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South Africa camps
Pafuri Camp update - August 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
As everybody knows in terms of climate, every year has four seasons in it - but it seems this is not the case in Pafuri. We only experienced two seasons, namely summer and winter. The only evidence of spring was the new growth on the brack thorn acacias, the flowering on the fever trees and the beautiful fragrant scent emitted by the wooly caper bush flowers. The air is still filled with fine dust as there is not much ground cover; it is further stirred up by elephant feet, buffalo hooves and vehicle tyres.
In terms of temperature, the early mornings are still quite chilly, but the middays warm up a fair deal.
General game viewing was great as usual with special sightings of giraffe, eland, wildebeest, aardvark and honey badger. As the concession is still very dry, and owing to the location of the camp along the Luvuvhu River, we have been privileged to be visited by huge herds of elephant on a daily basis - this has provided our guests with some close-up views of these majestic animals. On one or two occasions, these herds stayed around the camp at night, causing quite a bit of excitement as they audibly fed and communicated with one another. Some guests commented on how difficult it was to explain this experience in words and how it would live in their memories forever. At the end of the month we also had a herd of no less than 80 buffalo stop at camp for a sleep over - as they slept amongst the tents.
On the subject of buffalo, the majority of breeding herds were found dotted along the Limpopo floodplain and along Luvuvhu West. As there is not much food around, these bulk grazers have resorted to feeding off the drop seed grass, which is not very palatable, but dry times call for desperate measures.
August was a good month for rhino sightings as we had eight sightings in total - some from the vehicle and some on foot. A bull, two cows and a calf were seen at least three times.
Leopard sightings have still been off the charts, as we had a total of 33 individual leopard sightings. We encountered the female on Luvuvhu East with her two cubs, but we did not have any sightings of the other two females with cubs on Luvuvhu West. It really is amazing and is a reflection of how successful our conservation efforts in the area have been - when we compare leopard sightings now to those of two years ago.
Lion sightings were better this month compared to last month. The two females with six cubs are normally seen along Luvuvhu West (perhaps this is why we haven't seen the two female leopards with cubs) and East and they even came and spent three nights around the camp during the first week of the month. What makes us happy is the return of the dominant male - Kanu. After a good few weeks' absence from the area, he returned from his conquest further south of the Luvuvhu. He was last seen at the Second Lookout when Godfrey found him sleeping. His tracks have often been found around the Mangala area. We have also had a number of sightings of two lioness which frequent the Pafuri Main area.
Birds and Birding
Birding was spectacular this month, as all of the resident specials were seen this month, with a highlight being a sighting of a bat hawk. We are expecting the migrants to start arriving soon and are keeping an eye peeled for the more colourful species to arrive.
Thulamela, which dates back to around 1450 is always a huge attraction for guests, and this month was no different. It is always interesting to try and imagine the lifestyle in such a wild area over 600 years ago. Village tours have also been popular and offer guests a more recent view of how the area is influenced by the local people.
Pafuri Walking Trail update - August 2012 Jump
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As August winds down, the wildlife of Pafuri is preparing for a change in the seasons. Termites, age-old predictors of changing weather patterns, have begun renovations to their mounds. Wood sandpipers, the first of the Palaearctic migrants to make the long flight from the northern hemisphere, have arrived to a dwindling Luvuvhu River. Temperatures have crept up into the upper thirties (Celsius) and strong winds are stirring dry, dusty soils in the floodplains. Flame creepers are ostentatiously blooming, splashing red across the riverine thickets and attracting droves of nectar feeders such as white-bellied and collared sunbirds. The woolly caper bushes are also in full flower, filling the evening air with their mild, sweet, jasmine-like aroma. Fiery-necked nightjars have started calling again, punctuating the night with their evocative "Good lord, deliver us" tune.
Large herds of buffalo are seen regularly in the Limpopo grasslands, and late afternoon walks to Nhlangaluwe Pan often provide trails guests with impressive sightings of hundreds of buffalo coming to the pan to drink and wallow. Sitting perfectly still and silent in the shade of some knobthorn trees above the water's edge, we watched as a pathfinder cow lead a thirsty herd across Palm Vlei to the pan. As the buffalo drank, accompanying yellow-billed oxpeckers took the opportunity to bathe. Herds of impala, nyala, zebra, and blue wildebeest also visited, cautious as always of crocodiles. Kudu, eland, and warthogs were also seen in the area.
All of of the Pafuri white rhino were accounted for this month. Last year, two of the rhino were darted to implant microchips and notch the ears for identification purposes. Subsequently, there was not a single confirmed sighting of them for over twelve months, raising suspicions that they may have moved out of the area, or worse... But a close approach on foot to a pair of rhino last week alleviated those fears and confirmed that they are still alive and healthy.
Another rhino tracking mission produced perhaps the most bizarre and unexpected sighting of the trails season. After finding another bull, another cow, and a calf, Megan and I quietly manoeuvred the guests into a downwind position only 50 metres away to observe and identify the rhino. The silence was interrupted by a howling and growling that was approaching at pace from our right. Before we had a moment to react, two spotted hyaena came at full speed, sprinting between us and the rhino. The one leading was badly wounded with a huge gash on its left side, and the other was in close pursuit, undoubtedly trying to finish off a territorial battle. The rhinos seemed to be as bewildered as we were, and trotted away from the disturbance, although the hyaena were long gone. Other rhino tracking walks resulted in sightings of two other cows, one of which also has a calf. Another cow's tracks were also observed.
The ancient art of tracking also proved useful for lion sightings. We tracked the Pafuri Pride and found two lionesses greeting us with low growls among the ironwoods and sandstone outcrops at the top of Hutwini Mountain. And after hearing lions roaring around the trails camp all night and into the morning, we also tracked a big, dark-maned lion and found him along the Luvuvhu River bank. This was our first sighting of a fully mature male this trails season, and it has sparked the hope that he may take up residence here and father a litter of cubs this spring.
We have grown accustomed to nightly sounds of leopard around the trails camp, and this month was no different. The young female leopard that we have gotten to know so well this season was seen four times in a single week, three times within 50 metres of camp, making the trails camp kitchen tent the best place for leopard viewing on the entire concession!
But she wasn't the only leopard out and about. One particularly prolific evening produced four leopard sightings in the span of one hour. After sitting at Palm Spring late into the evening to watch double-banded sandgrouse flock to water, as they do daily at dusk, the moonlit walk back to the vehicle took us past a raisin bush with a pair of eyes reflecting from behind it. With our torches out, we could see that it was indeed a female leopard, and she had probably been watching us the entire time we were watching the sandgrouse. On the drive back to camp, we also saw a big male prowling the mopane woodland north of Mashisiti Spring, a female moving through the ana tree forest along the Luvuvhu, and our trails camp female stalking impala outside our kitchen.
Giraffe were seen on two occasions. Three were seen coming to drink on the southern bank of the Luvuvhu. We watched with great anticipation, hoping they might cross the river into the Makuleke Concession to join the four young bulls we have been seeing on our side, but alas, the knobthorns must be greener in the south.
Those other charismatic crowd pleasers, the hippos, were seen regularly. A pod of 17 has taken a liking to one of the last remaining pools deep enough to submerge them, and we often watch them there as they eyeball the nearby crocodiles and all other passers-by...
