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AFRICAN SAFARI NEWS

December 2012

(Page 1 of 2)

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

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


GENERAL UPDATES
Dulini Lodge in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, which has been part of the &Beyond stable for six years, will begin to operate as an independent brand from 1 March 2013.

The lodge, which &Beyond has managed on behalf of owner Stephen Saad, has been acquired by a South African businessman based in the United Kingdom. His associates, Iain and Sue Garratt will manage all operations. The Garratt family has a long history in the Sabi Sand and with the lodge itself, having operated and initially established it as one the reserve's premier lodges in the past. They will take control of all bookings, reservations and operations from 1 March 2013.

In preparation for Dulini's transition to independent management, &Beyond will be completing the handover of reservations and all lodge operations to the Garratt family over the next few months.

&Beyond continues to manage our remaining properties in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve - &Beyond Exeter River Lodge, Leadwood Lodge and Kirkman's Kamp.

Filmmakers Dereck and Beverly Joubert Interview on “60 Minutes”
Did you miss CBS news program “60 Minutes” featuring a segment on Botswana filmmaker/conservationists Dereck and Beverly Joubert? Watch as Lara Logan and the CBS “60 Minutes” crew traveled to Duba Island in the Okavango Delta to interview the Jouberts about their life’s work in Botswana documenting Big Cats.

 


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WILDLIFE NEWS

Epic Reptile Battle at Banoka!
Sighting: Epic Reptile Battle
Location: Banoka Bush Camp, Khwai Concession, Botswana
Date: 18 December 2012
Photographer: Onamile Ouna Lekgopo
Observers: Lopang Lops Rampeba and Onamile Ouna Lekgopo

One day at Banoka Bush Camp, an unusual sound of rustling branches and breaking twigs next to the main area grabbed the attention of everyone within earshot. There were quite a number of guests and staff sitting in the main area observing the resident hippo bull grazing along the lagoon in front of camp.

Epic Reptile Battle at Banoka!    Epic Reptile Battle at Banoka!

Upon closer inspection, the source of the sound became clear and was very interesting indeed: A large black mamba was attacking a fully-grown flap-necked chameleon that was literally fighting for its life! The fight was quite physical as the two reptiles lunged at each other, falling out of the tree and onto the camp deck. The sudden thud on the deck sent the serpent slithering into some nearby brush. But unfortunately for the chameleon, the snake had managed to administer large and lethal amounts of its venom, which quickly took effect, with the chameleon rapidly expiring.

After the dust settled, so to speak, the snake did not return, so we had a closer look at the dead chameleon. It was clear that the fight was very physical as the chameleon had sustained substantial wounds to its abdomen.

Luckily Ona, one of the guide trainers was around with a camera and managed to snap some quick pictures.


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CAMP UPDATES
BOTSWANA
Discover Botswana’s Hidden Gem in Khama Rhino Sanctuary
Do you have clients with a passion for rhinos and rhino conservation? Encourage a visit to Khama Rhino Sanctuary. Located near Serowe, the sanctuary can be added as a day trip or weekend excursion from Gaborone. Referred to as "Botswana's hidden gem: guaranteed to delight," the sanctuary offers a wide range of services including a variety of accommodation facilities ideal for families, groups or individuals; a full-service restaurant; environmental education center and conference facilities; a curio shop; and self drive or guided safari around the park.

Rhino at the Khama Rhino Sanctuary    Rhino at the Khama Rhino Sanctuary

But Khama Rhino Sanctuary is more than just a hidden escape. As a community-based wildlife project, the sanctuary’s team has worked long and hard to assist in saving the vanishing rhinoceros, restore an area formerly teeming with wildlife to its previous natural state, and provide economic benefits to the local Botswana community through tourism and the sustainable use of natural resources. The sanctuary actively promotes ecotourism, offering continuing environmental education programs via lectures and pamphlets to all visitors and taking part in community clean-up campaigns, shows and exhibitions.

Great Plains Conservation Camp Accepted into Relais & Chateaux
Great Plains Conservation broke new grounds for Relais & Chateaux, a renowned reference of excellence in the hospitality world, when Zarafa Camp became one of the first properties in Africa, and first property in Botswana, to be accredited and accepted into this prestigious association. According to the Relais & Chateaux Board, Great Plains Conservation embodies the 5C's ethos of Relais & Chateaux: calm, charm, character, courtesy and cuisine. Though a very low-environmental-impact camp, Zarafa Camp does not forfeit luxury to do so; this exclusive camp is second-to-none. The partnership between Great Plains Conservation and Relais & Chateaux will enhance mutual offerings of an environmentally friendly, abundant wildlife experience with the finest in hospitality – the perfect combination of heart and soul.

Zarafa Camp Common Area    Zarafa Camp Dining Area


EXPLORATIONS SAFARIS
As we edge closer to the end of year, summer season is in full swing. It's a breath taking time to travel through our pristine areas, a time of renewal, birth and "a cleaning the earth" of the year passed.

The summer rains are warm and bring huge relief to the hot days to both the earth, the animals and the humans, having a spring clean affect. Vegetation takes on a clean and even greener appearance if that is possible and the antelope drop their young so the bush is alive with babies , which in turn brings in the predators looking for an easy meal, which in turn encourages the humans to pay witness.

It can be a chaotic time ………..

One the most exciting ways to see this "chaos" is partaking in an Explorations Green Desert Safari

The route takes the time to explore the stunning contrasts of two habitat types: the "petrified" river valley of Deception Valley in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, and the fertile green islands of the Okavango Delta and its crystal-clear waterways – all the while enjoying spectacular summer congregations of wildlife. Accommodation includes serviced camping in exclusive sites in Central Kalahari Game Reserve combined with Deception Valley Lodge and Xigera Camp.

This Exploration is specifically designed around the Kalahari Desert at its most productive, when sporadic summer rains cause wildlife to migrate into the desert valleys in large numbers. This precious water creates a short yet incredibly prolific wildlife-viewing period with high concentrations of desert species and their young. In addition, the fertile islands and waterways of the Okavango Delta add another exciting dimension.

To partake in a Green Desert Expedition is to experience a nostalgic camping safari that recreates a sense of wildlife viewing adventure reminiscent of the times of the early African explorers.


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Seychelles
North Island Update - December 2012              Jump to North Island

No report this month.

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

No report this month.

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DumaTau Camp update - December 2012               Jump to DumaTau Camp

We have had very good rains this season with 132 mm falling in the month of December, much more than we had in December 2011. The rains have not affected camp activities or game sightings, however, as they tend to come in short heavy showers. We continue to see large elephant herds which would ordinarily have moved away from the area at this time of year and we have even been lucky enough to watch them cross over to the southern bank in front of camp.

Blue cheeked bee eater    Leopard mating at DumaTau Camp

On the predator front, the DumaTau Pride of lions has had wide ranging movements and sightings have been slightly less than usual as they roam beyond game drive routes, especially towards the eastern side of Savuti Camp. However, they remain an integral part of the DumaTau predator scene. One of the adult females appears heavily pregnant and reports are coming through that indicate her denning in the Selinda area; the number of cubs is still undetermined. Mavinyo's brother (the leader of the DumaTau Pride) is still looking healthy and strong. He has been vocalising a lot recently mainly as a response to the challenges from the Kings Pool Male. A confrontation between the two seems imminent.

A number of unknown nomadic lions have also been seen in the area. Two subadult males have been roaming between Fisherman's Link and DumaTau Camp, but they have since been chased out by the DumaTau Pride. A healthy looking adult male with an impressive mane was spotted once at Zib Lagoon on the north bank of the Savute Channel. Another two subadult males, thought to be the Savuti Female's offspring, are now back and have been seen roaming the south bank of the Savute Channel.

