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AFRICAN SAFARI NEWS

April 2012

(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 - April 2012               Jump to Pafuri Camp

Weather and Landscape
Daily temperatures have been dropping throughout the month, indicating that winter is on its way. Having said this, we did experience a monthly maximum of 41 °C.

We did not have any rain this month, adding to the already dry conditions that will kick off the end of the wet season.

Wildlife
What an awesome month April was in terms of game viewing, it was absolutely fantastic - leopard, elephant and buffalo were sighted almost every day. All in all we had a total of 23 different leopard sightings which is fantastic!

Leopard at Pafuri Camp  Wardhog at Pafuri Camp  Boabab trees

The 3rd of April was clearly "leopard day" - Godfrey and his guests spotted a large male close to Crooks Corner, enjoying the sighting for around 45 minutes as the large tom stalked an unsuspecting bushbuck. Fortunately for the herbivore, the hunt was unsuccessful, but provided the guests with an amazing sighting nonetheless.

During the same afternoon, Enos was investigating the source of baboon alarm calls emanating from the Fever Tree Forest when he came across a very fresh set of leopard tracks on the road. Shortly after picking up the tracks, a female leopard appeared and then disappeared into the bush. Enos managed to relocate the leopard, which was now in full hunt mode - she was stalking a nyala. As it was dark, we did not want to give either the predator or the prey an unfair advantage, so the game viewers turned off all lights and sat quietly, waiting for story of nature to unfold ... and it did. The leopard caught the nyala shortly after it started stalking. The game viewers were then able to enjoy a great view of the leopard subduing and feeding on its prize - what a build up to an amazing sighting!

The Pafuri Pride of lion made their presence known by killing two baboons at the beginning of the month. Throughout the rest of the month, the pride was seen moving along the Luvuvhu River, often crossing to the southern bank. Towards the end of the month, the pride of eight killed a nyala very close to Tent 13 followed by a buffalo calf a couple of days later in the same vicinity - fantastic sightings right on our doorstep. The young nomads have been seen this month, but it is very hard to predict their movements as they have been sighted all over the concession. With the Luvuvhu River water levels dropping, the Pafuri Pride can easily cross to the southern bank, so we anticipate a drop in lion sightings in the months to come.

The elephant herds are now plentiful along the Luvuvhu River and some herds are seen at the pans along the Limpopo Floodplains. This year is drier compared to other years and the Limpopo River has stopped flowing already, making the Luvuvhu River and the larger pans the only substantial water sources in the concession. For this reason the front of house game viewing is getting better and better every day: elephant, buffalo, and variety of general game are seen coming to drink. Buffalo herds are now moving back to the Limpopo Floodplain as the grass is rapidly getting dry elsewhere.

Pel's Fishing-owl at Pafuri Camp  Staff at Pafuri Camp  Vultures seen at Pafuri Camp

General game is phenomenal, and the game drives are action packed as there is always something to see out there.

Birds and Birding
Most of the migratory birds, such as Lesser Grey Shrike, European Bee-eater and Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, have been seen earlier this month and one by one they started to leave us. However, birding this month continued to be phenomenal, despite the migrants leaving - our resident specials such as Pel's Fishing-owl, Racket-tailed Roller and Three-banded Courser have been sighted.

Camp Activities
We have done educational presentations with some of our guests in camp on certain topics related to wildlife and the Makuleke Concession. We have also sent several of our guest to the Thulamela archaeological site to learn about the past history and culture of the people who inhabited the area. Some of our guests enjoyed visiting the Makuleke community, as they are interested in the current culture - all of these activities adding to the special Makuleke Experience.

Newsletter by Enos
Photographs by Caroline Culbert

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Pafuri Walking Trail update - April 2012               Jump to Pafuri Walking Trail

Monday 9th April - The Trail Begins...
Once the luggage was stowed and the general safety briefing complete, we boarded the vehicle with the intention of being dropped off at the airstrip for the walk into the trails camp on the Luvuvhu floodplain. Once the noise of the departing vehicle had receded, the walk safety briefing was conducted after which the Trail commenced in earnest as we headed off in a westerly direction - and what a first walk it turned out to be!

With impala, warthog and nyala for company and the Green Wood-Hoopoes chattering in the background, we came across the tracks of an elephant bull and of hyaena clearly outlined in the loose, fine sand. We discussed how to identify both fore and hind feet and the direction of travel of the elephant while also looking at the points to look for when trying to distinguish hyaena tracks from those of the cats. As we stood up I glanced towards the pan ahead and saw a herd of buffalo moving into the water. With the wind and cover not in our favour we needed to gain the higher ground to our left, so we back tracked and looped to our right to come in behind the small rise and use the cover of the trees and height to view the herd which was now fully engaged in the muddy pan.

After a silent approach we found a good position and counted over 40 buffalo in the herd which was now drinking and rolling in the sticky mud and then slowly moving off to the north-east towards the airstrip. The big bulls were clearly visible, mud glistening on their backs and wallowing for that extra minute before heading off to join the rest. A great way to start the Trail!

Elephant seen at Pafuri    View of the river

Moving off the small hill, we gave the retreating buffalo a wide berth and headed into the Luvuvhu floodplain walking the distinct game paths heavy with elephant and buffalo tracks. Keeping the river to our left and the magnificent sandstone ridge to our right we soon came across a particularly large termite mound in a clearing and stopped to discuss the very evident damage of an elephant using the mound as a rubbing post. The opportunity was taken to compare the activities of the different species of termite, their behaviours and position in the food chain, before moving off again in the direction of the camp.

Hearing the sound of a vehicle on Luvuvhu West Road, I asked Willem, our back-up guide, for the radio with a view to requesting the vehicle to let us know if they sighted anything of interest as they drove. I had no sooner started calling when the loud crash of a branch falling to earth about 50 metres to our south had me handing the radio back to Willem and signalling for everyone to squat down. The grey bulks of two elephant bulls soon came into view and it was evident they were sparring with one another and occasionally knocking down dead branches in the process. We squatted and viewed them from the safety of some fever-berry trees, but once again the wind was not in our favour and both elephants then stopped what they were doing and sniffed the air. Clearly they could not see us but our scent was definitely in their reach. We lingered a little longer then moved back in the direction of the ridge to leave them in peace. The bulls, however, moved in parallel to us and we still had them off to our left for a while as they continued to spar and jostle each other.

With time moving on and the sun much lower in the west, we resumed our push towards the camp and having just crossed the wide, well established game path which leads to the entrance to Hutwini Gorge on our right, we heard the unmistakable trumpets of the elephant breeding herd in the direction of the road to the south. We switched on the radio to contact the trails camp, only to hear them confirming to the other guides that there were elephants all around the area. With the camp still a fair distance from us to our south-west it was clear the trumpeting we had heard earlier must have come from a different breeding herd and not the one around the camp at the time.

We pushed on making our way more towards the ridge so that we could cut back and approach the camp without the sun in our eyes, the wind unfortunately still being at our backs! With the sounds of the first herd still very evident, we finally reached a good position to cut south towards the road and the camp. Calling up the camp again, they confirmed the elephants in the area had moved off towards Mangala and using that information we cut the road looking for the turnoff to the camp. No sooner had we done so when we saw the original breeding herd to our left some 100 metres away and increased our pace away from them along the road, although still finding time to view some banded mongoose scuttling towards the river and a family of bush pig.

Turning towards the now very close camp, my clenched fist once again flew up to indicate the presence of an elephant bull quietly feeding just off the boundary to the camp. We skirted around him and entered the camp with an exhilarated feeling after having had no fewer than four separate encounters with elephant and one with buffalo on the way in! The first beer tasted particularly good that night around the fire!

Tuesday 10th April - Morning Walk
Notwithstanding the early wake-up call, eventually we managed to get the walk going under grey cool skies. Our intention was to head initially north towards the ridge and the pan just up from Hutwini Gorge, and then follow the ridge back west and around northwards to Mashasiti Spring. As we walked along the tracks of the elephant breeding herds we had encountered the previous evening, it was very clear that they had also headed towards Mashasiti Spring for the night.

We came across the droppings of an African civet and took the opportunity to discuss the habits of the animal. Further ahead Willem indicated the scattering of feathers of an Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove on the ground. We discussed the differences to look for to identify what had killed the dove from the state of the feathers, being either plucked or bitten/chewed off for birds of prey, jackals, cats etc.

The fresh elephant breeding herd tracks heading to the spring were very clear and together with the still quite dense vegetation, we decided to push further west to some open areas before swinging north to Mashasiti. We stopped frequently to listen but nothing apart from baboon alarm calls were heard. Progressing to the small hill we often use as a navigation marker on the way to the spring, we came across some leopard scat.

This conversation was still going on when Willem looking up the path ahead (as all good back-ups should when the lead is engaged in interpretation with guests), urgently hissed, "Elephant!" The big bull was ambling towards us but we wasted no time in gaining the safety of the higher ground of the small hill about halfway up. The bull continued down the path to our front, stopping to feed every now and again. We moved lower down to get a better view and all crouched down to watch as the bull would pass in front of us. Directly to our front, about 40 metres away, he caught our scent and turned towards us trunk up and ears out. The tension within the group was tangible as he continued to advance on us, no thoughts of photos or video as everyone concentrated on the bull now looming large below us.

Pafuri Walking Trails    Animals seen on walking trail

Still with the safety of the slope in our favour, I allowed him to get to about 20 metres before I stood up tall, announcing our presence. Now concentrating on me, he shook his head, trumpeted once, stopped and turned to his left, then turned to advance again. Still standing, I raised my voice and again encouraged him to move on. With a final defiant shake of his head; he walked away around the back of the hill. The nervous burst of chatter was indicative of the tension of the group during this great sighting which I am sure will stay fresh in the memories of the trailists.

With time now moving on and the fresh breeding herd tracks in the direction of the spring still in my mind, I decided to turn towards the ridge, away from the elephant bull, and head back towards Twin Baobabs and Mangala at the river for snacks then the short walk back to the camp downstream.

