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South Africa camps
Pafuri Camp update - May 2011 Jump
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The weather was lovely with warm days and cool evenings and mornings throughout the month. We received some rain at the beginning of the month: a total of 9mm in 24 hours. Just as we thought that the rains had left us, the concession experienced a brief but violent thunderstorm that hurled some spectacular bolts of lightning across the sky and dumped a total of 24mm over three hours. This was a very unusual weather for this time of the year as we are now in the beginning of the dry season.
The month had a good kick-start with some interesting game viewing, with lion, leopard, elephant and buffalo all seen on one drive - although of course our focus is on the ecosystem as a whole and all the creatures therein.
The drives into Kruger National Park south of the Luvuvhu River were very productive, where animals such as giraffe, Lichtenstein hartebeest, ostrich, Secretarybirds, Ground Hornbills, and Kori Bustards were encountered.
On the 19th May at about 11:30am, just after brunch, two male impala came to drink water in front of camp. As it was starting to warm up, the river had attracted a number of animals such as baboon, nyala, and warthog, all arriving for a cool drink. There were four old buffalo bulls lazing in the river and all seemed calm and peaceful. The two impala rams approached the river cautiously and began drinking with a watchful eye on the water. All of a sudden the atmosphere was pierced by an orchestra of alarm calls from the baboons coupled with violent thrashing in the water. A large crocodile had managed to sneak into snatching distance undetected, and took full advantage of the opportunity, seizing one of the impala rams in its powerful jaws.
The river exploded as the four buffalo bulls made a speedy escape out of the river to the safety of higher ground. All of the commotion had attracted another two large crocodiles who took the opportunity to join in on the feeding. The ram provided a good meal for the three crocodiles who left nothing to waste.
The story unfolded so quickly and left one deep in thought trying to contemplate what had just happened moments ago, evoking a primal connection to nature. We have been lucky to have experienced similar incidents right in front of camp before - and this one was a wonderful sighting.
On the subject of predator/prey interactions, we spotted two male lion on the airstrip early on a morning drive. They were heading east and came across a small herd of impala by chance. Luckily for the lions and the game drive vehicles, the conditions turned out perfect for the cats to make a kill and for the guests to watch the full assault unfold.
On another occasion, our guests were enjoying a boma dinner when the ambiance was broken by our resident dominant male lion (Nkana). The large animal skirted the boma and was walking with purpose, most likely carrying out his territorial duties. What an experience, eating dinner under the African sky while being serenaded by the king of beasts!
We have also been treated to some unusual sightings of the smaller wonders, such as aardvark and honey badger.
Birds and Birding
The winter birding has also been very good; our resident specials are seen when you are really looking for them. We have suspended our visits to the Pel's Fishing Owl roost close to camp because they are nesting now. The pans are still full of water and the amount of waders seen has been exceptional.
This month we spotted an African Sacred Ibis as well as an Ayre's Eagle soaring about - both of these not often recorded in the area. Other interesting birds seen around the pans include birds such as Greater Painted Sniped, White-faced Ducks, Spur-winged Geese, African Openbill, Squacco Heron, Grey Heron, Yellow-billed Stork, Saddle-billed Stork and African Jacana to name but a few. We recorded a total of 231 birds this month.
Culture and Heritage
Thulamela Heritage Site trips are still on offer to all our guests and those who book these trips enjoy the history of this historical site. We also offer community trips to our guests for those who want to experience the culture of the Makuleke community. Anyone who has booked these trips never regretted any moment of it.
Pafuri Walking Trail update - May 2011 Jump
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The trail season has started with a bang here at Pafuri and the experiences are coming thick and fast. This year has been a time of change as two new trails guides pick up were the old team ended off. Brian and Jeffrey have been trailing for the last 6 weeks and have quickly got into the swing of things. General game sightings have been very consistent and most walks are hitting double digits from a mammal count point of view. Birding has been excellent with our late rains keeping some of our visitors here a little longer than usual, with species such as Woodland Kingfishers only leaving towards the end of May.
Here are some highlights from the last month:
Elephant: As is usually the case in late summer and autumn the elephant numbers are far less than in the dry months. However, we have had some great views with most walks offering up at least one or two encounters. One particularly memorable sighting took place at Nwambi Pan whilst on a full day trail. We had the pleasure of watching a rather large bachelor group (16 bulls) having a ball in the pan before heading into the riparian vegetation to start their afternoon feeding bout. It was amazing to watch these majestic animals carry on with their natural behaviour all the while being totally unaware of our presence; this being the ultimate goal for any naturalist!
Lion: After spending the morning trail hot on the tracks of the dominant male and constantly hearing his voice in close proximity, we were determined to find him on the afternoon shift. We headed out, finding fresh signs of his presence in the area. After an hour of intense trailing, everyone's senses totally in tune with their surroundings, the unmistaken growl of a feline grew all around us! Quickly scanning the bush in front I couldn't see anything and started to widen my gaze, then I saw him and as soon as we made eye contact he came barrelling down the hill. He had been resting on the slopes of the Hutwini Mountain and he gave a full charge down the hill. I was somewhat surprised as there was plenty of space between us and he had loads of escape routes. He came to a stop about 40m in front of us still growling and whipping his tail back and forth furiously and then I spotted the problem. Between his front legs I could make out the shape of a nyala carcass and this was why he was so aggressive. Once we moved back a 100 metres or so he quickly resumed feeding with a watchful eye. It was from that point that we noticed the other male sitting quietly above him on the slopes, quite content to let his mate do all the muscle work on this occasion.
We have also encountered a good number of the eland whilst on trail, a great feat considering that there are estimated to be only 450 in the whole of the Greater Kruger Transfrontier Park.
Rhino continue to provide opportunities to hone one's tracking skills, often with the reward of a great sighting on foot.
As Pafuri is a well-known birding Mecca, we have managed to tally up an impressive count on foot, including some of the following species: Racket-tailed Roller, Mottled Spinetail, Böhm's Spinetail, Pel's Fishing-Owl and Three-banded Courser.
Pafuri really is an amazing area in all respects and is fast carving its name as one of the best trail areas in South Africa!
Camp Jabulani update - May 2011
Kings Camp update - May 2011 Jump
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May served us with amazing sightings...
WOW! I've never seen the Timbavati this green at this time of the year in over 10 years.
Our last rain came very late this year and we still had warmer temperatures throughout the month until it suddenly cooled down towards the end.
Sightings in general were great and because of the good 'veldt' (grazing) condition we still have numerous 'plains' game around. Masses of Giraffe, Zebra, Kudu, Waterbuck, Wildebeest, stunning birds and even Ostriches were common sightings in May. We also had various excellent Hyena sightings from different clans in the area.
Ntombi and her boy (now 14 months old) were seen quite often throughout the month on a number of large Impala kills. The young fellow is now quite used to the vehicles and sightings of him are a pleasant treat.
It looks like the paths between Rockfig jr. and Tumbela have now parted for good! Tumbela was seen exploring unfamiliar terrain a few times and this is a good indication that Rockfig jr. is putting pressure on her daughter to find new ground to settle in.
Rockfig jr. mated with an unknown male in February and there is a good chance that she is ready to have her new cubs pretty soon, if she hasn't already! We haven't seen much of her in the month, but we will give you proper updates as soon as we know more.
The young Xinope-nope made a few welcome appearances during May! There were some good interactions between him and a Hyena and he recently killed a big male Impala. He hoisted the carcass into a big Marula tree and this of course made for amazing sightings for nearly 2 days. He is bulking up very quickly now, and we really hope that he could become dominant in the Southern section in the next year to come.
The Machaton pride and the 2 Timbavati Boys made up the bulk of our sightings during May.
The smaller cubs (now just over 3 months old) have recently started walking further with the pride. Distance is still limited and we were blessed with great activity on our property and our neighbours'.
Various kills were made and we witnessed some awesome interactions between pride members. Recently the pride and the 2 males were very focussed on a large herd of Cape Buffalo and have been following them with intent, but thus far without success.
