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No report this month.
Bradfield's Hornbill in the Central Kalahari
Location: Kalahari Plains Camp, Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Botswana
Date: 24 October 2011
Observer: Anthony Bennet and Victor Horatius
Photographer: Anthony Bennet
A Bradfield's Hornbill has been regularly sighted around Kalahari Plains Camp for some time now. It was first observed back in August, often on the ground, in the company of Southern Yellow-billed Hornbills, feeding on ants.
It has also been seen inspecting White-browed Sparrow-Weaver nests - prodding its beak into the nests presumably looking for insects. The nests did not appear to be occupied by weavers at the time but the hornbill could have been investigating into the presence of chicks. As it is known to feed on a wide range of insects, some small vertebrates, fruit and seeds, this seems to be unlikely however. This bird has been staying in the immediate vicinity of camp with continued sightings to date.
What is so significant and exciting about this sighting? Considering the distribution of this hornbill species, it is being observed quite a distance from its known habitat of north-east Botswana where it prefers tall broad-leaved woodland mosaics as opposed to the acacia scrub of the Central Kalahari.
Whether this is indicative of a southward range expansion for this endemic southern African hornbill species only time will tell. For any birders visiting Kalahari Plains Camp right now, this is definitely something uncommon to look out for!
A Costly Clash between Packs
Sighting: A Costly Clash between Packs
Location: Savuti Camp, Linyanti Concession, Botswana
Date: October 2011
Observer: Grant Atkinson
Photographer: Grant Atkinson
There are two packs of wild dogs that make use of the area around DumaTau and Savuti Camp. One is called the Zibadianja Pack (named after the local name for a large lagoon that forms the source of the Savute Channel). The other is known as the Linyanti Pack. Both packs denned successfully during the 2011 season, with the Zib Pack bringing 13 pups out of a den near Selinda Camp, far to the west, and the Linyanti Pack emerging slightly earlier from their den (east of DumaTau) with 10 pups.
This is always a period that we watch with interest in order to measure the levels of mortality in the vulnerable young pups. The Linyanti Pack lost one pup soon after moving away from the den in early August, leaving nine healthy youngsters for the pack to look after. The Zib Pack also lost a single pup by the time they left the den, leaving 12 youngsters remaining.
After this post-denning period, both packs moved towards the productive hunting grounds of the Savute Channel in the Linyanti Concession. Wild dog packs are territorial, and defend their hunting territories fiercely against other dog packs. The Savute Channel, at a depth deep enough to deter crossing especially with young pups, lay between the two packs though, and by September both packs were hunting along the length of the channel, on opposite sides. It was during this month however that two dogs from the Linyanti Pack, including the alpha female, disappeared. The cause of the disappearance was unknown to us, but as her pups had finished suckling this did not have a direct impact on their survival, although the alpha female was obviously an important dog in her pack. The loss reduced the Linyanti pack to nine adults and the nine remaining pups.
For several days in early October after this disappearance the two dog packs were opposite one another on the Savute Channel and finally the tension became too much. The larger Zib Pack crossed to the north bank, and attacked the waiting Linyanti Pack in a savage territorial fight. After the fight, the dogs were scattered for several days. The cost of the fight was high, with two adult dogs from the Zib Pack dead or missing, leaving the pack ten adults strong. All twelve pups survived unscathed.
The Linyanti Pack appeared to have lost the fight, and moved to the east - which means that we have not been able to observe these animals since the clash, and do not yet have a clear idea of any adult mortalities - all their pups have survived however.
Since the clash, the Zib Pack has suffered further mortalities, losing two pups to lion attacks. This really puts into stark relief just how finely balanced wild dog survival is. It is not all bad news for the dogs however, as both packs still have a high percentage of their pups remaining alive after six months, and each day that the pups survive sees them bigger, stronger, faster and more likely to make it to adulthood.
Water activities in the Linyanti Concession, Botswana
With the rebirth of the Savute Channel, and greater inflows into the Linyanti River itself, the waterways of the Linyanti Concession area are now offering new opportunities to explore. It is possible to create unique combinations of activities like canoeing, walking and boating, depending on time of year and water levels.
At Savuti Camp canoeing is proving to be an extremely popular activity depending on local water conditions. This camp also has boat activities on offer. Game viewing can be excellent from the boat, with elephant, giraffe, buffalo and hippo sighted frequently. There have even been sightings of lion and leopard and on one occasion to date, cheetah! Boat rides can be taken in the morning, at midday, or as an afternoon activity.
At Kings Pool Camp a barge is on hand to explore the Linyanti River. Late afternoon cruises are most popular, when the possibility of encountering animals coming to the river to drink is at its best. The barge is also able to be used for special occasion activities.
DumaTau Camp offers boat cruises in the Linyanti River. These trips offer excellent bird watching, as well as the possibility of seeing mammals. During midday and afternoon cruises, there is always the chance of seeing elephant drinking at the river, or even crossing the water.
The New DumaTau Camp
Scheduled to open on 1 March 2012, this Classic Camp will be located on a new site, overlooking Osprey Lagoon. There will still be 10 rooms including 7 twins, 1 double and 2 family units.
Ruckomechi Camp Runner-up Best Safari Camp in Zimbabwe
Wilderness Safaris is pleased to announce that Ruckomechi Camp in Mana Pools has won the first runner-up award for Best Safari Camp in Zimbabwe, awarded by ATZA (Association of Travel Agents Zimbabwe). The AZTA Awards have come to be highly respected in the industry as they represent not only the members' views through voting, but also that of the many clients whose feedback is instrumental in forming opinions.ATZA was formed over 60 years ago by a group of travel agents intent on joining forces in Zimbabwe to become one voice to suppliers and authorities to maximise representation and respect as an industry player.
Ruckomechi Camp is situated on the western boundary of Mana Pools National Park alongside the mighty Zambezi River. Its diverse ecosystem is beautifully represented by the abundance of wildlife roaming the area. Accommodating guests in ten beautifully-appointed and spacious en-suite tented units, the camp consists of a central dining, bar, library and lounge areas facing Africa's Great Rift Valley escarpment. A separate deck hosts an infinity pool for swimming and sun bathing, and an inviting, cushion-strewn star gazing deck. Like all the Wilderness Safaris camps, Ruckomechi aims to minimise its environmental impact through greater efficiencies, constant measurement and alternative energy sources.
Toka Leya Camp
We have recently uploaded a video clip on Toka Leya Camp featuring Victoria Falls, game viewing in and around camp, the spa, the green aspects of Toka Leya and of course the rooms.
No report this month.
North Island Update - October 2011 Jump
to North Island
Kings Pool Camp update - October 2011 Jump
to Kings Pool Camp
DumaTau Camp update - October 2011 Jump
to DumaTau Camp
We have had an amazing October at DumaTau - we experienced a lot of really warm days with temperatures reaching highs of 44° C but we also had a few early morning thunder showers which have caused the trees to burst into bloom.
We have been spoilt with many sightings of the DumaTau Pride that consists of 15 lions; they have been found on the DumaTau floodplains frequently. They have been successful with hunting and our guests have been very lucky to see these lions feeding on a couple of occasions. The Savute female has also been seen numerous times and is still on her own - this does not stop her from eating well however, as she is a very good and experienced hunter. She lost her cubs in September and this has led her to being back into oestrus, so we have been lucky to see her mating with the dominant male lion from the DumaTau Pride that lost his brother last month. We have also had the LTC Pride from Kings Pool come very close to camp on the DumaTau floodplains.
The DumaTau male leopard still dominates this area and we have found him a couple of times at his favourite tree - the big jackalberry on the DumaTau floodplain. He has taken a liking to catching warthogs lately and has become a successful hog hunter. We found this leopard feeding on a large boar, which must have put up a huge fight, attracting hyaenas in the process. It wasn't long before the spotted predators arrived in number and chased the feline off of the kill.
On the wild dog front, the Zib Pack has been very active around the camp area and continues to be very successful in the hunting department. We had the privilege of watching the pack ground an impala right in front of camp and devour it. The pups were there too and the adults promptly regurgitated some food for them. Unfortunately another pup has perished at the claws of the Savute lioness; this brings the number of pups down to nine. A couple of weeks ago the Zib Pack and Linyanti Pack engaged in a territorial dispute which resulted in a couple of adult casualties. The opposing packs were seen fighting again but no casualties occurred this time.