Coffee was the order of the day on our return and a short rest before lunch. Any idea of an afternoon siesta rest was rudely dismissed, however, by the loud trumpeting of the elephant breeding herd as they came down to the river. We hurried to the western part of the camp near the parked vehicle to watch the now frenzied herd. Cows and calves were sprinting to the river not 100 metres away from us, at least a herd of 30 or more. My earlier gut feel of not progressing to the spring was vindicated!

Tuesday 10th April - Afternoon Walk
We mounted the vehicle and drove to the junction of Luvuvhu East and Nwambe Access road for a short afternoon walk to the Nwambe Pan. We extended our loop into the western tip of the pan as a result of a herd of zebra off to our right and I didn't want to spook them in case anything was at the pan also took flight. On the walk in we came across some exploratory holes dug by an aardvark.

Nwambe proved to be quiet and after taking in the serenity of the environment for a while, we headed back to the vehicle with a view to having sundowners on the river just off Luvuvhu East Road. A great way to end off what had proved to be an eventful day!

Wednesday 11th April - Morning Walk
The group was well on top of things this morning despite the earlier wake-up call and we set off virtually on time by vehicle for the Hlangahluwe Pan on the Limpopo Floodplain. We were dropped off by Nancy and immediately found the shell of a giant land snail, before moving off towards the pan.

Fresh buffalo tracks were evident on the numerous paths into the pan and we made a few listening stops on the way in to ensure all was clear. On the approach into the pan, I looked across the plain to point out some kudu, but instead found two spotted hyaena moving towards the fever trees - but they were too far away to follow.

At the pan, the resident hippo made a brief appearance before diving under the water not to be seen again. With the pan proving to be quiet, we back-tracked to the northern tip of the pan and crossed the open floodplain. On the way we came across a very clear snake track from a very big snake indeed. It was likely to have been a large mature black mamba, so we did not pursue the tracks any further.

We then headed into the fever tree forest but the foliage was still very thick and not worth the risk of going in any further. We retraced our tracks through to the rise overlooking the pan on the opposite side to our original approach from the drop off point on the road and had a break while I scouted the next floodplain on the southern end of the pan as I was planning to skirt this plain on the left next to the riverine forest to gain access to the Mangeba area and the next pan being Jachacha.

Shortly after the group continued, we spotted a large herd of buffalo amongst the tall grass in the middle of the floodplain. We counted around 15 individuals, but could not see if there were more due to the thick grass. It became clear that walking through the floodplain was not an option.

We decided to skirt the floodplain by walking along the edges of the sporobolus grass towards Mangebe Windmill, all the time keeping our eyes on the buffalo herd to our right. Once we arrived at the windmill, we decided to have a look at the small pan which is just over a small rocky ridge, as we popped over the ridge, we heard a large splash, as a large crocodile dashed for the safety of the water in the pan. The crocodile was huge, and we were amazed at how fast they can move on land.

Shortly after our encounter with the crocodile, a large herd of buffalo moved into our line of sight, and was moving to Jachacha Pan for the last drink of the day. We were in a great position, as we were elevated and the wind was in our favour, so we decided to take a seat and watch the herd move in. This was spectacular, as we estimate around 200 buffalo came to the pan for a drink and had no idea that we were watching them - a truly rewarding experience!

Visit around the fire    Visit around the fire

Please with our morning trail, we met up with the vehicle and headed back to camp for an afternoon nap, which was followed by a frolic in the shallows of the Luvuvhu River.

Wednesday 11th April - Afternoon Walk
The afternoon plan was a drive to Reedbuck Vlei via Rhino Boma road where we would look to have a short walk to the eastern tip of Nwambe Pan and then on to the Reedbuck Vlei area to see any water birds and elephant that often visit at this time of the day.

On the drive we came across an elephant bull at the airstrip and after a quick view we left him in peace and moved on. We were also privileged to have sight of a Kori Bustard, a very large terrestrial bird, ambling slowly away from us.

We immediately spotted a number of White-backed Vultures sitting in the trees about 500 metres away to our north-west. So naturally, we decided to investigate. As we got a little closer, we found a pair of black-backed jackals skulking around as well as a Tawny Eagle which was walking on the ground... a good indication that there were no large predators feeding on the carcass. We continued towards the carcass, and suddenly there was a burst of vultures taking off from the ground, further confirming that there were no large predators feeding on the carcass. As we approached closer, we saw that it was an impala carcass, which had been killed not too long ago.

From here, we continued towards the Vlei. The rest of the walk was peaceful and quiet - everyone was clearly taking in the beauty of the fever tree forests. On our way back to the vehicle, we encountered a bush pig saunder, which is also a special sighting.

With the group having to leave early to reach their next destination in the morning an early night was had by all. All too soon the 04h30 wake-up call was rousing everybody from bed with the luggage quickly loaded onto the vehicle. Arriving back at the camp, there were showers for some, coffee and a light breakfast was enjoyed by all before the group departed for Hoedspruit.

A memorable opening trail for the season which was enjoyed by all.

Rhodes Bezuidenhout

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Camp Jabulani update - April 2012              

No report this month.

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Kings Camp update - April 2012               Jump to Kings Camp

The month of April is one of my favorite months as it celebrates the start of the cooler months ahead.

The colours of the bush are so vibrant when the morning dew finds a spot on the vegetation which enhances the colour of trees and grasses. The bush is still very green and the grass quality and quantity is still in abundance is making winter feeding for the grazers and browser good.

April also signals the start of the mating (rutting) season for impala antelope and Vervet monkeys.

The rutting season started earlier than usual. This could be due to the lengthy rainy season we had with unexpected volumes of rain water still around. This sparked mating behavior a bit earlier as conditions are conducive for impala. Normally the rutting season starts towards the end of May. The entire affair lasts approximately 6 weeks. When giving birth, a female impala will isolate herself from the herd whiles the young are usually born after 6 and a half months gestation period. The impala mother will keep the fawn in a hidden spot for a few days or weeks before returning to the herd. The fawn will then join a nursery group and will go to its mother only to nurse. The young impala will suckle for four to six months.

You might have heard that female impala have the ability to delay giving birth for an additional month if conditions are harsh. This is however not true as no animal can increase their gestation period so that it could coincide with the rainy season.

A Whitebacked Vulture

The male impala that are immature or too old or simply not up to standard to compete will join bachelor herds during the rutting season.

For the last 10 years I watched the behavior of our resident troop of Vervet monkeys at Kings Camp. Most recently the socially interacting of a new adult male and a sub-adult male got my interest. I have seen this kind of behavior on several occasions but never photographed it until now. The older and mature male approached the younger male with his tail raised high over his back signaling to the younger male his dominance. In a respectful and submissive manner the younger male made soft and funny noises indicating that he means no harm or aggression to the older one. With immediate effect the younger male started grooming the older monkey. It was great to watch the younger male cleaning and grooming the older male for more than 10 minutes. The expression on the dominant males face clearly indicating his contentment. I nearly could feel him smiling. The younger suddenly stopped and turned his back to the older male which I assume that he wanted the same treatment for himself. In typically primate language the older male turned his back and walked away leaving the younger male unsatisfied.

The Vervet Monkey is not usually able to reproduce until they are about five years old, although their age of sexual maturity is known to vary slightly and may be dependent on how much food they have access to. In our case one of the young males occasionally make a habit of visiting guests at their room for a snack that has been left outside making your safari an even more special experience.

ervet monkeys at Kings Camp

Leopards
Mfana the offspring from Ntombi leopardess is frequenting the eastern side of our property. At the moment he is benefiting from the absence of a male being far into the east. This gives him free roaming at his leisure to hunt and live in this sector. However I have to admit that it is only a matter of time for an adult male leopard to find him and aggressively informing him of his territory. Aggressive interactions are often turning violent as dominant male leopards vigorously defend their territories. Mfana was seen hunting on a few occasions during morning drive. This young male leopard is very enthusiastic when he hunts and often will approach his prey right in the open without making any effort of concealing himself. In fact watching him hunt is sometimes very funny as so entertaining as he still tries to catch his prey even though his cover is blown.

Mfana stalking an impala    Found a left over Ipala leg
Our new leopard cub    Rockfig Jnr and her new cub

Lions
Our resident Machattan pride was seen only a handful of times during April. It still concerns me. Why is the pride not making its way closer to our area of traversing? There are a few factors that might have an impact on the pride not spending time in the north which I will mention in more detail in my next report. But in the mean time I have a great image to share with you. The image of the oldest lioness of the pride was captured during an afternoon drive. To date she is over 19 years old! I have the privilege of knowing this lioness since 1998 and when I saw her for the first time she was already an adult. As old as she is she is still a stunning female. Large shoulders and muscular neck indicates that she is still strong. However I have watched her carefully for the last 3 months and I have noticed her intolerance towards the cubs getting more serious. I am hoping that she is going to be with us for at least till the end of the year but I am not sure if this will be the case.

The oldest lioness in Timbavati

Rhino
The newly born rhino calf that is making Kings Camp her home still excites me every time I find her during drive. Albert and I have it waxed now as we know the route and the whereabouts we she lives. The mother is super relaxed and so is her new calf. Females reach sexual maturity at 6–7 years of age while males reach sexual maturity between 10–12 years of age.

Gestation occurs around 16 months. A single calf is born and usually weighs between 40 and 65 kg. Calves are unsteady for their first 3 days of life and when threatened the calf will run in front of the mother, who is very protective of her calf and will fight for it vigorously. Weaning starts sometimes as early as 2 months, but most calves continue suckling for over 12 months. The birth interval for the white rhino is between 2 and 3 years. Before giving birth the mother will chase off her current calf. So I am hoping and I am almost certain that this little wonder will remain one of the most spectacular animals to see in the next 2 years.

