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September 2011

(Page 2 of 2)

Page 1 Updates
General Safari News - General information and updates from our partners in Africa.
Wildlife News - Interesting wildlife sightings and photos.
Camp News - Camp specific news, including refurbs, rebuilds, accolades, etc.
• Monthly update from North Island in Seychelles.
• Monthly update from Kings Pool Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from DumaTau Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Savuti Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Zarafa Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Selinda Camp in Botswana.
Kwando Safaris game reports from Botswana.
• Monthly update from Mombo Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Xigera Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Chitabe Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Vumbura Plains Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Little Vumbura Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Duba Plains Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Banoka Bush Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Jacana Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Abu Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Kwetsani Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Jao Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Seba Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Tubu Tree Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Kalahari Plains Camp in Botswana.

Page 2 Updates
• Monthly update from Pafuri Camp in South Africa.
• Monthly update from Pafuri Walking Trail in South Africa.
• Monthly update from Camp Jabulani in South Africa.
• Monthly update from Kings Camp in South Africa.
• Monthly update from Leopard Hills in South Africa.
• Monthly update from Rocktail Beach Camp in South Africa.
• Monthly Dive report from Rocktail Bay in South Africa.
• Monthly update from Makalolo Plains in Zimbabwe.
• Monthly update from Little Makalolo in Zimbabwe.
• Monthly update from Davison's Camp in Zimbabwe.
• Monthly update from Ruckomechi Camp in Zimbabwe.
• Monthly update from Mana Canoe Trail in Zimbabwe.
• Monthly update from Toka Leya Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Lufupa River Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Lufupa Tented Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Kalamu Lagoon Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Shumba Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Kapinga Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Busanga Bush Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Mvuu Camp in Malawi.
• Monthly update from Mvuu Wilderness Lodge in Malawi.
• Monthly update from Mumbo Island Camp in Malawi.
• Monthly update from Chelinda Lodge in Malawi.
• Monthly update from Desert Rhino Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Palmwag Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Doro Nawas Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Damaraland Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Skeleton Coast Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Serra Cafema Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Ongava Tented Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Little Ongava in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Ongava Lodge in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Andersson's Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Little Kulala Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Kulala Desert Lodge in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Kulala Wilderness Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Governors' Camp in Kenya's Masai Mara.
• Monthly update from Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge in Rwanda.

South Africa camps
Pafuri Camp update - September 2011               Jump to Pafuri Camp

Weather and Landscape
Spring is a beautiful time with all the trees blossoming everywhere. The flame creeper bushes are really decorating all the trees along the rivers with their beautiful cover of red flowers.

Eland seen around Pafuri Camp    Great white pelicans seen around Pafuri Camp

The weather this month was good; we started to feel that summer is on its way as some days were very warm indeed. The maximum temperature recorded for the month was a staggering 42° C, which makes us wonder what November and December have in store for us. It is still very dry, with the dry season peaking at the moment. Both the wildlife and the humans cannot wait for the rains to arrive.

Game viewing this month has been phenomenal with large herds of elephant and buffalo seen everywhere in the concession.
Even white rhino have been sighted a few times and our understanding of their movements over the last few years has really helped us locate them.

General game is abundant mostly along the two major rivers running across the Pafuri Concession; eland, zebra, kudu, nyala, warthog, bushbuck and impala are just a few of the species which you are likely to encounter on game drive. The river stretch in front of camp has been providing some solid game viewing throughout the entire day as the wildlife constantly arrives at the river to quench its thirst. The resident buffalo bulls are seen almost every day from the rooms and the main area.

Leopard seen around Pafuri Camp    Lion seen around Pafuri Camp

Large breeding herds of elephant have also been visiting the area in front of camp. They seem to have a favourite spot and like clockwork, arrive almost every day at the same time. The entire Luvuvhu River is a huge magnet for elephant at this time of year, when the pans have dried up and most of the vegetation has dried out and become unpalatable. The riparian thickets provide the ideal winter feeding areas to satisfy these bulk feeders as well as a myriad other wildlife species.

Leopard sightings this month were not bad; one cannot complain with sixteen sightings in a month! Four leopard (male, female and two cubs) were seen at the same area for three days at about mid-month on an impala kill.

The Pafuri Pride of eight lions were seen during the first week of September (the 3rd and the 4th) and from there they were quiet until the last week of the month. On the 23rd, two young males of about two and half years of age were seen with an adult female on Luvuvhu West. It is possible that these young males are part of the small nomadic group that we encountered briefly five months ago.

The Pafuri Pride was encountered on foot at the end of the month by a Trails group, a nice way to end off the feline sightings for the month. The dominant male (Nkana) and his son (Ramsies) have been elusive as they have been very active south of the Luvuvhu River. This may be the reason why the young males have snuck into the Pafuri Concession.

Elephant seen around Pafuri Camp    Antelope seen around Pafuri Camp

The giraffe which wandered into the concession two months ago are still sticking around, allowing us some great sightings.

Birds and Birding
Birds have been good as usual, and slowly we are beginning to see some of the migrants coming back, such as the Wahlberg's Eagle and Yellow-billed Kite. Great White Pelicans were one of the special sightings at Reedbuck Pan because they are rarely seen; these birds stayed over for a week. Pel's Fishing-Owl sightings this month were outstanding; the pair that hangs around the bridge area were seen almost nightly, gazing into the water, scanning for their next meal.

Heritage and Culture
We have seen more of our overseas guests booking trips to the Makuleke Village and all of them thoroughly enjoying it. Thulamela Archaeological site trips are still on offer for all our guests at Pafuri Camp and those who have booked it enjoyed it too.



Pafuri Walking Trail update - September 2011               Jump to Pafuri Walking Trail

This month's trail report will take a slightly different tone as rather than trying to give you a rundown of the whole month I would rather give you an account of the last trail which pretty much sums up the entire month we have just had.

14:00 - With the sun beating down we head out into the searing heat. These guests do not speak English and are on their first safari but as my level of excitement grows with every step with which we approach the Luvuvhu River I get that feeling of freedom in this wild and remote part of the Kruger and I know we're going to have a wonderful time together. As we approach the bridge I see movement in the top of a large fig tree and as I strain my eyes to focus into the shadows, the rusty-coloured shape of the Pel's Fishing-Owl takes shape. I am excited and the guests play along although I know in my heart that they probably have never even heard of a Pel's Fishing-Owl before that moment. Their enthusiasm is great and I decide that poor communication or not they will be up for anything that Pafuri can throw at them.

Elephant seen around Pafuri Walking Trail    Buffalo around the Pafuri Walking Trails

We settle into our walk and watch as crocodiles slip silently into the river and hippos laze in the cool waters. I then notice the clear waters turning muddy brown and I say slowly in English, "elephants bathing upstream!" they nod and smile and I hope they get what I am saying. Within a couple of hundred metres there they are, around 45 elephants of all shapes and sizes enjoying the cool waters and the mud. We watch and wait our turn and as they slip into the riparian forest, we slip past unnoticed. A little further upstream a large bull elephant chases two buffalo bulls from their cool spot; with so much river to choose from you can't but think it was done out of spite.

We continue on as the heat of the day begins to break and as we enter a tall stand of sycamore figs I see lion tracks, fresh, probably from the early morning and we start following up. Expecting them to be a little further away, we almost bump into the lions sprawled amongst a fallen ana tree log. Mom lion is not happy and she gives us a low and threatening growl, telling us that we are close enough. Obeying her command, we back off and head for the comfort of camp which was very close by. Once we arrived at the trails camp, everyone can't help but share their excitement at the awesome encounters we had on the first walk.

5:30 - It is going to be a beautiful day; slight cloud cover will give us some respite from the sun. I decide to head via Hutwini Gorge and the mopane woodlands to the north to the last natural spring away from the river. As we approach the mouth of gorge we pick up the tracks of a leopard dragging a large kill. It is hard to say what it is but judging from the frequency that she stops to rest I assume a male impala. Then from 30m in front there is a flash of yellow as the leopard shoots up the face of the gorge and from behind the branches I see the carcass of the impala. We decide to leave her to her meal and head through the gorge.

Lioness seen around Pafuri Walking Trail    On the Pafuri Walking Trail

By the time we hit the spring the cloud has burnt off and the heat is rising steadily. We approach from the north so as not to disturb anything at the spring and from a large sandstone cliff overlooking the spring we can immediately see a herd of eland, some nyala, impala, a small group of zebra and about 20 buffalo heading off into the mopane. We take a break and enjoy a well-earned bite to eat. We then head back to camp as the day's heat really takes hold.

15:00 - We head off towards the Fever Tree Forest for a walk around Nwambe Pan. We have some great views of eland, kudu, nyala and some spectacular bird life. We then see in the distance a large herd of elephant making their way down to the river. I count the herd and there are 88 elephants crossing silently through the forest. We cut well downwind of them and head to the river to hopefully get into position before they arrive. As we get to the riverbank I see a large male lion sitting staring out across the river. We move to a large stump and sit and watch as to our east the herd arrives and to our west the lion sits and ponders life. We head back to camp for a well-earned meal. Another great day in Africa!

5:00 - We head off in search of rhino in the sandveld areas. After a short while tracking, we manage to find a cow and small calf of about four months old and two sub-adults grazing alongside a sandstone ridge. We move around the ridge and get into a position slightly above them and with the wind gently blowing in our faces; they graze quietly by at no more than 25 metres away and are totally unaware that we have seen them. We move out quietly and bumping into a large spotted hyaena on our way home after a night out in the African bush.

After this great start we make for Lanner Gorge and descend the steep elephant trail that enters the gorge. At the base we see a large raft of hippos and some crocodiles basking. Down here the animals are more intrigued than scared of humans. I suppose they haven't had enough encounters with people in this isolated place. The scenery is spectacular and the Rock Kestrels and Verreauxs' Eagles soar above us in elegant circles. We encounter a small herd of buffalo and some young elephant bulls on the way out of the gorge and then on the southern bank I spot a large bushpig enjoying a cool wallow in the river.

View point at Pafuri Walking Trails    Trails camp visitors

15:00 - Out this time to walk around Crooks' Corner, we stop at the viewpoint and walk down to the confluence. As we arrive at the meeting point of the two rivers I notice fresh lion tracks coming in from Zimbabwe. I follow up and find three sub-adult lions sleeping in the Limpopo about 100m from the confluence. They see us and run into South Africa; I am pretty sure they never got their passports stamped.

We continue along the Limpopo River and hear the hungry cry of a juvenile Verreaux's Eagle-Owl; with two more hours of light he has a long wait before his parents head out on their nightly hunt to keep the now nearly-adult chick happy with food. We head towards Gwala Pan and encounter a group of six elephant bulls feeding amongst numerous nyala. The nyala are dwarfed by the large elephant, but they know that the bulls will shake down the delicious pods off the ana tree and if they are patient they can dine from the king's scraps. A short while later we saw a herd of 200 buffalo grazing in the Fever Tree Graveyard; it is an eerie sight that seems to belong more to a Tolkien novel than to the African bush. As the sun sets I feel the heat of the day and many kilometres in my legs and it feels good to be alive in such a pristine wilderness area.

