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South Africa camps
Pafuri Camp update - October 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
We experienced some serious summer heat throughout the month, as summer is clearly here ... in full swing! The mercury has been pushed up to a staggering 46° C on a few occasions. The hot, dry breeze adds to the heat by stripping any moisture left in the environment.
We did however receive a couple of cool, soothing rainy days in the middle of the month. Evidence of the precipitation disappeared quickly though as the parched grounds sucked up the moisture rapidly. Soon the vegetation will bounce back into a mass of lush greenery.
October 2011 will be remembered as the month when we had four pangolin sightings!
What made these exceptionally rare sightings even more special was the fact that the pangolins were very relaxed and allowed us some quality time to have a really good look at them. On the last day of the month, Brian, our trails guide, was heading back to the camp after a very successful walking trail when he came across a pangolin walking casually along the road. He immediately called the sighting in and all of the guests arrived at the sighting in time as the curious pangolin stuck around for close to 45 minutes before disappearing into the vegetation.
Lion sightings were again excellent, as we experienced a total of 18 different ones throughout the month. The Pafuri Pride has been very active along the entire length of the Luvuvhu River as this is where the wildlife is concentrated at the moment. We often saw the lions casually walking through the shallow parts of the river - on one occasion, the crossing was not as casual, as the lions decided to cross amongst quite a number of crocodiles. The lions warily walked amongst the crocs, which just coldly looked at the felines - a very different interaction for the lions indeed.
We also experienced some outstanding leopard sightings during October, some of which were on Pafuri Camp's doorstep. At the end of the month, a female leopard and her young cub were seen feeding on a nyala ewe, which they had killed next to the camp manager's house. The same pair was seen feeding on an impala carcass close to the staff village a week earlier.
Another great sighting was that of a hyaena. Pafuri has a fairly high density of spotted hyaena, as they are heard calling on a nightly basis and the guides find their tracks almost daily but they are rarely seen whilst on game drive. We assume that they are most active during the early hours of the morning and that the highest density of hyaena occurs on the western section of the concession.
Both elephant and buffalo sightings have been outstanding, as we have been encountering large herds all over the concession. The area in front of camp has provided some great sightings of these two species as both elephant and buffalo would come down to the sand bank opposite camp for a drink on a daily basis at midday.
Rhino sightings were also good this month, with a total of 11 sightings. The visiting giraffe were seen regularly at the beginning of the month but have not been seen for the last couple of days. Hopefully they have gone to call their friends to tell them about this cool place called Pafuri.
Birds and Birding
October birding was very good, as many of the summer migrants have returned. All of our recorded cuckoo species have returned with exception of the Thick-billed Cuckoo. The Broad-billed Rollers and Violet-backed Starlings have returned, adding more color to the already colorful collection of Pafuri birds.
A Pallid Harrier was seen at Makwadzi Pan, which is a really special find, since this bird has not been seen in the area since 2005, when the camp opened. Another great sighting for the area was that of an Orange-winged Pytilia, which was seen from camp.
Other great sightings of our regular specials include awesome sightings of Pel's Fishing-Owl, Racket-tailed Roller, Three-banded Courser and the odd Orange-breasted Waxbill.
The dawn chorus has been amazing and really helps to start the day off on a high note.
Culture and Heritage
Days trips to both the Makuleke Village and Thulamela continue to be very popular and add a different aspect to the Pafuri experience.
Pafuri Walking Trail update - October 2011 Jump
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Camp Jabulani update - October 2011
Kings Camp update - October 2011 Jump
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Our resident Machaton pride had a very successful month during October. The prides condition is great and the cubs are looking healthy and strong.
Their hunting success rate is excellent currently and I contribute this partly to the poor condition of certain prey species at the moment. Being incredibly dry and the vegetation sparse, this is normal for this time of the year as most apex-predators benefit from the conditions. These conditions will however change quickly with the onset of the first rain which intern will ensure new nutrient rich vegetation is available for the herbivores. The herbivores will rapidly regain body condition and strength making it more difficult for the predators to hunt them. This is nature’s way to ensure a balance of predator vs. prey.
The pride succeeded with several large kills including a large female giraffe and a number of buffalo calves. The pride also seems to be occupying the southern part of their territory most of the time and are spending less and less time with the dominant Timbavati males. We are now down to 7 cubs from the original 9 that were born. Considering that the majority of lion cubs don't survive the first year, this pride has done very well and I am confident the remaining seven little boys will make it to the top.
The oldest lioness of the pride is now approaching her 19th year. She has done a sterling job keeping this pride together over the years and teaching her daughters the laws of survival. Although she is now an old lady, she still looks amazingly healthy and full of grace. I have watched her carefully over the last year and noticed that her tolerance for the cubs is getting less. I think she has earned the right to being a little aloof when it comes to little cubs biting your tail and clambering over your back when you are trying to rest. She has completed her duty as a mom and a core lioness of the pride and is without doubt a dynamic leader of her family.
The Kubasa pride was also seen on a few occasions during the month of October. The pride has been divided for the last two months due to both adult females breaking away from their teenage offspring to mate with the Mahlatini males in the North. To avoid a possible attack from the male lions, the two young white lionesses and the young male decided to play it safe and avoid the dominant male lions for now. This is also due to the fact the three young lions are unrelated to the males. In lion social behavior, any adolescent male or female lion unrelated means competition to the dominant males of the region. The end result is simple move away or be killed.
Although we had an abundance of leopard sightings this month, Ntombi and Rockfig Jnr leopards played hard to find. Ntombi and her son were seen on the boundary of the camp on a few occasions and much to my surprise I personally found the young male leopard one evening walking between the staff accommodation. He was of no threat to anybody but merely exploring his territory. This is what young leopards do as he moves closer to independence.
The maternal instinct to reproduce and be a mother again is pushing Ntombi to search out a mate. Normally female leopards will mate with the dominant territorial male that controls the area that her territory overlaps in. If for any reason, the dominate male is not around she will leave her core territory to seek out another adult male from a neighboring territory. If Ntombi is successful, this will surely mean new leopard cubs in 2012.
Rock fig Jnr’s daughter, the Tumbela female was seen on a few occasions very near to Kings Camp. Her moving away from her natal area is a natural process as she seeks her own territory as an independent leopard. Unfortunately for her, she was exploring in the territory of Ntombi and this could only end in an inevitable confrontation and a fight between the two. This epic battle was witnessed by two other rangers. I was unfortunately not on drive when this rare sighting happened much to my disappointment. The rangers that did manage to witness this fight informed me that Ntombi as small as she is was too experienced and powerful and managed with relative ease to overpower Tumbela and chase away out of her territory. I suppose this is what they mean when they say, “dynamite comes in small packages”. I feel sad for Tumbela as she is an animal that we have watched grow up and we would love her to stay in our traversing area.
One of my favorite female leopards, Mbali was seen infrequently during the last two months. I am anxious and fearful that she is close to end of her road as a dominant female leopard. She was born in the Nharalumi River bed in December 1997 close to a crossing we know as Kilpgat crossing hidden between huge boulders the size of three adult elephants. Although very well concealed, I was extremely lucky to see her as a cub for the first time in February 1998. It was on an afternoon drive that I will never forget my sighting of her lying next to her mom, the famous Java leopardess. She was the size of a fur ball and almost entirely black with sparkling blue eyes. I have followed her closely for the past 13 years watching her life unfold. The thousands of guests and many rangers that had the privilege of being around this small and relaxed female leopard would understand my feelings towards her, she is magic!
Cape hunting dogs (Wild dog) sightings have increased tremendously over the last three months and we are seeing a pack of thirteen dogs on a regular basis. They comprise of five pups and eight adults. We have had some great sightings trying to follow them as they head out on their hunts. To keep up with them as they race through the bush can be very challenging. However, if you are familiar with the area you can occasionally plan your route around the hunt to be in the right position at the right moment. I was fortunate to witness two kills in front of me. One particular sighting stood out above the rest and that was when a heard of Zebra were plagued by the wild dogs. Normally dogs won’t take on adult zebra but the presence of a foul had them interested. I have learned that you can never under estimate team work in a pack as they can be an explosive hunting unit that is well co-coordinated with excellent communication systems. Their hunting success rate is 70% on average, more than double than that of any large predator on this planet.
