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Wilderness "Airport" Lounges
We have lounge facilities available to our guests in both Botswana and Namibia. In Maun, it is at the Okavango Wilderness Safaris (OWS) offices while in Windhoek, it is physically located at Hosea Kutako International Airport.
Curious Mongoose near Mombo Camp
Sighting: Mongoose feed on an impala carcass
Location: Mombo Camp, Chief's Island, Botswana
Observers: Ryan Green and Graham Simmonds
Photographer: Ryan Green
Shortly after leaving camp for an afternoon drive we came across a dead impala ewe - untouched by predators. It was unknown what had actually killed her but she was clearly pregnant and perhaps this had something to do with her demise. What was really interesting about the situation is that a business of banded mongoose (business being the collective noun for mongoose) were very interested at the sight of this large (in their eyes!) mammal lying still and unresponsive.
Mongoose the world over usually eat insects, snakes, lizards, rodents and other small creatures but also sometimes carrion. Some of the group were sunning themselves and totally uninterested whilst a few were cautiously approaching in their well-known fashion, where their heads are pointed and extended towards the source of interest and their legs are stiff and ready to spring into action at the first sign of danger.
After a few minutes of inching closer they realised that the impala was still showing no signs of life and decided to touch and smell the impala. One family member went to the udders of the impala and started scratching around that region whilst a few had made their slow progress towards the head. Dead or alive, they knew where the mouth was and seemed extremely nervous to approach.
After they were completely certain of no repercussions to their inquisitive antics they decided to gnaw on the hoof and foreleg. They eventually decided that this was not a favoured food source and quickly went back to their foraging ways with merry toots and whistles and snapping up any unsuspecting beetle or grub.
Tsaro Pride Cubs seen for the first time at Duba Plains
There are new members of the Tsaro Pride in the Duba Plains area. In fact, these members have not yet been introduced to the rest of the pride, so it was a privilege to see them for a short while ourselves. We suspect that they were born in the middle of June and will be joining the rest of the pride in the near future.
Wilderness Safaris is thrilled to announce the opening of its much-loved DumaTau Camp on an exquisite new site on the banks of the Linyanti River. One of Wilderness' most popular camps for over 15 years, DumaTau Camp has been given a new lease on life and has been completely rebuilt a little further upstream from its original location, offering the ultimate safari experience along the river and in the bush.
The camp's setting on the Linyanti River is in a prime section of the enormous 125 000-hectare Linyanti Wildlife Reserve, in northern Botswana, perfectly complementing the neighbouring Okavango Delta. This pristine area's range of habitats creates ideal conditions for prolific wildlife populations – enormous elephant herds, abundant hippo and plains game, followed by excellent predator numbers. Indeed, it is an integral stronghold for species like the critically endangered wild dog, as well as lion, leopard, cheetah and spotted hyaena.
The Classic Camp's ten tented units (8 twin and two family) are raised off the ground to overlook the Osprey Lagoon, while in general, the architecture evokes the age of the explorers along with a sense of space, thanks to the wraparound clear-storey window allowing 360-degree dramatic views of the river.
Importantly, in line with the Wilderness 4Cs ethos, DumaTau Camp operates completely on solar energy, for hot water, lighting and other energy needs, and is built of FSC-standard timber. In addition, the camp has water-wise waste removal and uses green and thermal insulating materials.
DumaTau Camp's location between two elephant corridors offers an exclusive river and land experience to returning and new guests, in a completely sustainable manner.
Wildebeest Migration Update
The wildebeest migration has arrived in the Masai Mara with thousands of wildebeest crossing the Talek and Mara Rivers and pouring into the Masai Mara, and lots more wildebeest on their way.
We still have some tents available for this year's migration season, so if you would like to come on safari and see this incredible wildlife spectacle then contact your preferred Tour Operator or Governors Camp Collection to book your Governors migration safari.
Wilderness Touring Cape Town Update
We have been advised that the SA Jewish Museum and Holocaust Centre will be closed for renovations from 26 July 2012 to 12 August 2012.
No report this month.
North Island Update - August 2012 Jump
to North Island
Kings Pool Camp update - August 2012 Jump
to Kings Pool Camp
The month of August has once again been jam-packed with phenomenal game viewing and some very memorable moments. The second week of August was very cold because of a cold front coming all the way from Cape Town. We experienced an average minimum of between 1-4° C, so the mornings were quite cold, but once the front passed, the rest of the month was quite pleasant.
The sky was very hazy on the 21st and 26th August, as there was big fire in Namibia, but this really enhanced the sunsets.
The seasonal pans that were once filled with water are now empty, which has forced the majority of the wildlife in the area to move to the banks of the Linyanti River and Savute Channel. With temperatures going in the thirties (Celsius) at midday, the animals dare not venture far from their fluid life source.
There is seldom a moment during the day where an animal of one sort or another cannot be seen from the main deck of Kings Pool. With a vista to die for, the addition of herds of elephant, a journey of giraffe, a raft of hippo or as was the case this month, a strapping male lion, the camp radiates a natural atmosphere fit for royalty.
The number of predator sightings this month has been astounding. Leopard have been seen on almost a daily basis. With up to two or three separate sightings in a morning or evening activity, Kings Pool remains one of the best destinations to view this elusive cat. We have estimated that there are approximately eight individuals (four adult females, two adult males and two cubs from different mothers) operating within a 30km stretch of the Linyanti River. With overlapping territories and the desire for prime real estate - along with the ever-present competition from their arch-rivals, the lion and hyaena - conflict is inevitable.
This brings us to an enthralling sighting for the month that will remain in the memories of the lucky Kings Pool guests who were here at the time for years to come...
On a brisk morning, shortly after the guests had departed on their morning game drive, Khan came across some fresh female leopard tracks not far from camp. Using his excellent tracking skills, he eventually located the leopard, which had been successful in hunting an impala and was now engorging herself on the fresh kill. She had managed to drag the kill underneath some cover but she was still fairly exposed. This was already a mind-blowing experience for the guests and they were more than happy to see such an elusive predator at close quarters.
Suddenly the leopard stopped her feeding and looked behind her. It seemed as if she had heard something but the guide and guests could not see anything. In a split second, chaos erupted! A lioness must have picked up the scent of the fresh kill and came dashing straight towards the young leopard. She scampered away immediately with the lion hot on her heels. She found a big African ebony tree that she managed to climb in a second. The lioness, not particularly accustomed to climbing trees, launched herself up the tree trunk and tried her best to get to her adversary. Her weight was just too much and the incredibly powerful cat was eventually forced to return sheepishly to solid ground. She headed straight back to the impala carcass and found the rest of the pride (barring the male) - one adult female, one subadult male and two cubs - busy enjoying their free breakfast, leaving the leopard glaring at them with a look of chagrin on her face. An incredible example of the inter-species rivalry in the area and how lions can also scavenge from other predators.
Another exciting highlight for the month was the presence of five male lion in the area: one adult and four subadult males. We saw one of the Chobe females mating with the adult male near Linyanti Tented Camp on 21 August and few days later we saw the same female mating with one of the sudadult males, which was quite unusual. Two of the five male lions were seen right in camp on the 13th of August but the dominant male of the area from the LTC Pride managed to chase them back to the east. We anticipate some really action-packed confrontations in the near future.
The two lion cubs from our resident LTC Pride, which were born in March this year, are still alive and doing very well. Meanwhile, the other lioness that we saw mating with the Kings Pool male at the beginning of June is heavily pregnant - we are very excited and looking forward to seeing the newborn cubs very soon.
The LTC Pack of wild dogs are still denning between DumaTau Camp and Savuti Camp. The den site is still closed off to game drives in a bid to avoid unnecessary disturbances during this sensitive time for the pack. We are keeping our fingers crossed that the pack is very successful in raising their pups.
We have had wonderful elephant viewing, especially from the Queen Silvia barge from which some guests have been lucky to witness the pachyderms swimming across the Linyanti. The sunken hide is still giving our guests some outstanding and amazing views of elephant at close quarters. The hide has definitely proved its worth this month as we had a couple of sightings of roan and sable arriving for a drink in front of the hide. On one occasion, Ndebo and his guests decided to go and spend some quality time at the hide after brunch and they counted up to 16 sable in one herd by the sunken hide.
