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South Africa camps
Pafuri Camp update - February 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
February was a blessed month when it came to rain; we had a total of 114mm. There was a large tropical cyclone which moved along the coast of Mozambique, causing some heavy winds to blow across the concession, resulting in some large trees being blown over. The average temperatures were quite high this month, staying over 30° C on most days, with the month's high pushing the mercury up to 43° C.
The landscape is looking fully rejuvenated, as the entire concession is covered in lush vegetation.
General game around Pafuri Camp is outstanding - the grass is lush and green after the good rains received this month. This grass is attracting large numbers of buffalo, zebra, warthog, impala and we are also seeing a lot of kudu, nyala and bushbuck grazing on the grass.
It became a daily routine for a huge herd of buffalo to take refuge around the camp at night. This was awesome for our guests, as they were serenaded by the sound of feeding buffalo at night. On a couple of occasions, the lions tried to hunt these buffalo... not being successful, but causing quite a ruckus during the darkness of night.
As we began to wonder when the Pafuri Pride would return to our side of the river, we had a number of opportunistic nomads move into the area. On 18 February, we found four new adult lions on the airstrip. Four days later, the group had increased to six individuals. We believe these lions have moved into the area from further south of the Luvuvhu River - this will make things interesting when the Pafuri Pride return form their conquests further south. Towards the end of the month, this 'new' pride concentrated their hunting around the camp/airstrip area, often harassing the resident buffalo herd. One of the Pafuri males (Nkanu), returned to his territory at the end of the month after a six-week absence. Ramsay, the other dominant male, is still at large and we have not seen him for eight weeks.
Elephants were elusive this month, but we had good sightings of some bulls along the Luvuvhu River. Halfway through the month, we encountered a breeding herd along Luvuvhu East. This herd spent more time in the concession towards the end of the month. Buffalo have been prolific, as they take advantage of the palatable and highly nutritious grass which has grown all over the concession.
Rhino sightings have been quiet, with only two sightings for the month, but we found their tracks on a regular basis.
Birds and Birding
One cannot beat summer birding at Pafuri - the summer migrants are still around and the rain has filled most of the pans. For this reason the pans are becoming popular spots for a huge variety of water birds. We had a total count of 263 birds this month. It was interesting to see more birds building nests, performing mating displays, brood parasites following their host species and bird parents flying back and forth feeding their chicks. It was so interesting to watch the Jacobin Cuckoo's chick that fell out of a nest being fed and defended by two Dark-capped Bulbuls.
Monotonous Larks have finally arrived this month and we see and hear them calling every day. Birds such as White-browed Sparrow-Weaver, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Senegal Coucal, Pennant-winged Nightjar, White-headed Vulture, Racket-tailed Roller and of course Pel's Fishing- Owl were also sighted this month.
This month we hosted scientist Stephan Woodborne, who came with a film crew to film 'Baobabs of Pafuri'. Stephan did an accurate mapping of our big baobab and took some samples to date them. After his stay with us, he promised to send us information about the new dating methods they use for baobab trees. His presentation on baobabs was very informative and we have learnt a lot from that, and all our guests who listened to his talk were so happy as well.
Pafuri Walking Trail update - February 2012 Jump
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Camp Jabulani update - February 2012
Kings Camp update - February 2012 Jump
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The month of February was a month that I would rather want to forget quickly not because of the game viewing but rather due to the destruction that was caused by a cyclone early in January.
The damage to the network of roads in the Timbavati, mainly our game drive routes, was terrible. Game drives were almost impossible in certain areas and we felt discouraged when restrictions to access certain roads were placed on the guides to prevent further damage to the roads. This intern limited us tremendously with regards to finding the animals that we needed to show the guests.
However with all this set aside the rest of the month turned out to be good regarding game viewing. Good leopard and rhino sightings guaranteed that guests left happy even with the limitations.
There is no doubt that the award of most special sightings of the month hast to go to Ntombi. Ntombi is one of our resident female leopards and she is again a proud mother of a new cub. This is her second cub she has produced in 3 years.
No one has seen the cub until this month even though we as guides knew that the cub was born in January 2012. Due to the unanticipated cyclone we experienced in January, which caused the camp to close for several days, meant, that we lost any idea of the area she operated in or gave birth to the cub. Locating her as quickly as possible with the cub will ensure that the cub is relaxed with the game drive vehicles and not growing up scared of the landrovers.
Only until the end of February that is when my tracker Albert found her after tracking her for an hour in a riverbed. It was a very hot afternoon and Ntombi laid under a huge tree that casted a shadow over the entire riverbed. I knew that she had the cub close because Albert pointed out that he can see the cub’s tracks in the soft sand. We waited for 30 minutes and when Ntombi got up and started to call softly I knew that the cub was somewhere around us. She walked to a huge boulder and within seconds a small leopard cub stuck its head out underneath a large rock.
Unfortunately it was skittish and moved away from us quickly. It was seen again a week later but still appears to be nervous. Now we have to start the hard work in finding the cub and mom frequently so that the cub can get habituated to the vehicles like the other female leopards. This is the only set of images that shows the cub in detail.
Rhino calf was born.
Another exciting sighting for me this month was the discovery of a very small rhino calf that was born in our area of operation during January. I have been a wildlife guide in Timbavati since 1998 and I have never seen a rhino calf being born in the reserve. Much to my surprise it was to hear one of the resident females gave birth to a calf in January. I did not know she was pregnant. An adult rhino is a huge mammal and due to the digestive system which gives one the impression that they are full from eating and this makes it impossible to see if they are pregnant.
I knew the calf was seen after the rangers told me but did not see it myself until one afternoon during drive. Much to my surprise the older female rhino had a calf with her. The adult female is extremely relaxed but the calf remained nervous for a few weeks. Last week the same group was found and the calf was a lot more relaxed. I manage to capture this image of this little female rhino calf during game drive.