We also saw a new pride twice during the month. They are very skittish however and move away from vehicles as soon as sighted.
ELEPHANT AND CAPE BUFFALO:
Masses of Elephants and Buffalo were scattered through out our whole traversing during the month.
Elephants appeared in numbers from mid May and it was common to see 3-4 herds on a single drive. They congregated around the larger dams and one could easily count between 60-120 animals around the water.
Cape Buffalo seemed to be more numerous than Impalas (LOL) and 3-5 herds were called in on loads of drives out.
Sightings were frequent and we managed on a few occasions to see two main groups.
One group is from the South and we saw them with Mtenge-tenge a few times. Up North we had some good sightings of the Nhlangula male and another group of 4.
A pack of 7 dogs showed up and now spends a fair amount of time on our traversing. The alpha female seems heavily pregnant and we are praying that they make up a den in our area for some good future viewing. We'll keep you updated on any progress.
That's all for now!
Stay in touch and be sure to follow Kings Camp on Facebook (Kings Camp Lodge) and Twitter (@kingscamplodge).
Morne' and the Kings Camp guiding team.
Photography by, Morne' Hamlyn.
Report written by, Morne' Hamlyn.
Leopard Hills update - May 2011 Jump
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Crisp mornings and perpetual Amarula coffee stops have heralded the beginning of winter and glorious golden light...
Hlaba Nkunzi and Xinzele
These leopards have been spending lengthy periods of time together since he killed her second cub 2 months ago. Hlaba Nkunzi has followed Xinzele deep into his territory, all the way up the western side of the reserve and up to the Sand River then back east towards Leopard Hills.
Last week they visited the lodge together and strolled straight through the boma, around the library and onto the path of suite 2 across suite 1's deck and then through the rest of the lodge.
After visiting the lodge they spent a few days together before going their separate ways again. Xinzele is resisting Hlaba Nkunzi every time she approaches him, there was no mating observed during this time.
See further info on mating behaviour at the end of the report.
She has been seen more frequently in the middle of the western sector where there is a vacant territory left by the death of Makubela last year. Metsi also seems to be pushing further south and east into Mambirri's old territory with her 2 ravenous young male cubs to provide for. We have seen Tlangisa being chased by the more mature and experienced females, Hlaba Nkunzi in the north and Metsi in the south. Tlangisa is always so playful and uses trees as vantage points more than the other females, such a beautiful relaxed female even in this taxing time as she tries to establish herself and claim a territory.
Metsi and cubs
Metsi killed an impala close to the new airstrip during the month where they all spent a few days, both cubs very relaxed and moving around – but not out of mother's view. This provided fantastic viewing as they were up and down a Marula tree, they have not been seen much since then. As mentioned Metsi has been spending more time quite far south in Mambirri's old territory, most likely she needs more space to provide for the 2 demanding young males who are now a year old. Both cubs are looking healthy and doing very well.
Wonderful news is that another of the 5 lionesses now has 2 confirmed cubs estimated at 2 weeks old. We had a brief glimpse of her carrying the cubs in her mouth before the area had to be closed off until such time as the cubs are older. This leaves 3 females with 2 cubs each (6 in total) and the other 2 lionesses possibly pregnant and still mating with the Mapogo Coalition. The older lioness with the 9 month old male cubs has been mostly in the south while the short tail lioness with the 5 month old cubs is doing well and we have been seeing her regularly around the lodge. They have been vocalising repeatedly with the Coalition and asserting their dominance in the west!
The 3 ageing males have been spending much of May contesting for mating opportunities with the 2 Ximungwe lionesses that don't have cubs as yet. Lion mating behaviour is always fascinating to watch and our guests have been spoilt this last month. Even though they are getting on in years their vocalising is louder and more ear-splitting than ever, the Majingilane coalition in the east will be listening intently and under no illusion who still rules the west.
Makamisa, the veteran hanging lip male has not been seen since the beginning of May when he was down in the south proudly surveying his territory from atop the large termite mounds. He has this habit of disappearing from time to time and then when we least expect it…he indulges us with his presence!
As winter sets in and the seasonal mud pans begin to dry up we are enjoying a higher concentration of Elephants along the perennial rivers and permanent waterholes. This provides us with ample opportunity to time our drives with the animated arrival of a Parade at the water's edge and enjoy all the ensuing interaction and excitement.
As usual the sightings have been regular and of high quality, lots of wallowing and interaction in the mud pans. We have seen the female with the young calf a few times and she has become rather relaxed, enjoy the images below.
The large herd of 500 has been here a lot during May and we have spent some quality time in the heart of the herd. One morning we managed to see some males jostling over an oestrus female for ages near a waterhole and then suddenly to all of our surprise an old grey male appeared and showed all who was boss. Go grandpa!
Painted Dogs Denning
The 8 pups are now 7 weeks old and faring extremely well, it is astounding how fast they are growing and developing from the tiny black and white floppy eared critters that emerged 3 weeks ago.
Marvel below at how rapidly they have developed since we first saw them 3 weeks ago!
Remember that they are born helpless with their ears and eyes closed, they are born black and white, the tan and beige colour comes later. The Alpha female feeds them nothing but milk for the first month of their life. They then begin to eat solid food regurgitated by other pack members at about 4 weeks old when the pups also begin to wander around outside the den.
Wild dog pups are usually weaned by five weeks. By seven weeks they begin to develop their adult coloration and body shape. When they are 10-12 weeks old, the pack leaves the den area to go into another area of their territory so they will probably remain at this den site for another 3-5 weeks. We have had a few close calls with lions moving close by but the Alpha female is an accomplished mother and the pups are in good hands.
With all the hungry young mouths to feed we have also been frequently following the pack hunting together.
I've added a video below to share some of the special sightings we have been having with these highly endangered beautiful painted dogs.
Interesting information: Leopard Mating Behaviour
We have been observing a lot of mating behaviour in the last month due to the loss of both of Hlaba Nkunzi's cubs so let's dig a little deeper into this fascinating behaviour.
The mating system for leopards is called overlap promiscuity. Females will mate with dominant males who have an overlapping territory with hers. Hlaba Nkunzi has a central territory in the west so she overlaps with 2 and possibly 3 territorial males (Xinzele, Xindlevana and possibly Kashane)
The average length of time the copulating adult male and female are together is between 2 and 3 days. In this time the female will initiate mating over 95% of the time. She will follow the dominant male around his territory as opposed to hers. We have seen this with Hlaba Nkunzi following Xinzele way out of her own territory and presenting herself to him.
Xinzele seems to be resisting her approaches, quite aggressively at times and hasn't been observed actually mating with her. This could be due to her being in a false oestrus due to the loss of her cubs and he may be aware of this! She may be waiting for some stability amongst the males in the area before actually coming into full oestrus and ovulating. She has already been observed mating with the dominant male from the east, Xindlevana.
The mating process is a series of steps:
Start Purr: She begins to purr while approaching the male and wasping, he then joins in purring as he mounts her and this continues until the post copulatory roar of the male.
Wasping: Female moves back and forth in front of the male enticing him to mate.
Lordosis: Female is crouched down, her tail up and forward towards her face, hips elevated
Mounting: Point where male mounts female in lordosis.
Copulation: Series of thrusts by male, his teeth bared and gently grabs the female behind the neck.
Post copulatory roar: Male roars just prior to dismounting.
Dismount: Males have a barbed penis which causes the female pain when he dismounts, she usually swipes at him with her front paw and he jumps clear.
Post copulation roll: Female rolls on her back afterwards.
Mating varies from around 4-10 (up to 20 recorded) times an hour, dependant on time of day and point in the copulatory period, mating is more frequent at the end of the copulatory period. Copulation is very short, approximately 10 seconds.
Look out for the below postures when viewing mating leopards or any other interesting behavioural scene.