5:00 - A big storm swept in last night, it blew and blew but very little rain fell. The air is thick with the humidity and even though it is early the sweat begins to pour down. We head back towards Pafuri Camp, but this time I want to head a different route to the one we used to get out. I decide to cut along Hutwini and then around Deku to show the guests some of Pafuri's cultural history as there are a number of ruins along the way. As we approach the mouth of Hutwini Gorge, a chilling growl emanates from a thicket, but it is not directed at us. We manoeuvre around and through the thicket and then I make out the seething pile of lions tearing into a carcass and snarling at one another. I decide to climb to the top of the gorge to get an aerial view of the festivities. Once in position we are treated to a spectacular sighting of two lioness, six cubs and Nkana, the dominant male, tearing at a fresh nyala kill. We watch for well over an hour and then make our way off, the lions none the wiser for us viewing their feast.

We encounter another lone bull elephant and two buffalo bulls before we get back to civilisation. As we approach camp I am once again reminded that we as guides sometimes need to let Africa tell her own story. These two guests, who could hardly speak the language I guide in, leave the trail as passionate about the continent as I am - proving again that sometimes being quiet in the wilderness is more powerful than trying to impress with scientific knowledge.

Brian Masters


Camp Jabulani update - September 2011              

No report this month.


Kings Camp update - September 2011               Jump to Kings Camp

Hope you enjoy this report!

Spring is in the air and anticipation in high for the first rain to start! The Knob thorn trees are usually the first to show that spring is here and this year they are flowering in full force.

Knob Thorn tree

As per usual we were entertained with some amazing marvels of nature, from Hippo’s to the small red-billed oxpeckers feasting from a wound on a Buffalo (they eat the parasites on various herbivores, keeps the wounds clear of too many maggots and they also eat the blood).

Hippo's seen around Kings Camp    Red-billed oxpeckers

We think that ‘Ntombi’ may be in oestrus again. Her boy, ‘Umfana’ is now about 18months old and will soon be completely independent. We had few sightings of her, and we think she may be spending time looking for a male in the Klaserie reserve close to the Nkombe pan area.
‘Umfana’ has been spending most of the month between Elephant dam and the camp! Like his mother he is also now a regular visitor in the camp, often surprising us by lying close to the library and the therapy room. We’ve seen him on smaller kills a few times, but it seems like he still needs to sharpen some of his skills to get some of the larger prey species like Impala.

Umfana at Kings Camp    Umfana around King's Camp

‘Rockfig Jr.’ is very active again within the core of her territory, and the last time she spent so much time along the Machaton River was during her pregnancy with ‘Tumbela’. Most of the recorded sightings of her were between Entrance dam and our neighbours, Tanda Tula. It has been close to 4 months now since ‘Tumbela’ became independent and hopefully this is a sign that she may be pregnant again.

Rockfig Jr. seen around Kings Camp

The beautiful young male, ‘Xinope-nope’ proceeds to explore larger parts around his core area, and this could hopefully mean that is now confident to claim the territory between Marco’s dam, our airstrip / Reflection dam, Impala dam and Tanda Tula camp. He is a large young male and shows ambition to maintain this frequented area as his territory!

Xinope-nope at King's Camp    Xinope-nope at King's Camp

The new female with two 10-12 month old cubs I reported about a while ago was very active up North around the Nhlaralumi River’s Klipgat- and Illegal crossings. One of the sightings that stand out was of her male cub on a termite mound late one afternoon. I sat with my guests at last light taking some nice photographs when suddenly the youngster crouches looking at something to the South. We knew his sister was somewhere just north of us where the Mongooses were calling from, so we thought the mother was close. To our surprise a large unknown male showed up, with a Spotted Hyena in tow, and chased the young boy into a nearby tree! As the persistent Hyena disappeared the big male wandered off vocalizing his dominance with the little girl now out to investigate the big guy wandering off into the darkness! WOW… what a sighting to witness!

Leopard seen around King's Camp

Our resident ‘Machaton’ pride is now down from 12 to 10. Three lionesses and only 7 cubs remain. The second cub was unfortunately killed by an unknown male while they finished feeding off a Buffalo they killed around Hide dam. The pride has done extremely well with hunts during this last month and we recorded two large female Buffalo, one large female giraffe and a few smaller unknown kills where only blood on their fur was evident. The three older cubs regularly follow the adults into serious hunts, but often give away the prides positioning as they get unnerved with large numbers of prey, especially when the follow large herds of Cape Buffalo!

Lionesses seen around King's Camp   Lioness at King's Camp

Lioness at Kings Camp    Lion seen around King's Camp
Lion cub seen around King's Camp    Lion seen around King's Camp
Lions feeding at Kings Camp
Lions feeding at Kings Camp    Lions feeding at Kings Camp
Lions feeding at Kings Camp    Hyeana seen at Kings Camp

The Timbavati boys were nowhere to be seen! Informants recon they are mating with lionesses from other prides in their territory further South of our traversing.

We saw the ‘Xakubasa’ pride three times! Twice was only of the 2 white sisters and their tawny male cousin. We suspect that the 2 adult lionesses are in oestrus and possibly mating with the ‘Mahlatini’ males further up North.

Xakubasa pride  Xakubasa pride white lioness  Xakubasa pride white lioness

The youngsters appear to be in very good condition and we saw them finishing up with a Warthog they dug out of its burrow.

Both species entertained in large numbers around the available water during what hopefully was the last spell of the dry months!

Large bull Elephants followed the big herds throughout our traversing.

Elephant seen around Kings Camp  Elephant with calf
Elephant seen around Kings Camp  Elephant seen around Kings Camp

An unusually large bachelor group of 17 Cape buffalo was active on the Jaydee / Fielmetter and Peru West portions of traversing. We saw a herd of roughly 400 a few times within the same area from the West and the bigger ‘Super’ herd of 1 000 + from the South-eastern parts, was seen on numerous occasions.

Cape buffalo at King's Camp

Because of the major problems we currently have in our country regarding poaching of these HARMLESS, GENTLE beasts I will not discuss dynamics of Rhino’s in our area of operation, but sightings remain amazing and SPECIAL!!

White rhinoat Kings Camp    White rhinoat Kings Camp

A pack of 10 Wild dogs moved into the traversing and we saw them quite a few times toward the end of the month. It looks like it could be the pack that moved away not too long ago to den with the pups now old enough to run around and hunt with the pack!

Wild dog antics    Wild dog antics
Wild dog antics    Wild dog antics
Wild dog antics    Wild dog antics
Wild dog antics    Wild dog feeding

Hope too see you visiting this PRISTINE CORNER OF UNSPOILT AFRICA soon!

Morne' and the Kings Camp guiding team.

Report written by, Morne' Hamlyn
Photography, Morne' Hamlyn


Leopard Hills update - September 2011               Jump to Leopard Hills

The lush riverine Sand river wonderland is currently an allurement for wildlife of all sorts as we anticipate the first rains. Unique sightings of rarely seen usually nocturnal animals have also abounded as they revel in the cool weather before the heat of summer is upon us.

September sundowner shared with some whitebacked vultures

Whitebacked vultures at sunset

Hlaba Nkunzi
It is fabulous to see that she has been frequenting her "core" territory around Leopard Hills this month, that is except for a brief sojourn up to the Sand river in hot pursuit of Xhinzele.

One afternoon we discovered his tracks and what we thought were those of the Xikavi female very near the river bank. A little tracking and some good luck brought us around a large Jackalberry tree and down a ridge just as she promptly began presenting herself to Xhinzele while flicking her tail and rubbing against him! We were then treated to our first observation of them mating out in the open.

We are all debating at the moment whether she already has a small bulge, the next few weeks will tell.

Hlaba Nkunzi at Leopard Hills    Leopard seen around Leopard Hills

It's not an easy task for an aspiring 2 and half year old female trying to establish herself in prime leopardess territory as Thlangisa is discovering. She has been seen mostly in the northwest where perhaps there is a little space available and not too much activity from territorial females.

She has introduced herself to Xhinzele this month and it was rather amusing to watch her eagerly following him around for 2 days presenting her self while he totally ignored her advances except for the odd growl for all her efforts!

Thlangisa around Leopard Hills

Metsi and cubs
She is mostly traversing the south of her territory now that her cubs have reached independence while both 16 month old youngsters have been seen frequently up north around Leopard Hills camp.

The relaxed youngster came of age this month with his first documented kill about 800m from our camp and what a first kill it was! Half way through dinner out on the deck one still balmy evening the serenity was broken by a side striped jackal's eerie alarm call, we pinpointed the sound and decided to follow up there first thing in the morning. We were totally unprepared and astonished with what we found! The ravenous youngster had managed to subdue a fully grown porcupine and dragged it high up a tree! It was also the first porcupine sighting for some lucky guests and for us rangers the most relaxed porcupine we have seen in years!

Metsi and cubs at Leopard Hills  Metsi and cubs at Leopard Hills
Metsi and cubs at Leopard Hills 

She is being found more consistently now that it is the end of winter and the vegetation is low on the Sand river and has been seen mating with both Xhinzele and Mashiabanje on opposite banks of the river. Her prime riverine territory is split in half by these two adversaries and she is caught somewhat in the middle of it all!

Xikavi at Leopard Hills Xikavi mating at Leopard Hills

We were pleasantly surprised to view Shangwa and her 1 year old male cub a few times as they ventured over from the east for the first time this year! Shangwa is the oldest female that is viewed in the west (13 years) and also the mother of Xikavi (6 years).

Leopard seen at Leopard Hills

Xhinzele & Mashiabanje
The tension between these two has heated up again and we were in the thick of a territorial stand off between them on the bank of the Sand river. Xhinzele was on "his" deck at Tree Tops roaring while Mashiabanje sat and glared from the northern bank. Xhinzele has added a few more battle scars to the top of his head, whether these are from conflict between these 2 or were inflicted on the hunt we are not sure. Xhinzele is covering a lot of ground patrolling and in the process being pursued by the females which means we have been treated to some fantastic behavioural sightings involving him!

Mashiabanje has been viewed more frequently on the northern bank of the Sand river and is looking bigger and stronger than ever. He has a distinctive scar left of his nose, surely a clash with Xhinzele will add some more character to his face shortly.

Leopard seen at Leopard Hills    Leopard with kill at Leopard Hills
Leopard visiting Leopard Hills

Every time we find him his commanding presence captivates our guests, those light coloured piercing eyes tend to stare right through you! He has been found more frequently this month as he has been more active in the west of his territory enforcing his dominance here!

