(Page 1 of
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.
Mombo Camp No.1 in Botswana in Travel + Leisure’s Top 500
Wilderness is proud to announce that Mombo and Little Mombo achieved one of the highest rankings in Travel + Leisure magazine’s Top 500 – The World’s Best Hotels 2012 (Africa and Middle East), coming first in Botswana. With its high score of 94.82 the camp is also one of the world’s Top 45 Hotels, one of nine African properties in this category.
This is the tenth anniversary collection of the 500 top-rated hotels from around the world as selected by readers of Travel + Leisure Magazine. Every year T+L readers vote on thousands of hotels based on rooms, location, service, food, and value.
Given that Botswana is one of Africa’s foremost wildlife and ecotourism destinations and one that embraces the ‘low volume, high revenue’ model we are thrilled to be recognised in this way. It is an honour that is particularly pleasing as Botswana is Wilderness’ birthplace and the conservation of the Okavango Delta of primary importance to the company. In addition, a cutting edge solar farm is currently being established at Mombo, meaning that the generator and the burning of fossil fuel will become completely obsolete – thus proving that it is possible to be luxurious and have a lighter footprint on the Earth.
The Top 500 features in Travel + Leisure’s January 2012 edition.
No report this month.
North Island Update - January 2012 Jump
to North Island
Kings Pool Camp update - January 2012 Jump
to Kings Pool Camp
Weather and Landscape
The rainy season is in full swing and we have experienced a lot of thunderstorms and rain this month - we had around 159mm of rain in January. Spectacular lightning displays over the Linyanti could be seen from the dinner table. In terms of temperatures, we had been experiencing pretty warm conditions with daytime highs reaching the 30s (Celsius).
The bush around camp is a lush green paradise at the moment. The outdoor sala is definitely the best place to have your siesta during the day - taking in the many sounds of the bushveld. The rains have washed the winter dust out of the sky, resulting in some amazing sunsets coupled with beautiful cloud formations.
We have had some wonderful sightings in January, despite the sudden proliferation of thick vegetation. Vast herds of elephant are still emerging from the woodlands to frolic on the floodplain. General game species have been abundant and most herbivores are giving birth to young ones. On a daily basis, we saw giraffe, kudu, warthog, impala, hippo and waterbuck.
The abundance of prey species resulted in quality predator sightings on a regular basis. We had numerous encounters with the LTC Pride of lions throughout the month. It was very exciting to watch our dominant male attempt to mate with one of the females from the LTC Pride very close to camp. We suspect that the lioness was not in full oestrus, as she desperately tried to avoid the male, and was often seen running away from him. This lioness is still hanging out with her surviving cub from her last litter which was born just over two years ago. On encountering her offspring, which is a subadult male, the dominant male immediately launched an attack. Luckily for the youngster he could escape and take refuge high up in a tree. Generally speaking, lions have a two-year period in between breeding, so we are sure the lioness will give in soon - we just hope her offspring avoids the wrath of our dominant male.
The leopard dynamics in the area have changed since the rains have arrived. We are now often encountering the spotted felines in the mopane woodlands, as the prey species have moved into these areas to take advantage of the nutritious mopane leaves.
Wild dog have been seen a couple of times, but they appear to be active mostly along the Savute Channel at the moment.
Birds and Birding
The birding has been out of this world this month as January is definitely avian peak season. Waterbirds are around every corner along the river, and raptors are permanently on the hunt with the abundance of food available.
We have been blessed with some outstanding Martial Eagle sightings, with the highlight being on an afternoon drive, when guides and their guests observed the titanic raptor hunt and catch a sizeable water monitor lizard.
We were fortunate to be able to host the annual Wilderness Pow Wow (a concession meeting) this month. We closed Kings Pool for two days and brought 68 people into camp for a day full of fun, educating and getting to know each other. These meetings are important as it ensures that all conservation bodies and tour operators in the area are on the same page with environmental issues and the way forward for 2012.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Alex Mazunga, One Mazunga and Chef Ben Gouws.
Guides: Kahn Gouwe, OD Modikwe, Ndebo Tongwane and Diye Goitsemang.
Photographs: Alex Mazunga
DumaTau Camp update - January 2012 Jump
to DumaTau Camp
January was a great month at DumaTau, as many herbivore species have had their young, creating a feeding frenzy for the entire spectrum of large predators.
We were very lucky, in that we continued to have regular sightings of the LTC Pride of lions throughout the month. They appear to be doing very well and have extended their territory even further west to DumaTau Camp and along the Savute Channel. On one occasion, we found the pride feeding on an elephant carcass at the calcrete area.
Due to the lack of a dominant male in the area, Silver Eye's brother has been doing a lot of scent marking and has been very vocal at night - advertising his dominance of the area? We have also had some sightings of the DumaTau Pride, which now has 15 members. We saw this pride twice, just south of the Mopane Bridge. We haven't seen the lone Selinda female for the entire month, and we suspect that she is denning somewhere along the southern banks of the Savute Channel as she was heavily pregnant the last time we saw her.
The DumaTau male leopard continues to visit us in camp. After breakfast one morning, he walked right through the main area in clear view of all! We have also had sightings of the Mopane female, mostly around Big Open Area. On one, occasion, we found her vocalising and being followed by a large male - perhaps she is in oestrus?