Rocktail Beach Camp update - May 2011 Jump
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Weather and Camp news
The month at Rocktail started off with a vibe of excitement with many post Tourism Indaba agents making their way through to camp to experience for themselves exactly what the Maputaland Coast has to offer at Rocktail Beach Camp. There were many activities enjoyed with some FANTASTIC weather as we draw into our winter season.
The glorious thing about the geographic position of Rocktail being in northern KwaZulu-Natal, is that the daily temperatures are not as cold as what most would assume or relate with winter, days are usually around 26 degrees Celsius allowing guests to still enjoy some brilliant snorkelling or forest walks, not to forget our community-based tours through our own community to meet and interact with the local people and learn about their culture.
The entire Beach Camp and Wilderness Adventures team was also proud to welcome Russel and Lauren, who have joined the Rocktail in assisting Dallas and Michelle in managing the camp.
May also saw a few diverse changes in our marine environment with a few small shad being caught in the surf (quite early this year), which surely will increase as we proceed further into our winter season. There were also some good catches of stumpnose, coming out at the moment with the odd 4kg fish being landed which makes for great fun on light\medium tackle.
It is also important to add that at Rocktail Beach Camp we practise sound tag and release fishing principles and like to educate fellow anglers in doing the same for the future generations, as they grow to enjoy our natural marine splendours.
All of us are also eagerly awaiting the first signs of our whale season as they migrate along our stretch of coastline. We will keep you updated on these magnificent creatures.
From all of us at Rocktail Beach Camp, keep well and be safe.
Rocktail Bay Dive Report - May 2011 Jump
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May is a wonderful time of year when winter starts to sneak in at night and in the early mornings, but is chased away again by the warm, sunny days. This year has been no different, with May producing great sea conditions and a slow slide to cooler waters. At the beginning of the month the sea temperature was still hovering at 25°C but by month end it had dropped to 23°C.
Ocean experience trips have been great, with regular sightings of groups of bottlenose dolphins. One excursion was really memorable when we got to spend around 20 minutes snorkelling with a manta ray that must have had a wingspan of about four metres - it was huge! We have also seen eagle rays, honeycomb rays, hawksbill turtles, potato bass and grey reef sharks during snorkelling excursions this month.
On the seventh, Jayne and Bill Murill were the only divers on the boat and we were on our way to dive at Yellowfin Drop, when Darryl spotted a whale shark. We got in and had a wonderful time snorkelling alongside it. Great to see a whale shark again as we did not have any sightings last month.
Not much is known about these gentle giants. There was a meeting held recently, in Kenya, by scientists from various countries, to discuss their findings on whale sharks. There were presentations by scientists from India, South Africa, Philippines, Mozambique, Maldives and Western Australia. Not much is know about where whale sharks go, if they are truly migratory or if they just travel in certain areas, close to shore and further out to sea. Mating and reproduction are also still mysteries. Here are a couple of interesting facts that they had in their report:
- Most whale sharks that are sighted are males.
- Whale sharks are geographically highly mobile, travelling thousands of kilometres over several weeks to months, whilst evidently feeding. Two whale sharks were tagged in Australia and they travelled the following distances:
A: 1 700km over 35 days at an average speed of 2km/hour
B: 3 330km over 97 days at an average speed of 1.4km/hour
- Tagged whale sharks have been recorded diving to depths of 1 286m or more (the maximum depth limit for the tag), but most spent a lot of time at depths between 50-100m and at water temperatures less than 10°C.
Traditionally it was thought that whale sharks lived in warm, shallow waters and migrated as they followed their main food source of plankton which is carried by the ocean currents. So it is interesting to note that they are found diving really deep and spending time at these depths and in quite cold water! As the cliché goes: we know more about the moon than we do about our own oceans!
Next month should see the start of the humpback whale season; we have already seen some juvenile and adult cape gannets, so the whales should be here soon - we can't wait!
Congratulations to the following divers
For completing the PADI Open Water Course:
For completing the PADI Discover Scuba Diving Course:
Christian & Daniela Vordermayer
Yours in diving
Darryl, Clive, Michelle, Catherine
The Rocktail Dive Team
Makalolo Plains update - May 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
The month of May surprised most wildlife and people that inhabit this wild paradise. Everyone knew that winter was just around the corner as we started the month and that the rain had left us to wait for more precious drops till November/December. On the 15th of the month that all changed! Rain clouds started to build in the sky and lightning could be seen from the campfire at night. It all looked like it was too good to be true as on most days the clouds looked promising and would then fade away. On the 19th this all changed - the heavens opened and the rain came down. The next day was exactly the same and even more rain was recorded. A total of 14 mm was recorded and it was a huge relief to our waterholes.
With the arrival of winter we have been experiencing some icy temperatures with a minimum of 2° C. This resulting in the camp walkways being covered by frost at first light and forcing us to pack on layers of clothing. Having said this, the mercury did push up to 36° C on a few occasions.
With the winter having arrived, and the rain still hanging around, the grass still has a slight green tinge to it. Herds of impala, kudu and zebra are seen enjoying what is left of this lush green substance before it turns into dry unpalatable forage. Already the leaves on the trees are falling off and after the last few days of freezing temperatures the last few green ones have started to turn brown as they have fallen victim to the icy grips of winter. The surprise of rain left the water sources in good stead for the upcoming dry months.
"What a fantastic day" has been the most commonly used saying this month. Mammal sightings have been incredible this month. Aardwolf and wild dog are among these and that alone has been brilliant.
Lion, cheetah and leopard have all been seen this month with the highlight being the pride of 15 lions bringing down a buffalo at Little Samavundla, a waterhole that we pump in our concession. The kill was made at night and by the morning the jackals and vultures were doing their bit to clean up.
With the rain re-visiting us this month, elephant numbers decreased slightly, but that did not stop them from visiting our swimming pool. Many guests waited patiently as these huge giants slowly made their way to the pool to quench their thirst- a sight that makes any photographer's camera happy!
Kudu, eland, zebra, buffalo, wildebeest, giraffe and many more were seen in May, and we expect our numbers to increase in June as more and more come in the search for water.
Hwange is fast getting a reputation as a great place to see sable, and this month did not disappoint with some excellent sightings of the majestic creatures.
Birds and Birding
Bird sightings this month have been good, but not as good as we had hoped. Perhaps the cold weather that hit us in the middle of the month and the unexpected rain that fell had something to do with this. Although the trees and airways were quiet, there were still certain species that were caught on camera and quickly jotted down in the bird checklist.
On one particular day a flock of Ground Hornbills surrounded a game drive vehicle - almost as if they were holding our guests hostage! Singing about them around the campfire that night was a comical affair! One has to admire the Bateleur, as it wobbles through the airways with its head slowly moving from side to side, using its acute binocular vision to find a tasty morsel. These often being the first raptors to arrive at a carcass, they are watched closely by other raptors who occupy the higher altitude thermals.
"An experience of a lifetime. Beautiful & exciting! Loved every moment. Excellent staff - you all rock! Love those guides!" Nancy (USA)
"We did not want to leave the last camp in Kafue but we are so glad we did to truly have a safari experience of a lifetime. The close up view of the cheetah was truly the highlight, but 15 lions lazing around the waterhole were beyond our wildest dreams. Thanks to Ryan, Godfrey, Lawrence & the entire staff." Dave and Susan (USA)
On a sad note we say goodbye to Jaelle Claypole, our environmentalist who has decided to further her studies. Jaelle played such an important part to the conservation side of Wilderness Safaris. She will be sadly missed and all of us wish her the best in her future.
Staff in camp
Managers: Ryan and Katt
Guides: Godfrey and Lawrence
Learner Guides: Elias, Livingstone, Douglas, Robert and Kate
Little Makalolo update - May 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
May has been a month of extremes - we all wondered what winter had up its sleeve as temperatures dropped in the mornings to between 9 and 10 degrees Celsius, but the midday temperatures averaged at a gorgeous 30 degrees Celsius. Then on one morning close to the end of the month we woke up to a freezing 2.5 degrees coupled with an icy breeze. We also recorded an uncharacteristic 5.5mm of rainfall in the form of three afternoon thunderstorms which added to the cooling climate.
