:30pm for an hour in awareness of the huge amounts of energy that human beings currently use. What with candles and lanterns, no one seemed to miss electrical technology at all!

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Rocktail Bay Dive Report - March 2011               Jump to Rocktail Beach Camp

Weather
Manzengwenya weather was hot in March with loads of sun and temperatures in the mid to high 30s (Celsius). The north-east wind blew for most of the month bringing scorching days and flat seas. An abundance of plankton turned the water green and reduced visibility for much of the month.

Diving
The first dives of the month were very exciting. A huge brindle bass was found on Elusive and Mich found a small shrimp living in a feather starfish at Pineapple.

The bottlenose dolphins made a brief appearance this month. On one occasion they were hunting garfish, but in no apparent hurry. The guests donned their masks, snorkels and fins and jumped in. The dolphins swam round and round slowing hunting and everyone managed to get a good look. The other sighting was during a safety stop at Elusive. We heard the mammals squeaking then all of a sudden they were right in front of us.

The reef at Rocktail Bay    School of fish at Rocktail Bay

Good friends Kirsten and Robin joined us this month for their annual trip to Rocktail Bay and Robin finished off his Advanced Course. As part of the course, we went to Solitude, our deepest reef, which sits at a maximum depth of 24 meters. There is a small cave that goes almost all the way through the reef, not big enough for us to pass but there are always some interesting creatures like giant kingfish inside.

Solitude is also home to a very special fish that is only found in deeper water - the rare longnose hawkfish. We found an individual perched in a black coral tree on this visit. There was also a juvenile razor wrasse floating above the sand and a very unusual basket starfish, with its hundreds of arms. These are normally found in the Cape waters, but we are lucky enough to see them fairly regularly here.

We've had several great shark sightings this month. The highlight of these was a grey reef shark being cleaned by a cleaner wrasse as it circled the reef. The brave helper picked pieces out of the predator's open mouth. On one of the dives at Pineapple, there were two potato bass watching a shark very closely. On another ocassion, a white-tip reef shark swam out from a ledge at GoGo's and circled a few times then swam back under the ledge . Then, at Elusive, a giant guitarshark came gliding past us only a few meters away.

Longnose hawkfish at Rocktail Bay    Turtle at Rocktail Bay

Turtles have also been in abundance. It's been especially nice to see a certain female Hawksbill turtle that can be identified by a shark bite on the bottom (left) of her shell. We always used to see her at Aerial and then she moved to Elusive but now she is back on Aerial. Whether she's munching away or having an effortless glide along the reef, she is wonderfully relaxed. Another great sighting this month was a huge male green turtle that we saw this time last year too.

All the usual suspects made an appearance in March: moray eels, marble electric rays, blue-spotted ribbon-tail rays (one female was gravid), a sharp-nose stingray, marble leopard groupers, cowrie shells, filiminted sand eels hiding in the sand and even some clownfish with eggs.

One afternoon at high tide, a dew of us swam out to Island Rock for an afternoon snorkel. These excursions always leave us in awe of the things right on our doorstep. Just a short swim from the beach and we were surrounded by kingfish, schools of snappers, and all sorts of surgeonfish. It was especially nice to see the convict surgeons and the blue-banded variety. We also saw groups of raccoon in schools of six or so. Every now and again we were engulfed by hundreds of lunar fusiliers feeding on the microscopic zooplankton. We watched some turtles gracefully swim by, one little Hawksbill was fast asleep in a small pothole totally oblivious to us. One of the delights of snorkelling around Island Rock are the eagle rays.

Congratulations to the following March divers:
Mathew and Michael - for completing their PADI Discover Scuba Diving
Robin - for completing his PADI Advanced Course


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Zimbabwe Camps
Makalolo Plains update - March 2011               Jump to Makalolo Plains Camp

Weather
All the rain that we expected to bless our plains of Makalolo in February tried its best to find its way to us this month of March instead. The several heavy downpours we did receive made everyone dash for cover as the lightning lit up the camp and the thunder grumbled like a hungry elephant's stomach. The puddles on the roads turned from mud to water making the terrapins much happier. The waterholes around camp have risen a little which will help us in the dry months to come. Total rainfall for March was 40 mm and we are hoping for a little more in April/May.

Temperatures in March soared to staggering temperatures as high as 37.9°C taking its toll on some of the wildlife. During one of these hot days a team was checking the a pump at a waterhole when they came across a black-backed jackal with so little energy that it didn't even move when the team invaded the area not ten metres away. Cool temperatures at night are a sign of a cold winter ahead with lows of 15.3°C. One can even see one's breath early in the morning. Our guests were quick to help themselves to a steaming bowl of polenta porridge before the morning activity on most days.

Rainbow over Makalolo Plains    Sunset at Makalolo Plains Camp

Landscape & Vegetation
The grass has returned to its former shades of brown and yellow this month. Not even the small amount of rain has been able to rejuvenate it. Some of the trees are starting to change to reds and yellows and a lot of the pods have turned brown. The ordeal tree leaves are turning yellow which is normally the first tree to let us know that the ground is lacking moisture and a sign to the local villagers that the groundnuts are ready for harvesting. Another sign of the oncoming winter is that the firebreaks now have all been burned.

Animals
The dry days have been far more fulfilling than the wet ones in terms of game. Plains game once again congregate in front of camp to make use of the pan and quench their thirst. Exciting highlights of the month include the sighting of four rhino and a large pride of lion on a buffalo kill. Other notable sightings were a porcupine and a serval.

The snakes have been out and about. We've seen vine snakes and snouted cobras on several occasions. A vine snake caught a rather large chameleon just outside the office one day, and after a struggle, decided he'd bitten off more than he could chew and made a quick get-away. The chameleon seemed rather traumatised by his experience and sought refuge high up in a tree. We kept a watchful eye on him and were horrified when he launched himself out of the tree and plummeted to the ground. We went to inspect him and then returned him to a slightly smaller tree once we removed a small tooth from his body - he appeared to be alright, suicidal tendencies aside!

