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South Africa camps
Pafuri Camp update - December 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
December was an incredibly hot and humid month, and every so often we would hear the crack of thunder and see the flash of lightning. We have been waiting for this moment, but unfortunately these great grey clouds did not deliver any water. We did receive a few sporadic sprinkles which would last around two minutes, with the water evaporating as soon as it touched the hot and dry ground.
The highest temperature recorded for the month was a balmy 43° C which was coupled with a humidity level of 91%.
The general game in the concession is abundant; plenty of impala, kudu, nyala, plains zebra, waterbuck and many bushbuck, especially around the camp. Despite the prolonged dry conditions, the impala have dropped their young and we have encountered several herds with tiny neonates. It is incredible to watch these nursery herds, as the mothers keep the youngsters in the centre of the herd for protection - a true delight to watch.
Warthogs are generally the first animals to lose physical condition during dry times, and this is now evidently clear with the warthogs in the area. We have also noticed a number of impala and nyala that are suffering from mange which is also due to dietary stress. The only animals which seem to be getting fatter are the baboons, which have been feasting off of the baby impala. On one occasion, some of our guests witnessed this gruesome event: A large male baboon ran down a baby impala close to Tent 5 and enthusiastically fed on it. The action didn't stop there: a sounder of warthogs charged at the baboon, causing the primate to drop his prize and flee. But then, the warthogs themselves began feeding on the remains of the carcass. Once the baboon gathered his wits, he chased the pigs off and reclaimed his meal.
The 'resident' giraffe haven't been spotted that often this month, however we did see them a number of times, and it seems that they have settled in the areas around Rhino Boma and Sandpad. Eland and wildebeest were also seen a number of times this month.
Breeding herds of buffalo have been seen often all over the concession on a daily basis, with the highlight being a herd of no less than 300 seen by Lanner Gorge.
The large herds of elephant that frequent the area during winter have moved further south, leaving only a handful of bulls lingering around the Luvuvhu River.
Hippo sightings have been good this month, especially around Crooks' Corner where we often saw up to 25 individuals in the pod.
Lion sightings were a little down this month as we only had four sightings, all along Luvuvhu East, close to the Link Road. Good news, it seems the adult lioness and the four subadult males have settled into this area.
Due to the low presence of lions in the area, our leopard encounters have once again been fantastic with a total of 19 sightings for December.
This month we also enjoyed a number of great rhino sightings, this is no doubt due to the added effort which the anti-poaching unit has put into the area over the last couple of years.
Birds and Birding
Birding was fantastic this month. Despite the lack of rain, lots of Pafuri specials were seen. Pel's fishing-owl, racket-tailed roller, Arnot's chat, thick-billed cuckoo and many more were sighted several times.
On the 23rd, Godfrey spotted two thick-billed cuckoos along Sandpad, and then found another on the 23rd in the Fever Tree Graveyard. A total of 281 species were recorded for the month.
During the second week of the month, Pafuri Camp hosted its annual CITW camp and once again, it was an absolute success!
In conclusion, 2012 was a year of variety at Pafuri and as a team we managed to do our best to please our guests. We saw a great improvement in leopard sightings and July was the record month for Pafuri with a total of 43 sightings. We have seen lots of elephant and buffalo and giraffe arrived in the concession in May, remaining until now - hopefully they will remain in the area.
Pafuri Walking Trail update - December 2012 Jump
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Camp Jabulani update - December 2012
Kings Camp update - December 2012 Jump
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Leopard Hills update - December 2012 Jump
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Rocktail Beach Camp update - December 2012 Jump
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Rocktail Bay Dive Report - December 2012 Jump
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We have had a superb December - wonderful sunny days and calm seas - finally saying goodbye to the unusually high rainfall we experienced over October and November. The water temperature has averaged around 24 degrees Celsius which has been perfect for lovely, long dives and no frozen toes at the end!