It is very important to us, as an eco-tourism operation, to see a new calf in our area. During the last 3 years rhino population had to withstand poaching on a large scale. More than 500 rhinos were killed last year alone and more that 100 already this year. Luckily the rhinos in our area are protected to a certain degree simply by the presense of all the safari vehicles that operate here.
I hope that this little female will survive and we, for the first time in Timbavati, will learn more about the developing rate of this beautiful animal.
The lion sightings for February were not as good as they normally are. I am trying to get my head around this strange and sudden position we find ourselves in. At times we don’t see any lions for a week or longer and this is not usual for Timbavati, at least not for our area. Since the Shobele pride was killed 3 years ago and the Makilizolo male coalition moved in to take over the area a vacuum was created separating the north from the south. We had a few nomadic lions move in and out of this vacuum but still no pride is taking this prime land and settling in. What will be interesting to watch is to see how the absence of a resident pride of lion will affect the general game numbers. Or even the secondary predator’s numbers in the future. In this brief time I have already seen the leopard numbers increasing and large hyena’s clans operating in and around the game drive areas.
The Kubasa pride was seen on two occasions much to the delight of us rangers. Both adult females are beautiful and seems to grow daily in size. They were seen moving with the Timbavati pride, also known as the original Jacaranda pride, which controls the northern part of Timbavati. They are looking healthy and seem to do just fine.
The African Barred Owlet.
This is a species of owl in the Strigidae family. It is found in Angola, Botswana, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Somalia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. With a length of 21 cm and a weight of 83 to 140 grams it is a small owl. It has no ear tufts. There is some sexual dimorphism in size, with the females being larger, but no differences in plumage.
The species is most frequently found in woodland and forests, and on forest edges. It may also occur in more open savannah and along rivers. It is partly diurnal, and feeds mostly on insects, although small rodents and birds may also be eaten.
That is all for this month dear friends. Take care and keep well from the the rangers and trackers of Kings Camp.
Ranger by: Patrick O'Brien Head Guide of Kings Camp.
Leopard Hills update - February 2012 Jump
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Superlative summer weather and cloudless starry nights have illuminated February after a waterlogged start to 2012. The sweltering sun has radiated down and dried up much of the transformed landscape, game viewing has been sensational as animal activity has peaked during the fine weather and plentiful supply of food.
Her time has been spent mostly in the east of her territory where we presume her cub is hidden. She has as usual spoilt us with sporadic visits through the lodge area, she will typically saunter down the pathways nonchalantly while scent marking and checking in at her preferred lodge!
We are all really looking forward to her “introducing” us to her cub in the next month! She will begin to lead the youngster (almost 9 weeks old now) to her kills soon which should provide some great viewing!
She has settled in the area north west of Leopard Hills, her behaviour is becoming more and more indicative of a territorial female as she approaches 3 years of age! She is trying to win over the Dayone male’s confidence and convince him she is mature enough to raise a litter.
She delighted us with a very special unexpected sighting during the month…She suddenly started stalking something in long grass (we presumed a small antelope such as steenbok or duiker). She pounced on her victim and was greeted with a loud “hrrrrr hrrrrr” rattling sound, some sharp 3,5cm fore claws and a foul smelling anal sac secretion expelled in her direction…she was about to learn about the formidable honey badger (ratel).
After a brief scuffle she learnt her lesson while watching the irritated badger trot off looking back at her in disgust, almost insulted that she even attempted an attack! Our guests were all overwhelmed with the foul smell which the poor young leopard was trying to remove on every bush she walked past!
A trip down memory lane! See if you recognise the triangular spot pattern on this little 6 week old cub, image taken on 26 May 2009!
Just a reminder of how privileged we are to be able to witness the development of a little helpless cub into a stunning adult female leopard!
Named “Thlangisa” due to her playful nature, she has become our most relaxed and photographed leopard and we look forward to sharing the next chapter in her life as she comes of age, settles in her territory and raises her first litter!
Metsi and cubs
She has been seen up in the north of her territory, exploring a lot around the granite hills west of us. We hypothesise she may be pregnant looking for den sites and reinforcing her territory in preparation for having to provide for her next litter.
Her 2 sub adult male offspring have not been seen again this month, at almost 2 years of age they have probably wandered off in search of new terrain.
Limited accessibility along her sand river territory has meant no sightings of her this month.
There have been a couple of sightings of her and frequent sightings of her sub adult male cub (now 14 months old) north of the river. He is growing fast, looking very healthy and somewhat large for his age! See below image.
Xhinzele & Mashiabanje
No sightings of both of these dominant males since the flooding which raises many unanswered questions as to their whereabouts and what may have happened! It is possible that one or both of them are still somewhere in the far north, time will tell.
There have been a number of sightings of this formidable male passing through while patrolling on our eastern side.
He has been roaming far and wide, gaining in confidence and purposefully patrolling while looking to expand his territory north and east! With Xhinzele up in the north he has very little competition currently in the central western area.
He has been seen frequently with the youthful Thlangisa female, whether they have mated is debatable…the feeling is that she is still too young but possibly in the next 6 months.
The ruling trio have been together for much of the month, they need to be united as the 4 southern pride males have been venturing closer and closer this month…a serious clash could be imminent!
They spent some time trailing the large obstinancy of buffalo in the south and one afternoon an unbelievable sighting unfolded in front of us.
Let the below sequence of images tell the story…
To see a buffalo give birth is rather unique but then to witness the eldest member of the mapogo charge in and challenge the resilient female for her calf was truly beyond the imagination! Unlucky for the calf but the wise old male is always on the lookout for an opportunity.
The 3 lionesses with their four cubs (Ages ranging from 7 to 13 months) have been all over our traversing area this month, the cubs are full of energy, healthy and strong.