Because of the late April rains and also the random showers in May, the vegetation is still relatively thick although the grasses are thinning around the waterholes as the natural pans dry up and the traffic around the pumped pans increases inversely. There are a few resilient puddles and some of the salt pans are muddy wallows slowly drying out. The trees still provide some shade but the canopy of leaves is a paler green interspersed with brown and yellow. The beautiful pink-purple flowers of the teak trees have been replaced by velvety brown pods, ready to burst with new seeds.
We were spoilt for choice with highlights in May. One of the most exciting was a caracal seen nursing her small kitten in the twilight after sunse. This is a special experience as only a handful of people get to view these secretive felines - let alone nursing.
We had a fantastic sighting of aardwolf on the top of a termite mound getting ready for dinner where main course is a healthy serving of harvester termites. Another treat was a family of three porcupines snuffling their way busily along the road charming both guest and guide alike.
These were incredibly special sightings to begin with but as far as the big cats go, we have had a fantastic month too.
Cheetah sightings have kept guests and guides enthralled as these pretty cats have been seen on a number of attempted hunts and also on kills - one being a female kudu - or simply relaxing contentedly on a termite mound.
Leopard activity in and around camp has been spectacular with regular sightings and fresh tracks found around camp daily. On successive evenings the resident male could be heard calling, the rasping cough breaking the silence and making everyone around the fire sit up and listen. A few times the vehicles arrived back from an evening drive, only to make a U-turn in the car park as the game drive behind them had spotted this magnificent creature.
The lions have also been seen on a number of occasions - the most exciting being on one morning drive when guides were following their tracks down a sandy road, only to come across the Ngweshla Pride that had made a kill on the dusty track itself. This pride of 13 had brought down a buffalo the night before and two of the females were now using their incredible strength to pull what was left of the carcass off the road and out of sight of vultures and other scavengers. The proximity of this kill to the road meant that proceedings could be watched with ease. The pride with their full bellies stayed close by for the next 48 hours and then the remains were enjoyed by vultures, hyaenas and insects including butterflies (due to the dry developing dry conditions).
The Ngweshla Pride has been venturing on to the boundary of its territory which Little Makalolo happens to be on - there have been a few evenings of excitement as their roars echo in the early night air followed by the shrieks of elephants or bellows of buffalo which they are trailing.
Elephant sightings have been a daily delight, especially with the environment drying up, making the movements of these water-dependent creatures more predictable. This was the general dynamic for most animals this month, as great game viewing took place at any form of service water. Finally we did have some outstanding sightings of sable, eland and spring hare.
Birds and Birding
The Arnot's Chat and Goliath Heron were two special bird sightings this month. With winter in full swing the migratory birds have left but we still have numerous permanent residents which fill the skies. Southern Yellow-billed Hornbills were particularly social this month as there was a period where tiny insects seemed to arrive en masse and these birds certainly made hay and could be seen in threes and fours hopping on the ground after a quick meal. Fork-tailed Drongos confuse guests and some of the staff by mimicking the whistles and chirps of other birds and then coming into view instead of a Meyer's Parrot or some other bird.
"You are most certainly the A Team. I want to express my brothers and my appreciation for your outstanding service. We had a superb time. The wonderful food, friendship in the midst of such glorious surrounds was truly the experience of a lifetime. I could go on and on but I think you get the idea. With love and laughter" David and Mark (USA)
"Thank you for all your warm hospitality. Our stay was perfect. The wildlife was magnificent and the staff was second to none. Thank you!" Doretta and Jody (USA)
Staff in Camp
Manager: Rania Mutumhe
Assistant Manager: Sibahle Sibanda
Trainee Manager: Shayne Templer
Guides: Sibs, Charles Ndlovu, Lewis Mangava, Elias Chiga and Bulisani Mathe
Davison's Camp update - May 2011
Weather and Landscape
May dawned at Davison's with clear skies and warm temperatures. As the month progressed, the vestiges of summer disappeared and gave way to frosty mornings and chilly nights. Ostrich Pan was often shrouded in a ghostly cloud of mist, obscuring all the creatures braving the cold to quench their thirst. As temperatures plummeted right down to 1° C, frost gripped the vegetation with icy claws and the camp fire became highly sought after. Hot water bottles and ponchos accompanied guests on frigid morning game drives, and knee blankets became an essential dinnertime accessory.
The long tawny grass is slowly starting to disperse as the bush is thinning out, the harvester termites can be heard in the evenings, scuttling across the ground snapping up the desiccated grass stalks. Bare patches of Kalahari sand are slowly emerging in the grasslands, and the small pockets of green are diminishing rapidly. The ordeal trees bid farewell to the rains in brilliant shades of orange, russet and gold, while the large false mopane trees continue to stand proudly in their cloaks of deep green.
This month Hwange National Park proved to be one of the best places for safari adventures, offering a host of exciting game with special antelope appearing on every drive.
Our open 'vlei' attracted the super predators, which made our drives entertaining. We saw three different prides of lion, all boasting a number of members. We were very lucky to see a couple of hunts, sometimes their relentless enemies - the buffalo - fighting back, even threatening the lives of the king of beasts.
Leopards were even more cooperative, allowing us to have stunning photographs, some on kills, some hunting and sometimes even engaging in territorial battles. On one occasion, one of the vehicles witnessed a leopard stalk and catch a Helmeted Guineafowl; as if this was not enough, the feline then moved on to main course and killed a steenbok. The rosette-clad cats wandered around camp on numerous occasions, breaking the silence of the night with their rasping sawing coughs, and leaving only their footprints right around the main area's fire pit. Hyaena are being their usual mischievous selves and have been stealing and robbing kills from the above cats.
A female cheetah and her young fluffy cubs were seen at Back Pans. These sleekly spotted felines are a rarity in Hwange, seen only occasionally, and it was particularly exciting to see the cubs, and indication that the cheetah in the concessions are doing well. Watching these felines hunting just before the sun was about to set was a magical experience. One cheetah successfully took down a wildebeest on the Ngamo Vlei.
A fascinating sighting was that of bat-eared foxes, which were seen teaching their pups how to hunt.
The sable antelope are still frequent visitors to Ostrich Pan; their young calves are growing rapidly, with tiny spiked horns protruding from their darkening chocolate coloured faces. The stately jet-black males proudly stand watch, surveying the scenery as their herds frolic in the midday sun.
Enormous herds of buffalo have been enjoying open grasslands around Davison's Camp. The old warriors known as dagga boys are fearless, marching along very close to lions without a hint of unease for their own hide.
Spending half an hour will never be enough as you watch elephants by the waterhole. It is a whole dance played out: the opening act is the dash to the water's edge, then much swinging and curtsying is done, right down into the water. The second act, after a short interlude as they move from the water to the closest dust patch, is one full of great trunks picking up the top layer of sand and throwing this over their backs, resulting in a dense haze in the air and beautiful sunsets of silhouetted elephants.
Drama and spice was added to one of the game drives when a lion had a buffalo by the neck on the ground and an elephant came to the suffering bovine's rescue.
Ngweshla Pan offered a good sighting of our ever shy rhino on various occasions, much to everyone's great joy. Even people who did not see them firsthand were excited to see the pictures.
Beanie, gloves, scarf, heater on max, all the sure signs of winter which isn't complete without the appearance of a particular individual: the Capped Wheatear who was first spotted towards the end of this month.
The taste of winter this month has however not made the bird sightings any less exciting.
Resident birders at Davison's had an awesome close encounter with a Stierling's Wren-Warbler. The delicate barred bird was observed within 50cm going about its business jumping from branch to branch looking for its prey. The sighting was absolutely magical! The Wren-Warbler was completely unperturbed by the presence of the open-mouthed observer.