Loggerhead and leatherback turtles have been busy laying their eggs - and we have been privileged to have witnessed loggerheads coming up the beach during the day to lay - not once, but TWICE! The first time was at the beginning of the month and Michelle and Clive were with divers Rob and Shannon Prentice, Neil, Saul and dad Darryl Mayers, who were the lucky ones to see a loggerhead turtle come up the beach at lunchtime. She didn't lay on this occasion and so they all got to watch her slow progress back into the water.
The second time happened towards the end of the month - Ondyne was taking the divers back to camp after the second dive on an overcast day, when she noticed fresh tracks on the sand. She stopped and all the divers hopped out and watched the loggerhead, who had reached the dune, snuffle from one spot to another, then back to the first place where they originally saw her. Ondyne quickly drove back so that she could let everyone at Rocktail Beach Camp know! There was lots of excitement as guests and staff headed to the beach to see whether the loggerhead would lay. They were rewarded with an amazing viewing of the loggerhead laying her eggs before making her way back into the sea. All this during daylight hours too - a truly exceptional experience!
What a busy and exciting month it's been for new divers! We've had a number of guests try out diving for the first time and lots of happy faces with big smiles returning to the surface after some amazing experiences. The Sanderson family timed the weather and sea conditions to perfection for their Open Water Course - and had wonderful sightings of sleeping female loggerhead turtles, ribbontail, diamond and blue-spotted rays, eels, paperfish and an octopus! Father and daughter George and Jess Dimond completed their Advanced Course and were spoilt on their deep dive to Solitude where they saw an ignoblis (giant kingfish) in a cave, a loggerhead turtle swimming past, a longnose hawkfish, whip coral shrimp and a swimming flatworm. Ten-year-old Jack Youens did exceptionally well on his Junior Open Water Course and after qualifying, he even got to join in on the ragged tooth shark dive with his father Brent, near Island Rock on his last day of their holiday. Not many ten-year-olds can brag about that! And he has a raggie's tooth as a souvenir and proof of his dive!
Neil Butcher also completed his Open Water Course and his wife, Shelley, enjoyed her forays into the underwater world so much that she plans to come back again next year to complete her Open Water Course too! We had such exceptional dives while Neil was doing his course that he asked the question "so do we get to see dolphins on every dive then?" Michelle had just started going up at the end of their first sea dive at Aerial, whilst Ondyne was still under the water with the rest of the divers. Suddenly Ondyne started shouting excitedly into her regulator and everyone looked to see four bottlenose dolphins crossing the sand between the two sections of reef. Mich and Neil watched from their safety stop while the divers knelt in the sand, enjoying the encounter. It was amazing enough to see that - but it got even better!
About five minutes after we had first seen the dolphins, we heard the boat engines rev a couple of times. Looking up to see what was going on, we saw three dolphins playing in the boat's wake. Clive started driving around in a circle and we witnessed the most amazing show with up to seven dolphins now playing and swimming around with the boat. It is without a doubt one of the most amazing things I have seen and the memory of lying on my back, looking up at the dolphins playing with the boat, will stay with me forever.
On Neil's second dive, they saw spinner dolphins which swam with the boat all the way to Elusive. Michelle then spotted bottlenose dolphins as they were kitting up and they had a wonderful sighting of the bottlenose again as they were descending down to the reef. Wow, some divers have all the luck!
Ragged tooth sharks have been plentiful this month - we have seen up to ten raggies during our Ocean Experience snorkelling trips and there have been lots of close encounters during dives. We named Chris Emanuel our raggie shark magnet - he had close up, personal encounters with a ragged tooth shark on three consecutive dives! We have seen raggies at Yellowfin Drop, Gogo's, Pineapple, Aerial and Elusive. There have also been reports of sightings as far north as Black Rock - so the raggies are all over our section of coastline this year.
As for all the other fish life that has been on show this month - it's more a case of what haven't we seen! And the one thing we haven't been able to find is probably one of the biggest giants in the ocean - the whale shark. We're hoping we have bumper sightings during the rest of the summer season, since this is traditionally when we see this gentle giant the most.