Fishing and boat trips along the Savute Channel have been providing our guests with much joy, as the amount of game along the channel is phenomenal with large numbers of elephant, giraffe, kudu, lechwe, impala, buffalo and hippo all over the banks. On occasion, we have seen lion, leopard and wild dog from the boat. Walking trails have also been very popular and have yielded great game viewing as well.
We would like to congratulate Kago (KG) on his new position as the general manager of Vumbura Plains South and we would like to say farewell to him as he will be leaving us at the end of November.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Kago (KG), Abi-Jello, Olivia, Jose and Tshidi.
Guides: Ron, Lazi, Mocks, Tanks and Bobby.
All images courtesy of Kago (KG)
Savuti Camp update - October 2011 Jump
to Savuti Camp
The month of October often brings about change in the African wilderness - Savuti Camp has been no exception.
The comfortable September weather has become a distant memory, replaced by the hot, dry days that give October its reputation as the warmest month of the year. Each day we look to the horizon in search of the first thunderstorm to breathe life back into the wilderness.
However, there is so much beauty that comes with the warmer months of the year. The trees begin to sprout new leaves, slowly turning the landscape into a lush green environment. The iconic call of the Woodland Kingfisher has begun to echo across the channel, signalling the return of the many migratory birds. Still to make its appearance in the up and coming month is the arrival of the newborns; the bush will be dotted with baby impala, zebra, kudu, giraffe and many other plains game. We will need the clouds to open up and wet the grounds before this happens.
In the heat of the day, the deeper water in front of the camp has become a popular bathing area for the elephants. In an attempt to escape the midday heat they submerge their entire bodies in the channel's cool waters. Almost daily, guests can view this from the comfort of their tent deck.
Early in the month the guides discovered a pride of 15 lions that have not been seen in this concession since 2009. The large pride seems to have settled back in the area, often seen operating along the Savute Channel and Linyanti River. Due to the number of members of this pride, the lions have to hunt every few days, which has provided some spectacular sightings for guests.
The wild dogs have once again provided superb game viewing. The puppies, now almost fully grown, are travelling large distances with the adult members of the pack. Guests have enjoyed watching how the pack interacts and hunts as a unit, often commenting on how the adult dogs will move away from a fresh kill to allow the younger members to eat - an interesting behaviour not often seen amongst other predators.
Meanwhile in camp, we have been hard at work to bring some exciting improvements to our safari offering. Those who visited Savuti Camp before the return of the water would remember Dishpan Hide - a large hide that overlooked a small pan. This used to be a popular area for game sightings due to the fact that the channel was dry, but since the arrival of the water in the Savute Channel this has changed.
Not wanting to leave the structure unused, we decided to dismantle the hide and recover as much of the old wood as possible. With a new site located just east of camp on the Savute Channel we began construction of our new deck at the beginning of the month. Using as much natural material as possible our carpentry team constructed a beautiful deck which now overlooks the channel, facing west to offer the remarkable African sunsets.
During the last week of the month we surprised our guests with sundowners on our new deck after their afternoon boat cruise. There was much celebration with the official cutting of the ribbon (or reed in our case). With just a little cloud cover on the horizon we were gifted with the most spectacular sunset
Sundowners are not the only activity that we plan for the deck. We have also enjoyed our first bush dinner at the site. Surrounded by natural wilderness as far as the eye can see and complemented by a starry African sky and a lightning display in the distance, this has to be one of the best dinner settings in Botswana.
On the morning of the 19 October signs of rain were seen on the horizon. The guests headed out on drive in the early hours of the morning with dark clouds looming over them. In the camp we sat and enjoyed the impressive thunder and lightning display as the rain approached. We were graced with the sweet smell of some rain for a few short minutes. While this was not nearly enough rain to bring about the expected changes, it is a sign of what is to come in the months ahead.
The Savuti Team: Stuart, Noeline, Willie, KT, Lets, Ace, Goodman and Carlton.
Photographs by Stuart Parker.
Zarafa Camp update - October 2011 Jump
to Zarafa Camp
October started off with the most important day in the Botswana calendar - Independence Day! There was great celebration of the 45 years of independence and guests were treated to singing, dancing and traditional food.
Weather and Landscape
Although we have just come out of spring, October has been one of the hottest months of the year so far. Luckily for us, we experienced two thunderstorms this month, producing 17.5mm of rain. The first storm caught us all by surprise one evening while we were eating dinner. Suddenly the wind picked up and the sound of thunder started to grumble, which was shortly followed by lightning and then rain. By the time everyone managed to react, the rain was over and everyone was soaked but cooled off.
The African mangosteen trees have begun fruiting, and all of the frugivores are eagerly awaiting the fruits to ripen as they do not taste good now due to the high tannin content. The brown ivory tree that dominates the main deck was looking rather sad but in a matter of a few days has started to produce beautiful bright green leaves and in a month's time it will be totally transformed and the deck will once again be shaded by lush leaves.
The Selinda Pride of lions have been regular visitors this month with good sightings of the pride lazing under a tree or stalking buffalo, or having a drink at the water's edge. They settled around the southern part of camp for a few days and were hassling some buffalo to no avail.
We spent a morning on foot with some guests tracking the pride's movement and when we got close, we decided to radio in for a vehicle back-up. Our guides then continued the tracking on foot with the guests on the vehicle not too far away. The vehicle was called in shortly to view the sleepy felines, who just briefly looked at the bipedal figure and went back to sleep.
On the wild dog side of things, our Selinda Pack has been over in the neighbour's yard causing havoc with the Linyanti Pack - we have had reports that the Selinda Pack chased the Linyanti Pack all the way up towards Kings Pool Camp. Towards the end of the month, the Selinda Pack was seen on the north side of the Savute Channel, very close to Zarafa Camp.
Leopard sightings have been awesome this month, with the highlight being the sighting of a leopard feeding on a Southern African python. The python we estimated at 3.5 metres (around 10 feet) in length and the female leopard that had killed it must have done this before; to make a kill like this requires years of experience and skill.
We've seen a young male not far from camp, as well as his mother; both have kindly posed in trees, or sat in the shade of jackalberry trees for us to stare at in awe.
General game has been excellent too, with congregations of giraffe, buffalo, impala, tsessebe, red lechwe and waterbuck all in one stretch along the lagoon - magical!
With the first rains of the season come the frogs, closely followed by the snakes that have begun to be more active. Although not everyone's favourite animals, these amazing creatures are highly adaptive and while there is plenty of evidence they are around, one rarely actually sees these shy creatures.
Dragonflies, butterflies and other winged creatures have taken up residence in camp and it is magical to watch them fluttering around camp, resting on a branch or hawking prey from their perches.
Birds and Birding
Birding has been excellent too. We are starting to see our summer migrants arrive in full force. Most notable are the rather raucous and charismatic Broad-billed Rollers. They start their tricks just at sunrise and terrorise other birds with their swooping, dive bombing and squawking. They are beautiful birds with a purple body and contrasting bright yellow beak. The Paradise Flycatchers are here and will soon start to pair up to mate and lay eggs in their tiny cup-shaped nests.
We've also had regular sightings of a number of groups of Southern Ground Hornbills as they nonchalantly stride through the grass hunting for prey, wings held out and backwards in a strange choreographed effort.
We've had super sightings of Wahlberg's Eagle, Martial Eagle, the usual superb African Fish-Eagle sightings and many more raptors of all sizes including the Dickinson's Kestrel as well as Gabar Goshawk.
All in all it has been a great month, hot, but rewarding. Nature is an ever-changing environment, never in balance, always in a serene state of chaos! October is a transition month, hot because summer is creeping in but soon the rains will arrive and cool us all down and the bush will transform as flowers, fruit and leaves begin to appear in total abundance. All will be well and life will continue to flourish in this magical piece of paradise called the Selinda Reserve.
Come and visit us soon!
All the best and Bush Greetings from John, Liz, Dux, Ocean, Moses, Pat and all the Zarafa Camp staff!
Photographs by John Hilton
Selinda Camp update - October 2011 Jump
to Selinda Camp
Weather and Landscape
What a strange month it was for us in terms of weather. Usually October is one of the hottest and driest months for us, but this was not the case this time around. For the first two weeks of the month, the weather was rather cool. We were then further surprised by three very decent thunder showers. We were reminded of the usual trends on a couple of days, when the mercury pushed up to 40° C.