Kashane seen at Leopard Hills

He is still busy establishing himself in the vicinity of the Dayone river down in the south west. He has begun scent marking and calling albeit rather tentatively and still has a way to go before becoming a confident territorial male, it is hard to believe that he is the same age as the more imposing Xhinzele (both born Nov 2007).

Dayone in the area of Leopard Hills

Mapogo Coalition
The more time the 3 rulers of the west spend together the more chance we have of experiencing one of their earth shattering roaring displays! We were treated to a few such performances this month. They have been venturing east more this month and are obviously feeling a little pressure but are more than holding their own!

They currently face the significant threats of the 4 Majingilane males to the east mostly on Londolozi, the 6 young Matimba males further north and the 4 Southern pride males in the south. Some sad news is that the Southern pride males killed the remaining young 3 year old Ottawa male mid month! It sure is a tough task as a male lion seeking out an existence in the prime but hazardous territory of the Sabi Sands right now!

Have a look at the Sabi Sands map below and how the male lion coalitions are currently positioned remembering that the 6 mighty Mapogo ruled this whole area for so long!

Sabi Sands Male Lion Coalitions

Sabi Sand Game Reserve

Lion from Sabi Sand Game Reserve    Lion from around Sabi Sands

Ximungwe Pride
For most of the month we were spoiled with 9 cubs, the latest additions were 4 tiny 6-8 week old cubs that were found at their den in a dry river bed for a few weeks. Towards the end of the month we think that a Spotted Hyaena discovered the den one night while the mother was out hunting and 2 of the little ones were killed. This is sad but a harsh reality for lion cubs and it is actually quite lucky that 2 of them managed to survive.

So now we have the 3 lionesses with the 5 cubs (2 x 9 month, 1x 4 month and 2x 2 month) who are spending most of their time together while the lioness with the 11 month cubs is spending all her time one her own and is providing plentiful supply of prey animals for the healthy looking young males.

Ximungwe Pride around Leopard Hills    Lioness at Leopard Hills
Lion cubs at Leopard Hills    Lion visits Leopard Hills

Parades of Elephants are in abundance every day along the Sand river, one memorable occasion was when we were watching the lioness with the 2 older cubs as they lay near the river digesting their impala kill when a parade came along and chased them off spoiling their afternoon siesta.

Elephant seen along the Sand River

White Rhino
We celebrated World Rhino Day this month on the 22nd! Leopard Hills is dedicated to the cause and we are going the extra mile to protect our cherished pachyderms! Along with the Rhino Force bracelets we have available at our shop we are also organising a Big Birding for Rhino's Day to raise funds! Please contact the lodge should you wish to be involved.

As always the full spectrum of rhino sightings abounded this month, cows and calves, sub adults and of course the magnificence of the bulky territorial bulls patrolling.

White rhino seen around Leopard Hills

The peculiar behaviour of the bull hippo with the adopted 9 month old calf continues. The calf does seem a little disorientated at times and we found him out of the water alone standing in the shade of a guarri bush one afternoon. He wasn't afraid of us and stood his ground and stared as we approached, hopefully he is not this brave should the Mapogo coalition find him!

Hippo seen around Leopard Hills

Painted Dog Pack
The painted wolves have returned and delighted us a precious few times this month. The youngsters are now 6 months old and confident emerging adults. 4 out of the 8 pups have made it this far which sounds low but in reality is a fantastic success rate for wild dogs and we now have a healthy and hopefully stable pack of 10!

The nomadic pack roams far and wide, even as far as the Kruger National Park over 40km away so there is much excitement every time they are back!

For those interested and who know this pack see the video highlights section for some interesting footage of the Alpha male and female as well as the Beta female scent marking for dominance. Usually it is only the 2 Alpha's exhibiting this behaviour however in this pack the Beta female is also tolerated as a dominant animal.

Painted dogs around Leopard Hills

Spotted Hyaena
The female with the 2 male cubs has moved on from the new den site that we found, she has possibly rejoined the communal den with the rest of the clan somewhere. This was mid month and not before we experienced some wonderful sightings of these 2 cubs as they entertained each other around their termite mound den in the afternoons.

The Spotted Hyaena population does seem to be on the increase in our area and we are hearing and viewing them a lot more consistently.

Spotted Hyaena seen around Leopard Hills

The large herds have been plentiful this month, we estimate a herd of at least 600 passed though our camp towards month end. The most memorable occasions have been spending time with them as they indulge in their morning or afternoon drink and mud wallow at a favoured waterhole.

Buffalo seen at the waterhole

A memorable month of UNUSUAL sightings

Pangolin, Porcupine, Serval and Honey Badger…throw in some unique bird sightings to delight the birders and WOW what a month we had!

A once in a lifetime pangolin sighting a mere 800m from our lodge, savoured by extremely lucky guests and jubilant staff!

Rare pangolin sighting     Rare pangolin sighting
Rare pangolin sighting

Kori bustard tracks were seen on drive and apparently one ranger even managed a quick glimpse of the huge bird! First time in the last few years that the world's heaviest flying bird (up to 19kg) has been recorded here!

Kori bustard tracks

Grey headed bush shrike (Spook voel) after it had killed and stashed a Vine snake, look in the top left corner of the image and see if you can spot the snake.

Grey headed bush shrike

A yellow billed hornbill caught a huge shiny burrowing scorpion (Opistopthalmus glabrifrons) in perfect evening light, it was a real mouthful to try and swallow.

Yellow billed hornbill

Male african finfoot on the Sand river

African finfoot on the san river

Unlikely neighbours! A business of dwarf mongooses and a yellow throated plated lizard share a termite mound. Thanks to the eagle eyes of our regular guests Joan and Arnold Kalan for spotting the lizard and mongoose peering out of the mound!

Lizard and mongoose

Relaxed malachite kingfisher perched on the edge of the river.

Malachite Kingfisher


Rocktail Beach Camp update - September 2011               Jump to Rocktail Beach Camp

After the icy clutches of winter, spring has brought new energy to the coastal forests of Maputaland, and not soon enough for all wanting to dip their toes into the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean, as the cool water temperatures slowly edge their way up from around 20 degrees Celsius to the more agreeable mid-twenties. As always, spring reminded us all of the beautiful summer days around the corner with maximum temperatures soaring to the 30 degree mark on occasion, and combined with still cool winds, make for some blissful Indian Ocean days.

September also marked the arrival of a number of big groundswells moving up from lower KwaZulu-Natal, which made for some spectacular wave action on and around the reefs. This occasionally gave rise to some "surgy" conditions for divers, but it made for superb surfing for the resident pod of bottlenose dolphins! The bigger swells, combined with a consistent north-easterly wind, also managed to erode away a large portion of the high banks formed during the rough seas of winter. This is good news for the eagerly anticipated arrival of our turtles, which will need to make their way up the beach in the summer nesting season.

Dolphin sighting at Rocktail Beach Camp    Sunset walk at Rocktail Beach Camp

As expected, the warmer temperatures have coincided with the emergence of a number of reptile species, including a few beautiful and harmless Natal green snakes, the ever-present and numerous tropical gecko species in and around the rooms and even some leopard tortoises on the pathways. Some highlights this month include the rare Bibron's velvet gecko spotted in the manager's room, and two vine snakes hanging around the entrance to the main area for a few fantastic minutes.

Our resident large spotted genet has been seen consistently this month, lurking quietly in the shadows around the dining area in the evenings. It is always a special treat to see him, as he has been recorded in the area for almost 10 years, extremely rare for an animal that only reaches a maximum age of around 12 years. So we hope that these rare encounters with him continue for years to come.

On the ocean front, another bumper month was experienced by divers and non-divers alike. There have been consistent sightings of humpback whales over the last three months, with September being no exception. However, sightings this month have been littered with a number of baby humpbacks travelling south with their mothers, who are returning to their southern feeding grounds after giving birth up around the Madagascar area.

Green Malkoha seen at Rocktail Beach Camp    Turtle at Rocktail Beack Camp

Scattered in amongst the whale sightings, some highlights have been a number of spectacular spinner dolphin sightings, doing their acrobatic displays, whale shark sightings, manta rays and even a sunfish!

A particular highlight was a sighting of a large leatherback turtle, resting on the surface above a shallow reef alongside Island Rock, which suggests that these rare and beautiful animals are slowly arriving for the nesting season beginning in late October!

Lastly, some rare bird sightings where also recorded this month around camp, including Green Malkoha, Narina Trogon, Swamp Nightjar, Eastern Nicator and the ever-popular Rosy-throated Longclaw.

We look forward to what is sure to be another glorious summer, and embrace the swift changing of winter to spring, and while winter brought with it the superb whale season, we wait in eager anticipation for the arrival of our first nesting turtles of the season as we wave goodbye to our new born humpbacks until next year...


Rocktail Bay Dive Report - September 2011               Jump to Rocktail Beach Camp

We see an 'ocean experience' as a 'game drive' out at sea and if there were a marine 'big and hairy' list, it could look something like this: humpback whales, whalesharks, dolphins, manta rays and leatherback turtles. That's exactly what our sightings list looked like this month.

The very first day produced two whalesharks, six humpback whales, a big pod of bottlenose dolphins and a manta ray, followed by another whaleshark the very next day and then yet another on the 4th of September. This was just in the first four days of the month, what a great start to a great month it was!

Another very special encounter was shared with a pod of spinner dolphins. These dolphins are much smaller than bottlenose dolphins and travel in much larger groups. They are very fast and can often be seen jumping clear out of the water, spinning in the air before splashing back down into the water. It is not always possible to snorkel with them because they travel so fast but this group seemed happy to play next to the boat, so we took our chance and slipped into the water to try and swim with them and swim with them we did! They did not mind us at all and kept swimming back to us; we could even hear them squeaking and watched them blow bubbles as they swam, almost teasing us to follow them deeper.

Dolphins seen on a dive    Leatherback Turtle seen on dive

Another special dolphin moment was shared during a dive at Gogo's. Three bottlenose dolphins swam right down to the bottom, had a look at us as they circled a few times then raced off out of sight.

Whale encounters were still plentiful with groups travelling far out to sea as well as close to shore. We saw quite a few mothers with calves, as well as loose groups of adults travelling northwards and southwards, as this time of year sees an overlap of whales still heading northwards towards Madagascar and others already on their homeward journey, southwards, back to Antarctica.

An unexpected and magical sighting was that of a leatherback turtle! Clive saw a dark shape in the water and thought perhaps it was a baby whale but on closer inspection he realised what it was. Everyone got a chance to see the leatherback before it dived down and disappeared. These turtles are normally only seen during turtle nesting season, which begins in mid-October, so this was not only a rare sighting but also an early one. Leatherback turtles are different to other turtles in that they do not have the characteristic hard turtle shell, instead they have a leathery carapace. They do not live on coral reefs year-round as their food source of jellyfish is found much deeper, these turtles have the ability to dive to depths of around 1000 metres and more in search of food.

