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Wilderness Finalist in WTTC Tourism for Tomorrow Awards 2012
Wilderness is both thrilled and humbled to be nominated as a finalist in the World Travel and Tourism Council's (WTTC) Tourism for Tomorrow Awards 2012.
Wilderness has been nominated in the category Global Tourism Business for an unprecedented third time, following recognition in the 2007 and 2010 Awards. This category recognises best practice in sustainable tourism in businesses in any tourism sector that operate in multiple destinations.
According to Andy Payne, Wilderness Group CEO, "We are really excited to be recognised in these prestigious awards and hope that our 4Cs sustainability platform and the strides we have made in sustainability reporting over the last two years will prove to be a genuinely positive contribution to sustainable tourism globally."
Through the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards, the WTTC recognises innovative leaders in sustainable tourism; they are considered one of the highest accolades in the global Travel and Tourism industry, where those companies, organisations and destinations that are setting the standard for sustainable tourism best practice are honoured.
All three finalists in this category will shortly undergo a rigorous on-site assessment by an esteemed sustainability expert and then be evaluated again by the winner selection committee chaired by Costas Christ and comprised of leading individuals from a wide array of government, NGO, media and academic institutions.
The winners will be announced on 17 April 2012 at the WTTC Global Summit in Tokyo.
Abu Camp - An Unbeatable End to a Beautiful Year
At Abu Camp, we decided to close off a beautiful year under the beautiful star-filled skies of the Okavango. Bush dinners, we believe, are the perfect way to celebrate any occasion, and, if you are in one of the wildest and most beautiful places on earth, you may as well dine right in the middle of it all.
These occasions always present some sort of difficulty, many a time have vehicles been sent, back to camp to collect the dessert that had been abandoned in the fridge, or the wine glasses left standing in a packing crate in the store rooms, or perhaps even the bowls in which a glorious soup starter was to be served - too late to collect, substituted by coffee cups or even champagne glasses! Once a bump in the road sent our perfect crème brulees flying off the vehicle into the bush below, a tasty evening treat for some passing kudu no doubt.
Summer is even more challenging. The unpredictable storms in Botswana have often seen us fast packing away against the encroaching clouds and settling instead for a cosy, drier dinner, in camp.
New Year's Eve 2011 was not such a night. A full camp complemented by guides, managers and elephant researchers headed out for dinner under a perfect summer sky. Nothing forgotten and no clouds in sight, we settled round the fire for a glass of champagne and some festive traditional dancing and singing performed by the talented Abu Choir, followed shortly by some of the guests. After we had all worked up a hearty appetite, Starr, one of the camp's gifted chefs, announced the evening's menu.
Perfectly flame-grilled beef and kudu fillets were served accompanied by a variety of other meat and vegetable dishes. Dessert, however, was interrupted by the arrival of a gang of whooping hyaena. In between bites we watched and flashed torches at the scavengers who were walking past the fire and around the outskirts of our dining spot, hoping for a chance at some leftovers.
After dinner, half the group, tired from the full day's activities decided to retire back to camp for an Amarula nightcap and their comfy beds, and the rest of us gathered round the fire and enjoyed the unique ambience of the laughing hyaena around us.
Across the floodplain we could see the first vehicle as it drove away from us toward camp, it had stopped and was slowly reversing. One of the guests commented that there was something moving quickly in the headlights; bush-savvy guides and managers assured guests that this was yet more hyaena on their way to investigate the whoops of our dinner companions.
As it got closer the vehicle's headlights revealed a large blackish brown mane headed straight toward us. Quickly jumping into nearby vehicles we watched in awe as an enormous male lion came charging right through the middle of our dinner site!
Our hyaena companions, not realising that a rather large and hungry looking lion was headed their way, but noting that humans had vacated the area, quickly took the chance to tuck into some of the flavoursome fillet. The lion crept round a bush, sneaking up behind one of the hyaena and gave him such a clout that we could hear the echo of it as the unsuspecting hyaena bounced into the middle of the clearing. He gathered himself up quickly, tail between the legs and dashed past the vehicle into the darkness beyond.
The lion surveyed the area, most likely hoping that there was a kill nearby. Disappointed he strutted back into the clearing and placed himself between the dinner table and fire for a rest.
Just moments before midnight, he picked himself up and walked back down the road leaving us to enjoy the last few minutes of 2011, drinks in hand around the fire, under the glittering skies of the Okavango Delta.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Observers: Cayley Christos and Thapelo with some of the guests.
A visit to Pafuri’s school children
It is always great to visit to the northern reaches of South Africa. I get to travel through the extreme north of the Kruger National Park and visit the communities of Makuleke where Children in the Wilderness is involved in environmental education at some of the schools.
This time we were there to meet with school principals and teachers to discuss this year’s CITW Environmental Clubs and activities. The children were very excited to see us, with some even running out of their classrooms screaming happy greetings. All classrooms are overcrowded with too few teachers (between 70 and 90 children per teacher) so teaching also happens outdoors under the trees and we inadvertently disrupted these classes too.
We always try to take books and wildlife magazines to the school libraries whenever we visit.
Each of the schools has a feeding programme and all school children get a meal when they attend school. Adults from the community come to school to cook for the children on the premises.
In the village, we met with the local women to purchase their arts and crafts which Wilderness Adventures Pafuri Camp then sells in its curio shop, providing a market for the local community wares.
This year the CITW Environmental Clubs will include a workshop on Environmental Careers, activities around Sustainable Living, No Littering, tree planting for Arbour Day and we will be running a Big Birding Day in the village.
No report this month.
North Island Update - February 2012 Jump
to North Island
Kings Pool Camp update - February 2012 Jump
to Kings Pool Camp
DumaTau Camp update - February 2012 Jump
to DumaTau Camp
February has seen scattered rainfall, which has led us to experience more than a few hot days. The total rainfall for the month was 103 mm, with temperatures averaging a high of 29° Celsius and a low of 21° Celsius. The rainfall has kept the area thick and green, but this has not hindered our game viewing, and February was a good month for wildlife sightings.
The wild dogs provided us with the most thrilling sightings, with guests spotting both the LTC and Zibidianja Packs. The Zib Pack split in November and we have not seen the breakaway group since. Both packs are in good condition, with the LTC Pack preferring the northern bank of the Savute Channel and Zib Pack preferring the southern bank. On a recent drive, the guests were lucky enough to see the LTC Pack playing with a crocodile. Each time the dogs approached the water, the crocodile would force them to retreat, only to find himself chased back into the water by the brave dogs.