A fish that is normally spotted over the summer months is tuna. There have been so many skipjack tuna in the water that you can see their splashes from quite some distance away, as they jump out the water, catching the bait fish (sprats) they have brought to the surface. The little terns are also happily following the tuna from the air, since they also join in the sprat feast, as they pick them off at the surface. An awesome sight to watch!
We have seen a brindle bass on two separate occasions at Pineapple this month - and this probably explains Boris the potato bass's slightly put-out behaviour towards the divers during this time. He can't be too happy with such a big predator eating all his fish on the reef - but there's not too much he can do about it, since the brindle bass is about three times bigger than he is!
Our little olive sunbird also decided to return to her successful nesting ground - she again built her little nest hanging off one of our school BCDs! So we've seen another three little birds hatch and safely leave the nest. A red-capped robin-chat decided that the dive centre was also her preferred place for nesting and she was quite ingenious in her nesting spot. She scouted the area and decided the best spot was in the arm of the huge exposure suit which we found quite some time ago on the beach and has hung between our two tractors in the boat bays! Darryl spotted her a few months ago and it appears she too has determined that her second batch of eggs should be in exactly the same spot. Her three little chicks are as warm and safe as can be - out of sight from prying eyes and predators.
Congratulations to the following Divers:
Neil and Saul Mayers, Chris and Michelle Meyer, Brett and Nicole Morrison, Willem and Thana Groenewald, Laura and Oliver Kidd, Max Nixon and Anesh and Bavi Naidoo for completing their PADI Discover Scuba Diving Course.
Frederick Paynter, Bruce and Sharon Morrison and Ethan Leibowitz for completing their PADI Discover Scuba in the pool.
Leo Mayers, Amy Paynter, Nicholas Kidd, Scott Nixon, Kai Leibowitz and Sanjan Naidoo for completing their PADI Bubblemaker Course in the pool.
Leon, Carla, Natachia and Chris Sanderson, Jack Youens and Neil Butcher for completing their PADI Open Water Course.
George and Jess Dimond for completing their PADI Advanced Course.
Yours in diving,
Darryl, Clive, Michelle, Ondyne, Mandla and Sipho.
The Rocktail Dive Team
Makalolo Plains update - December 2012 Jump
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Little Makalolo update - December 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
At last we have entered the 'rainy season' which has been very warmly welcomed by all. The temperatures have been very comfortable with the maximum being 32° C for the month and a minimum of 17° C. We have enjoyed some pretty spectacular African thunderstorms, with lightning splitting up the sky, and the rains cleansing the air and the cooling the earth.
The vegetation has become thick and lush. Due to the rainfall, which is now a regular occurrence, the natural pans in the forest are filling up, resulting in less activity at the pan in front of camp. The rains have been quite consistent with recordings for the month surpassing 250 mm. The landscape around camp has changed dramatically in a matter of weeks, a sea of beautiful green grass and new growth all around. Little shrubs seemed to have popped up out of nowhere, stunningly beautiful flowers are blooming, natural water pans have formed all over the place - all is well and looking healthy again.
If we were to tell guests that came into camp now that just at the beginning of the month there were hundreds of animals crowded around the waterholes, who had walked for miles in desperate need of water, and that they were beginning to suffer from such low water levels and overgrazed surroundings, elephants were dying of dehydration, they would struggle to believe us. The change in the flourishing growth that occurred in just the space of a few weeks of rain is unbelievable. Now that the rains have come, there is a hive of activity in all ways possible as the many living organisms around us thrive in this new beginning.
There is an abundance of wildlife around, and it is a beautiful time of year to see them, the contrast of these incredible animals against the brilliant green surroundings is truly amazing. Thousands of interesting insects have begun to hatch, these include the notorious flying termites which appear after the rain, and the dung beetles which have come out in substantial numbers and can be seen all around rolling their little balls of dung.