Our new young female rhino    Mother and calf

Anyway that is all for this month's report. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did compiling the report.
Game report by: Patrick O'Brien Head Guide of Kings Camp.

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Leopard Hills update - April 2012               Jump to Leopard Hills

Dropping temperatures have warranted the dusting off of winter jackets and triggered the much anticipated and theatrical impala rutting season! The bellowing of outspoken impala rams echoes around the hills as they herd their females! Let’s not forget the less conspicuous and less numerous wildebeest and warthog males who also have the same objective in mind!

The red bushwillows are striking as their leaves turn orange and adorn the landscape softened by some warmer early winter light.

The last evening rays warm an ancient Jackalberry shared with a troop of baboons.

Troop of Baboons at sunset

Leopards
Hlaba Nkunzi
Early April saw her perseverance and alluring advances finally pay off and she was seen mating with Dayone male in the west of her territory close to Leopard Hills. See video of her trying persistently to win him over.

She has, as always, spoiled us with sporadic visits through the lodge area, one evening even deciding to parade right through reception.

Hlaba Nkunzi at Leopard Hills

She has also been shadowing the Kashane male around in the east of her territory and we have just had word that they were confirmed to have mated! Hopefully some video and images of the pair will follow soon on the blog.

Hlaba Nkunzi at Leopard Hills

Thlangisa
Again our most viewed and photographed leopard in April! She just has a knack of turning up at the right moment, delighting our guests time and time again with her playful nature and sometimes not so cat like somewhat non lady like poses. See image below.

Thlangisa at Leopard Hills

So this is how a leopard is supposed to drape herself in a tree….seems more comfortable!

Thlangisa at Leopard Hills

So often hopping around for a better perspective high up Marula trees.

Thlangisa in Marula Tree

Sometimes just soaking up the warming winter rays!

Thlangisa at Leopard Hill

It is hard to believe when observing her zesty playful nature that she is now 3 years of age! This has brought about the associated territorial behaviour from her! See video of her scent marking and stretching her body fully to mark bushes with her cheek glands and increase the impression of her size. She does seem to have claimed a seemingly unoccupied area north west of Leopard Hills (See blue on female territorial map below)

Metsi
Very few sightings of her this month, her low profile is possibly due to her searching for den sites or possibly even denning already, somewhere quiet and secluded.

Xikavi
This experienced attractive female had no trouble luring Kashane over and was mating with him in her south eastern territory towards month end. She did eventually follow him far south outside of her normal territory as he continued patrolling.

Xikavi at Leopard Hills

Shangwa
Shangwa and her sub adult male cub are still together periodically although he does spend much time on his own now as he approaches independence at 16 months old.

An interesting family encounter occurred when Shangwa and the sub adult male had an impala kill stashed up a Marula Tree.

With the two leopards moving between trees around the kill as a couple of hyenas lurked underneath there was a moment of uncertainty when a third leopard appeared!A young female from Shangwa's previous litter, she darted up the tree and claimed the impala as her own while Shangwa and the young male just watched her feed with their own full bellies.

Shangwa at Leopard Hills

Female Territorial Map Update
Not much change, very stable territories. Thlangisa causing a little bit of trouble with the older females but seems to have settled on her niche for now!

Female Territorial Map

Kashane
His imperious presence has been enjoyed far more this month as he has pushed further west along the Sand river than usual, seemingly expanding his territory in this direction. There are probably 2 reasons for this! Firstly the lack of a big dominant male marking in the area since Xhinzele’s departure, Dayone male doesn’t seem to go as far east as Xhinzele used to. The other reason being that the 2 females in the area are coming into oestrus, Xikavi and Hlaba Nkunzi.

Kashane

Dayone

Dayone at Leopard Hills

As he grows in stature more time is spent exploring the north up towards the Sand river, a veritable leopard magnet due to prey abundance and no doubt the higher density of females!

Dayone at Leopard Hills

Apart from again earning the attentions of a number of females during the month in his expanding territory, this unwelcome onlooker below is one he needs to be weary of.

Game Drive at Leopard Hills

Male Territorial Map Update

Male Territorial Map

Lions
It is astounding to see the repercussions that the death of 1 dominant male lion (Short Maned Mapogo) can have on the lion dynamics and stability in a given area. His honourable death has rippled across the Sabi Sand and affected every single lion in some way or another! There is understandably an uneasiness and tension amongst the male coalitions, female prides and their vulnerable cubs alike! The Tug-of-War between coalitions has been extraordinary recently and will continue engrossing us for some time until stability prevails and females and cubs can breathe a little easier!

We will focus on our western traversing area but would like to touch on what is going on east of us due to the potential ripple effect!

See updated map below of approximate territories/locations of the coalitions and prides as they currently stand. The Majingilane Coalition who are in their prime at roughly 7 years of age are stronger than ever and seemingly content with their large territory and the 4 prides of females that they control (Tsalala, Sparta, Styx & Fourways).

Territory Map

The 2 older yet powerful and confident Kruger males are content in the far south with the Southern Pride while the 6 Matimbas (5-6 yrs) are settled with most of their territory and prides being north in the Manyeleti. There are however rumours of a huge coalition of young males 10+ residing in the north of the Manyeleti which may push the Matimbas south in the near future, encroaching on Majingilane territory!

The 2 remaining Mapogo have apparently met the 2 Kruger males and been chased off, they seem to be currently residing in a quieter area in the south where there is little male lion activity.

Selati Coalition

Selati Coalition at Leopard Hills

The victorious young Selati males (4-4 and a half years) have claimed the esteemed western sabi sands which boasts 2 prides of lionesses! The prize trophy for them being the 4 experienced and strong Ximhungwe females plus the 3 Othawa females.

Lion at Leopard Hills

These inexperienced males haven’t had it all their own way and are still finding their feet while they go about scent marking and entrenching themselves in their newly acquired territory. A couple of buffalo kills occupied them for the month while they seem to have given the wily Ximhungwe females and their cubs a break for now…

Ximhungwe pride

Ximhungwe pride at Leopard Hills

On the run, ready for anything the young boys throw at them these females sure do have strength and character accumulated from all the years and experience they gained dealing with the volatile Mapogo males!

Here is one of the older cubs (15 months now) feeding on a kudu bull.

Cubs feeding on Kudu Bull

The youngest cub (9 months) showing lots of character after an arduous month!

Lion cub at Leopard Hills

Othawa Pride
All 3 lionesses were seen together this month which is wonderful news as the whereabouts of the 3rd lioness was uncertain for some time. The litter of 4 young cubs hasn’t been seen and has most likely been destroyed by the Selati males, unless they are very well hidden far in the north!

Painted Dog Pack
The pack of 9 were here in the west hunting for a few days during mid month and 2 of the females (Alpha & Beta females) are believed to be heavily pregnant. They will be looking for den sites, we are holding thumbs that they choose somewhere close by again this year.

Elephants
Very large parades have abounded this month all over our traversing area as well as a number of bachelor groups. A few mature old bulls, some of them in musth, have also graced us with their colossal presence!

Here is one such heavyweight crossing the Sand river.

Elephant at Leopard Hills

Buffalo

Buffalo at Leopard Hills

The large obstinancy has been seen periodically in the south while a number of “Daggboys” have been lurking close to the lodge for the entire month. A memorable encounter with one such specimen was enjoyed on a walking trail with 2 guests.

This image below taken from the Land Rover during the month is similar to what confronted us and accelerated our heart beats into overdrive! Underpants all had to be checked upon arriving back at camp, adrenaline still flowing.

Buffalo at Leopard Hills

Jokes aside these are formidable animals and arguably the most dangerous to encounter on foot in Africa. We won’t generally approach these animals as they are volatile but this sighting was very safe due to the circumstances.

We picked up signs of him well before seeing him in an open area and proceeded to watch him for a while from a safe distance before he picked up our scent and raised his head. All the time he had an escape route available should he choose to flee and we backed off quietly and left him in the same position!

Interesting sightings in April
Warmth is a priority for a business of Dwarf mongooses on chilly winter mornings, the warmest stump in the area becomes prime real estate!

Dwarf mongooses at Leopard Hills

An unusually relaxed Burchell’s Coucal sunning itself and allowing us the opportunity to see the detail of it’s large robust bill.

Burchell’s Coucal at Leopard Hills

These birds are voracious predators ambushing other birds and small mammals! A treat to see one in the open as they are usually clambering around in bushes and long grass using their long hallux claw for support. Interestingly the chicks can clamber around bushes long before they can fly!

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Rocktail Beach Camp update - April 2012               Jump to Rocktail Beach Camp

The chilly breath of the winter wind made its first appearance this month. Brief spells of cold weather gave us a gentle reminder that winter is around the corner, but that she hasn't quite got her cold grip on Maputaland just yet!

The aforementioned cold spells, though brief, brought with them some spectacular groundswells and early morning offshore breezes, and this made for some unbelievable clean surf breaks in the warm Indian Ocean, enjoyed mostly by the resident bottlenose and spinner dolphins that frequent the bay. These swells certainly made their impact on the sand banks of our beach with new banks appearing in various parts of Manzengwenya, creating an extremely wide beach for the first time in six months.

The days have been absolutely perfect for most of the month, with near-perfect weather conditions making for gloriously mild beach days, and superb diving excursions. With only sporadic windy and rainy conditions, the seas have been flat and calm for most of the month with visibility averaging about 20 metres up to 30 metres plus on some days! This, naturally lead to some fantastic sightings on both the Ocean Experience and diving excursions.

Highlights this month included frequent spinner and bottlenose dolphin sightings, green, hawksbill and loggerhead turtles, grey and white-tip reef sharks, huge yellow-fin tuna shoals, Boris the resident potato bass, and the ever-present and unspoilt crackling coral reefs. Interestingly, April has also seen an abundance of manta rays which have been sighted on an almost daily schedule, even by snorkellers right in front of our beach at Island Rock, which was very special indeed.

