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South Africa camps
Pafuri Camp update - November 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
November has lived up to its reputation as one of the hottest and driest months in the Kruger National Park. We had a series of scorching days where the mercury was pushed up to 45° C, which was coupled with a hot, dry wind. This combination of weather conditions sucked the remaining moisture out of the soil, which caused the waning river to be the focus of activity. Finally, the regime of heat was broken by the much-anticipated arrival of rain. We received a couple of cooler days with light rain and received a total of 39.7mm of life-giving precipitation.
The landscape reached the pinnacle of the dry season in the middle of the month and resembled a semi-desert environment, dotted with bare trees, only offering respite to all along the river systems. After we received some rain, the vegetation has already begun its colonisation and will soon cover the entire concession in a lush wash of green.
November is really an interesting time - it is impala lambing month. The first baby impala in the Makuleke Concession was seen on the 19th and now there are impala fawns everywhere. We are still waiting for more babies to be born in early December. The warthog population has also had a population explosion, with most saunders receiving between four and six piglets.
Staying true to the movement trends of elephant 'migration' in the area, we are seeing less and less elephant activity in the area, as these gigantic mammals undergo their seasonal 'migration' further south into central Kruger while some go up north. An ongoing research project has indicated that large numbers of elephant take refuge in the concession and take advantage of the riparian thickets during the dry months. As soon as the summer rains arrive, the large numbers begin to disperse, allowing the environment a chance to recover from the feeding pressures of the winter months.
Buffalo sightings have been rather good: the small splinter herds are starting to mass along the floodplains as the new growth of sporobolus grass emerges. We still have a number of old bulls that hang around camp; possibly they feel safer in this area and become sedentary.
Rhino sightings have been fantastic. A cow with an eight-month-old calf has been seen regularly, as well as her previous calf which is now a sub-adult. The dominant male has been seen in the presence of a female, which is possibly in oestrus - good news that could result in some even better news in the next 15 months or so.
Lion sightings have also been good, with the Pafuri Pride making a good number of appearances. The pride currently consists of two females and six cubs. As we experienced the pinnacle of the dry season this month, most of the lion activity was focused along the Luvuvuhu River which was a very wise and opportunistic move. The two Pafuri males have also been seen regularly and were seen crossing the river, heading south for a couple of days. They returned a couple of days later.
Surely the arrival of the impala calves has created a feeding frenzy for an array of predatory species - research figures indicate that up to 80% of newborn claves will fall victim to predators.
The reptilian creatures have also sprung to life as their prey species produce their young in abundant numbers. We have recorded many snake species for the month, including Southern African python, snouted cobra, boomslang, and Mozambique Spitting Cobra and Eastern Tiger Snake.
Birds and Birding
Birding is just getting better and better as more and more summer migrants arrive daily. Some of the special summer migrants that have been spotted so far include: Abdims Stork, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Woodland Kingfisher, African Pygmy-Kingfisher, Grey-headed Kingfisher as well as a number of shrike and cuckoo species. A definite avian highlight was the sighting of Thick-billed Cuckoo.
Our special resident species have been sighted few times: A Three-banded Courser was seen every day on a nest next to the road. It is also breeding time for the Racket-tailed Rollers and they have been sighted few times performing a courtship display in the mopane woodland where they nest. Arnott's Chat, Black-throated Wattle-eye and Pel's Fishing-Owl were also sighted few times this month.
We thought we would test our birding skills and had a 'big birding day' on the 26th. We managed to record almost 200 different species by either sight or call between four groups of bird spotters. It was so much fun that our birding groups decided to continue their quest for adding as many ticks to their life list. A further two days of twitching pushed the list up to 250 different species. One of the last ticks that was added to the list was a Yellow Wagtail, which was the first sighting of this bird for Pafuri Camp - a great record for our species list indeed.
Culture and Heritage
One cannot separate wildlife, heritage and culture; for this reason, we offer our guests tours to the Makuleke community who are the custodians of the Makuleke Contractual Park in the Kruger Park. We also offer tours to the Thulamela archaeological site to relate the history of early civilisations before the park was established.
Pafuri Walking Trail update - November 2011 Jump
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Camp Jabulani update - November 2011
Kings Camp update - November 2011 Jump
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Our first 'green' report for the season!
Summer is officially here and that means loads of Little Baby Impalas everywhere! It is Lush, green and absolutely amazing out there. The Rainfall has been good and we hope that what is still coming will be constant and take us through the summer into our winter months with enough water.
In the first half of the month we could clearly see that 'Ntombi' & 'Rockfig Jr' were both very pregnant.
'Ntombi' has spent a large amount of time to the South and West of the camp towards the end of the month and we seem to think that she may have given birth in the Zebenine river bed at a small rocky outcrop. As soon as we know more you will get updated here on the blog!
Ntombi’s Boy 'Umfana' is now fully independent. As a young male leopard he spends a lot of time in his natal grounds, which of course is familiar to him. He is frequently spotted walking in and around the camp and is quite a successful hunter. It is however just a matter of time before a larger male chases him from this area to find his own territory.
'Rockfig Jr' did deliver offspring in the Machaton riverbed as this was confirmed by one of our guides, Remember. He only saw the one youngster nursing, but we are not sure how many there are at this point. This area will once again be treated with utter most respect for the first 5-8 weeks after which we will assess the area that she moves them to and then slowly start allowing vehicles one at a time to visit whilst “Mommy” is present. We’ll keep you updated on any news or progress...
The Old 'M’bali' female up in the North seems to be very nomadic in movement now. She is 14 years old and finds it more difficult to maintain her territory with stronger, younger females around. Sightings are quite sporadic and in areas she used to claim as her territory and beyond.
Other Leopard sightings recorded were of 'Xinope-nope' (male in the South), 'Tumbela' Female (Rockfig Jr.’s Daughter), 'Kuhanya' female (Mbali’s daughter in the North), 'Argyle' Male (Dominant Male in the North) and 'Hlakise' Female’s boy (+- 17 months old).
There have been some tough times in the month, but we managed very nicely with some diverse sightings towards the end of November.
The 'Machaton Pride' was in and out of our traversing over the first two weeks, but sightings improved towards the end as they spent a lot of time on Kings Camp’s Property. The remaining 7 boys were looking a bit hungry but in good health and spirit otherwise. Kills recorded was early on a young giraffe and later on a kudu and buffalo calf.
The 'Ross pride' consisting of 7 lionesses, 4 cubs and 2 males were seen on two occasions on our Western Sector. They usually follow buffalo in from the neighbouring Klaserie Reserve. They are all in very good condition and we hope they will choose to spend more time in our traversing in future.
The 3 'Xakubasa' (White) youngsters were seen three times in the early parts of the month, but then moved back to the far Northern corners of the Klaserie and Umbabat Reserves. They are struggling a bit to hunt without the adult lionesses but are still in fairly good condition.
We also had a sighting of one large, unknown male lion on a buffalo kill. He fed for three days only with some interaction between him and some hyena. We are not sure where he was from of where he has disappeared to again.
ELEPHANT & CAPE BUFFALO
Since the rain started we have had some wonderful sightings of both species. The elephants are loving the fact that there is so much water around and are often seen swimming in the larger bodies of water. Large Buffalo herds were seen very frequently from both the Northern and Southern areas.
Rhino sighting have been good. We were even lucky to see a crash of 3 together. Any rhino sighting are to be cherished as the rhino poaching is still a very big problem in South Africa. Reports have said that there have been 405 Rhino poached this year alone.
This month I have decided to add some of our Bird sightings as they have been quite special this month.
We saw a Juvenile Bataleur Eagle which will only get its full adult colours when it reaches 6-7 years old but even as youngsters they are quite beautiful.
A Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl was very accommodating for photos and sat for a good half an hour or so before we eventually left it to carry on sleeping in its tree. These are the largest of the African Owls. Besides their size they are identifiable by their Oval face with a Black boarder and pink eyelids, they also have feather tufts over their ears.
This Yellow Billed Stork was lovely to sit and watch. Even though they are seen quite often it was great to be able to watch it and get photos whilst it was in the water fishing.
This Blacksmith Lapwing was Not at all happy with the Tawny Eagle on this day and we sat watching the Lapwing mobbing the Eagle until the Eagle decided to move on.
