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No report this month.
Unusual Brown Hyaena Behaviour at Serra Cafema
Sighting: Brown hyaena and oryx hide
Location: Serra Cafema Camp, Marienfluss Conservancy, Namibia
Date: 10 September 2011
Observers: Harry Ganuseb, Steve Kasaona, Jonathan Namgombe, Chvonnie Koopman, Lynette Cilliers, Cobus Botha and Elizabeth Parkhouse
Photographers: Jonathan Namgombe, Steve Kasaona and Cobus Botha.
The brown hyaena is no stranger to Serra Cafema and its surrounds. Every morning we see its pawprints in the soft sand all around the rooms and walkways. However, as it is a shy, nocturnal predator, it is usually only seen by the staff when they are walking back to their rooms late at night.
The morning of the 10th was no different, until Harry called in on the radio that he had just seen a brown hyaena right outside camp. We immediately grabbed our guests and jumped into a vehicle and went to try get a glimpse of the elusive creature.
We were all very pleased when we came across the female hyaena, while she was lying in some shade. It looked like the hyaena was getting ready to go to sleep, as she was not very active, moving only to find a more comfy position in the shade.
After a couple of minutes she became aware of our presence and stood up. Once she became comfortable with us being there, she picked up an oryx (gemsbok) hide lying next to her. The hide seemed to be still fresh, and her belly was bulging, so we presume that she had already eaten the rest of the carcass. She then displayed some behaviour typical of a canine. She began to dig a hole and placed the hide into the hole and started to bury her prize. After about 15 minutes, the pelt was completely covered and out of sight from the Pied Crows that were starting to show interest in it.
After the hyaena was satisfied that she had concealed her tasty treat, she slowly walked over the ridge, most likely to find a more private resting area for the day.
Leopard and Cub at Zarafa
Location: Zarafa Camp, Selinda Concession, Botswana
Date: 5 September 2011
Observers: Alex Mazunga
Photographer: Alex Mazunga
On the morning of the 5th of September 2011, Alex went out very early before sunrise with a couple from Australia.
They headed to the east of Zarafa, and as they drove past our famous Shumba Pan (Lion Pan), they witnessed the beautiful bright red sun coming up through the trees, so they headed down to the floodplains to capture this awesome sunrise.
While they were enjoying the sun coming up, Alex mentioned to the guests this was the perfect time to listen to the 'bush language' when the vehicle was silent.
Two minutes later the impala started snorting their warning signals, so they headed off to investigate. As they got closer to the spot where they had seen impala remnants up in an African ebony tree, the impalas were still going crazy. Continuing the search they went back to the floodplain and there they found a stunning leopard, named Mmaditsebi, with a full belly, drinking water.
Having drunk her fill she started heading further east of Zarafa. Alex suggested that they follow her to see where she was headed with such purpose. They followed her for more than 5km with impalas, francolins, and squirrels going crazy all over the place, before she finally jumped up on a fallen big tree and started calling.
A few-weeks-old cub popped its head out tentatively, only to see a game drive vehicle for the first time ever. This is such a special occasion. A few minutes later the mother picked the little cub up in with her mouth and started heading back toward where she had come from.
This particular female has managed to raise one male leopard who is almost three years old now. This newborn is a female and we hope she'll make it through the tough months ahead.
Kalamu Lagoon Buffalo Calf Rescue
Location: Kalamu Lagoon Camp, South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
Date: 13 September 2011
Observers: Tara Rowe, Carlo Paterlini, Stefania Paterlini
Photographer: Tara Rowe, Carlo Paterlini, Stefania Paterlini
Life in the Luangwa Valley during the winter dry season is dictated by the availability of water. A small number of springs and perennial streams exists, especially in the escarpment areas, and of course the valley is bisected by the Luangwa River, but for the majority of winter the valley is hot and dry. This is especially so as we reach the end of the season in the months of September and October. By this time of year the seasonal pans and pools in the woodlands have dried up and game is forced to make their way from grazing and browsing areas down to the Luangwa River and a small number of permanent lagoons, usually old oxbow lakes adjacent to the River.
Kalamu Lagoon Camp is situated on one such site, the Luamfwa Lagoon. Even this permanent water source is gradually beaten by the sun so that by September its edges and channels are muddy and potentially treacherous for game attempting to access the remaining water. Crocodiles lurk in the shallows and the mud itself is a dangerous trap.
Recently, at the end of game drive one morning, we noticed a buffalo calf stuck in the mud at the southern end of the lagoon. Its mother stood nearby, clearly concerned about her offspring, as were we.
Having collected a rope and some extra hands in camp we returned to the scene and then braved the mud, the feisty little calf and the anxious mother. Due to the calf's stress levels, we couldn't extract it using just manpower, but had to attach a tow strap to its neck in order to heave it from its muddy abyss. We got no thanks for our efforts of course from either the calf, or the mother who initially charged aggressively at the helpers but later relaxed and watched patiently as her calf was dragged from the mud.
The remainder of the herd watched from a greater distance and once out, the exhausted calf was reunited with its mother and together they rejoined the herd.
A happy ending! One wonders what on earth these animals thought of the process and how they will relate to people in future.
Slender mongoose hunts Tree Squirrel
Location: Kings Pool Camp, Linyanti, Botswana
Date: 18 September 2011
Observers: Jemima Middleton and Callum Sargent
Photographer: Callum Sargent
The Linyanti Concession is renowned for its enormous elephant population and fantastic game viewing. Leopard, lion, wild dog and cheetah have provided guests with fantastic photographic opportunities as well as the mass of general game that frequents the surroundings of the Linyanti River. It's not always the big and hairies that provide excitement in such a natural wonderland though!
One Sunday evening, Jemima and I hopped into a game viewer for a relaxing game drive to explore the beauty of this fabulous part of the world. Waterbuck, impala and the odd elephant created a very peaceful start to a leisurely late afternoon. The tranquillity was suddenly broken when we saw an adult squirrel running for its life across the road, followed closely by a slender mongoose.
The two species grappled and in the dust and noise the entwined bodies seemed as if they were fighting each other. What soon became apparent was that the mongoose was in fact hunting the squirrel. The adult squirrel managed to escape the jaws of the mongoose for a second and bolted for the safety of the nearest tree. A two-metre-high fever berry was not the best choice as the mongoose did not hesitate, pursuing its quarry with lightning speed.
The squirrel reached the top of the fever berry tree and with its pursuer close on its tail, had no other choice but to jump. The mongoose, now committed to the chase, leaped from the tree and grabbed the squirrel as it hit the ground. In a second, the sly predator had the squirrel by the throat and although the squirrel put up a good attempt to fend off its attacker, it was not long before the struggling victim's body was lifeless. The mongoose then dragged its prey under a dead log and proceeded to feed on its prize.
The slender mongoose's usual diet consists mostly of fruit, insects, lizards, snakes, amphibians, birds, spiders and mice. They have been recorded hunting prey such as francolins, scrub hares and even large venomous snakes. Truly a feisty little critter!
Lion's den at Shumba?
Location: Shumba Camp, Kafue National Park, Zambia
Date: 27 September 2011
Walking out onto the deck at Shumba in the dim morning light we were welcomed by the sight of a lioness that had made a kill, maybe an hour before, about two hundred metres from the main area.
As the sun rose, we all - staff, guests and lioness - had our breakfast together while the surviving lechwe from the herd looked on, ill at ease with the predator in their midst. Shortly after 06h00 our two guests and Sam, their guide, had to leave for their hot air balloon trip. We said we would keep an eye on the kill for them so they could find it again upon their return and in doing so discovered another little surprise...
As the lioness dragged her kill from the open plain towards cover, Julia and I walked down to Tent 4 to get a better view. On reaching the junction of the walkway we heard a strange sound coming from the palm leaves between Tents 5 and 6. We had first heard the sound from the main area but dismissed it as bird calls. Being closer we could tell that it definitely was not a bird, plus it was accompanied by the low growl of a lion.
Slowly, tiptoeing along the walkway we saw another lioness emerge from the bush and disappear into the long grass in front of Tent 6, not before turning her head towards us giving us a quick warning glare. Thinking that there might be a cub Julia radioed Idos and asked, "What does a baby lion sound like?" Idos' impression back over the radio was pretty much spot on!
We then decided to use a vehicle to inspect the scene instead and drove round to see if it was possible to see anything from in front of the tents. En route we found the younger male of the Busanga Pride and the original lioness of the morning with her kill, which she had dragged into the middle of an acacia bush. Two more great sightings!
Soon our thoughts returned to the cub and we slowly approached Tent 6. Unfortunately the grass was too high and the foliage too thick to see the cubs and the new mother, which by this time had both gone quiet. We decided to head back and prepare for the return of the ballooning guests.
After half an hour back in camp the lion cubs started calling again. Seeing one of the guides' vehicles in the area of the kill we radioed to ask if all the lions were there. "Yes," was the reply, "all four of the Busanga Females are here at the kill." Ashley and I then decided to investigate the scene of the meowing sound again, and so tiptoed back to Tent 6. There at the base of the fig and in amongst the concealing palm fronds were three tiny lion cubs. At least one seemed to have closed eyes still, indicating that they are very young indeed and we decided to move back and leave them undisturbed!
Access to these tents has since been blocked, with a rope across the walkway, to help preserve their privacy for the coming days. Not sure what we'll do when we have full camp again but we all have our fingers crossed for their survival and hope the Busanga Pride will look after these new arrivals.
Perhaps 05h00 wake ups aren't so bad after all....
Flippered Journey begins on North Island
30 Sep 2011
Unlike the hawksbill turtle, numbers of green turtle females coming on land to nest differ substantially from year to year. Hence, after 2010 having been a fantastic green turtle season at North Island, with a spectacular 156 tracks, it was a pleasant surprise that 2011 continued with relatively high numbers (66 tracks). Hence more exciting turtle activities to share with guests and colleagues!