Our resident male rhino Mtenge-Mtenge had to prove all his worth this month as his skills were put to the test by a large powerful male in the south. Battle scared he returned to his favorite dam, Machaton dam to relax and soothe his wounds is the water. Look closely at the images and you can see the scaring on his powerful face.
Well, that is it from me this time dear friends. I hope you enjoyed the report. Take care.
Patrick O'Brien Head Giude of Kings Camp.
Leopard Hills update - October 2011 Jump
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The first quenching rains have already transformed the landscape into a lavish vibrant green which means rich colours for photography and wonderful game viewing as the vegetation is still thin. Most of the migrant birds have returned who along with the resident species are mostly in full breeding plumage engaging in courtship rituals and displays.
She has been wandering far and wide again this month scent marking her prime expansive central territory while also searching for possible den sites. Towards the beginning of October we were indulged with her frequent visits near the lodge.
The most memorable leopard sighting of the month had to be the leap of 4 leopards one morning a mere 800m from the lodge!(See video)
Thlangisa was perched high up a knob thorn tree with the ageing Ndlevane male just below her finishing off what probably was her impala kill…Xhinzele heard the commotion and was down below on the ground keeping an annoyed eye on Ndlevane! Hlaba Nkunzi nonchalantly sat a further 100m away atop a termite mound keeping a watchful eye on the outcome of the interaction between the 2 males and wasn’t visibly bothered by the youthful Thlangisa’s presence.
Eventually Ndlevane took the gap, launched himself down and high tailed it away avoiding a tussle with the more dominant Xhinzele! Hlaba Nkunzi then lost interest and strolled off leaving Thlangisa to contemplate the current state of affairs in the territory she has been residing in.
Memorably she also strode through the lodge one afternoon popping in at all the rooms and then relaxed on the deck of room 4 while pondering whether or not to launch an attack on some bushbuck below. She was also found feeding on one of her kills during the month.
Her development into a confident young leopardess continued in a month where she spent most of her time in Hlaba Nkunzi’s territory…why wouldn’t she, it is prime leopard habitat! She has learnt a vast amount about her current status and that of the older territorial leopards in the area. She was most likely the cause of the leap of 4 leopards that were in the same sighting as it was her impala kill that attracted the others to the area.
Metsi and cubs
Apart from early in the month when she was offering herself to no avail to the young Dayone male in the south, she has been keeping a low profile.
Her relaxed 18 month old male cub has again obliged us with sensational viewing and has been remaining within a few kilometres radius of the lodge. He seems to have a penchant for unusual prey and added to his porcupine trophy last month with a side striped jackal!
She has been rather scarce for most of month and has probably been mostly up in the north of her territory. In the last few days of the month she appeared and spoilt us with her graceful presence on the northern bank of the sand river.
Shangwa and her 1 year old male cub have also been seen a few times again this month on the boundary of our traversing area.
Consistently our most viewed male leopard and this month was no different, he is mostly seen while on the move and patrolling. The tension between himself and Mashiabanje seems to have eased for now and he is now also facing a potential threat from the Dayone male south of him. He has the upper hand over the ageing Ndlevane as we witnessed during the interaction involving the leap of 4 leopards!
He hasn’t been viewed as much in October and has been mostly in the north west of his territory north of the sand river. Xhinzele has been sneaking across the river and scent marking on the northern bank while the water is still low, laying down the challenge to his fiercest rival!
As we know this edgy male is a bit of a mystery and could even be over 9 or 10 years old?? He has been seen limping a few times this month and judging by his behaviour when he avoided Xhinzele he could be nearing the end of his time as a territory holder. He is usually skittish during the day and the leap of leopards provided us with some rare photo opportunities and you can visibly see his age looking at the below images.
He was frequently seen early in the month but has been in the east of his territory mating with a female towards month end. He has met up with Hlaba Nkunzi again on a number of occasions now that her territory stretches further east.
This relaxed male has added so much to the leopard dynamics in the west, he seems to be pushing further north into Ndlevane’s space bordering on that of Xhinzele. He does lack confidence though and watching him take flight and slink off when the Metsi female suddenly appeared was rather amusing. He possibly thought she was a rival male! Metsi has also been presenting and offering herself to him but he is showing no interest at all at this stage.
Before we immerse ourselves with the lions let’s have a detailed look at the lineage/family trees of the legendary Makwela female as well as the 13 year old Shangwa female bloodlines as at Jan 2011.
Thanks to Guy Balme from Panthera for putting these together.
Notice that the most consistently viewed leopards in some way relate back to Makwela, none more so than her daughter Hlaba Nkunzi but also Thlangisa, Metsi & Xhinzele.
The 3 fearless rulers demonstrated their unrivalled power this month with 2 monstrous conquests in less than 24 hours…a young buffalo and a 10 month old hippo calf! They have been spending more time in the east seemingly unconcerned with the threat from the Majingilanes and Matimbas!
See opening sequence of video highlights section for some great interaction as one of the Mapogo chases off his 1 year old cubs from his left over kudu kill!
We now showcase a complete pride of lionesses all proudly sporting cubs with the latest 4 week old additions having just been discovered. A thrilling first for many of us was watching the lioness gently carry the tiny fur balls in her mouth to a new den. Many gratifying moments have also been enjoyed watching the other playful cubs of all ages interact!
We were reminded of the severity of nature a few days ago when we found one of the 3 month old cubs with an apparent broken leg and severely bleeding from the mouth. It appears there was an altercation with hyaenas during the night and the cub was injured! The pride must move on to find prey and survive but it was heart wrenching to see the mother’s concern and constant grunting calls to encourage her hobbling little one along as he attempted to keep up.
The cub was abandoned by the pride but remarkably we have seen tracks of the compassionate mother going back to suckle the little one in his hiding place…time will tell and we are ever hopeful but his chances of survival are looking slim!
The little ones have been boisterous as summer beckons and it is often playtime along the sand river after a scorching day and the evening drink creates such excitement.
Crashes abounded this month and it is not unusual to see 6 rhino together as they concentrate around food sources. Playful calves are always a joy to watch and it was amusing to see one curious young male calf introducing himself when the dominant bull joined the sighting.
The story of the adopted calf came to a rather harsh and abrupt ending this month. We have all been speculating his fate and been hoping that the little chap didn’t meet all 3 Mapogo’s together one night and regrettably this is exactly what happened to the unlucky youngster!
Some cherished truly authentic African scenes unfolded at the aptly named “Hippo dam” this month, none more so than one early afternoon when we arrived to the hippo’s basking in the warm rays joined by a lioness and 2 bull white rhino
We also witnessed a serious fight between bulls, what a month of hippo viewing!
Painted Dog Pack
The painted pack is now down to 9 dogs with the disappearance of another pup, this is sad but a harsh reality for painted wolves! During the month 2 nomadic male dogs from the Kruger appeared on the scene and there was some interaction with the pack.
As males form the core of the pack it seems unlikely that the pack will accept the 2 nomadic males. Nomadic males have been documented stealing females from resident packs and even injuring the resident males but males don't seem to ever settle their differences and join up! Females on the other hand have accepted other nomadic females into a pack before.
Brief history of the pack
Apparently an original pack of 8 wild dogs moved into the Western sector in 2009 however several members of the pack were killed by lion and hyaena including the Alpha male. The pack was left with only 3 members, the Alpha female, a young female and a young male and shortly after that a pack of 4 adult males moved into the area. They chased away the young male and formed a pack of 6, which is the core of the pack that we now see on a regular basis.
Spotted hyaena are now present at most leopard kills and the leopards are having to tree their kills to avoid losing them! (See video). General sightings of these fascinating yet often misunderstood predators are also steadily on the increase.
The large herds have again been plentiful this month as well as regular sightings of an obstinancy of “Daggaboys” along the sand river.
African rock python sunning herself atop her termite mound burrow.
We think this is a female that has eggs in the mound, see interesting python reproductive behaviour below.
During the spring to summer months the female lays between 20 and 60 eggs in a termite mound or aardvark burrow, large pythons can lay as many as 100 eggs.
The female remains with her eggs for the 2 – 3 month incubation period. During this period she will not feed but will leave on occasion to drink.
On warm days she will often bask in the sun and then use the absorbed body heat to help incubate the eggs by coiling around them. By constantly twitching her body she also generates heat to help raise the temperature of the eggs. Another advantage of coiling around the eggs is their protection against predators such as mongoose, rats and monitor lizards.