Lions at Makalolo Plains Camp    Elephants at Makalolo Plains

Probability Sightings for the month:
Baboon - 81%, buffalo - 39%, cheetah - 3%, duiker - 13%, eland - 10%, elephant - 68%, giraffe - 23%, hippopotamus - 84%, spotted hyaena - 19%, impala - 81% black-backed jackal - 39%, side-striped jackal - 13%, slender mongoose - 3%, dwarf mongoose - 6%, vervet monkey - 10%, porcupine - 3%, rhino - 3%, roan - 16%, sable - 14%, serval - 3%, kudu - 48%. lion - 19%, springhare - 100%, tree squirrel - 42%, steenbok - 16%, warthog - 45%, waterbuck - 35%, African wildcat - 13%, wildebeest - 55%, zebra - 71%

Birds
The soundtrack of Makalolo this month has included the early morning chorus of the Ground Hornbills, often mistaken for drums sounding a wake-up call, the Crowned Cranes in the evening, and the Kurrichane Thrushes and Yellow-billed Hornbills throughout the day. One group of guests was kept enthralled and entertained by a Red-billed Hornbill at a pan, who was jumping around and stirring up the water, obviously in search of frogs or grubs. A couple of the male ostriches in the concession have been dressed to impress in their mating colours and a special highlight was a nesting Secretarybird at Little Somavundla.

Ostrich at Makalolo Plains Camp

Camp News
We have taken delivery of the long awaited solar panel units. Very soon we will have the main area lit up like a Christmas tree and it will give the camp a whole new look not to mention an eco-friendly one.

All four waterhole pumps are working hard at keeping the water levels reasonable. With little promise of rain in the air this is vital for the survival of the wildlife in the area.

Wilderness Air gave us the first glimpse of the new caravan nicknamed Ndlovu (Elephant) as it made its maiden flight from Victoria Falls to Linkwasha International Airport. It was quite a sight to see it and we look forward to using it for our transfers in and out of camp.

Guest Comments
"Seeing lion for the first time and hearing him roar and seeing rhino too was spectacular - will be back for sure!"
Karl - New York, U.S.A

"To see two leopard and 3 lion was the best part of our trip, our room was incredible and waking up to the sound of a hippo was brilliant! Food and staff were magnificent and we will miss all of it. Thank you so much for making our first African safari a memorable one." - Ian and Jenny - Florida, U.S.A

Staff in Camp
Managers - Katt & Kate
Assistant Manager - Ryan
Pro-guides - Godfrey, Lawrence
Learner Guides - Elias, Livingstone, Douglas, Robert

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Little Makalolo update - March 2011               Jump to Little Makalolo

Climate and Temperature
The weather patterns seem to be rather confused this month. It seems as though we have experienced a bit of winter and summer. The highest temperature recorded was a hot and dry 36.8°C, and the lowest was a chilly 15.4°C. This convinced us to revisit our winter orders such as hot water bottles at camp. We have also had some spectacular cloud build up with some promising lighting flashes; however rain was not always delivered. One particular storm did an exceptional job and it provided us with 23mm of rain. Our total rainfall recorded for the month was 79mm bringing our total rainfall for this season to 514.3mm.

Landscape and Vegetation
Just when we thought the rain was gone and the grasses and bushes had given up on water and were starting to turn brown, March took us by surprise and brought back to life what was fading away. The ordeal tree had given up on the rain and has already turned into a golden hue; while this is pretty it is also too early. The teak and the false mopane are flowering again and the unique combination of colours is beautiful. The gladiolus really bloomed and added to the beauty of our landscape.

Landscape at Little Makalolo    Sunset at Little Makalolo

Wildlife Sightings
The game viewing this month has been good. Elephant have been about at camp, still drinking from the bird baths and the swimming pool. One evening they decided to come right into camp. They walked past the fuel station and our vehicle wash bay and on their way out smashed our rain gauge which was thoughtless of them as the clouds were building up with a promise of rain. It turned out to be one of those "fake" storms and by the time the rain did come the next day we had equipped ourselves with a new gauge.

There has been some interesting predator action this month. The hyaenas can still be heard almost every night, adding to the beauty of the evening sounds in the wilderness. The Back Pans Pride has been seen on several game drives. On a few occasions they have been hunting unsuccessfully, expect when we found them enjoying a buffalo rump steak one afternoon just before sunset.

We have also seen the Ngweshla Pride of 19 on numerous occasions in our concession. The big male was not looking in great condition and seemed rather skinny so it made us happy to see the pride take down a buffalo cow at the end of the month. While the male was not part of the hunting team he certainly got his fair share. It was the four females of the pride who gave a good chase followed by their comically clumsy cubs who seemed unsure as to what they were doing. One day these confused cubs will take over from their parents and really impress us with their hunting skills.

Butterfly at Little Makalolo    Elephant herd at Little Makalolo

Probability sightings for the month:
Hippo and baboon - 61%k, side-striped jackal - 12%, giraffe - 51%, cheetah - 14%, wildebeest and spring hare - 54%, cape buffalo and tree squirrel - 38%, black-backed jackal - 58%, lion - 45%, spotted hyaena - 22%, scrub hare - 50%, sable - 38%, warthog - 48%, kudu - 41%, elephants - 77%, zebra - 90%

Bird Sightings
Many of our summer birds seem to have already left for greener pastures. We have also noticed a great change in certain species. Cuckoos like the Jacobin, the Diderick and the Red-chested have gone quiet, however the moment we have a rain shower they come alive again. A number of Abdim's Stocks have been sighted following the rains. The beautiful Crowned Cranes have been seen at the waterhole in front of camp several times.

Staff in Camp
As our quiet season slowly bids us farewell and we get ready for the excitement, madness and rush of the busy season, we also welcome some of our team players who have been away on annual leave. The rest of the staff have been making sure that the last maintenance touches are done before we get busy. We welcome Elias who has joined us as a guide and we look forward to his great contribution with his vast knowledge and passion for the bush. We have two more additions, namely Pious and Simon, who have joined us from Linkwasha Camp, and we welcome them warmly.