The DumaTau male leopard, who remains the icon of the area, has been sighted a number of times, still looking healthy and strong. We have seen him mating with a female near Big Jack on the DumaTau floodplain. Not for lack of trying, this male has not produced any offspring for a long time so we are all crossing our fingers and toes for a cub in the coming months! The Calcrete Female has been seen regularly around the LTC transit route, often on impala kills. Her cub is still shy but at our last sighting the cub was on his own and the mother not in sight.

Duma pride at rest    Wild dog pups around DumaTau Camp

The LTC Pack of dogs is still doing very well. All seven pups have survived thus far, now fully weaned and strong enough to follow the pack of adults around while enjoying the impala lamb feast!

The birding has also continued to be great this month. The southern-carmine bee-eater chicks have all fledged and the mothers are regularly seen feeding the chicks. We have two active southern ground-hornbill nesting sites, along Mokwepa Road close to First Corner Bridge which has provided some interesting sightings.

We are happy to also report that our resident bushpig, "Pudge", is still seen regularly around the camp at night. He certainly isn't shy and is happy to oblige for photos after dinner!

2012 has been a truly fantastic year at DumaTau. We wonder what 2013 has on offer...

Staff in Camp
Managers: Gerard, Claire, Ben, KG and Kelly.
Guides: Bobby, Moses, Name, Ona and Tank.

Photos by Claire Binks and Ona Basimane

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Savuti Camp update - December 2012               Jump to Savuti Camp

Another month has come and gone, this particular one marking the end of year 2012. Christmas fever embraced us and the mood could be felt from all ends of the camp - guests and staff alike maintained this to the end. The guests loved it here, as the weather was ideal for drives and bush brunches.

The Savuti Team has some very good voices so we could not contain ourselves at meal times: our pre-dinners had to be marked with a song or two and a little dancing that would involve guests who opted to join in, followed by drumming - which was to alert everyone that dinner was ready. The guests felt so much at home. Sitting around the bar just before the sun set was the icing on the cake with the beautiful red colour scattered in the sky and reflecting on the Savute Channel that flows right in front of camp with a big hippo that had paid us a visit for weeks; he had become part of the welcome committee. In the distance we could see some beautiful lightning bolts that made it look like the sky was busy taking pictures of us from above.

Skies over Savuti Camp     Sunset over Savuti Camp

With all this joy surrounding us, nature continued as usual: some impala became supper for a pack of wild dogs that spent some time around camp and would hunt right in camp - this was such a surprise as it is very rare to have such an experience. As we marked the last day of the year, these dogs killed an impala in the camp parking area.

We also had a surprise visit from those giants of the bush, the elephants. They came to show us their newly born ones, walking majestically through the camp, silently making their way into the mopane woodlands.

Nothing pleases the Savuti Team more than guests coming back to camp in smiles because they had seen a pride of 12 lions feeding on a buffalo kill... the best part of the story is that the guests witnessed the entire hunting process before the buffalo was brought to his knees. Earlier during the day, the same guests had seen a female leopard with her very shy cub.

As it is the rainy season, everyone is singing happy songs, from birds singing the whole day until we all retire to bed before another 05h30 wake-up call, to the bull frogs and reed frogs who take over from the roosting birds and sing lullabies setting us off to a peaceful sleep.

Just before the guides can wake their guests up, the francolins and spurfowls have long awakened us with their sharp voices early in the morning. The mornings would start with showers from the sky above, slowly drizzling, awakening the green leaves on the trees in camp and cleaning the air making it even fresher and the temperatures warming up a bit making it more comfortable for a new day. All this sent everyone in need of a nice and warm beverage before going out on their morning game drive.

As everyone sits down for breakfast, the waiters couldn't help running around after their uninvited and demanding guests, the vervet monkeys. It's so amazing how clever they are to have marked all the meal times because they would not miss a meal except for dinner which is after their bedtime.

The above was a very brief description of how December was in Savuti Bush Camp. The camp will now be closed until March 2013 for refining retouches that will make it more beautiful than ever. We look forward to reopening this camp with a slight new face!

Until then...
Abbie, Tshidi, Rose, Anja and the Savuti team!

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Zarafa Camp update - December 2012               Jump to Zarafa Camp

Babies, babies and more babies
It's annual "baby-time" again around Zarafa Camp. All the animals have been waiting for the first rains in order to deliver their young in times of plenty. With these delightful rains, fresh grasses and leaves emerging everywhere, the heavily pregnant females decided that it was time to drop their calves en masse. The entire area is now covered with energetic and wobbly impala fawns.

Hippo at Zarafa Camp

Right in camp we have the pleasure of hippo, kudu, tsessebe, wildebeest, warthog, elephant and lechwe all parading their little ones around for our viewing enjoyment. The lone lioness is carefully hiding her two tiny, little "fur balls" until they're big enough to meet the rest of the pride. It's such a treasure and honour to see them grow bigger, becoming more and more curious by the day.

Leopard Training
Then of course we have a beautiful female leopard who decided that this is the perfect time of the year to raise her cub. On a regular basis she catches a young calf for her offspring to practice various hunting skills on. It is heart-breaking and amazing at the same time to witness this incredible practice. This is observing nature in its most elemental form!

Impala with fawn seen around Zarafa Camp    Tsessebe with baby at Zarafa Camp

Tyre Snack
We almost forgot to tell you about the hyaena den. Every time we drop by for a short visit one of the cubs comes out the den, straight up to the vehicle and begins to chew on the tyres. It is very difficult not to laugh out loud.

If you like "small" animals, December is definitely the time to meet them up close and personally.

Have an adventurous 2013!
Bush greetings from the Zarafa Family.

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Selinda Camp update - December 2012               Jump to Selinda Camp

No report this month.

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Kwando Safari Camps Update - December 2012

Kwando Concession
No report this month.

Lagoon camp               Jump to Lagoon Camp
• December was a very tricky month for lion sightings, and few were seen. However, a new male lion was found feeding on an old elephant carcass along the cutline. Tracks of the pride were seen, but we were unable to locate the animals themselves.
• Good sightings of leopards this month, with a relaxed female being seen several times: feeding on an impala in a tree, and relaxing in another tree a few days later. One male managed to kill a warthog – a risky business to stay out of the way of those formidable tusks.
• At the beginning of December the Lagoon pack of 21 dogs was seen around the camp for most of the week, feeding on impalas every day. The alpha male was missing for four days, and only found with the whole pack again on the 8th of December. He is getting quite old, and seems to be struggling with keeping up with the whole pack. It will only be a matter of time before another younger male will assume the responsibility of the Alpha position. By the middle of the month, he was showing obviously signs of weakness – looking thin, and moving slowly, lagging behind the rest of the pack. This does not necessarily mean that he will be thrown out of the pack if he loses the Alpha position: wild dogs have a huge community spirit, hunting for and feeding injured pack members for months on end. The pack was still being seen most days by the end of the month, killing impala & tsessebe babies, and also taking down a zebra foal.
• Usually for about four weeks or so of the rainy season, many of the breeding herds of elephant disperse throughout the concession, and further afield, not being so reliant on the river as the only water source. There are still plenty of bull elephants to be seen, and a few smaller breeding herds of 30 or 40 individuals too, as they move through the concession.
• The large herds of buffalos have moved on, which is again normal for this time of the year. It won't be long before they realise the grass isn't always greener on the other side, and they return back to the concession in their hundreds!
• With the rains, the bush comes alive with the sounds of frogs – tree frogs, rain frogs, bubbling kassinas, bull frogs. Add to that all the sounds of the large raptors circling over head and looking for prey, and the storks and herons marching through the grass picking out the frogs and termites as they go. It's a great season for birding, with various kites, Wahlberg's eagles, Steppe buzzards and eagles, ospreys, and tawny eagles.