We experienced a very heavy annual inundation this year, but as we approach the pinnacle of the dry season, the water levels have dropped significantly in most areas, exposing new areas for any terrestrial creature to explore. After receiving some rain, the vegetation is starting to bounce back with vigour, as signs of new growth and greenery are sprouting all over the show.
With the drying up of the environment, the Spillway has become a vital source of moisture for many animal species. Elephants seem to be massing at this water source as we have been seeing huge concentrations all along the spillway. This has produced some great sightings from the boat, especially when the sun was setting.
Cat sightings have been pretty good, even surprising at times. For some reason we had much more leopard activity in the northern part of the concession and even the occasional cheetah sighting up north. A really unusual sighting for all guest and guides was when a group of game viewers found a leopard that was feeding. Upon closer inspection, the group was blown away when they noticed the feline was feeding on a large Southern African python!
A major disturbance in the Selinda Pride has occurred which will undoubtedly effect the lion dynamics in Selinda. It appears that the two dominant male siblings have gone missing as we have not seen them recently at all. Rumour has it that they wandered further east into Savute and were killed by the Kings Pool Pride. Not a minute was wasted in their absence, as an unknown sub-adult male has been popping up around Selinda, possibly shopping for a vacant area to take over once he is fully grown. We first encountered this young male feeding on a hippo carcass on the banks of the Spillway. The next few months will definitely be interesting as the Panthera leo saga unfolds further spilling more light onto this uncertainty.
Birds and Birding
With the summer migrants arriving, the birding has been notched up a level, adding a good number of ticks to our species checklist. The Woodland Kingfishers arrived at the end of the month as well as a number of cuckoo species. The very striking Purple Gallinules have settled into the area in good numbers, tempting all of our photographic inclined guests to try and get the best shot of these elusive birds.
As the water levels drop, many good-sized fish become isolated in smaller pools and some areas on the spillway are now accessible, which has created fantastic fishing conditions. Pike, bream and barbel have been keeping the guests busy on the fishing side, and we have developed a title - 'The Selinda Grand Slam' - for those who manage to bag the three species on one trip.
Wine tasting has also been very popular with our guests, especially since we have upgraded our wine cellar with a wide variety of vintages from around South Africa.
Camps Update - October 2011
• No report for this month.
Lagoon camp Jump
• Swimming lessons continue – hot temperatures without rain, have increased the daily visits to the river by the numerous elephants. Hundreds are crossing the river each day, near camp, and enjoying cooling off in the deep water. As guests lounge in the camp swimming pool looking out, the river gives the impression of a giant paddling pool with elephants of all sizes 'frolicking' – if that's the word to use for a 5 ton animal? Breeding herds cross with a little more decorum than the bulls, the little trunks of the youngsters peeping out from the top of the water, as their feet paddle away to keep up with mum.
• An unusual sight called in by the guides one day – a "nesting leopard". Not some hybrid of a cat and a bird, nor a leopard that had 'changed its spots', but a young male leopard that had used his initiative and climbed into an African Fish Eagle's nest, and devoured two hatchlings. A hard lesson for the mother eagle, to perhaps next time build a nest on not so sturdy a branch…
• Although we had no luck with cheetah sightings this month, the lions were seen several times. A couple of intruding young male lions have been seen in the area, always nervous and running away – just waiting for the chance to sneak in and try their strength if the pride males falter in some way. However, the Masalek pride ensuring they kept 'bulked' up by feasting on a beautiful Roan antelope, with a couple of warthogs for 'chasers'.
• The big breeding herds of buffalos are still in the area, waiting for the rains to fall so that they can enjoy the new grass. Most of the young will be born around this time, which provides good pickings for the cats of the area.
• Now the wild dog pack have left the den – the pups are more mobile – its hard work keeping up with them. The pups are still too young to participate in the hunt – without mucking it up that is – but they are getting used to the idea of being on the move. Although this can make it more difficult to see them, our trackers and guides do an excellent job at finding them regularly, as they move around the Kwando concession.
The good news is that there are still 9 pups – so no mortality amongst the young – always a risk when they leave the den and encounter the dangers of the big wide world.
• Although the rains have not yet arrived, most of the migrant birds are here already. The carmine bee-eaters have excavated their nests – miniature caves into the side of the river bank, so this makes a great trip for everyone on the boat – watching them fly in and out of their holes at eye-level.
• Night drives this month have featured large porcupines (including one right in the camp!) , a nervous little African wild cat, and seven noisy and rambunctious hyenas feeding on a dead elephant carcass.
Lebala camp Jump
• A young female leopard cub has been the star of the show this month, having been seen several times on her own, and with her mother. The young cub was spotted clambering down from a tree, and trying to hunt birds, before becoming exhausted and lying down for a nap.
• A variety of lions were seen this month, including one large pride with seven cubs who were feeding on a buffalo carcass. Tracks for the two shy male lions that have been seen in the Lagoon camp area, were found also not far from Lebala camp, but were too skittish to be seen.
• Huge herds of elephants are moving continually to and fro across the marsh in front of camping – perhaps living proof that the grass is always greener on the side! Both at night and during the day, their rumblings can be heard resonating through the camp rooms, as the amble along, feeding as they go. Since the camp itself is built on an island, its only elephant traffic jams that delay guests getting to their rooms.
• Beautiful birdlife in the marshes, with special displays from the black egrets – their hunting technique of creating an umbrella out of their wings to encourage the fish to swim into the shadow, is always a pleasure to watch.
• Genets, wild cats, spring hares, porcupines, honey badgers have all been seen on the evening game drives. The rarest sighting was of a striped polecat – a small weasel or skunk-like animal that also goes by the name of a zorilla.
Kwara & Little Kwara camps Jump
& Little Kwara camps
• As the first rain clouds begin to gather, turning the landscape into a kaleidoscope of colours, good sightings abound this month. Grazers and browsers have been plentiful, with large herds of zebras, kudus, and buffalos being seen throughout the concession.
We have also been delighted to see the young ones, with baby tsessebees following their mothers around, getting accustomed to the area – and their legs! We have also been seeing huge herds of buffalos, with these formidable animals grazing, drinking and fighting as part of their daily activity.
• Night drives provide the perfect opportunity to come across interesting sightings including side striped jackals sitting by their dens and hoping to pick up left over's from nearby kills. Jackals mate for life, and one of their offspring often remains with the parents to help raise the next litter of pups. On another game drive to the Splash area, a very relaxed civet was spotted close to the vehicle, giving a rare opportunity to view this animal at close quarters.
• A pride of seven lions managed to bring down a giraffe, on which they spent several days feasting, with their cubs in tow. Three brothers from the popular "seven brothers" followed the buffalos for a few days but did not have any success making a kill. Two females with cubs were also seen being followed around by one of the brothers. The mother grunted each time the large male came to close to her cubs, probably sensing danger. During the nights, we have often heard the lions roaring – a wonderful sound to serenade us to sleep!
• This month, after several weeks of not seeing wild dogs in the area, we were lucky and came across fresh tracks. Such a discovery could not be ignored, and we followed the tracks until we came face to face with a pack of four – two males and two females – the guests snapped away with their cameras! As the dogs were resting, we were able to stay with them for about 1.5 hours, before they attempted to take down a reedbuck – and caught!
• Godikwe lagoon has been top of the birding parade, with its own heronry. Boat trips make use of this wonderful sighting. Pink backed pelicans have also been seen this month!
• While enjoying the mokoro activity, we have been enthralled by the plentiful painted reed frogs, and also the Angolan reed frogs that have been appearing in good numbers. On the reptilian front, a large African rock python was found on close to Bat Eared Fox den. The python was dead – there were no indications of injury from another animal, so its death remains a mystery.
• The favourite sighting this month was of a cheetah with three cubs which we were able to see for several days. On the first day, the mother cheetah killed an impala, and on the second day after tracking it, she had pulled down a baby tseseebe.
• Without rain, the water hole has become a major meeting point for all the animals …. From the comfort of camp (even from the comfort of their beds!) guests have been able to see lions, spotted hyena, brown hyena, kudu, springbok, zebra, wildebeest, steinbok, duiker and many elephants all drinking at the waterhole! The star of the waterhole visitors this month was one lone wild dog – a rare visitor to the park.