Guest Comments
"Our ride to camp was amazing! Being greeted by the staff on our arrival was touching. The quality and knowledge of our guide was impressive. The food, the game drives, everything." Jason and Jon - USA

"Fantastic Staff and a beautiful environment. Please keep up the excellent standards." Marnitz - Namibia

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Davison's Camp update - March 2011

Weather
There has been a multitude of seasons here at Davison's this month. We've received humid, hot, dry, wet and cold weather and our favourite - the great African thunderstorm. The highest temperature reached was 34° C, with the lowest recorded for the month reaching a chilly 15°C. Rain received was 33 mm.

Landscape & Vegetation
As we are coming towards the end of the rainy season at Hwange, we have seen a dramatic change in both landscape and vegetation.

The movement of buffalo and elephant herds have made a change to the grasses, especially the blue grass and common thatching grass, which have been trampled down as the animals search for water and food. Grasses are starting to dry up turning a blackish-brown colour which is changing our landscape. However we are still seeing a flash of flowers such as gladiola and pretty lady.

Trees such as ordeal tree and wild seringa are changing to an orangey-yellow colour which adds to the beauty of our vegetation. Other trees such as the lavender bush have already started dropping their leaves which signifies the fast approach of the winter season. The leaves of the ochna and teak still wear a dark green colour.

Butterfly at Davison's Camp    Elephant at Davison's Camp

Wildlife
Despite the rains we had a very good run of wildlife sightings this month. We still have big herds of elephant, sable, giraffe and zebra coming to drink at the pan in front of camp.

Lion, always a special sighting, have been in abundance with two prides being seen in our concession amongst other smaller groups. There was a pride of 12 lions at Back-Pans comprising four females, a territorial male and seven cubs which are all at different stages of age. Also seen was the Ngamo Pride with one lioness and two sub-adult males. We haven't actually witnessed any hunts this month but have seen plenty of wildebeest carcasses on their area.

There is a large herd of buffalo roaming around our piece of paradise. It is a breeding herd with new calves and a few bulls accompanying them. We also enjoy seeing our old "dagga boys" in front of camp wallowing in the mud on the edges of the pan.

Sable and kudu add to our midmorning drinkers, although they don't stay very long and quickly leave to find cover in the surrounding bushes to get out of the blazing African sun.

Three roan antelope were seen at Kennedy's consisted of two adults and one juvenile. They were relaxed on the edge of a small pan. The big bodied adults looked very healthy and compared to the sable are actually bigger. Their facial markings are beautiful.

The elephant are ever-present and have been frequenting camp more and more, sometimes coming right in to the camp and feeding on the green grasses and scratching body parts on our false mopane trees. Usually breeding herds with youngsters of all ages are seen majestically walking through reminding all and sundry about who rules the land!

Other special animals seen were bat-eared fox which are a specially protected species in Zimbabwe. They were seen in a family unit of eight members, parents and youngsters.

Small visitor to Davison's Camp      Abdim's Storks at Davison's Camp

Birds
The long slim wings were observed beating and the characteristic black-barred tail fanned out as the slender birds hovered over the vlei, tracking prey on the grass below. Several graceful Lesser Kestrels have been foraging gregariously and showing off their hunting accuracy and skills. As opposed to falcons that use speed to hunt, the kestrels have a keen eyesight that searches for prey whilst hovering. Once they have located their prey they will come in closer and closer to the ground until eventually dropping, almost in slow-motion, onto the unsuspecting grasshopper.

During an early evening drive down the Little Makalolo road, we stumbled upon a female Greater Painted-Snipe casually standing by a puddle on the road. Within seconds everyone was admiring the more brightly coloured female. Whilst admiring her, the group almost failed to notice the male Corn Crake stretching its wings behind her. The snipe and the crake looked as though they were involved in a brief conversation before parting ways in opposite directions.

During the 24-hour pan count on full moon this month, Linkwasha and Davison's Camp teamed up at Scott's Pan. At around 23h00 the pan counters, not seeing very many mammals for a while, and trying hard to stay awake, decided to focus on some of the nocturnal birds that could be heard around them. Not being able to identify a particular species, a recording of bird calls was produced to try and match a call with the mystery bird in the dark! Finally playing the calls of coursers, the pan counters found a match! As soon as the Three-banded Courser call was played, an amazing response was heard. Little had the pan counting team known that they were completely surrounded by Three-Banded Coursers as they all responded to the recording of their fellow bird in the Land Rover.

While our concession is keeping us entertained with our feathered friends we are also encountering many at camp. The resonating sound, known as drumming, coming from the determined pecking of the Bearded Woodpecker has been echoing throughout camp during 'siesta' time. He seems to be in competition with the Helmet Shrikes, drongos, Racket-tailed Rollers and hornbills to get the message across. The resident Arnot's Chat has resurfaced and was spotted by the tents one afternoon.

Birds at Davison's Camp    Bird seen at Davison's Camp

Guests and staff received a wonderful surprise as a flock of about 100 white storks glided towards us and landed at Ostrich Pan one afternoon. They may be on their way up north as we turn to start seeing signs of winter in the Southern Hemisphere. These birds are Palaearctic-African migrants, meaning they migrate between continents each year, flying thousands of kilometres from Africa to Europe and Asia and back again.

An interesting event took place at camp when a juvenile Shikra and Gabar Goshawk were observed dog fighting. No clear winner was determined as they both parted and went to sit on different false mopane trees.

We should expect most migrants and nomadic species to take their leave next month. We will miss their presence but know that the resident crowd will not disappoint us.