The DumaTau male leopard is still in good condition and is seen on a regular basis. He has been calling and marking a great deal this month, leading us to believe that there is another male in the area. He no longer seems interested in mating, but he continues to provide us with fantastic sightings. He is always relaxed around vehicles, giving guests ample opportunities for wonderful photographs. In fact, he interrupted a surprise bush sundowner last week, leaving manager and bartender to change locations with more than a little finesse. He did not seem deterred when the vehicles pulled in for drinks, and his presence certainly made for an unforgettable evening on the DumaTau floodplain.
The resident female leopards have also been busy this month. We suspect that the Calcrete Female has cubs hidden; she was recently spotted with swollen teats. Mma Lebadi was heavily pregnant the last time she was spotted, and may have cubs as well. The guides have also seen Mma Ditsebe and the Zib Female, both of whom are in good condition. With good guiding and a bit of luck, DumaTau can be a fantastic destination for anyone who enjoys watching these graceful and elusive cats.
While we have not seen the DumaTau Pride of lion this month, the dominant male, and Mavinyo's surviving brother, has been seen quite often near the airstrip, calling regularly and scent marking. The LTC Pride, consisting of one male, two females and subadult male, has been seen more regularly at the channel and one female was spotted mating with the male. Their single cub is in great condition, showing off the beginnings of his mane. The Savuti Female has not been spotted this month, and we suspect she had her cubs somewhere near the southern side of the channel.
Elephant numbers are increasing again and the zebra have also moved back into the area. We are happy to report that a few of the elephant bulls have visited camp this month, charming visitors as always with their delicate boardwalk crossings. We even had a sighting of an edible elephant on the brunch table!
There are a number of bird species nesting in and around the camp. The resident Red-billed Hornbill is still doing well, and has a successful nest on an African mangosteen tree between the kitchen and the office. We believe the chicks have hatched, but the female has not yet broken out of the nest. There are several Crested and Black-collared Barbets making nests near camp, along with a pair of Secretarybirds sitting on their nest. One of the more spectacular sightings this month was of a Martial Eagle catching a big water monitor lizard. The bee-eaters are still out in force and we often see the Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters and Southern Carmine Bee-eaters flying together.
The camp news would not be complete without mentioning a particularly special sighting: a pangolin on the southern bank of the Savute Channel. This is our first pangolin sighting of 2012 and we would like to see a few more before 2013!
We hope to receive more rainfall before our dry season begins in May, and are looking forward to a productive March in this little Linyanti paradise.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Gerard, Claire, Ben, Abi and KT.
Guides: Bobby, Lazi, Mocks, Ron and Tank.
Photographs: Gerard Strachan, Abi S-F and Ben Mogalakwe.
Savuti Camp update - February 2012 Jump
to Savuti Camp
Zarafa Camp update - February 2012 Jump
to Zarafa Camp
Once you arrive in your light aircraft at the new Selinda airstrip, you will find yourself in complete wilderness - for good period, of maybe 100 miles or so, you just haven't seen any villages or towns whatsoever. It does not get much more isolated, pristine and this connected to nature than here. Just you, your guide and the game drive vehicle - and this is where your adventure begins....
The drive to Zarafa is 45 minutes - if you drive direct that is. This is no highway to the airport but a game drive. More often than not, the "transfer" to camp can take hours due to "busy traffic" along the way. There is a real diversity in habitats that you will across in that period, from open grassland to thick mopane forest to lagoon waterlines. The game and birds that you can see can be really widespread.
This month, due to the summer migrant birds that we have here, you can be lucky enough to tick at least 50+ birds just on that drive alone. A favourite for us all is the Southern Carmine Bee-eaters, which try and feed from the insects brought up by the vehicle as you drive by. This is the perfect opportunity to show off your photography skills.
The predators on this route alone are also fantastic. As the final part of the transfer passes next to the lagoon, there is a sudden flood of impala and lechwe which constantly come for a drink, often closely followed by wild dog and leopard. All this can be seen before even arriving at camp! Huge numbers of elephant can also be seen along the lagoon, as they too come for daily drinks at this spot.
The entrance to Zarafa is from a shaded feverberry forest. As you arrive at camp, it is a backdrop to a bygone era, and apart from our solar-powered lights, the camp could be quite comfortably nestled back in 1920s. Both the main area and the rooms offer such wide open spaces, and areas, that guests cannot help but relax and unwind.
We have been incredibly lucky by having practically a resident wild dog pack hunting in the area, which has often resulted in guests enjoying sundowners from the deck, while watching the wild dog hunt - all the time being bathed in the setting sun.
We had an exciting bush braai (barbecue) dinner at the end of the month with some return guests. Dollar, Dux and David surprised the guests by setting up a comfy dining area in the middle of the African bush. The guests were really taken back by this, but there was still more to come. After dinner, the guests went to our 'planetarium', which was constructed of a Persian rug and a pile of soft cushy pillows. Dux took the guests on a "lunar game drive," pointing out the prominent constellations, stars and planets. To top this all off, the group was then serenaded by the whooping calls of some hyaena and the booming roar of the resident male lion.
Once on the Zibadianja "house" boat, some guests just don't want to leave! It is one the best places to see a sunset in the concession. On one occasion, we boated back to shore at 9pm! This was meant to be a quick sundowner cruise, but a few bottles of champagne later and a lot of laughs we came back to camp for a very jolly dinner.
What is now even more exciting, is the African Skimmer colony that we have found. We are being extremely sensitive to this sighting and keeping our distance to these endangered birds. It has been fantastic to watch them skim the water's surface for food during the morning and late afternoons. We spent an entire day watching these fantastic birds go on with their daily routine - first from the boat and then from the bird hide.
To sum it up, February really has been a "take it easy" month. Great wild dog sightings near camp, elephants aplenty in camp, and guests just generally enjoying the serenity and homeliness of Zarafa.
Selinda Camp update - February 2012 Jump
to Selinda Camp
Another beautiful month has passed at Selinda Camp.