We were privileged to be able to witness two male Red Crested Korhaans fighting! Most of our guests get to see these birds as they scurry over the road into thick grass or when they are doing their “Suicide act” (they fly straight up into the air and fall down again to show the females where they are located)
This month there are two things I want to share with you under special sightings.
Wild dogs Sightings were plentiful this month. One that stands out and deserves mention was when a sick buffalo died nearby camp. The buffalo carcass attracted 6 Hyena and 2 Jackals that were sharing the meat. The dogs heard the Hyena’s excited giggling and went to investigate. When they got there we witnessed some amazing sounds out of all the predators as they engaged in a spectacular standoff.
Another one that deserves mention is when the pack of 13 dogs chased an Impala into the electric fence that is around the camp. Needless to say the Impala was shocked to death and the Dogs had their first “Cooked” meal. They spent the morning around the waterhole which kept the guests well entertained during breakfast
On a much smaller note we witnessed this bushveld lizard make a kill of its own whilst we were sitting with Rockfig Jr Leopardess eating a Baby Impala. Sometimes the little things attract more attention than the larger ones do.
With that I am going to close this report.
Have a wonderful Christmas Season!
Morné and the Kings Camp guiding team.
Photography by Morné Hamlyn
Leopard Hills update - November 2011 Jump
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The month is “iMpala” in the traditional Shangaan calendar as scattered impala lambs lie hidden all over the dense undergrowth, their first few tense days spent motionless avoiding detection. This time of new life presents predators with ample easy prey…that is if they can find it. They need to alter hunting techniques and use their sense of smell to detect the hidden lambs.
The limelight is currently falling upon her and speculation on her condition is rife as we believe she is heavily pregnant and searching for den sites. She has been located more frequently this month and has been spending more time near the lodge leading us to believe that she will choose one of her favoured den sites close by…we are holding thumbs!
The increase in spotted hyaena numbers has forced her to tree her kills again and one unforgettable golden sundowner was spent watching her finish off her impala kill while a young hyaena waited patiently below for any leftovers to fall down.
She was also really unlucky on one occasion! She killed an impala ram after patiently stalking for hours and had barely started feeding when suddenly she sat up attentively staring in one direction. Moments later a Ximungwe lioness came crashing through the bushes and sent her racing for the nearest tree with an empty belly and only a brief taste of what might have been!
If we didn’t know better we might think that she was the illustrious territorial female of Leopard Hills and the central western sector. She is favouring the lush habitat and plentiful prey supported around the lodge and even made a kill very close to one of the rooms, using the pool to quench her thirst between feeding bouts.
Hlaba Nkunzi doesn’t seem overly concerned with her presence here but her tolerance levels with the inexperienced Thlangisa may change once her cubs are born and she needs access to her reliable hunting areas and prey sources.
She has also been trailing Xhinzele again and attempting to win over the disinterested male while he patrols his territory.
Metsi and cubs
Her movements have taken her to the far south west and this has limited the number of times she has been viewed this month. The young Dayone male finally succumbed to her alluring advances and they were briefly seen mating, how successful this encounter was remains to be seen.
Her relaxed year and a half year old cub has been in the area around Leopard Hills but was viewed less frequently than last month.
She has again been rather scarce for most of month and has probably been mostly up in the north of her territory.
Shangwa and her 1 year old male cub are spending far more time on our traversing area and have provided some fantastic viewing again this month. There is still a close bond between them but soon he is going to be pushed off on his own so this vastly experienced female (13 years) can prepare for her next and possibly last litter.
He has been very busy patrolling the south of his territory towards the Mabrak river, with a possible threat arising from the Dayone male. He was in Leopard Hills camp one day which created much excitement and a few nervous guests and staff, it is a very different proposition having a huge territorial male leopard in camp.
He has also capitalised on the surplous impala lambs and while watching him stop for a quick drink one day we were surprised as he suddenly sniffed the air and darted off into the bush emerging with a lamb in his jaws!
He hasn’t been viewed once this month and there is some concern for his well being as he was spending most of his time patrolling his southern Sand river territorial boundary with Xhinzele and there was a lot of interaction between the two! Maybe the two rivals have settled their differences and he is spending more time in the north? Only time will tell, let’s hope we see this imposing male in December.
He made an impala kill far down in the south mid month but otherwise has been mostly in his eastern territory.
This handsome youngster is growing in magnitude and confidence by the day and was observed mating with Metsi for the first time during the month, he has come of age and it will be interesting to see how he will react should there be pressure from the other more established territorial males, Xhinzele or Kashane?
We’ve included an updated map showing the approximate male leopard territories as the Dayone male seems to have settled in and recent interaction has shown that the older Ndlevane male is not strong enough to hold a territory and is avoiding the other males!
The female leopard’s territories have remained unchanged since the August report and as mentioned the 2 year and 8 month old Thlangisa is moving all over the central western sector, especially within Hlaba Nkunzi’s territory. She will be looking to establish her own space within the next year or so and raise her first litter!
The intrepid rulers again demonstrated their prowess with numerous buffalo kills this month, one victim was a huge buffalo bull of at least 700kg up on the plains of the north! We arrived moments after the kill and it must have been some spectacle as all three would have had to be at their most brutal to subdue the massive and dangerous bull! See video footage of them feeding.
One of the coalition has been showing interest in mating with the Ximungwe lioness who lost her cubs while the three Ottawa lionesses were also in the area briefly and are possibly coming into oestrus so there will a some more mating opportunities for the males soon.
The three lionesses with the four cubs (Ages ranging from 4 to 10 months) have been together as a complete pride the entire month while traversing their expansive territory. See video for some interaction with elephants on the Sand river.
One morning in the north was particularly memorable!
The pride seemed to have disappeared, their tracks were going everywhere and we decided to take a break for a coffee stop at a prominent waterhole. The undergrowth suddenly erupted and seven fat bellied lions covered in blood charged out for a quenching drink. It turns out they had killed a blue wildebeest not far away so we gladly put the coffee on hold while enjoying their interaction after feeding.
Then a week or so later on a 40 degree summer afternoon the three Mapogo arrived to check up on the pride and we were spoiled in perfect evening light to 10 lions taking turns to quench their insatiable thirst.
The sad news of the month is that the four week old cubs that were discovered last month disappeared and are presumed killed by hyaena or leopard. This is again a harsh reminder of the many dangers faced by lion cubs in their early days. The lioness was visibly shaken and remained in the area looking for the cubs for a few days before moving off and rejoining the pride.
Ottawa young males
It was a pleasant surprise to see these two young males looking so healthy and venturing into their natal range for a few days while trailing a buffalo herd, ever hopeful! They disappeared back east again very quickly and quietly no doubt to the earth shattering vocalisations of their Mapogo fathers!
The rains have meant that the parades have spread out into the wilderness. There have still been some wonderful sightings on the river such as this parade underneath the giant sycamore fig tree on the northern bank.
With the midday summer heat upon us and at times reaching over 40 degrees a waterhole often becomes a giant swimming pool
As usual there have been consistent sightings and there are currently many young calves about!
The young bull that had adopted the calf is still residing in the small waterhole close to the lodge. He is growing bigger and more confident and we are often treated to a threat display in the afternoons as he shows off his impressive weaponry. He will possibly move away soon in search of a larger body of water with access to females.
Painted Dog Pack
The painted pack of 9 dogs is faring extremely well and the 3 surviving pups are now nearly 8 months old and looking strikingly fit and healthy. They raced through Leopard Hills camp on the hunt one morning and two of the pack managed to kill a young nyala bull not far away!
The pack always works as a cohesive unit and the two that made the kill only ate a small amount before trotting off calling frantically trying to locate the rest of the team. Once they located each other the whole painted pack charged excitably passed us towards their awaiting feast. See video footage of them feeding!
The large herds have been attracted to the rich and nutritious new growth coming through on the gabbro plains in the south. To spend an evening sunset amongst an obstinancy of 500 buffalo is an African blessing.
Interesting and unusual sightings captured in November
A grey heron along with the much rarer saddle billed stork feeding on the surplus of common platanna’s! Frogs and toads are a rich source of food for large birds this time of year.
A white fronted bee eater next to the Sand river bank with a very large morsel, a common tigertail dragonfly.