Guests, with the aid of our guides, have also had some awesome sightings of rare bird species this month, including Narina Trogon, Rosy-throated Longclaw, Woodward's Batis and even Palmnut Vulture spotted at Lala Nek!

Though we said goodbye to our nesting turtles in March, expecting their return in mid to late October, some late blooming leatherback hatchlings were spotted on the beach in the late afternoon at the end of April, much to our guests' delight! Though we did record some abnormally late nesting activity from some leatherback females, we did not expect these nests to yield much in terms of hatchlings as the climate is generally too cool for them to hatch this time of year, so this was a rare delight for the guests at camp. On an added note, most of the hatchlings were thought to be males as the sexes are directly related to the temperature surrounding the eggs in the nest during their development, and males are generally born in cooler temperatures.

April also saw the long-awaited return of horse-riding trails as an added activity for our guests at Rocktail Beach Camp. The trails take guests through the local community and up through the rolling dunes, allowing some breathtaking views of the Coastal Forest Reserve and surrounds. We look forward to many satisfied guests from this activity in the future.

Cheers for now from the beach.

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Rocktail Bay Dive Report - April 2012               Jump to Rocktail Beach Camp

No report this month.

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Zimbabwe Camps
Makalolo Plains update - April 2012               Jump to Makalolo Plains Camp

Climate and Temperatures
At this time of year, we seem to be going to extremes when it comes to temperatures! A minimum temperature of 9.1 degrees Celsius was recorded on 16 April with a maximum temperature of 32.8 degrees Celsius on 9 and 13 April. No rains were received in the month and our waterholes started running dry so we have begun to pump 24 hours a day to meet the demand of our animals. This has increased game activity at our waterholes.

Landscape and Vegetation
While most of the bush still looks fertile, some of our trees are beginning to turn yellow and lose their leaves. The grasses are beginning to turn brown, which indicates the start of the winter season.

Bird Sightings
The migrants have slowly taken their leave and are heading to greener pastures. The African Fish-eagles are, however, keeping us entertained as they try and catch catfish in the decreasing water levels. We have also had the opportunity to view quite a number of White-headed Vultures at carcasses.

Cheetah seen at Makalolo Plains    Hyaena at Makalolo Plains

Wildlife sightings
It is known that, as we approach winter at Hwange, animal sightings become frequent. Lion are seen almost daily and we've even come across a pride with cubs. Groups of elephant and big herds of Cape buffalo ranging between 80 to 100 have been visiting our waterhole, which has obviously kept our water team very busy pumping to meet the demand.

Notably, our guides, Douglas, Sib and Elias, spotted a male leopard just as they arrived into camp having picked up guests from the airstrip. Not even on the ground for an hour and these guests started their safari with a bang. Another special sighting was four cheetah on an impala kill. Lion have also been seen on a buffalo kill while a bat-eared fox was seen lurking around.

Probability Sightings
Elephant - 83%, Cape buffalo - 60% , impala - 90%, giraffe - 70%, lion - 23%, cheetah - 20%, baboon - 100%, leopard - 20%, zebra - 100%, kudu - 50%, eland - 20%, hyaena - 12%

Camp and Activities
Camp was busy during the month, keeping the staff on their toes. One particular group showed us some of their wonderful dance skills and even challenged our traditional dances with some fence dancing skills.

A new staff kitchen is being built under the leadership of Elliot, and is due to be finished in May.

Lion at Makalolo Plains    Elephant at Makalolo Plains Camp

Guest comments
"It is so wonderful to have so many animals so close to camp and spotting those cheetah!" Linda and Marry USA
"Dining settings, staff, guides, meals - all fantastic" Myers USA
"The final night entertainment, campfire breakfast, sundowners and our lovely tents will remain in our memories." Care USA
"All the game and guides and food were terrific!" Susan USA

Staff in Camp
General manager - Tendai Mdluli
Makalolo manager - Sibs Sibahle
Assistant managers - Cosam and Vimbai
Guides - Elias and Douglas,
Makalolo team - Jordan, Nathan, Alois, Star, Jerry, Chris, Robson, Japhet, Mpikelelo, Charles, Andrew, Konani, Nyajani, Announcement, Emmanuel, Seliot

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Little Makalolo update - April 2012               Jump to Little Makalolo

No report this month.

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Davison's Camp update - April 2012

Weather and Landscape
Winter is clearly approaching as the daily temperatures are dropping - the mornings are cold and chilly while the midday temperatures are still warm and comfy. The monthly maximum was a balmy 31 °C with a minimum of 9 °C. We did not receive any rain for the month.

The landscape is still holding on to its green sheen, although the ordeal trees are starting to lose their leaves. The false mopane trees are in full fruit, providing many herbivores with sustenance.

Wildlife
Wildlife sightings have been pretty awesome as we have been graced by large herds of wildebeest, eland, zebra and giraffe all around. A herd of 44 sable was seen at Mbiza, which is most definitely one of the monthly highlights.

Giraffe at Davison's Camp    Sunset at Davison's Camp

One did not have to venture far from camp for action, as we had a herd of no less than 200 buffalo settle around camp for a couple of days - adding to this excitement was the two young male lions that harassed this herd under cover of darkness during the night. Imagine being welcomed to camp by camp staff, 200 buffalo, a breeding herd of elephant and two cheeky lions - just amazing!

A group of guests had an action-packed morning when they were treated to a male lion sighting, which was then followed by a sighting of a cheetah and then of a leopard - all before breakfast.

It seems the cold mornings have affected wildlife movements, as we did not find much activity in the open areas such as Ngamo Plains before the environment warmed up. Once things warmed, however, the elephant herds moved out of the thicker vegetation, allowing us some picturesque sightings of them along the plains.

Other great sightings for the month include a striped polecat and a honey badger.

Birds and Birding
It is always a special moment for a birder when they see a 'Lifer', adding another tick to the life list - a lifer for the camp and many of our guests this month was a Black-eared Seedeater.

Many of the summer migrant species have left in search of warmer conditions, but the resident birdlife has provided us with great sightings.

This month we notched a total of 141 bird species on the camp bird list.

Staff at Davison's Camp    Zebra at Davison's Camp

Camp News
Our staff members continue to strive for service excellence as they ambitiously follow the Lobster Inc. training modules. Lobster Inc. has provided a great system to provide honed skills for staff in the hospitality industry.

This month, staff from all the Wilderness camps in Hwange pitched in and were able to get a new wheelchair for a disabled child from one of the local villages.

Guest Comments
"Massive herds of buffalo, elephant, three cheetah and 16 lions - WOW - Godfrey was an excellent guide!"
"We loved the cozy atmosphere in the main area and the exceptional game viewing. Tammy and Andre were very friendly and helpful."
"Great stay, great staff and very relaxing."
"The food was terrific. Vegetarians catered for with passion. Robert, our guide, was fantastic."

Staff in Camp
Managers: Andre, Tammy, Buhle and Avias.
Guides: Godfrey, Calvert, Brian, Robert and Livingstone.

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Ruckomechi Camp update - April 2012               Jump to Ruckomechi Camp

Weather, Climate and the Zambezi River
Towards the end of April, the weather in the Zambezi Valley cooled down a lot and the evening chills caused one to draw the covers up to the chin. The days have been warming up however to 30 degrees Celsius and have been most enjoyable.

The mighty Zambezi River provides the most tranquil setting with beautiful escarpment views across to our neighbouring country, Zambia. The water levels have been steady, but turned a slight chocolate brown when the Ruckomechi River flowed once during this month. The average maximum temperature this month was 30.5 degrees Celsius with the average minimum being 20.5. Our average humidity experienced this month was 70%.

Sunset at Ruckomechi Camp    Lion seen at Ruckomechi Camp

Mammal Sightings
Mammal sightings have been very good this month reminding us that we are in the most pristine, untouched wilderness that Africa has to offer. Ruckomechi Camp being on the banks of the mighty Zambezi River offers a diversity that is second to none in the Mana Pools National Park. Our guests have enjoyed a number of very special and exciting sightings.

Huge herds of Cape buffalo have been spotted working their way down to the river to drink with accompanying species such as elephant, impala, waterbuck, eland, zebra as well as bushbuck. Warthog have been a daily occurrence and we all have been enjoying watching them wallowing in the mud at midday. Kudu have also been a regular sighting close to the Nyakasanga River with healthy numbers of both mature and immature bulls.

On one of the afternoon game drives with some of our valued guests, it was mentioned that their dream would be to see a leopard, although they had no expectations as they understood that we were in the wild and special sightings could not be guaranteed. A lovely drive was enjoyed by all complete with sundowner drinks and snacks on the banks of the Zambezi. On the drive back to camp we spotted a leopard in the Ruckomechi River. This young leopard was very inquisitive and walked straight to the front of the Land Rover and spent about 10 minutes gazing at his surroundings. Then he got up and walked straight back to where he came from and disappeared over the river bank.

The Ruckomechi Pride of lion has been spotted on a number of different occasions. The two young males have been seen relaxing in the Ruckomechi riverbed one afternoon. Our guests thoroughly enjoyed this sighting.

Red Bishop seen at Ruckomechi Camp    Martial Eagle at Ruckomechi Camp

A hippo was spotted in the shallows having just given birth on a morning drive. It wasn't long before six large crocodiles started drifting in to get a closer look and potentially chance their luck with a little snack, but they could not get past the protective mother.

Mammal Probability Sightings
Baboon - 100%, hippo - 100%, warthog - 86%, lesser bush baby - 3%, honey badger - 3%, waterbuck - 100%, bushbuck - 13%, impala - 100%, zebra - 100%, Cape buffalo - 60%, leopard - 6%, spotted hyaena - 20%, African civet - 16%, lion - 23%, large spotted genet - 23%, eland - 13%, vervet monkey - 100%, small spotted genet - 3%, elephant - 100%, wild dog - 3%.