December means new life for many of the animals including zebra, wildebeest, impala and other antelope that have begun to give birth to their young.
The cat sightings this month have not been as much as the previous months due to the lush growth, but you can hear them calling often at night.
Other great sightings for the month include wild dog, cheetah, buffalo, many elephant and eland.
Birds and Birding
Amur falcons have started flying in their numbers, making for some good aerial activity as they hawk insects on the wing. They are quite fascinating to watch as they feed on termites. The other migratory birds that have been very visible are the white storks, giving some colour to the floodplains.
"Thank you for the most amazing holiday! We had such a special time. Thank you Rania and your team for your incredible hospitality. Thank you Brian for all your hard work and amazing drives. I loved seeing the lion, wild dog and cheetah kill. Will miss you all."
"It was the best trip of my life! I learnt so much about Africa and its lovely people. PS: Sorry about drinking all the beer."
"I really wish I could stay longer. It was super fun and awesome! Great people and animals."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Rania Mutumhe, Charles Ndlovu, Tracy Peacocke and Vimbai Mandaza.
Guides: Dickson Dube, Brian Pangidzwa and Bulisani Mathe.
Davison's Camp update - December 2012
Ruckomechi Camp update - December 2012 Jump
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Mana Canoe Trail update - December 2012 Jump
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Toka Leya Camp update - December 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
This month the temperatures have been relatively mild, with the monthly high reaching 33° C. We received just over 124 mm of rain over December.
In terms of vegetation and landscape, there is so much transformation, the place is verdant and vibrant, with lush foliage, and lots of wild flowers.
Sightings this month have been quite exciting even though the visibility in certain areas has been reduced due to the vegetation burgeoning and bursting out all over the show. Huge elephant herds were seen on a daily basis. With all the new leaves and grasses and great supply of water, many of the animals have had young, with the impala leading this movement, forming nursery herds. Other numerous sightings include buffalo, zebra, wildebeest, and giraffe. We have also enjoyed a couple good rhino sightings when out on walking excursions.
Boat cruises have been rewarding - elephants crossing, swimming and wallowing have been spotted a number of times in and on the banks of the Zambezi River. Of course, one can't mention boat cruises without speaking of hippo. There is one old bull hippo (known as Moto-Moto) that has taken up residence in camp and in the waters in front of camp. Moto-Moto is not shy and comes out at any time of the day to graze under the boardwalk, and around the main area, also providing much enjoyment for the guests.
Birds and Birding
The birding has been phenomenal with over 200 species being recorded for the month of December including some super rarities like Pel's fishing-owl and African finfoot.
We were privileged to host another successful Children in the Wilderness (CITW) camp at the beginning of the month. The camp hosted 24 children for five nights and everyone enjoyed themselves so much that they did not want to return home. We had a great time on boat cruises and game drive and in camp learning all sorts of environmental and life lessons. We were lucky to have volunteers from all over - Thank you very much to Olwen, Nicole, Ashley, Di, Sandy, Clever and Sydney.
'Great experience on the Zambezi and the Victoria Falls.'
'Awesome! Couldn't imagine anything better.'
'This was a fabulous place to begin our African adventure. Everyone was wonderful as was the food and accommodation. Thank you so much!'
Staff in Camp
Solly Tevera, Jacquie Munakombwe, Evie Bwalya, Sandy Sakala, Ronnex Marasha and Amon Ngoma.
Lufupa River Camp update - December 2012 Jump
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Lufupa Tented Camp update - December 2012 Jump
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Kalamu Lagoon Camp update - December 2012 Jump
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Shumba Camp update - December 2012 Jump
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Kapinga Camp update - December 2012 Jump
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Busanga Bush Camp update - December 2012 Jump
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Mvuu Camp update - December 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
The rains have arrived in Liwonde and with them the incredible feeling of new beginnings which are brought about by the rains. Chris Badger from the Lilongwe office was recently at Mvuu, and had the following to say:
The intense build-up of heat was followed by rolling thunder clouds, which released their first drops of water in the afternoon - building up from a light shower to heavy sheets of rain within an hour. A quick walk around the lodge showed puddles forming in minutes, and the formation of small streams which started flowing into the lagoon.