And let's not forget the birds! Walking along a wide elephant path down to the Luvuvhu one morning, a silent flash of tawny fluttered out of a huge sausage tree and into a nearby ana tree - Pel's fishing-owl! It came to rest out in the open in broad daylight, its soulful black eyes fixed on us. Cameras and binoculars were equally transfixed on the "grail bird" until a young tuskless elephant emerged from the feverberry thickets and was walking directly under the owl we were watching, only 20 metres away. We quickly crouched down into a less threatening posture. The elephant froze, just as startled as we were. We held our ground, hoping the elephant would carry on past us, but when we saw more elephants, cows and calves, also on their way into the clearing, a hasty retreat was in order.
Quality sightings of African wood owls and Verreaux's eagle-owls were also recorded. Racket-tail roller, lemon-breasted canary, Bohm's spinetail and the Pel's highlighted the Pafuri specials. A pair of Verreaux's eagles were seen at their nest on the Hutwini cliffs. A martial eagle was seen hunting white-crowned lapwings at Mangala, and we visited a crowned eagle nest deep in the fever tree forest along the Limpopo. Eastern nicators were seen regularly. We also found a purple-crested turaco nest. White-breasted cuckooshrike, saddle-billed storks, and gorgeous bush-shrike were also good ticks.
But a Pafuri Walking Trail isn't actually about the sightings only - it is about the landscapes, the sounds, the smells, and the feel of true wilderness. And this is what we found with a particularly adventurous group of guests who decided one afternoon that we would pack our lunch the next morning and spend the entire day trekking across the concession. On the drive out to our drop-off point, we found some irresistibly fresh rhino tracks. We quickly tracked them, found them, had a good look at them, and then embarked on an eight-and-a-half hour walk during which we did not cross a single road or 4x4 track, did not see a single power line or cell phone tower, and never heard a sound from another human. We ate lunch at the bottom of Lanner Gorge and napped on massive sandstone boulders above rushing rapids and pools full of tigerfish.
There aren't many places like this left in the world.
Camp Jabulani update - August 2012
Kings Camp update - August 2012 Jump
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Leopard Hills update - August 2012 Jump
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The windy month has brought in warmer weather and even more spectacular evening colours, the last rays are particularly striking as they paint the crystal clear waters of the Sand river. Many of the migrant birds are relishing the warmth and are back a little earlier than usual this year.
Saddle billed stork silhouetted against the Sand river as it turns various shades of pink for us.
Plenty of fine dust for this stallion to roll around in while one of his heavily pregnant mares is too rounded to partake in such a fun afternoon activity, we are hoping to see a foal in the next few days.
Displaying a gutsy show of strength she seems to have pushed Xikavi north and seized some of the prime territory all the way up to the southern bank of the Sand river. They had a serious territorial encounter that left Xikavi with a big gash on her front left leg (See images). Hlaba Nkunzi is not the largest female but she makes up for this with her guts and determination that surely stems from the strong gene pool of her legendary mother, Makwela!
She is most likely close to giving birth, watch this space in the next few months! Whether she will bring her litter back to the cave in front of Leopard Hills remains to be seen, we are holding thumbs. See video of her on a huge impala ram kill!
She has claimed the territory further north where it is very dense and has only been seen on a few occasions.
This wily female is also possibly pushing Hlaba Nkunzi a little from the south as she prepares for a litter soon. Only seen a few times this month we are not sure exactly what has happened since she seemed to lose a litter a few months back and she hasn't been seen mating again!
Apart from the above mentioned clash with Hlaba Nkunzi that left her with this nasty looking injury, she has been vocalising and marking a lot along both banks of the Sand river.
See a rare image below of her out in the open on the Sand while crossing the aptly named river.
She had a brief sojourn down through Leopard Hills while she was following Dayone as he was patrolling, she was hoping to mate with him but he was not interested!
Also found a few times along the river there are lots of females vying for prime space in the winter. She hasn't been seen as much as last month when mating with Dayone.
Not seen too often this month in the west of his territory.
Roaming all over the west he has even been seen crossing the Sand river doing a little exploration in the north! He just seems to be getting bigger and bigger, well and truly living up to his impressive genes (Father is the dominant 12 year old Sand river male who is about 40km away to the east).
See image of his father below who only has one eye after one was lost in a territorial clash! Amazingly he still holds a prime territory and has adapted well with his loss of depth perception.
Being the most relaxed male leopard for many years we are really being spoilt with some educational behavioural sightings of him! Showing very few battle scars, he truly is a handsome photogenic specimen of a male!
Unknown Male in the north
This unknown male that occupies the Sand river and northern territory was seen again a few times, still shy but a quick glimpse is possible and even a photograph if you are very quick on the draw!
See very closely cropped image below for an idea of his size and imposing stare!
Maxabeni young male
This young warthog specialist treated us to a few days of fantastic viewing when he killed a warthog in the south where he has been hanging out! See video for some interesting interaction with a mother hyaena and her cub that sniffed out the kill!
Reflecting on an action packed month spent with the Selati boys
This was taken at Leopard hills camp waterhole!
The boys are learning all about life as the dominant force in the Western Sabi Sand! Their emergence and coming of age has thoroughly entertained our guests this month. Most of this has happened in close proximity to Leopard Hills.
So what goes through the mind of a Coalition member as winter draws to a close?
Look for lionesses in oestrus : Fight with brothers over a receptive lioness : Mate with lioness : Get a slap in the face from a lioness!
Realise that belly is empty and make buddies with brothers again : Go look for buffalo with brothers!
: Catch buffalo together then fight over buffalo with brothers!
Lie next to buffalo carcass with full belly and chase off hyaenas and vultures ¨ Realise this is a futile exercise and leave skin and bones for scavengers.
Quite fragmented again for most of this month due to much interaction and mating with the Selati coalition! Things seem to have settled a bit the last few days and all four lionesses have been seen with the males and looking very relaxed with each other. Perhaps some stability has settled over the lions after the takeover!
One of the Ximhungwe lionesses almost met her match as she took on this massive warthog boar! See the size of his tusk and the big gash under her chin!
Most likely all 3 are pregnant and we will probably see a first litter emerging quite soon cwatch this space.
Pack of Painted Dogs that denned here in 2011
Our patience has finally paid off and now that the 6 little pups are around 3 months old they are just big enough to run with the pack! They returned here in the last few days on a hunting foray with the little ones trotting behind!
We have since enjoyed a number of sightings of the 14 painted wolves and let 's hope they remain in the area and choose a temporary den over here.
New Painted Dog Pack of 5
A sure way to turn a relaxing game drive into one of frantic excitement is for one of the top 3 most endangered mammals in Africa to arrive on the scene! In the beginning of the month a pack of African Wild Dogs appeared out of nowhere and came charging through our traversing area, turning the bush in to chaos.
It was surely the good luck brought by our regular guests Arnold and Joan Kalan who are here for 10 days with their granddaughter Rachel on her first safari. We havenft seen the painted pack for a few months so we weren't too optimistic of a visit!
Well not only did we get a visit but were treated to a new pack of 5 dogs exploring the area while calling and investigating every scent to see if there is another pack around.
The Alpha female has a very characteristic notch out of her ear (See image below) and we think it was the Alpha male doing most of the calling as he was one of the younger males. This is most likely a new pack formed quite recently as they are not breeding yet, very exciting! They have disappeared in the last few days but we hope they liked what they found and return here soon.
The large herd has again been frequently seen as well as many old bulls up in the north along the river.
A sundowner along the lush Sand river will often provide a view of a parade enjoying their evening drink and there is nothing like the scene of a river crossing at sunset!
They are still spending a lot of time out of the water while sunning themselves later on in the cool mornings, often a coffee break is spent with them as they lie on a sandbank.
Interesting sightings in August
Spotted hyaena sightings are on the increase, here is a youngster that bit off more than he could chew from the old buffalo bull killed by the Selati coalition.