Our general "watch-but-do-not-touch" policy on North Island means that we interfere only when turtle nests are in danger. This was the case with one nest that was laid too low on the beach on the 23rd of July. Elliott Mokhobo (Environment Assistant) had therefore been keeping a close eye on the marked nest during his daily early morning patrols. On the 3rd of September, it was found in grave danger of being washing away. Together with Linda Vanherck (Resident Biologist), they decided to intervene. Enthusiastic guests joined forces to save the nest that contained 162 eggs (on average a turtle lays between 150-200 eggs). The eggs were put in a foam box, covered with sand and taken to the environmental office.
On the 16th of September, a little earlier than expected (as normally green turtle nests hatch between 55 to 60 days after laying), we were overjoyed to see our first hatchling break the surface. Subsequently, the foam box was inundated with turtles and over the next five days we released a total of 140 hatchlings that had successfully hatched out of their eggs.
Nests in the office in the past have shown a lot of variation in synchronicity of hatching, with some hatchlings all emerging simultaneously and therewith allowing for a release in bigger batches, making it safer for them to reach the deeper waters where predation is less. This nest's hatchlings emerged in smaller batches, ecologically not good, but giving us more opportunities to share the excitement of witnessing babies begin their amazing journey to the great unknown.
The statistic that only 1 in 1 000 or even 1 in 10 000 (when poaching occurs) turtles will reach a reproductive age sure left guests and staff convinced of the continued need for conservation of this endangered species.
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.
Kulala Quad-biking in 2012
The 2011 quad- biking prices have been extended into 2012 and as always, due to the nature of the activity and possible technical issues, this activity is booked and paid for in camp.
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.
Arbour Week Celebrations
As a tribute to Arbour Week Wilderness Johannesburg did their bit and planted a tree on the office road verge, complementing the existing indigenous landscaping.
An Arbour Week celebration was also held in the Makuleke Village near South Africa's Pafuri Camp where 40 indigenous trees of various species were planted at four different schools. Chief Makuleke was the guest of honor and he planted a tree at each school.
Odzala - Our Partners
The Odzala project is an exciting undertaking and partnership that really exemplifies the truism 'greater than the sum of its parts'. Of our partners, the African Parks Network, is already at work in the conservation management of Odzala-Kokoua National Park. Dr Magda Bermejo and German Illera have worked on primate conservation (primarily western lowland gorillas) in the area since 1994. Meanwhile, the original facilitators of the project, Leadership for Conservation Africa, and the Congolese government continue to work tirelessly to ensure it all progresses smoothly.
No report this month.
North Island Update - September 2011 Jump
to North Island
September has seen the wildest sea conditions of the year here on North Island, with swells reaching close to four metres and winds of up to twenty knots. Beneath the waves however the water has remained clear with visibility consistently 15 metres or more and sea temperatures warm 27 degrees Celsius, making for fantastic diving.
In a month that has seen sharks in Seychelles hitting the headlines worldwide, it has been business as usual on North with daily shark encounters at our local diving sites. Ever friendly and calm, the white-tip reef and Indian Ocean nurse sharks have been frequently spotted and our occasionally evasive grey reef sharks have been seen several times this month. Divers have been able to drift through the water side by side these beautiful animals on several separate occasions.
Without doubt the most exceptional sighting of September has been what divers refer to as a Spanish Dancer, or Hexabranchus sanguineus, in the shallow waters surrounding our neighbouring Silhouette Island. This beautiful nudibranch has its common name thanks to its incredible ability to swim with graceful undulations of its mantle margins. Since it can grow larger than 40cm in length, it was believed that there were several different species of 'Spanish Dancer' until the 1970s when they were combined into one single species.
In recent years another giant species of nudibranch has been discovered and named the 'Djibouti Giant' - recorded at 52cm long. Unlike Hexabranchus sanguineus, which literally translated means 'six gills', this rare giant, found solely near to the entrance of the Red Sea off the coast of Djibouti, possesses only four.
As is true with all nudibranch species, the Spanish Dancer is characterised by its bright colours, duel rhinophores (club-like protrusions on the head) used to detect odour, and celaphic tentacles sensitive to touch, taste and smell. Always a treat for divers, most nudibranchs require a well-trained eye to be detected, a discretion these giants do not possess!
Furthermore, divers and snorkellers have been treated to pods of bottlenose dolphins circling our boats whilst heading out on dives in September. Always reluctant to approach too closely, these incredibly intelligent animals have a famously playful and inquisitive character as one particular snorkeller found whilst in the water at Sprat City. From out of the blue came the dolphin, staying close to the observer for a minute or so before heading back on his way. Bottlenose dolphins hunt in groups, driving shoaling fish into tight balls just beneath the surface using bubbles, swimming manoeuvres and warning cries. Growing up to four metres in the length and weighing up to 600kg, bottlenose dolphins are not normally spotted on their own as this one was and are more commonly found in pods ranging from three to fifteen individuals. In open seas however, groups of up to 600 can occur.
Kings Pool Camp update - September 2011 Jump
to Kings Pool Camp
The game has been exploding out of the bush this month and the guides have been notching up some incredible sightings of lion, leopard, wild dog and of some rare elephant and hyaena interactions as well.
Sadly, it seems that both young lion cubs that were born in July have been killed as the remaining cub has not been seen for several weeks now. Thankfully, the older cub is still alive and well, despite giving the guides a nervous few days recently when he failed to appear with the two females for a short period. Romeo is still ruling his kingdom, although the two Selinda Boys have been seen and they are most likely responsible for the deaths of the two cubs. Romeo's tendency to flee in order to keep his perfect, unscarred face intact may be his eventual undoing as the intruders move in, but we still wait to see the outcome of this encroachment. The lions have, in general, been kept healthy by giraffe and buffalo this month: the guests have been treated to repeated sightings of the small pride feeding; learning to hold their noses whilst taking hundreds of photographs of the full and sleepy cats.
The leopard sightings have been prolific this month, to say the least - one group of guests recently recorded sightings of seven different leopards during their three-night stay. One of these sightings occurred as the group was meandering down the river on the Queen Sylvia barge, expecting to see a Pied Kingfisher, perhaps, or maybe even a hippo or two, and being rewarded by not only these but also a male leopard on the bank, trying and failing to catch a Guineafowl for his supper.
Elephant numbers have, if possible, increased even further this month as the bush becomes drier and drier, pans shrinking to puddles and food becoming progressively scarce. We have had the usual visitors in camp, particularly the now famous ellie with the bad hip, who provokes pitiful gasps from guests as he limps out of the water. His determination and resilience is evident, however, as his general health has not deteriorated and he still enjoys a good bathe in the midday sun.
There have been two elephant-related incidents this month that demonstrate vividly the ups and downs of life in the bush. Early in September, guests watched in fascinated horror as hyaena mobbed a baby elephant and its mother, eventually killing the baby near the Kings Pool soccer pitch. Lions also brought down a newborn baby elephant later in the month, and the mother died soon after, most likely from physical and emotional stress after giving birth. These scenes were understandably difficult to witness, but they meant that the lions and hyaenas were well fed for another month and able to prosper.
To counter-balance the deaths of these elephants, a rare and special encounter was had by Khan with four guests who were enjoying their very first experience in the bush. As darkness began to creep in, Khan noticed a breeding herd making far louder and more insistent rumblings and trumpeting than usual. At first he thought a bull was attempting to mate with one of the cows, but as he inched closer he caught a glimpse of a very distressed cow with a dark stain on her legs. The next second, he saw something drop to the ground, and he realised they had witnessed a birth. They stayed with the herd until the baby was on its feet, the surrounding elephants kicking dust over her to reduce the scent and protect her from predators, and murmuring encouragement to her until she stood up. The guests returned to camp in awe of what they had just seen, and guides and managers alike bombarded them with questions about a sight that few are privileged to witness.
We were also thrilled towards the end of the month to start seeing the wild dogs back in the area, with nine healthy and very mobile puppies. The pack brought down an impala near the water in front of guests and demonstrated their voracity on the kill, demolishing their dinner in minutes and taking off into the mopane soon after. One of the adult males has now been fitted with a satellite collar, so that the wild dog research team can keep track of their rapid and various movements across the concession.
In another collaring expedition, two managers joined the roan researchers in a mission to collar a female roan antelope. After a long and hot afternoon, a female was found, but she proved too quick to dart, and a fruitless chase in the mopane (which resulted in a flat tyre) put an end to that attempt. The following morning was more successful, however, and there is now a collared female roaming the area, providing ample data for the researchers to continue their important studies.
We have also had sightings of sable and tsessebe near camp and one mustn't forget the influx of migrant birds that is increasing as the rains approach. The Southern Carmine Bee-eaters have been showing off their brilliant colours at the nesting colony, and the calls of the African Cuckoo, Purple Roller, Broad-billed Roller and Klaas's Cuckoo have been noted in camp. We wait for further visitors as the weather begins to turn, and we enter what is sure to be another exciting DIANTSHA month at the Kings Pool!
Managers: Callum, Jemima, Warren and Big Ben.
Guides: Khan, Ndebo, OD and Diye.
DumaTau Camp update - September 2011 Jump
to DumaTau Camp
This month proved once more that DumaTau's a reputation for great game viewing is well-deserved - we had fantastic wildlife encounters and sightings in September!
Weather and Landscape
Temperatures are rising steadily with the onset of the summer months. The rise in temperature has also caused water levels to drop, which is why we have experienced such great sightings. With most of the surface water drying up, the wildlife has been forced to congregate in huge numbers along the channels.
As spring is a time of change and strong contrasts between the dry barren months and summer's new beginnings, the landscape has begun blossoming into life, with a number of trees bursting with colour.
We did experience a small amount of rain throughout the month, but only enough to settle the dust temporarily.