Some great nocturnal mammals including: lesser bushbaby, honey badger, civet, large-spotted genet, porcupine, springhare, scrub hare and spotted hyaena were enjoyed this month.
The birdlife along the Linyanti has been prolific with some great specials being seen regularly. Birders have been excited by the arrival of one of our summer visitors: The southern carmine bee-eaters are back from further north. All the fruiting jackal berry trees are swarming with various species of starlings, bulbuls and green pigeons. An orchestra of chirping and cheeping descends from the tree-tops as the birds squabble for the best fruit, and every evening we see hundreds of starlings flying to Namibia where they roost and then again the next morning back to Botswana for their day trip. Some of the trees are blooming already: camel thorns, Kalahari apple leaf and knobbly combretum, which have masses of lovely fluffy pink-white flowers that attract a plethora of wildlife.
With fantastic game viewing, a warm and welcoming atmosphere and some fabulous cuisine, this gorgeous and exclusive destination remains a definite must on any itinerary!
KINGS POOL ROCKS!
Staff in Camp
Managers: Alex and One Mazunga, Julie Sander and Rikki Lotter.
Guides: Ndebo Tongwane, Lemme Dintwa and Khan Gouwe.
Newsletter and photographs: Alex Mazunga.
DumaTau Camp update - August 2012 Jump
to DumaTau Camp
Our first month at the new DumaTau Camp has come to a close, and it was certainly one to remember! We also said our final goodbye to this year's cold weather and enjoyed plenty of awesome game viewing, thanks to our resident wild dog, leopard and lion.
Just after moving across from the old site during the first week of August, the last winter cold front reached us in full force. The temperature dropped to O° C for a few days and we flocked to the picturesque new fire deck to thaw our chilly hands. As quickly as the cold front arrived, it was gone, and temperatures have been increasing steadily every since. The maximum daytime temperature during the last half of August settled between 35° C and 38° C, and the early morning temperature did not drop below 12° C. The area has continued to dry out, and there is little green vegetation remaining, except for what's left along the water's edge. These hot and dry conditions have made life difficult for the area's elephant, with several sad sightings of dead elephant, particularly younger herd members.
Cat sightings have been relatively consistent this month. The DumaTau Pride of lion has maintained a large territory, spending the majority of its time along the Savute Channel. They have been preying on buffalo and the pride's youngest member is healthy and strong.
We had enjoyed plenty of leopard viewing, and the DumaTau male continues to act as the star. Warthog are definitely his prey of choice, and he was observed with four different warthog kills in August. He is patrolling the same area around the camp and is in good condition, but we suspect his mating days are over, and he is not likely to impregnate any of the area's females. We did see the Zibidianja Female with him, but she was only there to share the spoils of his fresh kill.
The greatest excitement this month has come from the LTC Pack of wild dog. First they surprised us by killing an impala in front of the main area bathroom. Guests quickly jumped on the barge to get a better view of the incredible sighting. They were spotted in and around camp several times after that, busy hunting each day to provide for their new pups. They recently moved their den to a new location and we have been able to confirm that there are seven puppies. With twelve adults, the total pack number is now 19. As of a few days ago, the puppies appeared to be thriving, and we are hopeful that this pack will be very successful as summer approaches.
While sightings have been rare, we are happy to report that there are several cheetah in the area. A coalition of three males has been seen this month, as well as signs of a female and two young cubs, and one other male. The cheetah are still quite wary of vehicles, but the sight of their tracks is a promising start. The summer birds are also beginning to return. Though there are no active nests yet, the southern carmine bee-eaters have arrived at their traditional nesting site on the waterside by the road that leads to Kings Pool Camp.
As we say goodbye to winter and prepare for increasing heat, we expect to witness a great deal of tension and struggle amongst the area's wildlife. Just last week, for example. a subadult elephant died behind the camp, providing food for the local hyaena clan and many vultures. The dry season gives visitors an opportunity to experience first-hand the cycle of life and death in this pristine wilderness; while some animals will die as a result of rising heat, others will find ways to take advantage of it, and like the hyaena and wild dogs, they will thrive.
This coming month will bring rising temperatures and lots of fantastic game viewing. For guests that are looking to escape the dust out on the road, we expect a relaxing cruise on our newly outfitted barge will do the trick. With comfortable couches and a roof to protect from the sun, it is a perfect vantage point from which to enjoy a possible elephant crossing, and of course, a stunning Linyanti sunset. We hope that you'll join us or what is shaping up to be a spectacular close to the 2012 dry season.
Managers in August: Gerard, Claire, Ben, Abiella and KG.
Guides in August: Bobby, Moses, Name, Ona and Tank.
Photos taken by Ona Basimane
Savuti Camp update - August 2012 Jump
to Savuti Camp
Zarafa Camp update - August 2012 Jump
to Zarafa Camp
Selinda Camp update - August 2012 Jump
to Selinda Camp
As we slide out of winter towards summer, and the temperatures start to rise in anticipation of the summer rains, animals are using the Selinda Spillway as their saving grace in these dry times. The game abundance this month on the northern side of the Spillway has been simply breathtaking. Elephants are coming down in large numbers now to feed and drink along the edge of the Spillway, from around midday well into the late afternoon.
We've had an absolute glut of big cat sightings. The small resident pride of four lioness has been courted this month by no fewer than four separate male lions; our Selinda Pride male, a coalition of two brothers from deeper west into the concession, and a large male from neighbouring Namibia. With all the mating going on, we expect interesting times ahead.
Leopards are sighted regularly now and we've been treated to sightings of a new cub in the days leading up to the end of August. The cub was well hidden for most of the month, and we finally got a glimpse of the youngster at the end of August. The cub is still tiny, and just resembles a small ball of fluff.
The buffalo have arrived in huge numbers with the average herd size being in excess of 200 individuals. The highlight was when a few of these herds converged in the same location near camp. We got to enjoy this super congregation from the boat - we estimate that the herd was no smaller than 2000 buffalo, all drinking and wallowing along the Selinda Spillway. It was truly an incredible sight - the dust cloud that was stirred up by the herd hung in the air well into the evening.
We've had some excellent cheetah sightings too - the most notable of which was an interaction between the two spotted feline species in the area. Our guests got to witness a cheetah kill - but it didn't stop there, as a large leopard was quickly on the scene. There was a lot of visual displaying going on in the form of hissing, snarling and growling. No physical fight ensued, and both spotted felines shared the carcass - a remarkable interaction between two predator species!
The Selinda wild dogs have now left the den and all nine puppies are now ranging around with the adults - they've been moving in and out of our concession to the north and we've had some excellent sightings of them! It is great that the alpha female has managed to protect and shelter her nine pups and we hope we'll be seeing them through to adulthood.
General game has been excellent too - the usual night-time hippo sightings, herds of zebra, red lechwe and lots and lots of giraffe.
We hope to see you out here soon!
Bush Greetings from the whole Selinda Team.
Camps Update - August 2012
No report this month.
Lagoon camp Jump
• The pride of eight lions has been seen quite often this month, mostly around the Muddy Waters area. A mother with three sub-adult cubs was also seen regularly, though the cubs themselves are quite shy. The eight lions succeeded in killing a buffalo, and the single lioness also managed to kill a buffalo calf.
• The ten wild dog puppies are going strong, and are still resident at the same den. The adult dogs still come and go from the den, hunting and bringing back food to regurgitate for the pups and any adult dog that stays behind to 'puppy-sit'.
• Most of the big buffalo herds have moved down towards the Lebala region, probably due to the prevalence of lions and the wild dogs that developed a taste for buffalo calf…
• In the middle of the month hyenas were found feeding on an elephant calf – no adult elephants were nearby, and it remains a mystery as to whether the elephant died of natural causes, or was taken down by the hyenas, or indeed, the lions that were nearby. Whichever way, it didn't remain with the hyenas for long as the wild dogs arrived and chased off the hyenas. The hyena population appears to be increasing, with two new-borns recently spotted at the den.
• As the weather warms, more and more elephants are spending the afternoons by the water, drinking, and bathing.
• Separate sightings of three different leopards – a young male, a female, and another male, all were seen hunting. The adult male was found with the remains of a kill.