Sightings of the nocturnal creatures tend to peak now as the grass is very low, try and ID this little meercat impersonater.
A juvenile squacco heron has taken up residence at a small waterhole, not common in this area, here he was seen feasting on a platanna.
A relaxed side striped jackal in the early morning light.
The pair of saddle billed storks have been frequently seen on the river, not too often that they are so relaxed and we can get both male and female in the same image.
Red Breasted Swallow, one of the migrants back early after the warmer than usual winter we have had.
Rocktail Beach Camp update - August 2012 Jump
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Rocktail Bay Dive Report - August 2012 Jump
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Under the water, up in the sky... so much to see this month!
Ocean experience trips out to sea have produced not only magical whale sightings but some interesting bird sightings as well. Early on in the month Darryl noticed an albatross he hadn't seen in these parts before - further investigation showed it to be a juvenile black-browed albatross. Other albatross species spotted this month included the shy and Atlantic yellow-nosed albatross. We also saw two separate flocks of flamingos. The first flew past us as we were preparing for a dive at Elusive and a few days later we watched another flock fly along the backline whist we enjoyed our picnic breakfast on the beach.
Humpback whale sightings were plentiful this month but it was the sightings of little calves that stole everyone's hearts.
Ondyne had been diving with Niclas and Lennie Muller and once they were all back on the boat, Darryl told them that he had been watching three whales relaxing just behind Island Rock the whole time they were on their dive. Darryl took them to have a look at the whales on their way back towards the beach and after watching the whales for a while he suggested they put their snorkelling gear on and slip into the water to snorkel across to Island Rock. What a surprise they got - down on the sand about five metres below them, were the three whales slowly swimming along!
During another magical whale experience, we were extremely lucky to see a calf that was just days old. We stopped the boat just behind Island Rock and whilst everyone was taking their life jackets off, Darryl noticed a couple of whales on the surface. It looked as if the whales were sleeping and as we watched we saw two other whales swim across to join them. Then we saw a tiny floppy dorsal fin pop out of the water followed by a little tail! It was the little newborn, still so small that its dorsal fin was flopped over; this fin hardens and stands up as it grows. We watched as it swam around with its mother guiding it along, its little tail flopping and splashing - it seemed that we were watching the very beginnings of the calf learning to swim. Soon the two whales, which had swum in to join mother and calf, left. It was almost as if they had come over to see the newborn calf! It was so incredible to watch and we truly felt humbled to be watching such an amazing sight.
Later on during the month, the Pringle family saw a slightly older humpback calf. As we were driving along, the calf breached clean out of the water! It breached at least seven or eight times - either just managing to pop its head out, or getting its whole body out of the water. It felt like it was showing off its newly-learned breaching skills to us and I'm sure it was having just as much fun jumping as we were having watching it jump!
Other great sightings during ocean experience trips included one whale shark, two manta rays, spinner dolphins and lots of bottlenose dolphins, as well as not one but FOUR Spanish dancers at Island Rock.
The wonderful sightings didn't end there. We had some unusual dives this month too. Ondyne took Franz and Sabine Rubroeder to Aerial for a Discover Scuba dive. Halfway through the dive she noticed a bit of a commotion near one of the rocks. On closer inspection, the divers were thrilled to see a marbled electric ray with a big-spot rock cod in its mouth! The fish was halfway in the ray's mouth, but try as it might, the marbled electric ray couldn't swallow this big meal! It spat the rock cod out and within seconds had buried itself in the sand again. The rock cod escaped to live another day! What an incredible thing to see on your first-ever sea dive.
There have been lots of ray sightings this month, including honeycomb stingrays, marbled electric rays, diamond butterfly rays and a quite uncommon sighting of a porcupine ray - in fact, Clive and Michelle have only seen this species a handful of times in their 13 years of diving at Rocktail.
The Kristensen family also had some fantastic dives during their holiday - Niels and Michelle spotted a giant kingfish (Caranx ignobilis) during a dive at Elusive. Niels's children, Issy and Peter, along with their uncle, Shaun, had just completed their Open Water Course and were setting out for their first "official" dive as newly qualified divers. We'd just stowed away life jackets and were driving past Island Rock, when Clive shouted out that he had spotted a whale shark! We all peered into the water and saw the whale shark with lots of remora swimming around it - there must have been at least seven or eight of them. Unfortunately it did not stay at the surface for long so we weren't able to snorkel with it but as we continued to travel to our dive site, Clive found some bottlenose dolphins. With great excitement, everyone scrambled to put their fins on again, and we had a wonderful time snorkelling with the dolphins. Then, once back on the boat, just as we thought we'd really be heading off to dive, Clive saw three humpback whales ahead! We decided to slip into the water again to see whether we might be lucky enough to see the whales in the water. We were as pleased as anything when we caught a glimpse of them as they swam past us - a wonderful sight of mum, calf and one other humpback.
Congratulations to the following divers:
Isabella, Peter and Shaun Kristensen for completing their PADI Open Water Course.
Franz and Sabine Ruboeder, Leo Schilling, Mailys and Nolwen Flajoliet, Mark and Peter King and
Justin Ridl for completing their PADI Discover Scuba Diving Course.
Andy, Carsten and Finn Russell for completing the pool session of the PADI Discover Scuba Diving Course.
Eric Rubroeder for completing his PADI Bubble maker Course.
Yours in diving,
Darryl, Clive, Michelle, Ondyne
The Rocktail Dive Team
Makalolo Plains update - August 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
Summer is definitely on its way, with the temperatures increasing each day. The first week of August, especially the mornings, were still very cold with temperatures ranging between -1.5 to 3 degrees Celsius. On the 9th we recorded 0.1 degrees and everyone made good use of their fleeces - the swimming pool had a layer of ice over it and the bird baths were frozen - and the morning camp fire helped to keep our guests warm whilst having breakfast. The highest temperature for the month was recorded on the 18th at 37.8 degrees.
The bush continues to dry up and the bare ground around the waterholes are covered with a carpet of elephant dung. A few trees are starting to show life with new leaves coming out. There has been pressure on the pumped waterholes as the numbers of animals visiting them are increasing at a rapid rate.
There have been a number of special sightings this month, with several rare species seen including caracal, wild dog and aardwolf, two male lions on a buffalo kill and one lone male lion which killed a juvenile buffalo right in camp, close to the staff village. Interestingly, last month the lions killed a buffalo in the same area.
Sable and roan are frequenting the waterhole in front of the camp along with all the other game. Huge numbers of elephant are seen drinking at the camp swimming pool on a daily basis.
Other great sightings for the month included cheetah, leopard, spotted hyaena and eland.
Birds and Birding
Birding has been fantastic this month and is only getting better and better as we edge closer to the summer months. We had some great sightings of lanner falcons and a nesting secretary bird.
The birding highlight for the month was an exceptional sighting of a martial eagle attempting to catch an adult steenbok, which managed a narrow escape - this interaction really highlights the sheer size and power of the eagle.
This month, traditional dancing and drumming was a real treat for guests, who thoroughly enjoyed the experience and often joined in on the festivities.
A huge amount of effort was put into the camps menu and food presentation. This was met with a great response from our guests which all commented on the great food.
"Wonderful guides and staff, best food on the entire tour."
"The waterhole so close to camp, African night dancing and the trip to village was outstanding."
"Learning the culture of the people, the picnic lunch and the waterholes was our highlight."
"The lay out of the camp is amazing - I wouldn`t change a thing."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Tendai, Sibahle, Cosam and Elizabeth.
Guides: Lawrence, Elias and Douglas.