Although it's the rainy season, we did only get half an hour of rain in the afternoon every third day or so. It's actually a nice way of freshening up the area. Having said this, we did experience two huge African thunderstorms. It was fascinating to watch the thick, grey rain-bearing clouds roll in and consume the blue sky, followed by a very impressive and dramatic thunder and lightning display which then led into a wash of rain.
We experienced another beautiful scene during the last week of the month, when we followed four lion during a morning drive. They were very focused and were walking with intent, gazing into some thick vegetation. We immediately thought that the felines had honed in on a potential meal. They slowly approached the thicket, suddenly exploding into action - and what happened next caught us all by surprise. A beautiful male leopard lunged out of the bush and up a tree, far too quick for the Wapuku Pride. The lions flinched and then turned their attention to a spectating warthog, which quickly became a meal. This amazing experience lasted about an hour and was definitely the best way to start an early morning drive.
Back in camp we've had some great (and small) animal encounters as well. As Selinda is an unfenced camp, you have to be careful were you walk at all times - especially when there is an elephant in camp. An old bull has become quite comfy in the camp surrounds, often feeding amongst the rooms. He is very relaxed and has provided us all with some great entertainment.
A strange thing happened in the middle of the month, we had just installed brand new lampshades on our main deck. After two days one of the shades had been "attacked". There were a couple of threads hanging loose. We thought our curious 'house' elephant, with his rough trunk, had just been interested in what we had done to the place. How kind of him, but a little more care would have been nice.
We left the lampshade to see what would happen next. Every day it got worse, but 'our' elephant had already moved on... so what was it? It baffled us for a week before we found out we'd blamed the wrong 'guy'. While having high tea we caught the culprit in action while he silently climbed up the lamp and carefully ripped off the threads, one by one to take to the other side of the deck, across the pool area were this clever tree squirrel was building a little love nest! A sneaky critter!
Camps Update - February 2012
• No report for this month.
Lagoon camp Jump
•The river flows swiftly past Lagoon Camp – the dawn slowly breaking over the churning waters as the sun plays off the ripples at the rivers' edge. The sound of a fish eagle calls in the distance as the hippos slowly wake, greeting our guests for yet another day of wondrous Africa!
• Being awoken to a cacophony of animal sounds, there can be no doubt that there are some great things to see – a lioness perched expertly atop a termite mound was one such sighting. Her spots characteristic of her youth; a clear sign that she was not alone in her wonderings – there must have been other members of her pride nearby! The wild dogs have been hugely active this month, being spotted multiple times throughout the concession – the family looking healthy and playful. They were even seen taking a warthog as the sunset for the end of another long, hot day. Guests watched on as a male leopard was seen dining on an impala up a tree, gorging himself on his recent kill before the hyenas could catch the scent.
• The buffalo seem to have found themselves the perfect hiding spot – kept secret from both seeking eyes as well as roaming predators. The seasonal rains have filled the nearby pools with fresh, sweet water and given the buffalo a perfect source close to their favourite foliage – and it seems, also their best form of camouflage – the Mopane Woodlands. They have remained unsighted this month, carefully resting amongst the forest thickets.
• However, along Macheka road at the hyena den, a curious cub has provided many a guest with a chance to witness its investigations of its surrounding area at night. One such evening, three porcupines were spotted, shortly followed by the cub on an evening excursion to seek out the owner of this new smell. A second cub has also been spotted!
• Elephant breeding herds have also been prevalent in the area and some truly remarkable antelope were also seen – the Sable antelope and the shy Sitatunga have both been spotted along with Kudu, Roan and Eland, to name a few. Migratory birds have yet to start their long journey to faraway lands and the carmine bee eater, broad billed rollers and wahlbergs eagle have still be seen taking to the skies, whilst mongooses of all species – both banded and dwarf - have been seen frequently frolicking amongst the ant hills and termite mounds. A black mamba was even sighted crossing the road near John's Pan.
Lebala camp Jump
• There have been numerous elephant sightings near and around Lebala Camp – as well as large breeding herds lumbering across the grassy plains. It is truly amazing how silently these mammoth animals move through the thickest brush to barely more than the swish-swish as they tromp in unison through the long grass! Lone bulls have been seen wondering in the more open landscapes as well as carefully manoeuvring their huge bodies through the tight confines of other woodland areas. This is unusual for this time of year as most bachelor and breeding herds have moved off in to the woodlands by now.
• Guests had the good fortune to come across twenty wild dogs at a recent kill – an impala ram which was slowly being feasted upon by the family – nine pups and eleven adults. As is true of the African wild, the hyenas were soon alerted to this fresh kill by the scent in the air and quickly appeared ready to challenge the pack to their meal. Unfortunately, the hyenas proved the stronger group on this day and soon chased the dogs off and seized their prey. The coalition comprising of the three cheetahs brothers has also been sighted sporadically throughout the concession but have seemed to move on quickly from each location.
• General game has been excellent – the elegant giraffe have been seen feeding on acacia and russet bush willow trees, mindfully surveying their surroundings from their lofty height. Reedbuck and Lechwe have been spotted in the wetter areas with the tiny, graceful steenbok seen occasionally for just long enough to take in its delicate features before it flees in fright to the safety of the thick bush! Birding has also been enjoyable with ostriches, ducks and geese as well as some sightings of the wattled-crane along with other small water birds.
Kwara & Little Kwara camps Jump
& Little Kwara camps
• This past month, the most prevalent cat we have seen is the cheetah. We have been really pleased to discover that it was almost a daily occurrence to bump in to her – together with her three cubs. Our best sighting so far was at the beginning of the month – on the 5th of February – where we tracked her for about thirty minutes and found her resting at Leadwood Island. We had driven around in this area before coming across fresh tracks which we followed, leading right up to her. We stayed with the four cheetahs for as long as we wanted, watching her interacting and bonding whilst our guests took marvellous photos. After about half an hour, the mother cheetah became interested in a few warthogs snorting nearby. She then followed them and at first, stalked them, then suddenly, shooting right past us, she managed to secure a great feast for her and her three cubs!
• In the Kwara Concession, a lion sighting is almost guaranteed. Our famous cats have been seen roaming all areas, often marking territories, attempting to hunt, but mostly, just lying around. Over the last two weeks, the three male lions – members of the group we call 'the Splash Boys' – have been on the move. We have spotted them in various places. On Valentine's Day, we had a special visit, right behind Kwara main camp, as these three majestic beasts made their way past our camp. They had been roaring the previous night and our guests were delighted to spot them immediately after leaving camp.