A rare find along the Sand river, a relaxed half collared kingfisher who put on a show in flight for us!
Unbelievable! Another pangolin and unusually this time with the setting sun in the background, we have had an astonishing eight sightings in the last few months of this secretive mostly nocturnal mammal!
Spot the pearl spotted owlet!
A wonderful example of the cryptic camouflage that these tiny raptors rely upon so heavily.
We have been finding Aardvark diggings more regularly in the same area and this perfect example of tracks was left imprinted one morning after heavy rain. It is just a matter of time before some lucky guests catch a glimpse of this rarely seen creature.
A relaxed honey badger seen foraging during the day in the lush green undergrowth.
Rocktail Beach Camp update - November 2011 Jump
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Rocktail Bay Dive Report - November 2011 Jump
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Summer is certainly in full swing and we have experienced some wonderful hot sunny days with no wind - a flat, calm ocean with crystal-clear water. We have however also had quite a bit of rain but this is always welcome when it is so hot.
Dive conditions have been excellent. Visibility has ranged from 15-20 metres with a steady water temperature of 23°C for most of the month, rising to 25°C by the end of the month.
We have still had sightings of humpback whales this month with many individuals breaching and tail slapping and others just generally travelling along. These sightings should signal the end of their migration past us as they head back home to the Antarctic.
Turtle season is in full swing, with regular sightings of leatherback and loggerhead turtles nesting along the beach at night. Darryl spotted two loggerhead turtles out at sea, mating on the water's surface. All on board were spellbound as this is rarely seen. Generally loggerhead turtles mate out at sea, the female then stores the sperm until she is ready to fertilise a batch of eggs. Once fertilised, she comes ashore at night to lay her eggs far up the beach, before returning back to the ocean.
Guests who join turtle drives at night get the opportunity to watch these magnificent creatures as they struggle up the beach, dig a perfect hole in which to lay their eggs, carefully cover the hole up with sand again and then make the journey back to the sea, where they glide away effortlessly into the water - a truly memorable experience.
All dive sites have produced a wonderful array of marine life this month and it has been truly spectacular to descend into crystal-clear water and be surrounded by such an abundance of life. A dive at Gogo's produced just such conditions and with infinite visibility, I saw a large black shape far in the distance and watched out of curiosity as it approached. It swam with purpose and as it got closer, I saw that it was a leatherback turtle! This was the first leatherback turtle that I had personally seen on a dive and it was for all of the divers who were on that dive as well.
We had some other special sightings this month including a manta ray with a five-metre wingspan, and four separate whaleshark sightings, all in the region of eight to nine metres in length. The best whaleshark sighting was during a dive at Regal Reef. Colin remembers it well; he had just entered the swim through, when I rattled to get everyone's attention and signalled that there was a big shark. Colin did not know what to do ... big shark! How do I get out of this swim through quickly, so that I don't miss the sighting?! We all had a big laugh discussing it on the boat later.
We also had awesome encounters with bottlenose dolphins throughout the month. Sightings of a humpback dolphin caused a lot of excitement as this species is not seen by many people as they are highly endangered.
On a personal note, it has been an immense privilege to stand in for Clive and Mich whilst they take a break prior to December and I have been diving, teaching and experiencing this magnificent place for over two weeks, with all its wonderful sea creatures and great visibility. It has been wonderful to see old faces again and it has been truly special to be back here over this time. To all of you, thanks for sharing such amazing times with me. Thanks, Darryl for excellent skippering and surface sightings, which has added to the amazing overall experience this month.
Congratulations to the following divers:
Nicholas Dellaportas, Tim Nel and Victoria Tucker for completing their PADI Discover Scuba Diving course.
Anastasia Fugger for completing her PADI Advanced Course.
Yours in diving
Darryl and Debbie
The Rocktail Dive Team
Makalolo Plains update - November 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
The light drizzle for the last week of October was welcome, but it paved the way for some very hot and humid conditions which left us feeling anxious for the grand opening of the summer rains. For the first week or so of the month we were teased by the generous build-up of dark, ominous clouds that groaned with thunder, almost as a drum roll to the finale ... and then under the cover of darkness, the clouds would be blown away, destined to dump their treasure of rain elsewhere - this happened on a daily basis. By the middle of the month, the environment was becoming desperate - and so were we. All had begun to ignore the daily cloud build-up when suddenly the clouds opened with a good deal of vigour, bathing the land in a relieving cover of precipitation. This continued almost every night from here onwards. A total of 91.5mm of rain fell which meant that pans and waterholes filled up once the parched soils were saturated.
The maximum recorded temperature for the month was 40° C which peaked just before the rains broke, after which things cooled down to a minimum of 16° C.
The beginning of November painted a harsh scene of dwindling water sources and food supply for the game in Hwange - as animals had to travel further afield to find food and, in turn, to reach pumped waterholes. The natural pans had all dried up and the trees and vegetation had thinned out due to the season, although some plants had begun to optimistically sprout new shoots. These were rewarded by some patches of drizzle and then with the onset of the rains, the transformation of the dry land and vast areas of bare soil and sand has been dramatic. Tiny gems of flowers can be seen now - white bohemias and the vibrant red fireball lilies, along with a dozen others ranging from across tiny orange and purple to snow-white specimens. The grasses are making a comeback in areas where it is hard to believe anything could survive and the skeletal branches of the leadwoods have come back to life in green foliage.
This time of the year is full of stark contrasts and conflicting emotions. The state of most of the plains game and herbivores had deteriorated visibly at the beginning of November - there were a few casualties of the seemingly unrelenting dry season but these gave guests the opportunity to see the other side of the story. The scavengers and carnivores were in magnificent condition and the cliché but undeniable 'Circle of Life' could be seen.
The highlight of this month was without a doubt the introduction of four tiny cubs to the pride of lions which have their territory in and around the Makalolo Concession. The two males and two females, perfect miniatures of the adult cats, were initially spotted disappearing shyly into grass higher than they were but by the end of this month they have become accustomed to the limelight and have been viewed on a number of occasions with their mother and more recently with the whole pride. Their energy levels are impressive - while the bigger cats are comatose in the deep shade, these new additions are clambering over their relations and practising pouncing, stalking and chasing skills on each other or any unsuspecting piece of elephant dung.
One particular group of guests started off an afternoon drive with this family unit, only to end it at one of the more remote pans watching another in the twilight, but this one comprised an adult male, female and a white rhino calf. This was an awesome sighting and they were the only ones privileged to witness these rare beasts this month.
Another special viewing was that of the pack of three wild dogs that trotted out of the tree line at sunset one evening to the pan in front of camp. They lay on the cool mud surrounding the water itself for a while and then made off as silently and unobtrusively as they had come.
The waterholes have been the main focal points as from early in the mornings the smaller animals came down to drink before the massive herds of elephants started to arrive - the volume of game and variety was incredible from giraffe, waterbuck, buffalo, zebra, impala, roan, sable to the banded mongooses and baboons.
Other great sightings included cheetah, leopard, roan, sable, serval and honey badger.
Birds and Birding
A number of bird species have been very busy this month building nests of various shapes and sizes and out of an assortment of materials too! Some of the Red-headed Weaver chicks have already hatched. Within camp itself - a curious nest made up of strands of mop, cotton threads, leaves and the occasional twig was home to three tiny baby blue eggs which hatched into little Kurrichane Thrushes that grew at a remarkable rate.
The vulture sightings have been numerous: White-backed, Lappet-faced and Hooded all playing their role in making sure that nothing goes to waste in the wilderness. With the arrival of the rains later on in the month, all the water fowl are revelling in more water and less traffic around their homes as the pans fill up and the game can afford to travel further afield.
"To all the Team! A thousand thanks for the thousand pleasures you bestowed upon us, your kindness and care. Your welcome has been sustained in the quality of the food, our room, the laundry on site. Outside, our drivers and skilled guides have completed our adventure to perfection."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Sibs, Shayne and Cynthia.
Guides: Lawrence, Douglas and Elias.
Little Makalolo update - November 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
At last we have finally entered the rainy season which has been very warmly welcomed by all. The beginning of the month was extremely hot, temperatures were reaching up to 39.9°C on a daily basis, and the humidity was almost 99% - we were all praying for the rains to join us again and cool things down a bit. Thankfully by mid-November we had a good heavy rain fall of 39ml which did just the job, and since then we have been blessed with a few more beautiful African thunderstorms, cleansing the air and cooling the earth. Temperatures are still hot, but are nicely cooled down when it rains!