Little Makalolo update - August 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
The beginning of August greeted us with uncharacteristic cold weather as the temperatures plummeted to 5.5° C. This was a result of the snow that fell in South Africa. This cold weather was short-lived, as the temperatures quickly climbed up to the balmy conditions usually experienced in August. We did experience a bit of wind, but this is usual as the seasons change.
As we move along further into the dry season, the landscape continues to dry up with most trees losing their leaves, making the visibility for game viewing really good. However, there are some trees such as the ordeal and Kalahari apple-leafs that are greening up.
With the weather heating up, game viewing has been good this month. With an almost daily appearance of elephant at the waterhole, the logpile hide in front of camp has been a highlight for many of our guests during the siesta period. Other animals such as zebra, kudu, eland and giraffe have been waiting around the waterhole, looking for a gap among the elephant so that they may also quench their thirst.
On the subject of the logpile hide, a pair of leopards was witnessed going into the hide under the cover of darkness, being exposed by the spot light from a night drive vehicle. On the subject of feline predators, the Linkwasha Pride has revealed their new cubs to us - we only got a small glimpse of the tiny fur balls, so we are not sure how many there are in total.
Other great sightings for the month included sable and large herds of buffalo.
Birds and Birding
The birdlife in Hwange love showing off their magnificent rainbow colours. With the approach of summer, the migrant birds have started to arrive, with the beautiful southern carmine bee-eaters being the first to arrive in numbers. Yellow-billed kites have also started making an appearance - they are always good indicators of the arrival of the summer migrants.
Wilderness Heritage Day
This month saw us celebrating our Wilderness Heritage Day. Under the full moon, drums and traditional attire were brought out and staff welcomed guests back from their evening game drives with the sounds of the drums and joyous voices. The celebration was then taken to the fireside as staff got to perform some traditional songs for the guests while dancing around the fire - at which point, the guests joined in!
"Little Mak is one of the "happiest" camps we have stayed at. Everything worked wonderfully and all of the team are excellent - professional and caring. Fantastic guiding, fantastic management, fantastic camp staff."
"All was pretty wonderful, but the hide and the leopards at night were spectacular. The enthusiasm and spirit of staff, committed to our enjoyment."
"The staff's friendliness and helpfulness. We loved the surprise picnic and the final evening with the singing and the dancing."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Rania Mutumhe, Charles Ndlovu, Tracy Peacocke and Vimbai Mandaza.
Guides: Dickson Dube, Honest Siyawareva, Bulisani Mathe and Charles Ndlovu.
Davison's Camp update - August 2012
Weather and Landscape
The summer is slowly creeping in. The winter months bid farewell to us during the first few days of the month with temperatures as low as -1 degrees Celsius. Bird baths were frozen on that morning! From mid-month towards the end of August, we experienced hot days with temperatures as high as 32 degree Celsius.
The false mopane trees are still embellishing the bush with their lush green leaves and red pods. These trees are now the main food source for parrots and hornbills as they feast on the pods on a daily basis. Silver terminalia and the ordeal trees are still quiescent, preserving the little moisture in their systems. Blue bushes are starting to acquire new leaves; kudu and eland are enjoying the fresh shoots.
The grass cover is quickly disappearing, and the grazers are forced to feed on less palatable grasses as a last resort for sustenance.
Davison's is lucky to have human and animal guests in camp! Elephants check in and out as they please and this excites our guests to actually have them in camp with us. The smart ones have figured out that there is fresh water at the spillway just in front of the living room; they mud-wallow at the main pan then drink clean and fresh water from here.
The waterhole, even though it doesn't have as much water as the animals would like, is always packed with the elephant enjoying a mud bath and having a drink. The kudu, sable, eland, giraffe, buffalo, baboon, to mention but a few, have also been enjoying some drink stops at the Ostrich Pan waterhole. What a beautiful sight for the guests as they enjoy their brunch while watching the activity at the waterhole!
Lion are heard calling every now and then at the waterhole trying their luck at getting a drink, but big herds of elephants usually bully them until they run away. The resident leopard still take advantage of the baboon troops in the area, and constantly terrorise them as they try to catch an unsuspecting individual. Quite often the nights are filled with frantic screams from the baboons as they panic in the presence of the spotted predators lurking in the shadows below.
Birds and Birding
The bird sightings have increased and improved this month and we had many guests who were avid birders. The white-backed vulture that had a nest a few months back now has a chick. The adult vulture was seen bringing food now and again to the chick. African hawk- eagles have been seen a number of times killing guineafowls in front of the pan in the mornings and late afternoons.
Our guides were so happy this month to see crimson-breasted shrikes - both the crimson and yellow morph feeding together!
This month, we celebrated Wilderness Heritage Day on the last Friday of August in a spectacular way. Staff were dressed in traditional attire that reflected their different cultures. We had guests being met in a traditional way with staff emulating the Ndebele warriors with spears and shields in their hands.
The chefs wowed the guests with an amazing traditional meal which was thoroughly enjoyed. In the evening, we had a drumming and singing session and speakers presenting the origins of their different tribes. Wilderness Heritage Day was well spent with significance at Davison's.
"The leadership and team work is praiseworthy! Davison's Camp is well managed and we have nothing but gratitude for everything that was done."
"Everything was wonderful and the staff is so friendly and attentive.´
"The guide and staff were amazing! We were truly impressed. Thank you for the wonderful trip."
"Our experience was beyond any dream we could have had! There are no words to express how amazing our time was here. We will have dreams of Africa."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Themba, Buhle and Eugene.
Guides: Themba, Brian, Robert and Livingstone.
Ruckomechi Camp update - August 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
August in the Zambezi Valley is no doubt one of the most exciting months to be witness to the incredibly strong and relentless winds which cause amazing dust storms announcing that spring is round the corner.
With the landscape getting drier, there has been a lot more pressure on the vegetation on the floodplain and surrounding areas, with big herds of buffalo and lots of zebra coming down to the river. There is a lot of dust blowing around now, but the nice thing about August is the trees. We have had some lovely trees coming into flower this month and so adding some colour to the concession. Some of the trees that have stood out, are the long-tail cassia with its lovely pale yellow flowers, the shaving brush combretum with their sweetly scented, white flowers. The flame creepers have also just exploded into flower, effectively draping many riverine trees in a cloak of red. To put the cherry on top, the sausage trees have also started flowering, exposing their brilliant scarlet flowers to the world.
Big herds of elephant continue to be seen in and around camp as they come to feed on the ana tree pods which are currently falling to the ground. These highly nutritious pods are highly prized by elephants, and all other herbivores for that matter.
Lions are seen on a regular basis and the good news is that one of the females in the resident pride has recently given birth to a cub, which has just been introduced to the rest of the pride. Wild dog have been seen occasionally and they too have pups, seven in total.
Herds of eland have been seen, with bachelor herds becoming more common.
With most of the surface water drying up and adequate grazing disappearing, huge concentrations of wildlife have been seen grazing on the floodplains - it's a beautiful sight to see hundreds of zebra, impala, waterbuck and warthog all feeding together, framed by the beautiful landscape.
The night drives have been productive too, with regular sightings of civet, genet and white-tailed mongoose, and even leopard being seen occasionally.
Birds and Birding
The southern carmine bee-eaters have arrived! They have started excavating nesting holes in the riverbank downstream from camp. It is awesome to watch these birds hawking insects from their perches - it is such an explosion of colour. This has been providing our guests with some awesome photographic opportunities.
A plethora of birds are gorging themselves on the flowering wild mangoes and flame creepers, in particular the Meve's starlings.