There are 3 male cubs and 1 female which is fantastic as she will be absorbed into the pride if she survives to adult hood, another lioness is needed as they are now down to 4.
The Ximhungwe lioness without any cubs has spent almost the entire month on her own and there were reports of her being seen with the southern pride males east of our traversing area.
Painted Dog Pack
After a month long absence from our traversing area they appeared briefly far in the north over the last few days and all 9 (6 adults and 3 sub adult 10 month olds) are looking in top condition.
We weren’t sure if the “Hippo Pools” section of the sand river would still live up to the very apt name after the flooding…Well, the hippos have returned to the exact same spot and it is now far more open allowing for much improved viewing in the tranquil riverine setting.
These sparring young males were playing around while we were enjoying a morning bush mix and muffin.
Parades are in abundance and relishing all the ripe marula fruits … lots of little calves are around, we came across this tiny 3 day old chap crossing the Mabrak river bed, his legs still a little wobbly.
Thanks Kiara for this picture below!
The large obstinancy has again been seen frequently in the south along with regular sightings of “Daggaboys” up in the north along the river.
These often overlooked little birds are brood parasites (they don’t raise their own chicks, they lay their eggs in a host species’ nest which then raises the “adopted” chicks).
This is a male currently in his colourful breeding plumage, in a few months he will moult and return to the dull winter colours similar to the female.
For keen adventurous guests and staff this is the prime time of year to head out in the evening with a torch, a net and some gumboots or old shoes to see how many species of frogs we can locate in the multitude of temporary lowveld pans.
Frogging is all about the sights and especially sounds of the African night as frogs are mostly located by their calls as the males recite vociferously attempting to locate females! It is a real challenge but loads of fun to pinpoint their position as they often call from concealed positions on the banks of pans, in inundated grass, reed beds or open water in the pans...
This is a male painted reed frog in full cry, his vocal sac fully inflated looking for attention!
Once they are caught we identify them, take a few pictures and then release! Our record has been 10 species at 1 pan this year (34 species in total occur in the lowveld).
The images below are some of the amazing discoveries we have come across whilst out frogging, we even saw a bullfrog kill!
Thanks to our maintenance manager Evert for his great image below of an african bullfrog that caught a katydid.
This is the very colourful yet poisonous banded rubber frog, we need to be careful when capturing this species not let them come into contact with a cut. His colours are a warning to predators that he is distasteful (Aposematic colouration)
Female foam nest frog below her nest
The same female foam nest frog in her cryptic daytime colouration blending in with the bark.
Little foam nest tadpole dropping into the water after approximately 7 days in the foam!
Young bubbling kassina
Interesting and unusual sightings captured in February
A yellow billed hornbill making a meal of a massive green emporer moth larvae
Village weaver breeding is in full swing, here is a male calling and flapping his wings in display to attract a female to inspect his “palace”. If she rejects the nest, he will often destroy it himself afterwards.
A successful fisherman along the Sand river, the green backed heron often uses bait such as a feather, insect, spider or piece of paper to attract fish to the surface before snapping them up!
Rocktail Beach Camp update - February 2012 Jump
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Late summer is firmly upon us, and the hot days have been rolling into each other endlessly, much like the long journeys being undertaken by our baby turtle hatchlings throughout the past weeks. The summer season still has a pretty firm grasp on the area at the moment, and I think we can all look forward to some pretty stubborn resistance to the cooling effects of 'Miss Autumn' approaching in the near future. The only respite from the heat, in fact, has been some limited cooling summer storm interventions, which have also been welcomed by all along the southern Maputaland coastline.
Though we have seen little direct impact from tropical storms in the area thus far, there has certainly been a marked alteration of the beach topography as heavy weather systems around southern Mozambique have given rise to very large swells and wave action off our beaches, much to the enjoyment of the local dolphin populations who enjoy a 'light surf' every now and again.
However, as was the case in late 2011, this did lead to a bit of 'surgy' conditions with regard to the dives in February. Despite the surge, these weather systems have also provided a sporadic south-westerly wind, which has a remarkable cleaning effect on the local waters, and has made for some spectacular '10 out of 10' dives throughout the month. The usual suspects have been around the local reefs this month, including whale sharks, manta rays, bottlenose dolphins, reef sharks, moray eels and green, hawksbill and loggerhead turtles. So the Mokarran Dive Team has been kept very busy and excited this past month, which they always enjoy.
Turtle drives have been extremely successful this month with large numbers of hatchlings being seen almost nightly. Oddly, leatherback females are still being recorded nesting despite it being late in the year for them to do so, but these magnificent encounters are becoming less frequent as the end is in sight for the turtle season. The loggerhead moms seem to have completed their nesting cycle this year, as no new nests have been recorded since the early days of February. However, the beach is teeming with life at present and we are all holding thumbs for the futures of all these little turtle warriors, as they embark on one of the most treacherous journeys to adulthood known in the animal kingdom.
Local coastal forest dwellers that have been sighted this month include Phillipe, our fairly resident large-spotted genet, red duiker, vervet monkeys, Natal green snakes, and even some Southern African pythons, which have been seen on the beach at night, trying to cash in on the abundant prey available there in the form of the newly hatched loggerhead and leatherback turtles. Some tracks of the elusive honey badger have also been identified on the beaches, as these denizens of the night lurk around the turtle nesting sites looking for an easy meal opportunity.
All in all, the summer has continued on as normal with absolutely magnificent days, warm azure blue waters and golden beaches, all coming together in an African spectacular.
Rocktail Bay Dive Report - February 2012 Jump
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Makalolo Plains update - February 2012 Jump
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Little Makalolo update - February 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
In terms of weather, February has been rather confused as it has begun to show signs of the cold creeping in - especially in the mornings. The maximum temperature was 35° C and the minimum was 17° C.