Lebala camp Jump
• A very relaxed female leopard was seen three days in a row at the beginning of the month, attempting to hunt each day. Sadly she had no luck whilst we were watching. However, a few days later, we found a male leopard with a fresh impala kill on the ground. A female leopard – possibly the same one we had seen the days before – approached the male, in an attempt to also feed on the impala. The male hissed and growled and refused to allow her in to feed. The next day the two leopards were still together, with the male dominating the kill. When the male left to drink water, the female was able to eat.
• On the 26th of August, a female leopard was tracked for about forty minutes until we found her up a tree. It was a delight to see her cub up the tree with her. We estimate the cub to be two months old. On our arrival it came down the tree and hid in the nearby bushes.
• A hard-earned three hours of tracking paid off when an adult male cheetah was spotted resting under the shade of the mopane trees near Wild Dog Pan. He was well fed with the remains of blood from a recent meal smeared over his face. The next day he was located again, resting up in the shade of some trees.
• Towards the end of the month a single female wild dog was located along Boundary road with nine puppies with her. The rest of the pack (totalling ten adults) was located hunting at Twin Pools. This pack is a different pack from the group of dogs that are denning close to the Lagoon camp. A few days later hyenas were located feasting on a dead giraffe along the Boundary road, when a group of eight dogs came and had a fight over the carcass with the hyenas. The dogs gave up and left, but led us back to the nine puppies that had been stashed in a den further along the boundary. Later in the month, the alpha female of the pack managed to take down a kudu on her own, before calling in the rest of the pack.
• The airstrip proved productive one night with an aardwolf briefly seen on the game drive. The aardwolf is sometimes mistaken for a hyena, but they feed solely on termites!
Kwara & Little Kwara camps Jump
& Little Kwara camps
• Around the 7th August, the dogs moved their den. Although we have not been able to relocate the new den – it is probably in an area of thick, inaccessible Mopane scrub where we have seen the adult dogs several times. One day they were seen catching an adult kudu, but the kill was taken over by the Makotho pride of lions. Just before they relocated the den, only nine puppies were counted, so it appears that one puppy has died. This is not unusual for wild dogs, as infant mortality can be quite high. At the end of the month, all twelve dogs and 9 puppies were found resting along Tsum Tsum Road. All looked fit and healthy.
• Lions were seen almost every day this month, including the Makotho pride, the large males from the other pride frequenting the Splash area and killing an adult giraffe, and the lonely lioness with her one young cub, who was now moved out of the Splash area to the central area of the concession. (This is probably to keep her cub out of the way of the large male lions now in Splash.)
• We had several sightings of leopard, including a female leopard who killed a side striped jackal and hung it in a tree. She was seen feeding on the jackal – this is unusual as whilst predators often kill other predators, they don't often feed on them.
• Three brother cheetahs were seen often this month, as well as the other cheetah three-some of sub-adults. The youngsters have been frequenting the areas around the camps, even walking between the tents at Little Kwara and past the kitchen at night.
• Unusual sightings this month occurred on the boat, in the Kwara main channel, with a flash sighting of a Sitatunga – a rarely seen semi-aquatic antelope – it made a hasty get away through the reeds. Two martial eagles were seen killing different prey: one took a monitor lizard, and a second one snatched a cane rat.
• Sometimes we overlook the smaller things – one keen guide was lucky enough to notice two community spiders: the female was busily eating prey in the web, apparently oblivious of the other spider that was mating with her at the time!
Nxai Pan Jump
to Nxai Pan camp
• Usually seen at our Tau Pan camp in the Kalahari, the honey badger made an appearance this month, he was seen along the main road to camp digging and hunting small rodents.
• Early in the month the female cheetah with two young was seen heading towards Baines Baobabs, hunting. Unfortunately, a few days later, the mother was found in the same area with a broken leg, probably as a result of an accident incurred whilst hunting. Sadly there is no hope that the cheetah will survive, and her cubs are too small to be able to live without their mother.
• On a lighter note, the two young male cheetahs that frequent the area close to camp were seen fit and healthy several times, and spent one morning from 6am till around 9am in front of camp, drinking from the waterhole (seemingly oblivious to the grumbly elephants around them). Black backed jackals were following them at a distance, in the hope of scavenging any scraps from a kill they might make. And the hundreds of babbling guinea fowl clucked around themselves in dismay as the elegant cats moved past them.
• Lions were also seen often this month both on drives, and in camp – a lioness and five sub-adults spent the entire night walking up and down around the camp. They were found the next morning sleeping close to the waterhole. Their patience paid off when a steenbok came towards the pride unaware. The lioness lay in ambush as the steenbok approached. She had calculated the distance and gave chase. Within 100 metres the fate of the steenbok was sealed as the lioness grabbed her by the neck to have her morning solo 'snack' as the rest of the pride watching from the sidelines.
• An elephant family unit of seven females and two young came down to the camp waterhole one afternoon, very thirsty. They were all in a hurry to reach the waterhole, only to be stopped by the bulls that were already there. A careful observation of the animals' behaviour revealed the two sexes got into some negotiations before the bulls would allow the females to drink. This family unit usually visits the waterhole every two days.
• Both black-backed and side-striped jackals were seen most days, and there was an interesting altercation between two male black-backed jackals, who were fighting over a female jackal who looked on as they battled.
• The highlight of the week of the 8th of August was the sighting of lesser grey shrike and barn swallows – these two species of birds are not particularly photogenic, but stand out for a different reason - they are our first summer migratory visitors!
Tau Pan Jump
to Tau Pan camp
• The beginning of the month was back to situation normal for lions, with all 10 of them (four adults, six sub-adults) hanging around the camp for four days. The days were spent relaxing and warming up in the sun as the temperatures were low (zero degrees and below at night!) and then hunting during the night. Although we did not see the remains of a kill, each morning the lions were bloodied, showing that they had been successful. The sub-adults are now about 1.5 years old, and they are almost the same size as the adult females. The next 6 to 12 months will be interesting as tensions are sure to rise. As the sub-adult males get older they are likely to be forced out by their father and uncle.
• Stealthily trying to sneak in for a drink at the waterhole whilst the lions are preoccupied elsewhere, an adult cheetah was seen several times. He attempted to hunt kudus, but returned empty-pawed after the chase.
• On a day trip down to Deception Valley, we came across a relaxed and healthy caracal, lying in the shade. These elegant but powerful small cats, can subsist on catching rodents and small prey, but have also been known to bring down antelope several times their size.
• Other animals that were seen regularly this month include the gemsbok, steenbok, wildebeest, kudu, giraffe, duikers, springboks, bat eared foxes, jackals, and the small mongooses such as the slender and yellow mongoose.
• Highlight (or perhaps lowlight is better) of the month: the 7th of August… not a highlight provided by any mammal, bird or reptile, but instead by the climate. Taps that were turned on in the morning for a quick morning wash refused to produce any water – not a problem with the water pump as initially thought, but a problem with the temperature, the water had frozen in the pipes! The swimming pool had a thin layer of ice on it. Luckily, the sun soon warmed things up. In fact, within 14 days of that cold cold morning, the daytime temperature had jumped from 22 to 37 degrees C. Spring completely bypassed us this year, and we have launched straight into summer!
• Perhaps the most bizarre event of the month was a kill that occurred in the camp: a warthog wandered through the camp, foraging. The animal was followed by a hornbill, who was taking the opportunity to catch any insects the animal flushed out of the grass. The hornbill, naturally not worrying too much about a warthog, went about its business on the ground. Perhaps it should have worried a little more … a particularly tasty morsel caught both the hornbill's and the warthog's eye. The warthog made a grab for it, and inadvertently (?!) squashed the hornbill. Working on a waste-not, want-not principle, the warthog then quickly gobbled up the dead hornbill!
Mombo Camp update
- August 2012 Jump
to Mombo Camp
August sits on the line between spring and winter in Mombo; where some days take on the biting chill of July, while others are balmy and hot, bringing with them a hint of summer. On a couple of days we even had clouds overhead - a tantalising hint of the still-far-off rains to come, but until then, we still have the colours and smells of September and the parching dust of October to look forward to out here in our corner of the Okavango.
Floodplain areas are slowly drying back as the waters recede, leaving a fresh green flush of nutritious graze behind - this is irresistible to the herds of game that crowd the open plains. The vistas are immense; great sweeping expanses of green leading the eye into the shimmering distance, everywhere dotted with animals and birds...a pullulating scene of vibrant life.