The colony of white-backed night-herons that live opposite the lodge decided to change from their normal nocturnal routine and all flew down in broad daylight to the edge of the lagoon to feed on the influx of frogs and small fish being swept into the lagoon. We witnessed some extraordinary behaviour from a small crocodile: usually the most energy-efficient of beasts and the most successful of hunters, this young one was leaping out of the water to lunge at a perching heron that was always comfortably out of range.
Dinner that night was wonderful - the frogs were calling so loudly we could barely hear ourselves talking and all manner of insects including some impressively large predatory beetles flew around the paraffin lamps feasting on the winged alates.
After a beautifully cool night we awoke at the crack of dawn for a morning walk. The skies were clear and the air already clean and crisp from the rain. The first noticeable feature was the thousands of red velvet mites - these tiny arachnids appear immediately after the rains and carpet the floodplains.
The hundreds of impala that live around Mvuu and have endured a particularly long and harsh dry season were noticeably more active than usual, already feeding on green shoots that had appeared as if from nowhere and the younger ones were prancing about and play fighting each other.
The transition from dry to wet inspired many great sightings in December, some of which were quite rare and unusual for the area.
At the beginning of the month Jimmy and his guests found a Sharpe's grysbok in the Rhino Sanctuary. This was only the beginning of the group's good fortune, as they soon came across a large herd of around 160 buffalo - one of the biggest herds recorded in the park! As luck goes, things usually happen in threes, and the group then found a black rhino and her tiny little calf.
Two weeks later, it was Rocky's turn for good luck as he had some great sightings with his guests. It all started when Rocky was sitting at the main area waiting for his guests to arrive for high tea. He watched a hippo cow make her way down to the lagoon, but he noticed something small following the hippo. At first he thought it was a warthog, but after closer inspection, it was a tiny hippo calf, most likely heading for the water for the first time. The little one battled to keep up with its mother, but as soon as it reached the water, it moved with great ease.
In general, elephant have been very abundant, sometimes with large herds of 90 being seen along the river.
Birds and Birding
December was an incredible month, even in terms of the birding and avian delights. As mentioned above, after the rains there was an explosion of insects, which has attracted such a huge variety and number of bird species.
Black Rhino Conservation
Last month we reported on the rhino darting and monitoring operation and as this continued into December we would like to elaborate further on what the mission is and on what has been achieved so far. Black rhino are under huge poaching pressure all over their increasingly limited range in Africa and Liwonde's unique population is no exception. Over the last few weeks a number of organisations and individuals have come together to put a plan in place to enhance their protection. The plan was to dart and collar as many rhino as we could find and then monitor them continuously to record their movements and territory. The Wilderness Wildlife Trust provided both VHF and satellite collars at considerable expense, and Dr Pete Morkel, one of Africa's most highly respected wildlife vets flew up and darted and collared the rhino as well as taking DNA samples. Krisz Gyonnyi, a graduate student with considerable experience in monitoring and studying black rhino flew out from Europe to take care of the monitoring, and Bentley Palmer from Blantyre organised funding for a temporary three-strand fence to replace the old and ruined sanctuary fence, African Parks provided trackers and a dart gun and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife supplied a team of scouts to assist in finding the rhino. In a three-week spell of intense tracking and hard work in the blistering heat we have managed to dart and collar seven rhino and these are now under constant satellite surveillance.
"When I am old and grey and sit by the fire, I will remember my stay at Mvuu where I was happy, where I saw such beauty, where I met such great people - Oh what memories I have."
Newsletter by Jim, Duncan, Jimmy, Rocky and Chris.