This month we got 82mm of rain, which is very low considering the fact that normally February is very wet. The water levels on most pans have started to drop, causing us to start pumping water in some of the waterholes. The grass is still tall and green though in some areas it is already begin to take a faded green pigment due to the lack of moisture. In spite of this, the teak trees are in full flower and add such vibrance to the environment.
Big herds of elephant have started visiting the waterhole in front of camp - an indication of the impending dry season. Large numbers of impala have been sticking around the camp waterhole too; this has been quite a treat as all the little lambs are looking so healthy and good!
The highlight of this month was the Linkwasha Pride, which was seen at Ngamo, craving warthog meat. One lioness was trying to dig the warthogs out of their burrow, with the help of her cubs. The lions were very persistent - this paid off as they managed to grab a piglet. This was a small prize for all of their effort, but it clearly motivated the cubs. Another predatory highlight for the month was that of two wild dog chasing after an impala very close to camp.
Cheetah were also seen, summing up a great month!
Birds and Birding
The summer migrants are still around in large numbers, providing some great birding indeed!
This month we had some great sightings of specials and water birds such as Hottentot Teal, Painted Snipe, Black-winged Stilts and Pied Avocets. Large flocks of African Spoonbill and White-faced Ducks have been found around the waterholes.
"Our guide was incredible - so knowledgeable and he really made our stay even more incredible. The management was also very attentive."
"Animal and birdlife - outstanding. Great experience and the food was excellent. We liked the ability to serve ourselves."
"Charles our guide was superb. The environment and weather was great, the land kept pristine, the people very welcoming and the wildlife amazing! Thank you. Food was excellent too."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Charles Ndlovu and Buhlebethu Ncube.
Guides: Dickson Dube, Honest Siyawareva and Bulisani Mathe.
Davison's Camp update - February 2012
Weather and Landscape
It has been very hot during the days this month, but the heat is starting to taper off in the evenings as the sun goes to bed, promising the cold that will come with winter. We have had a total of 42mm of rain this month. The highest temperature was 35°C and the lowest 17°C.
The bush is still lush and green, some grasses reaching eye level with the large elephant bulls. The trees still boast their full umbrella of green leaves, creating good cover for birds and shade for the animals on the ground. The sunsets are brilliant with scattered clouds glancing off the suns final rays and creating a kaleidoscope of pinks, purples, golds and oranges across the great African sky. Stars are out in their millions in the evenings with no moon and the warrior Orion watches over this untamed land.
Even though the bush is thick and lush, the animals are still being seen in abundance. In camp the elephants are coming down to the waterhole more and more frequently. A large sable antelope enjoys a midday drink and a bachelor herd of buffalo like to come and wallow in the mud to cool off, further benefiting from the mud which will act as a sunscreen and insect repellent when it dries.
Springhares are seen every night leaping from spot to spot and bat-eared foxes have been seen often, out and about looking for a morsel to eat.
Out in the concession, the lions have been seen on numerous occasions, and leopard sightings are up this month. Some lucky guests saw two different leopards on two consecutive days - in the daylight up a tree.
A caracal was seen in the early morning and a pack of five wild dogs were seen on the run. A huge herd of 62 eland were seen at Ngamo Plains.
A total of 28 different mammal species was recorded for the month.
Birds and Birding
The birds in the wet season are always a marvel, there are birds flying from tree to tree, Southern Ground-Hornbills can be heard making their eerie call that sounds like a beating drum.
A flock of 16 Common Ostrich were seen at Scott's Pan; all the chicks are at their 'teenage' stage and look gangly with new feathers and bare skin in places.
This month, we joined forces with Ruckomechi Camp and the guides underwent some guide training. It was a very successful exercise and both guiding teams learnt lots from each other.
'Food was excellent. Staff were outstanding. If I had a crew that did such an awesome job I would be very happy.'
'We felt at home - service and food all excellent. Good Guides. Keep up the standard.'
Staff in Camp
Managers: Andre, Tammy, Suku, Avias and Sandy.
Guides: Bryan, Godfrey, Kevin, Brian, Robert and Livingstone.
Ruckomechi Camp update - February 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
Our valley remains hot, with daily temperatures in the high 30s (Celsius) and humidity in the constant 80s with a few scattered showers through the month. The floodplain is still pretty dry as we only received a total of 79mm of rain for the whole month.
It is fascinating at this time of year to see the concession so green, especially driving up the Ruckomechi River - it is awash with long green grasses where it is normally dry, dusty and sandy as a riverbed should be. The ana trees are coming into early leaf around the concession, as well as the indigofera, which are now breaking out into serious growth, adding a beautiful shade of mauve with their flowers. The feverberry trees are looking quite tatty as their leaves are heavily fed on by a range of larval insects.
The Zambezi River seems to be very low, and we anticipate that some of the dam gates will be opened soon. Having said this, the Ruckomechi River flowed this month and has now channelled into the Little Ruckomechi River.
We have been fortunate enough to have had a very good sighting of the Ruckomechi Pride on the far side of the Little Ruckomechi River, which was flowing at the time. The old female had an injured front paw and the young female had very swollen mammaries, possibly feeding young or about to give birth? The two young males remain with them - promising a future for the small pride.
Towards the end of the month, we had a magnificent sighting of a very curious and relaxed male leopard on Leopard Loop. He was about four metres away from the vehicle, peering curiously over the long grass at us. The light was excellent and we had NO CAMERA! We all enjoyed the moment anyway, as he quietly melted into the thicket, satisfied we were not so interesting after all.
Elephant breeding herds were unusually numerous at the start of February, but with more showers inland, seem to have retreated back toward the escarpment.
