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AFRICAN SAFARI NEWS

April 2012

(Page 1 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.


GENERAL UPDATES
Community Outreach Programme - Selinda Camp
Selinda Camp has been working closely with the Big Cats Initiative which was launched by Dereck and Beverly Joubert and the National Geographic Society in order to combat the drastic decline in the world's big cat populations, such as lion. We are proud to be part of the Big Cat Initiative which includes programmes such as "Caring about Communities that Care about Big Cats" that has recently begun in Botswana.

January saw the launch of the Big Cat Initiative in the villages surrounding the Okavango Delta including the villages where our community outreach operates. The Big Cat Initiative, together with our community outreach, visited primary and secondary schools in Gudigwa, Beetsha, Gonotsoga and Seronga.

The aim of these visits was to convey educational messages and raise public awareness of the fast-declining population of big cats worldwide, including the wildlife areas that neighbour their community. Each school was invited to attend a presentation at the end of the school day.

Community Outreach Programme - Selinda Camp  Community Outreach Programme - Selinda Camp  Community Outreach Programme - Selinda Camp

These education and public awareness presentations consisted of:
- Educating the school (including the teachers) about the interesting and fun facts that they didn't know about any of the big cats.
- Bringing their attention to the rapid decline of big cats in the world, Botswana and their own wildlife areas.
- Speaking to the communities about the natural connection that big cats have to the rest of the environment, the reasons for the fast decline of big cat populations and the negative impact it would have on the environment if we no longer have these animals.
- Teaching the children through innovative games how we can learn life lessons from these big cats, including learning how to work in a team as a "Pride of Lion" would when hunting.

Besides the presentations, the schools were handed donations of wildlife books and wildlife films by Dereck and Beverly Joubert. The pupils watched one of the films from the donated packages; Relentless Enemies, which was viewed with great enthusiasm by all of the children and their teachers.

Through this program we have assisted in educating and bringing big cat awareness to approximately 2200 children. The next few months will see the Big Cats Initiative "Pride" expand into more communities within the Okavango Delta and other wildlife areas in Botswana and we look forward to following the success of this awesome program.

Our Community Outreach Programme has also been active with expanding our craft product line to include beaded jewellery, baskets and hand stitched purses which will be shortly available within the camp curio shops. We are also busy planning a two-day conservation workshop at Gudigwa Primary School during the April school holidays as part of our Children's Conservation Programme. We look forward to spending more time with these children, learning together.



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WILDLIFE NEWS
Tragedy Strikes Mombo Leopard
Sighting: Tragedy strikes one of Mombo's leopards
Location: Mombo Camp, Chiefs Island, Botswana
Date: 16 April 2012
Observers: Tshepo Phala and Robert Houston
Photographs: Roger Houston

Pula, the daughter of the famous Legadema, has faced a dramatic lesson in life. She has been raising her first litter of two cubs with some success for the last few months, and has proved a delight to observers watching her as she goes about the task of hunting for and feeding the two youngsters.

Tragedy started to stalk her when the father of these cubs, Lebadi, was ousted in a territorial battle with a new male leopard in the area, Serondela. Male leopards, as well as other big cats, will instinctively kill any cubs sired by their predecessors in order to halt their gene progress and bring the females into a swift oestrus in order to proliferate their own genes.

Hyaena cought Leopard    Hyaena cought Leopard

This is what happened a few days ago when our guide Tshepo Phala was alerted to something going on by the whooping of hyaena near Eastern Pan. Moving in for a closer look, he and his guests saw several hyaena milling around, before seeing one of them running with a leopard cub in its jaws.

In this frenzied activity and noise, guide and guests initially failed to notice Pula sitting on a branch close to their position, looking angrily at the hyaena. She charged at them, but to no avail - there were too many of them, and the cub was already dead.

While they initially assumed the hyaena had attacked Pula and her cubs, everything became clear when the Serondela male appeared on the scene. He walked around looking up into the trees as if looking for the remaining cub, while Pula hissed vehemently at him.

Pula seen at Mombo

The guides spotted the cub tucked deeply under a bush a few metres from Pula, and by examining it through binoculars, found it to be still alive. The male leopard kept prowling around, however, and everybody watched with bated breath.

Eventually the male lost interest, and lay down a short distance from Pula, who was hidden from his view. This was the scene we had to leave as darkness fell, and have not seen the other cub in the days since then, so we fear it has also not survived.


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CAMP UPDATES
ZAMBIA
Kafue Rivers and Plains Update
Please be advised that the itinerary for our Kafue's Rivers & Plains Exploration trip in Zambia has changed for the forthcoming season. Lufupa Bush Camp will not be opening for the 2012 season due to low occupancies. Kaingu Safari Lodge, situated on the Kafue River in the Central Kafue, will replace Lufupa Bush Camp in 2012 and 2013. Activities at this camp consist of guided walks, game drives, boat/fishing cruises and visits to local villages.

Lufupa Bush Camp Closure
Lufupa Bush Camp will not open for the 2012 season due to low occupancies and a concomitant decision to upgrade Musanza Tented Camp in the central Kafue. All existing bookings at Lufupa Bush Camp will be moved to Musanza Tented Camp if available, or alternatively Busanga Bush Camp in the northern Kafue, and the rate quoted will be honoured. Should Musanza or Busanga be unavailable, we are using a property called Nanzhila Plains. It has a fantastic location in the Central Kafue, complimenting the areas in which we operate, and great negotiated rates if Wilderness place the booking.

Musanza Tented Camp Upgrade
Prior to opening on 1 June 2012, Musanza Tented Camp will be increased from a 12 to 16 bed camp (8 twins + accommodation for 2 guides). New meru tents with open-air bathrooms will replace the old tents, piped hot and cold water will replace the bucket showers, solar power will be installed and a completely new main area built. Musanza will be used on the Kafue's Rivers & Plains Explorations itinerary and some series, but will be open for FIT bookings on all other dates.

River Club Spa & Gym
After the unfortunate fire last year, we are pleased to advise that the new spa and gym at the River Club is scheduled to open this Easter Weekend, Friday 6 April 2012. Although the location of the building has changed, the offering remains the same.


MALAWI
Wilderness Safaris Malawi launches Rhino Tracking Experience
April 2012 – Wilderness Safaris Malawi is thrilled to announce the launch of an exciting new activity – the Rhino Tracking Experience – for guests of Mvuu Camp and Mvuu Lodge in Liwonde National Park. The Experience comprises an introduction to the plight of the black rhino, a three-hour guided walk into rhino territory, conducted by armed Rhino Protection Team (RPT) scouts and Wilderness Safaris guides, and ends with a delicious bush breakfast or dinner. In this way, guests have the unique opportunity of tracking black rhino and seeing them on foot, whilst also getting involved in the practicalities of monitoring – all the while contributing to rhino conservation in Malawi. Please contact your Journey Specialist for more information.

Children in the Wilderness (CITW) News
CITW Malawi made a recent donation of books and an encyclopaedia CD set (on wildlife and environmental conservation) to Nanthomba Primary School in Malawi. This was done to further enrich the Nanthomba Library with a wider range of books.


EXPLORATIONS SAFARIS
No report this month.


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Seychelles
North Island Update - April 2012              Jump to North Island

Despite hawksbill turtle mothers being rather fussy when choosing a suitable nest site for their eggs, after the laying, progressing beach erosion can be a real danger to nests laid too low on the beach. You can hardly blame the mother for not being so far-sighted!

North Island's interest in turtles started as far back as 1998, four years before the lodge construction and just after the island purchase in 1997. Some Wilderness Safaris guides, working in southern Africa, came on holidays to North Island, and their early notebooks form an interesting log on how different things were before we started our large-scale rehabilitation. They also made notes on turtles and turtle tracks seen, even reported wandering farm cows having trampled on turtle nests, and started with marking off a few nests.