• Cheetahs have been our most 'common cats' these months, with many sightings of the one adult and two young. They have been have been seen regularly out on game drives, hunting and resting, and one occasion where when they were feeding on a springbok.
• Lions, doing what they do best, have been lounging around in the heat, near the water hole. Four adults and five youngsters took a chance to try and hunt around the edge of the waterhole, waiting for appetising antelope to wander on down, but there was no success whilst the guests were watching.
• Lots and lots of wonderful general game milling around the area, waiting for the rain as well, and queuing for the waterhole. Black backed and side striped jackals have been adding their calls to the evening sound effects, together with the soft-shoe shuffle of the ghostly white elephants drifting by.
• As for the birds – the summer arrival of the Wahlbergs eagles has made life as a small rodent or lizard a tad perilous…These birds too visit the waterhole, together with goshawks and martial eagles. Not a very comfortable time of year for the three scrub hares that normally live in comfort under the main deck… sneaking out for a late afternoon snack of grass roots has become a little trickier!
• Let's face it; it would be bigger news if lions were NOT seen at Tau Pan. Well, that certainly wasn't the news this month. The resident pride (so resident, the camp staff wouldn't be overly surprised to see them relaxing in the armchairs in the lounge) have been doing their morning stroll to the waterhole before moving off to rest from the heat under the shade of the small trees. Another pride of three males and three females have been venturing in from Passage Pan, and sneaking down to drink at the waterhole whilst the dominant pride is napping. It's only a matter of time before scuffles break out – and a scuffling group of lions is something to be reckoned with.
• When the lions frequent an area in such heavy numbers, it can be hard to see other cats, as cheetah and leopard normally slink around the outskirts and keep a low profile. It appears not every leopard follows the same handbook – or perhaps she was away from class that day? At the end of October, a hot Kalahari afternoon proved too much for one leopard, who decided that the crystal blue plunge pool next to the lounge was the perfect place for an early sun downer. In spite of a number of people being in the lounge at the time, the water was just too tempting, and she spent several minutes lapping up the cool water before slinking off.
• Large fires in the Kalahari have helped reduce the amount of moribund vegetation that was building up – this clears the way for the green shoots of grass to grown once the first drops of rain have fallen, and provides a well needed food source for the antelope. As the long dry grass is burnt away, it also provides less cover for the shyer animals, and increases the chances of seeing some more unusual critters. Not really known for the shyness (certainly not around our camp anyway!), honey badgers are, in most places, difficult to see. So it was a very excited group of guests that managed to see a grand total of eight honey badgers in one game drive! Perhaps some kind of convention that we are unaware of?
• Good birding this month as well… yellow billed kites breeding close to the camp, black shouldered kites (one of the few birds that can actually hover) and plenty of other raptors.
Mombo Camp update
- October 2011 Jump
to Mombo Camp
The mild, flower-filled summery days of September gives way to the harshness of October at Mombo, heralding the last month of the dry season, the hottest month of the year, and also the most exciting.
October is one of the most interesting months in the Okavango, and also possibly the most challenging to all who call the region home. It is a time of burning heat, dry air and dust clouds, when everyone looks to the skies for any sign of clouds that may herald the start of the rains and relief from the high temperatures. Amid the apparent desolation however, there are signs of life everywhere - sap rises in the trees, the mangosteen and fig trees give their fruit, flowers fall from sausage trees, and the rapidly retreating waters of the floodplains leave a nutritious carpet of green grasses behind. As sources of water become more and more concentrated in the channels that feed the now-dry plains, animals reliant on water become more concentrated in these areas, and the predators follow.
As usual, the month has been action-packed with exciting predator activity, as well as the arrival of our avian summer visitors, starting with Yellow-billed Kites and Southern Carmine Bee-eaters - all culminating in the unmistakable crescendo of sound from the Woodland Kingfishers.
Five prides of lion have been seen this month, all now returning to their territories that the annual inundation had claimed over the rainy season. The Mporota Pride still dominates the western floodplain areas, and has been hunting the buffalo there with some regularity. The Mathatha holds the east, while to the south the Western Pride emerged once again from their watery hunting ground onto the dry lands once more. The Mporota Breakaway Pride and the Mathatha sub-adults fit into the wedge between the larger prides. One of the Western Boys, who dominate both the Mathatha Prides, was seen mating with one of the females from the sub-pride.
Hyaenas have also had their conflicts with the lion prides, and on some occasions have successfully driven them off kills, most notably when a clan took over a giraffe kill from the Mathatha Breakaway Pride.
The Western male lion, a nomad we occasionally find near Croc Corner, was also seen this month, with a female in attendance.
An amazing sight witnessed from camp was a crocodile ambushing a red lechwe in the water, only to have the Western Pride lions rush in to grab it from the hapless croc! The Mporota Pride made two kills in the camp environs this month, both at night, one involving a young buffalo, the other a lechwe.
Leopards have been sighted regularly this month as well - with the usual individuals allowing us a glimpse into their lives. Legadema has once again had two cubs, and after a brief sighting, we closed the area for game drives to avoid any pressure on her and her offspring. She has been seen several times on her hunting forays, and appears to be heavy with milk, which is a good sign. On one afternoon we found her in the broken baobab near camp with a fresh monkey kill, which is notable in that they are extremely difficult animals to catch, even for a leopard!
She has allowed us some other exciting viewings of her hunting on various occasions, and came into camp a few times as well - once she was a little too bold and was chased off by baboons - she hunted unsuccessfully near the bridge, and later caught an impala which was in turn stolen by a hyaena.
Pula has been seen in the Maun road area, also with kills in trees, as well as Lebadi and Blue Eyes in the Suzy's Duckpond and Simbira areas. Lebadi was seen in a conflict with another male leopard near Treeline to Simbira, but the territorial battle was cut short by the arrival of the Mathatha lions who scattered the two protagonists! Another as-yet-unidentified male leopard was seen to the west near the Mporota floodplain with a freshly-killed baboon, which was stolen from him by the Mporota Pride.
Rhino sightings this month have produced three individuals of two species - Serondela and Sergeant, the two competitive and dominant white rhino males of the region, as well as Mmabontshe, a female black rhino.
Similar to last year, large herds of elephant have been moving through the area, and on one afternoon, a herd of around 70 of these amazing animals were seen crossing the water near the hippo hide.
The lone wild dog has been seen often and is healthy - however she has displayed some very interesting and peculiar behaviour. Last month's report had her attempting to make contact with the new jackal pups from the Siberiana Pack, when she was being rebuffed by the adults while the cubs still suckled. She has now abandoned that pack and has found another "family" some distance off in the Heavy Acacia area: a pair of adults with four pups. She has been seen hunting for them, calling them to her kills - on occasion by the time she had got them there a hyaena had taken over - and resting with them in the vicinity of their den.
What happened next was surprising - she tried to take over the den and the puppies by chasing the parents away and regurgitating meat for the puppies. This has sparked off a competitive behaviour between her and the adult jackals as to who can feed the puppies first and thus gain their attention.
At time of writing, a pack of 16 wild dogs have been seen in the area, running up from the south of Chief's Island and all the way to the north of our concession, which is a truly notable event after such a long absence of a pack in the region. Whether or not they will stay is another question, largely due to the enormous lion population Mombo supports, but we will keep you updated.
What is also fascinating is that the Mombo lone wild dog made no effort to come into contact with this pack - in fact she was observed deliberately avoiding them. Reasons for this might be that she would feel threatened by the other pack, which may attack or even kill her, as she is the holder of the territory they find themselves in.
We look forward to the rains and the abundance of life they will bring - with plants, flowers and animals responding with enthusiasm to their arrival. Already we have seen young red lechwe running around the floodplains, and the rain should trigger the next mass birthing among the antelope species. This in turn will create an abundance for the predators, and restart the age-old cycle of life in the Okavango. We welcome you to join us in our wetland paradise!
Staff in Camp
Managers: Vasco, Martha, Claire, Ten and Phenyo at Main Camp. Graham was at little Mombo.
Guides: Malinga, Moses, Sefo and Tshepo at Main Camp and Tsile and Cisco at Little Mombo.