Earlier in the month, a trip to check the Boundary Road provided a sighting of the wild dog on the ridge about to move out. Recognised as Jock's Pack, 10 dogs were counted and it is hoped that the 11th is denning with puppies!
Robinson Crusoe (our Lone island baboon) gave us a few anxious days when he was not sighted at all. We now have slightly blurred photographic evidence that he is alive and well. We have since realised on discussion that he has actually been there since September as the guides recall and so has survived almost six months alone - not even a tree on his island. We hope that the water authority does not open four gates at once, as Robinson will have yet another swim for his life!
Birds and Birding
Interesting sightings this month has been an Ayres's Hawk-Eagle with its juvenile near Parachute Pan and the distinct call of the Black Coucal pointed us to a good sighting at Clea's Drift.
The trill of the Woodland Kingfisher is constant as is the African Mourning Dove. Tropical Boubous wake us in the mornings.
A total of 147 birds seen this month beating last month's record.
Carel, JuJu, Elizabeth, Matt and Champion and 22 junior staff have been busy with new improvements in and around camp. We have a new bar area attached to the living area where the old Ruckomechi mokoro bar has taken up its rightful place to fascinate and refresh guests, as they sip their drinks overlooking the beautiful Zambezi.
Mana Canoe Trail update - February 2012 Jump
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Toka Leya Camp update - February 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
The heavens finally opened up in the month of February and the surrounding area is looking lush and green. The Zambezi River water levels have also risen, making the Victoria Falls even more spectacular - the mist can be seen from miles away!
The Mosi-oa-Tunya Park has become a real conservation success story!
This month, we saw the birth of yet another rhino, which is great considering the current situation that rhino are faced with. We have not had many sightings of the tiny rhino, as we are trying to disturb them as little as possible. The anti-poaching team is keeping a very close watch on them however, and they are really proud of the new addition.
The change in vegetation and water availability, unlike in most wild areas, has very little effect to the wildlife sightings here and game viewing has neither dropped nor changed at all.
Apart from the wildlife in Mosi-oa-Tunya, the water activities along the Zambezi River have been causing much excitement with our guests. The birding along the river has produced some great sightings of water birds, such as African Finfoot and Rock Pratincole. Crocodiles have also been very active along the river, often seen sunning themselves. We have also been very lucky in spotting large herds of elephant crossing the river. The river currents are quite strong at the moment, making river crossings quite difficult.
Game viewing around the camp has also been quite spectacular with regular sightings of giraffe, waterbuck and large herds of buffalo.
"Great guides! We loved the Falls, river cruise' and village tours which were very educational. Staff was so welcoming, friendly and professional. Best food of all the camps we visited. Loved it all. Great Spa."
Delightful, friendly staff. You are very fortunate. We loved all aspects. We felt we were with friends."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Petros and Gogo Guwa, Chipasha Mwamba, Mavis Daka and Amon Ngoma.
Lufupa River Camp update - February 2012 Jump
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Lufupa Tented Camp update - February 2012 Jump
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Kalamu Lagoon Camp update - February 2012 Jump
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Shumba Camp update - February 2012 Jump
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Kapinga Camp update - February 2012 Jump
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Busanga Bush Camp update - February 2012 Jump
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Mvuu Camp update - February 2012 Jump
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Mvuu Wilderness Lodge update - February 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
We've had low temperatures and cloudy days at Mvuu for the most part this month, but it has warmed up a little over the last week. Whilst we had isolated rains during the first two weeks of February, the landscape remains very lush and green. There are still a few impassable water puddles on some of our game drive roads , however wildlife in the area remains accessible and seems be thriving off the abundant availability of green grass. Additionally many birds are also now breeding - making it an exciting time to visit Liwonde National Park.
Due to the increased water levels of the Shire River, we've been able to take our boats into the lodge lagoon (something which is nearly impossible during the dry season). On February 7th, David and his seven guests were exploring the quiet waters of the lagoon, when the sounds of a struggle brought their attention to a crocodile leaping at an impala. The croc attack took place right opposite Mvuu Lodge (where some of the river's crocodiles come to bask during the day).
Although less frequent, we are still seeing elephant out on the river despite the rains. Whenever we spot elephant on the river, we will get all our guests on an impromptu boat safari, so they can have a better look. Most of our elephant sightings however, take place in the mopane woodlands around the Park during game drives.
Zebra sightings have been encouraging throughout the month - usually our herds of bashful zebra scatter when they hear our approaching game vehicles, however they now seemed to have adjusted to the sound and appear more relaxed. We've spotted small zebra herds throughout the month of February, especially near the airstrip, Albizia and Masanje Road.
January 29th: We had a sighting of approximately 20 banded mongoose in camp. This is an exceptionally big group to be spotted at Mvuu. Banded mongoose generally live in permanent and cohesive groups consisting of on average 15 adults with their offspring. Group sizes in this species are the largest for all carnivores. On the same day we also spotted a ton of red velvet mites in the area. At first glance, the minute red critters dancing across the earth is stunning.
February 1st: We kicked February off with a very special sighting; one female hippo was seen with a week-old calf in a little pool in the mopane woodlands near the river. Hippo leave the pod to give birth, in order to prevent the calf from being trampled and harassed by the aggressive adult males in the pod.
February 6th and 9th: A herd of 20 sable was spotted on various occasions all around Mvuu. On January 26th, just a few weeks before, a herd of 30 sable was spotted near the staff road. The flourishing vegetation growing throughout the park (thanks to the rains) provides the elusive antelope herds with the ideal conditions for grazing and they now venture out into the open to feed more frequently.
February 18th: A southern file snake was seen near the Mvuu workshop. This snake is often much sought-after due to its rarity and beauty. It has a distinctly triangular shaped head with keeled scales. Whilst it will gladly make a meal of lizards and small vertebrates, its feeding preference is actually other snakes.