Guests and guide (well, a guide who entwined guests in the excitement) had an entertaining afternoon. Upon approaching the remains of a buffalo carcass to get a better look at the vultures dining on the remains, the guide's heart almost stopped beating! Up in the tree above the carcass was a raptor that at a quick glance appeared to be a Palmnut Vulture! The guide could barely speak whilst pointing to the said raptor and picture in the bird book whilst holding binoculars to his eyes. Guests were immediately ordered to take photos of the Palmnut Vulture. There were two roads around the bird, so we all set off down one then the other to try and get a better look from as many different angles. After doing a full 360 degrees around the dizzy raptor with everyone filling their cameras' memory cards, we found that the best angle was in fact the original position! The crew had a good chuckle at the situation and were about to call it quits when suddenly the bird flew off and everyone went silent, binoculars and cameras somehow simultaneously glued to faces, watching. To everyone's amazement the bird landed near a similar looking bird that we hadn't noticed before and to top it off right next to another road! Obviously, this time egged on by the guests who had become as obsessed if not more than the guide with this vulture-like bird, we found our way creeping up as quietly as possible with a diesel engine towards the two raptors. We managed to take our ultimate close-up photograph and found the identity of the two birds. They were in fact two pale sub-adult Tawny Eagles and not Palmnut Vultures. No-one was disappointed and we all learnt more about the colour variations between adults and immature Tawny Eagles!
"We could not ask for a more cheerful, pleasant, and accommodating staff. We were always greeted with a smile, enjoyed great conversations at meals, and always felt safe. The food was incredible!" Bob and Margie (USA)
"Once in a lifetime experience. Davison's Camp is a magical place. Everyone at the camp was more than welcoming - charismatic! Animal knowledge and tracking was spectacular. They made you feel at home. Our Camp had the best staff and liked everyone." Fanie (RSA)
Sadly we say farewell this month to two of our staff members at Davison's - Samantha Reichenvater and Jo Sharp. They have brought laughter, knowledge and good companionship to all the staff and guests throughout the Wilderness camps of Zimbabwe, not just Davison's. After a year as a learner guide at Davison's, Sam is heading abroad to Australia. Jo is going to continue her studies in tourism management in the UK. We are confident that they will achieve all their dreams and hope to see them in the future. All the best and farewell.
Staff in Camp
Assistant Managers - Andre and Tammy
Guides: Dickson and Bryan
Learner Guides - Brian, Sam and Honest
Ruckomechi Camp update - May 2011 Jump
to Ruckomechi Camp
Weather and Landscape
The temperatures are slowly dropping, making for lovely comfortable days with a slight chill in the mornings and a pleasant warmness throughout the day. The coldest temperature recorded has been 14° C, and 30° C has been the highest. Everyone in camp has welcomed the fresh weather after the sticky heat of the summer months.
The tamarind trees are now fruiting, adding to the beauty of the river courses. Also in fruit are the Y-thorn torchwood trees which together with the tamarind trees are forming an important dietary item for the elephants at this time of year. The bush has a different feel to it now as it is starting to dry out, forming a winter landscape with hues of brown, orange and yellow.
Another gate was opened on the Kariba Dam on the 30 May, causing the water level to pick up by one metre in one hour! This has transformed the floodplain behind camp into a watery landscape that is attracting huge densities of bird life. The rapid rise in water has also erased some roads around the camp, forcing us to make bridges and new roads.
Without doubt, the highlight of the month was the pangolin sighting! It was made more special by the fact that it was two pangolins, a mother and her baby in the middle of Aardvark Alley! The mother was carrying the baby on her back as they lazily strolled, looking for food which they found in the form of Matabele ants. The baby got off the mother's back and leisurely fed on the ants. The mother soon went to a nearby log where she took a siesta as the baby continued with its meal. We watched the baby eat, walk about and generally continue with its feast totally undisturbed by our presence for over an hour. We eventually left after everyone had taken enough photographs, marvelled at how privileged we were to have witnessed such a special rare sighting in our lifetime.
During an evening game drive, we were all treated to a magnificent serval sighting on Henry's channel. The feline walked along the river bank, stopped for a drink and then disappeared into the darkness. The cherry on top was that two nights later we came across another two servals in a drainage line at the bottom end of camp. One of the felines delicately navigated its way through the soggy grass while the other watched from the comfort of a dry patch.
Lions have been in full force this month with twelve beautiful sightings in total. The two Ruckomechi females were sighted on a couple occasions, one male who has seemed to take up residence in the area and a couple of nomadic lions who poke about the concession and then move on. Almost every evening the creatures' powerful calls can be heard sending, shivers down the spine. On one evening they were calling so close it seemed as though they were right on our doorstep! Sure enough, the next morning we woke up to find their tell-tale paw prints scattered through camp.
Birds and Birding
The month of May has produced some fantastic sightings, with 171 different species seen through the month. There have been some fantastic aerial battles between the eagles and vultures, one particular sighting was a juvenile Bateleur seeing off a sub-adult Tawny Eagle. Other great conflicts have been between the African Fish-Eagles and the Marabou Storks fighting over the drying up pans for the trapped catfish.
Other highlights have been included Long-toed Lapwing, Rufous-bellied Heron, Red-necked Falcon and many others. All in all it has been a great month for birds and now with the water rising some more around camp we look forward to what we might see next month.
After a very successful CITW camp and saying goodbye to the children, the camp staff got back into the swing of things in camp. We were lucky to have Gaby Friedman, a volunteer for the CITW, who stayed on till the end of the month. We were all very grateful for all the help that she gave and we hope to see her back here again! Sadly we said goodbye to Clea Bridges who has been with Wilderness Safaris for over two years and has now moved on to a new start. We will miss her enthusiasm and team spirit and wish her all the best and hope she gets the chance to fulfil her dreams.
Mana Canoe Trail update - May 2011 Jump
to Mana Canoe Trail
May was a busy month, as Mana Canoe Trails ran both the annual Kids Camp and a Children in the Wilderness (CITW) camp, both of which were a great success where all the children went home happy after a fun week in the bush.
We also had two Canoe Trail trips this month; however, on one of the trails, the guests opted to walk the distance instead of canoeing on the river. This was a challenging trail but was well worth the effort and proved to be unforgettable.
Weather and Landscape
The month started out very cold with low temperatures of 14°C in the early hours of the mornings, making it difficult to get out of a warm bed! Once the sun had risen it quickly warmed the surrounds and temperatures topped the mid-thirties by the midday point. Towards the end of the month it became a lot milder in the early hours of the morning and temperatures were only reaching the low thirties on the warmest of days.
The wind has been calm for the majority of the month; however a 'freak' wind blowing downstream from the west made canoeing that much easier as well as keeping the canoeist cool during the heat of the day. We wait to see if June will bring cooler temperatures.
For the majority of the month the floodgates have been closed on the Kariba Dam, but towards the end of the month, two gates were opened leading to a rise of nearly 1.5 metres in the river level. This rise has opened up many channels that were previously too shallow to navigate. The ana trees have recently been in flower and are in full leaf at the moment providing abundant foliage for the elephant to feed upon. The indigofera (a small shrub/bush) is still very prominent in many areas and makes game viewing challenging. However, hippo, elephant and other plains game have trampled it down in many areas, making these areas suitable for walking and providing good game viewing. A number of water lilies are in full flower and carpet many of the small pools along the river edges. On a still evening the air is filled with the aroma of the surrounding shepherd trees as well as the unmistakable smell of potato, emanating from the potato bush.
The children of Kids Camp and CITW were treated to sightings of lion, wild dog (a first for the kids and some of the camp staff too!), numerous brilliant elephant sightings, buffalo and lots of plains game, ensuring they went home very happy indeed - hopefully the seeds of conservation well and truly planted.