The wildlife sightings have, as always, been outstanding - with a few wonderful highlights...
The female leopard, Slim Girl, was seen on a few occasions this month, usually in the south of the concession where her territory lies.
Blue Eyes, the male leopard who dominates the southern area of the concession provided what must have been the most thrilling sighting of the month. Alerted by the alarm barks of a troop of baboons near Drift Molapo, we found him lying along a rain tree branch about five metres off the ground. The baboons shrieked their agitation at him from all around while he regally ignored them, even when they were in the branches of the same tree above him. A herd of impala wandered into the vicinity, which prompted a frenzy of warning shrieks and barks from the sharp-eyed baboons who could see what was about to happen. The antelope somehow ignored the noise, and slowly wandered closer to the fatal tree. The baboons eventually seemed to give up on their efforts in trying to warn the impala, and carried on their activities of feeding, mating and playing. All the while, one male impala kept getting closer and closer to where the leopard lay in wait. The scene erupted in chaos an instant later as Blue Eyes stealthily moved into position then leapt from the tree straight onto the impala with a resounding impact. With dust flying and baboons roaring, he had the presence of mind, or possibly the clinical calculation to subdue the impala ram in a choke-hold for a few seconds before a phalanx of male baboons charged at him. Forced to retreat in the melee of roaring teeth and fur coming at him, he disappeared into dense brush nearby. The impala ram managed to stand and stagger a few metres before crashing to the ground, and died from his injuries moments later. The baboon troop eventually quietened down with the dangerous cat no longer visible, and resumed their foraging. A long while later they moved off farther away and Blue Eyes returned to drag the carcass into the undergrowth to feast in peace.
Legadema has also been around a fair amount recently, and on a couple of occasions she has visited the camp on her territorial patrols. One evening she was sighted in the camp environs between Mombo and Little Mombo, just before melting away into the gathering gloom. Shortly thereafter, without any of us detecting her movement, we saw her standing right in the bar area next to our sherry station, as if she were inspecting what was on offer! The sound of voices raised in warning was enough to send her on her way, padding gently off into the night.
Late another night she killed a baboon, waking us all up as the slumbering troop realized one of their number had been attacked and taken by their ultimate enemy in the darkness, and raised a cacophony of alarm barks and terrified shrieks. The next time we found her; she had killed yet another baboon, this time out near Honeymoon Pan, and had pulled the carcass into a tree a few hundred metres from the troops' regular roost. She posed with this macabre trophy of her erstwhile tormentor in the early light of dawn until the troop returned to chase her away. Later that afternoon, however, we returned to the same tree to find her with a freshly-killed impala tucked into one of the boughs.
A week or so before this, in the 92 Dog Den Road area, we found the male leopard Mmolai, also with an impala kill stashed in a tree. He was in an area he has seldom been seen in since he arrived on the scene, but close to the Serondela Floodplains from whence we think he came, which is some distance from his recent usual haunts.
The Moporota pride of lions have been seen regularly - sometimes a little too regularly as they have been spending a lot of time in the camp environs! It appears they are now actively pursuing a daytime hunting strategy using the tree island of Mombo Camp as a trap in which to catch impala. Since the island is surrounded on three sides by water, their strategy is to flush these antelope and run them into an ambush cordon along the only dry route off the island. This has been successful on a number of occasions, leading them to use it fairly often, especially in times when larger prey like buffalo are scarce in the area.
The remaining Jao boy, dominant male of the pride, was seen limping very badly at the beginning of the month, and we wondered whether the ancient cat had fought his final battle. He has somehow managed to keep up with the rest of the pride, but has lost a tremendous amount of condition. We wonder how long it will be before we no longer see him.
The Western Pride has had an unexpected boon with the absence of male lion competition from the Mporota and the Mathatha Prides (the Western Boys haven't been seen in quite some time). Mmamoriri's pride has successfully fought off both of the two larger prides in territorial disputes - one of which happened right in the camp. It was an incredible sight to see her charging through the shallow water from Skimmer Island, scattering the Mporota Pride before her!
The former Mporota-breakaway Pride, now known as Akuna, have been seen in the areas between Stompies Road and Siberiana, often accompanied by a magnificent young male lion that is new to the area. We are currently attempting to discover his provenance by comparing him with pictures taken of lions all over Chief's Island.
Another older lion, known as Malinga, has also taken advantage of the power vacuum and was seen mating with one of the females from the Mporota Pride, so perhaps we will once again see lion cubs in the concession!
The lion dynamics are set to change dramatically in the future with the demise of the Jao Boys, and we will be fortunate to observe this fascinating transition at first hand.
The lone wild dog is still a regular feature at Mombo. She has changed her regular haunt to the open area near Drift Molapo and, as has become to norm to her, has a pair of jackals in attendance. This might point to the existence of a den somewhere nearby - so the saga may continue!
The hyaena den on Galloping Horse Road has provided many of our visitors with delightful encounters observing the youngster's antics, as well as a fascinating insight into the lives of these much-maligned, yet amazingly complex, social creatures.
Stompie, the elephant has been a regular visitor to camp this month - much to the ire of the camp carpenters as he removes inconvenient sections of walkway in his wanderings! The ilala palms on the island were a particular attraction to him this month and we often were treated to the sight of him bashing the tree trunks to shake loose the palm nuts which he devoured with relish.
A hippo carcass at Suzy's Duck Pond provided a focal point for a large amount of carnivorous activity - firstly the Mathatha lions, then hyaena, and finally a multitude of marabou storks and vultures picked the area clean within a couple of days...nothing goes to waste in nature!
We have been fortunate to have a few rhino sightings this month - Serondela, one of the dominant bulls of the area, has been seen in the company of the female Warona and her two youngsters.
The bush is starting to take on the vibrant hues of spring, the temperatures are rising each day and there is an atmospheric dry dust hanging in the air turning sunsets and moon rises into glowing, blood-red orbs...the coming months are set to become warmer and drier until the advent of the next dose of life-giving rains which should arrive by the end of October.
Guides in camp for August were Cisco, Doc Malinga, Moss, Tshepo and Sefo.
Managers here were Vasco, Ryan, Katie, Ruby and Glen, with Graham at Little Mombo. We also welcomed Liz Parkin, recently of North Island, to the Mombo team.
Xigera Camp update
- August 2012 Jump
to Xigera Camp
Chitabe Camp update
- August 2012 Jump
to Chitabe Camp
The month of August was dry and the daily temperatures were starting to rise, which gave us some great wildlife sightings and good concentrations of animals at the more permanent water sources.
The oldest lioness of the Chitabe Pride has recently become the mother of three cubs! These are just about two-and-half to three months old. The cubs are healthy and in good condition. The lioness kept her cubs near Chitabe Camp, close to the bridge, which enabled us to see them on a regular basis. It was also a wonderful welcome for guests arriving at the camps!
The Gomoti Channel area with its big, open floodplains and variety of vegetation has been particularly productive this last month, with big herds of buffalo and other general game being prolific.
The leopards on the Chitabe Concession have developed a very interesting skill of hunting out of trees. We had an excellent sighting near Leopard Tree with four leopards at the same place feeding on an impala which was killed by one of the females, so we quite literally witnessed a "leap of leopards". In a week we watched four leopards hunting from the same tree at different times of the day. There must be something they really like about that tree!
We witnessed the Acacia Male leopard in action - chasing a female up a tree. They did not get into any serious confrontation as the male ended up walking away into the thick bushes leaving the female up in the tree.
The Gomoti Female leopard has two cubs which are still a little shy when the vehicles approach. During our last sighting, they had they just finished feeding on a female kudu which was killed by their mother.
"We loved the rustic environment, and loved the fact that there was no television or distractions. Great staff and knowledgeable guides. This was our first time spending quality time with leopards. Thank you very much."
"Great staff! Friendly and professional. Fantastic game viewing. Love the décor in the common area and guest tents!"
"I really enjoyed the dinner and dancing and singing in the boma. It was so fantastic, THANK YOU! The game drives here were exceptional; I loved seeing all the cats. They were a sight I will never forget."
"Beautiful camp, excellent décor. Staff was very easy to be with."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Alex, Masedi, Kris and Six at Main Camp. Moalosi and Joel at Lediba.