General game numbers are staggering as all the herbivores are searching for greener pastures, approaching the channel, which offers them some much needed dry season forage. Zebra, giraffe, wildebeest and kudu are the most prominant. Large herds of buffalo have also spilled into the area as well as many elephant. It truly is amazing to see how dependent all forms of life are on water.
With the increase of prey species, we have had no shortage of predator sightings in September. Our predatory highlight for the month was when we found Malebedi, a female leopard who has cubs at the moment. We found her with a kill, which she had stored in a tree. This beautiful feline allowed us a number of excellent sightings during the month. On one occasion, another female wondered into Malebedi's territory and was swiftly ruffed up and chased away. The DumaTau male has been rather active in the area, also making a number of appearances for our guests.
The wild dogs have provided solid entertainment for our guests, as two packs have been frequenting our area of operation. Last year, the Zib Pack was beaten by the Linyanti Pack, driven south of the channel. They have recently returned, crossing back onto the northern side of the channel. We were lucky to witness the two packs confront each other; this time, the Zib Pack pushed the Linyanti Pack further east. We are happy to report that the Zib Pack still has 12 pups which are looking healthy and are growing rapidly. Feeding 12 pups is no small task, and we have seen the adults successfully hunting a number of times, mostly preying on kudu.
The DumaTau Pride of lions moved to the Selinda area over a year ago and has returned this month, killing two buffalo in a period of five days. This is exciting because this area has not had a big pride of lions in a while. The pride consists of 15 lions and one is a big male. Originally there were two big males and they tried extending their territory more north-east - one (Mavinyo) was killed this month by the dominant male lion in that area. The sad news is that the Savuti female has been spotted a number of times and she only appears to have one cub left out of three, highlighting the difficulty that cubs face on a daily basis.
Birds and Birding
Birding has also been hotting up this month, as waves of summer migrants have arrived. So far we have seen Southern Carmine Bee-eaters, Yellow-billed Kites, Grey-headed Kingfishers and a number of cuckoo species.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Kago (KG), Abbie, Gerard, Claire and Lindi.
Guides: Ron, Lazi, Name, Mocks, Moses and Tank.
The photographs were taken by KG and Ron.
Savuti Camp update - September 2011 Jump
to Savuti Camp
Weather and Landscape
September brought with it rising temperatures and serious dry season conditions for the wildlife to contend with. Wildlife sightings have been excellent, with a general movement of animals toward the river most days. The first rainstorm of the season also came along during the month, and brought some relief to the dry vegetation in the area. The September temperatures have been fluctuating between 38 and 45°C, making the swimming pool very popular.
The game viewing this month has been nothing short of spectacular! It has been so productive that it's almost difficult to know where to start. The abundance of wildlife is astounding, with large herds and congregations of zebra, buffalo, elephant, impala and warthog all around Savuti Camp.
A good place to start is probably the wild dogs. We've had two packs - the Linyanti Pack and Zib Pack - both traversing the area around Savuti Camp. Almost every day guests have been coming back to camp with stories of exciting interaction between the dogs and their pups, dogs making kills, territorial warfare between the packs, and rivalry between the dogs and other predators. It's quite something when guests can show photographs of wild dog, hyaena and leopard all in the same frame!
Leopard sightings also continue to dominate game drives, with many guests lucky enough to see several separate sightings of these animals, often on one drive. In a strange twist, it's the lions that have remained a little more elusive this month, although the sightings that guests did have were of extremely high quality.
One of the wonderful things about Savuti Camp is that one doesn't need to go far from camp to see incredible game. We've had the pleasure of watching dogs hunting right in front of camp, and have also been privileged enough to witness both dog packs at the same time - on opposite sides of the channel. A large herd of buffalo, about 500 strong, was quite a sight in front of camp for a couple of days, as were the seemingly constant breeding herds of elephant.
Guests have been fishing up a storm this month, with many an inter-guest competition taking place. So fishing rods are a regular feature on our boat trips, with some guests catching and releasing impressive sized pike, bream and catfish. The main deck has also been a regular venue for fishing, and more often than not someone is throwing a line into the water during siesta time.
We've had the pleasure of some families with children coming through this month, providing the perfect opportunity for pizza and popcorn evenings in front of a good movie for the younger guests. We continue to host private dinners on our beautiful deck and in guest tents - always a huge success.
We pride ourselves in the fact that Savuti continues to be one of those camps where people feel at home and totally relax. The other night we had guests waltzing on our deck to old classics - just another example, as one guest put it recently, that "Savuti is like a holiday away from a holiday..."
Photographs by Helene Atkinson.
Zarafa Camp update - September 2011 Jump
to Zarafa Camp
Weather and Landscape
September was the hottest month of the year so far with the daytime temperatures ranging between 38 and 42° C almost every day, but Zarafa Camp provides a welcomed break from the heat as it is nestled in the shade of some huge African ebony trees, coupled with an ice cold drink or gin and tonic, watching the wildlife mass at the Zibadianja Lagoon in front of camp.
As summer is clearly here, the comfort of some rain has been in the air, as we experienced some thunder and lightning at the end of the month. Everything in the ecosystem is longing for the rain, which will erase the last remnants of the bush fires which swept across northern Botswana over the last couple of months. Once we receive some rain, the environment will burst into a lush green wonderland much to the relief of all the wildlife. Many tree species have started to show signs of life and are blossoming, such as the sausage trees, knobbly combretums and apple leaves. Another sure sign that summer is here is the arrival of the summer migrant birds such as Southern Carmine Bee-eaters and Yellow-billed Kites.
As usual, the animals of Zarafa have not let us down as we have had outstanding game viewing as the dry season dynamics change.
With the woodland pans drying up, many animals have been forced to enter the shady treeline and visit the lagoon by our camp. We have been particularly spoilt by the high concentrations of elephant which have been visiting the lagoon. It has become the norm to encounter no less than 50 elephants along the riparian vegetation on every drive. On one occasion we counted over 100 individuals along the river.
Zarafa remains on the boundary zone of two wild dog pack territories which makes for some amazing wild dog sightings and encounters. Both packs are thriving and have become quite large. The Selinda pack is currently made up of 22 individuals. Their pups are doing well and they have only lost one pup, bringing the number of pups to 12. We have been lucky enough to witness this pack hunt twice this month; both attempts were successful and provided the pack with impala, a small meal for 22 mouths however. The DumaTau pack has also become large and consists of 21 dogs.
On the feline side, we have been lucky with leopard sightings, particularly with a female and her cub that have taken liking to the area around camp. This leopard has become known as Mmaditsebe. Her cub is still very small as it was born at the beginning of the month. On one occasion, she killed a young impala close to camp and just east of Shumba Camp. We watched as she tucked into her meal - suddenly, the Selinda Pack of wild dogs stormed into the sighting and chased Mmaditsebe up a tree; luckily her cub was not present. All in all, we found six different kills made by this leopard during the month.
Lions continue to be relatively scarce around Zarafa Camp itself but a longer morning drive or day trip to the northern parts of our concession (Selinda Spillway), have been successful for lion spotting. The Selinda Pride has been frequenting the northern banks of the spillway for the last couple of months and, now that the water levels have dropped, they are slowly making their way onto the southern banks.
The single lioness that hangs around the Zarafa area was spotted a number of times during the month. She recently gave birth to three cubs but has unfortunately lost two of them. We are not sure how the cubs met their fate, but there are so many challenges which lion cubs have to follow especially since the mother has adopted a solitary lifestyle. Hopefully the remaining cub will be able to reach adulthood.
Photographs: Alex Mazunga
Selinda Camp update - September 2011 Jump
to Selinda Camp
September was a phenomenal month in so many ways...
Let's start off with the lions - September must be dedicated to our ever-growing pride, which has been just tremendous in providing some incredible spectacles for our guests. The Selinda Pride, which consisted of 18 lions, increased this month when a couple cubs were born. We can't wait for the pride to share their little ones with us as they are still hiding the cubs away.
We have seen some amazing predator/prey interactions this month, as the waterholes in the western section of the concession continue to dry up, forcing hundreds and hundreds of thirsty buffalo to visit the Selinda Spillway to drink. The large lion pride has been cashing in on this opportunity, feeding greedily on the passing buffalo. However, buffalo are formidable adversaries, providing our guests with some outstanding duels between these ultimate enemies. Our guests had the privilege of viewing the pride ambush a young cow close to the Spillway, a very dramatic experience for all!
During the month, it was clear that all the predators were excelling as it was not only the lions that treated us to the best sightings but also the leopards and wild dogs. In the north and south of the concession, we have had regular sightings of a leopard with cubs. This is great to see that the leopards are doing well in the area, and we hope that these cats will be successful in rearing their young.
The Selinda Pack of wild dogs has been very active, as they have left the den and have been spotted all around the concession, which is typical behaviour of this canine species. We are thrilled that all 13 pups are still growing and doing well, a great achievement for the wild dogs and the conservation of this species in the area.
The smaller predators have also added to the predator experience as we had some first class sightings of serval and African wild cat. We have often encountered a serval which has taken a liking to the boat station area and is also very relaxed in the presence of the vehicles - this has provided some great sightings.
The general game sightings have also been fantastic; due to the waning water supplies, much activity takes place along the spillway, which has been the focus of our activities this month. One can almost be guaranteed great hippo sightings as the huge bulk grazers tussle for prime spillway spots. Quite often elephant will assert their dominance over the hippo when it comes to the best spots in the river - it is amazing how animal patience dwindles along with the water levels. We have been able to have some good sightings from the boat along with our sundowners.
Not only has the game viewing been hot, but so has the weather as we are moving full steam ahead into summer. The day time temperatures have been rather hot, cooling to a comfy condition at night. We had quite a surprise when a unexpected thunderstorm built up and dropped a fair amount of water over the concession. The vegetation will take full advantage of this moisture and explode into a flurry of green. Some trees have already done so, with the apple leafs being the pioneers of the summer bloom. Last year, our first summer rains occurred at the end of October, so we were pleased with the early arrival this year.