Lebala camp               Jump to Lebala Camp
• The Southern pack of dogs (9 adults and 7 subadults) were seen a lot out on game drives, and were highly successful with their kills. One lovely afternoon game drive we went back to where the dogs had been found in the morning and were in time to see them begin their greeting ceremony which helps the dogs bond, and signals the end of their rest period. It is quite a vocal ceremony, and the high-pitched yipping calls attracted a lone hyena. As soon as the pack saw the hyena, they began the chase, and the hyena had to take refuge in deeper water than the dogs wanted to go in. Leaving the hyena, they begin their hunt in earnest, and quickly brought down two baby impalas. The next morning, the same dogs caught three baby impalas.
• Although Lagoon was struggling with lions in their part of the concession, the lions were seen several times down in our area.
• Although the Southern pack of dogs were the ones we saw most often this month, we also had a visit from the Lagoon pack of 21 dogs, towards the end of the month.
• Several relaxed leopards were also seen this month, together with one not-so-relaxed sub adult that was flushed from a blue bush whilst a guide and his guests were on a walk. She skittered off into the surrounding vegetation and was not seen again!
• A big clan of hyenas were found feeding on a dead hippo, with the young cubs running in and out, and lots of giggling and cackling from all ages.
• Lovely sighting of a mother and baby porcupine, plodding along the tracks close to the staff village.
• Christmas day came to the lions as well as the humans: a pride of two males and three females took the opportunity of a few buffalo not being overly wary, with the males bringing down one buffalo, and the three females bringing down another. Keeping with the festive tradition, there was plenty of leftovers for Boxing Day!
• Following a good sunny day, after the first big downpour, then chaos breaks loose in the evening: thousands of termites (winged alates) launch from each termite mound on a romantic getaway, with the hope of finding a partner and becoming king and queen of their own mound. They flutter and fly for only a short time - and then drop to the ground, losing their wings and snuggling up to their new partner. It's an amazing scene as they flutter around every possible light, soon leaving piles of discarded wings next to each lantern. Unless you're trying to eat dinner, of course, then you get rather a higher intake of protein than was initially served on your plate. Luckily, its only one night a year that dinner gets interrupted, and usually by 9pm, it's safe to switch a light on again and have a meal. The next day however, is the equivalent of an all-you-can eat buffet for every bird, and small animal (and yes, people too). At first light, the early birds (literally!) start their feeding frenzy and are soon joined by the tree squirrels. It's a race to see who can jam as many juicy partner-less termites into their mouth as possible!

Kwara & Little Kwara camps               Jump to Kwara & Little Kwara camps
• The three brother cheetahs were seen regularly in the Tsum Tsum area, managing to avoid the lions that were also seen out there, but also having luck killing reedbuck. Later in December, they were seen more and more frequently in the region around Splash. There have also been regular sightings of the shy female with a female cub, and another female is often seen on the outskirts of the camp.
• Also in the Tsum Tsum area, a leopard was found up a tree with an impala. He didn't look as though he was going anywhere fast, as a group of hyenas were at the bottom of the tree, waiting for any tidbits to fall out – or perhaps even waiting for the leopard to fall out?
• Lions were seen almost every game drive this month, but there was no need to actually get on a vehicle and leave camp on some mornings. Early morning tea around the camp fire at Little Kwara was made that little bit more interesting by having two lionesses sitting on the floodplain in front of camp, watching the proceedings…
• Lionesses didn't have the upper hand for the whole month however, as on the 17th a pack of hyenas arrived where a group of lions were feeding on a kill. A fight ensued between the two predator species, and sadly, one lioness from the Shindi pride and her young six month old cub were killed in the attack.
• In general, the lion dynamics in the Kwara concession have become quite confusing. The Solo pride seems to have split, and the four male intruders that have been seen over the last couple of months have been seen mating with young females from the Solo pride, as well as a female from the Shindi pride. The seven males have now moved deeper into the east, and are rarely seen.
• The next day, when two male lions from the Solo pride came upon a pack of wild dogs, the dogs – 6 adults and 5 sub-adults – took no chances and set off at pace in the opposite direction. Lions can give chase for a short distance, but cannot keep up with the dogs that are adept at maintaining their speed over long distances.
• As the grass is now a lush green with the rains – but not too long, the general game is looking in excellent condition, with impala, zebra, wildebeest and other antelope all having their young. Giraffes are feasting on the variety of new leaves, and elephants are enjoying a diet of a wide variety of grasses and other fresh vegetation. The mopane worms – fat black, green, red and yellow caterpillars about 10cm long – that feast (predictably!) on the leaves of the mopane tree are being seen here and there. These are a high in protein, so a boon to birds or animals that find them, and are a popular meal for humans too!

Nxai Pan               Jump to Nxai Pan camp
• Lots of cheetah sightings this month, including two males that spent several days following a female, and mating. Cheetahs were also seen by the Baines Baobabs – a beautiful back drop, as well as in the area around the camp.
• Lions were also seen regularly – three adults with three sub-adults were taking the opportunity of the plentiful game, and were stalking zebra.
• Lots of general game everywhere, including the giraffe, zebras, elephants, oryx and jackals. The springbok babies are everywhere, bounding around like little jack in the boxes on spindly legs, and, unfortunately, providing plenty of food for the cheetahs, lions, leopards and other predators of the area!
• A nice sighting of a honey badger, had an added bonus, when an African wild cat that was hiding in the grass was flushed out by the honey badger – to the surprise of both of them!

Tau Pan               Jump to Tau Pan camp
• The whole of the Kalahari is back to life with all its flora and fauna sparkling after the good rains that continued to pour day and night in the beginning of the month. Springbok and oryx are countless, on every corner, and the normally hard to see red hartebeest are a regular sighting. The first wildebeest calf was seen on the 7th while the springbok kids were seen on the 8th around Tau Pan. Black backed jackals are now regaining good body condition after a lengthy dry spell that meant low food supply for the canids.
• Three new lions (two sub-adult lionesses and one sub-adult male) were located around Phukwe Pan. Behaviour-wise, they were relaxed and appeared to be at ease with human presence. High chances are they that they have broken away from their natal pride together. They look very well nourished and healthy. Another pride of eight lions including five young cubs were seen in the Letiahau area, with the cubs being very playful, and wrestling each other as they moved along with their mother.
• Closer to home, the Tau Pan waterhole has been attracting a variety of lions – both males from the Tau Pan pride have not been seen with the rest of their family, but the two females and their six offspring – now big enough to be called adults remain in the area. They were seen regularly drinking at the pan, and feeding on several kills, including oryx. Earlier in the month, a female lion – probably from the Passarge Valley – was also seen at Tau Pan, with her four cubs. All were fat and over-fed – having eaten so much they were having trouble breathing! – they spent a couple of days relaxing around one of the natural waterholes created by the rain.
• When the lions are not resident at the Tau Pan water hole, we were lucky enough in December to see 8 wild dogs several times playing around the area, drinking, and even catching springbok. It is highly unusual to see wild dogs in the Kalahari, simply because they have huge territories, and rarely stay in one place for long.
• All in all, a great month at Tau!

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Mombo Camp update - December 2012               Jump to Mombo Camp

Christmas and New Year at Mombo: There can't be a more spectacular venue for the festivities that heralded the end of 2012! Amongst swathes of luscious green where the lechwe roam and the lions roar, we saluted our thanks to a truly magical year in the place of plenty. As we waved goodbye to a couple of Mombo legends, I stepped into some very large green shoes and approached my first newsletter for this beautiful camp with just a bit of apprehension.