• We have seen leopard this month – quite a few sightings – one special one was at Old Xugana Road where one leopard lay on a tree giving us a great photographic opportunity.
It had been a few weeks without seeing the wild dogs and we were more than delighted to come across twelve of them at Splash area. They were mobile and we followed them for about ten minutes when they became interested in some impala – but sadly, without success.
• Our night drives are full of activity, spotting nocturnal animals including the side-striped jackal, caracals and the black backed jackal. A very interesting sighting – that tops our sighting list this month – has been the pangolin at Xugana Main Road.
• Lots of birds – including Ground Hornbills (which we hear often calling in the mornings while we are having our tea in camp). We also see saddle-billed storks right in front of the rooms, mostly in the afternoons. Whilst on our game drives, most often when stopping for our sun-downer drinks, we have had the opportunity to enjoy birding – seeing other species such as Grey-headed Kingfishers, Black Herons and the Slatey Egret.
Nxai Pan Jump
to Nxai Pan camp
• The Kalahari offers our guests much to see – across its wide open plains and vast landscape, there are many animals which roam this pristine earth. The predators in the area have graced us with many sightings of their daily interactions, at rest and at play as well as seen mating.
• Cheetah seem to have found this area much to their liking in recent months as they have been spotted on many an occasion – most often seen sleeping or relaxing by nearby pans or in a prime spot along West Road and Baobab Loop. One cheetah was even sighted in the Camp! A rare treat for visitors and staff alike!
• Other cats which have been spotted have been the lions. A much-loved favourite for all to see, this particular group – consisting of three adults and three younger ones – were interrupted whilst at play! These rambunctious activities soon ended as the heat got the better of them and they sought out something to quench their thirst and finally, a shady resting spot where they could hide from the desert sun. The lions all seem to be in a playful mood this month as one of the females from the Nxai Pan Pride was also seen 'fake fighting' with a male from another territory.
• As always, the general game has been good – giraffes, kudu, impala and gemsbok have all been seen wondering the various feeding grounds enjoying the excellent grazing which is characteristic of this time of the year and zebras can still be seen gallivanting across open fields whilst springboks prance majestically across the plains. Our large, ponderous, grey friends – the elephant – still frequent the area and take much delight in the pans. Black-backed jackals and bat eared foxes have also been spotted along with spring hares – if one is lucky enough to see them as they disappear in to the nearby brush!
Tau Pan Jump
to Tau Pan camp
• The Tau Pan Pride continues to flourish in their desert home and have frequently been sighted drinking from the various waterholes in the area. In the intense Kalahari heat, they are most often found languishing under the scarce shade of an unforgiving landscape, though guests are sometimes treated to their territorial patrols and daily hunting activities. Whilst the leopard has remained elusive this month, the cheetah has been proud to show off her cubs to our visitors whilst she has been hunting. Other smaller predators have been seen foraging in the pans, including the bat-eared fox, the cape fox and the black-backed jackal.
• This region has such a special variety of creatures that blend in so well with their surroundings. From the smallest of creatures - the ground squirrel that is frequently seen hopping along the ground, fervently scratching out some delectable morsel from the sand and the leopard tortoise with its amazing kaleidoscope of camouflage that gives it its name – to the smaller of the antelopes – the springbok with their numerous new young who are quickly learning to navigate the rocky earth beneath their tiny hooves – and the largest being the gemsbok, who gracefully gazes at the vibrant activity around him.
• Of special note is the abundant birdlife which has been seen on every game drive. Flocks of Sand Grouse rise at the nearby rumble of the vehicle as it passes them by. A brave Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk also delighted viewers by attempting to tackle a larger bird, a guinea fowl with young – the poor goshawk was worse for ware after the protective guinea fowl kicked it to the ground, leaving it with far more pains and fewer feathers than it started the day with! Others proved just as unsuccessful when battling the ground squirrel which adamantly stood their ground upon intrusion by the goshawk in to its feeding territory. The Peregrine Falcon has displayed its successful hunting tactics on many occasions, along with spectacular sightings of the Red Billed Queleas, the Ring Dove, the Bateleur Eagle and princely Kori Bustard, amongst others.
Mombo Camp update
- February 2012 Jump
to Mombo Camp
February this year has been a comparatively drier month than last year - although last year's rainfall in January was a phenomenal amount which resulted in an inundation of epic proportions even as early as February 2011. This year we have already seen the waters rise slightly in the floodplains - normal for this time of year as the graph indicating inflows into the Okavango does its first "blip" on the chart before beginning its undulating curve as the year goes on. There wasn't a great amount of rain this month, making for balmy days with scattered clouds converging in the afternoons to provide a welcome coolness to the humid air. When it did rain, the captivating aroma of thirsty earth welcoming the much-needed moisture tingled the senses, captured the imagination and gave promise to the life being regenerated.
The landscape takes on every subtle shade of sun-kissed green you can imagine, and an innate friskiness, a joie de vivre takes hold within everything and everyone.
Antelope lambs gambol to and fro (in the case of the wildebeest, the adults too!) flowers raise their faces to the sun, and the air vibrates with the trilling of insects and birds. This is the cusp season of the Okavango - when the rains and our summer avian visitors are still here in abundance, but the first promise of the inundation begins to show itself.
As always, the region teems with plains game - in one view you can perceive a scene almost Jurassic in its intensity: a sweeping vista of zebra mingling with impala, lechwe closer to the water's edge, kudu and giraffe in the treelines, elephants in the far distance... this is the essence of Mombo, a proliferation of life of such concentrations hardly seen elsewhere.
The month started off with a bang as the Mporota Pride brought down a buffalo right in the confines of camp in the early hours of the morning before dawn. Their growls and snarls as they battled the old bull awoke everyone in the vicinity - by first light they had subdued him and were busy with their feast. As this was within a few metres of the managers' houses, no-one from that end of camp dared venture out until a vehicle arrived to collect them in safety! The lions remained with the kill for two days as they finished off what they could, and all the while our safety protocols were strictly adhered too. Fortunately the guest rooms on that end of camp were unoccupied, which made things a little easier to keep people and lions apart!
For the rest of the month the Mporota Pride were seen all over the concession as it moved between its territorial boundaries in the search for prey. At times the pride split into two groups as the females with the two youngsters hunted on their own, and at others we found the full pride together with the two Jao Boys.