Birds and Birding
This month's birding at Mvuu has been exceptional. Pel's Fishing-Owl have been spotted closer to both the camp and lodge this month. We had a total of four fantastic sightings for the month.
February 18th: A subadult African Cuckoo Hawk was spotted opposite Mvuu Camp. This medium-sized raptor is mostly solitary and was seen flying from tree to tree with short glides. Also on the 18th, large flocks of Grey-headed Parrot were seen roosting in the baobab trees along Msanje Road.
February 26th: The cross-breeding Lapwings were displaced by the rising water levels and we're still looking for them and trying to figure out where they have ended up.
We had a very happy guest that added 69 ticks to his birding list while visiting Mvuu. All in all, we had a very good birding month, with many specials and high profile species popping up.
Children in the Wilderness and the team at Mvuu Camp and Lodge will be developing a tree nursery at Nanthomba School this year. The project will target participants of the CITW programme as well as children attending Nanthomba School and two other nearby schools. The tree nursery will be run in the form of a centre at Nanthomba, which is in the process of being constructed and approximately 80 children are expected to regularly take part. The nursery will also aim to reach 30 conservation groups in the local community. The seedlings will be raised from April 2012 and distribution will take place during the rainy season from December 2012 to January 2013. The target number of seedlings to be raised and distributed by this project is 50 000 by January 2013. Symon Chibaka (programme coordinator for CITW) explained that children from across three schools and local experts from the community will join together to not only learn more about reforestation but to also put their conservation efforts into practice.
H.E.L.P. Malawi has appointed a new Director, Mr. Wells Sakala who will be providing logistical support for the project at Nanthomba where possible. Mr. Sakala is looking forward to making a significant impact at H.E.L.P. and working in partnership with CITW Malawi.
Symon Chibaka and CITW camp director, Mathews Matewera from Mvuu, attended the annual CITW conference for 2012 in Johannesburg. The standardisation of the CITW camp curriculum was discussed by representatives from all seven regions in the Wilderness group where CITW operates. This effort is being made to ensure the clear and successful delivery of the programme despite challenges such as minimal materials and the lack of adequate specialist skills. All teaching and learning topics will come from the following areas: conservation and environmental education, culture, art and craft, health and nutrition, as well as leadership and life skills.
"Mvuu Lodge is the best eco-lodge experience we have had in 10 years in terms of the local staff. Richard is a great host (very professional), Esnala, James and David were great. Compliments to the chefs for their excellent meals! We loved it all!"
Newsletter by Samuel
Mumbo Island update - February 2012 Jump
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Chelinda Lodge update - February 2012
Weather and Landscape
Mornings on the Nyika Plateau have been very cool and the plateau's valleys are often filled with fog. It's a very striking sight to look out over the grasslands and see green hills protruding through the thick white mist.
The cold weather has brought the game on the plateau closer to the forests as the open grasslands are now too cold during the night. Many herds of antelope and zebra often seek refuge in the pine forests during the night before they return to the grasslands to graze in the mornings (between 6 am and 8 am).
The hyaena are back on the plateau and are up to their usual tricks - they strategically chase their prey into the dams where they find it easier to make a kill. There have been three kills so far this month, all in Dam 1 - just in front of Chelinda Camp. We can now fully confirm the presence of wild dog on the Nyika as one of our guides (Apollo) saw one with his own eyes.
February 1st: It was a lucky start to the month with one wild dog sighting on Nguyi ya Munkhere on the main road. We hadn't had a sighting for a while but this lone wild dog has emerged again. Seeing the wild dog for himself, our guide Apollo was so excited that he missed his great photo opportunity. These sightings of wild dog have been exceptionally rare; however we look forward to a few more encounters in the coming months.
February 10th: A serval and female leopard were spotted near the airstrip. On February 17th a big male leopard was seen near Dam 3 and on February 20th, another leopard was seen by Chelinda Bridge bringing our total leopard count for the month to three.
February 12th: A herd of 10-15 elephants was seen near Chisanga Waterfall at 2:30 pm. Seeing such a big herd on the plateau is very rare, we usually only see a lone elephant once in a while or small herd consisting of up to nine animals at most.
Birds and Birding
Birding this month has been spectacular, with the migrants still around for the last time this season. Augur Buzzards have started to congregate in groups and on one afternoon drive, 11 were spotted together.
Other good birds spotted at Chelinda this month include Montane Widowbird, Montagu's Harrier, Pallid Harrier, Hildebrandt's Francolin, Mountain Cisticola, Black Cuckooshrike, Lizard Buzzard and a melanistic Augur Buzzard. Melanism, or melanosis, is a condition caused by a genetic variation that gives a bird excess amounts of melanin in its feathers. This makes the feathers much darker than normal plumage, and many melanistic birds appear completely brown or black.
The birding highlight for the month was the sighting of three Wattled Cranes, which were spotted close to the Chelinda Bridge.
The Wilderness Safaris team in Malawi bids Edward Gondwe farewell as he retires after working at Chelinda for 44 years. He first came to work on the plateau in 1967 as a housekeeper at the then-Governor's Lodge. He then moved to the bedroom block in 1971 and in 1974, he was placed at Chalet 2 at Chelinda Camp where he served until January 2012. Edward has observed the developments on the plateau for decades and has been employed by various companies who received concessions to run properties in the park. Our team would like to thank him for his service throughout the years and we wish him a very happy retirement.
"I can't believe this is in Malawi. Words cannot express my gratitude!" Mr Stevens.
Newsletter by Sam and Apollo.
Desert Rhino Camp update - February 2012 Jump
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Palmwag Lodge update - February 2012 Jump
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Doro Nawas Camp update - February 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
The weather this month has been quite hot and dry with a daily build-up of clouds in the mornings and evenings, only to be burnt off by the hot summer's sun. Thunder has been heard in the distance - a soft whisper of rain and life-giving moisture. Daily temperatures have been hitting 40° C regularly, cooling to a steamy 29° C at night.