After a predictably stunning Christmas in camp, we saw in the new year with a very special and rare 'bush dinner' not far from camp. We explained to the guests that this was a particularly infrequent occasion and they jumped on board with enthusiasm. The resident hyaenas, lions and elephants graciously kept their distance and allowed us to enjoy a beautiful dinner around a roaring camp fire, followed by much singing and dancing from a full-voiced Mombo choir. It was memorable for guests and staff alike, as we all felt the distinct privilege of celebrating at Mombo under such unusual circumstances.

Sunset over Mombo Camp    Hippo seen around Mombo Camp

Back in camp, it has been business as usual. The epic thunderstorms that are drenching the bush provoke equally epic sightings as both predator and prey emerge from their soaked shelters to mark territories again and revel in their new watery Eden.

The Maporota Pride has made its presence known in and around the camp quite a few times this month. The most notable was during dinner one moonlit night recently. Guests were about to begin dessert when a call came through on the radio to warn the managers that their houses were being surrounded by lions. This caused some amusement and we all answered, requesting regular updates on their next movements. For a while, only seven out of the 12 were visible, lounging in front of main camp while the guests finished their dinner. A few began to inch towards some grazing lechwe, and Little Mombo was notified that they might have some visitors coming their way. The guests on that side were joined at their dinner by the old and toothless male, 'Mr Gummy,' who entered stage right near the guest loo and positioned himself in front of the Little Mombo pool. By now the guests were riveted, and we escorted them along the boardwalk towards main camp to see the main body of the pride. As a call came through announcing the arrival of a few rather disgruntled hippo, we quickened our pace and arrived to find an intriguing clash of titans ensuing directly in front of camp. Dessert abandoned, guests were lined up along the balustrade watching as the hippos charged the lions, mouths wide open, roaring in disgust that their quiet evening had been interrupted by the notorious band of felines.

Game Drive at Mombo Camp

The leopards have not been upstaged, however. Pula, the gorgeous torn-eared female, has been seen in the throes of courtship with the male nicknamed Blue-Eyes. Whilst this has provided mind-boggling sightings for several guests, this coupling is bitter-sweet. The fact that Pula is mating again signifies poignantly the likely death of her cubs, which have not been seen since they poked their squashed little faces out of a hole in a tree two months ago. We hope that we will see the results of her liaisons with Blue-Eyes sometime in the future.

This is not the sole tug-of-the-heartstrings that we have had this month. The extraordinary scenes between the mother giraffe and her stillborn baby will not easily be forgotten: it was a staunch reminder of the harsh cycles by which nature operates in the bush. Guests watched as the clan of hyaena advanced and retreated for hours, unwilling to let the opportunity for a meal pass them so easily. The mother giraffe was equally reluctant to abandon her dead offspring and so the anguished guests could only look on as this exchange continued for hours. Finally, the mother had to acquiesce to the hyaenas' advances and she stood nearby as they claimed their prize.

One more goose-bumps story and then I'll stop: there have been quite a few sightings this month of a particularly fascinating type of elephant behaviour. I had heard many times that elephants will muse over the bones of their fallen comrades, or pause to examine and smell an area where another has died, but I had never witnessed it first hand. A few guests were lucky enough to see such a demonstration and it was not long afterwards that I too experienced it. We came across a young bull elephant and stopped as we noticed a few old and sun-bleached pachyderm bones lying in the grass. Sure enough, the young bull hovered over a particularly large bone and ran his trunk along its length, apparently smelling it. He then made as if to leave, but stopped dead in his tracks and swung around to examine another bone a little way off. There was no obvious explanation for this behaviour, but one cannot help but feel moved to witness it. Whether you put it down to curiosity, playfulness, coincidence, or something akin to mourning, it is an incredible example of the way we are always learning from nature, on a daily basis.

Lion seen around Mombo Camp    Fun at Mombo Camp

As always, the smaller details must not be overlooked. The bush is teeming with birds, snakes, butterflies and frogs: just driving through the soggy plains sends all manner of flying creatures twirling through the air, turning an existing paradise into a true wonderland.

Notables of the feathered variety for this month include the ever-beautiful southern-carmine bee-eaters and rosy-throated longclaw. A small group of Hottentot teals was seen in a newly-replenished pan recently, as well as African crake. Guests were fortunate enough to see a kori bustard chick as well, adding to the list of bizarre but adorable babies popping up all over the place.

As I wrap up this whistle-stop tour through December, it is pouring with rain and the lions can be heard calling from camp. The highlights of January alone are already blazing the trail for another fabulous year: Mombo 2013 - here we come.

Staff in Camp
Managers: Graham, Liz, Jemima, Dittmar, Graeme, Ruby, Glen and Keene.
Guides: Doc, Callum, Tshepo, Sefo and Moss.

Jemima Middleton.

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Xigera Camp update - December 2012               Jump to Xigera Camp

Weather and Landscape
The rains have finally arrived! We received a total of 95 mm for the month. With these rains, we have experienced some spectacular lightning shows -harbingers to the great showers of rain. In terms of temperatures, we have experienced some pretty stable conditions, with the highest recording for the month being 33° C with a low average of 18° C. We experienced most of the rains during the early mornings, leaving the afternoons bright and clear. All in all, we experienced halcyon days.

Leopard seen around Xigera Camp    Hyaena seen around Xigera Camp

Wildlife
The buffalo herds that frequent the concession are starting to get bigger as the smaller splinter herds consolidate, resulting in herds of around 50 individuals being the norm for the month. Another great sighting which we enjoyed was that of a sitatunga - this aquatic antelope is very elusive and are quite skittish when they encounter people. This sighting took place on Christmas Day and it was indeed a fitting gift from Mother Nature!

We are also happy to announce the arrival of two young male lions into the area, which we found feeding on a warthog that they had dug out of its burrow.

Mmadiphala, our resident female leopard, has been seen regularly, but towards the end of the month, we no longer saw her cub and assume that it was moved on to find a territory of its own.

A real highlight for the month was the mass calving of the impala and zebra in the area. Once the rains arrived, the babies were soon on the scene... creating a feeding frenzy for the predators in the area.

Volleyball played at Xigera Camp

Birds and Birding
As usual, the birding was phenomenal this month! We had some really good sightings of Pel's fishing-owl right in camp as well as out in the field. Lesser flamingos have also been seen on a regular basis at the Xigera Lagoon, often joined by a number of pink-backed pelicans and yellow-billed storks. The African skimmer chicks at the lagoon have grown rapidly and we expect them to fledge any moment now.

We have started to have regular sightings of southern ground-hornbills, as there is a family group of five which have been hanging around the airstrip area.

Camp Activities
As the water levels continue to drop, we now have the opportunity to swim during the afternoon siesta. Another favoured activity during the siesta on the overcast days was volleyball, which we played close to the solar panels. All in all it was a great festive season, filled with great sightings and tasty food.


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Chitabe Camp update - December 2012               Jump to Chitabe Camp

The month of December was a festive one! We had great occupancies and were virtually fully booked over the festive season from mid -December through to early January. The first rains started to fall bringing welcome relief to the parched ground…and it did not take long before a lovely hue of green descended over the plains of Chitabe.

On the 11th and 12th of December we closed off both camps for our annual "Chitabe Children in the Wilderness" experience.

Chitabe Children in the Wilderness

The Ministry of Environment Wildlife and Tourism is working on Youth Mainstreaming in the environment, wildlife and tourism sector. The functions of this unit are to integrate, coordinate and explore opportunities for youth in the sector as they are valuable partners and resources in helping to protect, and conserve the environment.

We feel very strongly about this as well and have for many years encouraged the children of our staff to visit their parents at their place of work and to understand the extraordinary habitat in which we work, the value that it has, the need to protect it, and the employment opportunities that it affords.