The Mathatha Pride are now almost exclusively found to the south near the Simbira area, and the magnificent Western Boys, who dominate them and the territory, have also been spotted in that area all the way up to Wild Sage Pan.
The Western Pride is still sandwiched in between the two larger prides, and were found in the Far Eastern Pan area this month.
Leopard sightings have been abundant - similar to January, we have been fortunate to have views of a number of individuals.
Legadema and her young cub continue to delight and thrill us with her antics, while Pula, her daughter, and her two cubs have now been seen more often. One of these youngsters is already showing her mother's calmness in the presence of vehicles, while the other remains a little camera-shy.
Legadema was observed one morning with an impala kill, but a lurking hyaena quickly came in to chase her from her prize before she could haul it into a tree.
Lebadi, the dominant male of the area, appears to have been ousted from his perch by the Serondela Male, who we have seen regularly this month. He is a beautiful specimen and is completely unperturbed by the game viewers. Lebadi has managed to remain within his territory thus far, however, and appears to be recovering from his injuries, although whether he has the will and the strength to take on the Serondela Male once more remains to be seen. The Serondela Male was also seen fighting another, unknown male leopard on Tortoise Kill road, as if the territory already belongs to him and the usurper had better know about it.
Blue Eyes was seen in his usual southerly haunts of the concession, and on one occasion we found him with a freshly-killed warthog.
The as-yet unidentified leopards seen in the preceding months have also been sighted again this month - a female in the Simbira area where Blue Eyes has his territory, and the shy male seen in the Triple Baobab area.
A pack of six wild dogs came into the area on one day, possibly a splinter group of the sixteen that were sighted here in November last year. They came at high speed with their characteristic hunting tactics, stuck around for a day, and then disappeared once more in a southerly direction.
A herd of approximately 300 buffalo came through the concession for a few days from the south before moving back down again, presumably straight into the waiting clutches of the Mathatha Pride, which would explain their almost constant presence in that region.
The birdlife here is still magnificent as the summer visitors remain to take advantage of the season of plenitude, and a keen birder can rack up a total of over a hundred species with little effort. The summertime anthem of the Woodland Kingfishers provide a backdrop to the shrieking of the African Fish-Eagles all day, while White-faced Ducks are heard at all times, even at night. And who cannot fail to be moved by the sight of a flock of Wattled Cranes winging past another magnificent African sunset?
We look forward to another beautiful change as the seasons turn, and are delighted to share this piece of African paradise with you!
Guides in camp during February were Cisco at Little Mombo, with Moss, Malinga, Moses and Tshepo at Main Camp.
Managers were Graham at Little Mombo, with Vasco, Claire, Ruby, Pen and Glen at Main Camp.
Photos by Graham Simmonds and Katie Horner.
Xigera Camp update
- February 2012 Jump
to Xigera Camp
Chitabe Camp update
- February 2012 Jump
to Chitabe Camp
Weather and Landscape
As is normal, the month of February was wetter than the previous months and we had in excess of 140mm of rain for the month, which mostly came down in brief, isolated thunder showers; but nonetheless spectacular, with vivid lightning displays and explosive rumbling thunder breaking around us.
The bush has become dense, lush and even greener than before, with waterholes and pans over flowing throughout the concession, creating an oasis for the abundance of water birds and wildlife. The various accumulations of cloud cover in the late afternoons have made for simply breathtaking sunsets, full of vivid colours and dramatic highlights across the horizon.
Wild dog sightings were great at the beginning of the month and became sparser towards the end of the month, as the dogs continued to traverse their home ranges in search of other dogs who might be bordering their territory. Even though the vegetation is quite thick, our guides have risen to the task and we've managed to have regular and good quality sightings of leopard, either perched beautifully in a tree with their cubs or with a kill.
The resident Chitabe Pride of lion has added a new addition to its numbers in January and we are now seeing the cub with the pride all the time, so she is being well looked after and even tagging along on hunts, just so mom can keep an eye on her at all times.
Towards the end of the month we were treated to a leopard kill - mother and son shared a large male impala and a mere 500 metres away was a male lion in his kill. The dominate male lion chased off not only his brother but also the Chitabe females and was adamant about keeping the meal all to himself, apart from a few jackals sneaking in for scraps each time he closed his eyes.
The general game viewing has been good and in large numbers, especially giraffe and zebra. Elephant sightings have been down, as they normally are this time of the year, but when we do see the elephants, they are often in large breeding herds ranging from 20 to over 80 individuals. The elephants often use Chitabe as a corridor to cross from the western side of the Okavango Delta towards the eastern areas of the Mababe.
Chitabe Main Camp was closed for the first two weeks of the month as we were finishing up the rebuild of our new kitchen and laundry, to the delight of our chefs and housekeepers, who are simply thrilled with their new working spaces.
"The game drive with Anthony to a pride of lions with a fresh kill was fantastic! The camp welcome with dance and music as well as the surprise bush dinner was a great highlight." Minke and Rutger.
"Seeing all the wonderful wildlife so close up. The hippo, lion, leopard and all the other animals. Wonderful guide and all the staff were so friendly and welcoming." Lindsy.
"Gordon is one of the most knowledgeable guides and kind and personable guides we have ever travelled with. All others involved were great too. We loved the kindness and enthusiasm of the staff, the dance at the last dinner was great." Peter and Josephine.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Alex, Lieana and Tiny. Moalosi and Kris at Lediba.
Guides: Phinley, Ebineng, Barberton, Anthony and Thuso.
Photographs by Phinley Mwampole.
Vumbura Plains Camp update
- February 2012 Jump
to Vumbura Plains Camp
February at Vumbura Plains has been a wonderful month of plentiful game, fantastic scenery and some great wildlife highlights.
The region is cloaked in summertime's palette of colour - a tapestry of every conceivable shade of green, mingled in with the duns of grasses in the floodplains, and the burned brown of the woodlands crowded beneath their dense canopies. The landscape comes alive, and the everlasting views of Vumbura are achingly beautiful to observe... a delicate canvas stretching into infinity and throbbing with the intensity of life.