Wild dog sightings have been great, as we have been graced by two different packs, namely the LTC Pack and the Zib Pack.
The LTC Pack have been very successful in raising their last set of pups, but it appears that they may have lost a couple of the adult members. The pack has often been found feeding on impala and kudu. We were quite alarmed, when we found the Zib Pack, as they were without their pups, and our latest encounter with the pack took place at the First Corner Bridge, where the adults were clearly distressed and vocal. Hopefully they reunite with their pups soon.
The summer rains have had a marked impact on the elephant dynamics in the area, as most of our elephant sightings in the area took place at night, with the huge mammals coming down to the river for a drink under the cover of darkness. Most of the big elephant herds have moved across the Linyanti Marsh.
Although, we miss having the elephants in camp, we have had a number of other visitors which have taken a liking to the camp area. A small herd of kudu have been hanging around the main area, one of them being a very impressive bull, which has provided our guests with some phenomenal photos.
A number of honey badgers have made DumaTau their home, and are often encountered on the boardwalks at night.
All in all, January was a great month at DumaTau!
Staff in Camp
Managers: Gerard, Claire, Abbie and Kabelo.
Guides: Ron, Lazi, Mocks, Name, Tank and Moses.
Savuti Camp update - January 2012 Jump
to Savuti Camp
Zarafa Camp update - January 2012 Jump
to Zarafa Camp
Selinda Camp update - January 2012 Jump
to Selinda Camp
Camps Update - January 2012
• No report for this month.
Lagoon camp Jump
•After the major excitement of multiple kills by wild dogs at the end of 2011, the beginning of the year was off to a more sedate pace. However, this soon picked up with the wild dogs again chasing and killing impala. At the end of the month they had spent time very close to the camp, and managed to bring down three baby impalas in one day. All the puppies from last year are growing up fit and strong – 100% survivor rate, which is excellent news for the highly endangered wild dog population.
• The New Year also brought in new visitors – a male lion of approximately 8 years old, in excellent condition, was seen on his own by Giraffe Pan. He may have overstepped his boundaries intentionally for a look to see who challenges him, or he may have been forced out by a stronger pride. It will be interesting to see if he stays around, and if he has any altercations with the other lions resident in the area.
•In the second week of January we had a lovely female leopard seen around the airstrip. She was very relaxed, and spent considerable time hunting and scent marking. This is a good indication that she is getting ready to mate, and is interested in marking her status as 'available'!
• Although the big buffalo herds have moved off into the thick mopane veld now that rainwater has collected in many of the pans, the breeding herds of elephants are spending a lot of time in the area.
• It is a little more challenging to see animals on the night drives at this time of year, with the grasses being high, but hyenas and side-striped jackals were seen regularly in the area close to the airstrip, and there was lots of activity seen of the shy nocturnal aardvark, but sadly not the creature itself!
• The camp was closed for 10 days for annual maintenance in January, so we didn't have a chance to see some of the regulars such as the cheetah brothers during that time, but hopefully they will be waiting for us in early February!
Lebala camp Jump
• The first and last week of the month were good for lion sightings, with separate sightings of both males and females. Four lionesses were found feeding on a freshly killed wildebeest, and two males were seen resting along the cutline. Strangely, for a few days in the middle of the month, even tracks of lions were hard to find!
• On the 21st of January, there was an unusual sighting with a hyena chasing off a leopard from the carcass of a baby elephant. It's likely the elephant died of natural causes, for it would be difficult for any predator other than lions to successfully bring down a baby elephant. There are plenty of breeding herds throughout the concession at the moment. The hyenas – on one occasion up to eight individuals – were seen regularly on the evening drives in the area of the carcass, and patrolling their routes.
A male leopard was also seen nearby. In the same week we also had a great sighting of a pack of twenty wild dogs, who managed to hunt and catch an impala along Mogothlo road.
• Towards the end of the month, the three male cheetahs successfully hunted a tsessebe calf, and were able to feed on it without being disturbed by larger predators – always a worry for the light-weight cheetahs!
• Night drives were productive with the hyenas, black-backed and side-striped jackals, and several sightings of African Wild cats hunting in the tall grass. We also managed to see a porcupine and a honey badger!
• The rains have created many puddles along the roads, and filled up many of the pans. This is a happy time for the frogs – bubbling kasinas and bull frogs alike. Also a good time for the many birds, such as marabou storks, woolly necked storks, egrets and other long-legged birds which wade the ponds and pools, fishing for the frogs.
Otherwise, it's a lovely time of year for the general game, with lots of green fresh grass and new leaves available to graze and browse on.
Kwara & Little Kwara camps Jump
& Little Kwara camps
• We welcomed the new year with incredible sighting of predators, prey, birds, and of course dramatic sunrises and sunsets. Kwara concession is certainly a wildlife paradise on the 1st day of the 1st month, we found 2 lionesses resting under the shade, escaping the heat, a few metres away were zebras, giraffes, and wildebeest, as well as a huge breeding herd of elephant.
• We continued spotting more predators during the following days, mostly male lions, occasionally seeing lone young males, sometimes as many as seven lions one game drive. Another great experience was of tracking fresh leopard tracks – found crossing the Shindi main road, we followed the tracks and located a male leopard, which we were able to follow for about 20 minutes before he disappeared into the bush.