As quoted by the Ministry, "Youth have a natural curiosity about science and the environment. They are eager to help protect our natural resources." We also believe that children need the encouragement of their parents and adults to become interested in environmental issues and through education they can learn to take responsibility for their actions which hopefully will improve not only their own lives but those of future generations as well.

Therefore, each year at Chitabe, all the staff and management put the names of their children (between the ages of 6 and 14) in a hat and we draw out 12 names. These children are then invited to fly to Chitabe Camp in a Cessna Caravan and spend two nights at the camp with their parents.

Chitabe Children in the Wilderness    Chitabe Children in the Wilderness

Each year we close the camps for these two nights, forgoing revenue, so that we can all enjoy the festive season and most of all bring some education, fun and adventure to the children and to enable the children to spend time with their parents in their place of work.

Games and races are organized. Swimming and game drives are always the highlights and simple yet memorable activities like cooking marshmallows over the fire are a real treat.
As a company we buy gifts for the children as well as a variety of prizes for the various races and activities organized. We feel it is important for the children to know where their parents work and what they do, as this helps to give an understanding to the children and a sense of pride to all.
So, for the December newsletter we leave you with a number of images from our CITW party at the camp and we hope that you all had a wonderful festive season and best wishes for a safe and prosperous 2013!

The Chitabe Team


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

No report this month.

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

Happy New Year! A full house at Little Vumbura on Christmas Day enjoyed a festive fare accompanied by singing and dancing with the staff choir. Guests travelling during Christmas expressed their appreciation of the attention to detail of the menu, the decorations and the Christmas gifts which made it feel just 'like home'.

Elephant at Little Vumbura    Tsessebe at Little Vumbura

Everything has sprung to life with over 150 mm of rain for December at Little Vumbura. Birds, bugs and frogs of all colours are in full chorus and enjoying the wet conditions. We have had pleasant daytime temperatures averaging around 29° C and although conditions have been a little damp underfoot it has not put a stop to Little Vumbura's driving, boating and mokoro activities accompanied by amazing animal sightings. Some roads have turned into small rivers, making driving full of fun and excitement for the guests. The savannah grassland is becoming greener and taller by the day with a host of new life emerging. There have being magical sunrises and sunsets with spectacular cumulus clouds towering above Little Vumbura most afternoons, followed by amazing thunderstorms that have rumbled on through the night.

Our guests have been blown away by the huge variety of species, from small to large, seen out on activity including African wild dog, sable antelope, leopard, cheetah, lion, buffalo, elephant and of course our resident pods of hippo. One of our many honeymoon couples was very fortunate to get a brief glimpse of a sitatunga from the helicopter on their way to Little Vumbura from Mombo! Our guests have also equally enjoyed experiencing the smaller species including porcupine, fishing spiders, monitor lizards and an exquisite newly-hatched chameleon was spotted making its way up a tree in camp.

Lion seen around Little Vumbura    Waterbuck seen around Little Vumbura

Some smaller species of fish have moved to the channels - which were once roads - and have attracted a number of bird species. Game drives are a bird-lover's delight with regular sightings of saddle-billed stork, wattled crane, rufous-bellied heron, squacco heron, hamerkop, little egret and a variety of sandpipers all vying for their share of fish in the shallows. Some of our guests have also enjoyed trying their hand at catch-and-release fishing and what better place than the Okavango Delta to do this in!

All the best for an inspiring year ahead!
The Little Vumbura Team

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

December is an exciting month all around the world and no less so at Duba Plains. We received big rains in the first week of December and within days the bush came to life and became green again. Many birds have started breeding, so the sky is filled with bright and beautiful colours while the air around Duba is singing. The woodland kingfisher's delightful call always marks the beginning of this season, and it is has arrived, along with many of the other 'green season specials'.

Elephant seen around Duba Plains Camp

New born lechwe and tsessebe dot the open plains, enjoying the fresh green grass, and the huge herds of elephant create beautiful silhouettes against the backdrop of the deep grey, cloud-filled skies. With the local rains now a part of the weekly programme, the water levels are slowly rising, which make game drives in our "puddle-jumper" vehicles so much more fun.

The lion and buffalo continue their dance throughout the festive season and never cease to amaze guests who witness their show. The lion even came to pay a visit in camp one morning, and treated all the guests to quite a close sighting... we all had to hide out until the lions moved off.

Christmas menu    Decoration at Duba Plains Camp

The festive season in Africa also brings along the gift of tasty fresh fruit in abundance. Even our kitchen appears more colourful with the bright colours of mangos, grapes, cherries, plums and peaches. Our Executive Chef, Pierre, thrives on seasonal and local ingredients and he is creating masterpieces that wow even the most well-travelled guests. We put up our very own Christmas tree and brought it to life with decorations handmade by the staff. Guests feasted on a combination of traditional and local foods. It was a Christmas Dinner Africa-style, complete with Amarula Eggnog.

2012 came to an end with some more rain (a blessing here in Botswana) and refreshing cocktails to accompany the scrumptious menu masterpiece created by the kitchen. We entered 2013 in high spirits and look forward to the year ahead. Thanks for all the support in 2012, we hope to make more new friends and look forward to welcoming many of you back to Duba in 2013.

A very happy New Year from everyone at Duba Plains!

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Banoka Bush Camp update - December 2012

Weather and Landscape
December has been a great month in terms of weather as we have received quite a lot of rain - rejuvenating the landscape and offering some respite from the sweltering heat. Temperatures have climbed to highs of 35° C, with the average temperature for the month being a comfy 24° C.

The whole concession is well decorated with a variety of brightly coloured flowers and butterflies. The most striking flowers at the moment are the flame lily, wild cleome, wild morning-glory and many others. All these brightly coloured flowers attract a myriad of butterflies, with brown-veined whites and diadems being the most abundant species.

Flame lily at Banoka Bush Camp    Black heron at Banoka Bush Camp

Wildlife
Banoka Bush Camp is a simply unbeatable wildlife destination at all times! This has proved true by the successful year of fantastic wildlife sightings and encounters.

Looking at the beginning of 2012, every month has provided a great variety of sightings as every month had something unique to offer. We received some great rainfall during January and February, with the concession being rejuvenated into a lush landscape. It was also a great time for lion sightings, as we discovered the two males from the Banoka Pride, which had just moved into the area to claim their territory. We can also not forget about the 'scramble for dead elephant remains' - when we found a new pride of lions feeding on an elephant carcass on the eastern side of camp. It was incredible to see the interaction between the white-backed vultures, jackals, hyaena and lion at the sighting!

It was also a great year for wild dog sightings, as a huge pack of 27 wild dogs settled into the area, sharing with us a window into their daily life as we got to see them interacting, hunting, feeding, mating, denning and growing up. The pack left us thrilled one morning when they chased and killed a young male kudu right by the doorstep of one of the tents. Since the guests had planned to sleep in that morning to get ready for their departure, they got a chance to get some good pictures.

Lion seen around Banoka Bush Camp    Elephant seen around Banoka Bush Camp

In terms of leopard, the Banoka Female provided us with great sightings consistently. This particular female used to be very skittish, and would flee at the first hint of human presence - but through sensitive game viewing and respect for her personal space, she has become very relaxed in the presence of vehicles.

All in all, 2012 was a great year for both Banoka Bush Camp and the Khwai Concession. When the camp opened, wildlife sightings were often far from camp, but now we experience daily sightings right in front of camp as the wildlife has become comfortable with our presence in the area.