Mvuu Wilderness Lodge update - December 2012 Jump
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Mumbo Island update - December 2012 Jump
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Chelinda Lodge update - December 2012
Weather and Landscape
Following the beginning of light rains last month, the "real" rains have now arrived and there can be few places that transform in a more spectacular fashion than Nyika. The sunsets are now crystal clear and the views are immense - from Jalawe Viewpoint in the north you can see Zambia, Mozambique, and the sheer imposing mass of the Livingstone Mountains in Tanzania over the lake to the north. It is warm and sunny during the days, cloudy by late afternoon and during the evening it gets cooler.
This month, we thought we would share a game drive experience to illustrate how the game viewing was for the month:
"We set out on the afternoon drive, with the intention of heading to Chosi Viewpoint, which is a 10 km drive from camp. We managed to get as far as Dam 3 - a mere three km away from camp. There was just so much going on, we were constantly entertained and moved at snail pace.
With the arrival of the rains, the Chelinda area experiences an influx of wildlife, in particular the large herds of eland. At one stage looking north to the grasslands between Dam 3 and Chelinda Hill, we had eight species in our field of vision - eland (a huge herd of over 200) reedbuck, roan, zebra, bushbuck, warthog, bushpig, and side-striped jackal.
After stopping for hot chocolate and brandy, as it was getting quite chilly, we enjoyed the highlight of the drive: a serval hunting along the road shoulder. These elusive predators are seen less than leopard and are incredible to watch hunt, as they stalk and pounce on their prey with vigour."
Newsletter by Chris.
Desert Rhino Camp update - December 2012 Jump
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Palmwag Lodge update - December 2012 Jump
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Doro Nawas Camp update - December 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
Summer is finally upon us and it has brought with it the heat we have come to expect. We have had some wonderfully cloudy mornings, full of the promise of rain but the clouds soon dissipate, with the sun ready as always to up the heat. The sun is strong, with temperatures soaring into the late thirties (Celsius) on a daily basis. The afternoons have remained relatively the same with strong winds blowing into the early evening. We have received some light drizzle in the middle of the night but it's been so little that it did not even register a reading on our rain gauge. We are still hopeful though that the rains occurring in the rest of the country will grace Doro Nawas with its presence.
The elephant herds in the area are still prospering. The young ones have developed a keen interest in our guides and their vehicles, to the point where they approach the vehicle with trunks at full tilt sniffing at their admirers. The elephants have, as yet, not started their seasonal migration up into the Grootberg Mountains - hopefully they will stick around a bit longer.
We have had an unexpected guest at the Doro Nawas Camp. It was a male black-backed jackal that has decided to make the camp his home, roaming around the edges of the camp in search of food and water.
One of our guides transporting some guests from Bergsig through the Huab River spotted an amazing out of the ordinary sight. The group came across an African wild cat in hot pursuit of a much larger steenbok, but they disappeared into the bushes, so the final result of that pursuit is still a mystery to us. Talk about your David versus Goliath scenario!
One of the baboon troops, which we mentioned last month, has decided to move a bit closer to the camp. They can sometimes be spotted from the veranda moving across the plains.
"Finding the desert elephants and getting close to them was incredible. Visiting the school and the village was fascinating. Michael and Wilhelm are both wonderful guides - They are stars!"
"It is an eye-opener as our guide Michael tracked and found the elephants."
"360 degree views, beautiful pool, absolutely wonderful staff, size of the room, outside places to relax and of course the ability to sleep outside! Oh and shower outside - these all made for an incredible holiday."
"We loved the sundowners and the view from on top of the roof. Expedition with Richardt on our way back from Twyfelfontein. It was relaxing and inspiring."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Agnes Bezuidenhout, Wayne Du Toit, Rosalia Martin and Agnes Aikanga.
Guides: Richardt Orr, Reinholdt and Michael Kauari.
Damaraland Camp update - December 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
December was a very hot month for all in Damaraland, with the temperatures cooling off a little at night. We did experience a couple of rain showers, but we are still waiting for more rain to fall in the coming months.