Unhatched eggs     Hatched egg

After the successful rat eradication in September 2005, the resident environment team still had to spend a lot of time on checking whether all rodents were indeed eradicated. Hence the beaches did not benefit from daily patrols at the time, and reports of eggs washing away were not uncommon.

Over the last four years, however, patrolling frequencies have been stepped up thanks to an increase in environmental staff, with monitors having received good training and acquired increasing experience over the years. All this has paid off with a substantial increase in information on numbers of females emerging, seasonality, movements confirmed through tagging, and information on nest survival, thus contributing to the national knowledge of the populations in the Seychelles.

But perhaps even more directly benefiting the species' survival is the fact that daily patrols can make sure that our guests can have the opportunity of seeing such an incredible occurrence, yet without disturbing the animals' reproduction - an excellent combination that is the hallmark of good ecotourism!

These patrols also ensure the proper marking of all nests. Such marked nests, logged also on maps, allow for daily monitoring and timely translocations of those threatened with being washed away.

North Island Hawksbill Turtles Nesting area

We previously spoke about our general "watch-but-do-not-touch" approach, with nests being dug up strictly only when threatened by progressing beach erosion, or standing water accumulating on top (sea water spilled over after spring tide, or rainwater washing onto the beach). This year has been no exception, and together with the previous hawksbill turtle season, a substantial increase in emerging females (also recorded on other islands in the Seychelles) has resulted in a lot more nests having to be saved. Depending on the situation, some were re-buried higher up on the berm, whilst others were taken to the office in foam boxes filled with sand. Both techniques have been and continue to be very successful, and guests and staff have been made part of this exciting work.

The nests in the office particularly have given a wealth of information on what turtle eggs and hatchlings are all about. The normal hatching time is two months after laying, and all nests are carefully monitored. After release of all successfully hatched babies, and as per specialist advice, we give the remaining unhatched eggs an additional 10 days, before they are opened for research purposes. Their contents are carefully recorded and DNA material taken and sent to the chelonian experts we closely work with.

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Botswana Camps
Kings Pool Camp update - April 2012               Jump to Kings Pool Camp

Weather and Landscape
The rainy season has taken its leave early and we received no rains in April. The land is fairly dry already - the mopane trees and Kalahari apple leaf trees are starting to lose their leaves.

Temperatures have been quite hot during the day, cooling down nicely in the evenings. We are slowly starting to prepare for winter and it's almost time to get those woollies out.

Wildlife
General game viewing has been spectacular this month. The zebra are returning from their annual migration and have started lining up along the Linyanti River front. Warthog and impala are often seen in and around camp as they forage for the best titbits. Giraffe can be seen browsing on succulent leaves in the riverine woodland and herds of kudu dissolve into the thick mopane woodland while red lechwe frolic in the shallow waters of the Linyanti floodplains.

The LTC Pride, consisting now of two females and one subadult male, has frequently been seen at Kings Pool. One of the females has three newborn cubs which we saw for the first time on 1 April. Another female was observed killing a huge kudu bull on her own - an incredible sighting that showed just how brutal and powerful these beasts can be. The kudu bull fought long and hard but after a struggle that lasted over half an hour, he was overcome by fatigue. Due to the noise the kudu was making, after an hour the rest of the pride arrived with the big male. Just 500 metres from where the lions were feeding on the kudu bull, another guide found one of our resident male leopards with an impala kill on the ground. He was fully aware that the lions were around because he could hear them growling at each other.

Lion at Kings Pool Camp  Leopard at Kings Pool Camp  Lion at Kings Pool Camp

One dominant male lion that patrols the area around Kings Pool has been seen on many occasions and his roaring echoes spread through the night, keeping us all wondering how close he is to camp. One morning the guides found him mating with one of the LTC females and we are hoping that this will produce some offspring in the near future.

Leopard sightings have been very good this month. An adult female has been spotted with four impala kills this month and one of them was very close to camp, which proves how successful she is. One of these kills turned into a confrontation when three hyaenas challenged her for the meal. She fought hard with the first hyaena, but two more hyaenas came in and their strength and numbers were too much, and she eventually gave up her dinner.

We have seen five other individuals during April who have all been successful with their prey. It is always a treat to spot one of these elusive cats in the wild and we enjoy every second we get to spend with them.

We have seen the wild dog pack twice this month. Their nine subadult young are all still doing very well. These energetic canines have huge territories and they are permanently on the move, only settling down during the denning season which is coming up very soon - so watch this space!

Elephant were seen often in large numbers this month. The resident bulls are constantly ambling through camp, feeding on the vegetation and giving us superb close up views. In the afternoon we see big herds crossing the Linyanti River to or from Namibia. The mopane woodland also still holds vast amounts of elephant as some of the pans are still full of water and the mopane trees are a major source of food for the jumbos.

Elephant at Kings Pool Camp    Monkey at Kings Pool Camp

Birding
The birdlife in the Linyanti is staggering. This is due to four habitats blending into one: wetlands, riparian woodlands, grasslands and mopane forest.

We have seen three Critically Endangered Wattled Cranes around our sunken hide. It's a treat to be able to view these rare creatures as it is estimated that there are only 7 000 left worldwide.

The raptors are always plentiful around Kings Pool - African Fish Eagle, Bateleur, Tawny Eagles, Wahlberg's Eagle and Hawk Eagles are seen most often.

Staff in Camp
Management: Alex & One Mazunga, Julie Sanders, Koziba Maphorisa & Kenny Lugayeni (Executive Chef)
Guides: Ndebo Tongwane , Kahn Gouwe and Lemme Dintwa

Photographs: Alex Mazunga
Newsletter by Alex Mazunga

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DumaTau Camp update - April 2012               Jump to DumaTau Camp

Weather and Climate
The weather in April was sunny and warm, with a high temperature of 34°C and a low of 14°C. The temperature here has dropped significantly in the late evenings and early mornings, and we are grateful for the smell of hot pancakes sizzling on the grill as we get ready to head out for the first drive of the day. Out in the bush there is plenty to see, and we are happy to report that April was an extremely productive month here at DumaTau.

Wildlife
This month we were surprised by a wild dog showdown and kill in camp. The Zibadianja Pack of seven dogs and the larger Linyanti Pack of 17 dogs were fighting close to camp and running around the boardwalks. It appeared that they had spread out and left, but a few minutes later the pack ran in front of the main area and we heard the unmistakable sounds of an antelope being killed. The dogs had taken down a subadult kudu right next to the boma. Those of us privy to the sighting jumped into the closest car to snap a few pictures and watched in amazement as the dogs tore the kudu apart and ate it with lightning speed, while at the same time the defeated Zibidianja pack ran off through the brush. After the dogs were finished with the carcass they went to rest in the middle of the road leading into camp, welcoming all the retuning vehicles and nearly preventing a few guests from reaching the airstrip on time. This was, however, one roadblock that everyone thoroughly enjoyed.

Elephant seen at DumaTau Camp

This particular sighting was representative of the current state of the two local packs. The Linyanti Pack is healthy and strong, keeping to their regular territory that extends from as far as Linyanti Tented Camp, along the Linyanti River to Savuti Camp. The opposing Zibadianja pack, comprising three adults and eight juveniles, appear weaker than their neighbours. They have split up into two groups and have not been seen since the battle in camp.

Our resident male leopard, the DumaTau Male, has continued to provide fantastic photographic opportunities, leading some to believe that he is "posing" for the camera! His nighttime walks through camp are frequent, and he has been seen with two females on two different occasions. He was seen mating with the Zib Female, who we occasionally see on the northern bank of the Savute Channel, but we are doubtful as to the effectiveness of his mating attempts, and wonder if they will produce any young. Whatever the outcome, we enjoy his presence immensely, and are always pleased to see his tracks in camp.