The year 2012 concluded on a high note as the month of December did not disappoint as far as wildlife sightings went. All guests in camp at the time got to see the Machaba Mother leopard with her cub on the northern side of Machaba. She had a good hunt and brought down a fully grown female impala. She was then spotted again on the southern part of Machaba after a couple of days but this time, she was very skittish and went into the thickets. The two Discovery Male lions were found on the western side of the concession sleeping comfortably under some fever-berry trees. We were also quite lucky to observe these two brutes hunting red lechwe - albeit with no success.

Birds and Birding
The month of December is without doubt another great month for birding! All of the summer migrant species have arrived and are thriving in their new summer destination. Each and every source of surface water is buzzing with birdlife. Water birds have taken the spotlight this month, as we have enjoyed sightings of saddle-billed storks, African openbills, woolly-necked storks, marabou storks, yellow-billed storks, white storks and black storks. A variety of ducks and geese have also been seen mixed in with the stork flocks.

Comb Duck seen at Banoka Bush Camp

Black herons have returned to the pans in large numbers, wowing our guests with their unique method of feeding, known as mantling.

Staff in Camp
Managers: Mama B, Lops, Lebo and Luka.
Guides: Chief, Reuben, Moses and Ouna.

Newsletter by Lopang Rampeba and pictures by Lopang Rampeba and, Betsy Bray.

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Jacana Camp update - December 2012               Jump to Jacana Camp

Weather and Landscape
For the first half of December, the levels of the water around Jacana Camp continued to drop due to enormous evaporation that takes place in the summer temperatures that hover in the mid-30s (Celsius). At the beginning of the month, we had to beach our boats around the side of our island as the water had become too shallow for the boats to dock at our usual jetty at the front of the camp.

However, the second half of December brought good rain to our region, and the resultant rise in the water levels due to this localised rainfall allowed our guests, once again, to disembark from our boats straight onto our viewing deck.

Elephant on the deck area at Jacana Camp

Wildlife
Unusually, we have seen less elephant activity at Jacana this month, although when these marvellous creatures have paid the island a visit, they have preferred to remain alongside our general areas, enjoying the fallen fruits of the two huge sycamore fig trees that rise up through our main area. Stepping onto the deck for high tea, our guests have been treated to the spectacle of a huge bull elephant leaning over the balustrades in an effort to suck up the figs which had dropped onto the deck. Can you imagine standing there, plate in hand with a slice of moist orange cake, or a tasty samosa, watching this great wild creature only a few feet from you, enjoying his high tea too!

Sadly, the Jao Pride of lion have remained on the Jao floodplains this month, allowing us only to hear them roaring, rather than visiting Jacana in person.

Birds and Birding
The birdlife continues to thrive with the increase in insects from the rainfall. The majority of our mokoro activities were able to enjoy sightings of the resident pair of Pel's fishing-owls, together with the ever-present African fish-eagles. The most frequent comments from our overseas guests is how astounding the diversity of our birdlife is and how colourful the different species are.

Children in the Wilderness arriving at Jacana Camp    Children in the Wilderness arriving at Jacana Camp

Camp News
The first week of December saw the second group of Children in the Wilderness (CITW) arrive at Jacana. Once again, this invaluable programme has been a marvellous success with the children learning not only about the importance of the Delta's unique environment, but also vital life skills such as team building, personal hygiene, HIV and AIDS awareness. The whole experience broadened each child's horizons, so that their future becomes attainable - a powerful result.

Guest Comments
"Animals, staff, rooms, view and sounds - all extraordinary! Absolute perfection in every way. Jacana made our first visit to Africa an experience of a lifetime. One we will never forget. Thank you!"

"Being in the Delta, the mokoro trip and mokoro lessons was our highlights. Great hospitality - Jo and Phil are good managers and very nice people. Staff is very kind and open."

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

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Abu Camp update - December 2012               Jump to Abu Camp

What a fantastic month Abu has had with some really good sightings of both leopard and lion. As the festive season hit us, we also celebrated the birthday of our newest addition to the Abu Herd - Warona, who turned one!

The magnificent Abu Concession has been awe-inspiring this month in terms of vegetation as well, with the large fever-berries and baobab trees being seen in full blossom. There was however a casualty in the area near the camp as a young baobab was toppled over by a massive storm that hit the Delta. As always in nature where nothing goes to waste, here the resident elephant herds swarmed to the fallen tree and started 'scavenging' on it, much like hyaena at a kill.

The Abu herd with guests    Lion seen around Abu Camp

Speaking of hyaena, the Seba Clan has been very active this month, being spotted regularly on the airstrip at night, the cubs almost fully grown now and active with the parents as they hunt the many wildebeest, impala, giraffe and zebra that sleep on the airstrip at night. Their comical giggles and squeals are always a highlight as they get themselves riled up for a night of hunting.

There have been several sightings of the elusive and endangered roan antelope this month as well, near the Cement Airstrip area of the concession. They are very shy and skittish and would dash at the first hint of human presence in the area, but we did get some nice sightings of them on a number of occasions.

Another great find around the airstrip area was a fresh set of cheetah tracks. These felines are also rarely seen in the concession, so we are excited to have them around and hope that they settle in and allow us some sightings.

On the subject of felines, the resident pride of four lions has made its way back into the area, spending a number of days under the trees behind camp. The two subadult males are almost fully maned and look magnificent! It is amazing how rapidly they have grown and they now look like fitting kings for the area. On one occasion, when some guests and their guide went out on game drive and shortly after leaving camp, the guests spotted the two males in the floodplain next to the Abu Lagoon. After the camp was notified of the sighting, the remaining guests in camp had a look through the spotting scope, and lo and behold, there they all were popping their heads up from the reeds just in front of camp. What made the sighting all the more amazing was that directly behind them was a huge breeding herd of elephant, and in front was a large pod of hippo, ignoring the threat the lions presented. On that same day there were two leopard spotted, a male and female.

Southern African python seen at Abu Camp

With the rains, there have also been many Southern African pythons that have been found around the area. These snakes are considered to be royal game due to their endangered status in Africa, their beautiful skin highly sought after for arts and crafts. Another amazing sighting this month has been a vine snake that was found in camp eating another species, an Angolan green snake! What really struck us as amazing was the size of both serpents: the vine snake being well over a metre and the green snake almost the same size. Staff and guests watched in awe from a distance as the vine snake got the green snake down to the tail, and realised there was still roughly 10 centimetres left to swallow. He tried to regurgitate the snake to try from a different angle, and after several attempts got it right and the snake slid comfortably down his throat, giving him a filling meal for the next few days. There was also a small Mozambique spitting-cobra who was disturbed by a blacksmith lapwing, and the young spitter hooded up immediately, trying to intimidate the lapwing, but the lapwing continuously battered and pecked the poor serpent, who was forced to retreat to the safety of a mopane bush.

As for the Abu Herd, they are all looking happy and healthy, the rain a welcome respite from the summer heat, which has often reached over 42° C. As a small birthday present, the Abu managers made young Warona a lovely batch of elephant-friendly cookies, topped off with their favourite fruit - oranges! Warona didn't think twice as she gobbled cookie after cookie, the smug grin on her face seeming to grow wider with each mouthful.

Managers: Ipeleng, Cayley, James and Jacques.
Guides: Taps, Newman and Teko.

Newsletter by James and images by Taps and Cayley.

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Kwetsani Camp update - December 2012               Jump to Kwetsani Camp

December - the closing month of 2012 - what a wonderful and festive month it has been! It started with the wedding reception of Tiffany Kays and Brendon Riley, being held at Kwetsani. The camp was wonderfully transformed into a wedding reception venue, overlooking the floodplains of the Delta. Christmas was the next event, with lots of delicious food being served, and all the guests being in a festive mood, making for a jolly Christmas - and a New Year too! All in all, a great end to yet another successful year, with anticipation for what 2013 is going to hold for us. We wish all our readers a blessed and prosperous New Year.