For any birder, or just enthusiastic bystander, September is the best. The Southern Carmine Bee-eaters are here with so many more of the summer migrants who either pass through or spend a few months here. The bee-eaters often sit in the trees in front of Selinda Camp, so there is the chance to take some close up photos of this scarlet-coloured bird.
During the last week of the month, we completed an aerial survey of the area, which highlighted some excellent results. It was fantastic to view the vast buffalo herds in the area from a bird's-eye view. We saw some impressive eland herds as well as a good number of sable, which are moving into the western areas. Let's hope that these elusive species stick around the concession.
This month, we bid farewell to Mpau, who has been a waiter at Selinda Camp for a number of years. He has taken up a position in Florida, USA at Disney's Animal Kingdom. We wish him all the best.
Camps Update - September 2011
• No report for this month.
Lagoon camp Jump
• As the season changes and the heat of the African summer descends upon us, the elephants have found the perfect plunge pool in the Lagoon channel which they have been witnessed frequently crossing in to the Kwando water body system! Both bulls and breeding herds have made this their stomping ground. Calves were also witnessed making the crossing, using their trunks to 'snorkel' their way delightedly to the other side. What a magical sight to see them emerge unscathed!
• It seems the buffalo also made their way over to the Lagoon area and were spotted, nearly a thousand of them in the area. It is quite a sight to see when they all move together, kicking up as massive cloud of dust that surrounds them in the midday heat.
• The wild dogs were seen at their 'new' den. The parents appear to be doing a great job in caring for their pups as all appeared well fed and in excellent condition! Not only did the wild dogs have successful hunting this month, seen feeding on an impala, but a female leopard with her cub was also seen feeding on the calf of an eland. Another leopard shared her hunting behaviour as she frolicked from termite mound to termite mound scouting the area, to later settle comfortably up a tree. The Malasera Lion Pride seems to have found eland the choice for the menu as well and was seen at two Eland kills. They were accompanied by the two 'shy boys' who lived up to their name and slowly sauntered off after being sighted. The pride was later discovered at the airstrip attempting to hunt some warthogs, though their efforts were in vain!
• Inter-African migrant birds have started to appear in large numbers as in common this time of the season, accompanying the graceful yellow billed kites and carmine bee eaters in their daily flights. Vultures and other raptors have also been seen frequently along with batelear eagles.
• As with at Lebala, the Black-backed jackal and hyenas were seen on night drives. Upon return to camp, the hippos serenade the guests as they prepared for dinner – a wonderful nightly chorus of grunts and snorts as they communicated between themselves. This is Lagoon's very own evening song to be heard most nights until the dawn.
Lebala camp Jump
• Massive herds of elephant, typical for this time of year, have been spotted roaming the Lebala plains this month, feeding on the rich abundance of foliage which starts to appear around this time of year. In fact, the guests do not need to venture far from camp to enjoy the sight of these peaceful pachyderms as they enjoyed a refreshing dip whilst crossing the channel that runs through Lebala camp. These intelligent creatures are frequent visitors to the camps and they are heard most evenings as they wade through the water and lumber softly by the tents. Visitors are gently lulled in to a restful nights sleep with this nightly Lebala lullaby!
• A massive herd of buffalo – numbering nearly one thousand – also wondered through camp as they headed South to Twinpools, the old daggaboys bringing up the rear in the protective fashion of the wisened sentry as the calves mewed from within the herd, seeking their mothers.
• Twinpools offered some incredible game viewing as usual – with elephant herds numbering up to two thousand at a time! Even the lions which proved elusive in other parts of the concession chose Twinpools as their resting place for a few days. The pride of seventeen lions consists of three lionesses, four sub-adults and eight cubs and is often seen throughout the concession engaging in a variety of activities for the guests to see.
• Leopards, luckily, are a regular site in the concessions, but one particular female decided to remain in the nearby vicinity of the camp for a few days, checking out her old routes, used the time to teach her cub a few of the life lessons it had yet to learn. She was also found with a kill – a full-grown male impala! Her kill proved too heavy to drag up to the safety of the nearby tree, making her vulnerable to any competition. Sadly, the hyenas were attracted by her successful hunt and she lost her meal to their determined efforts. It was an exciting encounter to view from the game vehicle!
• Other game included giraffe, wildebeest, warthogs, steenbok, lechwe, zebras and hippos. The roan antelope, equally timid and regal as the Sable which was seen in Kwara, was also spotted in the area! As always, the birding was exceptional, from the friendly little carmine bee-eater flaunting its fabulous colours in the air, to the water birds wading through the water on the ground. The painted reed frogs also played their part as their choir twinkled their chorus through the night.
Kwara & Little Kwara camps Jump
& Little Kwara camps
• As always, Kwara Concession has been teeming with the majestic wonder and intimate sightings which it is so well known for! A lioness was spotted, attempting to imitate one of her closest rivals, the leopard, as she gracefully perched herself atop a Sycamore tree. As the sun began to set, she vacated her lofty hide and descended silently only to disappear in to the blue bush. Shortly following, a chorus of welcoming from her new cubs floated through the air to the nearby game vehicle. She has cubs! It is always an exciting day to discover new additions to a family!
• Nearby, another pride amused themselves with a baboon kill – a mere snack for these vivacious eaters! Though guests are lucky enough to see these proud beasts quite often in the concession, it is always special to see them, especially when they are joined by the awesome presence of three large males!
• The resident hyenas entertained some of the visitors. Two clans clashed with long, unfriendly confrontations and threats. These territorial displays between the eleven adults did not, however, evolve in to any physical contact, but a thrilling sighting nonetheless!
• The cats continued to demonstrate their presence in the concession with a female leopard taking down an impala which she and her two cubs dined on at sunset. This delicate antelope provided a substantial feast which they were seen feeding on for three days!er game was also found in abundance. Elephants with their slow, methodical gate were ever-present companions to guests on their daily drives as well as buffalo, giraffe, impala, wildebeest, tsessebee and kudu along with the smaller versions of the cat family – wild cats and cerval. Even the often shy and elusive sable antelope was spotted this month, with his princely curved horns which glean in the sunlight. Though a rare sight, they do appear occasionally to the delight of all to see!
• As we move in to a new season, the surrounding flora is exploding in all its beauty bringing with it some extraordinary bird sightings. The Xobega Heronry is an extraordinary sight boasting exquisite populations of storks, egrets and herons, amongst others which have been roosting there for some time now.
• As with Tau Pan, Nxai Pan also was visited by its own pride this month. The watering hole seems to be the choice spot for many as the temperatures start to climb with the onset of a new season. On more than one occasion, lionesses bought their cubs to drink in the cool, refreshing waters before they continued through the concession. A number of cubs have been seen with various females; some cubs estimated to be but three months of age whereas others are older, possibly closer to a year. Elephants have also found the watering hole a welcome respite from the midday sun and large bulls and breeding herds were seen often, some even climbing in to cool off! They were, however, not in the mood to share this welcome oasis with the lions, which they quickly chased away.
• The cats seem to be the common theme through all the Kwando areas as the leopard and cheetah were also spotted throughout the month.
• The leopard, on one particular occasion, chose to sneak through camp and use the walkway as it silently passed between room six and seven. A female cheetah with her two cubs enthralled guests when she commenced a hunt shortly after being spotted! Fortunately for the steenbok which was her chosen prey, she was unsuccessful this day.
• That precise little antelope, the springbok, was also seen prancing around along with the gemsbok, impala, wildebeest and zebras. Scrub hares have been seen, a small family even having taken up residence under the deck in the dining area! Late afternoon drives have also allowed for some viewing of the African Wild Cat and the much loved Motswane (honey badger) was also seen exploring the area. The greater kestrel was seen circling the skies and other sightings of birds included the marico fly catchers, chat fly catchers, white backed vultures, and like Tau Pan, the Kori Busturd!
• The Tau Pan Pride has continued to be seen, frequently passing by the water hole to drink in the mornings. On one such occasion, they left the pan and after a short walk, found the appropriate resting spot, where the adults lay down whilst the cubs entertained themselves by playing boisterously amongst themselves as the day progressed, to the delight of the guests! The cheetahs also used the pan as their watering hole, however, soon moved off to disappear, expertly camouflaged, in to the bush.
• The Oryx Gazella, or Gemsbok, with its long, gleaming black horns, was also seen at the various water holes to then disappear silently in to the surrounding landscape. The springbok, with its exquisite white belly, was spotted on the plains, along with steenbok, wildebeest and kudu. And the cheeky little ground squirrel was seen scurrying along, stopping and rapidly scratching in search of food, to be shielded from the sun with its large, fluffy tail. The slender mongoose also popped its head out of a hole a couple of times to check on the activity taking place around it. And a spotted genet – a rare sighting indeed! – catapulted itself out of its hiding place, and disappeared just as quickly in to shelter of the long grass. This constant activity as guests travel through the area is what makes Tau Pan such an exciting place to visit!
• Birds are also seen in abundance in this area - the lilac breasted roller, red crested khorran and the pale chanting goshawk were just a few of the variety of birdlife that has been seen and continues to be seen throughout the days.
• Honey Badgers are frequent nightly visitors to the camps; even seen stealthily creeping under the deck of one room to the delight of the occupant! One amazing incident also occurred, where a family of four were spotted as they searched for their breakfast. This interruption in their early morning ritual sent them bounding across the open plain at incredible speed as they sought a hiding place!
Mombo Camp update
- September 2011 Jump
to Mombo Camp
September heralds the changes of spring at Mombo, where we are treated to the spectacle of trees bursting with colour, with flowers blooming and carpeting the ground with their many-hued petals. Rain trees produce tiny purple flowers, the kigelias' blood-red blooms, the galpini and knobthorn acacias' bright yellows - everywhere there is the sensation of the sap rising in their boughs. Other colours are brought to us on the wing, with the arrival of the first summer visitors - the Southern Carmine Bee-eaters and Yellow-billed Kites. The weather has been warm and mild, with daytime temperatures in the mid to low thirties, the nights pleasantly warm and scented with caper bush and jasmine flowers.