For the canoeing and walking guests we have been lucky enough to encounter lions, some exciting close-up encounters with elephant bulls and buffalo - all on foot or from the canoe! Guests have also been treated to the physical battles between male impala, rutting to establish dominance over one another. With water levels high the hippo have moved towards the banks in most areas, making for spectacular viewing from land.
Birds and Birding
We have managed to record a total of 127 bird species in just two trips. The waterfowl have once again been the main spectacle this month: numerous birds including a range of herons, storks, egrets, ibis and ducks have provided both wonderful viewing and also fantastic photo opportunities along the river and in the inland pans and pools that still hold water as well as abundant fish life that is becoming more stranded. The ever-present Water Thick-Knees can be heard both day and night, constantly announcing their presence to all around. The African Fish-Eagles have been putting on a display this month crying out their characteristic call, a real joy to travellers of the Zambezi River.
Guests on a walk were lucky enough to stumble across a dead impala surrounded by numerous vulture species and on another occasion upon a Verreaux's Eagle-Owl perched on a Hamerkop nest.
This year we would like to welcome Henry Bandure to our Mana Canoe Trails team. Both a professional walking and river guide, Henry will no doubt bring a lot to Mana Canoe with his knowledge and experience. We were also lucky enough to be joined by Sibs Sibanda for a special walking safari to open the season; the veteran of the Zambezi Valley is now based in one of Wilderness' Hwange camps. We were also joined by volunteer Gabi Friedman who assisted in preparing Mana Canoe Trails for the upcoming season. We do however sadly say goodbye to Clea Birdges who is leaving Wilderness Safaris, we wish her all the best in the future.
Toka Leya Camp update - May 2011 Jump
to Toka Leya Camp
Lufupa River Camp update - May 2011 Jump
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Lufupa Tented Camp update - May 2011 Jump
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Kalamu Lagoon Camp update - May 2011 Jump
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Shumba Camp update - May 2011 Jump
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Kapinga Camp update - May 2011 Jump
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Busanga Bush Camp update - May 2011 Jump
to Busanga Bush Camp
Mvuu Camp update - May 2011 Jump
to Mvuu Camp
Weather and Landscape
As is typical for this time of year the days grow ever colder and drier and it is now definitely necessary to wear our custom-made ponchos on game drives and sit around the boma fire in the evening. Early mornings are wonderful with occasional dawn river mists. The perennial waterholes are drying up and while some remain we can already see increasing numbers of elephant on the river and increasing numbers of buffalo and sable antelope on the northern floodplains.
With the seasonal waterholes drying up rapidly, an astounding variety and number of animals can be seen congregating around the remaining water sources, taking advantage of the water as well as the associated vegetation around the surface water. The general game activity really has been superb and is definitely on the increase.
We were entertained by constant elephant activity, with many encounters of both bulls and large breeding herds. On more than one occasion we got to witness the gargantuan mammals mating, starting the 22-month gestation period that elephant cows undergo to produce a calf weighing in at around 120kg - amazing to think that the large adult males can weigh in at 6000kg.
Our guests were also treated to a number of small wonders throughout the month, some of these sightings including: nine bushpig, a group of five porcupine, eight Lichtenstein's hartebeest and three roan.
Birds and Birding
May was great for birding, as the avians came to the party. Some of the notable sightings include: an Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike feeding its young, a flock of over 50 Lilian's Lovebirds near camp - these common 'specials' usually live in flocks of 20 or less. Regular daytime sightings of White-backed Night-Heron, increasing sightings of Martial Eagle (a rare resident) and numerous sightings of Bronze-winged Courser on the Ntangai River. Brown-breasted Barbets were also sighted in and around camp throughout the month. The highlight for the month was a White-headed Vulture, Osprey and a Palmnut Vulture all sharing the same tree at Mkango Corner.
Recently Dr. Claudia Weinspach and her friends from Germany enjoyed a popular new activity at Mvuu - a full cooked breakfast on the boat! Dr Weinspach had the following comment:
Thank you for all your help during our time at Mvuu, we enjoyed ourselves very much, it was a special experience because you put so much effort into your guiding. Especially the day when we had breakfast on the boat and saw the elephants bathing."
Mvuu Camp says farewell to Amini Wailess, who has retired after 17 years of service at Mvuu Camp. We wish him a long and happy retirement.
Mvuu Wilderness Lodge update - May 2011 Jump
to Mvuu Camp
Mumbo Island update - May 2011 Jump
to Mumbo Island
Chelinda Lodge update - May 2011
Fully serviced hiking trails from Chelinda to Livingstonia Mission.
Wilderness Safaris is embarking on our first fully serviced Livingstonia Hiking trail. This is by far the most popular hiking trail on Nyika and the route runs from Chelinda in the heart of the plateau to the famous Livingstonia Mission (which is located on the Khondowe Plateau).
It is a two-night/three-day hike with approximately six hours walking per day. The first day traverses the high plateau grasslands as far as the Phata Stream where camp is made. The second day is a steep descent through the Mwenembwe Forest to the boundary of the national park at Chakaka Village.
The third day is along the steep-sided North Rumphi Valley through Malawian villages where the people eke out an existence from the steep slopes. There is a final ascent to Livingstonia and accommodation is then either at the Stone House (built in 1903 by Robert Laws, the founder of the mission) or at Lukwe Camp overlooking the Manchewe Falls, the highest in Malawi.
Our fully serviced hike includes excellent food, hot bucket showers and comfortable tents with good bedding. Guests will have the opportunity to experience and observe the more minute details found within the Nyika National Park. We will have more updates on the development and report backs of hikers on this popular trail.
Desert Rhino Camp update - May 2011 Jump
to Desert Rhino Camp
Weather and Landscape
We have had beautiful sunny afternoons with rather cold evenings. We miss the fog though as it has been gone for about two weeks, a sure sign that winter is here. Temperatures have been ranging from 10 to 15 degrees Celsius during the evenings and rising to between 20 and 25 degrees Celsius during the day.
The natural springs and streams are still highly active, especially the Uniab River that flows into the spectacular Van Zyl's Gat. The rain eventually stopped but it will be evident for a very long time, as it has left a lush cover of vegetation behind.
The game sightings have been unbelievable; with all the water around the fauna has been promising. Large herds of Hartmann's mountain zebra and springbok are roaming the plains, taking advantage of the palatable and nutritious food supply.
Beautiful rhino sightings have been on offer - as always! With the rain disappearing and the unknown springs drying up, our sighting frequency has increased as it is now easier to anticipate the water-dependent mammals' movements.
On one occasion, we had four lioness walk right through the camp at night - as the tracks the next day filled us in on the nocturnal news.
The defining feature of the month without a doubt is the explosion of armoured ground crickets all over the concession. These prehistoric-looking arthropods emerge from the ground in great numbers following considerable rains. They feed furiously on vegetation and are also known as 'Corn Crickets' as they often plague farmers' crops. As nature has a purpose for everything, these noisy critters do provide an all-important source of protein for an array of wildlife just before the hard winter months.
Desert Rhino Camp was treated to a rare sighting on two occasions this month, when our guests encountered a small spotted genet while on drive.
Birds and Birding
A pair of Martial Eagles seems to have settled in some large trees along the river next to the airstrip. Hopefully this pair will roost in the area - most birds of prey generally roost during the winter months as it is easier to collect food for their hungry young during the dry times.
There is a constant audio conflict between the ever-present call of the Monotonous Lark and the stridulations of the ground crickets. The latter tend to take victory as they continue to call once the sun goes down.
"We enjoyed and appreciate the camp's personalised efforts. Pleasant attitudes and a desire to please, staff were wonderful and hosting at all times. It was a wonderful experience for us and the wildlife was amongst the best we had in Namibia. Awesome! Every moment was a highlight."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Helen, Agnes and Peter
Guides: Ali, Makumbi and Raymond
Palmwag Lodge update - May 2011 Jump
to Palmwag Lodge
Doro Nawas Camp update - May 2011 Jump
to Doro Nawas Camp
Weather and Landscape
With the rainy season coming to an end, we still experienced some cloud build-up over the Doro !Nawas Conservancy but with little rainfall. This year we were treated to an exceptional rainy season which left the concession in good stead for the dry times to come. We experienced a couple of mornings where the surrounding areas of Doro !Nawas were covered in a crisp cloak of mist, a sure sign that winter is knocking on the door. The daytime temperatures are still warm with the mercury reaching a max of 40° C on a few occasions; however the evenings and mornings are rather chilly with an average of 10° C.