Lion seen around Kwetsani Camp    Lion seen around Kwetsani Camp

Weather and Landscape
This has been a pleasantly mild December where the sun has not been blistering hot. The skies have stayed slightly overcast for most of the month, giving us a good shower to soak the earth every few days. We also experienced a spectacular rain storm when 75 mm of rain fell in a matter of 15 minutes. As African summer storms often do, it rained down on us furiously and then stopped, and the guests went out and had a great afternoon activity.

Wildlife
The still hours of one particular morning were broken by the deep lion roars of two young males. We could hear them first in the distance and then coming closer and closer to Kwetsani. They were found walking proudly across the floodplains, making their presence known with every step. We have named the one with the dark chest-mane Pepper and the brother with the lighter chest-mane Salt. What healthy, majestic young princes these are. They were letting us know that although they are princes now, they are certainly going to be kings within the next year or so - already marking the territory over the present dominant lion male.

The young Jao Pride has been feasting on red lechwe close to camp over the last few days of December. It was great to see the young male having grown so big. With tummies full they did not really want to move and when they did they just flopped by the water, the youngster cooling right down on the river's edge.

Our well-trained guides have tracked leopard successfully this month, making for exceptional sightings. Much to the guests' surprise, each time the guides predict the next movement of the leopard or its destination, they are in awe when it happens just has he or she described. So many guests have repeatedly thanked the guides for giving them the opportunity to witness how the tracking of these well-camouflaged cats is done. Well done to MT, Flo and Ronald for giving our guests such wonderful experiences.

Antelope seen at Sunset    Owl seen around Kwetsanie Camp

On most evenings, the local spotted hyaena clan make their way around the camp to their favourite hunting areas, to see where they can scavenge or hunt. With the lions so close to the area all the time, they are getting their fair share of food to scavenge from the latest kill. Each time they are successful, the night air rings with the cackle of the hyaena.

Plains game have been in abundance and our guides have really enjoyed interpreting the environment for their guests.

Birds and Birding
The mokoro experience is one that has given us great bird sightings of normally very shy birds, such as the black crake. Silently, the polers try to get us as close to the malachite kingfisher, so in order to get a good photo of this beautiful bird.

We have had wonderful sightings of a variety of birds, but one that really stands out for December is the little bee-eater. We have enjoyed watching them dexterously catch dragonflies and flying ants while on the wing.

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

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Jao Camp update - December 2012               Jump to Jao Camp

Weather and Landscape
It has been between 20 and 35° C throughout the month of December. Some days we could hardly stand the heat and on other occasions, some of our guests would wear light jerseys on the morning activities - so quite a varied range of temperatures this month.

Rain has been coming and going this month. Afternoon storms have been entertaining, especially when it is time for activities. There are pools of water all over the concession... so far, it looks like we are going to have a good rainy season.

Lion seen at Jao Camp

Wildlife
We had the most amazing and interesting wildlife sightings this month. One afternoon, Angie sat down and observed the behaviour of the resident business of banded mongoose. After a while, Angie walked into the curio shop and found a pair rolling around in one of the woven baskets! We speculate it became quite heated as copulation followed not too long after that! There were quite a few banded mongoose females who seemed to be heavily pregnant with bulging bellies seen around camp. Not long after, we had little bandits running around all over the show. It is always amusing to see them being playful.

On another occasion, the back of house area was visited by another creature of the night. The managers were doing last minute work for the evening when a loud crash came from the kitchen side. William jumped up and ran towards the kitchen. The resident female hyaena was trying to run away with a bowl from the kitchen that had bread rolls in from dinner. You can imagine the theatrics - one hyaena running at a steady gait with two managers in hot pursuit! William and Neuman have realised they are not as fit as they would like to be. The hyaena has now been seen on a more regular basis.

Banded mongoose seen around Jao Camp    Sundowners in the Bush

Cindy and William had an interesting encounter with a monitor lizard on the floodplains towards Kwetsani. They found him digging on one spot on arrival. By sitting patiently and watching him closely they realised he was digging up terrapin eggs from the ground and eating them. Half a dozen later, they stopped counting and he was left to enjoy his lunch.

It is always interesting to watch wildlife encounters, especially when these are unusual. Two skinks had a territorial dispute in the back of house area. One of them had already shed his tail in attempt to take the attention away from his vital areas. The fight went on for quite some time and eventually the one gave up and ran for his life. The proud victor paraded for a while then soon disappeared.

Birds and Birding
When it comes to our feathered friends, we had the most incredible martial eagle sighting. The raptor sat about six metres from the ground in a tree with what was left of a monitor lizard (only the tail) feasting away. It was astounding being able to view him at such close proximity. He did not want to leave his prize, giving us the opportunity to creep up quite close to him.

Moving on to smaller species, a white-browed robin-chat made herself comfortable between the laundry and housekeeping store rooms. This might not be so strange to some, but the interesting part is the nest was made in the fold of the rolled-up blind covering the window. We are monitoring the developments.

The most spectacular sighting of a lesser jacana was seen on the channel towards Jacana Camp. The bird hung around for a while before deciding to fly off.

European bee-eaters have been all over the area as well. We are almost certain of a blue-cheeked bee-eater being spotted on the channel towards Jacana.

Crake Dancing    Wildlife around Jao Camp

Camp Activities
It has been an interesting month at Jao, with the most spectacular wedding this concession has ever seen.

The build-up to the Brendon Riley and Tiffany Kays wedding was unmistakably the busiest time in the history of Jao Camp - we had flights coming in every second day. Logistically speaking, the Kays family called on all their resources to get all the wedding goodies here in time. This included the supplier's equipment that had to be ready when they arrived at Jao in order to set it all up for the big day. Managers, guides, housekeepers, general assistants, waiters and barmen as well as the concession team all came together to get the job done. Jao Camp came to a complete guest standstill to accommodate all the friends and family members of the bridal couple as well as David and Cathy's friends. - All in all, the event turned out stunning.

Aside from the wedding guests, Jao Camp still had some guests from other countries. We wowed them with activities such as pool sundowners, private open-fire deck dinners, basket weaving, boma dinners, bush lunches and dinners. We had a family of 14 from Mexico City during Christmas. The day after Christmas we had a boma evening and they all enjoyed dancing in the boma with the staff of Jao - it was truly wonderful.

31 December 2012 was an absolute winner. Although we did not have a full camp it was still festive. The Jao staff sang and danced in the boma and the guests loved the attention. Shortly after this we went up to the main area for dinner - boasting a set-up fit for royalty. After dinner the guests jumped on a game drive vehicle to go on a midnight game drive. By the time they returned 2013 was already an hour old. It was bedtime not too long after that!

Staff in Camp
Managers: William and Angie Whiteman, Neuman Vasco, Bryan Webstock, Theresa Fourie, Marina Lungu and Retha Prinsloo.
Guides: Alberto Mundu, Simon Tshekonyane, Johnny Mowanji and Bee Makgetho.


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Seba Camp update - December 2012               Jump to Seba Camp

Weather and Landscape
This month we experienced a few days of rain, with hot days in between. We received a total of 61 mm over the month with average temperatures ranging between 20 and 26° C. The thunderstorms were quite spectacular, especially during the evenings whilst we enjoyed dinner from the deck. Despite the rain storms, the water levels in the channels continued to drop.

Once we received those first drops of rain, the bush wasted no time in springing back to life and the area was transformed into a lush, green and vibrant landscape. The thickening of the vegetation has not affected the game viewing as we experienced some wonderful sightings this month.

Leopard jumping between trees    Lion seen around Seba Camp

Wildlife
The resident bushbuck family and the buffalo bull still enjoy moving around the camp. The vervet monkey troop has grown in numbers with little babies displaying their playful antics - a popular entertainment for all in camp.