After the eggs hatch, the female remains with the hatchlings for a further 2 weeks and once the have shed their first skin they then leave the security of the female to go off on their own.
A huge crocodile surprised a large impala ram that came down to drink
Unusual behaviour of a hippo chewing on the leftovers of an impala killed by a crocodile
Yet another pangolin in the daylight!!!
Saddle billed stork flying off with a huge catfish kill!
Water thick-knee with rodent kill
Brown headed parrot feasting on schotia flowers
Southern white-faced scops owl
It’s breeding time for most birds!
Grey penduline tit peering out of her oval-shaped nest built of woven spider web, plant down and other woolly material. A collapsible entrance spout is placed near the top, which can be opened and closed by drawing the top and bottom sides of the tube together.
Rocktail Beach Camp update - October 2011 Jump
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Rocktail Bay Dive Report - October 2011 Jump
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Makalolo Plains update - October 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
Nobody was complaining when the beginning of October maintained the cooler temperatures of September - the mornings dipped to a fresh 12° C while the midday only just touched the 30s. However it maintained its reputation when the difference between maximum and minimum was a hot 30° C and the temperatures reaching 41.4 as a maximum. These conditions as well as some strong winds in the late afternoons, brought in some clouds - creating beautiful sunsets and hopes of rain, which was blown in one evening and we received 12mm of rain in the middle of the night.
Although this is the peak of our hot season here in Hwange, signs of spring are starting to show amidst the parched, dry landscape. The pumped waterholes are diminishing visibly as the natural pans have dried up into jig-saws of cracked earth, but there is still water bubbling up from underground and the pumps still hum and the pans shimmer in the middle of rings of churned-up mud. The open areas are sandy expanses with resilient little patches of grasses and lonely leadwood trees with bare branches offering little shade, but the tree lines surrounding these are turning a brilliant green - new shoots are coming out.
The teak, duiker berry and rosewood trees are now shady havens for humans and animals, while the red syringa and silver terminalia are beginning to blossom and spread their nectar-rich scent as the afternoons cool down.
Without a doubt the lions have held centre stage this month at Makalolo Plains - the sightings of these big cats have been numerous and dramatic, keeping both guests and staff in awe of them. The Makalolo Pride, which consists of 16 individuals, has been very busy in the concession, hunting furiously. With so many mouths to feed, they have been found on a number of kills this month, ranging from wildebeest, zebra, buffalo and elephant. On most nights, the beautiful dominant male could be heard advertising his ownership of the pride lands. What a wonderful sound to fall asleep to.
In addition, the guests would awaken often to the presence of the pride drinking at the small pan in front of camp. On one occasion, the pride enjoyed their breakfast at this pan....
The pride's 'pan breakfast' was a young elephant that had been killed under cover of the darkness of night at the pan. This provided the pride with a generous bounty and saw them feeding on the carcass for the entire day. After gorging themselves, the felines would retreat to the comfort of some shade provided by the leadwood trees, the only sign of activity being the pride cubs which took a personal duty to keep the vultures at bay while the rest of the pride slept off their feeding hangover. Once the sun lost its strength in the late afternoon, the pride moved back to finish off the rest of the carcass.
A little later on in the month, the silence of night was broken by the thundering sound of stampeding hooves and resonate bellows, as this pride tried to catch a buffalo at the pan. The male was not present and only a handful of lioness took part in the attempt, which proved to be unsuccessful however, scattering the buffalo herd and waking up the entire camp.
Due to the spreading dry conditions, Hwange elephants have been seen in their hundreds as more and more converge on the pumped waterholes and cover vast distances just to reach some of this precious life source. With the movements of herds and the pressure on these great beasts, the nights are frequently filled with their shrieks, rumbles and trumpets.
Cheetah have also been seen this October. Although not as frequently as the lion, they have still left an impression and one big male was seen feeding on a zebra kill, while a family of four, a female with three cubs, also graced the guests' cameras and sights.
Sable, roan and eland have been seen fairly consistently over the course of the month too and the herds of plains game started coming down early to the pans to try and drink before the large elephant herds came through.
A favourite sundowner event is to find a spot next to a pan where guests can drink in the magic. This has been topped a few times by sightings of African wild dog coming down to drink, while on another evening, a leopard put the cherry on top by making an appearance.
Other notable sightings include African wild cat and striped polecat.
Birds and Birding
The call of the African Fish-Eagle has without a doubt been etched into the memory of most of our guests, as it is one of the characteristic sounds of the African bush. Raptor sightings have been good as prey becomes abundant with the dry and difficult conditions. On one occasion, we counted a total of 18 Yellow-billed Kites in one spot. The vultures have also been very active, with four different species being ticked on our species list.
Adding some colour to the mix, large numbers of Violet-backed Starlings as well as Southern Carmine Bee-eaters and Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters have graced us with their presence.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Sibs and Shayne.
Guides: Lawrence, Douglas, and Elias.
Little Makalolo update - October 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
The month kicked off with two big storms, which delivered a total of 15.5 mm of rain, effectively cooling us for a couple of days. As the month progressed the temperatures picked up and we recorded a maximum of 40.7° C, causing all life forms to seek surface water, including Homo sapiens, which took full advantage of the camp's pool. Generally speaking, the typical day would begin with slight cloud cover, which was quickly burnt off by the sun thus exposing its heat. The Kalahari sands did however, release the heat at night, cooling the area down somewhat, making for comfortable sleeping temperatures.
Due to the rains we received at the beginning of the month, many different tree species have started to blossom and show signs of new growth. The false mopane trees are the most prominent in the landscape as they are all green and lush. Most of the grassland areas have become desolate due to trampling and overgrazing, but they will bounce back with the onset of the summer rains.
This month we had some very exciting sightings, starting off with a leopard that was seen having a leisurely drink from the camp's pool at sunset. Our guests got to enjoy this sighting from the camp library which is adjacent to the pool.
On another occasion, a large herd of buffalo had taken refuge around the camp and could be heard snorting, puffing and chewing - a peaceful collection of bush sounds. Suddenly the peace was broken by growls, grunts and bellows. The Makalolo Pride had launched a surprise offensive on the bovines, which sent the prey species scrambling in all directions straight through camp. It was amazing to try and read the collection of tracks around camp the next morning. It was interesting to see that the cubs were present at such a dangerous hunt.
With most of the pans drying out, Madison Pan has been a hit for a lot of elephants. We have seen them arrive as early as six in the morning and the herds come one after another the whole day. There are a lot babies that have been born recently and they have kept us entertained watching them learn the ways of life around a waterhole.
Sadly we have had a few elephants dying due to the drying up of water in the park and them having to walk long distances in search of water and food - when they get to the water they just pass out and never get up again. The lions have also given the elephant herds a hard time as they realise that they are very vulnerable this time of year and have been targeting the young ones. This is a very dramatic and difficult experience to witness, but it is part of the cycle of nature whereby only the strong survive.
Another highlight for the month was the sighting of rhino, not too far from camp. Rhino have not been seen in the area for a good couple of months now. We also had a couple of cheetah sightings, which really excited our guests!
Birds and Birding
The various vulture species are now in feeding heaven with the abundance of food as a result of the weakening elephants and intensified lion activity.
The summer migrant birds have arrived in full force, and many of them are starting to go into their breeding plumage. On the subject of breeding plumage, it almost seems as if the area has been inundated with Pennant-winged Nightjars, all sporting their impressive streamers in a bid to attract the females.
The Kori Bustards have also been wowing our guests with their impressive courtship displays of 'ballooning' their throats.
"Seeing a newborn baby elephant, just a few minutes old was the highlight! After an absence from Zimbabwe of 11 years, Little Makalolo got our holiday off to a superb start and confirmed the decision to come back to Zimbabwe was the right one. Thanks to a great team." Morling (UK).
Staff in Camp
Managers: Rania, Charles, Kim and Tracy.
Guides: Charles, Dickson, Honest, Lewis and Buli.
Davison's Camp update - October 2011
Weather and Landscape
When we say it is hot, do we mean it is hot! On a couple of days towards the end of the month the average maximum was 40° C. The hottest though was 43° C - that day a large part of Zimbabwe had the hottest temperatures for about 50 years. The pool has become very popular with guests - not unusually! We have had a few days of rain, but only 20mm. Some days did cool down and the maximums were just above 30° C.