An unusual lion sighting was from the boat whilst on a cruise between Xobega and Gudikwe – three lionesses drinking on the side of the channel, with one of them about to cross the channel! And a great sighting of a pack of 10 wild dogs, who were seen hunting along Lethata Road.
• Over the past few months our cheetah cubs have grown, and are now approximately 8 months old – still distinguishable from their mother with their darker coats and longer, thicker fur. We saw them attempting to bring down an impala one afternoon, but sadly they were unsuccessful.
• Some more unusual predator sightings included a young African python hunting prey after a heavy rain storm, and an African wild cat hunting frogs!
• Our night game drives are a different experience each night. Through the thickets and bushes our eyes scanning, following the spotlight, listening to the night sounds and occasionally spotting a rare animal. Regular sights have been black-backed jackals, lesser bush-babies, honey badgers. Although genets are seen from time to time on night drives, it is much rarer to see a genet with two young who she was suckling!
• Birding has been great with all the regulars, and the summer migratory birds still here, but thinking about the long trip back…. Only a few Woodland kingfishers can be heard calling now – a change from the November chorus. Nicest bird sighting this month was a male and female ostrich with five chicks looking only a few days old!
Nxai Pan Jump
to Nxai Pan camp
• The stillness of the night is broken by the distant roaring of lions. The quiet tip-toeing of a whitish-grey elephant as it looms across the plain in the moonlight, heading to the waterhole. There's a rustling from a few metres away – a scrub hare, nibbling on grass shoots. Then the shuffle and neighing, as a herd of zebra move in. Sometimes, the best sightings are those that you don't actually see, but the combination of sound, (or silence) smell, and glimmers in the dark. Sitting on the deck in front of the your room at Nxai Pan at night, no clouds in the sky – it's not a view necessarily of animals that is magical, but it's an experience that will be one of the highlights of your trip. The horizon stretches on, only stopping where the pin points of stars disappear.
• Very little rainfall since the beginning of December has meant the animals have been forced to return to the waterholes dotted around the park. This means plenty of action also at the camp waterhole, with elephants chasing zebra out of the way, so they can drink, and shy brown hyenas slinking in to have a quick sip as the sun slowly rises above the horizon.
• Lion sightings have been numerous, with the pride of four females with two nearly adult cubs and three 8 month old cubs being seen on most days. Sometimes relaxing in the shade near the waterholes, keeping an eye on the general game that moves past them, waiting for an opportunity to catch some unsuspecting prey. A big male lion was also seen at the side of one of the waterholes, relaxing after a long night of prowling his territory. A female cheetah with two cubs was also seen regularly – her offspring look fit, and well-cared for. This is prime time for catching springbok babies that are in abundance at the moment. It is up to the mother to teach her cubs how to hunt, and she does this by catching a young buck but not killing it, and then giving it to the cubs to kill (not always successfully…)
• Wonderful general game throughout the park, with the zebras having arrived – though not in the numbers that they were last year due to the late rains. Giraffes, wildebeest, springboks and all their babies bouncing everywhere, create a wonderful atmosphere on the drives.
• The good birding continues, with red crested shrikes, crimson breasted shrikes, marico flycatchers, scaly feathered finches, little sparrow hawks and steppe buzzards.
Tau Pan Jump
to Tau Pan camp
• The elephants that were seen last month did not make an appearance again, but their spoor and droppings were seen in the Passage Pan area.
January seems to have been the month of races, with cheetah, leopard and lions all seen running in the Tau Pan area, often being followed – or following – jackals and bat-eared foxes. Two lions made an attempt to chase down a cheetah with her two cubs – a rather foolish thing when you know the cheetahs are built for speed. However, cheetahs cannot hold the speed for extended periods, so perhaps there was a plan to the lions chase. Luckily for the cheetahs, they managed to get away.
• Throughout the month, cheetah was seen almost every day around Tau Pan, usually the mother with the two cubs, but sometimes an adult on his own. The adult managed to kill a baby springbok, and a young collared male has visited the water hole to drink during brunch time – probably a good time to do so as the resident lions have moved off by then.
• The Tau Pan Lion pride was seen regularly as well, with the whole pride playing around the pan, and the adults roaring – territorial calling – in the early morning and evening. Later in the month, three of the adult lions decided to pop by the manager's house for part of the afternoon game drive, but luckily left when Thuso needed to get ready for dinner!
• For general game, lots of Oryx, springbok, kudu and steenbok were sighted in the area, and a herd of 15 wildebeest with 8 young also frequented the area. Several black-backed jackal couples are seen on every drive, each with puppies of their own.
Mombo Camp update
- January 2012 Jump
to Mombo Camp
January in Mombo has had its share of plenty. With the abundance of life exploding after the rains of December, we had a dry spell that lasted for almost three weeks, causing a slight drying out of the vegetation and a slowing down of the rampant growth typical of this period. In the middle of the month, the rains returned with enthusiasm once more, and within days all signs of the 'mini-drought' were gone. Rainwater pans filled up almost overnight, and the verdant cloak of vegetation once more sprang up, coating the landscape in every conceivable shade of green. The air takes on a particular clarity - a sharpness brought on by the absence of atmospheric dust, colours seem brighter, vision carries further, as if everything comes into hyper-focus. A kaleidoscope of flowers dot the landscape, their colours competing with a profusion of butterflies.