With turtle season nearly here we expect to start seeing more loggerhead turtles during dives as they do live and feed on our reefs. Both loggerhead and leatherback turtles are endangered which makes these encounters even more wonderful. Turtle season is a special time of year where guests have the opportunity to accompany one of our local turtle guides as they drive the beach at night, looking for turtles and carrying out their research work. This is important work and helps us to understand these creatures more which in turn we hope will help to save then for future generations.

The month ended just as spectacularly as it began with more whale, dolphin, shark, ray and whaleshark sightings. Little Justin, nearly four years old, got to see a pod of bottlenose dolphins and a little scalloped hammerhead shark - not bad for his first boat ride!

Lion fish seen around Rocktail Beach    Image of divers

Derek and Russell had the most incredible day with just the two of them on the boat they watched humpback whales travelling along as they travelled to Solitude for a magical dive, which produced a spotted-eagle ray just sitting into the current above the reef, schools of soldiers and snappers all over the reef against the backdrop of green tree coral and two huge giant kingfish! They then got the chance to snorkel with an eight-metre whaleshark, a first for both of them. Not a bad way to celebrate completing your advanced course, Russell!

The last launch of the month was a happy and a sad occasion. Dallas and Michelle, the lodge managers, and Antoinette, the lodge food and beverage manager, were all going to be leaving us within the next few days, so they took the opportunity to get out on the boat and have some fun. Antoinette did her second PADI Discover Scuba Dive and loved it; she even got to stroke Boris - well done! Dallas and Michelle managed to snorkel with not one but two whalesharks at the same time! A fitting goodbye present from Neptune!

Dallas, Michelle and Antoinette, on behalf of the dive team we would like to thank you all for your hard work and friendship and wish you all the best in your future endeavours.

Congratulations to the following divers:

Garrett Young, Peter Ehrenkranz, Uri Epstein, Guy and Brigitte Elkeslassy and Antoinette Froneman, for completing their PADI Discover Scuba Diving course.

Russell de la Harpe for completing his PADI Advanced Course.

Yours in diving
Darryl, Clive, Michelle
The Rocktail Dive Team


Zimbabwe Camps
Makalolo Plains update - September 2011               Jump to Makalolo Plains Camp

No report this month.


Little Makalolo update - September 2011               Jump to Little Makalolo

Weather and Landscape
September has been diverse in terms of weather conditions. Early mornings have been for the greater part still chilly, followed by very hot afternoons, making the swimming pool a favourite midday hangout for our guests. The cool and comfortable evenings have been ushered in by gorgeous sunsets. We did experience a fair amount of wind, which often brought with it great waves of dust as the landscape has become dry and bare in many parts.

Due to the lack of moisture, cold winter conditions and herbivore feeding pressures, the vegetation in general has become sparse and unpalatable. Most of the trees are completely bare, but the false mopane trees still carry dense covers of foliage. As summer is approaching, a number of tree species are beginning to sprout new growth which will explode into bloom once we receive the first summer rains.

Sunset over Little Makalolo Camp    Hyaena seen around Little Makalolo Camp

The game viewing from camp and on game drives has been excellent this month.

We kicked the month off with an awesome leopard sighting at the waterhole. We found a female having a leisurely drink at twilight. She was in no rush and was very comfortable in the presence of the vehicle, allowing us a wonderful view.

With the dwindling water resources, the elephant activity has drastically increased at our waterhole in front of camp. With the heavy increase in elephant concentrations even there, drama has unfolded as the water now dwindles in the waterhole too. We were able to witness the eternal cycle of life and death at our waterhole. Two elephant cows seemed to be uncomfortable being so close to one another at the waterhole and a serious tussle erupted. After a couple of tense moments of pushing, jostling and squealing, the older female was pushed down the embankment and fell over. She attempted to get up, but unfortunately she was too old and beaten up, eventually giving up the good fight. The rest of the herd was clearly distressed and ran off in a panic.

As the circle of life turned, the lions arrived on the scene, no doubt attracted by the audible distress calls of the elephants. They moved in and ended the struggle of the old female, before beginning to feed heartily. The next members in this part of the cycle appeared shortly - the arrival of the hyaena clan. For the next couple of days, there was constant battle between these two eternal enemies. A number of vulture species also took part in the festivities, adding their services to scavenging the remains of the fallen elephant. It definitely was an action-packed couple of days.

Male lion seen around Little Makalolo Camp    Lioness feeding

We were also very lucky to witness a successful cheetah hunt in its full glory. We found the cheetah just at the right moment as it was stalking a young kudu. As the cheetah got into striking range, it exploded into a top speed chase which was short but fast. The cheetah wasted no time in silencing the bleating kudu and dragging it into some dense vegetation in an attempt to hide it from any prying eyes. This paid off as the cheetah had the quality of time to feed leisurely.

Another highlight was the two sightings of honey badger which we had. One of the sightings was of a mother and her two young babies. This was a special sighting as these critters are very elusive.

Birds and Birding
It was an exciting month, as we have been noticing large numbers of summer migrants arriving. The first to arrive were the Violet-backed Starlings. The Yellow-billed Kites have also returned in number, constantly riding the thermals as they search for their next tasty treat.

Elephant at Little Makalolo Camp    Waterbuck around Little Makalolo Camp

The liquid call of the Black-headed Oriole is often heard around camp, but it is often pierced by the screeching call of the Meyer's Parrots, which are frantically feeding on the mopane pods at the moment.

Some beautiful avian colour has been added to our birding splendour with the arrival of the Purple Rollers and Southern Carmine Bee-eaters.

Guest Comments
"The drives exceed my expectations and I was impressed by seeing only a few other vehicles. The camp design and activities encouraged discussions between visitors and the staff." Mr Hight (USA).

"The staff was wonderful and caring, the guides were outstanding, and we wished we could stay longer and hope to come back." The Cogbills (USA).

Staff in Camp
Managers: Rania, Sibs and Shayne.
Guides: Charles, Honest, Lewis and Buli.


Davison's Camp update - September 2011

Weather and Landscape
For most of September the days have been sunny and blue, although we have experienced some windy conditions, which has made game viewing very interesting at times. The wind has helped by cooling things down a bit as the average highs we have experienced was 31° C. Once the sun went down, the temperature did drop substantially resulting in the monthly lows averaging 14° C. It is getting light very early, which allows us to get out on activity much earlier than the previous couple of months.

As we reached the pinnacle of the dry season, the vegetation thinned out a lot, but is now starting to show signs of rejuvenation as green buds are popping up all around. The ordeal trees and camelthorn acacias are standing out, as they have exploded into blossom, adding some beautiful colour to the landscape, as well as a fresh aroma. With prevailing winds, which we experienced over the month, we had a number of small sand storms moving across Hwange.

Animals seen around Davison's Camp    Sable seen at Davison's Camp

The winter waterholes have had an incredible amount of pressure from the myriad game species that are forced to amass at the waterholes in order to quench their thirst. Tensions are rising and the screeches and trumpeting of elephant can be heard daily, while these large mammals monopolise the best spots of the waterhole. This has resulted in some of the greatest game viewing with very interesting inter-species interactions taking place.

On the subject of elephants, we had a very unusual encounter with a small breeding herd. A small baby had fallen into a ditch and was battling to get out. It was amazing to watch the herd try and help the panic-stricken mother. After some time and many failed attempts, the young calf emerged from the ditch, exhausted but reunited with its mother. This 'happy ending' story was followed by another infant story that had an uncertain ending. At Scott's Pan, we came across a very young calf, not more than a couple of weeks old. The calf was alone and appeared to have been abandoned or lost. It was clear that the young elephant was distressed and nervous, as it was trying to join any animals which passed by. Eventually the neonate wondered off into some thicker vegetation. We do not know the fate of the young elephant, especially considering that there has been a lot of lion activity in the area.

The lions are probably the biggest draw card at Davison's with some of the best lion viewing around! We were lucky enough to have the lions kill two buffalo and an elephant close to camp, which ensured that they were always close by and easy to locate. One of the buffalo was brought down very close to a guest room at night, which meant the guests did not get much sleep with all the commotion taking place close by. It seems that the dominant male of the Makalolo Pride has developed a knack for hunting young elephants, as he has been involved in a number of successful elephant hunts recently.

This same pride was seen at Scott's Pan trying to hunt zebra. The attempt was foiled when a flock of Guineafowl sounded the alarm, sending the dazzle of zebra scattering in all directions, using their stripes to maximum affect, clearly sending confusion through the pride. The four small cubs, which are only a couple of months old and growing fast, have caused much excitement with our guests, as the young felines have started to join the adults on their daily activities, watching from a safe distance during hunts.

We encountered a new lion pride in the area, when we came across an elephant carcass. The new pride consisted of nine lions, two of which were fully grown females, and the remaining seven were sub-adults. The timeless battle between hyaena and lion erupted at this carcass a number of times, as the young pride tried to hold onto their bounty. This sighting took place close to Little Makalolo Camp.

Towards the end of the month, at Little Samuvundhla, we came across a big male lion, which has been nicknamed 'Hoover'. We found him in with a bulging belly, sleeping next to an elephant carcass. A couple of days later, we found Hoover with the rest of his pride, which is 16 strong, feeding on a wildebeest. He again was completely engorged, with a belly stretched to the maximum.

Buffalo seen around Davison's Camp    Zebra at Davison's Camp

Amongst all this lion excitement, we were treated to some great sightings of cheetah and leopard. On one occasion, we found a cheetah feeding on a young kudu.

The leopard highlight for the month was an interesting interaction between the spotted feline and a honey badger. By chance, the two animals bumped into each other under the cover of darkness. We didn't know what to expect, as both of the animals are formidable adversaries. The two approached each other cautiously, stopping only to stare at each other for some time, and then silently moving off, disappearing into the darkness.

It was not a good month for the Hwange leopards, as we found a large troop of baboons that had turned the predator/prey tables and was viciously chasing a young leopard straight up a tree and into the highest spot available.

General game sightings were also fantastic, as we have experienced huge number of game all making their way to the waterholes. A large herd of buffalo, roughly 600 strong, has been frequenting the waterhole in front of camp. Roan and sable sightings have been very good, as these shy antelopes have been drawn out of the wooded areas in search for water and food.

Other notable sightings include African wild cat, bat-eared fox and Selous mongoose.