Birds Sightings
This month has seen the expected busy birding times with a number of the breeding migrants still in the concession. Some lovely sightings have been recorded including Grey-headed Kingfisher, African Skimmer, Red Bishop, Osprey and an awesome sighting of a Martial Eagle. The Osprey showed his eagerness to catch breakfast by scanning the pools near Basil's tree and almost attempting a full dive on two occasions. The Red Bishops have constantly been trying to keep up with the Red-billed Quelea, the males adding their stunning hot orange to the drab colour of flocks. African Skimmers, an embodiment of grace and precision and engineering, have treated us to some stunning formation flying on low passes along the still edges.

Staff
This month we bid farewell to Richard. Richard has chosen to conquer his challenges in life elsewhere and we wish him all the best in his future endeavours. We will miss him here and hope that we will cross paths again. Go well, Richard, we wish you all that is good!

Seen at Ruckomechi Camp    Osprey at Ruckomechi Camp

Guest Comments
"The surprise dinner was the cherry on the top after a fantastic game drive. A brilliant four days in paradise." Tom, Belinda and Sophie
"Every aspect was superb. Game watching, boat trip, the smells, sounds and the sights of Zimbabwe." Kevin and Vicky
"Remarkable welcome, very courteous and attentive. Exceptional guides. Very knowledgeable and professional. First class cuisine."

Staff in Camp
General Manager: Carel van Helsdingen
Managers: Juju van Helsdingen, Theunis and Belinda Botha (assistants), Sandy Micklethwait (trainee)
Guides: Kevin van Breda, Theunis Botha, Champion Sadiere, Gadreck Nyamhondoro

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Mana Canoe Trail update - April 2012               Jump to Mana Canoe Trail

No report this month.

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Zambia camps
Toka Leya Camp update - April 2012
              Jump to Toka Leya Camp

Climate and Water Levels
With the rains having stopped in March, the colour of the vegetation has started to turn to bronze while some of the trees are dropping their leaves already. Temperatures have started to get a little fresh, but nothing that one can't handle. Days are still a lovely pleasant temperature with the night skies definitely something that will stay in most of our guests' minds forever. As expected the water levels have continued rising, adding to the splendour that is the Zambezi River.

Sunset at Toka Leya Camp    Elephants at Toka Leya Camp

Wildlife Sightings and Activities
The rising water levels have added to the spectacular spray display as well as the thunderous sound of the Victoria Falls. One of our guests commented that he has travelled extensively and has seen many natural wonders; however Victoria Falls is the most magnificent. He even said that he felt his travels have been made complete now that he has seen them.

Our guides have continued to be mentioned on the guest evaluations as they share their knowledge of the area, culture and the river experiences. River safaris are always highly praised as relaxing and life changing. As usual the islands near the camp have continued to attract elephants, which most of the guests have seen swimming from one island to the other.

Hippo seen at Toka Leya Camp    White rhino seen at Toka Leya Camp

The rhinoceros sightings and commitment of the local rangers to save this endangered species has become one of the unforgettable experiences of Toka Leya. Mosi-oa-Tunya also provides a wonderful all round game experience and the magnificent game and birdlife you see here is often superior to some of the bigger parks - in our opinion anyway.

Guest Comments
"An introduction to Africa, its people, and the scenery. This could not have been better. The service was attentive, the room beautifully appointed and immaculate and our guide, Godfrey, patient and knowledgeable." E and M Rosen
"Rhino walk informative and exciting. Wonderful stay with great staff." B and D Lawrence
"Fantastic, wonderful staff, fabulous food, lots to do. Have had magical few days. Thank you all so much. Guides are fabulous." J Milton

Management in Camp
Managers: Petros and Gogo Guwa
FOH manager: Jacquie Munakombwe
Assistant managers: Mavis Daka and Amon Ngoma

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Lufupa River Camp update - April 2012               Jump to Lufupa River Camp

No report this month.

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Lufupa Tented Camp update - April 2012               Jump to Lufupa Tented Camp

No report this month.

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Kalamu Lagoon Camp update - April 2012               Jump to Kalamu Lagoon Camp

No report this month.

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Shumba Camp update - April 2012               Jump to Shumba Camp

No report this month.

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Kapinga Camp update - April 2012               Jump to Kapinga Camp

No report this month.

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Busanga Bush Camp update - April 2012               Jump to Busanga Bush Camp

No report this month.

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Malawi camps
Mvuu Camp update - April 2012
               Jump to Mvuu Camp

Weather and Landscape
As the rainy season winds up, the days at Mvuu are getting increasingly cool with occasional chilly winds. The baobab trees are losing their leaves and adding character to the surrounding floodplains. Sunsets are spectacular and turn into clear nights that are perfect for stargazing. When the moon is not full, night game drives are particularly fruitful and we tend to have some very good nocturnal animal sightings.

Wildlife
Game viewing has just been getting better and better! Not more than three days go by without seeing elephants at the rivers, especially the Shire River, which has attracted masses of elephants with the end of the rainy season.

One of our elephant highlights took place from the boat. Whilst on a boat cruise, we came across a breeding herd, which was being pursued by three large elephant bulls, one of them being in musth. We watched as the herd swam in the river and interacted with the three bulls. The second elephant highlight was when we came across a protective mother and her new calf not even a hundred metres from camp - we kept our distance from them as we did not want to stress the new mother.

Sunset over Mvuu Camp    Breasted barbet at Mvuu Camp

The environment is charged with constant action as the impala begin rutting and the waterbuck population is calving. Towards the middle of the month, we witnessed two kudu giving birth to their calves almost simultaneously. Samuel, one of our guides is familiar with these two kudu and can recall seeing them from around 2007 as one of the cows is very easy to identify due to a distinct notch in her ear. Samuel has recorded four calves for this female since he first saw her, this being her fifth.

Titus the male lion has been elusive this month as we did not see him, but did find signs of his presence in the area. He seems to be hanging around the road that goes to Naifyulu Hills.

Another great sighing which thrilled our guests and guide was the sighting of an aardvark in broad daylight - pretty awesome to see these elusive critters at any time let alone in broad daylight.

The special sighting of the month goes to an opportunistic crocodile, which was seen hitching a ride and basking in the sun... on a hippo's back. It truly was an amusing encounter as both the hippo and crocodile were clearly comfortable with one another and both snoozed in the warm sun.

Craft market at Mvuu Camp    Crocodile and hippo at Mvuu Camp

The Rhino Tracking Experience has begun exceptionally well and already produced some very valuable research material as well as sightings for our guests. We would like to thank all of the guests which took part in the experience that ran over the Easter Weekend. Here are some comments from some of the guests which participated in this new and exciting activity:

"We learnt so much about black rhino and their behaviour." - The Baranowski group.

"Very interesting, learnt a lot about tracking and black rhino." - The Richardson group.

The Kennedy group encountered three sets of spoor on their walk before finally being rewarded with a sighting of a mother black rhino and her calf.

This awesome activity is still available at Mvuu, and we strongly encourage all our guests to do it as it is a life changing experience for any nature lover and helps to protect Liwonde's black rhino population.

Birds and Birding
Birding has been fantastic this month at Mvuu. We had regular sightings of Lillian's Lovebird, Grey-headed Parrot, Arnot's Chat, Pel's-Fishing Owl, Brown-breasted Barbet (which are currently nesting), African Cuckoo, Jacobin Cuckoo, Bateleur, Western Banded Snake-Eagle, African Harrier-Hawk and Wahlberg's Eagle.

Henry, another Mvuu guide, spotted a Tropical Boubou chasing a grasshopper near the Mvuu Education Centre. It managed to catch the grasshopper and then proceeded to hook it to a thorn. It then flew away, only to return with a mate with whom it shared the insect as dinner.

At the beginning of the month, a huge mixed flock of White-backed Night-Herons, Red-backed Shrikes, Spur-winged Lapwings, Gull-billed Terns, Black Storks, Southern Pochards and 23 Great White Pelicans flew over Mvuu.

Palm-nut Vultures have been seen regularly, ranging from juveniles to subadults and adults. The Palm-nut Vulture is a very successful species compared to other vultures in Liwonde. White-backed Vultures are seldom seen, and White-headed Vultures were sighted last year on 20/05/2011 by Duncan Mhango and Matthews Matewere over a period of two days. A day later, our guides saw a male White-headed Vulture which was very shy sitting on a big baobab at Mkango Corner. The Liwonde National Park bird check list includes Palm-nut Vulture, Hooded Vulture, White-backed Vulture, Lappet-faced Vulture, and White-Headed Vulture all with status of breeding resident species. Samuel Chihana states "I believe there is not enough food for vultures to thrive on in Liwonde as we do not have many predators at the moment such as lion and leopard who supply feeding material for the vultures."

Elephant at Mvuu Camp    Elephant seen on game drive

Community News
The Mvuu team held a craft market over Easter to provide guests with an opportunity to browse through a variety of locally crafted goods and contribute to the income of the local community. The vendors comprised villagers that live on the outskirts of the park. The Mvuu team welcomed anyone from the community who was interested in selling their craft items. A Children in the Wilderness stall was also set up to raise awareness and some funds for the programme. The guests enjoyed having a look through everything at the stalls.

Guest Comments
"Thank you so much for having made our trip to Mvuu so wonderful. We enjoyed the wine in the evening and really loved our breakfast in the bush - definitely a highlight in our trip. We felt really privileged and my parents were lost for words when we saw a herd of 40 elephants drinking in the river when we were on our boat safari. It was really magical, so thanks a million for everything! It's and will certainly remain my parents' favourite place in Malawi."

Staff in Camp
Guides: Matthews, Mc Loud, Danger, David, Patrick, Samuel, Duncan, Samuel, Justin, Henry and George.

Newsletter by Samuel and the pictures were taken by Samuel, Patrick and McLoud.