Water levels have varied significantly, particularly in the channel areas we are able to observe, as local rainfall to the north would contribute to some of the flows and possibly some early waters from the Angolan catchment region. The floodplains ebb and flow with each series of downpours, and the groundwater levels are at a point of saturation that would allow any new waters arriving to flow freely over them, translating into another beautiful inundation in the season to come.
The interior woodlands are crowded with game - herds of zebra and impala are most numerous, feeding on the plenitude of nutritious graze, while red lechwe crowd the open plains. Giraffe and kudu are taking advantage of the new growth in the Markhamia groves, and it is always a curious sight to see these enormous animals bending down to feed on the shrub-like plants, creating a browse line at the lower limit of their reach.
Large herds of buffalo have also been observed as they pass through the area, sometimes in their hundreds. Elephant have also been seen in large numbers, often in breeding herds of at least a dozen, as well as bulls in loose groups ranging across various ages - the variety of life we experience here in simply extraordinary!
We also had a few sightings of Rosy, the elephant cow collared in a research operation a year ago, along with her herd. She appears to be in fine form and reports on her movements from the data uploaded by her collar have been most instructive to the research team monitoring her.
The month has once again produced some great leopard sightings - some individuals that we know and love, others we haven't seen in a long while, as well as some newcomers. Pula, Legadema's offspring, has had cubs which we estimate to be around two months old, a little younger than Legadema's current cub. Pula is still a little wary of vehicles around the cubs, so we are giving her the space she needs to allow the youngsters to mature a little more.
Legadema has been seen with her latest cub on several occasions, and the pair of them have delighted us with their antics as they interact with each other. The cub is becoming more and more mobile, and we find the two of them in different places more often now.
The Serondela male leopard has ventured southwards into the area around Stompy's Road, and we feel he might be making a challenge on Lebadi's dominance in this area. This male is a magnificent specimen and is very relaxed around vehicles, which has given us the opportunity to capture some good identification pictures of his whisker pattern. Lebadi has been seen close to camp very often this month, and does not appear to be in very good condition - his presence this close might indicate that he is attempting to avoid the newcomer, and his injuries could be as a result of clashes with him.
We came across another male leopard on the treeline to Lechwe Haven Road - this individual provided some exciting viewing as he attempted to attack a group of seven young warthogs guarded by two ferocious-looking females. Initially he had the advantage of surprise as he burst out of cover towards the group of trotting pigs and they scattered in confusion. We thought he might have captured one piglet in the dusty melee, but moments later the females rallied together and turned on their adversary. This put the leopard in the ignominious position of being chased up a tree by the warthogs before they turned tail, gathered their young and fled. This leopard is very shy, and is seldom seen, so we were indeed lucky to come across him in these circumstances.
Blue Eyes, the male leopard we see in the Simbira area, has been seen a few times this month, and on one day we were lucky enough to see him in a tree with an unknown female, shortly before encountering yet another male and female further along the way!
The Mporota Pride of lions crossed the channel to the west and weren't seen for a while, a fact that the Mporota Breakaway Pride turned to their advantage! The space allowed them to move more freely through areas held by the much larger dominant pride, and we had a few sightings of them in the western plains.
To the south, we found the Matata Pride on a buffalo kill in the Simbira area, where they have been found most frequently, taking advantage of the big herds as they moved through.
Another notable lion sighting was of a beautiful solitary male that we see very occasionally, found mating with a female from the Mporota Breakaway Pride.
The lone wild dog and her attendant jackals are still doing well. We have had several sightings of her this month - and interestingly, she has moved to a new location after a period of bouncing between the Siberiana and Heavy Acacia areas. She often now can be found close to Tortoise Kill Road in an open area, with good sight lines in most directions; which we find is the sort of terrain she prefers. There has been a lion presence in the Siberiana area, which would possibly explain the reason she has chosen not to stick around there.
We found the carcass of a giraffe south of the airstrip, which became a focal point for a lot of hyaena activity, as well as many vulture species - interestingly, no lion went near the carcass.
Birdlife has been fantastic this month, with many species seen - the Greater Painted-Snipe being this month's favourite bird! Other notable species have included Wattled Cranes, African Rails, Ruffs, African Skimmers, Martial Eagles and Wahlberg's Eagles.
Apart from the usual old buffalo bulls, animals seen in camp with some regularity have been the local genets, who love to visit the bar in the evenings looking for titbits, our troop of banded mongooses, who have a brood of youngsters gambolling around the camp, a pair of porcupines who we often see at night, as well as Fat Pants, the resident African civet. Stompie, the elephant bull who visits us occasionally, has made several appearances, and kindly broke the walkway only once!
Main camp has had some refurbishment work done, with the thatching and decking in the main areas and rooms all getting a makeover, and the result looks fantastic. Our repeat visitors will notice the changes to the décor and colour schemes, with an overall lightening up of the main areas.
Guides in camp were Tsile, Moss, Sefo, Malinga and Moses.
Managers in camp were Phenyo at Little Mombo, with Vasco, Martha, Nathan, Tumoh, Katie and Ryan at Main Camp.
Xigera Camp update
- January 2012 Jump
to Xigera Camp
Chitabe Camp update
- January 2012 Jump
to Chitabe Camp
Vumbura Plains Camp update
- January 2012 Jump
to Vumbura Plains Camp
The month of January has been a really productive month in terms of game viewing, one of the reasons being Vumbura has had a lot of rain fall in the month of January. This has lead to most of the floodplains being filled with water, resulting in many animals moving to the Kalahari apple leaf and mopane woodland areas.