Birds and Birding
As September continued to warm up, the summer migrant birds started to arrive, with the Yellow-billed Kites being the first species to arrive. The beautiful Violet-backed Starlings have also arrived en mass, and are often seen at the camp bird bath. The purple iridescence of the males is staggering and contrasts beautifully with their white plumage. The arrival of the Southern Carmine Bee-eaters was a head turner, especially for the "twitchers".

Close to camp, we found an African Harrier-Hawk with a squirrel in its feet. The skin around the hawk's beak was glowing red, which indicates excitement, which is understandable as a squirrel is good meal for the hawk.

Camp News
The Davison's pool was officially finished and opened on the 29 September and it will be welcomed with great joy as we head into October, which is considered to be one of the hottest months.

A huge congratulation goes to Avias Ncube, who has been a dedicated and loyal member of the Davison's team since 2006. He has been promoted from a waiter to a trainee manager. We wish him all the luck in his new position.

Lion around Davison's Camp    Fun at camp

Guests Comments
'Game drives were fabulous! Loved the lion pride - all the elephants at the waterhole and outside our rooms were breathtaking! Food really exceeded what I expected - Friendly, great staff - really enjoyed my visit!' Joanne.

'Wonderful staff! Everyone was extremely friendly and just a major asset to this camp! Our guide Robert was the best of our three week trip! A true gentleman and scholar.' Karen and Nancy.

'Wonderful meals, attentive and courteous staff. Exquisite tables and chairs for viewing the water hole.' John.

Staff in Camp
Managers: Andre' and Tammy and Avias.
Guides: Dickson, Bryan, Robert and Brian.


Ruckomechi Camp update - September 2011               Jump to Ruckomechi Camp

Weather and Landscape
Temperatures have been warm this month with a high of 37° C by mid-month, accompanied by a humidity of 47% making it hot and sticky. The daily breeze does bring relief to the sweltering heat and gets the warm air circulating. The swimming pool is a favourite spot with the guests, as well as elephants who have taken to stopping by for a midday drink! The rain builds up over the Kaila Escarpment on the Zambian side of the river and tempts us for a couple hours and then drops its load on the Zambian side, relinquishing only a few drops for Ruckomechi. It does cool things down a bit, only to build up again the next day.

The mighty Zambezi is very low at this time of the year and sandbanks are popping up all over the river, providing lovely spots for the crocodiles to bask in the sun.

The surrounding floodplains are progressively drier the further inland you go, with a few shoots of green grass and vegetation to be found along the banks, but not much than a few dry stalks further inland. The vitaveria grass does provide a few splashes of green to the scenery. Parachutte Pan, a little in land pan is a third of its size compared with last month with the surrounding areas drying into a muddy mess. The ana tree trees are dropping the last of their fiery orange pods, which are being gobbled up by hungry animals, elephants and baboons alike dashing into camp as the wind picks up. Shade is sparse at this time of the year in this heat and the only trees that give deep shade are the Natal mahogany trees with their evergreen canopy usually occupied by an array of creatures fleeing the sun.

Colour in the bush is scarce at this time of the year but we have splashes of colour from the long-pod cassia, with its spray of yellow, and the flame creeper, which covers the dry vegetation with a red carpet of flowers.

Elephant seen at sunset    Flame creeper give color to the bush

The highlight this month has to be the aardvark seen on a night drive. The guide couldn't believe her eyes when she saw this termite gobbling creature, with its pig like snout and big elongated ears scrabbling around in the undergrowth. This is a very rare and exciting sighting! The guests watched it for a few minutes before it wandered off and disappeared down a burrow. As you can imagine all staff and guests alike were very jealous about this sighting!

Leopards have also been seen this month with two sightings both out on the morning drives. One was spotted chasing impala across the Little Ruckomechi riverbed, but was lost from sight as it dashed into the fever berries, so no one knows if it was successful or not.

Our lion sightings have been exciting too, with the dynamics of the area being changed as few nomadic individuals have entered the area. We have found the dominant male mating with the new females a couple of times, so if the newcomers stick around, we could have new cubs in three months if the females were in true oestrus. We have also witness a number of attempted hunts.

Wild dogs have also been ticked on guests' checklists, with a pack of 11 dogs being seen on five separate occasions as well as the pack of six break-away dogs sighted early on in the month chasing impala.

Night drives have been very productive with the usual suspects raising their heads to thrill our guests. The strange and prickly porcupine shuffling along on a mission of his own, the civet with his 'bandit mask' over the eyes, searching out frogs and mice in the long grass. The usually solitary white-tailed mongoose, marking his territory dissuading intruders from coming into 'his' area, and of course the slim agile large-spotted genet appearing in trees and undergrowth alike, searching for dinner. Spotted hyaena have also made an appearance this month, both on the night drives and during the day, most have been a quick sighting as they purposefully go about their business.

Apart from these highlights the plains game have been in and around camp a lot this month, with the waterbuck giving guests a bit of a fright on their nightly walk back to their rooms as they appear out of the darkness! The zebra have taken up residence in the floodplain behind camp and there are quite a few foals. They share their plain with a couple families of warthogs who are often seen rooting around in the search of edible delights!

Who can forget the majestic elephants! They regularly take control of the camp, delaying lunch being taken out to the front or preventing the guests getting to their rooms for siesta, but like all creatures they eventually move along clearing the boardwalks for passage again.

Hyaena at Ruckomechi Camp    Lions around Ruckomechi Camp

Birds and Birding
The Southern Carmine Bee-eaters have moved back to the area in their flocks and the afternoon boat cruises are treated to the sight of them hunting for insects along the river edge. Their crimson plumage contrast with the deep blue sky, making a beautiful sight as they flit across the sky.

Huge flocks of African Openbills are providing spectacular photo opportunities as they take off from the river's edge, 30 or so strong, and fly across the view from the front of camp with the Kaila Mountain range as a backdrop - stunning!

The Pied Kingfishers have entertained guests as they fish in the diminishing puddle just under the stargazing deck, they hover a couple metres above the surface and once they spot something they take the plunge.

The African Palm-Swifts have also been spotted a lot this month, darting about the sky, who visits the office first thing in the morning, bouncing around and getting quite close.

Camp News
This month we say a very sad goodbye to Carly Morgan who has been our hostess for the last year and a half. She has decided to go back to being a city girl in the bright lights of Harare. We wish her all the very best on her new path.

We welcome Christabelle back from the Hwange camps. She has come to help us out both in camp and on the three-day Mana Canoe Trails for the month of September. We also have a volunteer from the UK, Ted Maberly, who has joined us late in the month and seems to be settling into camp life.

Guest Comments
"Thank you for the beautiful dogs in Ruckomechi! It was the most beautiful time we have ever spent in Africa!" Michael and Ulli.

"The friendliness of all the staff, the super food. We were impressed with everything". Errol and Ann.


Mana Canoe Trail update - September 2011               Jump to Mana Canoe Trail

No report this month.


Zambia camps
Toka Leya Camp update - September 2011
              Jump to Toka Leya Camp

Weather and Landscape
Spring is a true time of beauty and transformation - this is so true for Toka Leya and the surrounding areas. The environment has changed dramatically over the month, from a dry, gloomy environment to a green, lush wonderland teeming with new life and colour as many trees such as the knobbly combretums and sausage trees are in full bloom.

Daily temperatures have been rising steadily, but have been very comfortable and pleasant especially since the early mornings and evenings have warmed up a fair deal.

Dominant rhino bull    Herd of elephants seen at Toka Leya Camp

As usual this time of the year, one definitely appreciates the African bush sounds as the birds are becoming so vocal. Some special bird calls have been heard as the migrants have arrived in their large numbers. Guides have once again been putting their bird call knowledge to test as some sounds they had not heard for a long time are once again entertaining the guests on the activities.

This month the camp has once again been a great attraction for the big animals. Herds of buffalo have frequented the open area behind Tent 12, where they have been seen lying around and grazing on most mornings.

The ana trees growing around camp have started to drop their nutritious pods all around, which are highly sought-after by a variety of herbivore species, in particular the elephant. The camp was visited daily by many hungry elephants, which provided much entertainment and outstanding photo opportunities for our guests.

In addition to the elephants, we have also had the largest rhino bull of the park showing himself at the camp many times; he enhanced our private dinners on the tent decks of numbers 5 and 6, where he fed for a long time - much to the amazement of our guests who couldn't believe that this animal would get so close to them.

Open billed stork    Yello billed Kite

As the weather has warmed up a bit, we have managed to restart the Zambian traditional dinners. This is always a highlight for our guests, many of whom would have taken a trip to the nearby village and to get a chance to taste the traditional food, which the local people eat.

Our new relationship with the Sinde Community has given our guests a true picture of life in an African village. The welcoming and authenticity of the local people in the village has been mentioned by many of our guests who have had a chance to experience the tour.

Guest Comments
"Outstanding service, meals, facilities and tours. Thank you so much for making our stay so special." The Sundbergs.

"Thank you for giving us such a brilliant time. Heaven on earth. What a fantastic experience!" The Bournes'.

"A wonderful ending to our African safari experience. We loved the environment here and greatly enjoyed interacting with the staff. We loved being by the mighty Zambezi." The MCullnocks.

Staff in Camp
Managers: Petros and Gogo Guwa, Chipasha, Mavis Daka and Amon Nogoma.
Guides: Godfrey, Histon and Donald.


Lufupa River Camp update - September 2011               Jump to Lufupa River Camp

No report this month.


Lufupa Tented Camp update - September 2011               Jump to Lufupa Tented Camp

No report this month.


Kalamu Lagoon Camp update - September 2011               Jump to Kalamu Lagoon Camp

Weather and Landscape
Spring is here, and we are thoroughly enjoying it. The mornings and evenings are still nice and cool, which gives all a break from the near summer midday temperatures that pushed the mercury up to 39° C on some occasions. The beautifully comfortable night temperatures have allowed us to dine outside under the stars and be serenaded by the nocturnal choir of the bush.

Now that the environment has heated up, water is drying up and the animals have clearly changed their behaviour slightly, making their movements more predictable around the sources of surface water. This has afforded us some great sightings at the Kalamu Lagoon. On a daily basis, guests are treated to magical sightings of elephant, buffalo, giraffe, zebra, roan, kudu and a myriad of summer migrant birds at the lagoon.

Sunset at Kalamu Lagoon Camp    Southern carmine bee-eater at Kalamu Lagoon Camp

We are still riding the wave of leopard sightings and continue to break previous sighting records. We are seeing them most days, in daylight and at night, alone, in pairs, hunting, sleeping, courting, feeding, and drinking along the Luangwa River or the lagoon, from walks and from the vehicles. In camp, up trees - just about everywhere and every how!

On the subject of predators, we have also had a couple of excellent lion and wild dog sightings. Night drives have also turned up a few rarities such as honey badger, African civet and porcupine.