Guides: BB, Anthony, Luke, Thuso, Gordon and Molemi.
Vumbura Plains Camp update
- August 2012 Jump
to Vumbura Plains Camp
Hard to believe that just a month ago we were huddled around the campfire in the early mornings, and splashing through deep water crossings on our way to the airstrip. Now summer stalks the land, the furnace breath of the midday heat stirring the golden grasses as they search the sky in vain for clouds. We did have one cloudy morning, a few incongruous fluffy white clouds against the deep blue sky, but these only served to remind us that even though summer is coming roaring in, the first rains are still many weeks away.
The annual inundation is in full retreat now, leaving wide stretches of perfect white sand glistening in the sunlight like icing sugar. The still-damp sand is the perfect place to look for tracks, to catch up on the events of the preceding night as stamped into the ground. Clues to nocturnal wanderings...
As the waters recede, we can access almost the entire concession again. Submerged roads re-appear and treacherous crossings become friendly again. As the game follows the fast-disappearing waters out across the floodplains, we follow too, with many of the best sightings being in areas the water has just relinquished.
These marginal areas are proving to be rich foraging grounds for all manner of animals and birds. Troops of baboons patiently pick their way among the drying reeds, searching for water lily bulbs. Hamerkops pace around shrinking puddles in the road, hunting down any frogs that are too slow to flee. Clouds of African openbills rise above their feeding grounds like smoke.
The late afternoons bring welcome relief in the form of gentle breezes, and as the midday sting leaves the sun, the plains become alive again with game. Just driving in from the airstrip can become a complete safari in itself, and our most iconic antelope species, the striped-faced, scimitar-horned sable, are being seen more and more frequently as their drier habitat expands again.
The inundation this year was perhaps much closer to an average inundation - if such a natural miracle can ever be described as average. Certainly though we received far less water than in either of the last two years, and several of the dead leadwood trees still proudly bear rings on their trunks showing just how much deeper the water was last winter.
Above us the first harbingers of summer are swooping and diving: the scarlet darts of southern carmine bee-eaters, and the ever-watchful yellow-billed kites. They came early this year, so we could be in for a longer, hotter summer.
Doubtless it was the beauty of this area that compelled them to return. It is hard to think of a time of year when Vumbura is prettier than it is now. The rich blue sky provides the perfect backdrop to the waving golden grasses and the blazing red and yellow colours of the trees - it is as if flaming torches have been lit in the woodlands. The sausage trees as ever are ahead of the others: festooned with fresh green leaves, and shedding their velveteen, heavily-scented flowers with each breath of wind.
The blossoms bring bats at night that play their part in pollinating the flowers, and by day the nectar-rich flowers prove irresistible to herds of impala which also find welcome relief in the shade. At no time though can they relax: it is not unknown for leopards to lurk along the boughs, hidden by the leaves, and then launch themselves spectacularly onto an unsuspecting antelope below.
As summer arrives, the bellies of the female impalas are noticeably swelling now with new life, but of course a new generation of prey will be met by a new generation of predators. Both of our wild dog packs have denned successfully this year, which is fantastic news for this endangered species. Less good news of course for the impalas and for the young ones still to be born.
For exhilaration, there is nothing quite like watching the rocking horse motion, the seemingly-effortless running of a pack of dogs in full flow, with panicked impala fleeing before them, soaring over bushes and other obstacles as though trying to take off, which they no doubt wish they could.
As an example of the sheer hunting prowess of the dogs, just this week a lone male dog chased an impala into the swamp immediately in front of Camp and dispatched it in the reeds. Suddenly nervous of marauding crocodiles, he emerged from the reeds with a bloody face, and retreated to take stock of the situation. As so often, however, hunger overcame fear and he waded back into the shallows to claim his prize.
Of course dogs are not the only predators we see here. We have also had some wonderful leopard encounters of late, including a tussle over a kill with a hyaena. The leopard had not yet had time to hoist its kill into a tree, and in an area like Vumbura with so many other carnivores around, a delay like this can easily result in a lost meal.
Perhaps the best news of all this month has been the apparent reforming of the Kubu Pride. Like the disparate members of some forgotten rock band, they have been making friendly overtures to each other again. Two of the lionesses have kept themselves to themselves for many months, each busy, remarkably, raising a litter of cubs alone. One has four, and the other, two which are slightly younger. To see the two females and their cubs meet up is a truly wonderful sight - their pleasure in socialising and recognition is palpable.
We are currently helping in sponsoring a researcher who is investigating lion genetics in the Okavango, and through this project we are hoping to learn a lot more about the relationships between prides and individual pride members. However much we discover, Nature is certain to retain a few secrets - secrets we will certainly begin to appreciate as the seamless rhythm of the seasons continues, and the clouds eventually return, this time laden with the life-giving rains of summer.
But before that, the golden month of September stretches ahead of us, and promises more phenomenal game viewing in this most beautiful of natural theatres.
With very best wishes from your August team at Vumbura Plains: Kago Tlhalerwa, Ras Munduu, Lebo Kabubi, Lorato Bampusi, Dittmar Wellio, Ipeleng Gaesimodimo and Nick 'Noko' Galpine.
Little Vumbura Camp update
- August 2012 Jump
to Little Vumbura Camp
Weather and Landscape
Summer has arrived without warning! To be honest, we're not at all sure that we had spring... It is hot and already reaching temperatures of 35°C and more, perfect for spending those lazy summer afternoons at the pool. The maximum temperature reached was a staggering 38° C with the monthly minimum plummeting down to 1° C. We have not yet had any rainfall.
The Delta waters are low and have had a major impact on the game viewing in the area - which has been outstanding!
The resident cheetah is back! We have enjoyed various sightings of a male cheetah just north of the airstrip. This caused much excitement, as we have not had a cheetah sighting in the concession for five months, due to the arrival of the annual inundation. This particular male looks really healthy and is in great shape, plus he was very obliging about posing for photographs, being completely relaxed in our presence.
The general game viewing has been fantastic too, as the waters recede, exposing new stands of vegetation which are sprouting with new growth, attracting a myriad herbivores. The reduction of surface water also makes the wildlife's movements a little more predictable, as one can find great concentrations of wildlife along the waterways during the heat of the day.
Birds and Birding
There is a pair of Pel's fishing-owls that have been roosting on a nearby island, which is easily accessible by mokoro. This makes for an amazing afternoon sundowner experience, with a pretty good chance of seeing this sought-after bird.
As the water recedes, many aquatic creatures and fish get isolated in small pools, which has caused a feeding frenzy amongst a wide variety of water birds. We have had great sightings of African darters, African fish-eagles, black crakes and both species of jacana amongst many other avian wonders.
The southern carmine bee-eaters have arrived too, adding such vibrant colours to the environment and signalling the arrival of the summer migrants.
"The staff are warm, friendly and wonderful!"
"Our guide Rain was amazing."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Kay, Aaron, Beatrice and KB.
Guides: Rain, Sevara and Madala Kay.
Newsletter by Aaron Jones
Duba Plains Camp update
- August 2012 Jump
to Duba Plains Camp
As you know Duba Plains is world-famous for its lion and buffalo interaction. We saw plenty of those over the last four weeks but we also had very good sightings of sitatunga, aardwolf and on three different occasions - a pangolin! To add to this list was a very habituated serval which amazed our guests with a great display of its hunting techniques which goes to prove even in a wet place like Duba Plains, night drives are highly productive.
We even had a lone shy male leopard come through camp calling for a mate, which put everyone on high alert as the tracks revealed that the feline was a large male.
August seemed to be the month of returning guests. It was already the third time for a very friendly photographic safari couple from Germany. They stayed for six days and saw it all: Lions from the boat, lechwe from the helicopter and a very gory but impressive buffalo kill just in front their game drive vehicle. They are already planning their visit for next year!
For those who have seen the documentary 'The Last Lions', please know that both Ma di Tau and Silver Eye are still around, especially the latter - although she is getting old and grumpy and keeps on collecting more battle scars every time we see her. However, both the old females are still strong, alive and certainly kicking!
As the season continues, there has been a change in weather as well. Everyone was so looking forward to the warm balmy nights but a horrific cold snap in early August had everyone reaching for their thermals, with temps dropping to 3? C... short pants were out! A hot meal and soup were mostly the order of the day.