Lion have certainly been a wildlife highlight this month. The Savuti Female has three healthy cubs: a female and two males. Their father is Mavinyo's brother, the dominant male of the DumaTau Pride. This pride operates on the southern bank of the Savute Channel, trying to avoid the larger pride. On one very tense morning, guests watched as the large pride of 14 discovered the new cubs, their mother, and the dominant male on a kudu kill. They chased the lone lioness away, and we feared that they might harm the helpless cubs. We were relieved to hear that the pride was simply curious. They played with the cubs and left them there. A few weeks later the lioness and her three youngsters were discovered together, and they appear to be thriving.

Our busy male lion seems to prefer to spend time with the Savuti Female and her young, perhaps to protect his new cubs. He may also be hoping to benefit from the expert hunting skill of this brave lioness, and the lack of competition at mealtime from a hungry pride of 14! The big pride continues to operate between our area and the Selinda Reserve. The lions look healthy and are usually seen with full bellies. They normally target zebra and kudu, though this month they also enjoyed feeding on a large elephant carcass (the elephant died of natural causes).

Wild dog showdown at DumaTau Camp    Wild dog showdown at DumaTau Camp

In other news, there is a bushpig foraging in the staff village every night - an unusual sighting indeed! The elephants are here to stay, and bulls traipse over and around the boardwalks every day.

The migrant birds are gone, but we still enjoy plenty of birding, with lots of lovely owl sightings to report, including Giant Eagle Owls, the Barred Owlet and the Pearl-spotted Owl. We hear the Scops Owl nearly every day in camp.

Of course, not a month goes by without a pangolin sighting, and April was no exception. We had two separate sightings this month, with one spotted in the mopane woodland east of camp, and a second one seen on the transit road between the camp and Kings Pool.

All in all, April was a fantastic month at DumaTau, and we believe that winter will be wonderful too. We may be apprehensive about the drop in temperature, but we also know that this is a sign that more incredible game viewing is on its way.

Staff in Camp
Managers: Gerard, Claire, Ben, Abiella and Rose
Guides in April: Bobby, Mocks, Moses, Name and Tank
Photographs: Abiella

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Savuti Camp update - April 2012               Jump to Savuti Camp

Over the weekend, Savuti Camp guests had the sighting of a lifetime when a lioness jumped out of the thick vegetation and killed a kudu on the bank of the Savute Channel - just across from the camp. Some guests even sat on their room decks and watched it all unfold.

Once the kudu had expired, the lioness dragged it into the thick vegetation. After tea, the vehicles crossed the Channel to get a closer look. Once the guides got there they discovered that the female had three young cubs with her.

Lion Sighting at Savuti Camp       Lion Sighting at Savuti Camp

The cubs and their mother were very relaxed and they came out in the afternoon sun to play before disappearing back into the bushes. Since then we have seen her and her cubs every day from the deck of camp. She seems to have her timing perfect, coming out just around teatime for everyone to enjoy before heading out on the afternoon drive.

We will continue to keep an eye on her, and here's hoping that she is able to remain in her safe haven on the south bank - that way, we will be able to watch her cubs grow from the comfort of the Savuti Camp deck!

Pictures by Stuart Parker

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Zarafa Camp update - April 2012               Jump to Zarafa Camp

Many guests have taken up our offer for "breakfast to go." We deliver tea and coffee to your room with your wake up call and when you are ready we take you straight out into the field in order to maximise the best morning light. We even had some guests going out super early who had breakfast on our houseboat so they could watch the sun rise from the lagoon with a coffee and croissant in hand.

The elephants are here in force as the wet season was not so wet this year. This means the waterholes surrounding us are drying up fast, so they come into the marshes to drink, giving us daily sightings.

Hippo are a guarantee at Zarafa, it is just a question of how you want to see and hear them! Night drives aplenty this month has allowed them to be seen feeding out of the water.

Antelope seen at Zarafa Camp  Tortoise seen at Zarafa Camp  Cheetah seen at Zarafa Camp

Easter was great fun with treasure hunts for the children, and we even decided the Easter bunny could be replaced by the springhare, seen on the night drives.

Lions, lions, lions were the order of the month. For a week they were camped by the airstrip gorging on a buffalo carcass. Many of our guests were treated to the pride of 15 lionesses and cubs only five minutes into their visit.

A brief cheetah sighting up north saw the boys making a kudu kill, keeping them stationary for a while.

Wild dog came up trumps for many of our guests including a group who saw them hunting whilst on a walk. Quite safe, they ignore humans and focus on the impending subject which was impala this time: an amazing sighting.

Bird seen at Zarafa Camp  Crane at Zarafa Camp  Mongoose seen at Zarafa Camp

And that is just the game viewing! We also had hundreds of candlelit dinners, dinners in the bush, lunches on the boat, all day picnics to the north of the concession, singing and dancing whenever the staff had an excuse, breakfast in bed with a Zarafacino, croissants in the bush with home-made marmalade, the best chocolate brownies in the southern hemisphere, and much more!

Zarafa is a place of tranquillity, peace, luxury, relaxation and we had all this and more in April and for the more adventurous amongst our guests there was lots of bush walks with a particularly fantastic siting of a genet in the daytime.

Staff
Congratulations to one of our guides Josh Iremonger who completed a canoe trip down Lake Tanganyika recently, smashing the world record by completing it in 22 days. Go Josh, and good luck in canoe trails season that has just commenced.

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Selinda Camp update - April 2012               Jump to Selinda Camp

Selinda Camp has been working closely with the Big Cats Initiative which was launched by Dereck and Beverly Joubert and the National Geographic Society in order to combat the drastic decline in the world's big cat populations, such as lion. We are proud to be part of the Big Cat Initiative which includes programmes such as "Caring about Communities that Care about Big Cats" that has recently begun in Botswana.

January saw the launch of the Big Cat Initiative in the villages surrounding the Okavango Delta including the villages where our community outreach operates. The Big Cat Initiative, together with our community outreach, visited primary and secondary schools in Gudigwa, Beetsha, Gonotsoga and Seronga.

The aim of these visits was to convey educational messages and raise public awareness of the fast-declining population of big cats worldwide, including the wildlife areas that neighbour their community. Each school was invited to attend a presentation at the end of the school day.

 Community Outreach Programme      Community Outreach Programme

These education and public awareness presentations consisted of:

- Educating the school (including the teachers) about the interesting and fun facts that they didn't know about any of the big cats.

- Bringing their attention to the rapid decline of big cats in the world, Botswana and their own wildlife areas.

- Speaking to the communities about the natural connection that big cats have to the rest of the environment, the reasons for the fast decline of big cat populations and the negative impact it would have on the environment if we no longer have these animals.

- Teaching the children through innovative games how we can learn life lessons from these big cats, including learning how to work in a team as a "Pride of Lion" would when hunting.

Besides the presentations, the schools were handed donations of wildlife books and wildlife films by Dereck and Beverly Joubert. The pupils watched one of the films from the donated packages; Relentless Enemies, which was viewed with great enthusiasm by all of the children and their teachers.

 Community Outreach Programme

Through this program we have assisted in educating and bringing big cat awareness to approximately 2200 children. The next few months will see the Big Cats Initiative "Pride" expand into more communities within the Okavango Delta and other wildlife areas in Botswana and we look forward to following the success of this awesome program.

Our Community Outreach Programme has also been active with expanding our craft product line to include beaded jewellery, baskets and hand stitched purses which will be shortly available within the camp curio shops. We are also busy planning a two-day conservation workshop at Gudigwa Primary School during the April school holidays as part of our Children's Conservation Programme. We look forward to spending more time with these children, learning together.