We have also been noticing a big increase in both general kudu numbers as well as the number of prime bulls. Roan numbers are also increasing nicely, and sightings are becoming more common, especially as the dry season progresses.

Birds and Birding
The birding has been brilliant to say the least with the summer migrants arriving in force.

Huge colonies of Southern Carmine Bee-eaters have settled all along the Luangwa River, causing clouds of colour to explode on the river banks. Other sightings of note include Walberg's Eagle, Pel's Fishing-Owl, Woodland Kingfisher and Eastern Nicator.

Camp News
Kalamu Star-Beds has been very popular with the guests and has also produced some great game viewing opportunities, especially for the photographers, who would get amazing pictures from the comfort of the hides.

Leopard seen at Kalamu Lagoon Camp    Giraffe seen at Kalamu Lagoon Camp

Community News
The Kalengo School Library Project is coming along well and is on schedule. Due to a generous donation from a guest and various other charities, this dream is becoming a reality and will be much appreciated by the community. The grand opening of the library is scheduled for mid-October and will be officiated by Chief Malama.

Guest Comments
"What a magical spot! Super friendly, attentive staff. You have all done Zambia and South Luangwa proud. Thanks and keep up the good work." Simon and Marlen (Botswana).

"A great camp - VIP treatment! Great game drives, five leopards in two days!" Paul and Lynn (UK).

Staff in Camp
Managers: Solly, Mulenga, Evie, Wouter and Roz.
Guides: Mwila, Sandy and Emmanuel.


Shumba Camp update - September 2011               Jump to Shumba Camp

September - the month of the Shumba lions...

The heat is on and summer is here in full swing! September saw temperatures climb as far as 38° C, indeed one morning we measured a 30° C temperature difference between before sunrise and the mid-afternoon. It has been great, as the cooler mornings and evenings have offered respite to the daily highs.

Now if you are a fan of the smaller flora and fauna, Shumba Camp continues to shine, but September has really been the month where the camp lived up to its name. The lion action can only be described as incredible!
Firstly we had a second kill witnessed from the deck - the result of two lechwe rams fighting and the loser falling into the channel and promptly getting hauled out and becoming lunch for two of the Busanga lionesses. This was witnessed by guests arriving in camp by helicopter - what an incredible start to their trip!

Lion cub at the management tent    Lioness sleeping on the deck

Then we had the most incredible experience on the 25th, when one of the pride lionesses gave birth between Tents 5 and 6. The saga has continued since then with the lions literally taking over the camp. The two females have spent hours lying around on the decks of Tent 5 (until they broke the table by lying on it) before moving on to Tent 4. This has provided the most incredible excitement and photo opportunities. We have had lions on the deck before, but only fleeting glimpses and mostly when guests are not in camp (and of course cameras are not on hand). This time has been a different story altogether.

They have been so active around camp that on one occasion, the helicopter had to abort the landing and back off to let a lioness make her way into the long grass. The proud mother has not been wandering far but has been able to snack on the numerous terrapins that have appeared. As the month draws to a close we wonder what the future holds for these new cubs.

The rains have started unusually early and as water levels rise we will only know the final fate (assuming they make it through the next weeks) sometime early next year.

Lioness at Shumba Camp    Lioness at Shumba Camp

A staff member has shared her Shumba lion experience:

"The lion cubs are now living near the management tent - just in the palms about five metres from the entrance of the room. We see the mom most nights when we are in bed - which is a little nervewracking - thank goodness she hasn't been sleeping on the deck though. In case you were wondering, Idos/Lex drop us and pick us up from the room every day; it has been like that for the last five days now, and they do not seem to be disturbed by us, so it's fine. It's fantastic lying in bed at night listening to the cubs crying and playing and getting bathed! We feel like babysitters.

Yesterday mom made a kill in front of the main area - but as it was wake-up time, we didn't see the kill! The males stole the kill away and dragged it back to our (or is it their?) tent, where they finished it off.

Today the cubs were seen by JohnD and his guests (again at our room) they seem to be doing fine! The mother then went hunting - but she was very impatient and the lechwes went running when they saw her. After a good roll around on the grass she went back to our room. The first guests arrived back from the game drive and whilst I was telling them of the morning lion action - she walked right over the driveway and into the long grass - stopping to give us a nice long stare! Then whilst walking the very same guests back to Tent 1 (we escort the guests during the day now too), she was seen on the deck of Tent 1."

Guest Comments
"Magnificent. The best lodge, room, staff and food I have ever experienced on three African photo safaris" Richard (USA).

"I loved being in the middle of everything - game surrounding the camp. The kill which greeted us was surely the highlight." George (USA).

"Hospitality and friendliness of all the staff was exceptional." Claus (Germany).

Staff in Camp
Managers: Julia Bauer and Zoe Namangonze
Guides: Lex Munama, Idos Mulenga and Sam Simunij.


Kapinga Camp update - September 2011               Jump to Kapinga Camp

No report this month.


Busanga Bush Camp update - September 2011               Jump to Busanga Bush Camp

It has been another incredible month here at BBC, and the plains have once again proven, to those lucky enough to have been here, why it is revered as one of the must visit destinations of Africa.

View seen at Busanga Bush Camp

With our camp sharing its name with the Busanga Pride of lions, it is not long until guests enquire about the lions and their whereabouts and the usual response given is, ''well they are around at the moment so if you're lucky...'' but this month luck simply didn't come into it.

Each arrival spelt more and more sightings of our fantastic 'swamp' lions as they mated, hunted, ate, rested and very recently gave birth, giving all of our guests an amazing insight into these incredible animals and their day to day struggle on the beautiful, but unforgiving plains. So it was this month that as the cold mornings finally gave out to warmer skies and the chill of mornings has finally broken, our guests have been heading out looking for the non-camera-shy prides that dominate this area, which have been successful and caused much joy and excitement amongst all. If would be safe to say that the lions did hog the limelight this month and sometimes outshone the stunning scenery and abundance of wildlife that is on offer in this unique and diverse piece of the Kafue National Park.

With the lion activity of the month came Neil Midlane, researcher for the Kafue Lion Project - a project established to investigate the conservation status of Kafue's lions, as well as to identify potential threats to the species in the greater Kafue ecosystem. Neil arrived to give our guests a fantastic and informative talk around the camp fire about his work and about the beautiful prides we had all seen just an hour before - this was a definite highlight for our guests.

Male lion at Busanga Bush Camp    Antelope seen around Busanga Bush Camp

Another high point for us this month has been the beating of a long time season record of most species of antelope sightings in a single game drive, which may seem a little strange to get excited about, but the bar was set at a staggering 12 species! You can understand our excitement when on return one day our guest were beaming more than usual and when we enquired as to what had prompted these beamers the reply came ''because we have seen a total of 13 species of antelope today.'' An incredible feat that can be matched in very few places in Africa. Why would you want to be anywhere else when you could be on the plains and more in particularly at Busanga Bush Camp?

Keen birders were also just as pleased with this month's sightings, with species such as White-browed Coucal and Rosy-throated Longclaw on show.

Guest Comments
"This is a truly special place run by exceptional staff."

"Brilliant location, splendid guide with excellent hosts and delicious food!"

Staff in Camp
Managers: Jacqui Munakombwe and Ashley and Tara Rowe (relief managers).
Guides: Isaac Kalio and Brent Harris (Explorations guide).


Malawi camps
Mvuu Camp update - September 2011
               Jump to Mvuu Camp

No report this month.


Mvuu Wilderness Lodge update - September 2011               Jump to Mvuu Camp

Weather and Landscape
As the weather becomes increasingly hot we are witnessing the first tell-tale signs of the coming rains with occasional afternoon clouds, warm winds and distant rumblings of thunder. The water level in the river is dropping quickly now and large areas are fast becoming shallow, muddy feeding grounds for multitudes of wading bird species.

As the environment dries up, animal sightings have been prolific as their daily movements become more predictable in their search for water.

As mentioned above, we have been experiencing very good wildlife sightings throughout the month as the water levels subside in the river. Large sandbanks have formed, producing excellent spots for large numbers of crocodiles to bask in the sun. Very large herds of sable have been seen, usually numbering around 20 animals. The drying conditions have forced these beautiful antelope to leave the wooded areas and come into the floodplains.

Herd of sable     Elephant seen at camp

We have been encountering Titus, the dominant male lion of the area a couple of times and has become relaxed in the presence of the vehicle. Two black rhino have moved into the area, as we are finding their tracks and dung on a daily basis.

Two sightings come to mind, when thinking of the monthly wildlife highlight, the first took place on the 11 September when Duncan ventured into the Rhino Sanctuary with his guests whilst on game drive. The group stopped at a waterhole to observe a large troop of baboons, and noticed that one of the large males was frantically feeding on a young impala. Soon a ruckus erupted and another three large males took over the carcass in a noisy fashion finishing off the remains of the carcass. This behaviour occurs fairly regularly when water supplies become limited. It is believed that the baboons seek the moisture in the antelope's blood.

The other highlight took place the following day when Mc Loud and James were exploring the beautiful southern areas which offer a great diversity of habitat types which include mopane woodland, floodplains, papyrus thickets, riverine forest and dense stands of borassus palms. It was here where they found Titus. They watched him at close quarters for around 45 minutes and even followed him on an attempted hunt on a fully grown bushpig.

Other sightings of note include Lichtenstein's hartebeest and good numbers of eland.

Sable and other antelope at Mvuu Wilderness Losge    White-winged Apalis

Birds and Birding
Birding activity has been outstanding and has highlighted some very special avian species for the area.

A flock of over 150 African Skimmers was seen taking up residence on a large sandbank at the junction of the river and the Mwalasi Stream, a perennial watercourse south of camp. Now here we expect these skimmers to stay in and around this sand bank for the next couple of months.

We have been lucky enough to be able to observe a couple of Bat Hawks hunt bats at dusk. These birds of prey are extremely agile flyers which are very efficient hunters and have a high success rate. Due to their crepuscular behaviour, they do not have to compete with many other species.

This month, some of the camps staff joined Dr John Wilson, a well-respected naturalist in the area, on a birding excursion to Zomba. It was a great experience, and all were able to increase their knowledge. Pictured left is the stunning White-winged Apalis that only occurs around Zomba Plateau.

Staff in Camp
Samuel, Mc Loud, David, Matthews, George, Danford, Angel, Julius, Frank, Patrick, Duncan, Henry, Justin, Jimmy, Danger, Lawrence and James.


Mumbo Island update - September 2011               Jump to Mumbo Island

September has been a month filled with romance and happiness for those who visited us. We celebrated two engagements during the month- both at sunset on Pod Rock. The first couple were from the UK and were so blown away by the beauty of Mumbo that while watching the sunset they decided they just had to get engaged.