Water levels have also dropped considerably as we near the end of the season, allowing more access to certain islands to view the endless interactions between lion and buffalo.
On a final note, the Duba Plains Team extends a warm welcome to two new staff members - Pierre and Antoinette. Pierre will be dishing out his magic in the kitchen to entice the taste buds of our guests. Antoinette will be weaving her "fairy dust" over the staff who serve and look after our guests, making their stay at Duba Plains even more of a pleasure ensuring there are more returns to Duba Plains and not just for the unique lion and buffalo interactions.
We'll be back with more news on these legends, next month.
A big roar from the Duba Plains Team!
Banoka Bush Camp update
- August 2012
Weather and Landscape
August has been a pleasant month in terms of temperature and climate. The days are heating up now as we approach the end of winter.
The water levels have dropped quite a bit, as the peak of the annual inundation has passed. The vegetation, however, is bouncing back as we approach the temperate summer months.
There have been several herds of elephant making their presence known in and around the camp. A bachelor herd of old bulls has been in the camp almost every day and giving our many guests the thrill of living amongst these giants. The resident hippo family is still growing each month with new babies and other adults joining the Banoka Pod.
A wonderful sighting this month was of the resident lioness coming to sunbathe in front of camp on a termite mound. She made a habit of this every day for a week at noon - just as the guests were enjoying their brunch. The guests this month have been blessed to see two leopards with a carcass in a tree. These two young male leopards have often been spotted this month hunting together.
Other lion have also been seen regularly this month, as a medium-sized pride has been resting in the shady patches close to the airstrip. Another two males have been spotted together near camp roaring away at night. Another great highlight was when our guests witnessed a white-backed vulture and a wild dog fighting over a kudu carcass. On the subject of scavenging, we had a hyaena visiting Banoka. This curious individual hung around the access road, and started snooping around camp just before everyone went to sleep.
Birds and Birding
A Verreaux's eagle-owl has taken up residence in the area, and has often been seen perching on the large leadwood tree by the bar. Unfortunately, elephants have pushed over the tree that was quite popular with the resident African barred owlet. We often still hear his characteristic call around Tent 4, so he seems to have found another spot. During the early mornings, once the sun has come up, we have been hearing the booming call of southern ground-hornbills.
"Banoka was amazing. The camp is incredibly beautiful and it's hard to imagine a more tranquil place. The staff were so friendly, accommodating and made us feel at home. Thanks for making our first safari stop so magical."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Mama B, Meshack and Cheri.
Guides: Rogers, Chief, Vinny and Reuben.
Newsletter by Cheri Ross.
Photos by Cheri Ross and Rogers.
Jacana Camp update
- August 2012 Jump
to Jacana Camp
What a change we have experienced this month. August has seen us bidding farewell to winter and welcoming in the spring. With our daily temperatures at the end of the month now averaging around 30º C and dropping to around 16º C at night, we have been able to pack away our "bush baby" hot water bottles until next year. The rising temperatures and extremely dry vegetation makes us all mindful however of the risk of bush fire.
Alongside the change in our season, we are still witnessing the daily drop in the water levels around camp. As the waters recede and lush grasses are revealed on the island edges, the red lechwe are returning to the area. With a quick scan of a torch in the evening, they can be seen grazing right up to our front deck.
Bull elephants are still visiting our island for the last few remaining palm nuts on the tall ilala palms. Frequently, our guests have been delighted at having brunch interrupted by the tell-tale sounds of dried leaves being crunched underfoot as bull elephant come to feed close to the main area. From the elevated position of our upstairs dining room, we have been able to watch the elephants casually feeding right beneath us, allowing us to really study every detail of their bodies.
Unusually, for the immediate area around Jacana, we even had the fabulous sighting from our deck of a breeding herd of elephant with tiny babies, crossing from one island to another in front of us. How careful the juveniles and mothers are to help the little ones cross through the deeper waters! At times, only the tip of the babies' trunks could be seen until they reached the shallower waters... a beautiful sight indeed.
As the grasses on our island have become very dry, the evening sightings of hippo have reduced dramatically. Only occasionally this month have we picked up hippo tracks on the island although we are still hearing them in the waters around the island and still enjoy viewing them from our boats during the day.
In the evenings, we are finding more and more evidence of the presence of genets and although this small cat-like carnivore is shy, we are sometimes are lucky to see him or her in our torchlight.
On the bird front, we are beginning to see return visitors to Jacana such as the fiery-necked nightjar, which is now heard calling as dusk falls. The yellow-billed kites are starting to arrive in the area - a sure sign that the other migrant species will follow soon. As some vegetation has become exposed in front of camp, we have enjoyed sightings of slaty egret, little egret, saddle-billed stork, squacco heron and wattled crane, which all take advantage of the aquatic snails and organisms which have become trapped in the mud.
The avian highlight for the month was when Rex found a lesser jacana on its nest close to camp. The tiny nest was floating atop a lily pad, with the bird incubating two tiny eggs. This is a great record for the area indeed.
Despite the receding waters around camp, our guests are still able to enjoy all the water activities which we have on offer. On that note, fishing has been a great treat this month as some large specimens have been caught and released.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Phil and Jo Oliver.
Guides: Moruti Maipelo, Timothy Samuel and Rex Sanyedi.
Abu Camp update
- August 2012 Jump
to Abu Camp
August threw everything at us: some of the year's coldest days started the month off, forcing us into layers of fleeces and scarves, but as the month drew on, temperatures started to soar well into the high thirties Celsius. The tremendous heat was met with the deep sounds of guttural toads, (which, according to local superstition, are the tell-tale signal of coming rains - we can only but hope). The early heat and trifling rainfall this year have left the Delta waters unusually low and the desert sands are drying out faster than ever.
The waning water levels have forced the keen fishermen of Abu to find new sporting grounds, and where better than the deep permanent waters in front of camp that make up Abu Lagoon! Oversized bream and pike patrol the waters ready to snap at the first sign of a lure, making for some high action catch-and-release fishing. It is no wonder then that a family of African fish-eagles has made the large leadwood beside the lagoon their home for over a year now. The resident pod of hippo have quickly became accustomed to our presence, even returning the favour and joining us for numerous dinners around the fire pit!
For a bizarre and beautiful few days, a large mixed flock of flamingos used Abu Lagoon as a resting ground. The large pink birds would squabble and squawk as they circled the water before the group dropped off to rest. It was a unique display for all who were lucky enough to witness them. Many of our experienced Delta guides have never seen such a spectacle: some of them have theories of drying out pans and food shortages driving the birds up north in search of spirulina algae, which grow only in very alkaline waters. Unfortunately Abu Lagoon is not flamingo-friendly, being rather deep, not as alkaline and teaming with hippo and crocs. The pink oddities had no choice but to move on, leaving the waters open for some displaying greater-painted snipes. The flamingo have been sighted at various camps in the area.
Away from the water, the resident hyaena clan's youngest cub is growing fast, providing even more opportunities to watch his interaction with the adolescent cubs in the clan.
The area near Double Baobab has delivered prolific game sightings: a female leopard and her cub were spotted lazing in the baobab. African wild cats have been spotted in number - one was even so brave as to walk toward the vehicle lights, mouse in mouth, much like a domestic cat would.
The resident lions visited the area for a short while to investigate the carcass of an elderly bull elephant. As it turns out the spread was not to the taste of the lions, they soon headed back south toward camp where they made two meals of our prized herd of roan antelope. Being one of the rarer antelope species I think that we can safely assume that the lions of Abu have rather expensive tastes...
In camp, we celebrated Wilderness Heritage Day on the 31st of August. Ladies in traditional dresses showed off their Botswana heritage by weaving baskets and singing songs for guests throughout the day.
The Abu elephants once again stole the show this month. Warona is growing at an enormous speed; this no doubt has something to do with her feeding from not one, but three very tolerant 'mommies'. Game viewing has been just as good atop an elephant as it is in a vehicle... and a lot less noisy too. This month, guests viewed giraffe, zebra, elephant, warthog, impala, kudu, buffalo and even lion from the backs of Abu's gentle giants.