It is the time when we hear the distinctive sound of elephants shaking ilala palms to dislodge their nutritious nuts: at first you think it is rain - a rhythmic whooshing sound - until you spy a tree shaking in the distance! These huge beasts are also congregating around the jackalberry trees, their tremendously powerful trunks this time engaged in delicately picking up the fallen, grape-sized fruit.
We see the small breeding herd of elephants with a tiny youngster often; they seem to be favouring the area immediately around the camp, and the little one never fails to delight us with his comical antics!
The floodplains in front of camp and to the west of us are now becoming a focal point for many species - the waters are receding a little faster every day, and once again opening up into the fantastic vistas we are familiar with at Mombo, filled with a variety of animals. The view from the front deck of camp would include red lechwe, elephant, hippos and buffalo on a normal day, plus a multitude of birds, from White-faced Ducks to African Openbills, Spur-winged Geese, Pygmy Geese, kingfishers and herons.
The month has had wonderful wildlife sightings and highlights once again, with plenty of predator activity.
The Mporota Pride once again killed a buffalo bull close to camp, and the entire event was witnessed by our guides and guests. They were found in the camp early in the morning, and we followed them as they set off at dawn for a hunt. Not 300 metres from camp near Limpy's Island they came across a herd of old buffalo bulls, and quickly engaged them. Once they had chosen a victim, they pounced upon him in numbers, and it appeared that the old bull was done for. However, one of his mates returned to chase the lions off, and the old bull actually managed to stand up again, tossing one lion off his snout as he did so, scattering the now bloodthirsty pride. The lions rallied together once more, and having the taste of blood on their lips, made them more determined to complete the kill. The rescuer was challenged, and he turned tail and ran, leaving the injured bull to his fate, whereupon the lions quickly dispatched him and began to feed. One of the younger male lions lay immobile not far away from the rest as they fed, and we feared he had suffered the same fate as the old female who had been killed in a similar situation recently, but it appears he has now recovered from the beating the buffalo dished out to him.
The Mathatha Pride has also been seen a few times this month, as well as the Western Boys, the two dominant males who have not been seen for several months.
The Western Pride has also finally made an appearance with the receding waters, and they have three healthy looking young cubs with them.
Legadema has been sighted regularly this month - most notably when we found her beneath a sausage tree with a freshly-killed impala. At this time of year, impala feed on the fallen flowers of this tree, and leopards often take advantage of this by hiding in the boughs and waiting for a victim below, which by all appearances is precisely what had happened.
Lebadi, the dominant male leopard, had an interesting month - he was seen being chased off a baboon he had killed by the Jao Boys (the Mporota males), then a few days later, we found Sergeant, another male leopard, mating with Pula. Lebadi came limping onto the scene (how he injured himself we don't know) and Sergeant rapidly fled. Lebadi does appear to have recovered now, and has also been seen mating with Pula once more.
The hyaena den near Roller Road is a source of delight to observers, and there are now no less than nine cubs of various ages there, from at least three separate litters.
On the subject of pups and cubs, we have found a few jackal dens, with newly-emerging pups as they take their first steps into the world. The jackals that interest us most, however, are the ones that associate with our lone wild dog. She has been recorded regurgitating food for previous generations of pups, and we are interested to see if this will happen again. Thus far, we have seen her regurgitate for the adults (presumably those she had fed as pups) but as soon as she approaches the den with this year's youngsters, she is faced off with a warning growl from the parents. We will keep observing this behaviour, and our feeling is that the pups are too young yet to meet their surrogate "aunt" - once they begin to feed on meat, things may change.
The usual plethora of plains game abounds in the area, and particularly as the floodplains dry out we see herds of impala, lechwe, zebra and wildebeest in the open spaces and kudu and giraffe in the treelines. Malinga and his guests were even lucky enough to encounter a giraffe giving birth - a truly unusual sight!
Bird enthusiasts will be interested to know that we have had frequent sightings of our resident Pel's Fishing-Owls; during the day they remained concealed in the dense mangosteen trees between Little Mombo and Main Camps Room 8, but a sharp-eyed observer will often find them at night when they emerge to hunt catfish in the shallows.
Serondela, the white rhino bull has been seen several times this month, mostly as he performs his usual patrols around his territory - the dropping waters should make his visits more frequent from now on.
Guides in camp this month were Tsile at Little Mombo, Malinga, Moss, Sefo, Moses and Tshepo at Main Camp.
Phenyo was in charge of Little Mombo- to whom we must bid a warm welcome back, and Vasco, Martha, Katie, Ryan, and Tumoh were at Main Camp.
Pictures by Ryan Green, Cisco Letio and Moses Teko.
Xigera Camp update
- September 2011 Jump
to Xigera Camp
Chitabe Camp update
- September 2011 Jump
to Chitabe Camp
Vumbura Plains Camp update
- September 2011 Jump
to Vumbura Plains Camp
Things are definitely heating up around here! The shivery mornings of winter are a distant memory now as we have just enjoyed an impressive start to the summer, with September roaring in even as the water creeps away.
On game drive, it is hard to believe that expanses of bone-white sand were once the beds and shores of lakes and streams. Golden stems of grass rattle huskily as rising currents of air stir up sand particles and fallen seeds. Further away, tongues of flame lick voraciously at the dried reeds and parched grasses, turning the sky hazy with distant smoke.
As the sun dips towards the horizon at the end of each day, it becomes a molten red orb, almost struggling to make its presence felt through the thickened evening air. Dragonflies buzz fitfully through dead heads of reeds and a carpet of red and yellow jackalberry leaves rustles underfoot.
And yet, despite all this evidence of the summer heat, Vumbura is still at least partially clothed in its emerald robes of vegetation. This is after all a place moulded primarily by the annual inundation, and although much of the surface water has gone, there is still a great deal of residual water which the plant roots can tap into.
So Vumbura presents many contrasting vistas in this transitional period - leonine summer heat stalking through parched grasslands, and still vivid splashes of green and blue where the water level is fighting a desperate rear-guard action, and recently inundated areas still a riot of verdant colour.
As the water level slips further away, the fish and other aquatic life left behind in so-called "fish traps" face an increasingly bleak future. Storks, herons and egrets gather, standing in mute convocation around the fringes of each of these pools, ready to thrust dagger-beaks at any ripple of stirring in the mud. We have even seen the occasional pelican, gliding around serenely on the surface, slack throat pouch wrinkled with memories of a long dry flight from the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans to the south-east.
Pelicans are not our only avian summer visitors. The impossible blue of the still-cloudless skies (the rains are still a month away or more) suddenly plays host to new shapes and flight patterns: the agile, opportunistic Yellow-billed Kites who have journeyed down from the arid swathes of the Sahel, and the rapid scarlet darts that are Southern Carmine Bee-eaters, swooping in from Angola and Mozambique.
You can only imagine the delight they must feel arriving over the Okavango at dawn, seeing the sunrise reflected in the last stretches of the floodwaters, and hearing what to them must be the most promising sound of all: the high-pitched whir and buzzing of myriad tiny wings as the insect population of northern Botswana yawns and awakens after the winter.
Carmines are superbly adaptable, hitching rides on the back of animals, and in some areas, hawking alongside moving vehicles to snatch up insects flushed by the rolling tyres. A flock of them slicing through the air resembles a handful of rubies recklessly thrown: falling, falling, but never landing in the dust.
From above, whether held aloft by bird wings or the rotor blades of a helicopter on a scenic flight, the Okavango now resembles the most intricate, complex, patchwork quilt, with pieces in every hue, but especially yellows and greens, with a fine tracery of blues where rivers and channels still carry water.
As the waters continue to retreat and the heat of summer drives the mercury a little higher, the game viewing intensifies. Bare branches make for great viewing and the magnetic pull of the remaining water on the herds is almost tangible.
The bonanza of jackalberry fruits has almost run out now, and the attention of the elephants has turned to slaking their thirst. It is hard to recall a time when we have seen so many elephants in this area. Drawn by the same urges, matriarchs arrive at "secret" waterholes and reliable drinking holes only to find perhaps two or three other herds already there. Everywhere we look, beneath every shady tree, by every pool, is an elephant.
Nothing draws your eye across a vista quite like the lumbering gait of one of these gargantuan mammals. No matter how vast the sky, how towering the ancient trees, these animals seem to effortlessly dominate every landscape they find themselves in. As they find that they have more and more company of their own kind, stress levels amongst the elephants are starting to rise. Often the still of the night is shattered by the unearthly screams and bellows of frustrated elephants.
This time of year can be a testing one for elephants, and they can become rather testy - making for some great excitement on game drives with trunks flourished, heads shaken, ears flapping and dust swirling as a bull elephant decides that he's had enough of being admired for one hot afternoon.
While individual encounters like this can make for indelible safari memories, perhaps more wonderful still are the chances to see interaction between family members in a group, or between different and not necessarily amicable species.
Our wild dog pack, known as the Golden Pack after the yellow-furred alpha female, has had a phenomenal year. Through a great display of teamwork and camaraderie, the eleven adult dogs have successfully raised some fifteen puppies to the age where they can leave the den and run with the pack. To see them all in motion together is like being given the gift of seeing the wind.
There are many hazards facing young wild dogs, and not least is the challenge for the pack of always finding enough to eat with so many hungry mouths to feed. Wild dogs though are perhaps the continent's supreme hunters and rarely miss.
On one memorable morning recently close to North Camp, they surprised and tore into a herd of impala. Within minutes they had killed four of them, and then, almost as an afterthought, dispatched a warthog that stumbled upon the scene of carnage. Never a good plan to be identified as a witness to a gang killing!