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Kwando Safari Camps Update - April 2012

Kwando Concession
• No report for this month.

Lagoon camp               Jump to Lagoon Camp
• The three brother cheetahs were seen in the area this month, and we spent some time following them. Completely relaxed with us around, they continue their days unimpeded by the click of camera shutters. We were lucky enough to see them hunt a young zebra, and bring it down working as a team.
• The Lagoon pack of dogs are doing as well as ever, and were seen catching impala this month. The pack is reaching a size where some of the adult dogs may decide to disperse – often this is the dogs that were born two litters ago as they look at joining or creating a pack of their own. This allows for better dispersal of genes, and as the denning season approaches, with more mouths to feed with a new litter, it will be harder to hunt enough to feed everyone.
• Although there are still plenty of varieties of birds to see, all the summer migratory birds have left again for the winter. The guides have noticed a slight drop in the number of raptors that they see during the day, which indicates that they may have been attracted to better hunting of rodents and other small reptiles in other areas. There have been a few early fires in areas outside the concession, and this clearing of vegetation is usually a major drawcard for the raptors, as the animals have no protection from, literally, eagle-eyes.
• The hyena den is proving a popular night time stop, as the mother diligently raises her two young ever-curious cubs. It's still quite unusual to have just one female on her own, but since hyenas can spend long periods of time away from their clans, it may be that we have just not been at the right time to see any other members at the den.
• The buffalo herds are back in force – and large numbers! We have also had excellent sightings of roan, sable, eland, zebras, tssesebes and a lot of other general game. Unusual sightings in camp have been a porcupine, snuffling around the staff village, and a chameleon spotted close to the main area. These fascinating creatures are not well-liked in many African cultures, due to their ability to change colour, but many guides overcome the childhood stories, and are eager to show guests its many hidden talents!

Lebala camp               Jump to Lebala Camp
• April is the first sign of the changes of season, with the approach of winter. The evening temperature drops to around 15 degrees Centigrade, but during the day it still ranges between 26 and 35 degrees. The cooling early morning temperatures with a high humidity create a lingering mist, especially over patches of water.
• This is the month that the flood waters of last year have receded as much as possible, before the new years flood water moves in. This encourages herds of elephants, zebras, giraffe and other animals to move to the waters edge. Natural rainwater pools are drying up, and turning green. Single male buffalo, that like wallowing in any available mud, also move into the area, attracting lions and other predators.
• In the middle of the month, on an evening drive, impala were heard alarm calling in the vicinity of the airstrip, and adding to that, the call of the side striped jackal. Investigating further, the jackal was followed until it came close to a leopard who was holding on to a recently killed wildebeest calf. Following up the next day, it was discovered that the leopard had lost its kill to other predators, as he had not put the carcass in a tree for safe keeping.
• The 17th was a special day for guides and guests, as a morning drive witnessed an extremely rarely seen event: the birth of a baby elephant. A breeding herd of elephants were seen close to the road, surrounding another female for protection, and kicking sand over an area on the ground. After waiting for half an hour, watching this unusual behaviour, we were lucky enough to witness the birth. Soon, the little baby was on his feet, after some encouragement from mum, and was throwing his tiny trunk around not sure what to make of it! Elephants take some months to learn how to use their trunks, and allow the muscles to develop and strengthen. Until then, it is often just something to trip over!
• We also saw some interesting lion sightings this month: four lionesses that spent most of a day relaxing on top of the termite mound, before moving off into the night and killing a wildebeest not far from the camp. The next day, we spotted a male lion moving off from another kill. Twelve hyenas quickly moved into the take over the spoils, but chaos ensued with the arrival of vultures, both species insistent on having their own piece of the carcass. The day after that, a shy lioness was seen disappearing into the bush with another male, and two cubs, about 9 months old. She was seen again later in the month with two males, this time much more relaxed.
• The pack of 11 dogs (8 young and three adults) were seen several times this month, as were the northern pack of dogs (11 adults and 9 young). Each time they were seen attempting to hunt, but were unsuccessful at that time.
• Perhaps thinking they had discovered a new species, one morning drive guests pointed out a very shiny animal… On closer inspection, this turned out to be two warthogs that had just had a wonderful mudbath, and were now relaxing in the sun waiting for the mud to dry. The sun shining on the wet mud, and had made the warthogs look like they had on a reflective carapace!

Kwara & Little Kwara camps               Jump to Kwara & Little Kwara camps
• There was often not much need to go out of camp to see the animals this month… the ever-present elephants were even more permanently stationed at their posts in camp, vacuuming up the marula fruits that were ripening. Luckily, this left them mostly off the paths to the rooms, with only the occasional foray into guest 'territory'.
• But it wasn't just elephants that made an appearance this month… around 11am one morning, a lioness sauntered nonchalantly through camp, ignoring the bug-eyed guests and staff standing 10metres away in the carpark, and then proceeded to hunt the impalas and baboons that had decided the camp was a safe place to hang out. Being broad daylight, the animals spotted the lioness and left the area with a little less decorum than the guests.. Not to be outdone, the lioness chased them between the tents and across the floodplain in front of camp, making sure that the remaining cars that were returning from game drive had a good chance for a few photographs. A few minutes later, during brunch, the lioness's mate was spotted several hundred metres away in the floodplain to the west of the camp. Desperate to catch up with his lady, but not as confident about being near a busy camp in broad daylight, he took a huge detour around the area.
• So apart from the elephants, lions, baboons, impalas and hippos that we saw in camp, it was still actually worth going out on drive. This month we had great cheetah and lion sightings, including the three male cheetahs feeding on an imapala carcass. Lions spent some time hanging out around the airstrip and there was a lovely sight of one of the big males walking the length of the airstrip, roaring. The game drive cars vibrated with the resonance of the roar. And so did the guests, though they were perhaps shaking more than vibrating… At the end of the runway, the lion made a sensible decision, and opted to use the bridge rather than wade through rather chilly water. Clambering up on the wooden bridge, he looked ever the curious cat as he patted the poles on the side of the bridge, perhaps to be assured of their strength.
• Amongst the last car to return back from drive one evening, some guests were listing the things that they had seen out on drive: elephants, giraffe, zebra, jackal, kudu, hippos, and so on. Mentioning, as an afterthought the last animals they had seen on the way back, 11 dogs of some kind. Thinking this was a 'lost in translation' moment we waited for the guide to check if they actually meant hyenas. But no, wild dogs it was. As the dogs are active during the day, we cannot view them at night with the spotlight without risking affecting their night vision, so on bumping into the dogs on the way home from a night drive, the guide had left them be and moved on. But the next morning everyone was keen to try and locate them again for a proper look. It took a lot of tracking, but they were located again in the Splash area, and over the next two days were seen several times hunting and feeding on impala. They then returned to the direction that we view as their 'home', probably in the northern Khwai region. However, since they were seen here last month and this month, there is hope that their territory is broadening to include the Kwara area, perhaps on a more permanent basis.
Following the recommendations of the fishing serval from last month, many guests this month enjoyed a midday boat trip to try out their own fishing skills, to great success. One group caught 14 fish, in a fairly short space of time, and released them back into the delta. The varieties caught included catfish, African pike, and tilapia or bream.