Another couple from South Africa found themselves in the same situation a few weeks later with the same result! Their quote in the comment book reads: "Never in our wildest dreams had we imagined such an amazing, magical paradise as this!"These are just two of many proposals we have had on Mumbo - something about the heart-shaped island working its magic?

Sunset over Mumbo Island Camp

Now that winter is coming to an end, many reptile species are starting to emerge from their winter hibernation. It is a very interesting time of year as these emerging ecto-therms are driven by one innate instinct, to reproduce.

The water monitor lizards have been providing us with non-stop entertainment, as it is their egg laying season, having completed their mating a couple of weeks back. What makes their nesting behaviour interesting is the symbiotic relationship that they have with the macro- termes (mound building termites that harvest fungus). The female monitor digs a hole in an active termite mound to lay her eggs. In their effort to repair the damage, the termites seal the eggs in, inadvertently providing a humid, warm environment and protecting the eggs from predation. She can lay anything from 40 - 50 eggs at a time and it will take about 9-10 months before the hatchlings can dig themselves out.

Birds and Birding
We now have three new pairs of African Fish-Eagles nesting on the island to add to our seven resident pairs. One never gets used to their evocative calsl and the excitement of seeing them swoop low over the lake and emerging with a shiny fish. Mumbo is a great place to witness this and those guests who stay in Tent Five always leave feeling a special affinity with the resident pair of African Fish-Eagles who nest on the tiny granite outcrop just opposite the tent.

Eagle at Mumbo Island Camp    Mouth-brooding cichlid at Mumbo Island Camp

Camp Activities
If you go diving around Jumbo Island (the tiny heart shaped islet off Mumbo) you'll see lots of fish nests in the sand and if you lucky you may spot a mouth-brooding cichlid with her fry. Give her a little space and watch as she circles protectively around the hatchlings and when she thinks there is danger she sucks all the baby fish into her mouth.


Chelinda Lodge update - September 2011

Chelinda Lodge is located on a high altitude plateau and as such the weather is always pretty mild. We did experience some cold and wetter conditions though. After the controlled burning of the grasslands to encourage fresh foliage and growth, the landscapes and surrounding terrains of Nyika National Park are returning to their summer glory. A carpet of green continues to spread across the grasslands with flowers like the Yellowheads (Gnidia kraussiana) and Irises (Moraea macrantha) coming into bloom.

Game sightings have continued to become increasingly frequent throughout the month. There have been several sightings of serval, spotted hyaena and leopard. Sam Nkhoma, the General Manager went out on game drive one night and saw a leopard up in a relatively small tree, a highlight for the month given that Nyika's leopards are more often seen on the ground and hardly are they ever spotted up in the trees.

Elephants hardly frequent the Plateau, but venturing into the woodlands increases ones chances of seeing them. An elephant bull was seen earlier this month near the Thazima Gate. The elephants have been frequenting the south western side of the park lately.

On September 10th a group of seven hyaena ran past the lodge reception chasing a reedbuck into the lower forest. The hyaena's gained on the reedbuck and its chances of survival grew increasingly slim as the entire chase disappeared into the forest.

Nyika Grass Land    Serval seen at Chelinda Lodge

Birds and Birding
Along the Zungwara Road, Lappet-faced and Hooded Vultures were seen perched in the trees and on the ground. By large, vultures are scavengers, but the Lappet-faced Vulture has been recorded actively hunting small prey.

A pair of Denham's Bustards were spotted performing a courtship display; the polygamous male bird performs an elaborate display to attract females, some of whom it will then mate with. Rare sightings include that of a Long-crested Eagle by the pine plantations of chalet 1 and Grey-headed Gull on Dam 1.

Another rare sighting on August 20th was that of a Secretarybird, seen between Dam 3 and Chelinda Bridge. Although they are hardly seen in Nyika, Secretarybirds occur in all types of grassland and open savannah habitat, including desert-like open scrub, in sub-Saharan Africa. They prey on a wide variety of animals that are subdued with fast hard kicks. They are most famous as snake-eaters, but they readily eat game birds, plovers, chicks, mongooses, and rabbits. All but the largest prey are swallowed whole.

Many bird migration routes pass through the Nyika and we expect to see more migratory birds in the coming months.

Guest Comments
"Many thanks for the effort and making Pauline's birthday so special. The nice little thoughtful touches made a wonderful stay excellent!" Bernard and Pauline.

"The beauty of the lodge and its setting. The vastness of the land and opportunity to see and listen to very special birds and animals found in Nyika. Being able to walk whilst on game drive?the list could be endless. Staff friendliness also a highlight- along with blankets on drives, hot chocolate, fires and hot water bottles all made our stay marvellous." The Hodgsons.


Namibia camps
Desert Rhino Camp update - September 2011               Jump to Desert Rhino Camp

Weather and Landscape
With summer fast approaching, temperatures are starting to soar, and the days are becoming really hot with the mercury reaching 40° C on occasion. From three o'clock in the afternoons the south-westerly wind starts to blow inland from the Atlantic coast, bringing in a cold breeze and an occasional thick layer of fog, causing a dramatic drop in evening temperatures.

This year's unusually high rainfall, means that despite the colder winter months, most of the Palmwag Conservancy is still covered in a lush carpet of vegetation, attracting huge numbers of animals into the area. The abundant grass covering has provided a very scenic setting, shades of golden yellow tones, introduce a landscape of rolling plains, endless mountain vistas and instill a feeling of peace and harmony - especially during the afternoon hours when the sun is hugging the western horizon.

Herd of elephants at Desert Rhino Camp    Elephant herd at Desert Rhino Camp

The SRT (Save the Rhino Trust) trackers and guide teams are patrolling the area on a continuous basis, monitoring movements of the desert-adapted black rhino and the local wildlife. Their dedication paid dividends when two unknown female rhino moved into our area, providing some exciting sightings for our guests. On one occasion the conditions were so favourable, the camp staff also had the opportunity to get "out of the kitchen" so to speak and admire these often secretive animals.

As the month progressed the rhino sightings peaked, when on two occasions, guests out rhino tracking had the fortune to spot a congregation of not one, but four of these bulk browsers in one area. Wow! What a sight that must have been! Such an ancient creature; surviving in the harsh conditions of the Damaraland region.

Rhino at Desert Rhino Camp    Lion seen at Desert Rhino Camp

Another unusual sighting for us at Desert Rhino Camp was witnessed in the Salvadora River, only a few kilometres west of camp: we encountered a breeding herd of elephant consisting of 17 individuals, including a very small calf, estimated to be approximately one month old and appears to be doing well. Our guests that afternoon had to drink their sundowners mobile style - in the back of the jeep! They spent almost two hours watching the herd feeding around the spring, devouring the desert sour-grass with gusto, and staging the occasional play fight for the tourists. All in all, a rewarding afternoon game drive.

General game sightings have been fantastic with constant wildlife activity in every valley and grassy plain. The Hartmann's mountain zebra continue to mesmerise our guests with their distinctive coats and endearing "look at me" characteristics.

Quite often, wildlife sightings could be enjoyed from the comfort of camp. Ungulate species seen around the camp area were kudu, springbok and oryx, their distinctive profiles making for great photographic compositions.

On the predatory side of things, we had some outstanding sightings, especially of the desert-adapted lions. On one occasion a small sub-pride was seen on two consecutive days. Lion audio was heard almost on a nightly basis, mixed with the distant background call of hyaena. We have also been finding a large number of predator tracks around the conservancy, which shows that the predators do indeed follow the abundant prey source.

Another noteworthy sighting was that of an aardwolf at dusk.

Hartmann's mountain zebra     Activities at Desert Rhino Camp

Birds and Birding
Birding has been very good as there are large flocks of Lark-like Buntings flying around the grassy areas, which have attracted good numbers of predatory species to the feeding table. We have had regular sightings of Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk, Martial Eagle and the occasional Black-chested Snake-Eagle.

Around camp, the birding has been very productive with regular appearances of Bokmakierie, Namaqua Sandgrouse and Ostrich.

Guest Comments
"Thank you very much too all the staff of the Desert Rhino Camp for an unforgettable experience. We have seen four rhinos and five lions. We will miss the welcome drinks, the fire in the evenings, the mountains, the smiles of all you guys!"

"Amazing! Our guide was great and scenery was fantastic. Truly an educational, relaxing, highly memorable three days. Keep on working to save the rhinos!! Say hello to Ben the rhino next time you see him."

"Dear "unknown" rhinos, we will have fond memories from our visit. Will send the photo's to add to your data base, hopefully your names will also go down in history."

Staff in Camp
Managers: Helen, Ian and Agnes.
Guides: Ali, Makumbi and Raymond.


Palmwag Lodge update - September 2011               Jump to Palmwag Lodge

No report this month.


Doro Nawas Camp update - September 2011               Jump to Doro Nawas Camp

No report this month.


Damaraland Camp update - September 2011               Jump to Damaraland Camp

Weather and Landscape
For most of the month the weather has been stable, with hot and dry conditions persisting. Once the sun set, it did cool down a fair deal, but was still comfortable.

The monthly weather trend was broken on the 25th of the month, when a clump of ominous clouds built up rapidly, rumbling and threatening, but only producing a couple of drops of rain. We had a couple of mornings, where mist belts moved through Damaraland, making for some scenic photographs.

The landscape has dried up substantially and is covered with a golden weave of grass. Some of the tree species are preparing for summer and have begun sprouting new growth, adding some greenery to the landscape.

elephant herd seen at Damaraland Camp    Mist over Damaraland Camp 

Game viewing was fantastic this month as we had a couple of unusual visitors which graced us with their presence.

We had two great cheetah sightings, which entertained our guests as the cheetah were taking advantage of the long grass and actively searching for possible prey items.

Some very exciting news for us is the two black rhino which have been seen very close to camp. On one occasion, the duo decided to go and have a drink from the spring at Fonteine, a small village about 4km away from camp. The rhino stuck around for three days and then continued with their journey, possibly heading to the Palmwag Concession.

We are happy to report that the baby elephant in the Oscar herd is still healthy and going strong. We had a number of fantastic elephant sightings during the month, as these magnificent creatures have been concentrating along the ephemeral riverbeds, taking advantage of the green vegetation which has tapped into the water table.

Rhino seen at Damaraland Camp

Camp News
We congratulate, Maggie Vries (Camp Manager) for being elected to represent Namibia and the Torra Conservancy at the Adventure Travel World Summit, which will be held in Mexico from the 11th to 23rd October 2011.

Guest Comments
"The friendly welcoming (singing), the nice rooms, the wonderful meal and of course the animals were all fantastic!" Jessica.

"Albert was an excellent guide, very knowledgeable and very attentive to my interests making this a wonderful visit." Lesley.