With the lack of rain at the beginning of the month, the vegetation around us suffered enormously, everything was very dry and the surroundings looked quite derelict. The pans and waterholes were getting rather dry, forcing the animals to put extra pressure on the pumped waterholes.
The landscape around us has changed dramatically in a matter of weeks, October brought the new leaves on the trees, although the grass was still brown and overgrazed whereas by the end of November, there was a sea of beautiful, green, lush grass all around. Many different flower species have started to bloom and the natural pans have all begun filling up with water - it is safe to say that summer is here in full swing.
It is hard to believe that last time this month, the winter waterhole in front of camp was constantly packed with a wide variety of animals which all clearly carried the scars of the dry season and were all in poor condition. Most of these animals had walked for endless miles in search of moisture; this was most clear in the elephants that arrived, parched, at the waterhole. The environment has undergone a rapid and dramatic change over the month and is now bursting with new life and the wildlife are all in better physical condition. The proliferation of surface water has caused the wildlife to spread all over the concession, relieving the winter waterholes that had undergone immense pressure during the dry months.
Countless numbers of interesting insects have begun to hatch, these include the notorious flying termites which appear after the rain, and the dung beetles that have come out in substantial amounts and can be seen all around rolling their little balls of dung. Various herbivore species have also begun giving birth.
The cat sightings this month have been quite spectacular and have given much delight to so many people. To start off with, our pride of 17 lions were joined by four new cubs that seem to have been accepted very well. They were introduced to the pride at the beginning of the month, when they were about two months old, and we have been watching them as they get acquainted to their new family. By the end of the month you could see their confidence growing considerably. They now seem to have a never-ending store of energy as they play and climb over each other, testing their boundaries with the other members of the pride as they practice their little roars all day long.
Apart from the many lion sightings, there have been a large number of leopard sightings. We were very lucky to find these amazing felines hunting, drinking and mating on numerous occasions, sometimes even in front of camp!
The cheetah have been seen, as well as the wild dog, again, on frequent occasions drinking from the pan in front of camp.
Another incredible and very special sighting was of white rhino - three males were spotted drinking at a pan, while guests were having relaxed sundowners by the water. The rhinos came very close and drank from the pan right in front of the guests. A very exciting experience for all as they are very rare animals to see.
Birds and Birding
This has been a spectacular month for birding, as the migratory birds visit us for the summer from all parts of the world.
These birds include the magnificent Steppe Eagle which we saw in large numbers flying over small water pans, looking for flying termites and other insects that have hatched. Along with these were the Steppe Buzzards, and the beautiful Southern Carmine Bee-eaters that were seen flocking together in their beautiful colours. These are just a few to name, there are many more that have joined us for summer, which gives impressive viewing to all bird lovers as they sit and identify the many different calls.
"This was an amazing experience. Every drive we went on we were shown something new. The staff are so welcoming; this feels like a home away from home. The animals were incredible and majestic and we feel so lucky to have been amongst them for the past three days. Thanks to everyone at Little Mak for making this time so wonderful!" Chad and Melanie (USA).
Davison's Camp update - November 2011
Weather and Landscape
Early November was stifling hot and dry, while the end was cool and wet. The clouds built up and our prediction of rain on the 20th at 4.30 was spot on. Heavier rain fell in the days following and the insect life responded in a big way. On most days towards the end of the month it was raining at some time during the day and there was thunder and lightning around.
There was still little in the way of flowers, but certainly more sprouting of new growth. The green flush was evident everywhere and the trees are looking cleaner as the dust had been washed off. The open areas of Ngamo have begun to get their green carpet and the pans and puddles are filling up. The resulting muddy conditions have already made us think twice about driving in certain areas.
With the arrival of the rains, life shoots up everywhere and the animals indulge in the abundance of succulent vegetation. Before the rains, the lions would wait at the few waterholes and grab their victims. Weak elephants and buffalo provided ample food and baby elephants were picked off as food by the lions. Now that some of the natural pans have water in them, elephants no longer visit the winter waterholes as they are no doubt haunted by past memories from the waterholes.
Lions were seen frequently and we had the pride of 16 staying at the camp for well over a week, in which time they made four kills. On one occasion a male buffalo was brought to the ground and was in the process of being suffocated by the felines when his companions tried to rush the lions and chase them away. This was a risky business for both species and almost resulted in a few more buffalo being grounded. This was a bold move against a pride of 16 lions.
The pride was also responsible for killing two weakened adult elephant at Little Samavundhla - an area that is littered with elephant bones. This pride also managed to up their numbers by two when two cubs were born.
Wild dogs were seen frequently this month - a definite highlight. We got to witness a very dramatic lion ambush at Makalolo Pan, which resulted in the death of a wild dog. This reminded us all that predators all compete for the same resource and will eliminate any potential threat at the slightest chance. We also witnessed a small pack of dogs hunting some ostrich during an afternoon activity.
Leopard were seen regularly throughout the month as well as a good few cheetah. We observed four sub-adult cheetah successfully hunting a warthog at Back Pans. A solitary male was often seen in the same area and was never shy to pose for a photograph or two.
Other sightings for the month include African wild cat and bat-eared fox. One of our most interesting sightings was that of a yellow mongoose. We found the mongoose on a road next to an injured nightjar - the mongoose's intentions were clear....
This month, we hosted the annual Children in the Wilderness programme, which was very successful and thoroughly enjoyed by all. The kids had the opportunity to see the lions catch and eat an eland, which was a first time experience for all the children
Staff in Camp
Managers: Andre, Tammy, Ivan and Christie.
Guides: Bryan, Godfrey, Brian, Robert and Livingstone.
Ruckomechi Camp update - November 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
Temperatures continued to climb through the month and Mana Canoe Trails particularly felt the effects, but sightings were awesome to say the least. The mercury was pushed up to a maximum of 47.8°C (in the shade) and dropped to a minimum of 23.1°C. Most of our guests opted to leave for the morning activity earlier and return to camp and enjoy the pool during the heat of the day. There was substantial cloud build-up on most afternoons, often accompanied by a spectacular show of thunder and then the entire promise of rain would just blow away, disappearing into the night darkness and exposing a star-dotted sky. The first significant rains fell on the 22nd with a total of 13mm of rain. After that, a clam, cooling drizzle fell most nights.
'Dry and arid' are words to describe the ecosystems of the valley for the most part of this month. The initial 13mm of rain and high humidity has transformed the bush from harsh, dry and brown to a life-giving green that we associate with this time of year. The mopane trees are in full leaf and the new grasses are starting to sprout. The pans have also started to fill up, and hippos are beginning to move around to the new network pools and pans.
The dry season has taken its toll on the herbivores, namely elephant, hippo and buffalo, but has made for some excellent sightings of the carnivores. Lion were seen on a daily basis - three different prides were noted hunting on the floodplain. We also experienced leopard sightings most evenings and hyaena chattering their way around to each new carcass. We also had a very good wild dog sighting.
A number of baby antelope have started popping up all around the area, and will only increase as we receive more rain.
Birds and Birding
It was a great month for birding as the area has been flooded by the summer migrants. Steppe Eagles, Woodland kingfishers, Narina Trogans, African Pittas and White storks to name, but a few. The yearly spectacle of colonies of Carmine Bee-eaters nesting in the vertical banks and hunting over the floodplain areas spoil us, whilst the menacing call of the dive bombing Broad-billed Roller alerts us to their stunning plumage and interesting character.
Add African Skimmers to the list, cruising effortlessly over the surface of the calm waters as the sun hits the horizon - Zambezi style. Vultures have also had the advantage of the many natural deaths through the concession and it seemed they were never short of a carcass to pick clean.
"So many firsts on my first trip to Africa - first Cessna flight, first safari drive, first canoe trip, and first elephant close encounter. Most importantly - my first memories of Africa were shared and provided by you all here, thank you very much!" Belinda (USA).
"Staff were all first class. Game drives and activities were well balanced. We enjoyed all the 'little touches' - coffee and muffins in the bush after our walk, bedtime story etc." Murray (USA).