Nxai Pan               Jump to Nxai Pan camp
• Although most of the zebra have moved on from the park in search of fresher grass, the ones that remain are more than sufficient for the predators around. The cheetahs – the mother with the two young – are being seen most days, and although an adult zebra is too big a prey for her, they are just the right size for the lions that are ever-present in the area.
• With no rain in April - a normal year would generally see at least one or two showers in this month – the animals are congregating at the artificial water holes to quench their thirst. For most animals, this is a risky business, as there is invariably a predator wanting to quench their thirst – and possibly their hunger – at the same location. It's a matter of timing. The bossy elephants will shove everyone out of the way – including the lions, which they will 'shove' with even greater enthusiasm – and siphon up gallons at a time. If the antelope and zebra can sneak in to drink at the side whilst the elephants are still there, it might be the slightly safer option!
• Although jackals are seen every day, it's rarer to see the pretty bat-eared foxes. These are predominantly nocturnal animals with huge ears that they use to pinpoint the location of their prey – rodents, lizards and scorpions. We were able to see a group of three of these foxes a couple of times this month.
• One of the highlights this month was seeing a martial eagle, on two separate occasions killing guinea fowl and feeding on the catch.

Tau Pan               Jump to Tau Pan camp
• A great sighting this month of seven bull elephants striding across the Kalahari close to San Pan. Very rarely seen in the Kalahari, due to the lack of availability of water, any sighting of them is special and sticks in the guides memory. They marched along in single file, and on realising that a vehicle was in the area as well, they stopped and grouped together, as if to discuss about this new sighting… after a brief conversation they moved back to single file and headed off into the distance.
• Another unusual sighting was of two adult wild dogs with three young. They were seen running from side to side in the direction of Pipers Pan, trying to hunt. The territory that they cover in the Kalahari is huge – it is dependent on the amount of game and water availability – so the chances of seeing them is quite rare. We also had a few nice sightings of leopards this month, one close to the airstrip, and another in the direction of Passage Pan.
• Without the sounds of city life around, guests generally expect to get a good nights sleep when they are in the bush. But that can be a little hard when there are resident lions in the area, keen to keep a hold of their territory. Anytime an animal has to fight to defend it's territory, there is a risk of the animal being injured. The easiest way to avoid a fight then, is to make sure the other animals know that you are there and you are prepared to defend your territory. If you are a lion, the best way of announcing this is to roar. Loudly. A lot. It's a beautiful, beautiful sound, but not one really conducive to a good nights sleep. Luckily, they wont do it every night, all night. But perhaps that's is why an afternoon siesta is so important?
• So the Tau Pan lions seem to be quite settled after their short disappearance towards the end of last month. Seen most days, they look in good condition, but the guides have been unable to find them on a kill, other than one steenbok (about the equivalent of eating a small cupcake if divided amongst 10 lions,,,) . They must be killing and eating during the night, leaving nothing left to be found in the day. As much as the Tau Pan lions would wish it otherwise, they are not the only ones of their species in the Kalahari. Game drives outside their current territory have met with two shy big males, and another more relaxed male and female that were mating. Could these lions produce the next competition for the Tau Pan area?
• Giraffes have been seen in abundance this month – with groupings of up to twenty – moving across the plains from pan to pan. It's always a delight to see these elegant animals, but in a day trip to Deception Valley we have counted almost one hundred!
• Due to the lack of water, it is also strange to see waterbirds in the area outside of the rainy season. However, at one pan this month, we were able to see cattle and little egrets, comb ducks and hamerkops wandering round the pan together!

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Mombo Camp update - April 2012               Jump to Mombo Camp

The month of April in Mombo has its magic: it is the time when the baobabs' leaves start to change colour and drop, the landscape dries out, but water begins to trickle slowly into the previously arid plains. We had no rainfall this month, unlike last year, and already the area has taken on the dun tinge of winter's cloak. Dust hangs in the air and the sunset makes the sky light up with a spectrum of colour as you only see in the Botswana winter.

The Woodland Kingfishers were the last of the summer visitors still here, although they now have stopped their trilling calls, preparing for the long flight home.

April in Mombo has been a month of big cat action: a drama featuring our usual cast of characters, stories of tragedy, of takeover and challenge, stories of returning prodigals and stories to set the imagination alight.

We found Blue Eyes, the large male leopard, at Wild Sage Pan. He was at the northern limits of his territory and had nonchalantly stashed a fresh impala kill in a tree.

The Serondela male leopard has firmly entrenched himself as the new dominant force in the area since ousting Lebadi resulting in tragedy for Pula's cubs. As a new male enters a territory it is often the case that he will kill any cubs that he encounters in order to swiftly bring the female into oestrus to propagate his own genes. Tshepo and his guests were there to witness this event as it unfolded. They heard a commotion of hyaenas whooping and chittering, and coming to investigate, found a hyaena running with a leopard cub in its jaws. Pula was in a tree close by, helplessly watching the superior number of them making off with the cub. What had happened became evident with the appearance of the male leopard, deliberately walking around and looking for the other cub while Pula hissed vehemently at him.

View over Mombo Camp

The other cub was hidden below a dense bush not far away and was still alive when darkness fell, but the worst was assumed for its survival. A few days later we saw Pula behaving skittishly and fearfully in an area not far from where this had happened, and we assumed the male may have been pursuing her. A week or so later, however, we found her far to the south in the Simbira area, mating with Blue Eyes. This is normal behaviour for a female leopard in oestrus; she will attempt to mate with as many males as she can encounter during this period.

The Serondela male has been seen on a few occasions, often close to the camp - once we found him with a fresh kill in a tree close to Letaka Pan, not 500 metres from camp.

Legadema has been spotted several times this month in all areas of her territory - one notable sighting was seeing her in a huge African Ebony tree, balefully regarding the Mporota lion pride spread out below her. On another day she visited the camp, and in the evening she wandered along the boardwalk past the rooms and bar, prompting us to go into security overdrive as she silently surveyed the camp as if it were her own.

Leopard at Mombo Camp    Leopard at Mombo Camp

The Ngonyama female leopard was also seen a couple of times this month, mainly in the Siberiana Road area.

The Mporota Pride have been very active in the area and we have seen them both together and in their two splinter groups all over their territory. We had some tremendous action of these lion attempting to take over a buffalo kill from the much smaller Western Pride. Mmamoriri, the maned female from this pride, held the lionesses of the Mporota Pride at bay for hours with her fearsome appearance and ferocity, and only gave way when the two Jao Boys from the Mporota Pride appeared.

The Western Pride were seen on several occasions, mainly south of camp between Drift Molapo and Suzy's Duckpond - the absence of the large Mathatha Pride in this area has given this small pride room to move. The Mathatha Pride of eighteen lions still appear to remain in the Simbira area, and we only encountered them on a handful of occasions this month.

A big herd of buffalo, numbering in their hundreds, passed through the concession and remained in the area for around two weeks. The Mporota lions didn't show much interest, apart from when the Western Pride had killed one of them, but surprisingly, Sefo and his guests saw the Jao boys, the ancient males, chase and bring down a young calf from the herd!

Lion at Mombo Camp    Zebra at Mombo Camp

Elephants have once again been seen in numbers. The herd that spends time close to the camp now have two very small babies that are a delight to watch as they get to grips with the rudiments of their trunks.

We came across a giraffe about to give birth one day. We could see her calf's feet sticking out and hoped to be there for the actual moment when it emerged. This turned out to be a rather protracted process, and after six hours of watching, nothing had changed. Disappointed, we had to return to camp as darkness fell, but the following morning we found the mother and a healthy-looking calf.

Other plains game are in their usual abundance. The impala rutting season is in full swing, so there are frantic males everywhere, stiff-legged and bushy-tailed, supercharged on testosterone, either challenging each other or chasing females. This has resulted in many of them running headlong into the clutches of lion.

We see a multitude of zebra, giraffe and lechwe daily which never fail to fill the observer with delight.

Elephant at Mombo Camp

A notable event of the month was the opening of the Tully Tully Bridge which spans the floodplain area coming into camp. Brad and Mary Jean Tully kindly sponsored its construction and came to attend the small ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially declare it open!