As a result of the good rains we experienced, the landscape has transformed into a desert oasis with lush vegetation and explosions of colour as the desert flowers are blossoming.
The desert-adapted elephant have returned to the Doro Nawas Camp area from their mountain retreat. Both the Rosie and Oscar groups have regrouped and were seen drinking from a water source close to the Twfelfontein Airstrip.
We are still being graced by the presence of the three cheetah from last month, as we came across them feeding on a springbok beside the Aba-Huab River, allowing the guests some exceptional photo opportunities.
Interestingly, the tall grasses have caused the smaller antelope species to move towards to the coastal line, most likely in an effort to avoid ambush attempts and ultimately predation in the tall vegetation. In addition to this, we are finding the antelope like springbok are congregating with larger species like oryx and zebra, as these animals have a better chance of spotting predators in the long vegetation and help to provide safety in numbers.
The Doro Nawas Wilderness Choir has recently released a CD of the songs they sing in the evenings for the guests; this is available at camp. During the month the choir also took part in the Regional Level Song Competion and achieved third place. Next month they will compete at a national level at the Namibia Tourism Expo in Windhoek. We will keep you posted.
"Thanks to our guide who helped us find the desert elephants as well as giraffe. The landscape was breath-taking. The African dinner prepared for us was another highlight." Kees and Janny
"Sleeping under the stars on the deck is just marvellous! Staff are very nice and they are doing a great job." Vogel - Germany
Staff in Camp
Agnes Bezuidenhout (Camp Manager)
Morien Aebes (Assistant Manager)
Theobald Kamatoto (Assistant Manager)
Jason Lundon (Assistant Manager)
Pieter Kasaona (Guide)
Michael Kauari (Guide)
Ignatius Khamuseb (Guide)
Richardt Orr (Guide)
Newsletter for this month done by:
Theobald Kamatoto and Pieter Kasaona
Damaraland Camp update - May 2011 Jump
to Damaraland Camp
Weather and Landscape
Damaraland Camp has marked the highlight of rainfall for 2011 with 245mm of rain and hail in one hour, causing the whole area to flood from all directions. This caused a lot of damage to our staff village, workshop and main area. The floods also damaged a major part of our airstrip, but thanks to the Damaraland Camp staff spirit, the Torra community, Wilderness carpentry team and Wilderness Safaris Head Office, Damaraland Camp is back and functioning at 100%.
This month we had great success in tracking the desert-adapted elephant. This is because the pachyderms have been spending a lot time roaming a small area within their pre-winter/winter home range. The two elephant groups that we have been tracking are the Rosie and Oscar families respectively. We haven't encountered the 'tuskless family' as we suspect they are still in the northern mountain areas. We have had some great sightings of lone bulls which are returning to the Huab Valley.
The mystery black rhino bull of Peter's Pools was also sighted on the 24th of May and provided our guests with some great photographic opportunities. Large aggregations of antelope that live in arid areas have been forming, providing these animals with safety in numbers, essential in trying to rear their young.
Our guides have also been keeping records of all the game that they encounter while on game drive. This is recorded in logbooks provided by the NNF (Namibia Nature Foundation) and Millennium Challenge Account (a US NGO). This will ultimately assist the two foundations with gaining a better understanding of the conservation dynamics of the area, helping them to decide which game numbers they can boost by introducing additional animals. This programme is part of many that assist Namibia's communal conservancies.
An exciting project is underway in an effort to provide the local communities with regular medical assistance. The Mobile Clinic of the Round Table was started and is a partnership project funded by local investors and Wilderness Safaris.
The Damaraland Camp choir took part in a competition at Twyfelfontein, Aba-Huab Campsite, and won. They will be taking part in another competition in the upcoming months; we wish them the best of luck.
"Albert, our guide and the entire staff were great and made sure that we were always happy. The evening fire side chats and songs made this a very personal experience. Thanks, we will definitely be referring some of our friends!" Frank and Sue (USA)
"Albert was beyond wonderful as a guide and everyone was so pleasant, kind and welcoming. The kitchen was very accommodating to our dietary requirements. Thank you!" Dirk and Monica (SA)
Staff in Camp
Managers: Maggie Vries and Erika Awaras
Guides: Anthony Dawids, Daniel Uakuramenua and Albert Gaosob
Skeleton Coast Camp update - May 2011 Jump
to Skeleton Coast Camp
Serra Cafema Camp update - May 2011 Jump
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Ongava Tented Camp update - May 2011 Jump
to Ongava Tented Camp
Weather and Landscape
It is official - winter is here! The mornings have become very cold, warming up slightly during the daylight hours, but swiftly cooling down once the sun goes down. The days are getting shorter which means the camp schedule has shifted its times to accommodate the shorter daylight hours. The rain has also halted, causing all the vegetation to dry and take on its spectrum of winter hues. Most of the surface water has dried up forcing the wildlife to congregate in large numbers around the remaining water sources.
As the thirst for water is insatiable in the African bush, a number of white rhino have taken a liking to the waterhole in front of Ongava Tented Camp, visiting daily at dawn and dusk to quench their thirst and wallow in the mud. Three rhino in particular have provided our guests with hours of pleasure allowing us a small window into the daily life of these majestic creatures.
Our feline population has been blessed with a healthy litter of lion cubs. There are four cubs which appear to be between three to four months of age as they are still suckling and still have a spotted appearance. The mother is very active in protecting her cubs as she is constantly moving her cubs to temporary dens. This is essential as only about 50 percent of lion cubs reach their first year of age due to a number of factors, inter-specific competition between predators being a large factor. We were lucky enough to get our first view and images of the cubs during the month.
As the environment is drying up, our sightings of elephant and general game has increased. Large dazzles of zebra are congregating around the waterholes which in turn are attracting the opportunistic predator forces.
We have been encouraging our guests to do bush walks with the guides around the camp allowing them to appreciate the smaller wonders of the bush. These walks are proving to be rather popular amongst guests as well as the guides.
"The passion and enthusiasm displayed by the staff to their guests. Leon's knowledge and commitment brought the game to life". Mr and Mrs Paritt
"We thought that the day was very well organized, maximizing viewing time and experience. We loved the intimate feel of the camp and the bush drives". Kumuka
Staff in Camp
Managers: Gerda, Silvia, Inge and Corne.
Guides: Rio, Festus, Leon and Shilongo.
Little Ongava update - May 2011 Jump
to Little Ongava Camp
Ongava Lodge update - May 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
This year we experienced rather high rainfall all over the reserve, and we believe it has come to an end as the temperature has dropped and this is a sure sign of the onset of winter. Though we still had some isolated showers within the reserve we predict that the rains will stop until the return of the summer months. The temperature generally ranges from 17° C to 29° C with the mornings and evenings being cool and crisp.
The beauty of nature - every season highlights a different charm in the bush, the fruits of winter already becoming evident. As things are already starting to dry up in Ongava Reserve, the waterholes in the reserve are teeming with life by midday as a plethora of game arrive to quench their thirst.
Lion have been quite active in the area often moving in between Ongava Reserve and Etosha. The well-known Stompie Pride has now fragmented into smaller groups which have spread all over the reserve adding up to some great sightings for our guests.
The nomadic elephant herds are making their way back into Ongava, which is great news as now the guides no longer have to drive long distances to find these pachyderms. Ongava still stands out as the premier destination to view rhino as we can prove, having been treated to some fantastic sightings.