The water-filled pans have also become great areas for game viewing, as most of the wildlife has left the permanent water sources and is now enjoying the sweet veld around the seasonal pans. Most of our highlights in terms of game viewing have been around the pans, as the increased prey numbers have in turn attracted many opportunistic predators to the area.
Seeing more than two huge male lions in a coalition is a rare sighting and we have been very spoilt as Vumbura currently has two male coalitions scouting the area. One of the coalitions has three members (Kubu Boys) while the other has four - all of these males are in their prime, and boy, are they big! On one occasion the group of four walked straight through camp. The two groups have not had a direct confrontation yet, but this is bound to happen soon!
There is also one lioness that has been seen around a couple of times with three very young cubs and it is always a worry to us as we are not sure which of the two coalitions would be the fathers.
The month of January has been a lion month at Vumbura as we have experienced a lot of lion activity. Apart from the new coalitions we have found, the Eastern Pride, which consists of three males and three subadults, has been making a presence in the area too. We found this pride feeding on a giraffe carcass close to Dagga Pan, and as expected, there was quite a number of hungry hyaena on the periphery - a great sighting indeed!
The Golden Pack of wild dogs has also been present in and around camp, and as we all know, the dogs are affective and successful hunters. We have seen them on a couple of occasions killing and feeding on impala and kudu. They have also been seen around the water pans and out in the floodplains, bounding through the shallow water.
We have also been very luck as we continue to see a number of different leopards in the area. We recently found Selonyana and her cub walking along Masanga Road, this was a top-notch sighting which produced many great photo opportunities as the mother and her cub affectionately started to play with each other. Mosetsana is one of the leopards that we see regularly at Vumbura and she is usually seen around the airstrip, which could be a great welcome or good bye if you see her on your way into or out of camp.
General plains game is always a winner at Vumbura Plains, as there is always some kind of animal activity anywhere one looks. Jackie's Pan in particular has been very productive, with big numbers of zebra, wildebeest, tsessebe, giraffe, kudu and impala congregating.
Birding has also been very rewarding this month, as we have been blessed with many raptor sightings. The summer birdlife has also added a wealth of colour to the environment, especially with all the bee-eaters, rollers and kingfishers present.
On the reptilian side of things, we got to witness a very exciting and unusual kill unfold in front of our very eyes. A boomslang caught a large flap-necked chameleon, and before its haemotoxic venom could act, the chameleon put up a formidable fight, but eventually succumbed to the toxic cocktail of venom. This however, was not the end of the fight for the snake. The arboreal snake now battled to swallow its meal and took around 45 minutes to get it right.
Staff in Camp
Managers: KG, Britt, Noko, Cara, Lorato, Gerad, Aaron and Beatrice.
Guides: ST, Ona, Emang, Moronga and Lazarus.
All images courtesy of Kago (KG)
Little Vumbura Camp update
- January 2012 Jump
to Little Vumbura Camp
Duba Plains Camp update
- January 2012 Jump
to Duba Plains Camp
Banoka Bush Camp update
- January 2012
Weather and Landscape
The month of January started the New Year with all the rain that has been needed for so long, with average downpours of up to 30mm at a time. Despite all the rain in the area, the heat is also quite dramatic, and on the days before the storms, there is no doubt that the sun can also make this time of the year quite exciting.
The trees are still in full blossom, there are many different types of grasses sprouting, and there are also many different types of flowers popping up everywhere (particularly the flame lilies).
The elephant seem to be making their appearances in front of camp again, with several large breeding herds spotted near the camp with their newborn babies allowing for some amazing game viewing. There is also a large bull in musth who often walks in front of camp and enjoys spending time in the presence of our hippo family while feeding on reeds. The hippos are still our most entertaining visitors, and with all the rain, the lagoon has filled up substantially, causing the grasses on the sides to dislodge and float to the centre, creating small islands. The hippos seem to be confused by this, and often they will all congregate around these islands in fascination, ducking and splashing under and around them.
The small pride of very pale lion that we saw during December was spotted again this month: next to camp, not a stone's throw away, feeding on a hippo that they took down several metres into the water. Hopefully they will remain in the area. There was another small pride of lion spotted in the Maghoto area consisting of three beautiful lionesses and four healthy young cubs.
Hyaena are also coming back to life around the camp, and their presence is normally indicated by their eerie 'whoop' calls during the early hours of the morning, and by the tracks found on the pathways during the day. Of course the general game has also been excellent, and on most mornings you can spot giraffe, reedbuck and kudu feeding in front of camp.
Birds and Birding
The birds are having a lovely time this month, and there are many different species popping up as the migrants have now arrived. In particular the Jacobin Cuckoo, Black Cuckooshrike, African Crake, and African-Green Pigeon are among the more special and difficult to spot.
Pygmy Geese, White-faced Ducks, African Darters, Saddle-billed Storks, Red-billed Teals, Egyptian Geese, Spur-winged Geese, Yellow-billed Ducks, Comb Ducks, Slaty Egrets, Great White Pelicans, Yellow-billed and White Storks and the various Ibis are just a few of the many water birds that can be seen at Lops' Lagoon near the camp.