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Mvuu Wilderness Lodge update - April 2012               Jump to Mvuu Camp

Weather and Landscape
As the rainy season winds up, the days at Mvuu are getting increasingly cool with occasional chilly winds. The baobab trees are losing their leaves and adding character to the surrounding floodplains. Sunsets are spectacular and turn into clear nights that are perfect for stargazing. When the moon is not full, night game drives are particularly fruitful and we tend to have some very good nocturnal animal sightings.

Wildlife
Game viewing has just been getting better and better! Not more than three days go by without seeing elephants at the rivers, especially the Shire River, which has attracted masses of elephants with the end of the rainy season.

One of our elephant highlights took place from the boat. Whilst on a boat cruise, we came across a breeding herd, which was being pursued by three large elephant bulls, one of them being in musth. We watched as the herd swam in the river and interacted with the three bulls. The second elephant highlight was when we came across a protective mother and her new calf not even a hundred metres from camp - we kept our distance from them as we did not want to stress the new mother.

Sunset over Mvuu Wilderness Lodge    Bird nesting at Mvuu Wilderness Lodge

The environment is charged with constant action as the impala begin rutting and the waterbuck population is calving. Towards the middle of the month, we witnessed two kudu giving birth to their calves almost simultaneously. Samuel, one of our guides is familiar with these two kudu and can recall seeing them from around 2007 as one of the cows is very easy to identify due to a distinct notch in her ear. Samuel has recorded four calves for this female since he first saw her, this being her fifth.

Titus the male lion has been elusive this month as we did not see him, but did find signs of his presence in the area. He seems to be hanging around the road that goes to Naifyulu Hills.

Another great sighing which thrilled our guests and guide was the sighting of an aardvark in broad daylight - pretty awesome to see these elusive critters at any time let alone in broad daylight.

The special sighting of the month goes to an opportunistic crocodile, which was seen hitching a ride and basking in the sun... on a hippo's back. It truly was an amusing encounter as both the hippo and crocodile were clearly comfortable with one another and both snoozed in the warm sun.

The Rhino Tracking Experience has begun exceptionally well and already produced some very valuable research material as well as sightings for our guests. We would like to thank all of the guests which took part in the experience that ran over the Easter Weekend. Here are some comments from some of the guests which participated in this new and exciting activity:

"We learnt so much about black rhino and their behaviour." - The Baranowski group.

"Very interesting, learnt a lot about tracking and black rhino." - The Richardson group.

The Kennedy group encountered three sets of spoor on their walk before finally being rewarded with a sighting of a mother black rhino and her calf.

Craft market at Mvuu    Crocodile hitching a ride on hippo's back

This awesome activity is still available at Mvuu, and we strongly encourage all our guests to do it as it is a life changing experience for any nature lover and helps to protect Liwonde's black rhino population.

Birds and Birding
Birding has been fantastic this month at Mvuu. We had regular sightings of Lillian's Lovebird, Grey-headed Parrot, Arnot's Chat, Pel's-Fishing Owl, Brown-breasted Barbet (which are currently nesting), African Cuckoo, Jacobin Cuckoo, Bateleur, Western Banded Snake-Eagle, African Harrier-Hawk and Wahlberg's Eagle.

Henry, another Mvuu guide, spotted a Tropical Boubou chasing a grasshopper near the Mvuu Education Centre. It managed to catch the grasshopper and then proceeded to hook it to a thorn. It then flew away, only to return with a mate with whom it shared the insect as dinner.

At the beginning of the month, a huge mixed flock of White-backed Night-Herons, Red-backed Shrikes, Spur-winged Lapwings, Gull-billed Terns, Black Storks, Southern Pochards and 23 Great White Pelicans flew over Mvuu.

Palm-nut Vultures have been seen regularly, ranging from juveniles to subadults and adults. The Palm-nut Vulture is a very successful species compared to other vultures in Liwonde. White-backed Vultures are seldom seen, and White-headed Vultures were sighted last year on 20/05/2011 by Duncan Mhango and Matthews Matewere over a period of two days. A day later, our guides saw a male White-headed Vulture which was very shy sitting on a big baobab at Mkango Corner. The Liwonde National Park bird check list includes Palm-nut Vulture, Hooded Vulture, White-backed Vulture, Lappet-faced Vulture, and White-Headed Vulture all with status of breeding resident species. Samuel Chihana states "I believe there is not enough food for vultures to thrive on in Liwonde as we do not have many predators at the moment such as lion and leopard who supply feeding material for the vultures."

Elephant seen at Mvuu    Game Drive at Mvuu

Community News
The Mvuu team held a craft market over Easter to provide guests with an opportunity to browse through a variety of locally crafted goods and contribute to the income of the local community. The vendors comprised villagers that live on the outskirts of the park. The Mvuu team welcomed anyone from the community who was interested in selling their craft items. A Children in the Wilderness stall was also set up to raise awareness and some funds for the programme. The guests enjoyed having a look through everything at the stalls.

Guest Comments
"Thank you so much for having made our trip to Mvuu so wonderful. We enjoyed the wine in the evening and really loved our breakfast in the bush - definitely a highlight in our trip. We felt really privileged and my parents were lost for words when we saw a herd of 40 elephants drinking in the river when we were on our boat safari. It was really magical, so thanks a million for everything! It's and will certainly remain my parents' favourite place in Malawi."

Staff in Camp
Guides: Matthews, Mc Loud, Danger, David, Patrick, Samuel, Duncan, Samuel, Justin, Henry and George.

Newsletter by Samuel and the pictures were taken by Samuel, Patrick and McLoud.

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Mumbo Island update - April 2012               Jump to Mumbo Island

No report this month.

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Chelinda Lodge update - April 2012

Weather and Landscape
The weather has been fantastic at Chelinda, as clear and stable conditions persisted over the plateau. We did experience a week of rainfall at the beginning of the month, but once this cleared away we had excellent conditions. We had some wonderful scenic views of Nyika as the mornings were crystal clear with fog rolling in a little later on in the day.

Wildlife
This month we experienced some awesome and unusual sightings. Kicking these off was the sighting of an impressive male leopard that was stalking a warthog and then a reedbuck in broad daylight. Fortunately for the prey, the hunts were not successful. It is interesting that this feline was hunting during the day, but as they are opportunistic hunters, they will cash in on any opportunity that presents itself. This was not the only daylight stalk that we had: on a walking trail, the group had the rare privilege of witnessing a leopard stalk and kill a duiker right in front of them... all while they were on foot!

Leopard at Chelinda Lodge    Zebra at Chelinda Lodge

Adding to the sensational happenings at Chelinda was a clan of hyaena that wandered onto the Chelinda airstrip and completely surrounded an aircraft. The clan had to be chased away as we didn't want then to snack on the plane's tires - hyaena have a notorious reputation for doing this.

Elephant sightings have dropped and we suspect that the herds are moving further into the valleys. The eland have now all dispersed into smaller herds and can be seen across the entire plateau. The zebra are doing the opposite and are forming huge congregations, with most of our sightings occurring within a 10 km radius of camp. Many of the Nyika roan are heavily pregnant, so we expect that they will give birth very soon.

We had a very nice sighting of a thick-tailed bushbaby between Lake Kaulime and the Zambian Rest House. The primate decided to jump along the road in front of the vehicle, which provided all with a great view.

Birds and Birding
The migratory Red-backed Shrike is becoming a common sight on the plateau. There was a rare sighting of Comb Ducks on Dam 1. The male ducks are easy to identify as they have a distinctive knob-like structure on their beaks. Another pair of Wattled Cranes (apart from the ones with a chick) are now often a common sight above Dam 3. This is very encouraging news as it indicates that the population may be steadily increasing.

Chelinda School outing

Camp News
In the spirit of Earth Day, and in a gesture that shows our commitment to enhancing the sustainability of our business operations and our commitment to preserving and protecting the environment, the Chelinda team, along with a few guests, got together for a brief tree planting session. Our guide, Apollo, and his guests planted several African Redwood trees near camp. This particular species of tree is native to the high-elevation afro-montane regions of Central Africa such as Nyika, so we're hoping that the young plants will flourish.

Our guests (the Joly and Labelle group), who have been partners with Chelinda School, visited once more and donated uniform material to the schoolchildren at the school as well as a sewing machine to make their uniforms. They also spent a full day at the school working on the classroom heating system. In addition to their kind gifts, they also donated exercise books and text books for the school and students to use. Wilderness Safaris would like to express our thanks for their kind donations.

Staff in Camp
Guides: Apollo, Whyte, Brave, Patrick and Sam.

 


Namibia camps
Desert Rhino Camp update - April 2012               Jump to Desert Rhino Camp

No report this month.


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Palmwag Lodge update - April 2012               Jump to Palmwag Lodge

No report this month.


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Doro Nawas Camp update - April 2012               Jump to Doro Nawas Camp

Weather and Landscape
Dora Nawas and the adjoining areas are still very dry as we haven't received any substantial rains this rainy season. The aridity has been compounded by hot conditions but there has been a fair amount of humidity which could and hopefully will bring some rains with it. The highest rainfall that we have recorded for the area so far this season has been a mere 40 mm. The daytime temperatures have been fluctuating between 37 and 42° C, cooling off to around 20° C at night. The westerly winds that blow in the afternoons have helped to cool the afternoons down a little... now only if they could bring some rain with them!

The persisting dry conditions and heat have left the landscape equally very dry and dusty, with small isolated stands of greenery jutting out from the dry, brown and gold vegetation.

Lion at Doro Nawas Camp    Elephans seen at Doro Nawas Camp

Wildlife
Due to the lack of adequate rainfall at Doro Nawas, the riverbeds and vegetation are dry and as the result the desert-adapted elephant made a move to some other surrounding areas where they can find greener pastures. The desert giants are now in the Khoadi-Hoas Conservancy area which is a two-hour drive away. Guests who have driven to us from the Grootberg Lodge have been very lucky with spotting the elephants along the way. Hopefully we receive a little rain before the winter fully sets in in order to refresh the vegetation.