"I have been here a few times but this trip has been exceptional. The staff have blown me away! Thank you all for your incredible attention to details" Christine (Zimbabwe).
"The entire stay was a highlight - Wilderness are incredibly lucky to have such incredible staff working for them. The Staff's passion for satisfaction made our trip (as always!) fantastic." Andy, Zimbabwe
Mana Canoe Trail update - November 2011 Jump
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Toka Leya Camp update - November 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
Clearly the first rains are always something special to all whether big or small. As we have received some substantial rain, the vegetation has taken another twist and finally the bush is green with a lush green carpet of grass sprouting all over - this is a huge relief for all the grazers. The mopane trees have burst into life and are covered in new sprouts, which have provided much relief to the browsers. Now that the environment is ready to support new life, we are expecting large numbers of baby antelope very soon.
The arrival of the summer rains jump starts the entire environment, especially the species which have spent the last few months dormant. The arthropod species have exploded onto the scene adding a huge chunk of diversity to the already diverse ecosystem. The velvet mites have been very eye-catching as they emerge from the rain-softened soil. Their quest is to feed on termites, mate and lay eggs in the mud, in order to continue the cycle once again in the next rainy season. There is also a huge variety of coprids, more commonly known as dung beetles. They range in shape and size and can currently be found around any fresh droppings. It is truly amazing to watch the males create and roll their 'nuptial ball' to the eagerly awaiting females.
Great sightings of elephant as well as a whole lot of other game were the order of the month. Elephant have for some reason decided to be regular visitors at the camp where we have seen large herds spread all around the camp area with a few posing on the river front for a photo opportunity which definitely could not be missed.
Giraffe sightings have also been good and most of our guests have had great opportunities to see and photograph them as for some time a small herd positioned itself around the camp area. One can easily see that the animals have all got a better supply of food as they are all looking really good again.
The arrival of the summer months has not only brought the wildlife sightings up as such but for those that admire the beauty of the scenery as well as the sunsets, we have noticed that the clouds forming overhead have added to the beauty of the sunsets over the mighty Zambezi River - best enjoyed with a sundowner in hand.
Birds and Birding
On the birding side of things, it is really a fantastic time of the year as more and more of the migrants have arrived. The cuckoos are now here and most mornings, the unmistakable calls of the Red-chested Cuckoo and the Klaas's Cuckoo are just two of the special melodies that one wakes up to. The water birds are as usual a highlight on the boat cruises. For birders, this is definitely one of the activities where your check lists should not be too far away as you are bound to add a new 'tick' to your life list.
"Two nights wasn't enough. Great relaxing place to stay. Super friendly staff especially Godfrey and Kenny the Chef." Mr Adams (Australia).
"Awesome experience in such an incredible environment. Special appreciation to the wonderful staff." The Halperins (USA).
"Beyond belief, outstanding location, food, comfort and wildlife - especially elephants at our door." The Meyers (RSA).
Lufupa River Camp update - November 2011 Jump
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Lufupa Tented Camp update - November 2011 Jump
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Kalamu Lagoon Camp update - November 2011 Jump
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Shumba Camp update - November 2011 Jump
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November is the last month of operations for Shumba Camp before we close down for six months. The rains really set in quite early this year and made for some interesting moments as huge thunderstorms built up over the plains. The rains didn't effect operations, but rather enhanced them with the beautiful green flush continuing and the plains being at their most beautiful. The onset of the rains also cooled things down nicely and jerseys in the morning mist were back on the agenda.
The lions finally ended their occupation of the camp and moved away - for a long time we were not sure if they were still around Tent 1 or not. But then on the 6th, we had what is for Shumba an extremely rare and unusual sighting. As the helicopter took off with guests, Explorations guide, Phil, spotted a leopard racing out of some of the trees. Phil reported that it was a large adult. Shortly afterwards, Abel the housekeeper went to Tent 4 and came face to face with a leopard on a very young lechwe carcass. Now Abel had reported that the leopard was small, so now we were wondering just how many were around.
The leopard was certainly skittish so we set up a camera on a tripod set to go off every minute. Sure enough we captured a beautiful young leopard eating its kill. To have leopards in the plains is unusual, but to have one on a kill at a guest tent is unheard of! Our current theory is that it was a mother with sub-adult offspring, as very early in the season some of the guides had seen them near Shumba. While this sighting amazed us we were slightly concerned about the lion cubs as we assumed they were still in the long grass near Tent 1.
The next day we were fortunate to see the lioness with the cubs crossing far out in front of the camp so we grabbed a vehicle and followed her. Sure enough we were rewarded with seeing her and the cubs meet on the tree island about 1.5km from camp. Over the next couple of days we were lucky enough to keep tabs on them and so our last guests got fantastic sightings of them and the mother. We also had the first sightings of the cubs now fully introduced to the whole pride (including the males) in early November.
We also had very unusual sightings of bats this month! A party from Bat Conservation International stayed with us for some nights, and a bat researcher who conducted a small-scale catch and release programme accompanied the party. This was incredible as it allowed us to get up close and personal with mammals that we just glimpse flitting through the fig trees.
The final guest sighting of the season took place on the 25th and was a fitting end to 2011 (the 'Lion Season'). During the very early hours of the morning we had been rocked by a huge storm, which the four adult lionesses used to ambush four lechwe! It was incredible to see separate lions on each carcass and the cubs getting a taste of solids - as well as playing with the ear of one of the prey.
And so the season ends. It has been truly memorable and the lion activity has been spectacular. The camp is closed up now and the green season staff are here. We look forward to next year!
"The hospitality and the meals made me feel like a prince." John (Holland)
"Gil and Julia were perfect - knowledgeable, fun and helpful and their passion for the wilderness and Zambia was infectious." Joyce (USA)
"Cheetahs and lions and a storm created beautiful settings for meals. All the staff were friendly and helpful, creating a real family atmosphere. The guides knowledge and enthusiasm was fantastic!" Bryan (UK)
Staff in Camp
Managers: Julia Bauer and Zoe Namangonze.
Guides: Lexon Munama, Idos Mulenga and Isaac Kalio.
Kapinga Camp update - November 2011 Jump
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Busanga Bush Camp update - November 2011 Jump
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Mvuu Camp update - November 2011 Jump
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Mvuu Wilderness Lodge update - November 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
Our rainy season has just begun and while temperatures are much cooler after the occasional rainfall, the majority of the days at Mvuu are still dry with high temperatures. Clouds are forming at present and we are anticipating a fresh burst of rain in the coming weeks. The occasional rains thus far have encouraged a fresh growth of leaves across Liwonde, which are slowly turning the landscape a hue of yellow-green.
With the arrival of the rains comes the expected migration of elephants to the northern areas. At present Mvuu's elephants are forming big herds and we have spotted several baby elephants in various breeding herds. The young elephants range from three months to two weeks of age and we've even seen a couple of newborns.
Along with the rains, many impala, bushbuck and warthogs are now giving birth to their young and Liwonde is becoming a realm of intriguing new activity. The cool temperatures after the rains allow for comfortable game viewing, however the mornings and afternoons on the hot dry days yield the best sightings. Due to the heat of the days and dryness of the landscapes, the waterholes in the sanctuary provide an excellent location for game viewing as the herbivores of the sanctuary are ever willing to quench their thirst in the early mornings or late afternoons.
A Sanctuary drive on the 18th of November near Nungu Road yielded sightings of a serval, two eland and seven hartebeest. The majestic Lichtenstein's hartebeest is an endangered species and several reside in the Sanctuary along with zebra and eland (a very shy species that often darts off at the slightest sign of a disturbance). Spending some time in the sanctuary hides enables guests (especially any keen photographers) to observe the park's more endangered and elusive species as they venture out into the open.
Black rhino sightings have also been great, as we had a number of sightings, one of which was a mother and her young calf.
Lions were also spotted this month, but unfortunately not by the guests. After dinner, one of the guides and the bar tender where on their way home when they heard the unmistakable call of a lion close by. They jumped into a vehicle and headed in that direction. It wasn't long before they found the lone lion, which was surrounded by a nervous herd of impala that were darting in all directions and alarm calling.
Another exciting moment took place whilst on a boat trip, when a male bushbuck near the Borassus Palms attempted to swim across the Shire River. The Shire is teaming with crocodiles and the bushbuck was soon spotted by a crocodile who went after it. Luckily the bushbuck managed to cross the river in one piece.