Ngamo area is very dry and looks almost like a desert. Throughout the area, some species of trees are now starting to produce their new buds as well a couple of pioneer grass species which started sprouting but have not provided good feeding to the grazers as they are not palatable.
As October is the hottest and hardest month of the year, the weak fall by the wayside. This means old and sick elephants die, especially near waterholes. Young and weak elephants can be killed by lions and hyaena and, while sad, this gives photographers in Hwange great opportunities.
We saw lions almost every single day of the month, and often more than one pride in a day. Having two prides of about 16 each is great, plus the other smaller prides on the concession and we often found these big cats on kills. This month we had excellent sights of the felines feeding on zebra, buffalo and elephant carcasses.
The dead elephants at Broken Rifle, Davison's Camp, Scotts Pan and Makalolo Plains were quite often youngsters that had been killed by lions. The one at Scotts Pan had died after being separated from its mother and then getting stuck in the mud - the lions dragged it out. The Makalolo Pride, with many mouths to feed, killed a young elephant that was about four years old and a few days later were seen jumping on buffalo at the same place right in front of the camp.
On one occasion, the large pride was hunting buffalo in front of camp, suddenly causing the herd to stampede next to the camp, with a poor hyaena getting stuck in the way of the raging hooves and horns; this inflicted a mortal wound on the eager observer - talk about being at the wrong place at the wrong time.
The tables were also turned on the lions when an angry and intolerant elephant sent the lions scurrying for safety - this was viewed by guests from the logpile hide at the waterhole.
Other cat sightings included caracal and an African wild cat, which was stalking a spring hare. We also had a brilliant sighting of a cheetah with three cubs. The cubs came right up to the vehicle and the female was seen later stalking a duiker. Leopards were seen on various occasions and a couple of times even at camp. We had an excellent sighting of one in a tree, feeding on a dead baboon. Honey badgers and civets were some of the other interesting animals seen.
The elephants are still around in numbers and so are the large herds of buffalo. As the grazing is diminished at Ngamo, the game numbers have gone down there. The animals have dispersed to various parts of the concession and one can bump into wildebeest almost anywhere now. Some of the waterholes have dried up and therefore many of the hippo have wandered to other areas. We were fortunate to see a white rhino at Little Sam one afternoon.
Birds and Birding
October was a month of new sightings, as the summer migrants pour into the area. We saw the beautiful Pennant-winged Nightjars in breeding plumage as well as Rufous-cheeked Nightjars, European Swallows, a variety of bee-eaters, Yellow-billed Kites and various waders.
An interesting observation at Major Pan was that of Yellow-billed Kites trying to catch oxpeckers off the backs of buffalo. The birds would scurry around the buffalo as the kites tried to catch them.
In the open areas we have had excellent sightings of Kori Bustards displaying and the smaller Red-crested Korhaans flinging themselves up into the air, only to plummet down as if they had been shot.
"Very friendly staff, excellent meals, and great that we had the same guide the whole time. Guide was fantastic - nice, funny, took extra time with us, great attitude and extremely knowledgeable. Special meals in unique locations made us feel great. This was our Honeymoon and everyone at camp helped to give us a great experience." Max and Charlotte.
"Bryan is an outstanding guide. Because of him our stay exceeded our expectations. Many thanks to him and your team. We appreciate the feminine touches in our room." Dominique and Laure.
"Lions with cubs, watching the waterhole, birds. All was Fantastic." Tim and Vallerie.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Andre' and Tammy, Suku, Avias and Richard.
Guides: Bryan, Godfrey, Brian, Robert and Livingstone.
Ruckomechi Camp update - October 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
October is known as the hottest month of the year and here in the valley you need not ask why. With a maximum of 46.8° C in the shade and a high humidity we were all literally melting! We have also had some unwelcome very strong winds resulting in huge dust storms depositing their load everywhere. Despite the heat, we have had a few somewhat cool days and some guests actually putting on fleeces - a very strange phenomenon for October in the valley, albeit very welcome indeed. This did not last long and we went back to our maximum temperatures in the 40s, uncomfortable but familiar.
The vegetation has thinned out, getting drier and drier each day, giving the whole area a very open outlook with bare patches here and there. However, spring flush is in the air and the dry mopane trees have started to produce new leaves. The baobab trees are flowering and the large-leaved saffron trees are in beautiful state of full bloom. The vitavera grass has been munched down during the last month and is still being heavily grazed by both elephants and buffalo. The Zambezi River is really low now as we have not had any rains yet and hippos, crocodiles and elephants alike share this precious source of water.
The plains game has been prolific with large herds of buffalo and a notably increased presence of bushbuck owing to the water sources drying out, leaving the Zambezi as the only place for creatures to catch a refreshing drink.
The month of October has definitely been the month of the lions with sightings on 27 out of 31 days! This has ensured that all the guests who came through in the month have seen these majestic beasts. With the further drying out of the valley and almost all the other water bodies, the Zambezi and its nearby tributaries are the only sources of water. This means all the animals are coming to the Zambezi for water; a big advantage for the lions who have mercilessly preyed on the desperate plains game, killing warthog and buffalo mainly. The concession is full of half-eaten carcasses as the lions now prefer their meat very fresh - possibly seeking the moisture from a fresh flesh?
The lions have also increased their numbers as other prides from adjacent concessions have also taken advantage of the situation to hunt in our concession.
Leopard sightings were good at the beginning of the month. We were very lucky to find two separate pairs mating and another individual with its kill in a tree. We also had a surprise sighting right in camp. On this particular night, a couple of us were enjoying the still of night, stargazing on the deck... when suddenly there was an eruption of alarm calls from baboons and waterbuck, which were darting in all directions through camp. Upon closer inspection, the guides found the spotted culprit slinking out of camp.
The sprinter of the bush, the cheetah, has been rather elusive, spotted twice in the month, and on both occasions, very skittish. It was only Sean our guide and assistant manager who got lucky enough to see this cat on both occasions.
Wild dogs have also been present in the month. It was a delight to see the pack of eleven as opposed to the smaller family of six. They have been seen hunting impala mainly. At one time we all got to see them as they came right close to Tent 10 and spent the whole morning and part of the afternoon under a Natal mahogany, just relaxing and totally undisturbed by our presence. It was amazing how they are well camouflaged and at first glance deceptively looked like a fallen down tree log as they slept one on top of the other - fascinating animals!
We've had a few sightings of serval in the month, lots of genets and an interesting sighting of a honey badger rolling in the sand! Another interesting sighting was one of a genet feeding on a buffalo carcass. The hyaenas have also been around, taking advantage of the leftovers from the lions' meals.
Birds and Birding
Exciting! Our migrants are slowly coming back: Broad-billed Rollers, European Rollers and European Bee-eaters to name but a few. There have been great and consistent sightings of Greater-painted Snipe, Jacobin Cuckoo gave a full call this month and we are eagerly awaiting the return of the splendid Woodlands Kingfisher in November. The Meyer's Parrots have been busy in the new bulbs of the baobab, and the colourful Purple-crested Turacos have been adding to the bush symphony with their calls.
"It is always a pleasure to travel with Wilderness! Camp was fantastic, wildlife and scenery a complete surprise. Thank you!" David.
"Wonderful staff, beautiful views - we had a magical stay and can't wait to get back to the UK to recommend Mana Pools to everyone." Julie.
"Swimming elephants and lions on their kill - mind blowing." Bjorn and Vigleif.
Mana Canoe Trail update - October 2011 Jump
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Toka Leya Camp update - October 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
October has been a very warm and comfortable month, as the temperature has been very temperate and consistent.
We received a few days of rain, which came to the relief of all as the vegetation is swiftly bouncing back, transforming the landscape into a summer wonderland and feeding haven for all the wildlife.
As the weather conditions warm up, wildlife has been flocking to the river, which has only increased our game viewing, quite often from the comfort of the camp.
While the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park is a small park, it definitely has a lot to offer in terms of wildlife variety. This has always been a comment from a lot of our guests that come through not expecting that much in terms of game. Besides the mighty Zambezi as well as the famous Victoria Falls, the small Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park has really shown what it's made of this month. With a lot of the tall grass having been trampled down by the animals moving through the park, visibility has been excellent and all sorts of different animals have been sighted this month.