Staff in Camp
Guides: Moss, Malinga, Moses, Sefo and Tshepo at Main Camp.
Managers: Graham at Little Mombo, with Vasco, Claire, Nathan, Katie, Ryan and Glen at Main Camp, and Marko performing his inimitable wizardry with the kitchen team.

Pictures by Ryan Green

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Xigera Camp update - April 2012               Jump to Xigera Camp

No report this month.


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Chitabe Camp update - April 2012               Jump to Chitabe Camp

No report this month.


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Vumbura Plains Camp update - April 2012               Jump to Vumbura Plains Camp

April was characterised by some drastic changes in weather and great wildlife sightings. At the beginning of the month the landscape was soaked with water as we had received lots of rainfall in the previous months, but this all changed as we moved further into April. The rain-bearing clouds disappeared, revealing crisp and clear winter skies. The surface water has also started to disappear as it gets soaked up by the soils and sucked up by the sun.

The drying conditions have produced some fantastic sightings, especially of elephant, which have been arriving in huge numbers as they continue with their seasonal migration. Large numbers of baby elephant have been present in the arriving herds; our guides estimated that some of the calves were only a day old. On the subject of youngsters, sable continue to be seen with their youngsters, which is always a special sighting.

Lion seen at Vumbura Plains    Zebra at Vumbura Plains

Despite a slow start for wild dog sightings this month, the charismatic Golden Pack has made an exciting return to the area by killing a young wildebeest right next to one of the guest rooms. This particular day turned out to be an action-packed day as some lions were found on a buffalo kill later on in the afternoon. As we gazed at the Golden Pack in amazement, it became clear that the alpha female is pregnant - great news considering the loss that the pack experienced last month, when one of the adults perished on a hunt. New pups will definitely change the dynamic of the pack, as the Golden Pack currently consists of 20 members, which means if the pending pups are reared successfully, the pack could possibly split. We expect the pack to den sometime in June or July. Apart from being great news for the pack, it is great news for wild dog conservation in general.

At the top of the predator hierarchy, the four male lions continue to dominate the area, providing us with many great sightings as they go about their territorial duties. Quite often, the four impressively large brutes were seen with the rest of the Eastern Pride, which provided the ultimate photographic opportunities.

The large male leopard that patrols the plains was spotted often, while the shy female, which has become known as Selonyana, was only seen a couple of times. It appears her last cub has finally embarked on finding her own territory as the two are no longer seen together.

As far as predators go, the highlight for this month was the cheetah sighting that we were blessed with. Cheetah are very rare in this area, so we were overjoyed when we had a brief sighting of a very impressive male, albeit a brief one. Perhaps as the dry season sets in and the vegetation opens up, we may have more sightings of these fantastic predators.

Boat ride at Vumbura Plains  Flowers seen at Vumbura Plains  Vumbura Plains

The annual inundation has started to creep in, as the various channels and waterways in the area are slowly filling up, while the rest of the temporary surface water dries up. It seems that the inundation has arrived later than last year and may not be as heavy, but this can change overnight as we don't know what Mother Nature has in store for us.

Staff in Camp
Managers: Noko, Cara, Lebo, Ruby, Kago, Mia and Tsidi.
Guides: Lazarus, Zee, Moronga, OB, ST, Ban and Ron.

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Little Vumbura Camp update - April 2012               Jump to Little Vumbura Camp

No report this month.

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Duba Plains Camp update - April 2012               Jump to Duba Plains Camp

Exciting news is that our brand new game drive vehicles have arrived. These have been especially designed by Dereck Joubert with guest comfort in mind and the needs of our semi- and professional photographers staying at Duba Plains. They are perfect for ensuring guests enjoy a fantastic wildlife viewing vantage point and remain dry during the game drives.

The annual inundation has reached Duba Plains, and will continue to flow in over the next couple of months. This alone has made game drives an extremely exciting activity, as the water logged areas require expert measures to ensure that the guests are in the best position to view the action...without getting bogged down in the muddy soils. The new game vehicles ensure that our guests get the best photographic opportunities possible as they are able to get into previously inaccessible places. This has produced some outstanding buffalo and lion interactions.

Lion seen at Duba Plains Camp    Lion seen at Duba Plains Camp

Photographic safaris have been the order of the month, as we hosted many avid photographers with the latest gear, all expecting to get the world-class images which Duba has become renowned for producing. Some of the highlights that we all experienced included African wild cat, Pel's Fishing-Owl in full flight, hundreds of lechwe bounding through the water, male lions, lion cubs, five different kingfisher species and herds of elephant getting fully submerged in the channels.

The new vehicles will allow us to traverse more amazing terrain which was impossible to get too previously. Whether you are a first-time birder, a returning guest or a professional wildlife photographer, you won't be disappointed!

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Banoka Bush Camp update - April 2012

Weather and Landscape
April has been a wonderful time in terms of weather. The mornings have started to get a little cooler with winter around the corner, afternoons are still warm but have a lovely breeze to cool us down. No clouds this month, which only opened our eyes to the heavens. Our guests have been counting the shooting stars each evening whilst sipping on their Amarula liqueurs - the perfect way to conclude any day in the bush.

Wildlife
It is now the end of the rainy season making Banoka's lagoon the local hangout for the kudu, waterbuck, reedbuck and elephant, to name but a few. Watching the animals and how they interact with each other is always fascinating and often amusing.

Lion mating at Banoka Bush Camp    Hippo in lagoon

One of the best sightings recorded for Banoka happened early this month when a pack of six wild dog chased a kudu from the staff village all the way to Tent 10 where they managed to take it down one metre from the entrance! By chance, the two guests at Tent 10 had decided to sleep in, giving them front row seats when they were awoken by the thud of the kudu being tackled. The two guests watched through the window in amazement and pity as the pack devoured the kudu. The pack consumed most of the kudu very quickly and then moved off, leaving the spoils for the hyaena to finish off that evening.

It seems that the camp area was the place for action as a couple days after the wild dog saga, we had a pair of mating lions visit camp. The Banoka Male was found mating with a lioness between the camp solar panels and staff quarters. The pair decided that this spot would be a good place for mating, so they stuck around for four days - hopefully the lioness will produce some new additions to the lion population in the next three months.

Snake seen at Banoka Bush Camp  Snake seen at Banoka Bush Camp  Fish Eagle Seen at Banoka Bush Camp

Reptile action was also a highlight this month at camp. An avian ruckus in some vegetation grabbed our attention and upon closer inspection, we found a Puff Adder in the process of consuming a Burchell's Starling.

The unusual sighting for the month took place along the access road to camp when we found a Mozambique Spitting Cobra gorging itself on francolin eggs. Snakes are naturally opportunistic, so they will exploit any easy food source that presents itself. What was unusual was the way in which the serp got the eggs into its mouth. Unlike egg-eaters (which specialise in eating eggs), this cobra did not wrap itself around the egg in order to keep it from rolling around, but it actually moved its head to a position above the egg, using the ground to push it deep enough into its mouth to be swallowed.

Birds and Birding
Birding has been a thrill this month! We have enjoyed watching the collection of African Darters sunning themselves on top of hippo in the lagoon, also using the hippo as a perch while gulping down their catch.

The beautiful call of the African Fish-Eagle floated through camp on a daily basis, enhancing the wildlife experience.

Guest Comments
"An amazing location complimented by fantastic and hard-working staff who were very knowledgeable about the area and its surroundings. Great to see the lions mating during our last two days. Just got to be careful to not eat too much of the delicious food!"

"What a superb and peaceful stay at Banoka Bush Camp. Very friendly staff, great food and a great location. Our guide Chief was truly superb."

Staff in Camp
Managers: James Moodie, Mamma B and Cheri Ross.
Guides: Chief, Vinny and Willi.