The landscape has now been totally dried out by the heat, causing the wildlife to concentrate mostly along the ephemeral rivers where palatable vegetation can be found.
One of the rare predators in the area was spotted recently by Ignatius and Edward, our guides at Doro Nawas, while out on a morning excursion. The cheetah was quite relaxed under some shady trees, most likely after enjoying a meal as its belly was clearly full.
We had a surprise visitor at camp, when a large male baboon popped in for a visit. We suspect that he was quite thirsty as we found him next to the pool. Needless to say, when the primate saw us, he dashed up the rocks and observed us from a distance while sitting under some mopane trees. He was quite far out of the general habitat for baboons, as most of them occur around the Huab River.
On the reptilian side of things, we have been thoroughly entertained by the resident geckos at camp, which take full advantage of the myriad insects that get attracted to the camp lights. The barking geckos have been serenading our guests while the sun goes down.
This month, camp staff went the extra mile and tried something new in order to further celebrate the intimate connection between humans and nature. We set up a bush breakfast for our guests out in the middle of the wilderness - this went down well as it brought tears to the eyes of one of the guests.
On the culinary side of things, the camp menu has been changed, adding some extra variety as well as a learning opportunity for our kitchen staff.
The camp has also received two new staff members who have come from Kulala Desert Lodge in Sossusvlei. Hennie Van Wyk (Head Chef) and Edward Namitondo (Guide) will be helping out for the next three months and we wish them a happy and memorable stay at Doro Nawas.
We celebrated Valentine's Day by serving private dinners to all our guests in the comfort of their rooms, with a beautiful table setting on the patios.
"We loved the roof for sunset drinks and the location of the pool. Richardt and Edward were incredible guides, truly first class!" Angela and Pretorius.
"The warmth and friendliness of the staff was amazing." Yvonne.
"The welcome, Twyfelfontein, the food, the scenery, the singing, and the birds - all was perfect." Graham and Janet.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Agnes Bezuidenhout, Morien Aebes, Theobald Kamatoto, Jason Lundon and Emsie Skrywer.
Guides: Richardt Orr, Ignatius Khamuseb, Michael Kauari and Edward Namitondo.
Newsletter done by:
Theobald Kamatoto and Richard Orr.
Damaraland Camp update - February 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
February was a hot and dry month, which left us in high hopes for rain in March. We experienced a couple of cloudy days, but no serious precipitation at all. Average daytime temperatures were quite high, but as soon as the sun set, the environment cooled down considerably.
The landscape is still covered in a carpet of yellow grass, but many of the trees have added a splash of green to the scene with their new leaves.
Wildlife sightings have been consistent, with great general game activity throughout the Torra Conservancy.
Desert-adapted elephant sightings have been pretty good, as we have been quite lucky finding them around the dry riverbeds.
Snake sightings have been amazing, as we found another two coral shield cobras, and this time we managed to get some pretty good photos of the subterranean serp.
Damaraland Camp was also visited by Judy Kepher-Gona, who did a site inspection and educational tour of the area. This was part of the Global Business Award for the Tourism of Tomorrow Award, in which Wilderness is a finalist for the third time. Judy, CEO of the Basecamp Foundation in Kenya, is one of the judges for this prestigious award. She was accompanied by Brett Wallington and Jack Chakanga - our environmentalists from Wilderness Safaris.
"The team of Damaraland Camp really did their best to make our stay as nice as possible!" Christina and Andreas.
"Boma dinner and bush breakfast was really a surprise. Keep it up!" Raymond.
"The staff made an ordinary vacation very special." Byron and Sheila.
"The staff are all lovely and the service is very kind. It's a place to have peace!" Ruess.
Skeleton Coast Camp update - February 2012 Jump
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Serra Cafema Camp update - February 2012 Jump
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Ongava Tented Camp update - February 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
It seems as if the summer rains left us for the month of February as we did not receive much rain at all... until the end of the month. Most of the surface water started to dry up, forcing the plethora of game to visit the camp's waterhole once again. Black-faced impala, zebra, kudu and eland visited the waterhole daily in large numbers. This caused much joy and excitement for our guests as they had the opportunity to take some great photos. This suddenly changed towards the end of the month when the clouds burst in a big way - dumping large quantities of water onto Ongava.
With these downpours, the soils have started to become saturated in parts, making drives quite exciting and sometimes sticky. The vegetation has once again burst into life, receiving a second breath with the rains.
Game sightings in Etosha have become challenging, as many of the animals have moved further north into the Park - having said this, drives into Etosha have still been productive and pleasurable!
Sightings on Ongava on the other hand, have been fantastic! We have had great sightings of both species of rhino as well as great lion sightings.
As mentioned above, the camp waterhole received a lot of attention during the beginning of the month, but since the rains returned, it is almost as if the waterhole has been deserted. The rains did however; bring about lots of critter activity, as we have frequently been seeing a variety of snakes and flap-necked chameleon hatchlings - which probably provide a good food source for all the snakes.
'A great excursion. Enjoyed every second of our stay.'
'White rhino, leopard, tortoise and wildlife at the waterhole was great. Rio and other staff were extremely helpful, knowledgeable and very nice people.'
Staff in Camp
Managers: Gerda, Inge, Festus and Emile.
Guides: Rio, Leon, Gusto and Bono.
Newsletter by Gusto.
Little Ongava update - February 2012 Jump
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Ongava Lodge update - February 2012 Jump
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Andersson's Camp update - February 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
The month of February is dedicated completely to the rains. We have had great rains and only a few sunny days in between. The storms have been very entertaining with all the lightning around camp - the lighting shows being even better in the evenings. Due to all the rain that we have been receiving, the days have been quite humid but have not been too hot. The evenings are always comfortable because of the drop in temperature.