Guest Comments
'Watching the baby lions romp and the elephants taunt the ostriches was a joy.' - Paul

'The staff were so friendly and made us feel at home. Our guide Dickson was amazing and he taught us so much' - Rick and Melissa

'We simply loved our hosts! Thank you for my gluten-free items!' - Amy and Jerry

'Lions just after a kill, campfire and stars, friendly staff, food/Braai' - Ken

Staff in Camp
Managers - Chrispen
Assistant Managers - Andre & Tammy
Guides - Dickson, Bryan
Learner Guides - Brian, Sam, Honest
Trainee Guide - Richard

Photographs
Thanks to Tammy Smith

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Ruckomechi Camp update - March 2011               Jump to Ruckomechi Camp

Weather
We have had a total of 55.7mm of rain this month which is a lot comparing with the 38mm received last month. The humidity therefore has been as high as 80%, making everything and everyone very hot and sticky. The highest temperature recorded this month was 36.7°C and the lowest 21.3°C. Most days end with a blazing red and orange display of colour as the sun slowly melts over the Zambezi River.

Vegetation, Landscape and the Zambezi River
Two gates on the dam wall were opened on 5 March causing the Zambezi River to rise over two metres. The water was high and continued to rise visibly each day turning Ruckomechi Camp into an island for the second time this year. The back of camp was a beautiful lake as the Charara River flowed back on itself and found new channels into the Zambezi. It was a muddy, watery paradise for birds and hippos alike and lots of snorting and grunting was heard as the hippo established territories in the new puddles.

Landscape at Ruckomechi Camp    Flowers at Ruckomechi Camp

With the abundance of rain, the wild flowers have been out in full force. The delicate pinky purple flowers of the pretty lady (Cleome hirta), the deep purple of the cornflower veronia (Vernonia glabra) and the pale purple of the Common Star Creeper, have created a colourful dash of shades amongst the green vegetation.

Wildlife News
The staff, on a maintenance drive around the concession, ended up having an incredible afternoon of wildlife sightings. When we emerged onto the dry Ruckomechi riverbed the light was already dimming and most of us thought that the light was playing tricks on us when we thought we saw a cheetah. Driving closer, we soon realised that we had all been correct as the cheetah suddenly took off at full speed into the surrounding bush.

Having accomplished our work mission we headed back to camp and as we were driving in we found two beautiful lioness lounging behind the staff village. We sat and admired them for some time in the fading light. One got up and made her way down the road into camp while the other eventually snuck away and hid behind the tall Indigofera tinctoria bushes in the gathering dark. Aware of the lioness presence, our resident impala were understandably nervous and their snorting alarm calls were heard well into the night. It was a tense walk home between camp and the village that night as we wondered where the lioness had got to.

Elephants at Ruckomechi Camp    African Crake at Ruckomechi Camp

A large spotted genet was seen dashing across the lawn another evening, its long spotted body and dark bushy tail, a blur in the torchlight. Once it reached the long grass, it allowed us a better look at it as it hunted for morsels in the undergrowth, its night-adapted eyes and sharp nose, probing about for anything it could eat. Finding nothing it eventually took off into the darkness.

As well as the impala, waterbuck are now seen around camp on a daily basis. During the mornings they typically graze on the lush grass on the the island in front of camp. The handful of young ones are often seen chasing each other around in continual games of tag, the older ones looking on in between mouthfuls of grass.

Birds and Birding
The elusive African Crake has been a regular visitor this month, first being spotted at the back of camp when the waters were still high and once the waters had receded it was seen at the front. Wandering in and out of the bushes, this fabulous red-eyed bird has often been seen looking for bugs and edible delicacies in amongst the leaves. This bird is an uncommon breeding migrant from tropical Africa, with its peak breeding season being in January and February in Zimbabwe.

The bee-eaters around camp have been incredible, with five of the seven species we see in the area seen this month. The White-fronted Bee-eaters are currently our most common. Their beautiful colours glint in the sunlight as they dive and swoop catching insects. The banks of the river, eroded by the big waters, have provided a sheer sand bank which these birds have taken a liking to. We are watching with interest to see if they start nesting there.

Some White Storks put on a stunning aerial display one afternoon. A huge flock of approximately 200 black specks appeared in the sky very high up. They glided along for a couple minutes then just as they reached a big cumulus cloud, they started twirling around and around, and we realised that they were gaining height. As they reached the top of the thermal they found their direction again and continued in a straight line but this time even higher than before. As they made their way across the sky they once again got smaller and smaller until they disappeared.

Birds at Ruckomechi Camp    Bee-eaters at Ruckomechi Camp

We have been entertained by a pair of tiny Blue Waxbills who have decided to build their nest in the y-thorned torchwood tree just outside the office. It is a tiny and very untidy nest with blades of dry grass stuffed in all directions. They are seen flitting in and out and we hope that they stay.

Ruckomechi Staff
The month has been a busy one for all in camp. The guest rooms received a facelift, a new guest toilet has been built and the board walks have once again been fixed. The hippo and elephant kindly break these on a regular basis so it's a never-ending job. Boats and game drive vehicles have also been given a bit of TLC this month and we can happily say we are ready and waiting for our guests to arrive.

We would like to welcome Ishmael Nzara, Last Phiri and Calvin Ali who are joining our staff compliment. They have all transferred from our Wilderness camps in Hwange National Park.

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Mana Canoe Trail update - March 2011               Jump to Mana Canoe Trail

No report this month.

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Zambia camps
Toka Leya Camp update - March 2011
              Jump to Toka Leya Camp

No report this month.

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Lufupa River Camp update - March 2011               Jump to Lufupa River Camp

No report this month.

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Lufupa Tented Camp update - March 2011               Jump to Lufupa Tented Camp

No report this month.

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Kalamu Lagoon Camp update - March 2011               Jump to Kalamu Lagoon Camp

No report this month.

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Shumba Camp update - March 2011               Jump to Shumba Camp

No report this month.

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Kapinga Camp update - March 2011               Jump to Kapinga Camp

No report this month.

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Busanga Bush Camp update - March 2011               Jump to Busanga Bush Camp

No report this month.

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Malawi camps
Mvuu Camp update - March 2011
               Jump to Mvuu Camp

Weather
This year's wet season has extended into March, following the traditionally wettest months of January and February.