This month saw the return of the elusive Tuskless Herd of elephants to the Huab Valley. This herd is known for its shyness towards people, so it is always a treat to see them, even if it is from a distance away.
After an absence of more than a month from the Huab Valley, the Huab Pride of lion has returned. We suspect that this pride has been spending the last month in the Springbok Valley. We enjoyed two sightings of this pride during the month, and hopefully we will get to enjoy their presence in the area more frequently in the coming months.
General game viewing has been pretty good, especially after the rains had rejuvenated some of the vegetation. It truly is amazing what a small amount of rain can do in this desert environment.
As mentioned in previous newsletters, a project is under way to protect the village's livestock against predation form the resident lion pride. Good headway has been made as the material that will be used to build protective fences around the cattle posts, has arrived - and just in time as the Huab Pride has returned to the area.
The camp was also paid a visit by Dr. Marnitz, who came to inspect the upgraded kindergarten at Bergsig. The kindergarten will also host the eye clinic which is being generously sponsored by Dr. Marnitz.
"For me this was a goodbye stay, I will miss my Wilderness family. Everything was a highlight, a truly wonderful stay and I will spread the word of this desert jewel. I have found the people here to be proud of their area and heritage, happy to share their knowledge and are passionate about their camp."
"Our guide Anthony was amazing as he had a strong knowledge of birds and plants. The team is extremely passionate about what they do!"
"The boma dinner was great with excellent singing."
"We enjoyed the shepherd walk with Zuma. Our elephant tracking experiences with Pascalis were fantastic; he is an extremely knowledgeable and passionate guide. All of the staff were brilliant - so friendly and helpful, many thanks to Maggie for the wonderful dinner and breakfast experiences. We really enjoyed our stay."
This month we bid farewell to Johann Cloete, who has now moved to Desert Rhino Camp. We wish him all the best with his new venture. Johan was replaced by Pascalis Kazimbu.
Skeleton Coast Camp update - December 2012 Jump
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Serra Cafema Camp update - December 2012 Jump
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Ongava Tented Camp update - December 2012 Jump
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Little Ongava update - December 2012 Jump
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Ongava Lodge update - December 2012 Jump
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Andersson's Camp update - December 2012 Jump
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Little Kulala Camp update - December 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
The weather has treated us well. The mornings have been pleasantly mild for most of the month. Clouds still build up during the day, promising to rain and in the end being pushed away by the usual westerly winds from the Atlantic Ocean. On some days we could see that it was raining in the Naukluft area. The question remains, when will we get our rain?
As we have not received any rain yet, the animals have been staying close the ephemeral riverbeds, which offer some food and shade from the heat. The dry season waterholes throughout the reserve are now the only sources of water at this time of year. The camera traps at most of the waterholes have proven once again to be very useful. It has been so hot on some days that even the springbok, brown hyaena and ostriches are using the waterholes as "swimming pools". Luckily we caught some of the swimming action on the camera traps.
A big highlight this month has been a photo taken at the waterhole between Little Kulala and Kulala Desert Lodge. The camera captured a shot of a cheetah walking past during the morning. Generally the cheetah that live on the Kulala Wilderness Reserve do not frequent this area, so we were very excited to have them around the camp.
The resident ostrich family has been seen regularly, and the mother seems to be distancing herself from the chicks, which means that they should be dispersing soon and she will start a new family.
December was the month for celebrations!
Christmas was our first celebration, and we achieved this in true style. We took our guests out under the trees in front of camp and enjoyed a meal at a large communal table. Camp staff sang traditional songs and some of the guests even joined in with some energetic dancing.
New Year was the next big 'do', and we celebrated it in a similar manner. A late dinner accompanied by a special Kulala cocktail menu was the order of the night. This was followed by an awesome camp fire to see in 2013. Once again, all took place with song and dance.
Staff in Camp
Guides: Willem, Abner, Petrus, Nicky, Teek and Willy.