Xigera Camp update
- October 2011 Jump
to Xigera Camp
Weather and Landscape
The wonderful thing about Xigera is that the presence of so much water generally tends to keep the temperatures relatively temperate. It has been hot, but not oppressive on this shady paradise island. There still hasn't been any proper rain, with one or two short drizzles, although once or twice impressive thunderstorms have threatened otherwise. The water levels continue to drop, but Xigera remains the ultimate Delta water camp, with mokoro and power boat cruises still very much the focus.
Xigera really is a very special place. Special because although we remind guests that the experience here is more about appreciating the smaller fauna such as frogs and birds, and being absorbed by the particularly stunning surroundings, guests are often treated to the most unique game sightings. Much to everyone's delight, the elusive sitatunga has made an appearance a number of times this month, causing much excitement for guests and guides alike.
Another spectacular sighting was that of a pangolin, which could perhaps be called the sighting of the year! When the radio call came through from one of our guides to pinpoint its location, we joined the guests in an adrenalin-filled ride to find it - an experience reminiscent of chasing down a pack of wild dogs. The little creature that greeted us when we arrived was small and slow and so, so close - we were able to watch him as he shyly scuttled through the short grass, allowing us a perfect, magical viewing.
In fact, the area surrounding Xigera is surprisingly rich in general game, with regular sightings of buffalo, giraffe, zebra, lechwe, kudu, reedbuck, hippo, crocodile and breeding herds of elephant. On slightly longer boat trips to Chief's Island, lions are often spotted and closer to camp we've had wonderful, clear viewings of leopard.
Xigera Camp itself continues to be a magnet for elephants, and we have three or so big bulls that one could almost call 'resident'. One bull, in particular, regularly feeds and sleeps next to the tents, making for some relatively noisy late nights, and adventurous walks around camp. Towards the end of the month, we watched in astonishment, and with a large degree of resignation, as the bull nonchalantly pushed over a large tree that was standing against the boardwalk, crushing the boardwalk and effectively creating the need for an alternative route between tents and main area! The temporary inconvenience was thankfully relatively minor, however, compared to what turned out to be an extraordinary sight.
Birds and Birding
A Xigera Camp newsletter cannot be written without alluding to the pair of Pel's Fishing-Owls that still have their nest close to camp. This rare bird is still delighting guests with regular sightings. On trips to the Xigera Lagoon, guests have also been lucky enough to see African Skimmers and their nests, as well as the Wattled Cranes that frequent the area. With the lower water levels comes the barbel run, and with that arrives an array of birds that feast on the migrating fish. So guests have been treated to magnificent sightings of Yellow-billed Kites, African Fish-Eagles, and a variety of egrets, storks and herons, coming to take advantage of the easy pickings.
Lower water levels also mean that we're now able to swim in the Xigera Lagoon - a beautiful stretch of water about an hour from camp. This exquisite area has a sand bank that provides the perfect platform for luxurious wallowing, with drink in hand, as well as some very good bird watching. Sundowners are often set up by the time guests arrive, and judging by the feedback from guests, it has to be one of the best activities on offer in the Delta.
Game drives are now also possible, and with those the chance to see a greater variety of animal species, including excellent sightings of leopard! The boating and mokoro activities we offer are still arguably the best way to view this particularly beautiful concession.
"The tranquillity and beauty of the mokoro trips, all the interesting wildlife we saw on the longer trips, the swim in the lagoon and the helpfulness and friendliness of all the team at Xigera really made our visit magical." Sally and Ben.
"So many highlights - the all day journey up the Delta, we saw more animals than expected. Delightful lunch setting and peaceful mokoro rides. Thank you for the lovely memories." Janis and Catherine.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Gabriella De Moor, Bonang Mambo (Mama B), Gideon Mvere and Julie Sander.
Guides: Barobi, Onks, Moreri and Teko.
Chitabe Camp update
- October 2011 Jump
to Chitabe Camp
Weather and Landscape
The month of October lived up to its reputation this year as the hottest month, seeing temperatures soar to 39° C in the shade, with an average minimum of 19° C and average high of 34° C. This heat has dried the land considerably, erasing any evidence of the annual inundation. This all changed on the 18th, as we experienced a violent thunderstorm during the evening. The storm lasted for over four hours, dumping a total of 40mm of precipitation. For the rest of the month, we experienced cloudy conditions but no more rain fell.
After such rain, one can already notice the changes in the landscape. With the flush of nutrients to the new growth, the vegetation is springing back to life, and new shoots are popping up all over.
This month started off with a bang with a sighting of the wild dogs up in the Gomoti area. The pups have started to take to water like their parents and were seen playing in the channels, getting some relief from the heat. This trend extended to our hyaena population, with a sighting of seven playing in the receding channel on the airstrip road.
Dog sightings have continued throughout the month, with two of these being from the Lediba dining area during one early morning breakfast! This resulted in hasty exits to the vehicles, leaving steaming cups of coffee on the tables. On both these occasions the dogs had made kills almost directly in front of the camp on the other side of the Lediba Channel. We had two days when the pack had settled almost in camp, affording us some great sightings of these beautiful predators.
Throughout the month we have been treated to various interactions between our predators, starting on the 3rd where we witnessed one of the Chitabe male lions stealing an impala kill from a female leopard and her two sub-adult cubs and all they could do was watch on as their prize was devoured. Phin said this was the first sighting he has had of the leopards so we are still trying to ID them.
Moving a little further into the month we found the Chitabe Pride and the Gorokwe Pride feeding off the same zebra carcass. This is unusual behaviour, and there was an eerie feeling of tension in the air, whilst the opposing prides tugged at the carcass from different ends. Eventually the Chitabe Pride gave way, leaving the other pride to enjoy the scraps.
We also had two male leopards fighting over a kill. After some observation, we managed to identify one of the males as the Acacia Male, but we are still working on the identifying the other male - possibly a new record for our area? We have had regular sightings of Mmadintwa, Boitumelo, Naledi, Gomoti Female, Acacia Male, MmaLieto, and two unidentified males; we often find Naledi and Boitumelo together.
With the receding water we were able to cross over to Herero Plains and in this open expanse of grassland we found a female cheetah with four youngsters. It was evident that the young ones were not used to vehicles as they kept moving off as we tried to get a better view of them. Not too far away we saw three jackals lying under a tree and what was unusual is that when we normally approach our jackals they tend to scurry away but this time they stayed put and on closer inspection we found an active den with a couple of new additions to their family.
We found the Chitabe Pride females feeding on a young elephant at the old airstrip; we cannot confirm how the elephant died. We also found a buffalo carcass, which may have died from natural causes. When we found it, our regular spotted feline, Boitumelo, was feeding on it. When we returned the following day, we found that the lions were now feeding on the spoils.
Birds and Birding
The inter-specific action extended to our avian friends with the appearance of the Broad-billed Rollers. We witnessed an epic battle that lasted for two days in front of main camp with the smaller but more aggressive Broad-billed Roller win the day against the large Lilac-breasted Roller, taking over their nesting site and kicking the Lilac-breasted Rollers' egg out of the nest.
Some other great sightings of the avian kind have been a pair of African Hawk-Eagles, Black-chested Snake-Eagles, and two different family groups of Southern Ground-Hornbill. Even although the water levels have dropped, we have still been seeing a couple of Wattled Cranes.
"Game drives with the fabulous Phinley! He is extraordinary! He is your best asset." Myers.
"The interaction between staff and guests is incredible! The amount of animals EBS located and showed us was phenomenal! Design of the camp is perfect- everything I imagined for my first African safari experience! Keep doing what you have been doing - Perfect." Peter and Greg.
"The wildlife was AMAZING! How can anything compare to your first time- Cheetah with four cubs, four lions, staff singing and dancing was fantastic." Harkness.
"Thuso was a wonderful guide. Everyone made us feel very welcome. We loved not only seeing the wildlife but learning more about their nature, social structure etc." David and Jennifer.
"Meeting great fellow tourists and starting friendships. Plus wonderful and obliging staff people like Alex, Lieana and Tiny and particularly our guide Thuso who was knowledgeable about birds and animals and could do excellent imitations of their sounds." Ron.
Staff in Camp
Managers: At Main Camp - Alex, Lieana and Tiny. At Lediba - Moalosi and Kris.
Guides: Phinely, BB, Luke, Thuso, EBS and Anthony.
Vumbura Plains Camp update
- October 2011 Jump
to Vumbura Plains Camp
Weather and Landscape
It's been hot - and October in Botswana isn't called "suicide month" for nothing!