Wildlife
The longer rainy season has far from dampened wildlife sightings. Most notable of these has been the continued observations of large elephant herds along the Shire River. Typically at this time of year we only see older bulls - either singly or in small bachelor groups. They are attracted by the lush grazing on the river banks.

Following our recent lion sighting, tracks have been regularly seen around the camp area. What sounds like territorial roaring was also heard within 5kms of camp. The lion has still not been spotted and is clearly as good as a leopard at keeping out of sight. Tracks have been regularly spotted all around the Mvuu area and also along the sanctuary fence.

Liwonde National Park supports a wonderful array of rare and sought-after birds and is justly one of key birding spots in Malawi. Frequent sightings for us include Bohm's bee-eater, Lilian's lovebird, osprey, white-backed night-Heron, Pel's fishing-owl, Livingstone's flycatcher and Dickinson's kestrel. One of our true star birds, brown-breasted barbet, caused quite a stir too. Four individuals were seen together close to camp. This was an exciting record for us as invariably they are only seen singly or in pairs.

Seeing the uncommon African broadbill was another thrill. Unusual bird sightings for us have also included bronze-winged courser and Diderick's cuckoo chicks being fed by lesser-masked weavers. Parisitism in cuckoos is of course well known and well documented and is most easily seen outside of the nest when newly fledged cuckoo chicks dominate feeding time with the host parents.

Camp Enhancements
Construction of the new 'Shire Star-bed Platform' on a floodplain north of camp is progressing nicely. The carpenters working on this project report regular sightings of a breeding herd of 40 elephant from here so it sounds like the platform will produce exciting game viewing.

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Mumbo Island update - March 2011               Jump to Mumbo Island

No report this month.

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Chelinda Lodge update - March 2011

No report this month.

 


Namibia camps
Desert Rhino Camp update - March 2011               Jump to Desert Rhino Camp

No report this month.


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Palmwag Lodge update - March 2011               Jump to Palmwag Lodge

Green desert
This year is proving to an exceptional year for rain across the whole country. The immediate Palmwag area normally receives between 50 and 150mm of rain during its normally short "wet" season which is between February and March. This year our rains started early in January with a quick storm lasting a mere 1 hour and 45 minutes. The 35mm of rain received in this storm caused the Uniab River to flow for the first time this year. Since January to date the Uniab has roared more than 10 times and Palmwag has received a total of 314mm with a lot more anticipated as we watch the clouds still gathering every afternoon for a shower or two. Needless to say, our desert is green with grass higher than 50cm in places.

Picturesc green desert landscape at Palmwag Lodge    Storm coming in at Palmwag Lodge

Palmwag Hornbills
The Southern Yellow-billed Hornbills are a very common sight at Palmwag Lodge all year round. There are at least four breeding pairs that have made the lodge their permanent home. For the past three years we have observed a pair of these strange-looking, but at the same time beautiful, birds nesting on the banks of the Uniab River, just next to the pool bar campsite. Breeding season can stretch from September to March during which time two eggs are usually laid. The female hornbill is "locked" in the nest during the incubation period and a little past hatching while the chicks are still very vulnerable. At this time the male can be seen on his own hunting for insects which he takes back to his hungry family. We think that we will be seeing two new additions to our hornbill community within the next week or so.

Southern Yellow-billed Hornbills at Palmwag Lodge    Staaf at Palmwag Lodge

Oryx Projects
At the beginning of April the aptly called "Oryx Project" staff, together with guides from Wilderness will be setting up camp at Palmwag Lodge. Their objective - to try and collar up to five female oryx in a number of herds in the area. The information provided from these collars will enable the team to see how the animals move during wet and dry periods. They will only be using female animals, as they tend to stay with the herds and their general life expectancy is much better than that of the males. So watch this space in next month's newsletter for an update and photos of this project - the biggest so far on these amazing animals.

Staff
11 members of staff from the flooded Serra Cafema Camp have been working at Palmwag Lodge for two weeks. The chefs, housekeepers, waiters and manager have enjoyed their time here. New friends have been made and a lot has been learned which neither team will ever forget.


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Doro Nawas Camp update - March 2011               Jump to Doro Nawas Camp

Weather
The rainy season is well and truly underway across the country. Doro Nawas received 40ml of rain which is pretty unusual when one compares the amount of rain received in the same period over the two previous years. Unfortunately our skies remained cloudy most of the month so stargazing was kept to a minimum and so were our normal spectacular views of the sunsets. The daytime temperature remained very hot and humid with maximums reaching 35 degrees Celsius. However we received the odd shower to relieve us of these highs during the late afternoon and sometimes the rains would stay with us all night.

Evidence of rain at Doro Nawas Camp    Desert-adapted elephants at Doro Nawas Camp

Landscape and Wildlife
As one can only imagine, our landscape is beautifully green. A recent trip to the north western Etendeka Mountains highlighted the amount of rain received as guests walked through the flowing Aba Huab River. This area is where we expect to see the desert-adapted elephant, although if you ask any guide tracking elephant during the rainy season they will tell you that it can be a challenge. At this time of year these great beasts prefer feeding on the tall green bushman grass that is now high in protein and therefore we don't see them as often as usual. However our guests were rewarded with a great sighting of the Oscar Herd on the plain close to Bergsig.

Just outside camp our luck held out and we saw a hedgehog. On approach the little thing curled up into the prickly ball - a great form of protection. Once it felt confident again, it straightened out and continued merrily down the road.

Hedgehog at Doro Nawas Camp    Socializing around the camp fire

Camp News
Doro Nawas is happy to announce its new camp manager. We give Agnes Bezuidenhout a warm welcome and hope she enjoys the area as much as the rest of the staff.

Guest Comments
"The rooms and view are absolutely magnificent, lovely innovative design of camp and breathtaking views.
Extremely comfortable rooms." Daniella

"We loved driving through countryside, seeing the elephants, talking with staff over drinks and dinner. We also enjoyed drinks on the roof, experiencing this beautiful environment, the outdoor shower, the night noises, the peace of the environment and friendly staff."