The Small Wonders
In the insect world there have been at least 10 different types of dragonfly identified in the camp, along with several different types of damselflies and butterflies. Another small bonus, found quite often in the camp, are the small Angolan reed frogs, often found in their many different colour and pattern variations. The southern foam nest frogs also enjoy Banoka, and in particular the bar area. Many guttural toads are found hopping around the pathways, and such toads are often found being eaten by various snakes and birds (especially the Marabou Storks).
"Such a fabulous experience - a perfect end to a wonderful two weeks in Africa. Terrific staff and incredible guide. Thank you!" Peter and Catherine.
Staff in Camp
Managers: James and Cheri Moodie and Lopang Rampeba
Guides: Rogers, Chris and Willie
Newsletter by James Moodie
Jacana Camp update
- January 2012 Jump
to Jacana Camp
Weather and Landscape
It became a little hot and sticky again in the early part of January as we experienced the temperatures climbing up into the high 30s (Celsius), coupled with a reduction in rainfall, which forced the humidity up. However, this did not last too long as we experienced a fair deal of rain in the second half of the month.
As a result of the rain, the ground vegetation is getting thicker and longer, making it more difficult to see the smaller creatures on our island. However, we do still manage to see the water monitor lizard which resides along the pathway to the guest tents.
The amount of elephant sightings has definitely declined this month due to the proliferation of vegetation and surface water, although we have heard the tell-tale rustling of a feeding bull overnight near the tents.
Towards the end of the month, we all downed our tools from our maintenance tasks at the sound of whooshing water close to the front of the camp. As we all rushed to our main deck, we were aware that the sound was much louder than when the red lechwe run through the water - what could it be? As we reached the deck, what a sight to behold! A small bachelor herd of eight elephants were almost running through the water in a southerly direction. As they came level with us, they stopped in unison to scent the air, trunks raised in the air like periscopes. We didn't recognise any of them as the bulls who usually frequent our island, which could account for why their approach was a little uncertain. And then, as suddenly as they appeared, they were gone from sight, leaving us full of wonderment.
Birds and Birding
All of the colours of the rainbow have been depicted in our bird life this month at Jacana. Tiny Blue Waxbills busily combing the bushes for insects, Brown Firefinch flittering around the long grasses together with their more colourful cousins the Red-billed Firefinch. The Greater Blue-eared Starling catching the sunlight so beautifully as it flies into a tree to perch. And let's not forget the stunning surge of yellow as the Golden Weavers fly by.
Our way of life in camp has totally changed this month. Waving our last guests off on the morning of 5 January signalled the start of the hard work of pulling down our guest tents and erecting new ones in their place. Yes, Jacana received a facelift this month as we completely rebuild our guest tents. The work has been progressing well and we are all very excited to see the finished product.
We have also started our annual maintenance programme which involves all members of our team rolling their sleeves up and getting stuck in as we sand and varnish all our woodwork!
Staff in Camp
Managers: Phil and Jo Oliver.
Guides: Timothy Samuel, Bafana Nyame and Obby Modise.
Abu Camp update
- January 2012 Jump
to Abu Camp
As the rains wash away the old and encourage the growth of fresh leaves and grasses, we are all revived by the thought of the potential that 2012 holds, each of us eager and excited to embrace its impending glories.
Grazers are plump from the abundance of grass and our own elephants neglect the greens collected by our vegetation gatherers, as they are over-stuffed after indulging on the buffet on offer during the day.
Summer came initially to dry up the pans and pools, but the release of late January storms has drenched the parched plains in up to 70mm at one go, and so has once again filled these beautiful drinking spots and is attracting birds aplenty. Grey-headed and Woodland Kingfishers flash their brilliant colours through the thick green bush and Marabou Storks gather around the aptly-named Marabou Pan, in a sombre meeting of avian elders. Owls hoot their deep calls through the trees while Black Cuckoos, unseen in the cover of the thicket, sing their sad song. Glittering fireflies provide the setting for this summer symphony of birds and frogs, while we sit under a canopy of stars around a glowing fire to enjoy this natural concert.
Both in and away from camp, the game is as unpredictable as ever. Walking guests to their rooms has become a hair-raising activity, as hyaena and hippo frequent the well-worn elephant paths. Not far from camp, tracks of a male and female leopard have been seen regularly: there is evidence of their determined territory-marking each day after the rains have washed away their previous efforts, perhaps indicating their interest not only in the area but in each other. Soon after the tracks were discovered, the male was sighted ambling through the long grass, and there have been two further leopard sightings during the month.
With the game in the area becoming more relaxed, these encounters are exciting indicators of what is to come. Equally exciting is the recent discovery of tracks of a male lion, two females and two tiny cubs. We hope to see more evidence of these little ones and maybe catch a glimpse in the next few weeks. There have also been beautiful sightings of rare antelope - just south of camp in the Kalahari apple leaf skirting an expansive floodplain, a pregnant female roan and her family graze, unperturbed by our presence.
Sundowners in January provided a myriad different exciting experiences: one included amateur poling lessons in a shallow water-crossing, while another was invaded by a cheeky hyaena. This youngster entertained us all as he played with a large catfish, rolling over it a number of times and then walking off proudly, leaving a trail of rotten-fish smell behind him.
A new hit was the gathering of guests and staff for a dinner in the midst of six-and-a-half African giants, enjoying what has come to be known as Abu's "Dinner with the Elephants". A truly unique experience!