Although not quite as hot as last year, where we had midday temperatures of 40?C and higher on a regular basis, there have been many days where the plunge pool at the room was the most comfortable place to spend the siesta between morning and afternoon activities. Days have been dry and hot, with barely any clouds during the morning hours. Although the afternoons have been dominated by rain-bearing clouds, we were only treated to two small thunder-showers. Thunder has been grumbling on a daily basis, so with some luck, the skies will open for us soon.
Throughout most of the year, it is hard to imagine that Vumbura Plains Camp is actually located on the northernmost edge of the Okavango Delta, because the vegetation is so lush and the plains are flooded, but at this time of the year, it becomes obvious. Driving north from camp will take you through very dry and sandy areas; what used to be waterholes are now patches of dried up mud.
Two large herds of Cape buffalo with up to 1 000 animals in each herd are roaming the area and attracting the lions' attention. Several times our guests have witnessed one of our two coalitions of male lions take on a "dagga boy" - an old, grizzled veteran buffalo - and the lions do not always come out on top. When they do succeed however, they gorge themselves and can then spend up to two days sleeping it off in the shade. This provides an opportunity for the vultures, spotted hyaenas and other small scavengers to take over, and by the time they are done, often nothing remains but the old, worn down boss (the horn section).
Our hyaena population is doing very well, with increasing activity around the local den. The cubs that were born in the beginning of the year are already helping to look after the latest litter, born only a few weeks ago.
Our resident leopard lady Selonyana, who had given birth to two cubs about four months ago, and had done well in protecting them so far, was found one day with only the young female following her. This lone cub was clearly trying to acquire all the knowledge needed to survive out in the bush, but the absence of her male sibling was very worrying. We can only conclude that this young male fell victim to a troop of baboons, possibly the same troop that had previously chased the cubs up a tree.
As for the wild dogs, the puppies of the Golden Pack have been out and away from the den for several months now and successfully running and hunting with the pack. It's just great to see how such a special and endangered species is doing so well and to be able to quantify the results of our efforts conserving the dwindling population of this rare animal.
Other regulars have been the world's largest land mammals. The local elephants have taken a great interest in the camp's activities, and we get regular visits from solitary bulls, as well as breeding herds. Kaporota Lagoon in front of North Camp is especially popular amongst the youngsters that seek refreshment and to quench their thirst. They clearly also think that the best way to spend the siesta is in the water...
"The tranquillity of the camp was amazing. Everything was perfect."
"Great guides, friendly staff, comfortable rooms, fantastic meals, amazing game viewing."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Lorato Bampusi, Beatrice Coetser, Aaron Johnson, Julian Muender, Nina Reichling, Britt Twyford-Vaughan and Wayne Vaughan.
Guides: OB, ST, Emang, Ban, Zee, Moronga and Ona.
Little Vumbura Camp update
- October 2011 Jump
to Little Vumbura Camp
Weather and Landscape
The mornings have been cool and crisp, and the evenings have also simmered down to comfy temperatures. Day time highs have been very warm as we move deeper into summer, with the daily highs averaging around 39° C. We have seen some evidence that the summer rains are on their way as the darkness of night was often broken by distant flashes of lightening, teasing us with the possibility of rain but not delivering any drops yet.
The vegetation has exploded into summer bloom, with many trees sharing their colourful and fragrant flowers with us. The baobab trees have been sharing their beautiful white flowers with us as well as the fruit bats, which are responsible for pollinating the flowers as they blossom at night. The seasonal floodplains have transformed into lush green carpets, adding to the beauty of the Okavango.
The rejuvenated floodplains have attracted large herds of buffalo, which have in turn attracted high concentrations of ambitious lions to the area. The highlight for the month was when our guests watched a dramatic encounter unfold with a twist to the expected outcome. A young and inexperienced male lion tried to catch a small buffalo without any help and in clear view of the entire herd. The herd immediately took the offensive and the opportunity to inflict some form of harm on the feline. Luckily for the young lion, there was a dead tree in the vicinity, which he shot up in a very un-elegant manner. The bloodthirsty buffalo circled the tree in a rage with the idea of giving the lion his comeuppance. The lion was truly lucky as he managed to climb up the only tree in the floodplain. A great demonstration of how the young predator has to learn the art of hunting, especially such a formidable adversary.
The general game densities have increased dramatically as many species are starting to calve, and require the highly nutritious new vegetation to feed on as well as provide cover for the little ones. The tsessebe are the first species to give birth and the impala will follow shortly.
We have also had a couple of great wild dog and spotted hyaena sightings during the month.
Birds and Birding
Birding has been exceptional both in and around camp. Many species have started nesting and are waiting for the summer rains, which will result in an explosion of insects and other arthropods, providing excellent nutrients for their chicks. A pair of African Paradise Flycatchers have nested in the boma in a beautifully crafted cup nest, which has been camouflaged by pieces of lichen and bark.
The summer migrants have arrived, adding a decent number of bird species to our avian list. The Yellow-billed Kites were the first to arrive and the latest have been the Woodland Kingfishers which have been constantly proclaiming their arrival by calling from sunrise to sunset - a true sound of summer in the African bush.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Precious, Ras, Camilla and Hamish.
Guides: Sam, Dennis Rain and Madala Kay.
Photographs were taken by Dennis Smith.
Duba Plains Camp update
- October 2011 Jump
to Duba Plains Camp
Weather and Landscape
October is always our hottest month by all standards, but we started the month with some relieving thunder showers for the first two days. The rainfall amounted to 17mm but aside from this, we've had summer clouds with thunder and lightning on isolated days.
The water level keeps dropping at a rapid rate and as we approach the rainy season sometime in November, that's when we expect the water level to rise again. Most trees have shed their foliage and the grass has dried up, making it easy to spot game from a distance.
Game viewing has been good as we have had a lot of action between those enemies, the lion and buffalo. The Tsaro Pride was seen most of the month, comprising nine females which occasionally separate into three groups of threes, together with their respective cubs. These lions have been hunting buffalo almost on a daily basis even at times when everyone thought the cats were not hungry - they have surprised us all and continued to kill, demonstrating how opportunistic they are.
The lioness who gave birth to cubs around February-March this year has been finding it difficult to keep up with the rest of the pride as she would remain behind when the rest of the pride became highly mobile. We have often found this female hunting and killing red lechwe. As the cubs are getting close to their weaning age, they have begun feeding directly off the carcasses.
The dominant male has been very active, moving in between the sub-prides, making sure that his genes are being passed on. He has been very vocal as his impressive roar was heard on a nightly basis from camp.
Apart from all the lion action, we have been treated to a myriad of other species sightings. Great numbers of elephant, giraffe, tsessebe, reedbuck, waterbuck, bushbuck, kudu, warthog and side-striped jackals were seen throughout the entire month. Large rafts of hippo were encountered along the waterways, both submerged in the water and grazing on land.
The nocturnal species also put on a great performance for our guests. We were lucky to occasionally see African civet, aardvark and pangolin, although most of the time we find their tracks only. Hyaena and leopard sightings have been good, often very close to camp; possibly they are preying on the large numbers of baboon and red lechwe which have settled around camp.
As a result of the rains we received at the beginning of the month, a plethora of arthropod species have emerged in their thousands, which has attracted a hungry collection of birds into the area, in turn coupled with the arrival of the summer migrants.
The next few months will be action packed at Duba Plains, from all aspects, be it the famous Duba lion/buffalo interactions or the avian delights.
Pictures and newsletter by Martin Mathumo.
Banoka Bush Camp update
- October 2011
Jacana Camp update
- October 2011 Jump
to Jacana Camp
Weather and Landscape
The warmth of summer has slowly crept in and a drink at the pool or even a nice dip in the Delta complements the midday temperatures. The evenings are much more temperate and bring relief to all. The sunsets are unimaginably beautiful with the scattered cloud turning into glistening colours of red, gold and pink. The Southern Cross makes an appearance early in the morning and Jupiter keeps the night watch, while we receive our well-earned rest.
The month of the elephant has come and multitudes of large grey mammals passed through the area, some seen and heard and others not. The grey ghosts on their annual journey north to the green pastures of the Okavango Delta cross the waters in front of camp and then make themselves known by crashing through the vegetation.