Birds and Birding
Samual Chihana, a guide at Mvuu found a Blacksmith Lapwing breeding with a Spur-winged Lapwing at Old Skimmer Bank. The interspecific couple have produced offspring last year, and their hybrid offspring was also seen breeding with Spur-winged Lapwings a couple of hundred metres away from their parents' nest. The hybrids look like a Spur-winged Lapwing but with a completely black head with white at the base of both mandibles (and some white patches on the black chest). These birds have been seen every day and Sam passes them frequently on boat safaris. More birding specials include a Pel's Fishing-Owl seen from the lodge dining deck on 21st November. A Green Malkoha was seen in the camp, which also caused much excitement.
If you're looking to step back in time and follow the footsteps of the most renowned explorers of the African continent, join Richard on the Dr David Livingstone Walk.
Richard leads a walk following in the footsteps of David Livingstone from Mvuu Lodge to Livingstone's Baobab, north of Mvuu. It is believed that Dr David Livingstone camped under this baobab before reaching Lake Malawi in 1859. Aside from its historic significance, the walk also provides an excellent wilderness experience allowing for viewing of many intriguing animal, bird and plant species along the way.
Mumbo Island update - November 2011 Jump
to Mumbo Island
We were all thrilled at the nomination of Mumbo Island Camp as a finalist in three categories at the recent 2011 Imvelo Awards for Responsible Tourism.
The three categories were:
Best overall environmental management system
Best waste management system
Best social involvement programme
The Imvelo Awards recognise sustainable tourism businesses that make a real, measurable and sustained contributions to preservation of the natural environment and of culture. Entries for 2011 included over 100 tourism operations of all descriptions and sizes from all over Southern Africa.
Mumbo Island, being located on a pristine island within the Lake Malawi National Park, takes this aspect of its operations very seriously.
We received a runner-up award. We are extremely happy with this as it was our first environmental nomination and paves the way to a bright and sustainable future.
We would like to congratulate all members of the Mumbo Island (Kayak Africa) team for their efforts; and to thank our friends in the Chembe Village community, and our partners in the Malawi Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Culture, and in the Department of National Parks and Wildlife. Without your assistance succeeding at these prestigious awards would not be possible.
On another note, the Pilates classes continue to be a hit with visitors. Five ladies joined Renee Watson's Pilates Retreat in October on Mumbo Island for a weekend of Pilate's classes and much more. Other activities included a sunset cruise, snorkelling, kayaking as well as some hammock and beach time. From all accounts, this is a fantastic way to keep fit and enjoy some time out with your best women friends. Another retreat will be offered soon!
Chelinda Lodge update - November 2011
Weather and Landscape
This has been a warm but comfortable month for Nyika with temperatures reaching 26.5° C. It has been raining regularly since the beginning of October and the grasslands are returning to vibrant shades of green. The days are normally sunny with very calm and clear skies and the evenings are also clear, providing excellent conditions for stargazing.
Notable flowers out in bloom at the moment include white-ink flowers, red-hot poker, wild lupine, yellow star, and dwarf red hibiscus.
The game viewing has been very good as it has been warming up on the plateau. A lot of game that had moved to the lower escarpments due to the cold weather has since returned and moved closer and closer to the Lodge. The best time to see game is usually after 8AM as it starts to warm up. On a number of occasions, a huge herd of eland, often in excess of 200 individuals, was seen gathering on the plateau.
The most exciting and unusual behaviour we witnessed was the male roan antelope that was seen chasing a younger male. The young male was pursued into some deep water, at which point the dominant male attempted to drown the younger male by trampling him into the water! The younger male made a wise call by playing dead. This clever tactic gave the youngster the gap that he needed and, as the dominant male stepped back, the younger one jumped up and sped off in a very vocal manner - possibly celebrating his survival? This was very peculiar behaviour that had not been observed before.
Another exciting highlight was a repeat sighting of wild dog! The lone wild dog was seen by park staff, not too far from the Thazima Gate. The dog ran across the road, and then stopped on the side for a quick breather before it loped off again into the vegetation. This is truly a great find and hopefully more individuals will move into the area.
Whilst on the subject of predators, our feline selection has stepped up and made a strong presence this month - especially the serval. We had the privilege of ten different sightings, some of which were close to the Lodge. Going a notch up on the feline size scale, leopard sightings were also good and on one occasion, we saw a large male dragging a common duiker carcass along the road.
Birds and Birding
The male Montane Widowbirds are all sporting their breeding plumage now and it is a real treat to watch them do their elaborate aerial displays in a bid to outdo their opponents. We have experienced large numbers of migrant species flying overhead, some of which have stopped at Nyika for a rest and to refuel. Churring Cisticolas have been very vocal, especially during the dawn chorus.
A Spotted Eagle-Owl was seen in the middle of the month, perched in a tree on the side of the road. The unusual visitor further treated our guests when it swooped down and caught a snake in full view of our guests.
"We saw leopards with an excellent guide - Whyte Mhone had a fantastic knowledge and made every game drive absolutely brilliant!" The Barnes Party
Desert Rhino Camp update - November 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
This month we have experienced very cloudy conditions with lots of humidity - we waited with much anticipation for the threatening rain ... but to no avail. We are sure that the clouds will break open soon and pour some much-needed rain over the concession. Temperatures were very hot, often going into the high 30s.
The landscape is dominated by an ocean of yellow grass and Damaraland euphorbias that dot the landscape, providing shady spots for the wildlife.
As mentioned in last month's newsletter, Ben, one of the resident black rhino males was actively searching for Desery, as she was in oestrus. He was successful in locating her and mated with her during November. The pair has already produced three calves, in addition to another two calves which Desery has mothered since 1996. This is great news and a good step forward in the conservation of this species.
A number of other rhino were seen whilst on daily research outings. Excitingly and impressively, a number of new unrecorded individuals were added to the list for the area, demonstrating the success of the rhino monitoring programme, which has been successfully coupled with sustainable tourism.
General game sightings have been fantastic, with great numbers and congregations of springbok, Hartmann's mountain zebra and oryx scattered throughout the concession. Elephant sightings have also been excellent, with the wonderful desert-adapted mammals being seen almost daily.
A huge highlight for the month was the sighting of a caracal. Ali was on drive with his guests when they came across the elusive feline. The guests were very excited as this was their first caracal sighting after spending many vacations in the bush. Ali was also very excited as this was his first sighting of caracal as well.
"We spent three wonderful and special days at this camp. The rhino tracking was really exciting and sometimes also very adventurous. Many thanks to the staff, hospitality perfect."
"The best thing about the camp is that the people are every bit as special as the rhinos. We enjoyed tracking rhino on foot with the experienced trackers. We enjoyed every moment of our stay in this beautiful place, hope some of your inner peace and joy is coming home with us."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Helen, Agnes and Ian.
Guides: Ali, Raymond and Moses.
Palmwag Lodge update - November 2011 Jump
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Doro Nawas Camp update - November 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
The weather at camp during the month was very unpredictable as we were certain on most days that the dark cloud cover would burst open and shower the conservancy in some much-anticipated rain, but this was not the case. Generally, the clouds would just blow away and not deliver any precipitation. The one constant weather condition was the hot temperatures which we experienced. On average, the daytime highs would range between 29 and 30° C. The wind often helped to cool things down to a comfy average temperature of 16° C at night.
Due to the early showers of rain that we received in September, the vegetation has flourished and is now providing great feeding conditions for the wildlife.
With the proliferation of good feeding material, the desert-adapted elephant herds have spread over the conservancy and are no longer concentrated along the ephemeral riverbeds, which has made tracking and locating them a difficult, yet exciting experience that was thoroughly enjoyed by our guests.
General game is scattered all over the area, which has resulted in some amazing scenic views of springbok, gemsbok (oryx) and ostrich.
Early morning walks and late afternoon drives have been the order of the day and provided excellent views of the scenes and diversity of the area for our guests.
Camp staff have begun a training programme under the wings of Lobster Inc., which is providing all levels of staff the opportunity to better themselves and learn new skills and develop their talents and interests. All of our staff have enjoyed and learnt much from the programme.