Although the Cape turtle dove is a very common bird in the bush, impressive flocks of no less than 1000 were seen on most mornings coming for a drink.
A great sighting for the month was the eastern nicator that was seen hawking insects around an elephant's feet as the goliath mammal trod unconcernedly along.
"The lovely setting and wildlife in and around the camp - a truly unique setting."
"Sunset cruises on the Zambezi. The camp is beautiful - rooms were unique and well appointed. Lots of wildlife right near the camp - seeing lions and watching the elephant swimming in the Zambezi was fantastic."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Carel, Juliette, Gavin, Mina, Sandy and Dan.
Guides: Gadreck, Kevin, Champion and Dharmesh.
Newsletter by Sean, Gaddy and Rachel.
Mana Canoe Trail update - August 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
August in the Zambezi Valley is renowned for being the windy month - this one was no exception. Two out of six trips had winds too high for safe canoeing on the last day and thus was spent walking and driving in Mana Pools National Park and Nyamatusi Wilderness Area. High winds are a hazard for canoeists as it causes the water to become extremely choppy and this becomes dangerous when the river widens on the last day of canoeing as the choppy conditions are more imminent. We look forward to more subdued September conditions and some more incredible days on the water!
The windy conditions have added a slight breeze to the hot afternoons and the temperatures are starting to rise as we make our way towards spring and summer. With the August winds, all but a few of the ana tree pods have fallen, providing a vital food source for a variety of wildlife in these dry times.
Game sightings have been fantastic, especially as the surrounding environs dry up, forcing the wildlife to concentrate along the river.
We have enjoyed frequent sightings of most plains game including impala, waterbuck, zebra and warthog as well as the bigger game such as hippo, crocodile, buffalo and elephant.
August was filled with some incredible sightings too. As mentioned above, the ana trees are dropping their pods at the moment, and on one occasion, we found a large bull elephant with a serious appetite for these pods. Once the bull had finished all the pods on the ground, he stood on his back legs, in the same fashion as a begging dog, and grabbed more pods from the tree.
Many guests had the adrenalin-pumping privilege of seeing numerous prides of lion while on foot, both close up and from a distance including a massive male lion feeding on a buffalo kill. Another great encounter on foot was the sighting of a wild dog pack with three pups, who were quite curious about our bipedal stance, allowing us some great views.
Birds and Birding
Birding has also been of good quality as it always is along the Zambezi with a rare sighting of a pied avocet. The summer migrants have also started to arrive, with the southern carmine bee-eaters being the first to arrive en masse. Good numbers of African skimmers have also been seen regularly.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Daniel and Russell.
Guides: Henry and Matthew
Toka Leya Camp update - August 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
The beginning of the month was really cold with temperatures dropping to 2° C on some of the mornings, but this was very short-lived, as the expected temperatures of August soon took over and rose from the previous recording to the high 20s.
The second week of the month saw the start of the August winds and trees started losing leaves in preparation for the new spring splash of green - which has already been noticed as most of the shaving brush combretums are coming into flower.
As the temperatures rise, it is a known fact that most of the inland water sources dry out and game viewing gets better by the day as the game concentrations along the main rivers and larger water bodies increase. We have seen this take place right in the camp, which has become a hive of activity - starting from the small bushbuck that are seen in their large numbers each day coming down to the river for a drink, to the large herds of elephant which have now become frequent visitors.
As the wildlife has spent more time in the camp surrounds, we have had the opportunity to observe their behaviour in more detail. This has provided our guests with some great insight into the African ecosystem as well as provide some outstanding photo opportunities.
It started with the big herd of elephant, which had taken up residence around Toka Leya, giving us a surprise when one of the females gave birth - right next to the camp! This was an amazing experience for all our guests and staff, as it is rare to witness such an event. The herd remained around for most of the month. This was not great news for Donald, who is growing indigenous trees in the nursery, as some of his green, succulent trees proved to be far too tempting for some of the elephants.
Rhino sightings have been fantastic in the park, with one sighting coming to mind: a group of guests were watching a female rhino and her calf graze, when the dominant male rhino approached the duo. The female was clearly not happy with his presence and a tussle ensued - with the calf being knocked over. Everyone held their breath as the calf just lay motionless on the ground. After an excruciatingly long 20 minutes, the baby got to its feet and staggered away. This was a very dramatic experience for all that got to witness it as we all expected the worst.
Boat trips along the mighty Zambezi have been outstanding, as the wildlife flocks to the water's edge to sate its thirst. Elephants were often seen crossing the river and frolicking in the water.
Birds and Birding
Birding was exciting this month, as we had some really excellent sightings, some of which were unusual in the area.
As the water levels drop a little, the African skimmers have moved in and are breeding on the sand banks.
A day spent birding along the Zambezi has produced the following birds: African skimmers, rock pratincoles, spur-winged geese, white-faced ducks and great-white egrets amongst other species. The breeding colonies of white-fronted bee-eaters along the river banks have also produced some good photographic opportunities.
One of the birding highlights for the month was the sighting of a lesser flamingo along the Zambezi.
"This was our last camp that we visited and it was the highlight of our trip. The staff was extremely accommodating."
"We loved the room and the service! The activities were awesome and so were the people."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Petros and Gogo Guwa, Jacqui Munakombwe, Mavis Daka, Amon Ngoma and Muchelo Muchelo.
Lufupa River Camp update - August 2012 Jump
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Lufupa Tented Camp update - August 2012 Jump
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Kalamu Lagoon Camp update - August 2012 Jump
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The 2012 season is flying by at quite a pace and the temperatures and game viewing likewise. The temperatures have progressively risen to above 36 degrees Celsius during the day and drop down comfortably as soon as the sun sets.
August has perhaps been more exciting than it has ever been. Certainly more sightings - and even kills - have been witnessed than in the past, with lucky guests recently getting to see a pack of 12 wild dogs with pups take down a male bushbuck right in front of their vehicle in broad daylight. As the month has gone on, so the days have produced some fantastic sightings.
Lion sightings have become regular with the recording of 15 sightings this month. On the other feline side of things, we enjoyed 28 leopard sightings. We have given up asking guests if they had an enjoyable time because we can see it on their faces, and how could you not when you are seeing leopard both during the day and at night.
One of the incredible sightings was a 'tug of war' between a 12-foot crocodile and a hyaena over an impala. The contest between the two took a while until the crocodile gave up, leaving the hyaena to take the rest of the carcass. What a thrilling show to watch as they pulled each other back and forth. Everyone on the vehicle that day had never seen anything like it before; it was a true once-in-a-lifetime sighting.
We are proud to announce the first sighting of an aardvark this season. As they say, you can work your entire life in the bush and come to Africa so many times, and never see one of these rare mammals, but for our lucky guests, they don't have to say that any more.
Elephant, buffalo, hippo and Thornicraft's giraffe were all seen in great numbers. We enjoyed fantastic sightings of elephant crossing the Luangwa River.
Our walking trails have been very incredible, allowing guests to get up close and personal with wildlife and experience the environment that supports this diversity and concentration of wildlife. The 'on foot' experience has been another once-in-a-lifetime experience for those who have had the opportunity to do it.
Birds and Birding
An interesting and unusual find for us was a lilac-breasted roller catching a fully grown insect-eating bat and then feeding on it, consuming the entire bat in minutes. Thanks to one of our lucky guests, Jenny Hatree who managed to capture the pictures of this.
As always, the general sightings of birds have been fantastic!
"A truly wonderful stay. Leopard everywhere, fantastic staff, guides and a stunning camp location. Thank you all."