Herds and birds line the floodplains and channels of this amazing ecosystem and await the "Pula" - the refreshing rains to come. The trees have turned and an emerald blanket covers the ground. Storks and cranes fringe the island searching for stranded fish and crustaceans ripe for the picking, and in the not too distant future the lions will be back to rule the floodplains. Will this be the fourth consecutive year for the local pride to raise their cubs in this, one of the most pristine wilderness areas in the world?
Hippos abound and can be seen in the deeper pools sleeping away the days and grazing out at night. The grunts of two male hippos fighting in the night keeps everyone's ears peeled to the action, finally one emerges from the cover of night and walks right past the dinner table that has been set on the deck under the stars.
"Paddaroti" and friends serenade the cooling evening and their sounds fade into the night - after all this time it still amazes us how such small frogs make such large sounds.
Birds and Birding
The warmer summer months see the return of migrant birds and there are many - too many to count. Some of these include the Black Kites, African Openbills, Wattled Cranes, Slaty Egrets and Pel's Fishing-Owls around camp and much more.
The last vestiges of fast flowing water contain the large tigerfish and bream that have grown during the winter to reach trophy sizes and are there for the patient sports angler to catch the moment and release the fish for future generations.
After three great years of managing Jacana, Pieter and Danielle will be handing over to Jo and Phil. We wish both couples only the best in the future.
"Incredible! Everyone and everything was amazing - thank you for a trip of a lifetime!"
"A beautiful place, a unique hospitality, three days we will never forget, thanks to all of you!"
"This is one of the most extraordinary experiences of my lifetime. We must save these places for our grandchildren."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Phil and Jo Oliver.
Guides: Bee Makgetho, Bafana Nyame and Timothy Samuel.
Abu Camp update
- October 2011 Jump
to Abu Camp
Weather and Landscape
Clear skies, scorching days and warm summer nights characterised the lingering days of a perfect October at Abu Camp. The rains not yet in full swing, with only one or two misty mornings, means full foliage has not graced our trees - leaving long open plains in which to walk with the elephants and spot game. The October heat, slowly increasing, has forced even the baboons to the water for afternoon swims. The rapidly receding water has created new areas to drive to and explore, exchanging woodland savannah for open floodplains and grassland.
Animals are everywhere! October has brought not only good general game to Abu, but also another month filled with cats!
More and more lions are moving into the area, notably a pride consisting of an attractive female and her three sub-adult cubs, these nervous males are always quick to run and hide and so sightings earlier in the year were rare; however as they have had a chance to become more accustomed to our vehicles, sightings of these strong healthy young boys are becoming more common. A large male and female have also frequented the area.
The best cat sightings of the month were of a large male leopard who came out in the middle of the day to pose for guests, up a tree, on a termite mound and then right in front of the vehicle!
Roan antelope have also frequented the area with sightings near our bush dinner site. Just to the south of camp we have some lightly wooded grasslands which are the ideal habitat for these shy antelope. Populations of these large antelope are unfortunately declining due to poaching and habitat loss. The good news is we seem to have a nice-sized herd around and so we hope to have many more sightings in months to come.
Some of the best memories are made in the bush; this became true for many members of the Abu staff team one quiet afternoon. We had heard from the guides that there were lions in the area and so, since there were no guests in camp, we sent all the staff off for an afternoon game drive. Some of them had never before seen a lion, and so jittery excitement was heard all around. What followed was more than most could have bargained for: not only did they get to spend hours viewing four beautiful lion but on the way home a pangolin was spotted! Not too shy, the pangolin trotted along for a bit, stopping to rest and to take a sniff here and there. The sound of snapping cameras filled the air, and the animated talk in camp did not stop until guests arrived the following day.
As Abu prepares for our baby elephant, due in December, we watch the dynamic in the herd begin to change.
Sirheni has been gently disengaging herself from little Paseka's attentions, creating space for her new arrival, while Cathy keeps an eye on the boisterous young Abu. Kitimetsi is always gracious, and is attempting to wean Lorato and Paseka who are not only too old to feed but are also growing sharp little tusks which make the whole process rather uncomfortable for the feeder!
Cathy and Little Abu, the two water babies in the herd, have been enjoying long drawn-out swims, frolicking in the water long after the others have abandoned the cool Delta for the nutrient-rich trees and their tasty new buds.
Their very human nature was not lost on a few guests recently - During one of Abu's long swims he stood up only to realise that his mom, Sirheni, had left the water to feed and was nowhere in sight. With a slight look of panic he tried first to walk quickly out of the water in what he hoped would be her direction, breaking into a run and a loud trumpet! We imagined a little boy, lost in a shopping centre, trying to find his mom, calling "mom....mom, MOM, MOOOOOOOM!" At which point Sirheni calmly stepped out of the bushes behind Abu and gave a low rumble which brought him straight to her side.
As we settle into the low season, everyone in camp is getting involved in clean outs and clean ups! With a little spring cleaning, camp is looking as shiny as ever and ready to welcome guests from far and wide to our corner of paradise.
update - October 2011 Jump
to Kwetsani Camp
Weather and Landscape
As spring proceeds and the days become warmer, we welcomed guests from all over the world to enjoy a month of sunshine and new birth as young animals of various species have come to life in our little slice of paradise.
The receding water levels and cold winter have left everything looking a bit bare and desolate. Our rainy season is not in full swing yet but the few drops we had have added a fresh appearance to the barren land. Green is sprouting all around us, attracting various antelope to feed on the floodplain. Now that the deep waters are almost completely gone we are able to drive to the airstrip, giving our guests a preview of the vegetation and what our concession has to offer.
We have been experiencing large concentrations of giraffe in the area, most probably due to the surrounding trees which are all sprouting new growth. It is amazing to watch the journeys of giraffe move elegantly through the area and how they drink. They always approach the water cautiously and then splay their long legs and drink with a watchful eye out for predators.
The lions have made a regular appearance around camp, often waking the entire camp with their booming territorial calls which carry over the land during the quiet of night. The sightings really picked up towards the end of the month. We encountered a lioness who appeared to be heavily pregnant, so we may have a couple of cubs in the area possibly in December - we will keep everyone updated.
On the subject of offspring, the baboons have taken the lead in this department. These primates have provided us with some great entertainment as their little ones often remind one of a human baby. It is awesome to watch the interaction between the mothers and their babies, as they tenderly care for them, never letting them out of their sight. The small family of banded mongoose in camp has also had a few additions to their business. The adult family members have been very busy foraging in order to feed the extra mouths that can be heard chirping softly for attention.
As usual, trips to Hunda Island have also provided great wildlife sightings as well as some great hippo interaction on the trips to the island.
Birds and Birding
Birding has been great around camp, especially since the summer migrants have arrived in waves of colour and call.
A Ostrich couple which hatched 13 chicks a couple of months back seems to have experienced some parental difficulties as they only have four chicks left and are very protective over their remaining offspring.
The Reed Cormorants and African Fish-Eagles have been feeding frantically on the large numbers of fish and crustaceans that have become trapped and exposed due to the water drying up - ripe for the picking!
Our guests have been enjoying fishing too, as the fish are also gorging themselves now in preparation for the upcoming breeding season which begins in the next couple of months. The pike and tilapia have been the most responsive to our baits and lures.
"A very special place which we will always remember - wonderful memories. You are such gracious hosts." Merril and Jaquie.
"Very very nice place. Thank you to all of you. Hope to see you once again." Barbara and Fabio.
"We had a wonderful time. The mix of game drives, boating and mokoro was great. The hospitality was very good. Overall exceeded our high expectations." Ken and Jenny.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Bradley White and Annelize Hattingh.
Guides: MT Malebogo and Ronald Gaopalelwe.
update - October 2011 Jump
to Jao Camp
Weather and Landscape
We thought September was hot, but then came October - a very hot and humid month. The average maximum for the month was 35° C and to add to this we experienced a heat wave for just over a week at the end of the month where we experienced 40° C in the shade! However we did have some relief as our first rains came this month as well, not a great amount of rain to mention - only 8.5mm - but enough to settle the dust and for the staff, animals and guests to just get a little refresher from the blazing sun.
Water levels have dropped even more, just over 1.5 metres. Trips to Hunda Island are becoming a little trickier as there are some sand banks making for some careful navigation to get to the boat station; however, we are hoping to be able to still get there until the end of November.