"All the activities were enjoyable, especially Twyfelfontein (very interesting). The setting of the camp is really great. All the staff are so friendly and made my stay so comfortable, unforgettable and never lacked anything." Penny.
"I saw desert elephants which was awesome! Our guide followed the tracks and eventually found a hill, stood on it with binoculars and spotted them. If it wasn't for his determination we wouldn't have seen them. Action is the man." Hazel.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Agnes Bezuidenhout, Emsie Skrywer, Theobald Kamatoto and Jason Lundon.
Guides: Action Hambo, Michael Kauari, Ignatius Khamuseb and Richardt Orr.
Newsletter for this month done by:
Theobald Kamatoto and Action Hambo.
Damaraland Camp update - November 2011 Jump
to Damaraland Camp
Weather and Landscape
It was nice and hot this month. The warm days provided us with beautiful blue skies, adding to the feeling of peace and tranquillity in this wilderness area. The early mornings and evenings are still cool and crisp. We had a three-day period when the humidity picked up and there was a build-up of Cumulonimbus clouds, but that was as far as the precipitation went; it then blew over, disappearing back into the clear blue skies.
The landscape is as beautiful and varied as ever. Large parts of the conservancy are covered in a sea of yellow grass. Many tree species are starting to show signs of new growth by displaying their new buds and flowers.
This month was an adventurous month for tracking the desert-adapted elephants, as all the elephant herds were scattered along the length of the Huab River. The Rosie, Oscar and Tuskless families tended to stay close to the natural springs. One of the reasons for this is probably that all three families have very young babies. The guests loved watching the young babies try to mimic the adults' behaviour.
We had a number of good lion sightings in the Huab Valley and constantly found their tracks riddled all over the show. On one occasion, we were also treated to an excellent cheetah sighting at dawn, not very far from camp.
The guides also made quite a few journeys up to the Springbok Valley. The aim was to search for Hartmann's mountain zebra, giraffe, kudu and oryx. On most of these trips we were delighted to find black rhino.
A leopard whip snake caused some excitement in camp. PG had to catch the snake, which allowed a close-up view of this reptile for the guests. After the guests had a look, the snake was released away from camp.
"Maggie and her staff did their job fantastic. You can feel the passion and it feels like she is hosting her family and not guests."
"Anthony was committed to helping us find interesting birds. He was a fabulous guide. Maggie and her staff were extremely friendly and welcoming."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Maggie, Elfrieda, Erika and PG.
Guides: Johann, Albert, Willem and Anthony.
Skeleton Coast Camp update - November 2011 Jump
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Serra Cafema Camp update - November 2011 Jump
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The weather has been stable and usual for this time of year. Hot conditions have been the order of the day, with average daytime highs reaching the upper 30° C mark coupled with a high humidity. The pool has offered much relief to these warm conditions during the midday scorcher. A cool, fresh ocean breeze often blew inland on most afternoons which helped to cool everything off. The evenings were as pleasant as can be and provided wonderful conditions for moonlight dinners.
We are very excited to report that we have seen the same cheetah that was spotted around camp last month - this is awesome news, and hopefully the endangered feline will settle into our area on a permanent basis. The cheetah was spotted along the runway and moved off when an aircraft approached. This shows how these animals are able to adapt and make the best of their environment. The cheetah was hiding in the long grass on the side of the airstrip, which provides the ideal conditions for the cheetah to reach maximum speed and catch its selected prey from the cover of the grass. Generally speaking, airstrips attract prey species as they feel safer being in the open area with the hope of spotting potential predators more easily - a good strategy, but not effective against the speedy cheetah.
General game sightings have been good, with a decent number of springbok and gemsbok (oryx) being seen.
The ectothermic highlight for the month was the sighting of a large horned adder out in the open. These snakes are usually very shy and elusive and are seldom seen in the open as they have the habit of burrowing into the sand at the slightest disturbance.
Birds and Birding
A pair of Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters have built a nest very close to the camp and are seen hawking insects constantly from the main deck area. It is fantastic to watch these birds forage, as they are extremely agile and are true aerial acrobats. The interesting thing about bee-eaters is how the males often bribe the females with tasty morsels, but before doing so, one can observe the males 'feaking', which is the practice of removing the bee sting by rubbing the insect's abdomen on a stick.
"This was our last stop after a wonderful trip from south to north Namibia. We return to Germany full of extraordinary impressions. Serra Cafema was a highlight and the right place to say farewell because it was so comfortable, nice and calm. We had two exciting sunset drives on the river and saw three Crocodiles. Thank you for the warm and good care." Mathias and Evelyn (Germany).
Staff in Camp
Managers: Ockert van der Walt, Cobus Botha, Chvonnie Koopmann and Elizabeth Parkhouse.
Guides: Harry Ganuseb, Gerhardus Jansen, Dinish Alberto and Jimmy Limbo.
Ongava Tented Camp update - November 2011 Jump
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Little Ongava update - November 2011 Jump
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Ongava Lodge update - November 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
We have finally received our first summer rains! Everything and everyone is really pleased with the arrival of the highly anticipated rains, which have changed the parched landscape into a lush haven for our wildlife. It is amazing how resilient the wildlife is and how quickly things change once all the correct elements fall into place.
In between the rain that we thankfully received, the daily temperatures did rise up to the 40° C mark quite often, and would then drop to around 19° C on average at night, making for comfortable conditions. On one or two occasions, we did experience a westerly wind at night, which caused a considerable drop in temperature, but it warmed up rapidly once the sun spread its rays over us in the mornings.
Game viewing for this month has been spectacular both in Ongava Game Reserve and Etosha National Park. Ongava Game Reserve is full of newborn calves from a variety of antelope species, which in turn creates a time of plenty for the many predatory species.
The waterhole in front of the lodge has been the focus of attention, as huge numbers of wildlife visit the waterhole daily. At any one time, mixed herds of gemsbok (oryx), springbok, zebra, kudu and eland, all with their young, can be at the waterhole.
We were also lucky to see both black and white rhino with their calves visit the waterhole a couple of times.
With all the herbivore activity focused on the waterhole, the lions also made an appearance with their cubs. Being the opportunists that they are, they cashed in and were seen feeding on a giraffe and a zebra very close to the waterhole on two separate occasions. What an amazing experience it was to witness this activity from the comfort of the lodge.
Having said this, the lions did not spend as much time in ambush around the waterhole as one would expect. They spent most of their time being highly mobile throughout the reserve - possibly the arrival of the nomadic males last month has caused a shift in the lion dynamics in the area; especially for the young cubs.
On the cold-blooded side of the scale, Kapona and his guests got to view a very special reptilian interaction. The group was amazed when they found a large snouted cobra and a puff adder locked in battle. Snouted cobras are known to be cannibalistic and often feed on smaller snakes. The puff adder's fate is unknown, as the snakes moved into thick brush and out of view.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Adriano, Agnes and Jason.
Guides: Teacher, Kapona, Henock, Abram and Michael.
Andersson's Camp update - November 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
November has been a very hot month, with daytime temperatures often soaring above 40° C. However, the mornings and evenings are very comfy and offer a nice beginning and end to the days. Towards the end of the month we experienced a fair amount of cloud build-up. We were teased by the rain-bearing clouds until one day the clouds burst and dropped a lot of rain over the area. At this stage any amount of rain is welcomed by us as well as the environment.
After all the fires that Ongava and Etosha experienced over the last couple of months, the landscape will no doubt burst into a frenzy of green growth as the rain we received will kick-start the new vegetation.
November was another great month for game viewing at the Andersson's waterhole as all the wildlife was on a quest to sate their thirst in the extreme conditions.
Odin the black rhino has returned to the waterhole after being temporarily displaced by his rival Asterix last month. Now both rhino hang around the area, often in close proximity to one another. The white rhino have also been seen in abundance on a regular basis throughout the reserve.
The Ongava Pride has been quite scarce in terms of sightings, but we have heard them calling on a regular basis. Perhaps the arrival of the nomadic male has thrown a curve ball in our lion society, forcing the lions to search for new territories? Having said this, the lioness with her cubs has been seen a number of times during our night drives in the reserve.
On the subject of night drives, guests have experienced some great sightings of the plethora of nocturnal critters such as honey badger, porcupine and a number of owl species.