Local rainfalls in January have pushed the water table up in the first pulse of the Okavango's cycle of life, causing waters to push out of their channel beds and spill gently into the surrounding plains, followed by a multitude of fish species as they begin the first phase of their breeding cycle. In the shallower areas, one can see hundreds of nests made by Tilapia species - large round depressions in the sand, full of eggs or fry, jealously guarded against predators by the adult fish.
At this time of the year, when the rains have stimulated everything to grow, while waters start to trickle into floodplain depressions, the region has an unsurpassed beauty - shimmering grass-filled plains of water reflecting in the sun, brooding tree-lined islands hugging the peripheries.
Birdlife here is, as always, spectacular, as we have the mosaic of different habitats mingling closely together, resulting in an amazing cross-section of birds utilising them; from the mopane woodlands to riverine forest to permanent swamp, each biome supports its own unique and fascinating bird population. Add the presence of our summer visitor species, and this is truly a birder's paradise.
Plains game abounds in the region, particularly in the Jacky's Pan Area, where one can see a multitude of zebra, tsessebe, wildebeest and impala mingling together as they feed on the sweet grasses, while elephant and giraffe move gently through the surrounding woodlands. The more open grasslands are home to the magnificent sable antelope herds. Early in the month, we had a herd of buffalo numbering in their hundreds move through the area, at least a few of which fell victim to the resident lions.
This month, both packs of our resident wild dogs have been seen, and we have had some fantastic action to observe from them. The Golden Pack, so named due to their predominantly tan colouration, made a kill right next to the North Camp main area, which some of us were able to watch right from the boardwalks! This pack is incredibly exciting to see in action, as the 26 of them move together as an effortlessly coordinated killing machine.
There is another pack of dogs that strangely also utilise the same area. Numbering 13, they have also been seen close to camp this month. On one morning we followed them as they hunted through recently flooded plains filled with crystal-clear, flowing water. The sight of them running through the water, spray flying and the susurration of their movement through it was incredible to behold. These animals have to be the highlight of a visit to Vumbura Plains.
The coalition of four magnificent male lions that patrol the area to the south of camp have been spotted regularly, and on one afternoon they were found feeding on a fresh buffalo carcass. One was not with the group, however, and had been seen that morning not far away, moving around and calling for his brothers. As we watched, he came striding through the bush to where the others lay near their kill, before they rose to greet him in typical head-rubbing lion fashion. This degenerated into a brief episode of cuffing and snarling before dominance issues were settled and he could move in to feed.
The Eastern Pride of lions are still going strong, and have been seen mainly in the northern areas of the concession. Another wonderful sighting to behold was a female with three tiny cubs, which she will keep away from the rest of her pride until they are strong enough to put up with the sometimes boisterous attentions of their aunts and cousins!
The Kubu Boys, a long-standing coalition of three male lions, has also been seen this month, also mainly in the northern areas near Mmapula, where their pride has their stronghold.
The male cheetah which was often seen last year is still around, and this month was seen mating with an unknown female along Ostrich Road. He was also spotted hunting in his usual haunts, although we weren't lucky enough to see him successfully make a kill.
The female leopard, Selonyana is successfully raising her female offspring, and has been sighted on a few occasions this month, as well as the Thys Pan Male. The Airstrip Male leopard was seen one morning, nonchalantly crossing the strip as we were there waiting for an aircraft to land - quite a welcome to Vumbura!
We have an exciting few months ahead to look forward to, as the inundation arrives in the region and we have the opportunity to observe the subtle and fascinating shifts in all the biological dynamics that surround us! All the very best from the Vumbura team, and we look forward to hosting you this season.
Managers: Noko, Kago, Britt, Martha, Beatrice, Lebo, Lorato, Aaron and Jared.
Guides: Ona, Zee, Moronga, Emang, ST and Ban.
Little Vumbura Camp update
- February 2012 Jump
to Little Vumbura Camp
Weather and Landscape
After a very dry January, we were all in high hopes to receive some good rains in February. Our positive thinking paid off and we were rewarded with some great rain during February, which raised the water levels a slight deal. On most days, the temperature would rise to around 27° C during midday, followed by cloud build-up and late afternoon thunder showers.
The landscape has become rejuvenated and is covered in summer colours of green. There is now a lot of surface water around, which has caused the wildlife to disperse throughout the area.
Animal sightings have been fantastic to say the least, as many of the animals have given birth in the past two months or so, resulting in a huge population increase - in both predator and prey species.
On the topic of offspring, we have had some wonderful sightings of a lioness with her cubs, which are still very small and heavily reliant on their mother. It is a magical experience to watch an apex predator show such tenderness towards her cubs. We have had a couple of sightings of a leopard with her cubs too.
As always, the wild dogs have been quite busy in the area, providing us with tons of excitement, as they take advantage of large numbers of baby herbivores.
We have also had great sightings of buffalo, giraffe, sable, hyaena, hippo and crocodile.
Birds and Birding
All of the summer migrants have arrived, and they added some colour to the environment - the Southern Carmine Bee-eaters, Woodland Kingfishers and Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters being the most vibrantly coloured.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Precious, Hamish, Camilla, Dineo and Ras.
Guides: Rain, Sam, Madala Kay and Dennis.
Duba Plains Camp update
- February 2012 Jump
to Duba Plains Camp
Duba Plains has become world famous for the lion/buffalo interactions, but this month has been slightly different. Let's summarise the movements and activity of both the predator and primary prey species to get a clear picture:
The Tsaro Pride has been roaming around Duba Plains, concentrating their activity to the south of camp. The last time that this specialised pride was seen feeding on a buffalo was on 31 January, this being due to the movements of the abundant buffalo herds which usually frequent the Duba area but have a little further away.
The felines have adapted quickly, now preying on a variety of medium-sized prey, such as lechwe and warthog. It was amazing to see how opportunistic lions can be and how they can adapt, all in order to remain apex predators. The dominant male was seen mating with a female for a period of four days, so it would be safe to expect some cubs in the next three months.
As the large bovines are not restricted to well-marked territories as in the case with the lions, they have moved out of the area, finding a feeding haven on Paradise Island and the adjoining islands. The lion were not able to follow their 'preferred' food source. The buffalo stayed away for around three weeks, returning to Duba on 20 February. This short break boosted buffalo morale and chiselled the lion's confidence, as now the lions appear to be dominated by the buffalo. Every time we witnessed an interaction between the 'eternal enemies,' the buffalo would group together and collectively charge the lions, sending them into a hasty retreat not fitting for the king of beasts. Surely this will not continue, and when the lions get the taste of buffalo blood on their lips, the tables will turn once more.