One of the highlights we had for the month was the sighting of a desert lion which we came across in the Huab Valley in a dry riverbed. The lioness crossed the riverbed in front of us and walked to the comfort of some shade... so we thought. Shortly after arriving at the vegetation, we heard the tell-tale call of some cubs. We did not want to disturb them, so we did not want to stick around for too long. We had a brief visual of four cubs. Just as we were about to leave the sighting, a bull elephant strolled onto the scene and we viewed him for around 35 minutes. A two-in-one sighting!

On the smaller side of the predatory scale, one of the camp staff members came running to Michael (one of the guides). She was very excited and said she had seen a big lizard eating a small lizard. Michael explained to her that most lizards are predatory and are opportunistic and will eat whatever prey presents itself. We then got a photo of the action.

Camp News
Our guests have still been enjoying meals out in the bush, as we offer breakfast whilst out on drive as well as bush dinners. This month, we had our first bush barbeque, whereby all the guests were treated to a surprise dinner under the stars.

Barbecue with chef Imelda    Lizard eating lizard

Guest Comments
"The dinner in the bush and the staff singing at the end was fantastic, the elephant drive with Richardt was great."
"Everything was perfect!"
"Thank you very much for the outstanding service and being part of our beautiful experience here. The morning birthday cake in the bush and singing is a once in a lifetime experience! The food is so delicious and much better than other places we have been to. Stunning scenery and awesome experience sleeping and showering outdoors."
"Dear Doro Nawas team, thank you for this beautiful and friendly stay. We enjoyed it very much, it was a perfect stay! The whole stay was a highlight, unfortunately our stay was too short - next time we will stay longer!"
"Our guide Ignatius was very nice and he showed an excellent knowledge about the nature. People are friendly and helpful and beautiful scenery."

Staff in Camp
Managers: Agnes Bezuidenhout, Morien Aebes, Theobald Kamatoto, Jason Lundon and Emsie Skrywer.
Guides: Richardt Orr, Ignatius Khamuseb and Michael Kauari.

This month's newsletter was done by:
Theobald Kamatoto and Michael Kauari.


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Damaraland Camp update - April 2012               Jump to Damaraland Camp

Weather and Landscape
It is clearly starting to get cooler as we move closer to our winter months - as the temperatures now carry the cold chill in the mornings and at night.

This year, we have experienced the complete opposite to last year in terms of rainfall, as last year we experienced excess rain and this year has been very dry. These dry conditions have provided our guests with some wonderful scenery and photographic opportunities.

Sunset over Damaraland Camp

Wildlife
At present we are driving to the Klip River area to look for the desert-adapted elephants (as this is one of their 'wet' season home ranges). While it's quite a drive to get there, our guests are enjoying it very much as the scenery is breathtaking, with lots of animals en route, including a few sightings of the rare and near-endemic black-faced impala on several occasions.

This month we haven't sighted the Huab Lion Pride, but they are still moving between the Krone area, the Huab River and Peter's Pools. We also recorded two oryx kills for the month made by the lioness, judging by the tracks which we found. From the spoor records the cubs are still doing well and joining the females to feed on the kills.

In terms of reptiles, we also had a good few sightings of some unusual critters. We found a dwarf-plated lizard basking on the rocks behind camp. This secretive active hunter of the arid west has a bright blue tail that attracts would-be predators away from its head and body. When attacked, the tail is easily shed and the autonomic nerves keep the tail twitching, thereby keeping the attacker busy while the lizard escapes. Also spotted was a puff adder - slow moving but fast striking, so a lot of respect was shown to it.

Born to Explore film crew from ABC    Born to Explore film crew from ABC

Camp News
This month we had the privilege of having the local school visit us for a fun day. An assortment of fun activities were arranged for the kids, and for many of them, this was the first time that they had ever been in a swimming pool.

Later on in the month we also hosted the Born to Explore film crew from ABC. Apart from the wildlife, the crew were also documenting the link between ecotourism and how the local communities benefit. Pascolena Florry and management organised a lunch for them in Bergsig with entertainment that included song and dance. This was great as it allowed key personalities from the community to interact with the film crew.

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

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Skeleton Coast Camp update - April 2012               Jump to Skeleton Coast Camp

No report this month.

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Serra Cafema Camp update - April 2012               Jump to Serra Cafema Camp

Weather and Landscape
Mid-April saw temperatures rising all the way past 40°C for a couple of days. Clouds towards the east suggested that rain was still falling further inland, but we understand that Serra Cafema sits in an area that receives less than 100mm of rain annually. The cool westerly winds in the afternoons did offer some comfort to the heat. Towards the end of the month, we could feel the winter chill creeping in as winter is now well on its way.

Staff and assistants of Serra Cafema Camp

The water level in the Kunene River has dropped a considerable amount, revealing hundreds of tiny little crocodile hatchlings that have recently emerged after their 90-day gestation.

Birds and Birding
Bee-eaters are a familiar sight at Serra Cafema. The area boasts two different species: the Madagascar Bee-eater and the Little Bee-eater. As the name suggests the Little Bee-eater is the smallest bee-eater in the family, measuring just over 15cm from the tip to tip. With its bright yellow chin and throat and olive green body this little bird is a pretty bird to watch. Although it can be found throughout sub-Saharan Africa, it has a very small range in Namibia, occurring mostly along the northern perennial rivers. Little Bee-eaters have mostly been seen perching in pairs or small family groups always at the ready to dart off to catch a meal.

Bee-eater at Serra Cafema Camp    Crocodile at Serra Cafema Camp

Camp News
This month, the camp has welcomed three new assistant managers, two of them already members of the Wilderness family, having been transferred from Little Kulala and Palmwag respectively. We wish our three new staff members a happy and productive future at Serra Cafema.

Guest Comments
"Every experience can teach us something, some also change us. Our experience at this extra ordinary place with the wonderful people who are on staff was life changing. Our memories of these days will always create a smile and a warm feeling. It is difficult to give thanks that are sufficient for such a gift, but these brief words are our feeble attempt." Peter and Liz.

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Ongava Tented Camp update - April 2012               Jump to Ongava Tented Camp

No report this month.

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Little Ongava update - April 2012               Jump to Little Ongava Camp

No report this month.

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Ongava Lodge update - April 2012               Jump to Ongava Lodge

No report this month.

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Andersson's Camp update - April 2012               Jump to Andersson's Camp

Weather and Landscape
This month was characterised by cool conditions as we move closer to the winter months. The biggest difference in temperature can be felt in the early morning and at night - as soon as the sun sets, it gets chilly. It looks like the rains are over for this year as this month has been quite dry. We did receive a little bit of rain at the beginning of the month followed by another little spurt in the middle of the month.

Black Rhino at a waterwhole    Giraffe at Andersson's Camp

The landscape is starting to dry up at a rapid rate, as most of the surface water and seasonal pans have almost dried up. The grass is still green, but it is starting to thin out a little as the cooler conditions set in.

Wildlife
Wildlife sightings have been good in Ongava as well as in Etosha. As the landscape dries up, the wildlife is returning to the winter waterholes in large numbers. Large herds of zebra and springbok have been seen congregating around the waterholes. In Etosha, the elephants are also starting to return to the southern areas of the park which we frequent.

The predators have also put on a good show as our guests have enjoyed some great predator sightings in both Etosha and Ongava. We often heard the characteristic roar of the lions at night, and quite close to camp, but we did not see them visit the camp waterhole - perhaps they are a little camera shy?

Odin the black rhino is definitely not camera shy, he is starting to come to the camp waterhole a lot more often and the guests can enjoy seeing him drink while enjoying a great meal or just sipping on a G and T. The black rhino have also been great protagonists in Etosha with frequent sightings while they were at the waterholes or looking for juicy mopane leaves to browse on.

Another firm favourite on the drives has been the elusive cheetah. We have had a number of great sightings, especially of a mother with two cubs. We suspect that the female has moved into Ongava from Etosha and it looks like she has taken up residence in Ongava, as she was seen in our area the entire month. Another great feline sighting was when we found a young leopard walking along the road in broad daylight.

After the small bouts of rain we had, large numbers of frogs emerged from the rain puddles which formed, possibly in a last bid to find a mate before the cold, dry winter months set in. Identifying amphibians can be quite challenging, but when the frogs vocalise at night it can be quite easy to identify them by sound.

Cheetah seen at Andersson's Camp  Cheetah seen at Andersson's Camp  Leopard seen at Andersson's Camp

Birds and Birding
Birding has quietened down a little this month as most of the summer migrants have left us in search for warmer conditions.

Having said this, the resident birds have provided us with some great birding, the Crimson-breasted Shrike stealing centre stage with its incredible contrast of colours. A flock of Familiar Chats have taken a liking to the main area at camp, and are constantly seen rustling amongst the furniture.

Guest Comments
"All the staff are friendly and we also loved the attention to detail and the environmentally responsible approach of the camp. I will recommend this experience and camp to all when I get back home!"
"Warm accommodating staff, beautiful scenery, great game watching and comfortable accommodation."
"The highlight was Shilongo guiding us - he's excellent, informative and safety conscious. All the staff made us comfortable and took the time to talk to us. Great team here! "

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

Pictures by taken by Silvia Morgante and Corne Cocklin.

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

No report this month.

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Kulala Desert Lodge update - April 2012               Jump to Kulala Desert Lodge

No report this month.

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Kulala Wilderness Camp update - April 2012               Jump to Kulala Wilderness Camp

No report this month.

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Kenya camps
Governors' Camp update - April 2012               Jump to Governors' Camp

Weather and grasslands
Early on in April it looked like as though the rain was gone with clear skies every day, then in the first two weeks the weather broke, bringing rain and with it an abundance of growth in the grasslands. Most days showed a similar pattern with overcast mornings, sunny late afernoons followed by evening rain which would fall until the early hours of the morning. We received most of our heavy rainfall towards the end of the month. All this rain caused the Marsh to fill up and the levels of the Mara River to rise considerably.