Staff in Camp
Managers: Maggie Vries, Elfrieda Hebach, PG du Preez and Erika Awaras.
Guides: Anthony Dawids, Johann Cloete, Albert !Gaoseb and Willem Retief.


Skeleton Coast Camp update - September 2011               Jump to Skeleton Coast Camp

No report this month.


Serra Cafema Camp update - September 2011               Jump to Serra Cafema Camp

Weather and Landscape
This month has been pleasant as the weather has changed a fair deal from last month and summer is in full swing. Daytime temperatures have been quite consistent, providing warm and slightly humid conditions. Even the early mornings have warmed up; we did however have a couple of misty mornings where the temperature was brisk. We experienced some very scenic mornings, when the moon was still setting and casting its beautiful reflection over the river, which was enhanced by the sun rising.

The river level has dropped considerably, making the boat trips slightly shorter. With the drop in the water level, some large sandbanks have formed, making the ideal spot for many crocodiles to sun themselves.

River over Serra Cafema Camp    Misty morning over Serra Cafema Camp

September has been a fantastic month, bearing some excellent wildlife and avian sightings.

The highlight for the month was the sighting of a brown hyaena very close to camp. We had the luxury of viewing this elusive creature in full daylight. Almost every morning, we would find the characteristic paw-prints of the brown hyaena riddled around camp. 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.

In terms of birding, the riverine thickets have provided some great birding activity and the odd special. With summer fast on the approach, we are expecting large numbers of the summer migrants to arrive soon. A pair of Madagascar Bee-eaters have been spotted around the camp which is a sure sign that the migrants are arriving.

Brown hyaena sighting at Serra Cafema Camp

Camp News
As our vegetable garden was washed away by the flood, we have started to build a new one. Things are looking good as we have now removed all the shrubs and weeds and have planted various herbs.

We would like to welcome our new relief manager, Cobus Botha to Wilderness and Serra Cafema. We wish him all the best in this most wonderful place.

Guest Comments
"This is the most beautiful place we have ever been, and it becomes even better thanks to the staff of Wilderness. We hope to come back!" Montleban Family.

"This is a wonderful place with wonderful people who made our stay here unforgettable. Everything was perfect and we will keep Serra Cafema in our mind for ever. Thank you for all." Susanne and Martin.

Staff in Camp
Managers: Ockert, Chvonnie, Lynette, Cobus and Elizabeth.
Guides: Steve, Harry, Dawid, Jonathan and Gerhardus.


Ongava Tented Camp update - September 2011               Jump to Ongava Tented Camp

Weather and Landscape
Summer is clearly on the way as the daytime temperatures have been very warm - even the early mornings and evenings have warmed up making for some very comfy safari conditions.

As we have reached the pinnacle of the dry season after a very good rainy season, there is lots of dry vegetation around, providing a huge source of fuel for wildfires. The 'expected' has happened during the month, in that a large fire broke out in Etosha, burning approximately 250 000 hectares of land! Luckily the fire was extinguished before it could enter Ongava; however, we did experience a fire in Ongava last month which was brought under control in two days.

We did get some solace from the dry conditions at the beginning of the month when we received a small amount of rain, but only enough to settle the dust.

Mating black rhino at the Ombika waterhole    Elephant at Ongava Tented Camp

Sightings have been plenty at Ongava Tented Camp in September. Lion and rhino were seen daily on the Ongava Game Reserve and the elephant sightings were almost a given inside Etosha. The Etosha elephants are unique, as they have become known as 'the white giants', due to their white colouration as a result of wallowing in the calcrete rich soils of Etosha.

Of all the fantastic sightings we had this month, there were two clear highlights that stood out. The first was when we came across a mating pair of black rhino at the Ombika waterhole in Etosha. This was a truly amazing sighting, especially to witness this in broad daylight in the open. The copulating couple allowed us a fantastic view creating some outstanding photographic opportunities for our guests! See our blog here for a full sequence of photos.

The second highlight was of a female cheetah with her four cubs. All cheetah sightings are special, but what made this one mind blowing was the fact that the mother was teaching the cubs the art of hunting. Being an opportunistic predator, the mother found a springbok calf that was separated from its mother and took full advantage of the opportunity. Once the mother pinned the unfortunate calf to the ground, she called to her cubs. When the cubs arrived, she handed the springbok over to them.

Game around Ongava Tented Camp    Lion seen around Ongava Tented Camp

At first the young cheetah did not know what to do, but were soon led by their instinct. The calf would stand up and make a dash for it, only to be tackled by the cubs and then released again. This carried on for some time until the calf was exhausted. The calf provided a sapid meal for the young siblings. This learning curve is a vital part of a young predator's life, especially for a solitary predator.

Some of our guests got to enjoy and participate in our rhino ear-notching project, which is part of the Ongava Research Centre's constant monitoring of the rhino population in the reserve since they were reintroduced in 1993.

We have also experienced fantastic game viewing at the waterhole in front of camp. Throughout the day we were visited by a plethora of species, including oryx, zebra black-faced impala and eland.

Birds seen around Ongava Tented Camp    Jackal seen around Ongava Tented Camp

Guest Comments
"We were here at the right time. We witness the darting and notching of two rhinos - we were given the opportunity to even touch one" Alice and Fred.

"Black rhinos mating, a pride of lion drinking at waterhole. And various white rhino sightings! On our final game drive, we had close up encounters with several lions. Fantastic photographic opportunities made possible by Leon's great spotting and positioning, thank you very much." Amanda.

"Fantastic location - Excellent blend of being right in the bush and just the right level of comfort. It was exactly what we were looking for" Carol.

Staff in Camp
Managers: Gerda Van Niekerk, Inge Kambatuku and Gregory Feris.
Guides: Rio Aibeb, Festus Eiseb, Leon Basson and Shilongo Saukes.

The black rhino images were taken by Amanda Woffendan.


Little Ongava update - September 2011               Jump to Little Ongava Camp

No report this month.


Ongava Lodge update - September 2011               Jump to Ongava Lodge

No report this month.


Andersson's Camp update - September 2011               Jump to Andersson's Camp

Weather and Landscape
The temperature in September has been very warm to hot as we enter the summer months. We have definitely moved from winter to summer very quickly almost skipping autumn completely. The evenings and early mornings are very refreshing. Sometimes in the mornings you still need to wear a jersey to keep warm, but as the sun rises, the temperature warms up quickly. All in all the conditions were copacetic.

There have been many days when the sky is not very clear as we have been having fires in the north that have been pushing smoke towards us. Generally the landscape has dried up drastically, but some tree species have started to burst with new buds and flowers, adding a flash of green to the landscape and providing some much welcomed food for the browsers.

Black rhino at the waterhole at Andersson's Camp    Cheetah seen at the waterhole

This month we have been having great sightings at all of the winter waterholes, particularly the one in front of camp. As the dry season is peaking, all of the animals congregate at the waterholes, providing some of the best game viewing in one place. Most of the activity takes place from the early morning until midday, when the wildlife moves in to the shade to rest and ruminate. Regular visitors during this time include kudu, black-faced impala, oryx, zebra and hartebeest as well as giraffe and both species of rhino.

The highlight for the month was when we witnessed a very opportunistic lioness try and catch a giraffe when it attempted to have a drink at the Andersson's waterhole. A truly cunning plan, as a giraffe is very vulnerable when its legs are splayed to drink. Fortunately for the giraffe, the wind changed direction just in the nick of time giving away the lion's position. It was hard luck for the lioness, as she had managed to sneak within three metres and into striking distance. The giraffe immediately sprang up and ambled off at a high speed. The lioness pursued the fleeing herbivore for a short distance before giving up as the situation was no longer in her favour. The lioness also had some cubs hidden close by so the risk of being injured was not worth it.

Our waterhole has been visited almost daily by one black rhino in particular. Known as Odin he is easily recognised by his ear notches commonly used for research identification purposes. At the beginning of the month, Odin was involved in a territorial skirmish and picked up some superficial injuries in the process, but he was able to take control of his territory. His regular visits have provided our guests with some outstanding views and photos of the rare species, especially at such close quarters.

Lioness trying to catch giraffe    Lioness trying to catch giraffe

We also had a handful of cheetah sightings at the trusty waterhole. These sightings are very brief due to the high presence of lions to the waterholes.

Birds and Birding
Andersson's Camp provides a great base for any keen birder as the camp are is visited by a number of bird species, some of which are endemic to Namibia such as the Bare-cheeked Babbler and Short-toed Rock-Thrush which have provided some great photographic opportunities.

Guest Comments
"The highlights were the animals at the waterhole in front of the main area and the night tour to spot the nocturnal animals."

"Three rhinos in one day, fabulous place, fabulous staff and fabulous food. "

"Extraordinary activities by the waterhole, staff and the singing in the evening as well as the lions."
"Thank you for a great time and making me feel at home. All the rhino and all the other animals at the waterhole were amazing. Thank you Ramon for taking such good care of us. "

Staff in Camp
Managers: Silvia Morgante, Corne Cocklin and Corrie Adams.
Guides: Sakkie Hoeseb, Bono Gauseb, Franz Nuyoma and Ramon Coetzee.

All pictures were taken by Silvia Morgante and Corne Cockin.


Little Kulala Camp update - September 2011               Jump to Little Kulala Camp

No report this month.


Kulala Desert Lodge update - September 2011               Jump to Kulala Desert Lodge

The month of September threw a curve ball at us regarding the weather. Just as we thought summer was here, we were whipped by a cold front, followed by some cloudy days and then by a stretch of some very hot and dry conditions.

Apart from the mindblowing scenery, the wildlife also provided some great sightings with some rare species making an appearance.

A highlight for the month was when Petrus and his guests found a brown hyaena, which was very accommodating to the guests' needs by slowly walking right in front of the vehicle.

Dwarf beaked snake at Kulala Desert Lodge    Double-banded Courser seen at Kulala Desert Lodge

Charles, a guide from Wilderness Explorations, was here on a trip in the first week of September and made a very good and unusual discovery at Dune 45; he and his guests came across a snake. After some time they managed to identify the serpent - it was a dwarf beaked snake. This particular species is found throughout Namibia but is historically restricted to more rocky terrain. The snake stuck around, allowing the guests a couple of photographs before slithering away. A very special sighting indeed.

The bird ringing project is going very well, with Kobus being able to ring over 50 species. This is a very important project as it will provide us with some important information regarding the breeding dynamics and distribution of the Namibian birds. The latest additions to the species list being ringed are Ruppell's Korhaan and Double-banded Courser.


Kulala Wilderness Camp update - September 2011               Jump to Kulala Wilderness Camp

No report this month.


Kenya camps
Governors' Camp update - September 2011               Jump to Governors' Camp

No report this month.


Rwanda camps
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge update - September 2011

No report this month.


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