Some good camp news was the completion of the new bridge - which makes the game drive area accessible by car, so a boat transfer is no longer needed. This is perfect timing, as we anticipate the arrival of the annual inundation any day now. On the subject of new infrastructure, the camp curio shop is undergoing a makeover and will be open again from early March.
Photographs by Moses Ntema.
Banoka Bush Camp update
- February 2012
Jacana Camp update
- February 2012 Jump
to Jacana Camp
Weather and Landscape
Our temperatures this month have remained steady at low 30s (Celsius) during the day and low 20s (Celsius) overnight. The major development, however, has been the rise in water levels throughout February. Since planting our measuring pole at the start of the month, we have recorded a rise of 50cm.
Wildlife sightings have been less around camp this month - with the increase of water levels, the herds of red lechwe that we were used to seeing between Jacana and our neighbouring islands have now moved off. In the late evenings, however, we are still hearing the evocative sound of the resident hippo honking, announcing their presence as they prepare to come out of the water to graze overnight. Several mornings this month, we have been able to play bush detective by following their tracks on the sand pathways to discover where they have come onto the island and where they have departed again after feasting on the succulent grasses.
As the construction sounds of our rebuild eased off towards the end of the month, once again we are being graced by the presence of the mighty elephant bulls.
It has been a month since we have seen them on the island, and we are watching them with fascination as they now have to find new routes on and off Jacana. We witnessed one familiar bull standing by the camp swimming pool trying to work out why his exit pathway was now our new mokoro station. He pondered over this for some minutes, swinging his front foot, then his trunk, before eventually heading off along another of his 'usual' routes.
A little close for comfort was a sighting of a Black Mamba, one of Southern Africa's most deadly snakes. One of our chefs discovered the reptile as she entered the cold storage room to retrieve some vegetables for lunch - it was resting behind the butternuts!
Birds and Birding
The resident family of African Fish-Eagles who roost on an island close to Jacana are still busy catching fish in front of our deck. Although we do not see it regularly, we are hearing their juvenile trying to learn the adult call. Upon hearing its parents call to each other, the youngster tries to imitate them but as yet has only mastered the final notes of the adult call.
The Pel's Fishing-Owl is still being seen on a regular basis, as are the glorious Woodland Kingfishers and Cardinal Woodpeckers. Sadly, the visiting Saddle-billed Storks have moved on.
The highlight of the month was the reopening of Jacana Camp following the rebuild of the guest tents. Exhausted but excited, we welcomed in our first guests to proudly show them our new rooms.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Phil and Jo Oliver.
Guides: Timothy Samuel, Moruti Maipelo and Rex Sanyedi
Abu Camp update
- February 2012 Jump
to Abu Camp
Abu is beautiful - more beautiful then ever. Vast summer storms drench the hot sands, washing the heat of the day away and leaving behind glistening green mornings. These generous rains have caused the waters to rise, bringing the first sign of the annual inundation.
Herds of wild elephants and their young have moved back on to the island, with the incoming water limiting their movements. Clans of spotted hyaena have been hunting for themselves and successfully dragging their prey, most recently two full-grown wildebeest, into the bushes.
Our resident lioness and her three subadult cubs have been just as successful, with mom bringing home the evening meal, be it a grand kudu or smaller warthog. The youngsters, although now a little bigger then their mom, have become accustomed to our vehicles, giving guests a great opportunity to watch them as they play and stalk.
On a recent afternoon game drive we found ourselves caught in a downpour that made us wish we had an ark! Stranded on the airstrip we rolled down the protective flaps of the Land Rover to wait out the storm. As the clouds began to pass we saw six buffalo standing on the far end of the strip. We watched them as they nervously shifted from side to side, grunting and staring into the bushes. A tail swish from behind the bushes revealed one of our subadult lions. He and his brother were attempting to stalk the large cow-like beasts. However, their youth and inexperience showed when the hunting turned into a rough and tumble between the boys, one leaping onto the other's back and rolling onto the airstrip where they continued to play. Mom and sister then exposed themselves, clearly annoyed that the boys had given the game away.
A sudden alertness from the pride made us turn back to look along the airstrip. A large hyaena had appeared halfway down. She looked at the lions and then down south where a herd of impala had gathered. The hyaena seemed to shrug at the attention she had gained from the four lions and turned away to head slowly towards the impala. The lions, not so sure of themselves, slowly stalked the hyaena. Each time the hyaena turned around the lions stopped and sat. Eventually, tiring of this, they turned off the airstrip and went to go and climb a fallen tree. The impala decided not to stick around and make friends with the hyaena either.
Several leopard have been spotted on the concession this month. A large male was spotted skirting around a herd of giraffe very near camp, and just a few days later, up to the west, a pretty female and her cub were seen disappearing into the thick scrub. With summer sightings like this we are looking forward to a very productive peak season on the concession.
Warona, our very own baby elephant, is somewhat of a naughty toddler. Her legs just slightly longer after turning two months old on the 17th of February, she now clambers over the lowest pole in the interaction area. This is almost always a great interaction experience for guests; however every now and then our cute little elephant delights herself by rolling in mom's poo. Nobody is very impressed when she then climbs into the interaction area and wants to play!
Kiti, Lorato and Paseka are spending their days taking long swims in the deeper waters, splashing around and dunking each other under, while Shireni, Abu and Cathy stick to the shallows, carefully watching over Warona as she splashes around.
February ended off with a leap year celebration, and what better way to mark this unusual day but with a soccer match against our long-time rivals, African Horseback Safaris. The boys at Horseback are known to run almost as fast as the horses they ride, and so heading out as the underdogs, the team (made up of players from Seba and Abu) headed south to the playing fields. It was a tight match with both teams scoring several goals, but in the end Abu and Seba managed to take the game - ending with a score of 4-3. Well-done Team!
"Once in a lifetime experience, food was an unexpected treat. Camp has a great sense of style. Staff's warmth and friendliness is over any expectation and our guide was excellent!"
"Many thanks to the very special and welcoming hosts Nina and Julian and our very special guide Jacko and staff! I have been here several times and this stay was by far the best!"