We had not seen a duiker for a long time but interestingly we had several sightings of this little antelope in the camp grounds a few times. Zebra, warthog, wildebeest, waterbuck, impala as well as giraffe were among some of the usual sightings of the month. In addition to that we were also quite lucky as the seven rhinos in the park also took their time and frequented the camp grounds with their babies, who are obviously not so small any more.
As usual the river safaris are one of the most relaxing and enjoyable activities that we offer and most of our guests would ask to do again once they have been on this legendary river. Not only is it a beautiful and big river to the human eye, but the Zambezi has the power to attract even the bigger mammals for a swim and on several occasions, herds of elephant have been seen swimming across the river.
Large pods of hippo are one of the greatest sightings on this river and with the water levels dropping, we noticed that there were areas where isolated pools remained: these have become a great attraction for the Marabou Storks which we have been seeing in large numbers as they catch the stranded fish.
All this and the stunning red sunsets on the river leave unforgettable memories with all our guests who revel in being on the river.
We have also had a chance to walk in the park this month with the emphasis being on rhino tracking. These walks have provided good opportunities to view the smaller details of the bush as well as give our guests a brief look into the art of tracking and the intimate experience of viewing these magnificent creatures on foot. The guest response to these walks has been phenomenal.
"I have been most impressed with the food - culinary delights and presentation thereof. This rivals any five star restaurants." Mr and Mrs Harris.
"The Victoria Falls, as well as the game sightings on the excursions we took was mind blowing. Most of all the staff were kind, courteous friendly and knowledgeable. We will be back!" The Feibusch Family.
"Relaxing, beautiful surroundings. Perfect way to end the fabulous African experience. Keep up the good example for improving the environment." Mr and Mrs Sweeney
"By far Toka Leya Camp food was the best out of every camp we visited, very warm and friendly staff. The spa was a nice treat coming out of the bush for a week. Thank you to the staff for an awesome stay. The Powers Family.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Petros and Gogo Guwa, Mavis Daka, Chipasha Mwamba and Amon Ngoma.
Guides: Donald Lisama, Histon Samatamba and Obby Njekwa.
Lufupa River Camp update - October 2011 Jump
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Lufupa Tented Camp update - October 2011 Jump
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Kalamu Lagoon Camp update - October 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
October has brought the unforgiving heat, with temperatures climbing up into the 40° C mark during the midday, cooling only once the African sun sets. This has drastically increased our pool's popularity between activities. To our relief, we received some early rains, albeit for only two days, the transformation was astounding! There is now a symphony of frog calls at night and a choir of cicada calls by day.
The South Luangwa National Park is unique in many ways. Through the Park flows the Luangwa River which brings life to the harsh African landscape. During the dry season the river becomes a shallow, narrow stream, leaving large open sandbanks, sometimes a couple of kilometres wide, littered with dead trees brought down by the floods from the previous season, creating a photographer's haven with its dramatic scenery.
Without a doubt, this month has delivered nothing less than exceptional sightings on both drives and walks. Our guests, accompanied by their very knowledgeable guide Sandy, were fortunate enough to come across a pride of resting lions on their early morning walking safari. Seeing lions on foot is an amazing feeling. Our guests left with a incredible experience ingrained in their memories. These majestic Kings of the African bush never cease to amaze our guests.
One of the highlights recorded was the killing of a buffalo in the Luangwa River bed. Guests were privileged to watch the whole episode, five lions taking this massive buffalo bull down. Eventually the buffalo succumbed after an epic battle; the four females rested a few metres away whilst the male wolfed his share of the meal down hungrily. A few minutes later, crocodiles moved in from all angles, upstream and downstream of the shallow Luangwa River.
Unfortunately the crocodiles' "sit and wait" strategy did not work. The four lionesses together with the male dragged the prey out of the shallow waters before the aquatic carnivores could steal the prize. We would love to know what happened in the night after the game drive vehicles left, as the carcass must have attracted a lot of attention under the cover of darkness. We returned the next morning to find the lions filled to the brim. The tracks gave a pretty clear indication of what happened during the evening as the carcass was surrounded by croc and hyaena tracks as well as some charge marks from the lions.
Two days later the same pride was seen making quick work of a warthog boar, highlighting the opportunistic behaviour of the apex predators.
Our Starbed Camp (always the camp to count on), revealed the awe-inspiring sighting of two female lions that caught a warthog and lay within view of the sundowner spot, feasting on their well-deserved meal.
October has clearly been a lion's paradise at Kalamu.
Generally game drives have provided countless sightings of leopard, lion, elephant, buffalo, giraffe and other rare nocturnal species like porcupine, honey badger, civet and genet, all of which left the guests touched by the beauty of these creatures roaming the South Luangwa National Park.
A hyaena den has been discovered in the concession, and fortunately our guests have had a chance to see the cubs resting and playing outside their safe haven.
The lagoon in front of camp continues attracting large herds of elephant, buffalo and a variety of other game, giving our guests breathtaking views from the comfort of their well-appointed tents. Just the other day guests witnessed over 100 elephants scramble down for a drink, mud bath and to cool off.
Also worth a mention is the flock of pelicans that visits the lagoon regularly. Some interesting rare bird sightings have been Martial Eagle, Tawny Eagle and Bateleur, all sharing a hyaena cub carcass. A pair of Broad-billed Rollers are nesting just in front of the main area of the camp.
Game Viewing Hides
The hides we have placed around the Kalamu Lagoon have become a must-visit during your stay here - perfect for photographers and for those who want to watch game completely undisturbed. The hides give guests the opportunity to observe big game from ground level in a safe environment. It enables one to appreciate the animals as they proceed with their normal daily activities, without your presence making any difference. Thus far the hides have given the best sightings of elephant and buffalo coming down to drink.
On the 20th of October, the Kalengo Community Library was officially opened by Chief Malama of the Malama Village. The Wilderness Trust helped in funding the building of this library, coupled with the help of some generous guests which have previously visited Kalamu Lagoon camp. The library has been established to help build a solid foundation for improvement of education in the community.
On a different note, Kalamu Lagoon was privileged to host four girls aged between 14 and 16 years, belonging to a women's conservation club at Mfuwe Secondary School for one night. These girls are in their last year of high school. This trip was put together to help them understand tourism and conservation as well as to let them see that they, as women, can work and earn a living in the tourism industry.
The most exciting news this month was being awarded a silver medal by South Luangwa Conservation Society (SLCS). The scheme assesses policies and systems in all operational areas, including community and social responsibility, natural resource use, environmental conservation programmes, waste management, and care of staff. We are delighted that our investment in environmental conservation programmes, a solar water heating system, and our support of local communities has been recognised.
"Wonderful camp, outstanding staff, superb game viewing, it just doesn't get any better!"
"Huge thanks to all the staff who considered our needs in every way, there smile plus warmth, happiness and knowledge have been combined to make this a special place."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Solly Tevera, Mulenga Pwapwa and Evie Bwalya.
Guides: Sandy Sakal, Emmanuel Sauti and Sam Simunji.
Shumba Camp update - October 2011 Jump
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The heat continues to build and is broken occasionally by cloudbursts. As we entered October, the first 'proper' rains hit and brought the plains to life in many ways with the first flush of green grass. Dust and smoke has washed out of the atmosphere and the light is simply amazing. As the month draws to a close the rains have definitely set in and November promises an interesting time - but worth it to be here at arguably one of the most beautiful times of year!
The Busanga lioness and her three cubs have taken over the camp. She did not move the cubs out of the camp environs at all the whole month - they were located at Tents 5 and 6, then the management tent. She finally (and appropriately) settled at Tent 1 (the family unit) and has been there ever since.
Of course the deck visits continued and allowed for great sightings as well as challenges for the housekeepers! We continued to try to keep parts of the camp blocked off, and introduced a system of drums to let us know if guests needed anything while they were in the rooms.
Fortunately all our guests understood the situation and were all amazed by the whole experience. The cubs have been seen fairly infrequently but regularly enough just to let us know they are around and growing a lot larger with each sighting!
Towards the end of the month, the rest of the pride have been ranging further afield than previously, but the mother has continued to hunt very successfully on her own and is still in excellent condition.
With the onset of the rains, the plains are as dry as they are ever going to get and we are now covering vast areas compared to the start of the season. The area south of Shumba, known as 'Paradise', is now a lush green vast expanse dotted with herds of roan, zebra, wildebeest and buffalo - it truly is remarkable. To the north, the permanent papyrus swamps offer visitors a taste of the early season - up there, there are still vast quantities of flooded areas teeming with lechwe and African Jacana.