"Thanks to the Kalamu family we found home in Zambia. Everybody was so caring and friendly! Our guide taught us so much about wildlife. The walking safari and the sleep outs were an absolute highlight."
Shumba Camp update - August 2012 Jump
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Shumba Camp is still the number one spot for those of you with a taste for adventure and a love of the wild. As Zambia's reputation as a safari destination grows so does the name "Busanga Plains"- the must-see area of the Kafue National Park. If you love wide-open vistas, stunning sunrises and sunsets, animals in an unchanged natural environment... then Shumba really is somewhere you cannot afford to miss out on.
Weather and Landscape
August, being the beginning of summer, was still a bit chilly in the early mornings with minimum and maximum temperatures averaging between 5 and 30 degrees Celsius respectively.
For most of the month, the weather was very conducive to hot air ballooning, with most of the flights taking off just a few hundred metres from Shumba Camp and landing on the other side of Kapinga Camp.
During the month, most of our guests had an opportunity of seeing the lioness from the Busanga Pride bring her two cubs close to camp, and successfully hunting and feeding her cubs - a truly magical sighting! The two regal Busanga Males, together with the other members of the pride, also moved into the camp surrounds on a number of occasions, offering our guests wonderful views of these amazing felines from the comfort of the main area.
Large herds of buffalo have been moving in and hanging around the camp area too - perhaps this is why the lion are frequently visiting the area. Further away from camp, the game viewing has been spectacular, with sightings of huge mixed congregations of plains game as well as a couple sightings of leopard and wild dog.
The beginning of the month kicked off the first hot air balloon ride for the season. Soaring over the plains in a hot air balloon is a unique experience that offers the guests a bird's-eye view of this unique area, as the winds carry them aloft with only the sounds of the environment floating through the air. The first flight was awesome, and the guests had an aerial view of a huge herd of buffalo, as well as getting an aerial view of some soaring raptors and water birds.
"I had a really great stay. Keep up the good work. Thank you!"
"Lovely remote spot with great wildlife. Enjoyed the hospitality of the staff!"
"Thank you for an amazing time at Shumba. You all are the kindest people ever!"
Kapinga Camp update - August 2012 Jump
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Busanga Bush Camp update - August 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
In the Busanga Plains, August is always windy and slightly hot but this one has been unpredictable: cold in the mornings, but the sun shining on the smiling faces of both the marvelling guests and the enthusiastic staff here at Busanga Bush Camp.
It has been such a magnificent month as we were able to see a variety of colourful birds. Hippo have been honking away in the waters around camp, and the lions have moved into the camp surrounds.
August brought us great moments. The antelope sightings of sable, Lichtenstein's hartebeest, roan and big herds of buffalo have been a highlight. Elephant encounters were also superb, as the giant pachyderms wander on the plains. This setting was often commented on by guests, as being an iconic sight for the area.
Feline encounters were fantastic, as we found lions hunting, killing a warthog, and eating a lechwe calf. As there are many calves around, the predators are having a field day with easy pickings. Leopard sightings have been pretty good too, with one sighting coming to mind of a young leopard taking a snooze in a tree - beautifully exposed, giving all our guests a great view. The feline sightings did not stop there, as we had some fantastic sightings of cheetah and serval.
Water activities have been very popular with our guests this month. Worthy of mention was the birding, which was enjoyed while out on the water. This is where our guests saw colourful and wonderful birds like Fulleborn's longclaw, rosy-throated longclaw, greater-painted snipe, crowned crane, huge flocks of yellow-billed storks, African openbills and African skimmers. On one occasion, the guests witnessed a coppery-tailed coucal taking on a small snake. When on the water, one can't forget about the hippo, as they are all over the waterways, constantly honking and snorting.
To round off the Busanga safari experience, hot air balloon rides have been fantastic.
"It's been an experience I will never forget, great sites, great people, and great animals. Thank you."
"It was wonderful! Lions, cheetah and excellent care."
"What a fantastic, kind and wonderful camp. Thank you so much. Everyone is nice and friendly and you made our stay here so special and unforgettable."
Mvuu Camp update - August 2012 Jump
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Mvuu Wilderness Lodge update - August 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
This month, the weather has been warm and a little windy at times throughout the day and later in the night. The vast floodplains have been drying up and Liwonde is getting increasingly dusty. Leaves are starting to fall from the sausage trees and throughout the mopane woodlands, allowing for greater visibility of animal movements through the thickets.
Game viewing continues to be fruitful with the midday heat driving more elephant and antelope herds to the refreshing waters of the Shire. The heat also causes many animals to retreat to the shade of the thickets during the day, so the ideal time to enjoy game drives and boat safaris is during the slightly cooler mornings when the park's inhabitants are more active. It's currently mating season for kudu and the bulls can now be seen in herds with females and their calves. The park's nocturnal creatures such as genet, civet and porcupines are also all spotted on a regular basis.
2nd August: Duncan spotted a herd of 70 elephant downstream from the Namandanje River.
8th August: We had a very rare sighting of a pangolin at Mvuu. This scaly anteater is a unique mammal in that it has large keratin (the same substance as fingernails) scales covering its skin and is the only mammal with this adaptation. The name, pangolin comes from the Malay word "pengguling", meaning "something that rolls up". Unfortunately pangolins are considered to be the purveyor of magic and charms in local folklore and are often sacrificed in traditional ceremonies. A combination of poaching and destruction of habitat have led to pangolins now being listed as an endangered species.
16th August: A pair of crocodiles were seen mating during a boat safari near the Nangondo mouth of the Shire River. This is an extremely rare sighting. Crocodile mating season in Malawi usually commences around June. The courtship process begins with males bellowing, bubble-blowing and fighting, thus establishing dominance. Males also swim with their heads up for display purposes. Mating takes about ten minutes and occurs in the water. Two months later the female lays her eggs, which she buries underground (usually around 50 eggs) and guards by lying on top of the burying site, ferociously protecting them.
Rhino sightings: Many guests have enjoyed viewing rhino in the wild with our exciting activity - the Rhino Tracking Experience. This activity allows you to learn about, track and possibly see black rhino in the wild whilst contributing directly towards the conservation of this endangered species in Malawi. The activity is available to Mvuu Camp and Lodge guests for $40, of which 90% of all proceeds go to rhino conservation efforts. Our guests have enjoyed the whole experience and we've had increased sightings over the course of the month - a few are as follows:
4th August: A mother rhino and subadult calf were spotted by a river thicket during a session of the rhino tracking experience. On August 17th, the tracking team and guests managed to spot the same mother and calf and here's what our guests Bill and Tamar had to say: "We felt very safe in the experienced presence of our guides. Their expertise helped us sight a rhino. It was well worth the price and this is definitely a 'must-do' safari activity".
Bentley on the Mend: Bentley (one of the rhinos in Liwonde) was discovered with a wound on his leg. Dr Peter Morkel, a vet from South Africa was brought in to dart the rhino and found that the wound was a result of Bentley fighting with other bulls. Dr. Peter was quickly flown up and driven to Mvuu, courtesy of the African Parks Foundation and Wilderness Safaris. Bentley was then darted, fixed up, fitted with a transmitter and set free. We will be able to follow his movements with greater ease in the future and keep track of his progress.
Birds and Birding
Our birding list for the month includes African fish-eagle, black crake, purple heron, goliath heron, western banded snake-eagle, black heron, southern brown-throated weaver, black throated wattle-eye, Egyptian geese with chicks and a pair of palm-nut vultures to name but a few.