The first newborn lechwe was seen in the middle of the month - a small family of two females and a large male were seen every day in front of camp and around the bridge, then in the middle of the month, just a small head sticking out above the water and reeds meant the family had increased by one! There are more and more lechwe arriving on the island and we also had the arrival of our annual giraffe journeys and a few zebra as well.
After not seeing lions on Jao Island for a while, the large territorial male arrived back, roaring every night and was seen around the airstrip. With the hot weather he did not move very far during the day, making great viewing during the day at the airstrip. He even roared at an airplane landing and taking off!
There is a herd of impala on the airstrip side of the bridge that are looking to cross over but the channel is still a little deep, so hopefully as the water drops more in November and December we might have a natural re-stocking of impala on the island and around camp.
The camp has also been frequented by some of the smaller wonders as we saw African civet, Cape clawless otter and a variety of mongoose species.
Now that the weather has warmed up, more snakes have also been seen. A large Southern African python was seen around the kitchen a few nights this month and there have been four sightings of spotted-bush snakes this month - both harmless to humans but always given respect.
Hunda Island has been very productive yet again this month, with the zebra, wildebeest, giraffe and many different antelope sightings. The Jao Pride is still across at Hunda but with the large territorial male now calling back at Jao we might see them move across back to Jao soon.
Much the same as last month most guests have been fortunate to see some elusive leopard when making their way over to spend the day on Hunda Island. The young male and a female leopard have been seen regularly which always makes the Hunda trip that much more special. Let's hope we can continue to get to Hunda Island as the water levels drop and continue to enjoy the great viewing on offer.
Birds and Birding
Well, as predicted, the bird life has been amazing this month. The highlight was not only seeing Wattled Cranes, but seeing a flock of over 35 of this endangered species in one place was simply mind blowing.
The birds are all in their breeding plumage and the colours are amazing. To add to this the water birds are in heaven with the channels getting shallower as they are able to access more feeding areas which are full of isolated fish and crustaceans.
The mokoro ride, the traditional mode of transport in the Delta, has as always been a big favourite especially with all the bird life on offer. Then, to add to it, after our first rain at the end of September we have plenty of bell and painted reed frogs which are easy to enjoy and get close to without an engine to scare them off. However with a full day trip to Hunda and a lovely bush picnic who can say which is better especially with the game that has been on offer.
Boating is always special at Jao, moving between the papyrus reeds and the open lagoons and then around islands with elephants and of course the ever-present hippos and crocodiles and the occasional otter, not to mention the birds.
Fishing has also been good with the barbel run reaching us. Both silver catfish and the barbed catfish have arrived in huge numbers, while the tigerfish have been more on the bite at the end of the month with a guest landing a nine pound specimen. The pike and the bream species have also been on the bite and both the fly fishing and spinning have all produced great results - however not as successful as the African Fish Eagles and Pied Kingfishers!
Night drives have been done more often this month; with the hot weather, this is a great option once the sun has gone down.
"The lodge, rooms and all of the staff were wonderful. I'm not sure anything could have been done to make our stay any more memorable. Thank you so much!" Jim and Diane.
"Candle light dining, great nature tours, barbeque, curio shop with things made by camp people - everything has been a great experience wine tasting - all in all great team and very warm hospitably." Frank and Sabine.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Antony Mulligan, Kalinka Mulligan, Andrew Gaylord and Lauren Griffiths.
Guides: David Mapodise, Vundi Kashamba and Joseph Basenyeng.
update - October 2011 Jump
to Seba Camp
Weather and Landscape
This month, we experienced some very hot and dry conditions. Having said this, we received a very brief spurt of rain which followed quite a dramatic display of lightning. We only received a very small amount of precipitation, enough just to settle the dust for a short while.
Early summer is definitely here, with many trees sprouting and blossoming with flowers and new growth.
Game sightings were plentiful and exciting here at Seba during October.
There is an abundance of buffalo around the camp and its surrounds. A lone old bull has taken up residence around Seba and has not left the safety of camp for the entire month, which has made walking our guests to their rooms after dinner an exciting and interesting experience...
We have had a number of lion and leopard sightings throughout the month. On one occasion, we found the Seba Pride feeding on a roan antelope, which is not good news for our small herd of roan which has taken up residence in the area.
The elephant research that takes place at Seba Camp is going well and has highlighted some interesting trends for the area, which will no doubt give us a better understanding into the lives of these majestic mammals. Mphoeng is currently writing his thesis, which he will submit to obtain his Master's Degree. We will be holding thumbs for him!
Birds and Birding
The lagoon in front of camp is packed with fish, as the water level is dwindling. This has attracted a myriad of bird species, all trying to cash in on the easy meals.
The summer migrants are arriving in a steady stream of colour and variety.
As the water levels have dropped substantially, we have had to change our starting point for the water activities, but we are still enjoying very productive mokoro trips through the channels. We will continue to offer these great trips for the next couple of weeks until it becomes too dry.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Matamo, Misheck, Chris and Heather.
Tubu Tree Camp
update - October 2011 Jump
to Tubu Tree Camp
Weather and Landscape
As we head into the summer months, the temperature is rising steadily and by 9am in the morning the animals have all retreated to the shade. Although we have had two rain showers this month, they have not really been heavy and not enough to cool the weather down. That being said, it seemed to have helped with calming the raging bush fires that were seen blazing in the distance, north and south-west of Tubu.
Early one morning we watched from the deck as a young male leopard surprised a dazzle of zebra that were oblivious of his presence until it was too late - he managed to bring down a zebra foal. The young feline immediately dragged the carcass into a thicket so as to avoid any further attention from the rest of the predator forces. This was wise, as he was able to feed peacefully for two days and left with a full belly. After the leopard left, the heat sent the rancid scent of carrion into the air and into the nostrils of some hungry hyaena which took no time in finishing off the scraps. A couple of days later, the leopard managed to kill a young bushbuck and store in in a tree close to Tent 6.
A few days later a female leopard which was hanging around on the outskirts of camp, killed a vervet monkey who had strayed unsuspectingly into her path. She promptly took her kill into the tree and begun to snack on it. Within a few hours of this kill, she brought down an impala and dragged it into the thickets and literally gorged herself on the meat. Every now and then she would emerge, belly really full, walk a few metres and flop down, panting heavily until she could drink a few laps of water and lie panting on the cool, damp sand.
The leopard highlight for the month was when a leopard tried to catch an ostrich chick in full view of the mother. The female ostrich immediately took the offensive and kicked furiously at the marauding predator. The leopard was sent flying through the air and landed on the ground with a thud. It laid there dazed for a few moments and then quickly snatched a straggling chick and darted up a tree.
Needless to say with all the carcasses in and around camp, the hyaena were really active around us. There was a mom with two big cubs that ventured within a few metres of us during the boma dinners on several occasions. The pups were really inquisitive and just wanted to see what we were.
The big male lion has come to check his territory every eight to ten days or so, but only stays for a day before he heads out again. We have been lucky to find him every time he visited. We are hoping that he will be spending more time in the area in the future. On one occasion, this brute lay in front of camp during the still of night and let out the most amazing audio, awakening the entire camp, reminding everyone where they were.
We have not had much elephant activity in camp, but the few small breeding herds that have come in have been very skittish and left without staying for long. The only other elephant excitement we had was with an old bull, which was determined to finish the palm nuts from the surrounding palms.
General game has been very good, especially along the dry floodplains in front of camp. Large congregations of impala, zebra, wildebeest and buffalo collect daily to feed on the lush grass.
"What an incredible honeymoon experience. The greatest, most unique camp in the best region. We will never forget our amazing memories here and will be back - thank you." Jordan and Jillian.
"Johnny is an amazing ranger. Traditional fire side dinner and singing was a lot of fun. Charmaine and Dan were excellent managers and hosts. Living amongst the animals in luxury tents is incredible. Wild life of course is the best, being greeted at the end of every ride is a nice touch." Roberta.
"Our guide, Johnny, was exceptional - he was gentle, professional and completely in tune with our interest in birding. The whole staff was warm and welcoming. The food was excellent." Nina and Gene.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Dan and Charmaine Myburg.
Guides: Johnny Mowanji and Moruti Maipelo.
Kalahari Plains Camp
update - October 2011 Jump
to Kalahari Plains Camp
to Page 2