"The handwritten welcome, the singing & dancing of the staff, the excellent kitchen, the outstanding architecture, the cleanliness, comfortable beds and friendly smiles everywhere made for a wonderful holiday". Radem

Staff in Camp
Managers: Agnes Bezuidenhout, Morien Aebes (Assistant Manager) and Theobald Kamatoto (Assistant Manager)
Guides: Michael Kauari, Ignatius Khamuseb. Richardt Orr and Pieter Kasaona (Trainee Guide)


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Damaraland Camp update - March 2011               Jump to Damaraland Camp

No report this month.

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Skeleton Coast Camp update - March 2011               Jump to Skeleton Coast Camp

The month of March will officially go down as the "Year of the Mud" - at least for the Skeleton Coast. The annual rainfall in the reserve was exceeded on the night of the 4 March. We received 22mm of rainfall just in the one evening. That's more rain than we have received in the past two years put together! The total rainfall in March was 33mm.

The Skeleton Coast is situated on the banks of the dry Khumib River. This river tends to only flow about once a year when it rains around the catchment area. As mentioned in our February newsletter, the first time it flowed this year was on 12 February and then again on 16 February - the latter being a far more significant river flooding. In March the river has flowed another seven times which is a record.

The Hoarusib River which is located 45km south-east of camp has been flowing nonstop for the past two weeks. Anyone that has been trying to cross it has run into a whole lot of water/trouble. The brave (or foolhardy) have been literally stopped in their tracks with severe damage to their vehicles. The Hoarusib flows into the Atlantic Ocean and a recent visit the sea has given us the opportunity to see the masses of water surging through the river mouth.

River coming down at Skeleton Coast Camp    Water everywhere at Skeleton Coast Camp

Due to all the rains, flowers that we never knew existed in the region have been blooming all over the Skeleton Coast National Park. The luscious green grass in the area has also attracted an abundance of wildlife. The three lionesses from the Hoarusib River have also been influenced by this rainfall. They have been covering the large distances between Puros and Orupembe in order to find prey. They recently were seen at the Khumib River about 500m from the camp. On the morning of 13 March we discovered that they were in the riverbed trying to kill a giraffe. Our guide tried to follow their tracks but they disappeared into the mountains about 10km south of camp.

Himba village visits have been curtailed thanks to the Hoarusib River flood. We usually visit Puros, a small Himba settlement 45km south-east of Skeleton Coast Camp; however it is on the other side of the river. Therefore we have been visiting a small settlement north of camp called Onjuva. Guests have been blown away not only by the Himba traditions, but also by the amazing landscape, wildlife and bird life - particularly raptors in this area. Notably we came across a cheetah on one occasion. The village is used by the nomadic Himbas when they move back after being out with their livestock.

Giraffe seen at Hoarusib River    Community Project at Skeleton Coast Camp

Community Projects
We recently hosted a group of 24 schoolchildren and teachers at camp. The group was picked up at Puros and we took them on safari. The day started with a drive down the Hoarusib River, where we were lucky to see lion, giraffe and elephant. Towards the coast we did a bit of dune driving and it was well enjoyed by old and young. Around lunchtime we reached the coast and everyone took a dip in the Atlantic Ocean. It was a joy to see the excitement of old and young as many, young and old, had never set eyes on the ocean. After lunch we headed to camp where we showed them around before driving them back to Puros.

Camp News
Skeleton Coast Camp was visited by ten British agents on the 6 March. This group came to acquire more knowledge on Namibia and the camps. One of the agents commented:

"Skeleton Coast Camp: A real highlight for me. The camp was really nicely laid out and well kept. The staff here are brilliant, nothing was too much trouble and they were really enthusiastic. They set up a lovely bush dinner one evening which was a great experience. The two guides kept us enthralled all day long and they did brilliantly!"

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Serra Cafema Camp update - March 2011               Jump to Serra Cafema Camp

While we were only open for five days at the beginning of March, there's always news from Serra - so here it is:

Weather and Landscape
The weather has been quite normal for this time of the year - very hot during the day and only a little cooler at night! Rain has surprised us on some occasions during the earlier hours of the night or during the night.

The level of the Kunene has given us a lot of excitement for the last month. The river has risen considerably since the second half of the month. The Ruacana Dam has been filled up by rain from Angola and is at full capacity.

Wildlife
Game sightings in the valley and near camp have been very good. Springbok and oryx have given birth to many young - a phenomenon that has given so much life to the area. Their access to nutritious grasses and water is in such abundance that they don't have to travel anywhere.

The Ruacana Dam is full    Kunene river at Serra Cafema    Relax at Serra Cafema

A small Anchieta's dwarf python was found on near camp. These snakes are very rare and only found in the north-west of Namibia and southern Angola.

Activities
Due to the strong river currents we were unfortunately unable to operate our boat cruises; however guests were entertained by other means. The Himba Village tours are always fascinating to any discerning visitor, the quad bike activities and the walks along the beautiful camp are also very much enjoyed. With the weather being so ideal, sundowners were appreciated every evening at our wonderful viewpoint high in the hills giving all a vantage point of the beautiful area.

Staff in Camp
Managers: Natasha and Ockert van der Walt and Elizabeth Parkhouse. A special thanks goes out to Chris Bakkes for his help and support during this month.
Guides: Steve Kasona, Harry Ganuseb, Arthur Bezuidenhout, Dawid Tjongarero, Gerhardus Jansen

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Ongava Tented Camp update - March 2011               Jump to Ongava Tented Camp

Weather
The whole month of March was hot and humid. While we saw a lot of cloud build-up we unfortunately witnessed very little rain.

Wildlife
March was a quiet month for Ongava Tented Camp, but we still had a few spectacular sightings. Several lion kills were reported in the game reserve, the most spectacular being a waterbuck kill in our parking area. This event took place just as our guests had left for their afternoon activity. They were quickly called back to watch as the pride, with their seven young cubs, devoured the waterbuck. Within an hour it was as though it never had happened. There was nothing left of the kill and there were no traces of the lion.