The bird life is wonderful at this time of year with some of the first palaearctic migrants arriving including large numbers of swallows and bee-eaters. The camp was also visited by a Martial Eagle which was clearly visible from Tent 6. All this goes to show that in reality some of the best sightings and events in the Busanga Plains this season have actually been visible from the camp.
As we move into November we are entering our last month of operation and can't wait to see what the weather and the lions get up to!
"The hospitality of the staff and the level of service was amazing:" Simone.
"Lioness on the veranda of our tent!" Thomas.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Julia Bauer, Tara Rowe, Ashley Rowe and Zoe Namangonze.
Guides: Sam Simunji, Lex Munuma and Idos Mulenga.
Kapinga Camp update - October 2011 Jump
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Busanga Bush Camp update - October 2011 Jump
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During the month of October, which is our hottest month, we experienced a lot of cloud cover especially during the afternoons. We had some rains which of course caused a lot of excitement amongst the animal species. A number of antelope species have started to give birth to their young ones which in turn caused a flurry of excitement amongst the predators that roam the plains.
Another one of the numerous benefits of receiving rain is that most of the dust and smoke has been settled by the precipitation. Clear conditions have resulted, leading to some very beautiful and scenic sunsets and sunrises.
Apart from having an astounding variety and diversity of fauna and flora, Busanga Plains has become famous for its 'swamp lions' that have become superbly adapted for their aquatic environs as well as for their tree-climbing tendencies. Our guests were treated to some outstanding sightings of these felines, quite often in or around the camp. We were serenaded by the resonating roars of these beasts on a nightly basis.
A little further down the feline size scale, we had a number of good cheetah sightings, as a sibling duo of brothers has settled in the area. The dry areas of the plains are highly conducive to the hunting techniques of cheetah and provide excellent hunting opportunities that have been trebled by the mass of neonate antelope.
Another thing that is unique to this area, are the red lechwe or Kafue lechwe, which are endemic to the Kafue National Park. We have been blessed with a healthy population of these beautiful antelope around the camp.
In terms of camp news, this month the camp was visited by SHARE, an organisation that runs HIV/AIDS seminars and counselling. The seminar was very educational and staff commented that they were happy to receive info about HIV.
Busanga Bush Camp will be closing at the end of the month for the rainy season and would like to thank all for visiting this beautiful area. Until next year all the best from the plains!
Mvuu Camp update - October 2011 Jump
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Mvuu Wilderness Lodge update - October 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
Despite cloudy skies conveying the promise of rain and light showers at the beginning of the month, the temperatures in Liwonde continue to rise and days are becoming increasingly hot. The elephant sightings at the river remain consistent as herds make their way to the river's edge to quench their thirst before the heat of midday sets in. Even though some brief rain brought with them a few bursts of fresh leaves, the majority of the landscape remains dry and bare allowing for clear game viewing opportunities.
Early morning boat safaris and evening game drives are ideal for viewing the park's distinct elephant herds before the day becomes too hot. There is a particular herd member that has a unique feature that enables one to identify his entire herd. This large bull elephant accompanies a herd with several calves found on the eastern and western side of the river. He is one of the oldest bulls in the park and is easily recognised by the swelling over his right eye and his single tusk.
On October 15th, a rare sighting of 250 elephants was seen on Sable Plain.
Game drives into the ESOM Sanctuary have yielded six sightings of black rhino over the course of the month. Early in the month, Roger the rhino's tracks were seen on the muddy main road near Nangondo Drift, just two days later he was spotted by a guest near the Chinguni main gate. A female and her calf were seen as well as a grumpy male, which chased a resting sable out of his way.
After seeing baboons run off with an impala carcass last month, this month yielded evidence of baboons ambushing and killing a young bushbuck at 4:40 near the Crocodile Sand Bank. The largest baboon of the troop of six grabbed the dead baby bushbuck and hurried into a tree. As the large baboon fed on the carcass, the bushbuck's distressed mother attempted to chase the rest of the baboons away. Later into the month a baboon was seen fighting with a business of banded mongoose over a monitor lizard's eggs which had fallen in a nearby log. The baboon could only feed on the eggs for a few seconds at a time as the mongooses kept biting him.
Another peculiar sighting on September 23rd was of hippos feeding on a dead waterbuck that was floating in the water. Rather than feeding on the flesh of the waterbuck, we suspect that the hippos were actually feeding on the contents of its stomach.
At the end of the month all of our guests were treated to a great sighting of Titus, the dominant male lion in the area. We found him resting on a river bank, occasionally feeding on his kudu kill.
Birds and Birding
Senegal Lapwing have been spotted on Njobvu Road in Sanctuary and on Mvera Road to Livingstone's Baobab; Racket-tailed Rollers were also seen this month. Pel's Fishing-Owls, although a rare species, are regularly sighted at Mvuu.
Southern Pochards were seen opposite the new Star Beds at Mvuu. These ducks are not seen often and are only occasionally spotted in the park. Madagascar Bee-eaters were seen near Mvuu Lodge. An Ashy (Blue-grey) Flycatcher was seen nesting in the baobab near the camp dining area and White-backed Night-Herons have been spotted nesting at the camp jetty. The pair has one chick, their other egg is yet to hatch and they are often seen flying out to look for food for their chick.
"What a wonderful place, we have seen and learnt so much-thanks to Henry with his amazing skills. He took special care to show us interesting things. Also thanks to Thom for looking after us so well at meal times. Thanks to all at Mvuu!" Liz and Anthony (UK).
Mumbo Island update - October 2011 Jump
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Malawi is heating up this October, but we are expecting some respite towards December as we expect the summer rains to arrive then. But happily, the hot weather has created the ideal conditions for our guests to indulge in various water activities.
Five women joined Renee Watson's Pilates Retreat in October on Mumbo Island for a weekend of Pilates classes and much more: 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!
The new dive boat has been completed by Kayak Africa carpenters who worked on it for over a month under the huge fig tree on the beach. It is the first boat in Cape Maclear to also have a fibreglass coating over the wood and must be the only boat in the village to have not a single leak. It will be named "The Frog" and will be used by our dive school, Frogman Divers.
Kayak Africa is proud to have been nominated for two categories in the Imvelo Awards of Sustainable Tourism. The categories are: Best Overall Environmental Management Systems and Best Single Resource Management Programme - Waste. The winners were announced on 9 November; although we didn't win, it is wonderful to have our efforts acknowledged by Imvelo Awards.
Chelinda Lodge update - October 2011
Weather and Landscape
October brings with it the freshness of first rains at Nyika National Park. Starting earlier than expected on September 30th, the rains brought with them misty conditions for three days. Overcast skies led to hardly any sunlight reaching the plateau. The burnt patches of grasslands are now turning greener and a variety of flowers are emerging across the plateau.
In an exciting development, National Park scouts reported seeing four African wild dogs near Chelinda Hill! The next day they were seen running down and killing a juvenile roan antelope near Chelinda Bridge. Earlier in October, one wild dog was spotted near Runyina Bridge on the alternative road out of Chelinda to Thazima. In 24 years of visiting Nyika, the Wilderness team had yet to see wild dog in the area, making this a truly exceptional sighting.
On October 3rd, on his way to Jalawe view point, Sam spotted a lone bull elephant near the Zambian Rest House. The bull seemed to be between 20-30 years old, and appeared relaxed. On his way to Thazima Gate the following day, Sam spotted another older elephant bull with large tusks. Elephants are rarely seen on the plateau and signs of them venturing closer into the park are encouraging.
October 4th, park staff reported a wild dog sighting near the Chelinda woodlands. As word of their presence spreads across the grasslands and sightings keep springing up, the entire Chelinda team is waiting in anticipation to find out more about the movements of the plateau's newest arrivals.
Leopard sightings remained consistent throughout October, with four leopards seen on October 19th between Chosi Point and Lake Kaulime. A total of eight leopard sightings were reported in the first two weeks of October, all between 6:00pm - 8:00pm in the evening suggesting that this is the ideal time period to catch a glimpse of Nyika's top predator.
Birds and Birding
Sam and Abassi guided a birding group this month and highlights included Common Scimitarbill, Racket-tailed Roller and Pale-billed Hornbill. The forest patches of Nyika yielded excellent sightings of Bar-tailed Trogon, African Yellow White-eye, White-tailed Crested-Flycatcher and Schalow's Turaco.