Tree seedling donation
On behalf of Wilderness Safaris and the Mvuu team, Christopher Mvula received a donation of 600 tree seedlings from Mr Paul Yiannakis from Mangochi. The donation is part of Paul's outreach to encourage tree planting in neighbouring communities and is greatly appreciated. The boxes will be shared amongst the local schools in the area such as Nanthomba, Nyafulu and Mvera Schools.
Day 14 of the Put Foot Rally in Liwonde
The Put Foot Rally is a fundraising and awareness initiative that is part of Project Rhino KZN, which is the first provincial anti-poaching associating in southern Africa that brings together a state conservation body, private reserves, rhino owners and leading conservation NGOs and anti-poaching security specialists.
This year the African Conservation Trust partnered with the organisers of this southern African adventure-race to adopt Project Rhino KZN as their key charity beneficiary in 2012. The rally stretched across South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and the fourteenth day of the rally brought participants through Liwonde National Park in Malawi. Read here to find out more about the rally.
Team Mvuu marks World Literacy Day
As part of the Mvuu outreach programme, Christopher Mvula and the Mvuu team donated two blackboards and pencils to the children at the junior school in Mvera Village.
Paul Yiannakis also accompanied the group to deliver more tree seedlings. Village headman Chisawa, the village committee and community members gathered to receive the donation.
"We leaned new things everyday even though we have travelled to Africa a number of times."
"Your lodges rank among the best we have experienced in the region. The river against the backdrop of natural vegetation, borassus palm, etc. is also very unique."
Newsletter by Henry, Warren and Christopher.
Mumbo Island update - August 2012 Jump
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Kingsley Holgate to Visit Cape Maclear
Famous African explorer, Kingsley Holgate, is on his way to Cape Maclear for the third time with his team to distribute mosquito nets for his United Against Malaria initiative. Kingsley Holgate is considered one of Africa's most colourful modern-day explorers. "After countless expeditions it was time to give something back to Mama Africa," he says.
In May 2010, Kingsley visited Cape Maclear as part of the United Against Malaria initiative, an umbrella partnership of many interested parties aiming to eradicate malaria in Africa. This is one of the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals.
His latest odyssey is called "The Great African Rift Valley Expedition." This year, as in previous years, a friendly soccer match and an art competition for schoolchildren (all equipment provided) on the theme of malaria prevention will take place in the village. The team will then distribute mosquito nets, predominantly to pregnant women and to women with babies and toddlers, as they are most susceptible to the virus. Insecticide-impregnated nets are shown to greatly reduce the incidence of malaria.
After this busy and exciting day, Kingsley and his team will repair to Domwe and then Mumbo Island for two nights of rest, relaxation, and what Kingsley is famous for: long chats around a fire under the African night sky.
Chef Training on Mumbo Island
August saw a wonderful week of chef training on Mumbo by the talented Juleta Hirner, who has been training the Mumbo chefs on and off since 2004:
"It's been a clattering, fragrant roller coaster ride full of unexpected joy and the odd maddening moment. The Mumbo chefs are pretty isolated: no glossy food magazines or recipe websites for inspiration, but the daily task of satisfying a range of tastes, from rarefied culture vultures to ravenous young honeymoon couples. This time around we have revamped the whole menu, line by line, cupful by cupful.
"'Douglas, you are murdering that fillet! Mr Ked, I have never seen a more beautiful salad. Andrew, nobody makes vinaigrette like you! Chef Guy, the best chocolate sauce in Africa!' These are some of the words that come out of my mouth during my chefs' training stint on the paradise of Mumbo Island," says Juleta (sister of Jurie, one of Kayak Africa's two directors.)
The talented Mumbo food team are now making spicy carrot cake with Amarula Cream, tangy pineapple dessert with an apricot glaze, light and crispy cheese pastry pinwheels with homemade tomato chutney, beef fillet with mustard and pepper sauce, heavenly little chicken pies and, wait for it... goat, mushroom and bacon goulash with creamy mash.
Book your trip and bring your spirit, mind and taste buds to paradise!
Chelinda Lodge update - August 2012
Weather and Landscape
Nyika is currently experiencing its chilliest winter in over three years. The grasslands are often adorned with frost and mist; mornings are always crispy cold, but it gets sunnier as the day progresses. Although wildlife movements have been reduced due to the colder conditions, many of the plateau's flowers are now in bloom - allowing for some beautiful vistas.
At this time of year, zebra, eland and roan antelope are more difficult to come by. However reedbuck and warthogs are very common. One of our guides spotted a honey badger earlier in the month near Chisanga Falls; it was trying to open one of the beekeeper's boxes.
Spotted hyaena and side-striped jackals are also very active; we had a sighting of hyaena hunting on the grasslands, followed closely by a jackal. Leopard sightings however (despite the cold) continue to occur on a regular basis and we've had a total of eight sightings this month.
8th August: Whyte and Watson spotted a large female leopard 100 metres away from the Juniper Road and pine plantations. She was sitting calmly by the side of the road and remained undisturbed until the calls of a hyaena prompted her to move towards the grasslands. We've also seen two leopards with hyrax kills this month.
August 16th: Darlington spotted a leopard with a hyrax kill on the footbridge to Chelinda Lodge, and a few days later on 19th August, Whyte spotted a leopard running away with a hyrax in his mouth. The rock hyrax or 'dassie' is a small furry mammal that is a natural prey item for leopards. The dassie is so unlike other animals that it is placed in a separate order (Hyracoidea) on its own; it is said that its closest living relative is the elephant.
Birds and Birding
Some migrant birds such as the yellow-billed kite, yellow wagtail and red-chested cuckoo have been spotted lately. There was also a rare sighting of a southern carmine bee-eater flock flying over the park. On 10th August, we spotted 30 white-backed vultures and three lappet-faced vultures. Vulture populations have been declining, so it's always encouraging to see as many as 30 at a time.
Newsletter by Sam, Apollo, Whyte and Stanford
Desert Rhino Camp update - August 2012 Jump
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Palmwag Lodge update - August 2012 Jump
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Doro Nawas Camp update - August 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
Due to the prevailing westerly winds, we had some rather cold conditions and mild temperatures for most of the month. As we reached the end of the month however, the midday temperatures have started to warm up quite nicely. As a result of the warming conditions we had some guests who took the first brave plunge into the pool.
What a month it was for rare and unusual sightings at Doro Nawas! Our guests were treated to some of the secrets that the Kunene Region has on offer.
The first was a honey badger - one of the most fearless animals in the world. Honey badgers regularly eat bee larvae despite the bee stings, steal food from much bigger animals like leopards, and even attack and eat venomous snakes.
The second treat on the unusual sighting list was an aardvark. These unusual creatures are largely solitary and nocturnal, feeding almost entirely on termites and ants. We were wowed when we had a sighting during the day!
The third unusual sighting was that of a lappet-faced vulture. We were all blown away by the sheer size and monstrous wingspan of this bird, especially when compared with the more common white-backed vulture.
The problem is... the water:
It all started with some thirsty elephants looking for a drink, and in the process destroying the camp's water pump. As the camp is very remote, it meant days before the water pump could be replaced. The local community came to the rescue and joined forces with camp management and guides so that water could be provided by the various community boreholes. The situation was so well managed and the teamwork was amazing - once again thanks for all the hard work, sweat and determination to get the work done!
"Thank you so much for everything. Our (short) stay here was probably the most beautiful and best experience of our lives!"
"The true welcoming of the staff, the conservancy, the culture - the singing - the sound of laughter of a happy work/life environment and the outstanding location."