Kulala Desert Lodge update - December 2012 Jump
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Kulala Wilderness Camp update - December 2012 Jump
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Governors' Camp update - December 2012 Jump
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This month Governors Camp celebrates its 40th anniversary. The camp has come a long way from its humble beginnings. In 1972 Aris and Romi Grammaticas would spend every weekend travelling down to the Mara in their Renault 16 to explore the fabulous site they had found, peg out the tents and plan the camp. Aris was a visionary, his friends thought him crazy, telling him often "no-one will actually want to pay to stay in a tent", but undeterred they persevered. Aris pioneered many of the special touches that safari goers enjoy in camps Africa-wide today and Governors grew to become a globally recognised and trusted brand, a benchmark for African safaris.
The early days were filled with fun. Rafting down the Mara River was a regular Governors activity until the resident male hippo Borealis shook the rubber dingy one too many times and nearly threw the Austrian ambassador overboard!
Aris developed the camp and his safari concept further, starting the first Hot Air Ballooning operation in a national park. Again his friends warned him not to go there and yet again Aris' vision proved right and many followed in his footsteps with Hot Air Ballooning on offer in all major national parks today. Governors' grew and he added more properties to the collection. Ever the ambassador, Aris brought the Masai Mara into millions of people's homes worldwide through his collaboration with the BBC and their hit series Big Cat Diary as well as many other wildlife films.
Aris made sure he always nurtured a good, close relationship with his community neighbours. He listened to their wishes, mediated their disputes and ensured that they saw a fair return for the tourism on their doorstep. His pioneering spirit was displayed many more times during his career. Together with African Wildlife Foundation he built and ran Rwanda's first community owned lodge which generates substantial income for the local community, and he built two biogas units in the local Masai manyatta in the Masai Mara to provide the community with a renewable source of energy at a time when most had never heard of biogas!
Aris's legacy continues, through the Governors he created, which has allowed so many to experience and explore one of Africa's iconic wildernesses. A recent guest commented "the Mara fills me with such unexplainable joy" alluding to the Governors motto "places that touch your soul". This is the legacy which we endeavour to nurture and grow
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge update - November 2012
The rains have brought about lots of fresh bamboo shoots, much to the delight of the gorilla families. This unfortunately also brings the Gorilla families into close contact with poachers setting snares for bush-meat. Sadly there are still a small amount of subsistence poaching found in the park and more so in the bamboo forests where majority of the Gorillas families are found this time of the year. Within the last 2 months we have had 2 youngsters caught in these snares, one from Sabyinyo family and the other one from Agashya family, fortunately both incidents had happy endings. Thanks to quick response from both the Trackers and MGVP( Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project ), both youngsters are alive and doing very well! These two incidents have obviously brought great concern for the safety of the Gorillas and therefore the Park has increased their Anti Poaching efforts in these high risk areas.
About ten days ago, I went to go see the Amahoro family and now with 5 Silverbacks and a big Blackback, almost turning Silverback, in the family, the amount of testosterone flying around is just unbelievable. Constant chest beating and power displays throughout our one hour visit. Wrong place at the wrong time had me flying like a old rag when I received a backhand from the dominant Silverback. I got a photo and then it all went pear shape! When I sat up finally, one of the youngest members of the family thought this was just the best thing he had ever seen so also proceeded to walk past me and slapped me in the ribs. Much to the delight of the other guests. Best trek to date and I still have the bruised ribs to prove it. Another youngster was absolutely fascinated by my shoes and sat in front of me just staring at them, probably thought I had very funny looking feet. The youngster then leaned over and gently pulled on the one shoelace that stuck out from under my gaiter. Much to my surprise and amusement, the little one then sat back, took his left foot in his hands and lifted it up, showing me what his feet looked like. I was dumbstruck, but managed to get the photo! They are just absolutely incredible! No wonder so many of our guests get so emotional when asked about their experience with these great apes.
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