The dogs were extremely animated and excited at their great good fortune. Puppies were fed with regurgitated meat by the adults, and as the alarm calls of the impalas faded, the most noticeable sound were the bird like- chirps and twitters, the alpha pair and their followers uniting in a feast of flesh and communication. The feeding frenzy over, calm returned to the bush, and nothing remained of their prey but dark stains in the sand, and bones thrown about as though by a witch doctor.
Of course though not all encounters go the way of the predator, and we had dramatic proof of this truth right at the very end of the month. Our wily female leopard, Selonyana, was surprised on the ground with her two nine-month old cubs by a troop of baboons.
Baboons are one of a leopard's favourite prey items, if they can be surprised alone. A whole troop of them, however, fired up with shared bravery, can be a very different and potentially lethal prospect for a leopard.
Heavily outnumbered, in this instance the leopards chose the better part of valour and streaked away, each to a separate tree. Tree-climbing is an extremely useful skill for leopards, but not so effective when you are trying to outrun primates.
One cub had managed to hide in a dense, leafy tree, while the other had far worse luck, choosing instead (if any conscious choice can be made under such duress) a bare tree. He soon drew the full weight of the baboons' fury, and they vented all their anger at him.
As though being egged on by their cohorts, baboons would climb the young leopard's tree and shake the branches, barking and displaying their formidable canine teeth. Several times, one of the big dog baboons would be almost within reach of the petrified cub's tail...
Real drama and real danger, but ultimately the baboons began to tire of this sport and moved off, leaving the relieved leopard cubs to make their shaky way down their sanctuary trees...
So the dance of life continues, beautifully choreographed moments of sheer beauty interrupted by episodes of primal violence, tenderness and cruelty sometimes side by side. All of which of course makes it virtually impossible to predict what may happen next, which way the dice will fall, whose number will be up next.
All we can safely foretell as summer tightens its grip on the Delta is that the experience of being on safari here will become ever more intense and rewarding, and we hope to welcome many of you here to share in the drama and the passion, the beauty and the calm of it all.
To close, here are the comments of some of the guests who visited Vumbura in September:
"The expansive view from our deck was fantastic and peaceful."
"Our romantic dinner on our deck was a highlight of our stay."
"All together a very nice stay with nice atmosphere and all staff very helpful and pro-active."
"ST is a wonderful and extremely knowledgeable guide."
"We loved the helicopter ride and how the pilot pointed out animals to us!"
With very best wishes from your Vumbura Team: Lorato Bampusi, Karisanene Munduu, Nick 'Noko' Galpine and Beatrice Coetser.
Little Vumbura Camp update
- September 2011 Jump
to Little Vumbura Camp
Weather and Landscape
Whilst October has quickly snuck up on us, it feels as if the so called 'Scorcher Month' has already begun in September. Temperatures have risen rapidly and have been ruthless during the day. We have resorted to putting vehicle roofs back on the game viewers a month earlier in a bid to get temporary respite from the 'summer' sun. The dropping water levels have also contributed to the heat as the landscape is drying up and the cover is becoming more sparse. The maximum temperature recorded for the month was a blistering 41° C and the lowest temperature was a comfy 19° C.
During September, Little Vumbura has been regularly visited by two bull elephant who have taken a liking to the vegetation growing above the camp tents and walkways. This has provided our guests with some great sightings and photographic opportunities as well as some traffic for camp staff on their way back to their rooms. Eight kudu have also taken a liking to the camp area, never straying far away from the security of camp.
On game drive, we have also been treated to some outstanding game viewing, packed with activity.
September was characterised by mothers with their young ones. We came across a lioness with four cubs, a small hyaena clan with cubs, an elephant herd with very small calves and the Golden Pack of wild dogs with their pups.
The Golden Pack is doing exceptionally good as all 15 pups are growing fast and are doing well. The pups are close to three months old, and have become very active, often joining on the daily outings of the pack, which now stands at 26 members. On one occasion, we found the dogs in hot pursuit of a lone hyaena, which found itself in the wrong part of town. Our guests have been thoroughly treated to a number of actual kills made by the dogs, often very dramatic and swift. One thing that amazed all of the guests was how the pups are allowed to feed first - before the adults.
The mokoro trips are still proving to be a popular choice with the polers doing a sterling job, keeping guests entertained and informed on their trips. Sightings of painted reed frogs are common, and Masco the poler, has been giving guests a very interesting talk on the structure of termite mounds, with a diagram he has prepared himself, whilst out on the islands for tea breaks.
Birds and Birding
As always bird sightings have been excellent. Guests particularly enjoy trying to get the 'ultimate' Lilac-breasted Roller and Southern Carmine Bee-eater photo.
Another avian highlight is the large flocks of African Openbills that fly over camp daily to and from their roosting sites.
This month we would like to welcome Hamish and Millie, who have taken on the role of camp managers. We wish them a long and happy stay.
A very big congratulations goes out to our camp chefs and kitchen staff, as Little Vumbura was voted number one across the Wilderness Safaris Classic camps in Botswana for their mouthwatering dishes.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Frank, Precious, Millie and Hamish.
Guides: Sevara, Sam and Madala Kay.
Duba Plains Camp update
- September 2011 Jump
to Duba Plains Camp
It is official that winter is over, the water levels are receding and the summer rains are on their way. It almost feels as if every day the temperatures are increasing, providing some great conditions for safari. Average highs for the month were around the 30° C mark, cooling to an average of 13° C. There were a number of bush fires in the surrounding areas, which often sent plumes of smoke into the sky above Duba, resulting in some awesome sunsets.
The landscape has become dry as the vegetation has dried up and thinned out a fair deal. Colour has been added to the winter landscape as the appleleafs share their purple flowers with us. The sausage trees have recently completed their explosion of red flowers, which have fallen to the ground and will be giving way to their odd-shaped fruits shortly. Many other tree species are sprouting with new growth, adding green into the spectrum mix. Spring really is a beautiful time at Duba Plains!
We've been having regular visits by a rather large and stubborn elephant bull that has been fairly destructive in his quest to reach the fruits of the jackalberry trees. We've had to repair and replace a few of our wooden shade screens and numerous structures around the guest tents. The guests have found his foraging rather amusing; however, the maintenance staff cringe each time the crack of wood is heard echoing through the camp.
Game viewing on the whole has been excellent this month. The lion and buffalo interactions have left guests in absolute awe of the cycle of life in nature. The eternal battle between buffalo and lion is a spectacle in itself - but to witness an active hunt and to see the final take down and kill is a rare and special sight.
Obviously this is not for all and that's why there are many other beautiful things to behold out here at Duba Plains. Large numbers of tsessebe antelope are a pleasure to watch - these are the fastest of the large antelope species, reaching speeds of close to 70km per hour. Then there was an extremely rare sighting of a leopard not far from the bridge over in the south game drive area. Leopards are a rare sighting here because of the strong presence of the lion and lack of suitable prey items that they prefer, such as impala.
Some guests were also treated to a post-dinner drama of spotted hyaena actively hunting an elephant calf. They had an opportunity to follow them in the dark for about an hour before the mother and calf were rescued by other members of the herd and calm was restored to the dark night air.
Other special sightings included Cape clawless otters, large-grey mongoose, and congregations of Wattled Cranes. We also had many sightings of side-striped jackal, African civet, banded mongoose, dwarf mongoose, and African wild cat.
Even although the water levels have been dropping rapidly, exposing many large sandbanks, boating activities have been very popular and have produced some great sightings and experiences, especially on the birding front. The avian boating highlight must be watching the African Skimmers flitting through the air to feed alongside the boat.
There is always something super to see out and about at Duba Plains. We hope to welcome you here in the near future. In the coming summer, the scenery around Duba Plains is going to change and we wait with anticipation for the arrival of our summer migrant feathered friends.
Until next month, bush greetings from the team at Duba Plains.
Photographs by John Hilton.
Banoka Bush Camp update
- September 2011
Jacana Camp update
- September 2011 Jump
to Jacana Camp
Weather and Landscape
The tropical climate of summer is here, warm sunny days are complimented by slowly cooling evenings with a slight breeze to calm the heat. Nothing short of magic; a hippo walking past the camp is swallowed by the water and the splashing of his footsteps slowly dies away in the darkening night. The skies have been blue for months now and suddenly a cloud starts building against the backdrop we have become so used to. Soon the thunder showers will start with their lightning shows and life-bringing rains.
Finally the floodplains that were covered in water for so long have given birth, as it were, to a thousand living creatures, and the show has begun.
The green plains are the life support for birds, antelope and predators alike. Breeding herds of elephant slowly move across the plains and soon the lions will appear from their winter abode, their low rumbling calls marking the season of plenty on the playground of Africa.
Closer to the camp the crickets and frogs keep the night alive and mysterious, complimenting the rhythmic sounds of a bull elephant crossing from island to island - gently cutting the water so as not to disturb the other creatures that share this wonder called the Okavango Delta.
In the distance a hippo grunts out of frustration, somewhere in the channel another hippo answers the call and so the chorus continues. In the morning the signs are there to see, their tracks fill the pathways and byways, and the guests comment on the passing of a grey ghost in the evening.
Large shoals of mottled catfish with swooping tails swim the waters feeding on insects and smaller fish as they go along their well-known routes to the deeper water where they spend the warm days lurking like shadows in the mud.
Basking lazily in the sun, a crocodile displays his teeth and when startled slides effortlessly down into the water waiting for that unsuspecting passer-by to surprise with deadly precision.
A midday mokoro lesson combined with a swim is the best way to fight the heat of the day and work up a healthy appetite. Alternatively one could try one's hand at catching (and then releasing) some of the prized fish species of the Okavango Delta, which include the tigerfish - one of Africa's most fearsome fresh water fish species.