To ward off the languor of quiet Okavango days, we entertained the staff by turning things around in camp. A whole day was dedicated to treating each and every staff member to the guest experience. Managers served lunch to waitrons and chefs, and stumbled over the coffee machine serving espressos and cappuccinos to camp hands.
Of course, our elephants have not disappointed this month either. Again our highlight was little Warona. Her early-morning liveliness, explosions of energy and tricks keep us laughing for hours. In the evenings she stands amongst her family, imitating them as they munch away at branches and leaves. She will only begin supplementing her diet with solid foods at about six months of age, but that hasn't stopped her from trying. For now, she suckles from Shireni, and in a fascinating new development, our beloved matriarch has begun to produce milk for Warona too. Cathy's lactating is possibly due to her close bond with Warona. The little baby is spoilt for choice as a result, and watched over closely by her 'grandmother' as well as her mother. We can only wait and watch as this family develops and the magical surroundings at Abu continue to reward us as we revel in the last of the summer's bounty.
"Amazing team at Abu, keep up the good work."
"We felt at home. The Abu herd is the best! Thank you so much for looking after us and for giving us the best experiences."
"Thank you Callum, Jemima and Cayley for an amazing stay. It was a dream come true! Everything was incredible, more than what I expected. The whole elephant experience was very touching and will remain with me forever. Thank you - words cannot express how I am feeling."
update - January 2012 Jump
to Kwetsani Camp
The Kwetsani team wish everyone a happy 2012, filled with prosperity and lots of safari adventures! It has been an action-packed start to the year with many guests in camp in the first half of the month and then, as of the 22nd, we closed for thorough maintenance. This time has also given our team a chance to take a step back to observe their surroundings and take in the sights and sounds of the Delta.
Weather and Water Levels
At the beginning of the month the channels were drying up, but now the rainy season has descended upon us and the water table is starting to rise slowly but surely. Due to the rain, temperatures have dropped and we are, therefore, no longer walking around panting. Thunderstorms are creating beautiful displays in the evening. The rumblings of thunder and lightning bolts shooting across the sky are simply another way to witness the supremacy of nature.
Everything is now lush and green and amongst the carpet of green, there are little rays of colour as small wild flowers pop up to meet the world. The sky hasn't been all gloomy and grey - rainbows have impressed us and there has been just enough sunshine to light up and warm our hearts.
There are always creatures - big and small - that entertain us in the Delta. On the odd occasion the rain has caused our furry friends to seek shelter which makes it difficult to find them. Luckily for us they never hide for long.
The elusive leopard in camp has finally shown herself! This has ended the ongoing debate of whether she does actually exist. Through the months we have seen her tracks around camp but have never spotted her. Just as we were about to admit defeat and explore other ideas of what tracks these may be, she casually waltzed past camp in the grassy floodplain. She was so well camouflaged that we almost didn't notice her. Although quite skittish, we hope she will, in time, become more habituated by our presence. The fact that her tracks have been seen for months clearly indicates that this is her territory. Leopard sightings have also been great on Hunda Island where our game drives take place.
Another feline species has been in and around the area - the king of the jungle himself! Many of our guests have been welcomed at the airstrip by a male lion that is often seen wandering in the area. The two local females have had cubs but we have yet to see them. Last year, in April they bore a litter that unfortunately didn't make it, so we are crossing fingers that these little guys pull through. It's a tough environment out there, but as the water levels have not risen dramatically yet they have a much higher chance of survival.
From the grassland into the water - an abundance of hippos have been wallowing in the channels, which has made for many exciting boat cruises. They have also been wandering around the island at night. Their eminent presence is seen by their markings of dung and their tracks. We have spotted them on numerous occasions whilst accompanying guests back to their rooms.
Other wildlife spotted this month includes warthogs with their young, breeding herds of elephant, buffalo and various antelope.
Maintenance has given us the perfect opportunity to stop and listen to the beautiful chorus of the various birds. A regular visitor has been the Woodlands Kingfisher, its enthusiastic chatter dancing through camp. Unlike other species of kingfisher, they eat insects rather than fish. Other birds seen flying in and around are Fish Eagles, Robin Chats, Pied Kingfishers and cute little Waxbills.
We still have two weeks left of maintenance and then we reopen our doors for guests. They will be welcomed into a refurbished, freshly polished and gleaming camp, overhauled with love from the entire Kwetsani Team. We look forward to seeing you all soon.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Bradley White and Annelize Hattingh - soon to be White after getting engaged in December - congratulations!
Guides: Ronald Gaopalelwe and Florence Kagiso
update - January 2012 Jump
to Jao Camp
Weather and Landscape
Everything has greened up and is looking fresh and new. The trees have all their leaves and most other plants and trees are either in flower or fruit. The weather at the beginning of the month made for very hot days and then clouds would build up in the late afternoon, but not enough to bring rain. That all changed by the middle of the month as the cloud build-up started earlier in the day and meant we had big thunderstorms in the afternoon and evening, resulting in fewer boma or traditional evenings under the stars. This however, was made up for with spectacular lightning storms. In the last two weeks of the month we received a total of 179mm of rain. This did mean the water table lifted and the ground became saturated, causing the water to stay on the surface for longer, even filling the previously dry floodplains - maybe a signal of an annual inundation this year?
January was even better than December as far as game viewing on Jao goes.