The elephant seem to be increasing in their numbers as we encounter both breeding herds and solitary bulls in and around the camp area. Leopard sightings have been pretty good, as we often found these spotted felines sitting atop termite mounds in a bid to survey the thickening vegetation. Lion and cheetah have also cropped up, with the cheetah in particular sticking around the camp area. One particular individual, who has become known as 'Shy One' has taken a liking to the camp area, but as his name suggests, he is quite elusive and dashes away when encountered by people.

The lagoon in front of camp has also been quite productive as we have enjoyed some good sightings of monitor lizards, hippo and crocodile from the main deck. One of the sighting highlights for the month was the duel between two rival male hippo in front of camp. The sounds and vigour of action was amazing and we all watched with bated breath. This time the fight was not too dramatic and both hippo moved off with nothing more than a bruised ego and a bump or two. Every night, all in camp are serenaded by the honking of hippo.

Hippo seen around Seba Camp    Hippo seen around Seba Camp

The local hyaena clan has been scarce this month and we only had a handful of sightings of them.

Birds and Birding
The lagoon in front of camp have attracted large numbers of waders and water birds. Pygmy geese, pied kingfishers, African jacana, red-billed teal and malachite kingfishers are abundant at the moment as they feed on the feast of fish and other aquatic creatures. As expected at any body of water in the bush, the African fish-eagle is very active in the area, and its call rings through the air all day long.

Staff in Camp
Managers: Alex, Aaron and Beatrice.
Guides: Mate, Joe and Speedy


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

Weather and Landscape
Warm and humid days are being cooled down by the approach of thunderstorms in the late afternoons. The rumbles can he heard from a distance, as we get excited about the incoming rain, we start closing up and moving all the furniture that can get wet.

And then the rain comes: The drops fall as the lightning hits the ground not far from camp - and then the drops stop! The soil is not even wet as the heated sand causes the drops to evaporate so quickly. This is what the weather has been doing to us for days on end. Every day we have thought: "ah, the big one is coming today" but to no avail.

Babbling Kassina at Tubu Tree Camp    Leopard seen at Tubu Tree Camp

Close to the end of the month however, we received that big one... on the one afternoon when we least expected it. The wind suddenly picked up and then the rain came. The wind was blowing so hard that the rain was falling sideways! For about 30 minutes we were being blessed with rain and then as quickly as it came down it was gone. The wind was blowing so hard that it completely uprooted three big knob thorn trees in the staff village.

The bush is lush green with the rain that we have received in the last month.

Wildlife
This has been a month of leopards.

The Impala Ridge Female has taken over more territory towards the north (airstrip area) and we have seen her there on a few occasions during the month. With the Lebala Female being displaced by the Impala Ridge Female, we have seen Lebala all over the island, as she is now looking for an area which she can call hers.

After two years of not being seen, we saw Keledi again in the northern parts of the island, and she was not alone, she brought a cub with her! We estimate the cub to be about five or six months old. She has made herself at home in the northern parts.

As for the Tubu Female and her two cubs, they have been seen as well. The two cubs are spending more and more time away from their mother as they are starting to become independent. The one cub was spotted one night sitting on the roof of the manager's tent, and when the vehicle came closer he jumped up into the tree beside the management tent and proceeded to relax there, his bulging belly showing he'd fed recently. The managers couldn't get into their room for a few hours. He has become very relaxed - just like his mother.

There have also been lots of hyaena sightings this month around camp. Five adults were spotted in the floodplain lying in the early morning sunlight while on other occasions we have seen them at night from the deck as they chase impala or zebra past the camp; by the look of things, this is more for the fun of chase than for the kill. On New Year's Eve (make that New Year's morning) the hyaenas killed an impala in front of Tent 3.

Leopard seen at Tubu Tree    Slaty egret around Tubu Tree

The cheetah that were here last month had left by the first week of the month. We had hoped that they would stay for longer, but we were not so lucky.

General game sightings around the island have been great as well. Large herds of zebra, blue wildebeest, kudu, giraffe as well as elephants are seen regularly. On a partly overcast evening, despite the ominous clouds, we decided to set up for a bush dinner, but it all worked out great, weather-wise. During dinner we kept a lookout for the hyaena that normally come to join us, but they did not arrive. While we were casually talking during dinner, we heard the loud rumble behind us. As we lifted our torches, we saw a herd of elephants not 20 metres away from us, some drinking water while others were looking at us. As quietly as they arrived they disappeared into the darkness, with the only sound being the breaking of branches as they fed.

One night while we were having pre-dinner drinks at the beautiful Tubu Bar, a tree mouse climbed down the marula tree and came to sniff at the bar snacks before casually turning around and climbing back up the tree. We were all speechless at the little guy, since he was so relaxed. While standing at the bar that same night the guests asked about genets. We told them all about genets and showed them pictures and not long afterwards we went through for dinner. We were busy with the main course when Eloise heard soft running steps on the deck behind her as she sat at the end of the table, she turned her head to the door and there came a genet running at full speed into the dining room! Realising that he was not alone, he tried to reverse, braking before jumping onto the pathway going to the bar, where he disappeared - what an exciting dinner!

Chameleon at Tubu Tree

Birds and Birding
We have seen a few red-necked falcons around camp as well as close to the airstrip. There are also large flocks of collard pratincoles that were spotted on the northern parts of the island close to Harry's Baobab; it seems that they may breeding there.

Guest Comments
"We had incredible bird and animal sightings, in particular the fantastic leopard sightings! The very good knowledge of management and staff was the cherry on top. Special touches - the welcome on our return from drives and the printed info scrolls. The beautiful location and vista that greeted us every morning! The orchestra of bird song in the early morning and the tranquillity was all extraordinary."

"We had seven different leopard sightings. The excellent guide, GT made our safari so much more. Definitely one of the best camps I have been to."

Staff in Camp
Managers: Eloise and Hein Holton.
Guides: Kambango Sinimbo, Gibson Kehemetswe and GT Sarepito.


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

Weather and Landscape
Since the beginning of the month, daytime temperatures have been quite pleasant as it was mostly overcast with occasional rainfall.This all changed at the end of the month when temperatures rocketed up to 42° C.

African bat eared fox

The Kalahari is always such a beautiful area once some rain has fallen. The rainfall kick-starts the profound growth of wild flowers and a myriad other vegetation types, painting the usually drab-coloured landscape a profusion of colours. The vast open spaces combined with the flush of vegetation really is a sight to see.

Wildlife
Due to the growth of palatable vegetation in the area, large herds of oryx and springbok have moved into the camp surrounds. It was amazing as once the herds arrived, they immediately started to give birth, this attracting large numbers of predators to the area, in particular lion to Deception Valley. Cheetah were also seen quite close to camp.

On one morning drive, our guests were lucky to witness a cheetah take down two baby springbok. The guests got to witness the entire process from when the cheetah spotted the prey, to the chase, all the way through to the feeding. The cheetah had only been feeding for around 10 minutes when black-backed jackal arrived on the scene. They tried their luck at stealing the carcass, but this cheetah was not going to give it up and chased the canines off.

Antelope around Kalahari Plains Camp    Oryx around Kalahari Plains Camp

The Kalahari is such a huge expanse of wilderness, much of it rarely visited, and it can always surprise us, as it proved this month. Really exciting and unusual sightings for the month included 14 wild dogs at Letiahau Waterhole, African jacana, black-crowned night-heron, wattled crane and squacco heron.

This month, the Bushman Experience was very popular, and all the guests really enjoyed the entire experience and all commented on the enthusiasm of Xukuri, who demonstrates his traditional way of life.


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