Newsletter by Cheri Ross
Pictures by James Moodie, Cheri Ross and Lopang Rampeba

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Jacana Camp update - April 2012               Jump to Jacana Camp

April has been a delightful month as we have experienced cool and calm weather conditions. Gone are the summer thunderstorms with heavy downpours, while the clear blue skies of autumn have returned. The days are nice and warm, and there is nothing better than to cool off in the middle of the day in our swimming pool whilst watching the playfulness of the otters as they dive and rise in the Delta waters just in front of our deck. Autumn has also brought cooler nights, making it much more comfortable to sleep at night but not too cool to prevent us from sitting around our Boma fire in the evenings dressed only in short sleeves.

Our regular visitors of hippo and elephant are still very much in evidence. One morning, just before dawn, we were woken to the sound of air blowing intermittently down a long pipe, only to realise that a huge bull elephant has made himself comfortable alongside our tent for a long, deep sleep. As we left our tent to start our day, we tip-toed passed this great grey giant, with our torches off, so as not to wake him.

Hippo at Jacana Camp  Antelope at Jacana Camp  Martial Eagle at Jacana Camp

One evening, whilst enjoying a traditional Botswana cultural evening around our boma fire, we had an incredible surprise visit from a large bull hippo. As our guests were discovering their best techniques for eating the traditional papa and seswa with their fingers, we were interrupted by a sudden rustling of the bushes which revealed the bull hippo a mere 10 metres from our chairs. As we started to move our guests to a safer distance, we discovered that the hippo had settled down amongst the bushes and had fallen asleep! We kept an eye on the 'sleeping beauty' while we continued our boma evening, and it wasn't until all of our guests had been walked back to the rooms that the hippo woke up and continued to graze. Quite a remarkable and thankfully peaceful encounter with the bulk grazer.

On two separate occasions this month, we have spared a thought for one of the smaller antelope species - the steenbok. On one occasion, Moruti spotted some movement in a clump of vegetation and upon closer inspection, found a Southern African python consuming a fully-grown steenbok. The other thrilling sighting occurred when we saw a Martial Eagle flying off with a steenbok in its large talons - amazing how much strength this raptor has!

Staff in Camp
Managers: Phil and Jo Oliver
Guides: Timothy Samuel, Moruti Maipelo and Rex Sanyedi.

Newsletter by Phil and Jo

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Abu Camp update - April 2012               Jump to Abu Camp

The annual inundation has arrived in our little corner of the western Delta, and while the experts suggest that this year may not bring a very high peak flood, Abu's water activities are in full swing! Boating, mokoro and fishing are being enjoyed by all, bringing us closer to the fragrant Okavango reeds and clear waters that are bursting with bream, pike and other resident fish species.

Saddle-billed Storks, Wattled Crane and Malachite Kingfishers still dominate the area. Out to the west a pair of Bateleur Eagles are nesting right at the top of a tall knobthorn and our summer migrants - Woodland Kingfishers, various cuckoos and shrikes to mention a few - are slowly leaving the Delta to head north.

The rising waters are once again narrowing the grip of dry land, pushing it back into palm-studded islands. The overflow has the double effect of dispersing certain game species and attracting others: huge herds of elephant are visiting from hundreds of kilometres away to revel in the oasis that the Delta provides in the fast-approaching, rainless winter. Meanwhile, buffalo are abandoning the floodplains for the drier sand-tongues to the south and west of camp.

Lion at Abu Camp    Elephant at Abu Camp

Although Abu's lions, particularly the Golden-eyed Pride, have lain low this month, after one of the subadult males was attacked by a large lone male, leopard have been spotted all over the concession. The beautiful area near Double Baobab played host this month to a female and her two tiny cubs, and a sundowner in the Elephant Boma was interrupted by the distinct sawing calls of a sizeable male a few days later. The next day it was discovered that a young giraffe had met with his bad temper: there was no sign of the formidable feline, but hyaena were circling the injured giraffe, waiting for a bite.

The hyaena have abandoned their previous den and found another just south of the airstrip. We hope this spot is as successful as the last, providing us with many viewing hours of playful pups and docile mothers.

Researcher and environmentalist, CJ Havemann, visited camp this month with a view to collar one of our resident roan to monitor movement and feeding patterns. In a stroke of luck, a beautiful pregnant female was found and collared on the very first afternoon! The days that followed gave good sightings of the rest of the fourteen-strong herd. We hope this project brings many new insights into our unperturbed Delta roan.

Malachite Kingfishers at Abu Camp    Wattled Crane at Abu Camp

As is always the case, our beautiful elephants have provided the most delight. Several new advances have been made in the elephant programme, the first being the introduction of mobile ramps. Strategically placed at key elephant-feeding spots, these ramps ensure that when guests wish to clamber aboard one of our patient giants whilst out in the bush, they may ascend the ramp and hop into the seats above. This reduces dramatically the amount of time that the ellies need to stretch down. Another exciting advance is our new saddles. Lighter in weight and thinner in girth than the previous saddles, they are more comfortable for elephant and people alike.

Warona is slowly starting on solids, which means that her teeth are finally appearing! Until now we have been able to placate her during early morning walks, when her energy is boundless, by giving her a hand to suck on. However, the same activity now will leave you with a slightly chomped and bruised hand - no longer recommended! Abu, our only bull, is as sweet and affectionate as ever, often reaching out to rest his trunk in your hand or walking up for an ear rub.

The Herd is spending less time in the water now, as the weather slowly starts to turn, trading afternoons in the water for sand baths in the warm sun.

Cayley Christos

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Kwetsani Camp update - April 2012               Jump to Kwetsani Camp

Weather and Landscape
Winter is definitely creeping in on us - slowly but surely. The mornings and evenings require us to wear a jacket to keep off the chill. The days on the other hand have been just perfect, not too hot and not too cold. No doubt next month we will be commenting about just how cold it is.

The water levels are reaching the edge of the camp at a rate of about 50cm a day. I put in a level stick to see how much the water is rising in front of camp but an elephant did not like it there so pulled it out.

Wildlife
The game viewing has been very exciting this month. All the predators have been visibly active. A Southern African python was seen trying to swallow a steenbok, which of course is a great sighting. Several leopard kills have been seen; many were 'treed' with the proud leopard feeding on the carcass high above the ground. But I suppose the most exciting news has been the arrival of a small lion pride with tiny cubs on the island.

      Hyaena at Kwetsani Camp

The arrival of the lion on the island began with a violent spat between lion and the hyaena. We know the lions left Jao with five cubs, but only arrived with four on the island, so we are wondering if maybe a hyaena managed to kill one of the cubs? Whatever happened, it is clear that one of the hyaena got badly injured in the confrontation. We first noticed the injury after inspecting the tracks, as it was clear that the hyaena was dragging one of its back legs. This was confirmed when we spotted the individual, which had large gashes across its hind quarters.

The visiting lions have been taking advantage of the prolific game on the island as they have been very active in hunting. Quite soon after arriving on the island, the lioness killed a young warthog and then after a small snack, went to collect the cubs. Unfortunately for the cubs, one of the male lions stole the kill for himself - leaving the cubs hungry and exposed. The cubs soon followed their mother back to the safety of some thick vegetation. The stingy male finished the entire carcass and then rolled over and enjoyed a lengthy nap.

The lionesses were soon again on the hunt, this time focusing on a small herd of lechwe which were feeding in front of camp. This time though, the hunt was unsuccessful. Hunger forced them to hunt again the next day in the same area with the same result. Driven by hunger, the male followed the females on the hunt, probably with the intention of stealing an easy meal once again. The hunting felines soon disappeared into some thick vegetation and we lost sight of them. Later on that afternoon, the females emerged with full bellies, indicating that they were successful in making a kill and keeping it.