"Location is absolutely great, Ignatius was a very good guide, the trip to find the elephant was great and very informative on the environment. I thought the atmosphere within the lodge was extremely familiar which was a pleasure to experience and something which is very rare when travelling to a tourism establishment."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Agnes Bezuidenhout, Jason Lundon, Morien Aebes, Schalk Burger and Emsie Skrywer.
Guides: Richard Orr, Ignatius Khamuseb, Michael Kauari and Wilhelm Ashipolo.
Newsletter by Schalk Burger, Emsie Skrywer and Michael Kauari.
Damaraland Camp update - August 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
Misty mornings challenged our ability to get up early in the morning to set up bush breakfast for our guests but our warm spirit for service always prevailed. We had two days during August where we barely saw the sun because of very thick mist cover. It took a poncho, a blanket and a hot water bottle for each guest to brave these two mornings - both of which proved to be very exciting safaris.
The landscape is as stark as ever, making for a fascinating landscape when coupled with the hanging mist. There are signs of new life however, as some trees have developed tiny buds.
After an absence of many months, a large elephant bull known as 'Stompie' made a return to the Huab Valley to join up with the Rosie and Oscar herds. Possibly some of the females are in oestrus? We have been experiencing great sightings of the amazing desert-adapted pachyderms.
Three spotted hyaena have been seen a couple of times in the Springbok Valley. They seem to be doing really well in the area, as we have been finding their tracks throughout the area, often amongst tracks from their cousins the brown hyaena, which are extremely shy and elusive, yet highly active in the area.
The Huab Pride of lions which consists of two lionesses and eight cubs are still doing very well. The entire pride was observed on the 12th, and the two females again on the 21st of the month. The Huab Male is a different story. He left the Huab River towards the end of July and walked all the way up to the Hoanib River in the Skeleton Coast area, meeting up with three lioness and five cubs - covering a distance of just over 300km. The cubs were clearly not his, as the three lioness teamed up and fought with the male, resulting in him getting fairly injured, but the five cubs have survived... for now.
Currently Damaraland Camp is working with a few NGOs (non government organisations) and the local communities within the Huab Valley to start implementing and testing lion-proof kraals (the areas in which cattle are kept at night) and the development of effective herding techniques - this has been in progress for some time now and hopefully we will see results within the next two months.
The grade 10 students of the Jakob Basson Combined School in Bergsig went on their spring break during August. Damaraland Camp provided lunch packs for all students making the journey back home.
"Seeing the elephants! Bush breakfast (a TOTAL surprise) was awesome, dinner in the boma, coming back to the room and having a cosy hot water bottle - AMAZING. We Love this camp!"
"We were like a baby, discovering a new world and we loved it. The surprise breakfast in the middle of the wilderness was especially wonderful as well as the songs and familiarization with different languages."
"The elephant safari with Johann was great, all the people are friendly, and we felt like we were staying at home. It was a pleasure for us to stay here."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Maggie, Elfrieda, Wayne and Erica.
Guides: Anthony, Albert, Willem and Johann.
Skeleton Coast Camp update - August 2012 Jump
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Serra Cafema Camp update - August 2012 Jump
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Ongava Tented Camp update - August 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
August has been a cold month here in Ongava. We experienced the coldest night so far for winter in the middle of the month, when the temperature dipped to 1° C. The hot water bottles and extra blankets have been a huge hit both in camp and out on activity, especially when coupled with the ponchos. Despite the cold night time temps, the days were quite comfy and would reach around 27° C. We did experience windy conditions, but this is expected for August.
With the cold temperatures the animals all start their day a bit later than usual. The waterhole in camp becomes active with wildlife only around 10am. As the sun rises and warms up the environment, the animals start to move around, and midday is always the best time to relax in camp and watch the procession of game arrive at the waterhole. It is amazing to watch all the different species interact with one another, especially when it is unique and often endemic species such as black-faced impala, Hartmann's mountain zebra, oryx and springbok.
The afternoon drives have also been very productive, as we would often find the species that did not come down to the waterhole during the day. In this way, we have been finding a good number of lion, with the highlight being a lioness with young cubs.
On the subject of lion, the OTC Pride has been fairly scarce as they have moved to the outskirts of Ongava. They currently have a lot of young cubs thanks to four of the lionesses having youngsters of various ages, bringing the total number of cubs to 12.
Rhino sightings have been pretty good, with excellent sightings of both species. We had a fantastic leopard sighting just behind camp. We hear this individual calling often at night.
Drives into Etosha have been really good, as the elephant are starting to arrive in the south-western parts of the Park. Some guests have been very lucky to see big breeding herds with young calves. Lion have been seen in Etosha on a regular basis, and on occasion have been seen hunting and feeding. Cheetah sightings have been good too; these are particularly special as they are not as frequent as the lion sightings. The highlight was a successful cheetah hunt, where the feline caught a springbok.
This month we have introduced a new experience to our guests - we have started doing bush dinners. The location which we use is well hidden and the guests are always pleasantly surprised when they arrive at the set-up. They are welcomed by a nice warm fire at which they can enjoy a few drinks before heading to the table. During dinner they will be able to hear sounds from the animals that are close by, from the calls of hyaena to even the huffing and puffing of a black rhino.
Birds and Birding
A variety of hornbill species has taken a liking to the camp area, providing perfect sightings of Monteiro's hornbill, which is endemic to Namibia. Damara hornbill also visits regularly - again an endemic to Namibia.
The large flocks of red-billed quelea are still around and provide great entertainment when they arrive for a drink at the camp waterhole. White-crested helmet-shrikes are still around and also entertain with their lively behaviour.
"Sightings at the Etosha waterholes, hot water bottles in bed, pancakes for breakfast and great sightings at the camp waterhole were our highlights."
"Every moment of our stay was absolutely fantastic! Great Staff - very efficient and professional, caring and friendly. Thank you."
"The management went out of their way to ensure our comfort."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Silvia Morgante, Corne Cocklin, Inge Kambatuku and Festus Eiseb.
Guides: Rio Aibeb, Leon Basson, Bono Gauseb and Me-Gusto Busch.
All pictures taken by Silvia Morgante
Little Ongava update - August 2012 Jump
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Ongava Lodge update - August 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
There has been a huge change in temperature this month, as the mornings and evenings are freezing cold, but the midday temperatures are quite warm, often rising above the 30° C mark. As one would expect from August, we have experienced some windy conditions as the season change.
The landscape is in a very dry state, but signs of life are popping out as many of the deciduous trees are bearing new shoots and buds.
Game viewing has been fantastic this month, especially around the waterholes. We have been treated to large congregations of wildlife, which leave and arrive at the waterholes in waves.
Lion sightings have been superb, as the felines visited the waterhole in front of camp on a nightly basis. One of the highlights for the month was when a group of guests viewed a lion come down for an afternoon drink - the difference was that the guests were in the hide, which allowed them a very close-up view of the feline from a safe perspective.
Rhino sightings have been good too, as we have been doing a lot of rhino tracking excursions, which when combined with drives, offers a great safari experience.
Unusual sightings for the month include the sighting of a hedgehog and a pair of Damaraland dikdik, the later being endemic to Namibia.
"The absolutely great view from the main area and rooms. Ongava Lodge is a dream come true for us."
"Excellent Rhino walk with our guide Teacher."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Adriano, Agnes, George and Jason.
Guides: Kapona, Henock, Abram, Willem, Salomon and Teacher.
Andersson's Camp update - August 2012 Jump
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Little Kulala Camp update - August 2012 Jump
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Kulala Desert Lodge update - August 2012 Jump
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Kulala Wilderness Camp update - August 2012 Jump
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Governors' Camp update - August 2012 Jump
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Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge update - August 2012
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