With the bush drying up so rapidly, we look forward to some incredible sightings over the coming month, and with Independence Day around the corner it is sure to be a celebratory one.
update - August 2012 Jump
to Kwetsani Camp
Weather and Landscape
It does seem that there is a change in the weather patterns. August this year has been so much warmer than this time last year. For the most part, the minimum has been about 16° C and the maximum 28° C, making for wonderfully warm days and fresh mornings and evenings. The 'bush babies' (as we call our hot water bottles) were not needed as the nights were just too warm, whereas this time last year they were a necessity. What has not changed, however, is the winds - the winds still blew in August like always, but just not as cold as usual.
The lion activity at Kwetsani always adds spice to our guests' experience, and August has been no exception. Sadly the resident pride lost two more cubs since we were last on this cycle as relief managers. The good news is that two cubs have survived and we are positive that they will grow and become part of a bigger pride. It is quite amusing to watch as the females find a way to elude the male as they go hunting to sustain the cubs. When the dominant male does wake up, he roars continually in his search for his ladies, who have long gone. One way or the other though, he does eventually catch up.
One morning, the cubs were sent into hiding, close to Tent 1, while the moms went hunting on the opposite side of the island. Later on in the afternoon, we watched as the mothers came walking past the front of camp calling their cubs. As soon as they came close to Tent 1, the cubs came bounding out very happy to see their moms - this just put a smile on all of our faces.
Not long after this, our small family made their way back to Jao. While at Jao, the male killed a young lechwe. After killing it, he went to drink, came back to his prize and lay down hugging it and went to sleep, to feed on when he felt like it.
What has been surprising is hearing the leopard 'saws' loudly nearly every morning since the lions have left. The leopards around Kwetsani are shy; however we have had a good sighting of one in front of camp. We discovered that there are actually three different individuals that have been in and around camp over the past few weeks - a male, female and a cub. We hope that they make Kwetsani their permanent home and that they will become less shy in the future. On game drives, though, the leopard on Hunda Island are not shy, so we have the privilege to watch these majestic cats, often in action, as they attempt to hunt and make a kill almost on a daily basis.
A hippo, which we are tempted to name Harry, often does his normal rounds in camp and after he has eaten, goes and lies in his favourite spot, near the kitchen area, where he has made a comfortable bed for himself. Seeing Harry so relaxed is often a highlight for our guests, who can see for the first time how big these animals really are.
As with all the Delta camps now, there seem to be more elephant around than normal. We love these gentle giants and love to listen and watch their interactions with each other. Around Kwetsani we have a very young bull that is so placid and often alone, who allows us to watch him for hours - it is almost as though he welcomes the quiet company.
Birds and Birding
I do not think there has been one guest who has not commented on the magnificent birdlife that we have been experiencing lately.
Just in and around camp the birdlife is so abundant, from the smallest little blue waxbill to the gargantuan Verreaux's eagle-owl. As usual though, the southern ground hornbills dominate the morning call as they methodically walk through the plains in front of camp, trumpeting out to one another.
Staff in Camp
Relief Managers: Dan and Charmaine Myburg
Guides: MT Malebogo, Florence Kagiso and Ronald Ronald.
Newsletter by Dan Myburg
update - August 2012 Jump
to Jao Camp
Weather and Landscape
The beginning of the month was exceptionally cold thanks to a cold front that pushed through the whole of Southern Africa during that period. Since then, however, the temperature has steadily risen to being very comfortable during the mornings, late afternoon and evenings. Middays are beginning to heat up considerably, but the ever-present August breeze manages to cool things down just enough.
The water levels continue to drop and very quickly - we have moved to the low-level jetty on Hunda and will be preparing Jao's low-level jetty early on next month - but Jao is never short of water so our mokoro trips, boating outings and Hunda trips are still very active.
In and around camp we have had the very large and very small present - all providing lots of entertainment: We have had a couple of resident bull elephants in camp all month and at the beginning of the month we had some large breeding herds of elephant pass through camp and hanging around by the pool area.
There is a new addition to the vervet monkey troop in camp and the genets have been seen near Room 5 and the management units.
Moving further out of camp a male civet was seen on the bridge, and he was very relaxed around the vehicle. The otter family has been seen regularly playing out in front of the pools in the early hours of the morning.
On Hunda Island the game viewing has been exceptional, with most guests viewing leopard and a few lucky ones getting to see cubs too. The general game has also been spectacular, with many giraffe sightings (including some very young ones) - and a honey badger was viewed just south of the Jao floodplains heading towards Impala Island.
Meanwhile in the middle of the month, lions made a failed attempt on a buffalo, however they caught a red lechwe two days later and all the guests in camp at the time managed to see them feeding. The lions have been very active around Jao Island, coming and going regularly over the bridge. There was much excitement one morning when the male lion attacked a young elephant close to camp! He was chased off by the herd and had a "shouting match" with them. One of the cubs got injured in this clash and was seen with a large gash on his side, but he seems to be recovering well.
Birds and Birding
The resident western banded snake-eagle has been spotted twice with snake kills. This impressive bird was often seen around the camp area at dusk, accompanied by the characteristic calls of a nearby Verreaux's eagle-owl.
A large flock of great white pelicans was seen near Cheetah Point during a bush brunch at the beginning of the month and have been seen after that flying around the floodplains. Also with the receding water, a mixed flock of flamingo have been seen often on the floodplain. This is quite unusual for the area; for more details on this unusual sighting in the Delta, click here.
Southern ground-hornbills have been seen a lot during the month on Jao Island, and around camp they have been heard calling during the mornings.
A martial eagle was found later this month eating the eggs of a monitor lizard - everyone including the guests were very enthusiastic about this sighting. Near the end of the month, the first of the summer migrants were seen, the yellow-billed kite and the woodland kingfisher have started to arrive. We are looking forward to the rest of them arriving next month.
Although the water has dropped quite a bit, it has not affected any of our activities, except for mokoro trips slightly, as their location has been moved to Kubu Lagoon. This means you finish a mokoro trip in the afternoon close to the floodplain, making for an amazing sunset vista over the water and floodplain.
Boating is very special and the fishing has been outstanding - with good tigerfish being caught and released. The bream and pike are also coming onto the bite.
Hunda trips - both half-day ones, as well as full-day bush picnic trips - are being enjoyed. There are large herds of animals seen daily on the island, while the leopard viewing has been outstanding. Some guests have seen four different leopards in a single day - a truly magical way to spend a day in the Delta.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Bryan Webbstock, Theresa Fourie, Marina Lunga, Retha Prinsloo, Dan Chaknova, Mandy Sunderland, Brett Ervine and Cindy Swart.
Guides: Alberto Mundu, Solomon Kanyeto, Simon Tshekonyane, Johnny Mowanji, Bee Makgetho.
update - August 2012 Jump
to Seba Camp
Wow, what a month it has been! The trees are all completely bare, the water has receded drastically and the weather has turned beautiful and warm. With the water now disappearing, there is much more movement of animals between the islands. On the double baobab island, the two female impala with horns have been spotted quite regularly - an amazing sight as this is very rare.
The birdlife has been increasing steadily as the water drops, causing many different waterbirds to begin the feeding frenzies (in particular the African openbills) and different species including African spoonbills, black-winged stilts, pied, malachite, grey-headed and striped kingfishers, hamerkops etc, making the bird viewing very interesting. Southern ground-hornbills are heard and seen from the airstrip very often, as are the many different nightjars that dot the soundscape late into the night.
As for the predators, well there can be no denying that this has been the most successful month Seba has seen so far. The resident pride of four lion has been seen almost every day for several weeks, and most mornings show how successful they are doing, having taken down a roan antelope, several impala and kudu, giraffe and buffalo, from what the guides and guests have seen.
Several nomadic males have been coming into the concession; one was even spotted crossing the river while on a boat cruise! Their calls are also becoming a regular sound in the night, and of course the hyaena, hippo and elephant add to that as well. Another pride of lion was found following buffalo near the cement airstrip on one occasion, and even though they were not found again, it is a promising sign for these animals.
The leopard sightings have been equally prolific this month, with at least two or three - sometimes four - sightings of different leopard each day! On one occasion some of our guests went out on a morning drive and spotted a young male leopard in a tree near the fallen baobab. Once they had finished with the sighting, they moved off only to spot another one a short while later on the other side of the island. As if that was not good enough, the same group went out on the boat later that very same day, and their guide, Speedy, spotted another pair of leopard sitting on a termite mound!