On the ectothermic side of the scale, we had a really unusual sighting during an afternoon drive, when we came across a Southern African python feeding in a tree. Upon closer inspection we noticed the reptile was feeding on a Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill. This provided us with hours of amazement as we wondered how the snake was going to get its mouth over the bird's beak. The snake eventually dropped to the floor and manoeuvred the awkwardly shaped prey into its stomach - a great meal for the herp and an even greater sighting for us.
"Outstanding lodge, wonderful staff, we have been treated like royalty awesome thank you." Joe and Samantha
"Some of the most memorable rhino sighting we have had, with beautiful specimens!" Jeff and Clair
Staff in Camp
Managers: Adriano, Agnes, George and Jayson.
Guides: Adriano, Agnes,George and Jayson.
Andersson's Camp update - May 2011 Jump
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Little Kulala Camp update - May 2011 Jump
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Kulala Desert Lodge update - May 2011 Jump
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Kulala Wilderness Camp update - May 2011 Jump
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Governors' Camp update - May 2011 Jump
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We have enjoyed warm days this month with some humidity in the afternoons bringing light rain showers on some of the evenings. Midday temperatures averaged around 31°c with early morning temperatures at 21°c. The Musiara and adjacent grassland areas are showing good signs of grass growth, which has brought sizeable numbers of zebra, eland and resident gnu's in from the east.
Photos courtesy of Katie and Samantha McLellan
There are good numbers of elephant and calves spread out within the Musiara Marsh, Bila Shaka and riverine woodlands of the Mara River. The swamp is still a good place to see elephant feeding and bathing. There were also some large males in Musth and a few matings. The Warburgia (African Green Heart) trees were fruiting and the elephant love these small apple shaped fruit and this brought many of them into the woodlands and into the camps.
Photos courtesy of Phil Williams and Charlie McLellan
Large numbers of giraffe with many calves in crèches are present within the Musiara area, near the Marsh and between the camps. Both male and female giraffes have horns, giraffe horns are formed from ossified cartilage (cartilage that has transformed into bone) and for that reason the horns of giraffes are also called ossicones. Within the riverine woodland verges and the marsh there are also good numbers of Defassa Waterbuck with young calves among these breeding herds, impala, bushbuck and large numbers of Olive Baboons.
Photos courtesy of Katie McLellan and Charlie McLellan
There are lots of warthog around and the boars have been busy sparring for females, you can hear the boars 'cluck' as they approach the sows. Sadly a lioness at Little Governors Camp took two of our resident warthogs. Reedbucks are more commonly seen in the swamp and other areas of Bila Shaka particularly in areas of longer and coarser grasses. Earlier on this month a female cheetah took down a female reedbuck in the marsh in a spectacular chase, a guest at Little Governors skilfully photographed this episode. With the grasslands being shallow these reed bucks were becoming more visible and much more habituated; they favour flood plains and drainage areas where the coarse grasses are unpalatable to other antelopes.
Photos courtesy of Jana Ohrner
There are good numbers of eland on the Musiara plains and in the conservation areas of Koiyaki; calves in these breeding herds can be seen in crèches and there are also some large dominant breeding bulls that flank the periphery of these breeding herds.
Photo courtesy of Andrew Roberts
The large breeding herd of Cape Buffalo estimated at over 500 animals are on the Eastern grassland plains of rhino ridge and Bila Shaka; grasses here are a little longer and well suited for buffalo. Black Rhino have been near the Marsh and in the Paradise area and on one occasion three were seen together.
Two social mongooses can be seen within the camps, the banded mongoose and Dwarf mongoose, these two species are always busy getting up to mischief around the camps and we love having them around. A Marsh mongoose has been seen in the Marsh waterways. This little chap is a solitary mongoose that specializes in aquatic prey such as fresh water crabs and frogs etc. It is also crepuscular (evening), though some activity has been observed during the day. An excellent swimmer, the Marsh Mongoose prefers to keep its head above water, in very marshy surrounds it will frequently rest on patches of grass and floating vegetation.
Photos courtesy of Katie McLellan
Topi, with their six/seven month old calves, are up on Topi plains and Emarti which is the south end fan of Rhino Ridge; there are also herds of females in well used lekking areas of Paradise and the other side of the Talek River.
There are also many spotted Hyena about with their cubs. The hyena are spending lots of time up on Topi plains hunting Topi during the day. Spotted
Hyena is one of the top predators in Africa. Hyenas and lions particularly in the Mara/Serengeti ecosystem compete directly for food and often scavenge each other's kills. This competition often leads to antagonistic encounters that may result in death.
Birds: Stripped swallows are nesting within the campgrounds, Caspian plovers are in the Koiyaki area and we have had some good sightings of white-headed Vultures, which are fairly uncommon.
The Bila Shaka/ marsh pride now numbers 15 individuals including five breeding females; six sub adults, two older cubs and two males. Another female has joined the pride and she has four cubs that are four months old. This pride remains at the heart of their territory and is feeding well off the many zebra that are now here.
The Paradise pride of four large males and an older male known as 'notch' (who is the uncle to these four males), remain a strong coalition, they stay at the heart of their territory on Paradise Plain and have become adept hippo hunters killing three in the last month.
Photos courtesy of Katie McLellan
The Ridge pride of three females, three sub adults and two males, earlier on this month they killed a large bull buffalo and fed off for a few days.
The double-crossing pride of three adult females and their four cubs that are almost 2 years old are without a territorial male. They have been seen feeding on warthog. One of these females is getting old and sadly she is struggling to hunt, her time could be nearly coming to an end.
Shakira and her six 12 month-old female cubs are in the Keekorok area and are feeding off Thomson Gazelles and reedbuck; they are all very healthy and looking well fed.
A single female cheetah has been spending the last week close to the Marsh and our airstrip, feeding off Thomson Gazelles and reedbuck.
The three male brother coalitions have latterly been spending their time beyond the Talek River. They have been actively feeding off young Topi and warthog. On the 26th finished off a whole female warthog, this shows that there was not other competition nearby.
Leopards have remained fairly elusive this month. The large male leopard has been sighted frequently within the dry riverbed close to our airstrip and as far as Governors private camp. He has been feeding off young topi and impala. The Young male leopard of paradise has been seen latterly near the Serena pump house.
Photos courtesy of Russell Savage and Andrew Roberts
Walking Safaris in the Koiyaki Conservation Area.
With the little rain we received this month the grassland plains have greened up within the walking area of Koiyaki. This green flush has brought in a few more wildebeest with their 2-3 month old calves and many zebra which have been coming through from the east where grass lands outside the reserve are getting very short from lack of adequate rainfall and competition with livestock, these zebra are ending up in the Musiara area of the national reserve, where there is grazing for them.
Eland herds are being seen more readily now with a few large groups of breeding bulls. The breeding males are considerably larger than the females. Eland are successful ungulates in that they will both graze and browse when grasses are short and dry.
Thomson and Grants gazelles are residents on the short grass plains, along with impala and Defassa Waterbuck in the acacia woodlands. With a good view all around and no chance of a predator ambush, the short grass plains are a favourite for Thompson Gazelles.
We have enjoyed good sightings of Masai Giraffe within the acacia woodlands; Giraffe are strictly browser's and they love to feed on acacia. There has also been a resident herd of Cape Buffalo with many very young calves in the acacia woodlands, grasses here are a little longer and coarser which is ideal grazing for buffalo with their hard mouths and coarse tongues.
There are 14 lion in the Acacia pride including two nice males, and we sometimes see then on our walking safaris. On the 14th at 6.45am we came across eleven lion of which there were 3 breeding females and seven cubs of varying ages all feeding on a wildebeest, on the periphery there were 18 hyenas, hungrily looking on. After the lion moved away the hyena quickly took possession of what was left behind. When we went to inspect the site of the kill there was barely a blood smear on the ground making is apparent that the hyena had initially made this kill, which the lion then took over.
We hope to share the magic of our corner of the Mara with you sometime soon.
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge update - May 2011
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