General game
We have enjoyed good sightings of lion and leopard this month, some impala fawns were born and leopard and cheetah were preying on these fawns.

Elephant with small calves are now spending more time out of the woodlands in the grassland plains and in the Musiara Marsh. There are also a few large bulls that wander back and forth and some are now in Musth. Some of these bulls have very worn tusks (upper incisors) of which a number of them can be seen with broken incisors. The permanent tusks (incisors) begin to protrude beyond the lips of an elephant at around 2-3 years of age and will continue to grow throughout its life.

Elephant at Governors' Camp
Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

There are still are good numbers of eland in the Marsh grasslands and also on the Musiara plains. On the short grass plains on the south side of Rhino Ridge and Topi Plains many topi have congregated, due to the recent rainfall which brings on a good leaf structure. Many impala females are pregnant and there are many young fawns around too, guests have also witnessed some of these births. Defassa Waterbuck remain throughout the Musiara Marsh grasslands.

When the Mara River leves were low hippo were being seen in large pods as they were forced to congregate together into the remaining deep water pools, there were many places on the Mara River where pod densities exceed 100 animals. Within these pods there were calves of varying ages and, one was born at IL Moran Camp very recently. Hippo gestation is 8 months and the calf is generally born in shallow water and introduced slowly to the main pod where the mother is from. With the onset of the rains peak births occur toward the beginning of the wet season. Weaning starts between six and eight months after birth and most calves are fully weaned after a year. The hippo with pink feet we call "socks" is seen regularly at Il Moran and this hippo is around 3-4 years old.

Hippo at Governors' Camp
Photo courtesy of Maina

Good sized troops of Olive baboons can be seen foraging between the camps, young infants are very playful, and they start riding jockey style when they are about six weeks old.

Baboons being terrestrial and omnivores they have quite a diverse diet consisting of meat, grass, berries, seeds, leaves, roots, bark, insects, fish, birds and small baby antelopes.

Cokes Hartebeest can be seen in small pockets through Paradise, Rhino Ridge and Bila Shaka Plains. Male Cokes Hartebeest will also advertise their presence on termite mounds. The Cape buffalo breeding herd has been seen on Rhino Ridge and Bila Shaka. There are also some young calves in this herd; calves at a young age are vulnerable to predation from both spotted hyena and lion. Earlier on in the month there were good numbers of zebra within Bila Shaka and Musiara, many fell prey to the Marsh Pride of lions. Thompson Gazelle or commonly called 'Tommies' are seen particularly on the short grass plains and these are favoured prey for cheetah. When cheetah succeeds in subduing their prey they tend to eat very fast due to competition from other predators such as Spotted Hyena, lion and leopard. On the 16th guests saw that very scenario with hyena stealing a freshly killed Thompson Gazelle from a female cheetah near the rocky hill on Paradise Plains.

Thompson Gazelles have also given birth and these fawns have been preyed by cheetah particularly those with cubs. Female warthogs with two or three piglets still will be seen through the grassland plains; females spend most of their lives in groups called soundings, the female offspring may stay within the sounding for up to two years or more. Males do not play a role in parental care. Warthogs have started mating and will go through until early next month. Sows then have a 172 day gestation which brings them into September to see the first piglets. Lion still feed off warthog regularly and the Marsh Pride have subsisted on warthog recently.

Giraffe are well spread out, good sightings of them in the riverine woodlands between the camps and also within stands of Acacia which they favor. Some guest have seen that Giraffe are eating or sucking on pieces of bones, this activity is actually often seen in areas where calcium and phosphorous are perhaps deficient in the soils and vegetation. Giraffe have a large demand of calcium and phosphorous in the compromise of skeletal build to support their large and dense bone structure. This was seen in the extreme north of the Mara, where as generally speaking these trace elements in many areas of the Masai Mara are more apparent.

A spotted hyena was seen on the 3rd April eating the remains of a Black backed Jackal, close by their were lion on a topi kill so perhaps this Jackal got too close to lion while they were feeding and was swiped by a paw from a lion which has the impact to kill a jackal.

Hyena on the hunt
Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

There have been some good sightings of Aardwolf on Rhino Ridge and Paradise Plains. Good times for seeing them are late evenings or early mornings. In the first weeks of April there were some good sightings. There is a den near the bottom end of the Bila Shaka River, this female has been seen frequently. The aardwolf has modified cheek teeth and lives on open, dry plains and bush land, avoiding mountainous areas. Due to its specific food requirements, the animal is only found in regions where termites of the family Hodotermitidae (harvester termites) occur. Termites of this family depend on dead and withered grasses and are most populous in heavily grazed grasslands including farmland.

Black Rhino have also been seen recently this month mainly on Paradise Plains and also occasionally near Bila Shaka. With one male in particular being seen on Paradise Plains.

Cats
Lion
The four marsh males move between Bila Shaka and Topi Plains. The four young females are also being seen spread out. With the recent rains they have all been up on Topi Plains and the almost as far as Rhino Ridge. They have been feeding off warthog and topi. There is still no sign of white eye, she was last seen early on last month north of the Marsh and a driver guide from the conservancy said he thought she looked like she was lactating.

Scar was seen on the 19th at 9.00am being treed by a herd of buffalo, such a large lion in the fork of an Olive tree seemed a little precarious. Buffalo if they work together will chase lion in some circumstances where if lion take flight buffalo will have the upper hand and will make a concerted effort to chase them until an individual will often opt to climb a tree.

Lion at Governors' Camp
Photo courtesy of Mary Lau

Notch and the four males were seen near the saltlick on the Ntiaktiak River where they had killed a hippo. These lion have killed and fed off three hippos this month two of which were close apparently a few days apart. They were seen moving close to the Talek River area where they had killed a male buffalo on the 16th. Later, on the 19th they were seen far up the Talek River. On the 29th they were all seen near the fig tree area and on the 30th they were seen closer towards the Ntiaktiak River. These males cover a large home range.

A lioness is often seen on her own from Bila Shaka and also on Topi Plains, this lioness was part of the Marsh Pride and broke away in early 2006.

Another lioness with one cub was seen on Rhino Ridge on the 25th at 8.30am and this lioness is from the Olkiombo area and the cub is about 3 months old. On the 29th the lioness and her cub were seen closer to the Talek River.

The Maternity pride of 12 lion including their 3 cubs which are 3-4 months old, one of the cubs early on in the month was looking unwell and thin according to guides from other areas of the Mara it is improving substantially now so perhaps this cub was not feeding well. On the 25th they were seen on the south bank of the Talek River were they are still now, the one young cub that as look malnourished is much improved.

On the 20th the four notch males and the maternity pride killed a male hippo the other side of the Talek River on the Burrangat plains.

Lion at Governors' Camp
Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

Three females and a sub adult from the Ridge Pride are being seen near Emarti and on the southern fans of Rhino Ridge where they have been feeding off warthog and zebra.

Cheetah
The two males have been active, feeding off Thomson Gazelle and impala. They move about in big circles form Rhino Ridge and as far as the conservation areas on the short grass plains of Koiyaki. A female is being seen on Paradise Plains and also near Bila Shaka. On the 15th she had killed a Thomson Gazelle but was robbed of it by spotted Hyena soon after she had killed it, they suffer from competition from other predators. Another male has been seen near Topi Plains, on the 21st at 7.30am he was seen feeding off a young Thomson Gazelle with two Jackals harassing him, after 20 minutes of feeding the cheetah got up and left when a spotted Hyena turned up.

Cheetah at Governors' Camp
Photo courtesy of Maina

Leopard
Olive and her two cubs that are 7 weeks old have been seen briefly on the 2nd, 5th and 7th in the thicket on the Talek not far downstream from where the Olare Orok River flows into the Talek, due to a slow season and wet conditions sightings have been poor. She has been seen feeding off young impala and Thomson Gazelle. On the 20th she was seen again on the south side of the Talek River, during the low river she must have crossed over.

Olive's daughter has been seen often the other side of the Talek River to where her mother is.

Leopard at Governors' Camp
Photo courtesy of Mary Lau

We have also enjoyed lovely sightings of the female leopard near the croton thickets at Paradise. She has been seen frequently in this area. This female has two cubs a male and a female which are estimated at 7 months old now. The young male near the Mara River has been seen often, on the 19th it was seen near a Boscia tree where it was resting on seeing a troop of Olive Baboons it ran off into a croton thicket.

Walking in the Mara North Conservancy
There have been no walks this month due to the onset of the rains. Two drives have been done in the conservancy. The female cheetah with the young 5 month old cub has been seen on both occasions near the 'fly over' plains and she has been feeding off impala and Thompson Gazelle. Elephant have been seen in the Acacia woodlands and grasslands. Many zebra can be seen throughout the conservancy. Impala with young fawns of which one very young fawn was taken by a pair of Black Backed Jackals near the white highland ridge. On the 20th 5 lionesses were seen on the plains beneath the fly over. There are still 8 cubs of varying ages, 4 are 7 months old and 4 are 8 months old. Last month there were 9 cubs seen, it appears that one has gone missing it is suggested that it may have been caught up fleeing from a herd of buffalo that frequent this area from time to time. These five lionesses and 8 cubs are being seen frequently.

There are two male 'white' lion of the river pride in the north of the conservancy near the Mara River there are also four cubs of which two are estimated at 3 months old and the other two are merely one month old.

With the onset of the rains many termites' species are active as can be seen with the continued building of their mounds. After a rainfall pattern the worker castes of many subterranean termites break open the nest walls and the alates or reproductive's take flight and are known as 'flying ants'. These alates are eaten by most mammals and birds of all sizes. A termite mound is the by far the oldest and organised community found between all organisms. The winged (or 'alate') caste, also referred to as the reproductive caste, is generally the only termites with well-developed eyes.


We hope to share the magic of our corner of the Mara with you sometime soon.


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Rwanda camps
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge update - April 2012

No report this month.


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