Birding on Jacana Island has become very popular and the immediate environment is home to some of the most fascinating bird species the Okavango has to offer, Including Pel's Fishing-Owl, Wattled Crane, Pygmy Geese and a variety of nesting birds on and around the Island.
"Wow! What a paradise. Pieter and Danielle, thank you for your wonderful hospitality." Tom and Julie (USA).
"Very very nice! So pleasant, great staff." Jim (USA).
"Quite delightful!" Dan and Sandy (USA).
Staff in Camp
Managers: Pieter Ras and Danielle van den Berg.
Guides: Timothy Samuel, Bee Makgetho and Bafana Nyame.
Abu Camp update
- September 2011 Jump
to Abu Camp
Weather and Landscape
September has been hot hot hot! With temperatures soaring into the high 30s, the water levels dropped back rapidly, changing the landscape and allowing more game to move onto the island. Relief came on the 30th when, as predicted, we had the softest of morning showers cooling the air and bringing the sweet smell of dampened earth to our noses! With this blessing of rain the landscape will, without a doubt, explode into a thicket of lush, green vegetation soon.
Camp has been abuzz with sightings of lion increasing as the water levels recede. Large herds of buffalo have also moved in, taking advantage of the newly exposed floodplains and the nutrient rich sprouts of grass popping up. These large herds have joined the thriving populations of giraffe and zebra on the island. These large mixed congregations are best enjoyed from elephant back, as we are able to walk amongst these multi-species gatherings.
The hyaena den close to camp still provides some great sightings, especially since two new pups have been born. This coupled with the other young pups, which are a couple months old and have developed very naughty and inquisitive temperaments, means that there is never a dull moment at the den.
Island landscapes make for very intense inter-predator confrontations as witnessed by some of our guests this month. The group came across a large female hyaena and two leopards, most likely a mother and her sub-adult offspring. The trio was clearly engaged in a stand-off over the spoils of a carcass. The tension was clearly escalating as all involved where exposing their teeth and emitting low tones of displeasure. Although outnumbered, the large hyaena managed to win the battle based on physical strength, causing the felines to back off in a bid to avoid any unnecessary injury. The hyaena dragged the carcass into some dense vegetation to prevent any further interest from other scavengers.
Boat trips around the island have equally succesful, especially in the birding department. With the onset and promise of better weather and food abundance, the summer migrant birds have started to pour in, with the Yellow-billed Kites being the first to arrive en mass
At Abu our first love is, of course, our beautiful herd of elephants. The opportunity to watch six African elephants, each distinctive in his or her way, is always the greatest of privileges. Their lives and interactions are not unlike our own and so a great elephant soap opera evolves daily.
With the hot weather, the Abu elephants have been indulging in the daily delights of mud baths and midday swims. An enormous elephant gleefully spraying water or rolling through the mud is a wonderful sight and a great photographic opportunity!
On the 30th of September, Botswana celebrated Independence Day as did we at Abu, and what a stylish event it was. We started the day with game drives for all and ended with ladies and gentlemen dressing to the nines for the "Mr and Miss Abu Independence" fashion show! Olifile (our head waitress) and Mighty (staff chef) walked away with a tied first place after wowing the crowed with their runway walk and great fashion sense!
update - September 2011 Jump
to Kwetsani Camp
The time for lounging next to the pool, cocktail in hand, watching the elephants glide by has finally arrived. Along with the change of seasons comes a whole new array of fauna, flora and bird sounds. Most importantly, as spring blossoms, so too are newborns of all species coming into the world.
Weather and Landscape
Spring has rolled in, bringing with it warm temperatures. The beginning of September was still slightly chilly and in one day, temperatures would change drastically. Now that we have reached the end of September, it is officially warm with an average temperature of around 34° C. Our swimming pool seems to remain cool and is the perfect way to end of a warm day - even better with a G&T in hand.
Due to the warm days, the surface water is drying up around us. We are still collecting guests by boat at the airstrip but we believe it is only a matter of weeks before we will be driving to the airstrip again. We celebrated Botswana's Independence Day on 30 September, which was also the day we celebrated our first summer rains; even though only a soft and short drizzle, it was a welcome surprise.
We have had a great month with many sightings of various animals. September is always a favourite here in camp as we get ready for the hot summer months and put away all our winter attire. But best of all, we are entering the season of new life. Babies of all species are being born and we are fortunate enough to watch them find their place in the circle of life.
We have had an abundance of elephant in camp and the very special treat of seeing their many young. Kwetsani has been a stopover for two breeding herds this month, passing through with their young calves tagging along. Elephants are truly spectacular creatures and it is amazing to watch them nurture their young and to witness how protective they are. We had a wonderful sighting of a baby no more than two weeks old. He was still unstable on his feet and pink around the ears. As we snuck in to take a closer peak, the mother very carefully tucked her baby under her and wrapped her trunk around him. From where we were watching you could feel the tenderness in which this mother took care of her calf.
Guests have been spotting beautiful dazzles of zebra out on drive. 'Dazzle' is a suitable name as they certainly do dazzle all who see them. It is amazing to think that out of the thousands of zebra that are found in Africa, no two have the same patterns. They are all unique individuals making for great photographs as their striking black and white coats contrast against the green background of the Delta.
Lion activity has been fairly quiet around camp although a small pride was spotted on numerous occasions out on drive. Towards the end of the month we had a pleasant surprise as a male lion sauntered past camp in the open floodplains. Not only was he walking by but he was claiming territory by letting out a few roars. These roars rumbled and echoed through camp and was another reminder of the busy slice of paradise we call Kwetsani.
Other animals seen have included leopard - quite often seen stalking prey or with a kill in a tree. Numerous antelope of various species have been spotted and it is only a matter of time before they start to give birth.
A strange sighting was of a crocodile in one of the small pools. At first the guide was unsure of what it was as it appeared to have horns sticking out of its head. After careful observation it was concluded that the crocodile must have eaten a small antelope of some sort and the horns were sticking out of its mouth. He must have been one hungry crocodile to have swallowed the whole thing!
Not only are the animals excited about spring time but it seems as though the birds are chirpier than usual. Their chattering starts early and not a minute goes by during the day without the cheerful notes of the birds. Another great thing with the approach of the summer months is the imminent arrival of the summer migrant birds, which are already starting to arrive.
One of the most picturesque bird sightings this month was of a flock of White Egrets and Squacco Herons on the watery plains where the grass is still green and lush, teeming with aquatic life. We counted in excess of 80 birds, all feeding at the well-stocked buffet.
"It was a wonderful time here. Ronald was the best guide we have had. Thank you so much." Bernie and Ulle.
"Another great stay. More water this time. Fantastic leopard sightings. Thank you to all who looked after us - especially Florence. See you next time!" Elizabeth and Ian.
"Thank you for the great honeymoon stay! Leopard sightings, mokoro, we had a great time! Especially thanks to Ronald!" Mario and Anamaria.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Bradley White and Annelize Hattingh.
Guides: Gaopalelwe Ronald and Florence Kagiso.
update - September 2011 Jump
to Jao Camp
Weather and Landscape
September brought with it some very hot weather with most days getting well above 32° C and so signalling the start of summer rather than spring. There were cool breezes in the evenings that made it perfect for Sala deck sleep-outs which were popular this month.
There were no signs of rain and this added to the heat felt by all during the middle of the day. This also resulted in the water levels dropping even more and some areas are very shallow and tricky to negotiate while boating across to Hunda Island for our day trips and picnics.
Who would have thought it possible that sunsets could have been even more spectacular than last month, with the dust in the air from the hot dry conditions, resulting in spectacular red and orange colours. The days are getting longer and thus activities are even more enjoyable with guests managing to spend more time on the water and experiencing the magic of Jao.
Then just to celebrate Botswana's Independence Day (30th September), we received our first albeit very brief shower of rain on the morning of this special day, which cooled the morning down and it kindly stopped just as everyone finished breakfast so that all activities were enjoyed dry but cool - what a way to end a great month.
This month was characterised by the return of the red lechwe; the floodplain is now teeming with them and it is a truly spectacular sight while having bush brunch out in ankle-deep water with hundreds of these amazing antelope all around. We truly realise how lucky we are to be in the heart of the Delta!
A young male leopard was briefly seen a couple of times on Jao Island and then a large male lion was also seen on the Jao Island. A herd of ten buffalo also came onto the island and a few sightings of nomadic male buffalo were also enjoyed on the island. The impala seem to be waiting for the channels to get more shallow before heading over to Jao to replenish their numbers on the Island after the hyaenas enjoyed the spoils of the last annual inundation.
A couple of male sitatunga have been seen regularly around the bridge which is a real treat. A troop of baboons seem to be making their way across to the island as well, although they have only made it as far as halfway along the bridge for now. The few bull elephant from last month have now been joined by even more bulls as well as some breeding herds. All this is due to the fact that the jackelberries and the mangosteen trees are fruiting and flowering which always draws the attention of both animals and birds.
The local mongoose family is doing well and most of the adult females are starting to look heavily pregnant, so we look forward to more additions to the family soon. The lechwe and impala are also starting to look like they are going to calf soon, maybe after the first proper rains arrive?
Hunda Island has been very productive, with many zebra, wildebeest, giraffe and elephant sightings; two lionesses and the large male lion have also been seen regularly. On most trips over this month guests have been fortunate to see a leopard and towards the end of the month even two different leopard sightings per trip - 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.
The highlight for guests this month was a Cape clawless otter in the small lagoon in front of the main pool at Jao this month. He did not seem bothered by our presence, and swam and played for a long while before heading off.
Birds and Birding
September is great time for birding, as the summer migrants are starting to arrive. Last month the Yellow-billed Kites arrived, we have not seen or heard the Woodland Kingfishers yet, but they will be here soon. However, the African Openbills have arrived on the floodplain in large numbers.
At the end of the month, we carried out a waterbird census, whereby all birds that were positively identified by sight without the use of binoculars in a two-hour period on a set route, were recorded. We managed to tally up a total of 985 birds and 43 different species.