"We loved walking with the elephants, we loved spending time with Taps - he is a wonderful guide! As well as all of the elephant handlers- Joe, Witness, Frank, TT, AK, Wellington - thanks for contributing so much to our enjoyment."
update - February 2012 Jump
to Kwetsani Camp
Weather and Landscape
With all the rain we have been having it looks like the annual inundation is creeping in already. Albeit at a slow pace, our water levels have risen steadily over the last month and we are still expecting the levels to rise further. That said, as the month moved along we seemed to have less and less rain and thunderstorms. The air has become a little humid again - providing the perfect opportunity for a dip in the pool.
The rain has left the fauna lush and green with a few flowers popping up here and there. The camp is surrounded by a carpet of green with a few colours of yellow, purple and white spread around.
Due to the rise of the water levels, we are now collecting guests by boat from the airstrip. Boating through the channels is one of the best ways to experience the Delta - a refreshing perspective of our little piece of paradise.
Wildlife has been as varied as the weather this month. We have had some spectacular sightings, while on very rainy days, the game drives were a little more challenging.
We have had some fantastic leopard sightings, mostly on Hunda Island but also some in camp! On Hunda there is a juvenile leopard and, along with its mom, it just loves posing for the camera.
Hyaena have also been active this month. They have not been spotted often but the evidence of their presence constantly surrounds us. The familiar cackle of hyaena has been heard on most nights and their paw prints are all around camp. Once or twice they have been seen passing by in front of camp, looking to cause some mischief. On Hunda they were seen stealing a kill from a leopard.
The local pride of lion is growing as four cubs have joined the family. They are already a couple of months old but have only recently been allowed out to play. Their happy banter and playful nature is now at its best. So far they seem to be well fed and are looking strong so we have faith they will make it through the wet season.
Around camp we have had the usual collection of impala, bushbuck and plenty of naughty baboons. Apart from a few "landmines" on the walkway they have not been destructive this month. I suspect the bashing and hammering from maintenance has kept them at bay.
The red lechwe are still in abundance and with the water rising, a small herd has taken to grazing and sleeping in front of camp - making for picturesque viewing on the early morning wake up.
Birds and Birding
Birdlife has been plentiful, with their colours and sounds resonating through camp every day.
Water birds sightings have been great due to the rise in water level. Pied Kingfishers have been exceptionally active this month, as they feast on the fish fry.
Large flocks of African Spoonbill have been collecting on Hunda Island, wading through the water, also enjoying the micro aquatic flora.
As our camp was closed for a refurbishments for the last month, we welcomed our first guests to the newly refurbished and decorated camp on the 14 February. It was a dash to complete everything, but the guests were thoroughly impressed with our 'new' camp.
Once we opened camp again, the fun started. Game drives, water activities and pleasant dining time with some fine wine. We also had the opportunity to make some elephant dung paper which proved to be successful and a lot of fun.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Bradley White and Annelize Hattingh.
Guides: MT Malebogo and Ronald Gaopalelwe.
update - February 2012 Jump
to Jao Camp
Weather and Landscape
It has been a hot month with very big thunderstorms - we experienced 13 afternoons of rain out of 14 days. This resulted in a total of 110mm of rain for the month, which meant a slight rise in the water levels, making more channels accessible. Shortly after the 13 consecutive days of rain, the first surge of the annual inundation arrived and raised the water levels even more. We have already moved our jetty to the new 'flood' jetty at Hunda Island. The channels are beginning to flow steadily, actively cleaning out any debris from the waterways. It looks like it is going to be a wet season as the water levels are much higher this year than they were last year at this time.
We did not have any guests in camp this month, as we were finishing off the camp refurbishment, but we still managed to experience some great sightings from camp in between the sanding, varnishing and sugar soaping.
The resident mongoose mom has given birth to another batch of youngsters who have quickly learnt to stay clear of the Yellow-billed Kites. However, one of the adults was not quick enough to evade a Martial Eagle, which made a quick meal of the mongoose. A couple of days later, a Southern African python secretly slithered into the mongoose roost and ate two babies before the adults could band together and chase the serp off. Four days later, an African civet found the python and killed it, consuming only half of the snake, and leaving the other half for the mongoose family to feed off. A great example of how the African food web is interconnected!
We have also had a few surprise visits from a couple of lonely bull elephants in camp, but they were just passing through. We were very lucky to see a Cape clawless otter close to the Jacana jetty and a family of red lechwe around Jao Camp for the month as the floodplain that the rooms overlook has filled up.
A young leopard tortoise settled into the area outside the camp office, but made a 'run' for it for a couple of days, as he was constantly harassed by the mongoose family. Towards the end of the month, our chelonian friend returned.
On the predatory side, there have been a number of sightings of two lioness and a male at the airstrip. It has been confirmed that the two females have two cubs each. Camp staff went to have a look for themselves and were also blessed with a sighting of a leopard and cub on Hunda Island ... not too bad for a single drive.
We still have lots of lechwe on the floodplain and our zebra and giraffe are still on the island - we look forward to sharing this magical place with guests again in March!
Birds and Birding
The birdlife has been really good, although most of the birding has been within camp. We have a family of Spur-winged Geese in camp, with eight little goslings that make a trip every evening between the main area and the bridge. A large flock of White-faced Ducks have taken up residence along the floodplains. We expect the next few months to be great with water birds as they follow the approaching inundation waters.
A birding highlight was the sighting of an African Harrier-Hawk which was actively hunting Palm Swift chicks amongst the palm leaves. A couple of days later, we found the opportunistic raptor trying to catch barbet and woodpecker chicks.
As mentioned above, we have spent the entire month giving the camp a makeover. It has been quite a challenge, but the result is outstanding, and we are sure that the guests will enjoy the camp even more now. Camp staff worked well together and had fun at the same time, so it was a great month for team building. At the end of the month we all enjoyed a bush dinner to celebrate the completion of the refurbishment. We can't wait for our first guests to arrive!
Staff in Camp
Managers: Antony and Kalinka Mulligan, Andrew and Lauren Gaylord, Neuman Vasco and Cindy Swart.
Guides: Vundi Kashamba, Bee Makgetho, July Mogomotsi and Cruise Mollowakgotta.
update - February 2012 Jump
to Seba Camp
Tubu Tree Camp
update - February 2012 Jump
to Tubu Tree Camp
Kalahari Plains Camp
update - February 2012 Jump
to Kalahari Plains Camp
to Page 2