The next morning however, the guests had a weird sighting - a black-backed jackal with two tails. It had the normal one at the back and one in front coming out of his mouth. On closer inspection we realised that this was the previous evening's kill - the waterbuck's tail was hanging out of the jackal's mouth.

On another occasion guests witnessed lion hunting and then feasting on a impala carcass on the Ongava Reserve.

Caterpillars at Ongava Tented Camp    Spider seen at Ongava Tented Camp    Tortoise at Ongava Tented Camp

A rare cheetah kill was also reported by Ian du Rand, GM of Wilderness Air, near Allendam on the game reserve. Being his 50th, we hope he enjoyed his birthday present from us and from Mother Nature.

One afternoon some guests and Festus, our guide, were in the hide at the Ongava Lodge waterhole and they witnessed six black rhino drinking - an up close and personal sighting. We have also witnessed a number of rhino at our own camp waterhole during the month.

Guest Comments
"It is so wonderful to observe lion and cheetah in their natural habitat"

"We saw many lion encounters, one was a killing by lion of an impala, we also so many rhino at the camp waterhole at night. Eating mopane worms as starters for dinner was a first"

"We got to see four rhino sightings and lion at the camp waterhole. The waterhole is fantastic. I have never been so close to so many animals and what an amazing camp layout - a true wilderness experience"

"Seeing 11 rhino on one day was quite something and the lion roar at night. Extraordinary service and a very good guide - Festus"

Managers and guides in Camp
Gerda, Alsonso, Inge, Paul

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Little Ongava update - March 2011               Jump to Little Ongava Camp

No report this month.

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Ongava Lodge update - March 2011               Jump to Ongava Lodge

No report this month.

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Andersson's Camp update - March 2011               Jump to Andersson's Camp

Weather
We encountered our first bright blue skies without clouds on 30 March. This is the first time we have seen the skies so clear for three months. With the constant cloud cover we enjoyed a rather cool summer this year with day temperatures not rising above 32°C. As autumn is creeping up on us, we already feel the cooler temperatures during the night.

Wildlife and Landscape
As the rainfall has been far above average this year it is very green and lush at Andersson's Camp. We are just amazed by the abundance of wildflowers this year.

Landscape at Anderssons's Camp    Wildflowers at Andersson's Camp

At our waterhole, which we can barely see from our main area as it is hidden between the tall grass, the absence of large animals is obvious as water can be found anywhere and everywhere. However, the bird life in and around camp is chirpily alive.

The renowned mopane worms (larvae of the emperor moth) are large and fat now from feasting on the leaves of the mopane trees. They have to eat as much as they can before they disappear and burrow into the soft, wet sand. They will weave cocoons and stay there until the first rains of next season. When nature has done its work these mopane worms will be transformed and break away from their cocoons as gorgeous emperor moths. An interesting fact about these moths are that they don't have any mouth parts and although they live for only a few days, they still use the energy from the mopani leaves they ate almost a year ago.

Camp News
The staff at Andersson's bid a fond farewell to Latoya who will become the relief manager at Ongava in the future. In a week or two we will welcome Corrie Adams from Little Kulala as our new Assistant Manager.

Staff in Camp
Managers: Charles, Annalie and Sakkie
Guides: Shilongo, Frans and Ramon

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

Weather
Summer is coming to an end but temperatures are still soaring. The highest temperature we recorded this month was 43 degrees Celsius! Some nights cooled down to 21 degrees. The rain is still falling and the area is covered in a carpet of green grass. The yellow flower of the devil's claw still covers the area in front of the camp - this lures butterflies which creates a wonderful spectacle.

The Aub River has come down numerous times causing no problems. The Tsauchab River did cause some slight delays as some were unable to cross due to the strong flow, but most rivers dry up quite quickly and so no-one has had to wait too long.

Pans of water at Little Kulala Camp

Landscape
There are still large pans of water at the foot of the dunes, which is a sight to behold - a once-in-a-lifetime perhaps! One doesn't often associate desert dunes with water. On numerous occasions water has been seen pouring down into Sesriem Canyon. The canyon is fed by the Tsauchab River that originates in the Naukluft and Tsaris mountains and this is the water that is flowing into the Sossusvlei area. The canyon runs for a length of about 300m and is 30m deep; this is another sight which is proving to be quite dramatic when mixed with water.

Wildlife
With all the rain received the game is very spread out. There are a herd of 30 springbok that hang out in front of camp. It has been a good breeding season and there are hundreds of young springbok in the area. This has undoubtedly attracted some predators. One of the families staying with us were lucky enough to see two cheetah only 30 metres away. They were also the lucky ones to see the Tsauchab River as it arrived at the Sesriem Canyon.

Reptiles at Little Kulala    Herd of springboks at Little Kulala

The bird life has been breathtaking with many birds being attracted to the grass seeds. The seed-eaters drink a lot of water so they frequent the waterhole in front of camp. We were lucky enough to see on two occasions a Lanner Falcon catching Namaqua Sandgrouse in front of camp.

Camp News
There are some new additions to the camp, Iván and Ilze Phillipson are the new Camp managers and Emsie Skrywer is the new administration assistant. We also welcome Abner to our guiding team.

Guest Comments
"Spectacular scenery, lovely staff"

"Stupendous! The stars in the sky were extraordinary! Great safari"

"Truly an awesomely beautiful place - God's country. Excellent staff! A very memorable 'story book' time" - Gail & Bob

Staff in Camp
Management: Ivan and Ilze Phillipson, Corrie Adams, Bona Florie and Emsie Skrywer
Guides: Clement Laurens, Me-Gusto Busch, Willem Rooi, Elaine Hutton and Abner Shigwedha.

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Kulala Desert Lodge update - March 2011               Jump to Kulala Desert Lodge

Weather
Some of the guests commented that we make the best Gin and Tonics, but we believe the sunset scenes that we've had this month must make the sundowners taste that much more special. It is clearly all the cloud movement in the area which is allowing for these dramatic skylines in the early evening.