The landscape portrays perfectly a rainy season environment as the vegetation is thick and lush all over. There is a lot of surface water throughout the reserve and in some areas, the roads have become water-logged.
Game viewing has become slightly more challenging as the vegetation is thicker and the wildlife has dispersed all over the entire reserve. The thick vegetation does serve a number of purposes though, with feeding the herbivores being the primary function, but also with concealing newborn babies - this however can work in the predators favour as it provides them with cover too.
The camp waterhole has quietened down a bit, but we still do get a number of animals coming to feed on the sweet veld vegetation growing around the waterhole.
Night drives have been very productive, as our guests have had great sightings of white rhino and lion.
Drives into Etosha have also been fruitful, as we have been very lucky in locating elephant. Four elephant bulls have been hanging around the Okaukuejo area, often being found at the waterhole. The breeding herds have not been seen for some time as they tend to move further north into Etosha once the rains arrive.
Our monthly highlights were the cheetah sightings which we had, in both Ongava and Etosha. On one occasion we found a mother with her two cubs, which was a very rewarding sighting!
Birds and Birding
During the night drives our guests have been quite lucky in finding owls. The most common of the owls is the Spotted Eagle-Owl, which can be seen throughout the year. Barn Owls are also seen often.
Around camp we have also been lucky with good sightings of Black-faced Waxbill, which can be found foraging in pairs amongst the grass. Shaft-tailed Whydah have also been seen often around camp, with the males being in full breeding plumage and carrying out their elaborate courtship displays. On one cool morning, we saw quite a number of Common House-Martins, all perching and huddling together for warmth. This was quite rare, as martins do not often perch.
This month the Southern Masked-Weavers and the Red-billed Buffalo-Weavers have been very busy with building their nests. At the end of the month we could hear the chicks calling from the nests for food.
This month we have introduced a new menu that has caused some excitement amongst our guests and kitchen staff, who are thoroughly enjoying learning the new dishes. So far, our guests have enjoyed the food and left us with good comments and compliments of tasty food.
"The enthusiasm and knowledge of the staff was outstanding!"
"The nature walk was amazing, the waterhole with all the animals and seeing the rhino was our highlight."
"From the moment I entered your camp, everything exceeded my expectations. It is just perfect here and the food was great!"
Staff in Camp
Managers: Silvia Morgante, Corne Cocklin, Corrie Adams and Sakkie Hoeseb.
Guides: Shilongo Sauges, Franz Nuyoma and Ramon Coetzee.
All pictures taken by Silvia Morgante.
Little Kulala Camp update - February 2012 Jump
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The rain has arrived! Clouds in the distance have finally materialised into the first rain for the season. With it came lots of lightning and the possibility of fire. All pulled together and with immaculate teamwork we have managed to ward off all the fires so far, with some help from the rain. The days are still warm and with the cloud cover, the humidity has increased.
In some areas the new grasses are making an appearance. It is quite a refreshing change to the desert landscape.
Now that we have received the first dose of summer rains, the wildlife has spread out all over the reserve, making for constant activity wherever you go.
Every morning, large herds of springbok and oryx are dotted all along the open plains and as the day heats up, they retreat to the shade along the riverbeds. The waterhole in front of camp now only has the occasional visitor as there is a lot of surface water around. However, the resident African wild cat still visits the camp waterhole every night.
The camp area became the home for a small ostrich family two months ago. This was quite unusual as these eggs hatched completely out of sync with all the other ostrich in the area. This immediately put the chicks at a disadvantage as they lost the benefit of safety in numbers. We have not seen the family for the entire month, so we suspect that they have fallen victim to the array of predators - most likely jackals.
Birds and Birding
Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters have been entertaining us around the camp pool as they display their aerial agility as they try and catch thirsty insects.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Ivan and Ilze Phillipson, Bona Florry, Lona Frey and Elaine Cerva.
Guides: Teek, Willem Rooi, Niclas Rundongo, Willem Mutenga, Petrus and Abner Shigweda.
Photo credits: Mr Cresswell
Kulala Desert Lodge update - February 2012 Jump
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Kulala Wilderness Camp update - February 2012 Jump
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For the first three weeks of the month the weather was very wet with high humidity levels. We received a total across the reserve of between 80 and 100mm of rain. During the day the maximum temperatures ranged between 25 and 35 degrees Celsius and the minimum temperatures between 15 and 25 degrees Celsius.
These exceptional seasonal rains have changed the gravel and sandy plains into a green carpet of lush vegetation. We now look onto a landscape almost unrecognisable to us as wild flowers spring up in all directions and our land has become a colourful backdrop.
In a very short period of time during the month all the ephemeral riverbeds especially the Aub and Tsauchab were in full flood for a few days. Sossusvlei is also full of water and our guests have enjoyed the odd swim in the Sesriem Canyon.
The desert antelopes on the reserve like springbok and oryx have increased in numbers as the capacity of the land's grazing has swelled. We are expecting to see young calves soon.
Bird watching has changed dramatically over the last few weeks and visiting birds include Black Kites, Augur Buzzards, Jackal buzzards, Lark-like Buntings, Sparrow Larks, Crimson Boubou, Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters. The most interesting sightings were Abdim's Stork and Purple Roller.
"It was a wonderful stay, everybody was nice and helpful. The meals were great and we enjoyed everything. Thank you very much."
"Everything was excellent, food delicious, very friendly service, we enjoyed the dune hike!"
Staff in Camp
Assistant Managers: Petronella and Dios
Guides: Dawid, Richard and Moses
Governors' Camp update - February 2012 Jump
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Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge update - February 2012
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