"Nice landscape, very friendly staff, nice and spacious chalets. The whole staff looked after us really well and many staff members went beyond their call of duty (e.g. washing our car etc.). We really enjoyed ourselves and would recommend Chelinda anytime". Markus and Lila.
"We have travelled to 28 countries in Africa, but this was the best sighting of leopards we ever had. The lodge is beautiful and the staff are very friendly." Cynthia and Rolf.
Staff in Camp
Guides: Apollo, Whyte, Brave, Patrick and Sam.
Desert Rhino Camp update - October 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
Spring has kicked off with a slow start, even the first few weeks of October have been cooler than expected. Daytime temperatures have been comfortable, warming to around between 27 - 35° C, but it seemed a daily occurrence that a cold breeze would pick up in the afternoon and drop the temperature to a chilly single digit temperature until the next day, whereby the wind would die down and the sun would spread its warm rays over us.
By large, the landscape is still covered in sea of golden grass. The trumpet thorn acacias have started to flower, and we are sure that the other tree species will follow soon.
October was characterised by great rhino sightings as well as a few new additions to the black rhino population. We have encountered three females which are nursing calves at the moment which range in age between two - six months. The fruits of the rhino monitoring in the concession are definitely bearing good results, as we have compiled some extensive data on the oldest cow in the area. She is known as 'Variety' and covers a home range of around 436 km². So far, she has successfully produced and reared 8 calves since 1982. We suspect that she will give birth to another baby some time in December as we recorded her mating approximately 14 months ago. Variety was born in the Palmwag Concession in 1972, which makes us very proud, as we have had the privilege of researching her for such an extended time.
A bull known as Kangombe has been very active in the surrounding area and is often seen hanging around four females, one of which has mated with him. Another bull, Ben has been edging into Kangombe, possibly searching for the female which is in oestrus.
Apart from the great rhino sightings and interactions we had this month, we were also blessed with a couple of great feline sightings. On one occasion, the unmistakable downward spiral of vultures in the sky led us to a fresh kill. A lioness with her two cubs had made a springbok kill and were casually enjoying the spoils of their hunt. We also had a fantastic cheetah sighting, which took place at one of the waterholes. We came across a female with four cubs, which were very relaxed in the presence of the vehicle and provided our guest with some outstanding sightings as the cubs played amongst each other. A leopard made a brief appearance, as we caught a glimpse of one disappearing into the brush.
The famous desert adapted elephants have moved through our area of operation a couple of times too. On the smaller side of the mammalian scale, we had a number of great suricate sightings; it is always so fun to watch these little guys scurry about and interact with one another.
"A wonderful experienced - we will treasure the memories for ever. It was amazing to see the undisturbed rhinos in their natural environment. We really appreciate your professional attitude and hospitality. One of the most amazing aspects is that nobody who works here takes this unique place for granted - you are all so passionate and as thrilled as you guests at the fabulous landscape's and sighting of animals. Thank you very much!"
Staff in Camp
Managers: Helen, Agnes and Ian
Guides: Raymond, Aloysius and Moses
Palmwag Lodge update - October 2011 Jump
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Doro Nawas Camp update - October 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
We have still been experiencing very strange weather conditions as summer seems to be knocking on the door, only to be supressed by the cold gusts of Atlantic winds which course over the conservancy every afternoon. These cool breezes can drop the midday temperature from a warm 30° C to a cool 13° C at night.
The Aba-Huab and the Huab Rivers have become oases in this dry, hot environment. There are a number of springs along the riverbeds as these rivers still flow underground. As a result, the vegetation growing along the river coarses is blossoming into life, providing the wildlife with some palatable and nutritious food. Desert edelweiss has started to appear all over the conservancy. The wildlife does not really feed on the plant as it can be toxic and is indicated by bright colouration of the flowers.
As mentioned, the ephemeral rivers have attracted large number of wildlife, which are all seeking the nutrient-high feed after the dry months here in Namibia. The desert-adapted elephants have been taking full advantage of the feeding frenzy, which has produced some amazing sightings of these magnificent creatures. We are happy to report that Jason, the baby elephant, is doing well and is growing rapidly - a real treasure for the Oscar herd indeed. The Rosy herd has also been spotted a number of times and is doing well too.
Black-backed jackals were heard from the camp on a nightly basis, providing a hauntingly beautiful serenade to those who opted to sleep out on the room decks.
Camp News and Activities
Daily trips to Twyfelfontein continue to be a huge hit with our guests as it adds an extra dimension to the entire experience. The trip to Twyfelfontein takes our guests through a number of habitats that are known for their beautiful scenery.
The camp has started to offer bush lunches, which is served en route for the game drives in a beautiful location along a river coarse under a stand of ana trees. Both guests and staff have thoroughly enjoyed this experience.
Rooftop dinners have also been served on most nights, as the sky has been so clear, making for some breathtaking dinners under the stars.
"The elephant trips, sunset, sunrise, sundowners and the bush walk with Richardt was exceptional. He is a very friendly person with a lot of knowledge and a great guide." Tritschler.
"We are impressed with the way the rooms blend in with landscape. Seeing both the Oscar and Rosie elephant herds with our excellent guide Ignatius was fantastic. Thank you for the great complimentary bottle of wine for our wedding anniversary. We loved the tranquillity of Doro Nawas and the open space and surroundings." Kingsley.
"Our guide Michael was the highlight, we were in other Wilderness camps and he comes top in our list. He was charming, knowledgeable but yet very professional. He made our activities very enjoyable and special." Diana.
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 Richardt Orr.
Damaraland Camp update - October 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
During the month, we experienced very hot conditions with very little respite - the temperature consistently climbed as we moved further on into the month. The maximum temperature that was reached for the month was 39° C.
The landscape is very dry and looks beautiful as it is covered in a carpet of golden grass which has been decorated by the new buds of growth on the trees. Once we receive some rain, the environment will explode into a mix of summer colours, much to the relief of the wildlife no doubt.
This month we did a few special drives to the Springbok River with our guests. The drives proved very successful with sightings of Hartmann's mountain zebra and giraffe. On one of these drives, the guests were treated to a fantastic sighting of a beautiful male 'desert' lion. It appears that the lion visited the river area for the same reason that we did, as the wildlife has been concentrating along the river.
During a walking trail, Johann and his guests caught a brief glimpse of a Jameson's red rock rabbit, which is a very rare species of logomorpha owing to its secretive behaviour.
Our guests have also been enjoying drives to the Mikberg area, which has some fantastic rock engravings and 'petrified forests' (fossilised wood trunks and stumps). When driving to this area, one is overcome by a feeling of peace and isolation as it is a true wilderness area that is blessed with incredible scenery.
Elephant sightings have also been very good, as these giant mammals are also sticking to the riverine areas. We also had a couple of great black rhino sightings during the month.
October was a highly anticipated month for both the people of the Torra Conservancy as well as our staff members as it was the Riemvasmaakers annual festival, which was held on 14 - 16 October. The De Riet village hosted the function, which was used to discuss conservation issues as well as from a platform for all to discuss concerns and issues within the conservancy.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Maggie Vries, Elfrieda Hebach, PG du Preez and Erika Awaras.
Guides: Anthony Dawids, Johann Cloete, Albert! Gaoseb and Willem Retief.
Skeleton Coast Camp update - October 2011 Jump
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Skeleton Coast has seen some pretty cold misty mornings, with warm sunny days, coupled with strong south-westerly winds blowing in the afternoons that die down after sunset. The average temperatures we experienced had a minimum of 8° C and a maximum of 30° C.
With the grass drying out in the surrounding areas, like the dunes where the gemsbok (oryx) usually feed, it means that they are moving back into the camp's surrounding area. The springbok, being fairly abundant (although not often seen), leave markings of their presence around every corner. A few guests have also had the privilege to see the very rare Cape fox, with a litter of pups, next to the roadside towards Puros.
Sightings of ostriches also take place on a daily basis. Guests have seen meerkats (suricates) on their game drives and are always very excited about sharing what they had seen with us at camp.
October-November is usually breeding season for the Cape fur seals, which means that there are a lot of newborn pups to be seen. Straight after giving birth, the females go into heat once more which means a lot of fighting among males, as the alpha males get challenged for the right to mate with the females.