Etosha has also been quite productive as the animals are still forced to drink at the waterholes. Meanwhile sightings of elephant have been less common, as they have started to move north and now it's quite a challenge to see them.
There have been also quite a few sightings of cheetah, with the highlight being a mother with four cubs. The guests all really enjoyed this rare sighting. Guests have also started to witness a few springbok births, with the start of the rainy season there are more and more babies.
Birds and Birding
This month we have been enjoying the company of various nightjar species in the evenings by our waterhole. The waterhole spotlight attracts a large number of insects, which then become dinner for the aerial foragers. The most common species at the moment is the Rufous-cheeked Nightjar.
This month we were also very lucky to see a Martial Eagle come to the waterhole for a drink, panicking a number of guineafowl in the process. Large flocks of Double-banded Sandgrouse also visit the waterhole daily roughly 15 minutes after the sun has set.
This month we have started with a new training course provided by Lobster Ink. This training is for all staff and offers courses from service to bar-tending to guiding - the complete hospitality package. These courses are based on international standards and we're finding that there's always more to learn. Wilderness has given all staff the chance to take part in the courses which will result in diplomas for all who complete the courses. All the staff are very excited and keen to start learning new skills.
"We have had a perfect time - Ramon managed to show us all animals without hardly any other vehicles around. He has an excellent knowledge, very welcoming and drives with care. You couldn't have a better guide and he made our stay absolutely memorable." The Beckmanns.
"We had a great experience in Ongava and Etosha - we saw cheetah, black rhino, white rhino, and lions with cubs. It was great and it was fun having dinner watching the rhino play with the mud." Nicole and Katina.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Silvia Morgante, Corne Cocklin, Corrie Adams and Sakkie Hoeseb.
Guides: Bono Gauseb
Photos by Silvia Morgante
Little Kulala Camp update - November 2011 Jump
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Kulala Desert Lodge update - November 2011 Jump
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Kulala Wilderness Camp update - November 2011 Jump
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Governors' Camp update - November 2011 Jump
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Weather and grasslands
November was an extraordinary month with lovely weather to begin with then scattered showers and heavy downpours from mid month. in the early morning hours of the 10th there was a big rainstorm which caused the marsh to fill up with water. A few days later another big rainstorm added yet more water to the Marsh causing much entertainment to our regular troop of Olive baboons who sat on the marsh verges watching the water levels rising.
Photos courtesy of Katie Mclellan and Patrick Reynolds
River crossings of wildebeest and zebra continued into November with around 2000 wildebeest crossing the Mara River on the 1st towards Governors, one was sadly taken by a waiting crocodile.
Then again on the 4th and the 5th with an estimated 5000 zebra and 1000 wildebeest taking the plunge. The crossing on the 5th was so large that it took all morning and one little unfortunate zebra foal was taken by a hungry patrolling crocodile.
Photo courtesy of Samuel Kiplangat
Topi have been giving birth on the plains, with many guests witnessing this, the topi is the intermediate between the "hider" system (found in the blesbok) and the "follower" system (found in the blue wildebeest of sub Saharan Africa). Calves can follow their mothers' immediately after birth and may not "lie out". Some Cokes Hartebeest or Kongoni have also been calving.
There are many warthogs are across the plains and those that have piglets have lost up to 50% due to predation, some families have been completely wiped out by hungry lions. Lion are the main culprits with hyena and leopard keeping numbers down as well.
Photo courtesy of Sue Lawless
The big buffalo herds in the Bila Shaka and Rhino ridge areas have many calves and some of these young calves have also fallen prey to lion and hyena. There are a dozen or so male buffalo who spend their days close to the Marsh enjoying the soft grasses.
Elephant with many young calves have been moving back and forth between the Marsh and the woodland and now that the Warburgia trees are fruiting this will entice the Elephant to spend more time in the woodlands and between the camps.
Photo courtesy of Samuel Kiplangat
Teclea Nobilis are also fruiting their fruit, which is red when ripe attracts many birds including the stricking double toothed barbett.
Photos courtesy of Philip Mclellan
The woodlands are full of breeding herds of Impala. Many of these herds have young fawns of varying ages. Young fawns can fall prey to many predators including male Olive baboons and both Jackal species especially the Black Backed Jackal. Olive baboons live in groups or "troops" as they are often called, ranging in size from 15 to 150 individuals.
The elusive Bush buck are seen in the early morning and evening light often mingling with a troop of baboons as they forage for food. Defassa waterbuck are also spread out with this rain but still close to the Musiara marsh.
The Bat eared foxes are out and about, there are many dens with some young cubs. Bat eared foxes will feed on many insects favouring harvester termites and dung beetles. They have a well developed digastric muscle that allows them to snap at approximately 3 times time a second. Black backed jackals also have pups at the moment and they are taking up residence in old termite mounds, appearing in the early mornings.
Photo courtesy of Samuel Kiplangat
We have also had some lovely sightings of two male Black Rhinos up on Paradise plains.
Mid month there was a lot of action close to Il Moran camp, it was early evening and two hippos had a huge fight with one hippo dead by 2 am the scavengers then moved in and the night air was filled with the cackling of excited hyenas. When the sun rose the hyena disappeared and the vultures moved in devouring what was left. Over a hundred vultures mainly the white back, Hooded and ruppels Griffin covered the carcass.
Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds
The Marsh pride have been covering an area from the Marsh to Rhino ridge. The four 'new males' are a formidable foursome and have been killing Buffalo and a young hippo.
Joy's five cubs (including the much smaller adopted one) are doing well and particularly the young one. Within the first week of the month there were three new cubs that were born near the reeds at the top end of the Musiara Marsh, with all this rain lately there have been no further firm sightings of these little cubs and we fear the worst.
The 4 large males related to 'Notch' are being seen near the Talek river but 'Notch' himself has not been seen lately. There is a lioness that has three cubs which are about two months old now and she is in the croton thickets on the Emarti side of the Talek River.
Photos courtesy of Bob Pitts and Katie Mclellan
The two males have been seen between the paradise plains and the Talek River. They have were last seen on the 18th feeding off the remains of a warthog sow. These two brothers were seen earlier on in the month on the plains east of the Marsh, they had killed a Grants gazelle but Hyena moved them off very quickly, unfortunately this is the problem cheetah face.
A female Cheetah on the posse plains (North West side of the Talek River) has three young cubs which are about two months old. She has been seen hunting Thompson gazelle.
Photo courtesy of Sharon Earp
The older male has been seen near the Musiara gate and he has been seen feeding off warthog piglets, he has a little sarcoptic mange around his face and ears so he will have to be monitored.
Olive, her 11 month old cub and the two year old son remain close to the Talek River.
A large male Leopard has been in the river bed south of Bila Shaka towards Rhino Ridge. The young male who frequents the croton thickets close to the Mara River has again been seen more often this month.
Photo courtesy of Sharon Earp
The Female with two cubs who are about nine months old have been in the riverine tree line at the bottom end of the Bila Shaka river bed. A female Leopard with two very young cubs was in a dry river bed near to Look out hill. These cubs have just opened there eyes so perhaps they are a little over one month old. This is quite some distance away from Musiara and the best way of seeing all this is to take a picnic breakfast or lunch and spend the morning or day out.
Walking in the Koiyaki Conservation Area.
Due to the weather we were only able to walk twice this month. Good numbers of Thomson gazelle can be seen on the open plains above the 'Fly over' and also in the open areas between the acacia woodlands. Two Thompson Fawns were killed by a pair of Black Jackals on the 3rd of November, Jackals work as a pair and run their prey down which is similar to many of the canids, they are amazingly agile. On the 3rd at the bottom end of the Olare Orok a large clan of Hyenas were seen moving away from the remains of a Zebra kill and this we presumed was taken by the acacia lion pride. We saw from a distance three lionesses and 5 cubs of varying ages and they were well into the croton thickets below the salt lick, although lion are habituated to cars it is a different ball game whilst on foot. A few male Buffalo were seen and these are more often seen in the deep croton thickets and occasionally on the open plains. Topi with calves and Cokes Hartebeest are also being seen. There is a touch of scarlet on the plains and Laval escarpments with the Fireball lily, gloriosa superba and crossandra Nilotica. As the rains continue we will see many more wonderful colours.
Photos courtesy of Patrick Reynolds
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge update - November 2011
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