Birds
The rains have blessed us with interesting sightings this month such as the Lanner Falcon, Crowned Lapwing, Burchell's Courser, African Harrier Hawk and Black Kites. Kobus, our guide, has almost doubled his species checklist due to the rain.

Dramatic skylines at Kulala Desert Lodge   Landscape at Kulala Desert Lodge    Spotted Thick-knee at Kulala Desert Lodge

Bird Ringing
Kobus has also been ringing birds on Kulala Reserve. 23 species and around 150 birds were ringed. The most recent on the species list are Spotted Thick-knee, Pied Crow, Grey-backed Sparrowlark, Stark's Lark and Namaqua Dove.

Camp News
On 19 March, we had our first full house for the year with forty guests in the lodge. It is during these times that we realize how well we work under pressure... in fact we seem to work better when we are super busy. Clearly this is a sign that we are now ready to deal with the busy season, so bring it on!

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Kulala Wilderness Camp update - March 2011               Jump to Kulala Wilderness Camp

No report this month.

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Kenya camps
Governors' Camp update - March 2011               Jump to Governors' Camp

March started in much the same way as February ended, with dry conditions, hot days and a great deal of animal movement. Vultures and other birds that use thermals seemed to be up and away much earlier, while there was a longer rest period in the middle of the day for the general game. None the less, there was still much to see in our corner of the Mara.

Landscape around Governors' Camp    Sunset over Governors' Camp
Photos courtesy of Katie McLellan

The Paradise Pride of lions split up (although it is unlikely to be permanent) with members moving to either side of the Mara River. This split is probably because of the same animal movement as was seen the previous month and is typical of a pride needing to "broaden their horizons" in order to feed. With six big males to make their collective presence known, it is also no surprise that younger males and some females feel the pressure! This pride is still hunting hippo.

The Marsh Pride seemed settled in the Bila Shaka area and made good use of the Loita zebra and the resident warthogs as their prey. An interesting occurrence in March was the first sighting of four very young cubs. They belong to a female who is associated with the Marsh pride, but who hasn't yet been accepted by the other females. The cubs are believed to be her third litter.

Lion at Governors' Camp    Lion pride at Governors' Camp
Photos courtesy of Katie McLellan and Samuel Kiplangat

In the walking area the Acacia Pride male lions were still to be seen earlier in the month enforcing their dominance. Towards the end of the month four lucky walkers were treated to a spectacle of no less than fourteen lions moving past them, the young ones gambling and tugging at each other tails while the adults stoically endured the rabble!

Leopard sightings were almost on a par with last month. Seen regularly was a young male near Private Camp. Of great interest was the sighting of a female with a three month old cub near Chemorta. What a privilege to be allowed a glimpse of a very secret and fiercely protected world!

Leopard at Governors' Camp
Photo courtesy of Samuel Kiplangat

Rhino lived up to their reputation and were ever elusive. Our drivers were patient and persistent however, and amazed many guests with their uncanny ability to almost sense where these prehistoric beasts were. Various individuals were seen but memorably, towards the middle of the month, three were found together - mother, calf and adult male. The adults were mating! Watch this space in fifteen month's time!

Towards the middle of the month we were treated with a dowse of extremely welcome rain! The whole Mara seemed to take a deep breath and change into a new gear. The Mara River rose almost immediately and very soon a different pattern of animal movement became visible. Cheetahs, for which fairly large distance had to be travelled previously, were seen much closer to our camps. This is most likely because of there suddenly being a greater availability of food for herbivores and their subsequent decrease of movement. Less prey movement meant less large predator movement and thus a relatively safer environment for less robust predators such as cheetahs.

Cheetahs at Governors' Camp    Cheetah at Governors' Camp
Photos courtesy of Samuel Kiplangat

More water meant a better deal for elephants and indeed, a large number (in big groups as opposed to the smaller family groups of February) is still to be seen around the marshes. The African Green Heart tree is still bearing fruit and there is still a group of elephants that visit the camps regularly to take advantage of the shorter grass and Green Heart fruit. A little more work for our watchmen to keep us fore-warned and a marvelous sight for all!

Elephant herd at Governors' Camp    Elephant herd at Governors' Camp
Photos courtesy of Katie McLellan

An interesting phenomenon brought about by the rain is the slow return of the Loita zebra to their residential area. As conditions improve the attraction of home draws them south and east of us. Many of them had been caught on the "wrong" side of the Mara River and, amazingly, a crossing of some seven hundred zebra and - fourteen giraffe - was seen on the 29th of March! Only one poor little zebra was caught by crocs.

Loita zebra at Governors' Camp    Loita zebra at Governors' Camp
Photos courtesy of Samuel Kiplangat and Katie McLellan

The migrants (birds) were largely still visible this March. Of note were vast numbers of Wooly- necked Storks and Abdim's Storks. The latter, slightly smaller storks were in big congregations in our walking area for quite some time.

Africa's and indeed any continent's ecosystems are living jigsaw puzzles that are literally dangerously incomplete without seemingly arbitrary pieces. As the "macro" is a reflection of the "micro", it is often to the smaller members of an ecosystem that one's attention is drawn after extended observation. After the rains many mud-fish moved to the surface of a marsh now vibrant and full of life. One of the highlights of March's viewing was watching two juvenile African Fish Eagles fighting over one such fish. Closer observation showed an adult not twenty meters from the tussling two. Were the juveniles siblings? Surely the adult would have chased one of the juveniles off if they weren't! African Fish Eagles seldom practice cainism and usually have two to three eggs. It is while pondering seemingly minor yet so holistically integral natural phenomena such as these that one can discover, enjoy and marvel!

Back in the camps we enjoyed a romantic evening on the 26th of March as we switched off all lights in the bar, restaurant and reception areas and lit a mass of candles for earth hour.

Candles for earth hour    Celibrating earth hour by candle
Photos courtesy of Katie McLellan

We hope to share the magic of our corner of the Mara with you sometime soon.


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Rwanda camps
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge update - March 2011

No report this month.


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