Our guests were treated to a very close view of a puff adder, when a snake researcher passed through camp with the serpent in transit.
"The best safaris experience! Absolutely wonderful. A real treat to visit your beautiful area. The guides were lovely!" Richard and Heather (UK).
"Exceeded our expectations, which were high! Stunning scenery with guides who brought everything to life for us. Lovely fun atmosphere in camp. We will forever remember our 4 days here!" Geoffrey and Teresa (UK).
Liz Hugo has joined the Skeleton Coast staff team as the relief manager for both Skeleton Coast and Serra Cafema. Liz joined the company in September and spent her first few months working at Palmwag Lodge. We wish her a bright future at both Skeleton Coast and Serra Cafema.
Excitingly, we had Matt Lauer of NBC's "Where in the World is Matt Lauer" visiting Skeleton Coast as his first location on his tenth anniversary show. He loved Skeleton Coast and Namibia as a whole, particularly admiring Namibia's conservation strategy.
Serra Cafema Camp update - October 2011 Jump
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We have been enjoying some beautiful summer conditions at camp over the entire month. The weather has been nice and stable, warming up to around 30° C by midday and then cooling off slowly to a very comfortable temperature during the evenings. The skies have been crystal clear, which has made for some amazing sunrises and sunsets, especially when experienced along the river and from the camp.
We have experienced many wonderful wildlife sightings during the month, with a couple of special sightings thrown into the mix.
We had the extremely rare pleasure of seeing a cheetah! Historically, cheetah do occur around Serra Cafema, but have not been sighted in the area for many years. It was surprising as the cheetah was very relaxed in the presence of the vehicle, which indicates that she has encountered vehicles before - perhaps she has seen us and we have not seen her?
On the subject of rare felines, an African wild cat has made camp its home. She has been seen on a daily basis, resting under the camp decks in the thick vegetation. As these felines are largely nocturnal, she would become active during the late afternoons when camp was quiet. On one occasion, the staff heard a ruckus in the thickets and upon inspection, they found the cat in the middle of killing a snake, which provided a decent meal for the small predator.
We have observed plenty of crocodile activity in the Kunene River, which is literally crawling with these prehistoric reptiles.
We would like to welcome a new guide to our guiding team at Serra Cafema. This month, Dinish Alberto has joined us. We wish him all the best and lots of fun here with us at the northernmost point of Namibia.
We had Matt Lauer in camp for a few days, which was a lot of fun. He was filming for "Where in the World is Matt Lauer?" which ran on 7 October and showcased Namibia as its first location.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Ockert, Lynette, Chvonnie, Cobus and Eli.
Guides: Harry, Gerhardus, Dawid, and Dinish.
Ongava Tented Camp update - October 2011 Jump
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Wildlife and Landscape
With temperatures rising, we can feel summer approaching - along with the much-anticipated rainy season. We reached 40° C this month already! As a result, the wildlife activity at our waterhole was outstanding, as large numbers of wildlife visited to quench their thirst and cool off.
The dry, parched landscape is starting to show signs of rejuvenation as many tree species have begun sprouting new growth. There is very little surface water, which has forced the wildlife to concentrate at the waterholes.
Sightings in general have been exceptionally good in both Ongava and in Etosha National Park, with regular lion, rhino and elephant sightings.
For the past two months, Ongava has been home to two sub-adult lions, which we think will become the dominant males for the area and have become known as the 'OTC Boys'. The dominant duo has been very active around the entire reserve, learning all the areas in their future kingdom and have been very audible at night.
These two aspiring lions provided our guests with the month's wildlife highlight at the camp waterhole during dinner on the 21st of October. Three white rhino arrived at the waterhole for an evening drink. The crash of rhino consisted of a mother and her calf as well as a young sub-adult male. As we were watching the rhino drink, the mother and her calf became clearly uneasy and suddenly left the waterhole.
Suddenly the two male lions appeared out of the darkness and attempted to stalk the remaining rhino. Luckily for the rhino, the two lions are still young and inexperienced and were easily chased away. This was really special, and all guests were blown away by this rare sighting.
Our waterhole was also regularly visited by a caracal on most nights. Large numbers of kudu, oryx, eland and zebra visited daily.
"Thank you so much! We have learnt so much about your beautiful country, and we were looked after so well. Thank you!" Claire and Steve (England).
"We have had a wonderful time, seeing lots of game and birds and learning about the bush. Everyone has looked after us to the highest of standard and we are sad to leave you all. Thank you." Annabel and Sea (England).
Staff in Camp
Managers: Gerda Van Niekerk, Inge Kambatuku and Gregory Feris.
Guides: Rio Aibeb, Festus Eiseb and Leon Basson.
Little Ongava update - October 2011 Jump
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Ongava Lodge update - October 2011 Jump
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Andersson's Camp update - October 2011 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
October has been a month full of changes in the weather. At the beginning of the month, we had the first few drops of rain. It brought for a short time some relief to the sweltering heat. The midday temperature has soared into the low 40° Cs a couple of times, which has further parched the already dry landscape. We did, however, receive temporary respite on most days, as the evenings cooled to a very comfortable temperature. A slight breeze in the afternoons has been providing cooling solace, but this has not been good for the bush fires which have been occurring further north in Namibia and Botswana. The smoke from these fires has been blown high into the sky, providing smoggy conditions - although these have created the most beautiful sunsets throughout the country.
October has also been very good for animal sightings around Ongava as well as Etosha National Park. Due to the high temperatures and the dryness of the area, there are lots of animals coming to the waterholes throughout the entire day, giving the guests lots of opportunities to observe the animals.
The lions were around camp at the beginning of the month with their young. We were able to see two small cubs, only a few weeks old. The three male lions were also keeping all the guests awake with all the roaring close to camp. During the middle of the month, the pride moved away, but still within our traversing areas, allowing the guests to see them during drives. As far as lions go, the highlight for the month was when our guests got to see the pride feeding on a zebra.
We also had incredible sightings of caracal at the waterhole at night as well as various sightings of African wild cat, porcupine and cheetah. These sightings are usually after dinner as the camp quietens down a bit. During this quiet period, some guests were lucky to see a white rhino and her tiny calf arrive at the waterhole for a drink. This is a great sighting for us as we usually only get visits from black rhino at the Andersson's waterhole. Of course, on drive, we have had regular sightings of both species.
The black rhino that visits Andersson's waterhole on a daily basis (Odin), has continued to entertain our guests every day - until the end of the month, when he encountered another rhino bull. Odin encountered Lloyd, a much larger and stronger bull who did not tolerate the presence of a younger bull around. After a short fight, Odin was sent running off while Lloyd continued with his drink. We predict that Odin will return as soon as his ego recovers.
Etosha has been also very generous with sightings, especially those of elephant. Some guests were treated to seeing herds of up to 50 elephant drinking at the various waterholes. Lion and rhino activity was also good in the 'Great White Place'.
Birds and Birding
Birding is always good at Andersson's Camp with different species of birds seen in and around camp itself. This month we were very lucky to see a Martial Eagle attempting to hunt Guineafowls at the waterhole. The eagle almost got one but he missed and landed in one of the mopane trees close to the waterhole. The fowls broke into a serious symphony of alarm calls which sent the raptor in search of quieter prey.
The Crimson-breasted Shrike also caused quite a stir amongst guests, who were always trying to capture the perfect image of these colourful beauties. Bare-cheeked Babblers have also been frequenting the camp area which is great since they are one of the 15 Namibian endemic species.
"The staff was without exceptions very friendly and welcoming. The waterhole where we saw a rhino on our last night was fantastic." Chris.
"What a lovely place to stay. All the staff was excellent and very friendly, helpful and efficient. The close sightings of lions and elephants were brilliant." Peter and Mina.
"The staff singing and dancing for us was very beautiful, lots of animals around the camp. Really nice lodge and staff." Mia.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Silvia Morgante, Corne Cocklin, Corrie Adams and Sakkie Hoeseb.
Guides: Bono Gauseb, Franz Nuyoma and Ramon Coetzee.
The photographs were taken by Silvia Morgante and Corne Cocklin.
Little Kulala Camp update - October 2011 Jump
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Kulala Desert Lodge update - October 2011 Jump
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Kulala Wilderness Camp update - October 2011 Jump
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Governors' Camp update - October 2011 Jump
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Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge update - October 2011
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