Bushbuck at Kwetsanie Camp

The male lion has been following the females closely towards the end of the month, displaying the Flehmen grimace, which tells us that one of the lioness may be coming into oestrus.

The elephants have done their rounds around the camp too, but seldom staying long enough for us to get a sighting from the deck. However, the elephant sightings on the game drives have been phenomenal. The hippo have also provided incredible sightings, entertaining our guests with their honks and grunts.

The impala rut has begun, and it is fascinating to watch them fight for dominance and take ownership of a herd. The giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, buffalo, red lechwe, to name but a few, are a common sighting, and always wonderful to watch in their natural environment. A very young bushbuck fawn has caused a lot of excitement amongst guests in camp, as the tiny antelope is so cute.

Birds and Birding
A juvenile Verreaux's Eagle-Owl has been hunting around camp at night, which is always fantastic to watch. A resident Green Wood-Hoopoe has also been entertaining our guests, as it searches for tasty morsels by turning over pieces of bark and probing every little crevice in the tree trunks, not to mention their energetic call that often erupts after finding some tasty treats.

Staff in Camp
Managers: Dan and Charmaine Myburg.
Guides: MT Malebogo, Florence Kagiso and Ronald Ronald.

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Jao Camp update - April 2012               Jump to Jao Camp

No report this month.


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Seba Camp update - April 2012               Jump to Seba Camp

Weather and Landscape
The cold season is officially upon us. Although winter is not in full swing, the mornings are becoming more and more chilly and the guests are layering up for the morning activities. This is short-lived though, as the midday sun tends to thaw the environment and make life much more comfortable to the point that the guests are utilising the pool in the mid-afternoon. Minimum temperatures are generally around 10° C and maximums around a pleasant 25° C. With the change in seasons, the rain has officially disappeared so this month has been rain-less, although the vegetation is still benefitting from the previous rainfall.

As usual, Seba Camp is surrounded by some of the most beautiful vegetation seen in the Delta. Magnificent African mangosteen trees are always in full bloom, as are the sausage trees and sycamore figs. The large fever-berries also make for a different shade of light green. The marula trees are in full fruit, and this attracts many different creatures, small and large. The world-famous sausage trees are equally as impressive, with their magnificent large fruits hanging for all to see, and these in particular attract the Meyer's Parrot, who enjoys ripping the hard flesh apart.

Elephant at Seba Camp  Hyena at Seba Camp  Hyena at Seba Camp

Wildlife
This month, the elephant have been the main attraction, with many bulls coming into the camp to feed on the falling marula fruits. The elephant are attracted to the very sweet smell of these fruits, and will stay in the immediate area as long as the trees are fruiting, followed closely by the baboon troops who are very entertaining as they quarrel and argue over who gets which snack. The vervet monkeys are much more inclined to eating the many fruits of the sycamore fig trees in the main area, often found munching away alongside the many Green Pigeons.

A small family of bushbuck can also be found prancing between the trees in camp, following in close proximity to the primates due to their higher vantage points for predator alert. Peter's epauletted fruit bats are found elegantly floating around the fig trees at nightfall, almost at eye level due to the high main deck, and are a special sight as they fly from branch to branch searching for the ripest fruits to eat.

A lone hippo bull is also seen quite regularly munching and splashing away in the lagoon in front of camp. Lion have been spotted several times, and leopard are also making their presence known in the immediate area. Hyaena are regular visitors to the camp, and many guests have witnessed their strange beauty as they lumber past the main area during dinner time.

A very exciting day for the guests occurred with Matamo, one of our very experienced guides, on a drive. He spotted several oxpeckers flying from a beautiful baobab tree, and told his guests that there were most likely buffalo in the area. Sure enough, as they followed them, the birds flew straight onto a herd of buffalo. The guests continued to follow the buffalo, and soon were rewarded with an even more incredible spectacle - a beautiful leopard sleeping in a tree. Experience proved to be everything, and Matamo's brilliant knowledge and skill was rewarded tenfold by that amazing experience.

Wattled Crane at Seba Camp  Birds at Seba Camp  Creature at Seba Camp

On the cold-blooded side of the scale, very few reptiles have been found this month due to the change in weather. As it gets colder the exothermic creatures are moving around less and making it more difficult to spot them. The crocodiles are still around the many channels though, and they create lots of excitement among the guests.

Birds and Birding
The magnificent Abu Concession is phenomenal when it comes to birdlife. Around Seba Camp, there have been many different species spotted, particularly the water birds which make the lagoon in the front of camp their home. Species such as Malachite and Pied Kingfishers, Green-backed Herons, Pygmy Geese, African Jacanas, Red-billed Teals and African Crakes are but a few of the aquatic species that have been spotted around the camp.

An uncommon sight that was found during a drive was a beautiful Striped Kingfisher, and although the migratory Woodlands Kingfishers have left the Okavango, some have remained behind.

Many Common Scimitarbills are also found in the camp, along with their cousins the Green Wood-Hoopoe. Bearded Woodpeckers are also heard and seen knocking in the trees around camp. A beautiful African Harrier-Hawk made its appearance during tea one day, and due to the constant badgering from the Fork-tailed Drongos, his beautiful characteristic yellow face turned a pale shade of red, indicating his constant annoyance from the diving drongos. Another unusual spot was the White-browed Coucal which was found rummaging through the bushes outside Tent 1.

Newsletter by James Moodie


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Tubu Tree Camp update - April 2012               Jump to Tubu Tree Camp

The 31st of March 2012 was a special day for us as we celebrated Earth Hour in the best of ways.

Tubu Tree Camp joined in with the rest of the Wilderness camps across the region to celebrate this special occasion by "switching" off. When the guests arrived back at camp after their game drives, there were candles and lanterns on the pathways, not one electric light to be seen, but the lovely 'natural' glow creating a lovely romantic atmosphere. We did allow our guests to switch on their lights in their rooms when they went to freshen up for dinner, but when they came back to the main area it was like a fairy tale of candle lights.

Our whole evening was spent in candle light, not just one hour. We gave a talk on global warming and why we were joining the Earth Hour initiative - the guests loved it. Hopefully this one night has made a difference in our guests' hearts, as we believe that we can all make a difference, no matter how small or big our actions - every single one changes our lives.

Earth Hour  at Tubu Tree Camp    Earth Hour  at Tubu Tree Camp

For those of you that don't know about Earth Hour, here is some information:

In 2007, WWF-Australia inspired Sydney-siders to show their support for climate change action in the first ever Earth Hour event. It showed that everyone, from children to CEOs and politicians, has the power to change the world they live in. In Sydney, Australia, 2.2 million individuals and more than 2,000 businesses turned their lights out for one hour to take a stand against climate change. In 2008, the plan was to take Earth Hour to the rest of Australia. But then the City of Toronto, Canada, signed up and it wasn't long before 35 countries and almost 400 cities and towns were part of the event. It said something compelling to the world: that the climate challenges facing our planet are so significant that change needs to be global. With the invitation to 'switch off' extended to everyone, Earth Hour quickly became an annual global event. It's scheduled on the last Saturday of every March - closely coinciding with the equinox to ensure most cities are in darkness as it rolled out around the Earth. In 2011, Earth Hour saw hundreds of millions of people across 135 countries switch off for an hour. But it also marked the start of something new - going beyond the hour to commit to lasting action on climate change, and with the power of social networks behind the Earth Hour message, their hope is to attract even more participation so they can build a truly global community committed to creating a more sustainable planet.

Compiled by: Hein Holton and Eloise Van der Walt


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Kalahari Plains Camp update - April 2012               Jump to Kalahari Plains Camp

No report this month.


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