So Seba Camp has been a very productive camp lately and there are no signs of the amazing sightings stopping!
The Seba Clan of hyaena were still very active and healthy during August, although they have lost several members of their family. Only one of the newborn cubs have been seen lately, indicating that possibly the cub was not healthy enough or was killed. Even more tragic was a sighting of a brutally wounded adult who passed away through one of the nights. The guides were not too sure about what had caused the wounds, but they suspect that the hyaena got into a fight with the lions, as the latter had been very active during that time near the den. The remaining cub is still very healthy and active, now spending more time out of the den, playing with all the juvenile cubs and biting the mother's ear, much to her irritation.
The elephant are still very active in camp, and during dinner is when the resident matriarchs bring their herds into the dining area to show off and graze in front of our guests. The naughty bull that has been in and around the camp for the past few months is still active, shaking the palm trees to get to the tasty palm seeds and plucking them from the ground as they fall.
With the weather having changed for the better, the roofs are back on the Land Rovers to protect our guests from the sun and the swimming pool is looking wonderful and inviting.
So until next month, Tsamaya Sentle from the Seba Tribe, and remember to use sunblock!
Managers in Camp: Alex Alufisha and James Moodie.
Guides in Camp: Speedy, Matamo, Alson and Teko.
Newsletter and images by James Moodie.
Tubu Tree Camp
update - August 2012 Jump
to Tubu Tree Camp
Weather and Landscape
The first week of August was a cold one, the temperature going down to 4° C in the mornings as snow covered some parts of South Africa over that period. The last few days in the month were the exact opposite, where we experienced highs of up to 32° C. Most of the month was windy, as it normally is during the month of August.
The water in front of camp receded daily and it is now almost completely dry; only a few places in the distance can you still see water shimmering in the light.
A month of leopard and hyaena...
The Tubu Female with her two cubs made themselves very comfortable in the sausage tree to the south of camp, where she had killed a male bushbuck and dragged it into the tree. We were very lucky as we could see them feeding while standing on the main area deck and using the telescope. We can't believe how much those two cubs have grown in the last few months; they are getting bigger and bigger every time we see them.
The Boat Station Female's daughter (soon to be called Lebala Female) has been showing off her skills as a huntress in the northern parts of the island. On a late afternoon drive the guides found her happily feeding on a lechwe that she caught. A few days later, barely finished with her previous meal, she went on the prowl again, and this time it was a once-in-a-life time sighting - she stalked a herd of lechwe close to the water's edge. She chased, she caught but she couldn't kill as the female lechwe was too big for her, so she came up with an alternative option, she drowned her prey in the water... yes, you read correctly - she drowned it! After the lechwe stopped moving she dragged it out of the water and enjoyed her second kill in three days. About four days later, we found little Lebala walking to the central parts of the island and while following her we watched as she made a spur of the moment decision: a small steenbok was standing in front of her, and she once again stalked and killed it. She dragged it to a small tree and left it there, we are pretty sure that her belly was so full from her previous two meals, that she used the poor steenbok as practice, improving her already great technique.
Once during the month we had a very brief sighting of a water mongoose, which has not been spotted on the island before. We are hoping that they will be making Hunda Island their new home when the water levels start to rise again next season.
We also have a small, black addition to the Northern Clan of hyaena. When we first saw the little one bully his/her mom in the den, we estimated him/her to be about two weeks old. Over the last few weeks, we have started to see the little cub more often, but the mom is still very sceptical about allowing it to play on its own outside the den. The guests had a great sighting of mother and cub when she moved it from the one den to another, possibly due to sand fleas that take over the dens when they occupy them for too long. She picked up the cub by the scruff of its small neck and walked off, disappearing into the bushes.
The general game has been great this month, large herds of zebra, wildebeest, tsessebe, giraffe and the prolific impala have been seen all over the island. We have also had the pleasure of seeing a few elephant calves, all estimated between two weeks to a month old, as they follow their mothers, sisters, aunts and grandmothers through the bushes, while the gentle giants are looking for their favourite foods.
At the end of the month, the sausage trees started flowering, which seems to happen shortly after the tree drops all its winter leaves - at which point it seems to grow its lime green leaves that cover it overnight. The burgundy-maroon flowers attract a lot of birds, from a variety of sunbirds, go-away birds, barbets to monkeys and baboons. These trees have offered us a lot of excitement.
Birds and Birding
As the water levels continued to drop over the last few weeks, more and more water birds arrived to join in on the feast of freshwater snails and small fish that had been caught in the drying up puddles. Some of these are large flocks of yellow-billed storks, great-white pelicans and pink-backed pelicans to name a few.
Closer to the end of the month, we started seeing and hearing some of our migrants returning for the warm summer months from further north in Africa or Europe. Purple rollers and yellow-billed kites have been seen on a regular basis, and we have heard a few African cuckoos around the camp. Standing by the bar one morning, enjoy the view, we saw 11 wattled cranes flying in and landing in the open floodplain in front of camp; the flock has been seen around the island in the last week.
"We enjoyed the staff sharing their local customs with us - culture, singing and dancing. Eating with our fingers was a special treat. Our guide, Delta, was extraordinary, and our mokoro guides as well. Food was tasteful. We loved everyone. Eloise and Hein manage this lodge well."
The animals are a given (they were amazing) - but beyond incredible wildlife, the staff were extremely friendly, warm, helpful and knowledgeable; the camp grounds very nice and well maintained; and the overall atmosphere wonderful. We would recommend this place (and our guide!) to others in a heartbeat. The food was fantastic!"
"Wonderful stay among wonderful people. Rooms are beautiful and the staff so warm and kind."
"Our guide, Delta, was fantastic. He was always accommodating of guests wishes, knowledgeable about everything, and he was always pleasant and kind with a good sense of humour. The staff who served food were nice, pleasant and always willing to get us what we wanted and when we wanted it (i.e. drinks). The bush dinner was a highlight. We really appreciated the effort it took to put on a bush dinner for all the guests, the food was delicious, and the atmosphere was spectacular. Thank you so much for all the effort and energy the cooks, such as Pauline, put into preparing the meals for it. Delta was really great at helping us experience a leopard kill. We were really fortunate. The room was always very well maintained. Thank you to the staff for our rooms."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Eloise and Hein Holton, Kambango Sinimbo, Gibson Kehemetswe and Goutlwamang (GT) Sarepito.
Kalahari Plains Camp
update - August 2012 Jump
to Kalahari Plains Camp
Weather and Landscape
As usual, August started out very windy and chilly for the first two weeks - parching the landscape of whatever little moisture was left. The second half of the month returned to Kalahari weather as the temperatures soared over 40° C.
The month also began with exceptional sightings of leopards and good sightings of our resident male cheetah. All this was for the first two weeks of the month and then activity slowed down, but the lions re-surfaced from the big open space of the Kalahari. One morning the guests were treated to a special breakfast as the lions playing in front of camp... "amazing" was the only word around the breakfast table. Indeed it was amazing seeing three adult females and two subadult cubs playing on the pan - with oryx and wildebeest watching them too.
Other spectacular sightings of the month include a mating pair of lions that I saw not far from Deception Pan. What made this sighting so unique was the fact that the lions came charging in our direction, but we were not the target, as the lions rushed past us towards the leopard which we had just driven past and had not seen - everyone held their breath for a while. A short chase ensued until the leopard found the safety of an acacia tree and shot up to the top - just out of reach of the enraged lions.
Honey badger and bat-eared fox provided some outstanding sightings this month amongst the other desert-adapted wildlife such as springbok, oryx, wildebeest and a range of the small wonders of the Kalahari.
The Bushman Experience has been very popular this month, as many guests indulged in the offering and were shown the traditional way of life of the bushman.
An interesting and unusual find for us was the small flock of violet-eared waxbills that we found dead towards the end of the month. We suspect that with the rising temperatures and lack of surface water, the birds drank water that was very salty and perhaps toxic to them. On the subject of deaths, we found a dead leopard at Mantshwe West, and upon further investigation we found many wounds and scratch marks on the carcass - possibly this unlucky leopard bumped into a pride of lion or another leopard.
Newsletter compiled by Luke Louis Motlaleselelo
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