Activities are always great at Jao with both water and land-based activities. Mokoro, the traditional mode of transport in the Delta has been a big favourite as always, especially with the bird life on offer. However with a full day trip to Hunda Island and a lovely bush picnic who can say which is better - especially with the game that has been on offer.
With the amazing sunsets and the increase of animals on the island we have enjoyed a number of great venues for surprise sun downers with the amazing red sunsets and the silhouette of hundreds of lechwe.
Fishing has also been good; however the tigerfish have been fussy, but the pike have not let the opportunity pass them by to take a well-presented lure and a few guests have even brought fly rods to try and have been very successful.
"This is a fantastic place! We loved everything about being here especially the wonderful service from the staff. What a superb group of people. Thank you!" Earl and Sue.
"The staff, Lauren, Andrew, Antony, Kalinka, Marina, Neuman, Bee and all the others made our journey here so enjoyable. The little touches make such a difference." Perry and Kathy.
"Memorable, as always. Thank you for a lovely stay. Change nothing!" Tom and Meg.
update - September 2011 Jump
to Seba Camp
Weather and Landscape
Spring is here, and it almost seems as if we have jumped straight into summer, as the only reminder of spring is the cool mornings. By midday, the temperature is hot and is compounded by the dry conditions. The monthly minimum experienced was 15° C with a maximum of 37° C.
As the heat picks up and we reach the end of the dry season, the environment has dried up a fair deal and will certainly welcome the summer rains. The terminalia trees have already started to sprout their new growth in anticipation for the summer rains and better weather conditions.
As the water levels have dropped substantially during the month, we are still able to offer mokoro trips, but soon all of our activity will be on land.
This month we have experienced some great wildlife interaction right in camp.
We had a lovely experience one evening with six guests in camp sitting at the dinner table, which was on the sand as opposed to being on deck, when a large bull elephant walked towards the water behind some bushes, close to where we were sitting. We continued to talk amongst ourselves listening to him in the background all the time. He suddenly appeared from the bushes, and guide Matamo told everyone to sit perfectly quiet and not to move. The elephant walked along the bank of the lagoon no more than six metres from us and into some bushes on the other side, very calm and unperturbed. A lovely experience and a reminder that we are visitors to their wilderness.
Hippo have also been regular visitors to Seba Camp, providing calm entertainment during the day, as they laze in the lagoon. Once the dark hours arrive, these lethargic herbivores transform into highly active and mobile grazers, often honking and snorting as they interact with one another during their evening feeding bouts. This keeps the grass well groomed around camp to say the least.
Out on drive, general game has been plentiful, with great numbers of giraffe, zebra, impala, wildebeest, lechwe, kudu, tsessebe, steenbok and bushbuck scattered throughout the area.
With such an abundance of prey, our lion sightings have also been plentiful. We came across a lioness with her three sub-adult cubs; they had just killed a wildebeest close to the airstrip and had begun feeding. The cubs were a bit shy, which tells us that they have not been exposed to game drives very often. Hopefully in the future through positive and respectful sightings, they will become more habituated to our presence. We also came across a large male a number of times - we hope that he settles in the area and forms a pride of his own.
We experienced a kill right in camp during the middle of the day. Our guests were relaxing in the main area, when a large splash was heard very close to Tent 8. Initially we thought that a branch had fallen off a tree and into the water, but then we heard the Grey Louries start alarm-calling. We rushed to the scene and found a Southern African python tightly coiled around a lourie, literally squeezing the life out of the bird with every breath exhaled. The bird was killed in five minutes, but as the python was no bigger than one metre, it battled to get its mouth over the large meal. After 45 minutes of manoeuvring and trying, the serpent managed to get its meal down.
Birds and Birding
With the water levels dropping and the summer migrant birds arriving, we have been visited by large flocks of African Openbills and a myriad of other wading species. Even four Pink-backed Pelicans stopped over to refuel.
Collared Pratincoles have started to nest by the airstrip, surely anticipating the arrival of the insect numbers brought by the summer rains and warm conditions.
Seba Camp is so very proud of its elephant research team, led by Dr. Kate Evans. Below is a quote from a recent press release:
"Dr Kate Evans and Elephants for Africa (EFA) have been awarded the prestigious George B. Rabb Conservation Medal, for their dedicated work in understanding elephant biology and supporting conservation in Africa.
This Award was created in 2005 by the Chicago Zoological Society to honour the conservation leadership of George B. Rabb, its former president. Rabb's pioneering work led the zoo towards its current position as a conservation centre, a concept he has championed for zoos everywhere. Former recipients of the award are all eminent lifelong conservationists with decades of expertise and major roles in universities and charities.
The Society is particularly impressed with the balance of scientific research and educational components in EFA's work. In addition to conducting a wide spectrum of research projects, Dr. Evans set up the "Boyce Zero Scholarship", which enables Motswana citizens to obtain post-graduate qualifications in conservation. This is a fully-funded scholarship and the first student, Mphoeng Ofithile, is scheduled to complete his MSc by the end of 2011.
This accolade is a tremendous honour for Dr. Kate Evans, a founder member of Elephants for Africa, who is also the first woman and the first non-US citizen to receive the medal."
A great honour and so well deserved, well done to Kate and her team.
Tubu Tree Camp
update - September 2011 Jump
to Tubu Tree Camp
Weather and Landscape
The water has completely dried up in front of camp. The red lechwe have moved off, and in exchange we have large dazzles of zebra and some wildebeest that graze in front of camp, with the odd elephant in the background. A chorus of frogs and toads serenade us every night as we sit around the boma fire.
With spring in full swing, we've had days reaching the mid-30s and the nights go down to the high teens. Most mornings we still have a strong breeze blowing, by 8am the wind has subsided.
With the return of the lions on Hunda Island, the leopard and hyaena sightings went down a notch. We saw the lions numerous times over the course of the three weeks that they were on the island, also many a sighting of them around camp. Even though the leopard sightings decreased we still had great sightings of them throughout the month.
During the middle of the month, we came across an elephant carcass which provided much excitement. Two young leopards took full advantage of this huge food source and gobbled before the other predator forces arrived. One of the leopards tried to drag a foot away, but this proved too heavy. It was so funny to watch the other leopard watch her sibling try and drag the heavy morsel, with a bemused look on her face. Eventually after giving up on the foot, the leopard jumped on top of the carcass and had a much-needed rest while being the king of the carcass.
A herd of elephants has been coming into camp every couple of days, giving managers and staff some great afternoon action. As well as all the general game in and around camp, and all over the island, large congregations of animals come together on the airstrip almost daily.
Birds and Birding
Birding has been great as usual. We often saw Martial Eagles, Great White Pelicans and African Openbills in their hundreds, Wattled Cranes and numerous other birds.
The highlight for the month, with regards to birding, has to be the ostriches which have nested close to camp. 11of the 17 eggs finally hatched in the last week of September, and the rest was abandoned after a day. The little ostriches were first seen just after they hatched, most of them were still struggling to stand never mind walk or run after daddy. The male ostrich was not very happy with the uninvited visitors who were taking pictures of his little chicks, so he did a wonderful display.
"Game drives were terrific with Johnny. The camp is unique in design and feel but the highlight is the family atmosphere, the warm and welcoming feeling given to guests, the "above and beyond the call of duty" service by Hein, Eloise, Johnny and everyone else. The surprise dinners, especially our last night with just four guests, was special." Richard and Marcia.
"Seeing leopards and lions so close was amazing. Listening to the sounds at night was unbelievable." Louise and Charles.
"Very well run - with superior staff and management. Our game drives were terrific all round. Our guide, Moruti, was first class with a professional knowledge of all aspects of the environment and a wonderful sensitivity and attachment to all things living and to the cultural history and background of his area. We praise him highly!" Biard and Peggy.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Hein Holton and Eloise van der Walt.
Guides: Moruti Maipelo and Kambango Sinimbo.
Kalahari Plains Camp
update - September 2011 Jump
to Kalahari Plains Camp
Weather and Landscape
Spring has fast approached and jumped straight into summer with some scorching daytime temperatures, although the early mornings have been quite chilly before the sun spread its hot rays over the Kalahari. Towards the end of the month, daily temperatures were reaching 40° C. This heat, coupled with the lack of moisture, has dried the landscape out.
At the beginning of the month, we did experience some bush fires in the eastern areas. Although, these fires appeared to scorch the land, new signs of life are sprouting up everywhere demonstrating how resilient the landscape is. Many tree species have also started to bloom, adding an array of summer colours to the drab winter shades.
During the month of September we had some amazing sightings of predators especially cheetah. The open plains/pans of the Kalahari provide very suitable habitats for this elusive cat and also makes spotting them a bit easier.
The Kalahari Plains Pride has also been seen around the camp a couple of times. Most of the time we heard them roaring close to camp at night. At one point the two pride males were spotted, one of whom was looking very skinny and in poor condition as he was quite old at this stage. We have not seen him since the beginning of the month and assume that the Kalahari has claimed him.
The lioness that was nursing close to camp last month is still doing well and so are her three cubs which are around seven months of age now. Thrillingly, the little family spent most of their time close to camp this month.
As for the general game, wildebeest numbers have picked up around camp, especially around Khudu Pan and Big Pan. Generally the numbers of wildebeest dwindle during the dry season, and we have not seen large herds at this time of the season for years. Perhaps this is why the lions have been sticking close to camp.
Birds and Birding
The birding around the camp has been great. We had sightings of Bradfield's Hornbill, which are becoming abundant. This is no regular sighting for us, so it has excited both guests and guides.
Kori Bustards have also been very active around the camp, often treating us to their wonderful courtship display. This is a truly amazing sight to see as the male puffs his neck feathers out like a balloon and emits his resonant oom-oom-oom call in order to attract an interested mate.
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