The denning lioness, mentioned in last month's newsletter, has been seen during January, and is the proud mother of two perfect cubs. We were also lucky to witness her make a lechwe kill, which she fed on greedily. On the subject of lion kills, we witnessed the dominant Jao male kill a lechwe, which was followed by another three lechwe kills in one night! The large feline stored his bounty of lechwe carcasses in some dense vegetation, for some leisurely feeding at a later stage.
On the solitary, spotted feline side of things, a young male leopard made a kill quite close to camp. This individual was a little nervous in the presence of the vehicle and dragged the carcass into some dense vegetation. We are sure after a couple of respectful sightings, his trust of the vehicles will increase.
A number of bull elephant have been hanging around the camp area, entertaining our guests during the afternoon heat. Substantial herds of impala and dazzles of zebra have also been frequenting Jao Island. Guests have also been entertained from the comfort of camp by the aquatic team of hippo and crocodiles, which have taken a liking to the water channels around camp.
Hunda Island has been accessible for the entire year of 2011 and the first month of 2012, which has not been the case in the past. A trip to the island is a special treat and the highlight has been the female leopard and her cub, which have provided great viewing - we enjoyed witnessing her hunting, make a successful kill and the interaction between mother and cub. A large herd of buffalo has also been frequenting the island, coupled with great numbers of general game.
Birds and Birding
The birdlife has been very good, we did our first waterbird count for the year, where we take a set route of about two hours, only to count waterbirds. We counted 35 different species and 562 individual birds! Jao Reserve is truly a birding paradise.
In camp, the resident pair of Verreaux's Eagle-Owls are doing well and their chick, which is now almost fully grown, has been taking the easy way of hunting and just sitting on the boardwalk when the walkway lights are on waiting for insects! However this does not satisfy his hunger and he is often heard calling for his parents. On one occasion, the mother was seen catching a small snouted cobra, which was quite a special sighting.
Yellow-billed Kites have still been harassing the camp's resident business of banded-mongoose - this provides endless action within camp.
Hunda Island trips have still been available and this trip coupled with a picnic is always special. Many guests have enjoyed the boating and mokoro trips, which offer a truly distinctive Delta experience. Often game drives were coupled with a water activity, producing a great diversity of sightings!
"One of the highlights was the way we were greeted and introduced to the camp. The standard of the camp is superb! Game viewing, especially the leopard was magic. Service is very important to us and we were impressed - thank you!" Brad and Lisa.
"Drives very good - guide excellent (July), food and drink very good, views during the day and early morning from room were great. Could stay in room all day." Djemella and Robert.
"Beautifully designed and maintained camp, staffed by knowledge and enthusiastic people. Day long outing was great. Good to see geology and conservation as cornerstones of the operation. Wonderful place to visit." Keith and Sheila.
"Our day on Hunda Island which began at 6am, where we saw a female lioness carrying one of her cubs and the other cub following behind, then the lovely boat trip to the island, hippo in the water before arriving and our picnic and the sighting of a year old female leopard in a tree with her kill- a small impala, was just fantastic!" Peter and Julie.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Antony and Kalinka Mulligan, Andrew and Lauren Gaylord, Neuman Vasco Marina Lunga and Phil Ngisi.
Guides: Vundi Kashamba, Bee Makgetho and July Mogomotsi.
update - January 2012 Jump
to Seba Camp
Tubu Tree Camp
update - January 2012 Jump
to Tubu Tree Camp
Weather and Landscape
In the beginning of the month we had very little rain, but towards the end of the month, we received rain almost daily - thanks to tropical cyclone Dando that hit the Mozambican coast. One morning we received over 70mm of rain in a five-hour period and the Tubu entrance road looked like it was a river, as the water was gushing towards camp.
Mornings started off cool, around 20° C, peaking at a mere 28° C, with a brief afternoon thunder shower on most days during the last two weeks of January. With the amount of rain this part of Botswana has received, we are still able to go on mokoro activities. The water levels in different parts of the concession have started rising already and it appears the annual inundation will occur early this year.
With the cool weather we had a lot of animal activity around camp - leopard in the open clearing, a hippo crossing the floodplain in front of camp and not long after that, two hyaena walked along the floodplain past camp.
The camp itself has seen many a leopard this month!
A guest in camp woke up one morning, opened his door and on his steps there was a male and female leopard lounging,! He quickly closed the door, grabbed his camera, opened the door again and took a quick snap of the duo. Not long after this, they disappeared off into the bushes. These two spent about a week in camp, with regular sightings by staff and guests.
On a different morning, we found a female leopard not far from Tubu. She was walking towards a beautiful sycamore fig to the north of camp. When we arrived at the fig, we saw that there was another leopard waiting for her. We suspect that they are the pair known as "the Tubu Twins" - a brother and sister. The female jumped into the tree and enjoyed herself gracefully jumping from branch to branch, resembling a playful kitten. Her male sibling decided to join her in the tree; she clearly was not amused by this idea as she immediately started to growl at him. The male did not take heed of her warning, which resulted in a few swift clouts to his face, putting him off balance. He lost his footing and fell, managing to cling to the tree upside down. Due to his feline agility, he recovered quickly and was subjected to more battering from his sister. The two felines then split and went to different sides of the tree. Perhaps the young feline is coming into oestrus and her brother is showing interest due to his inexperience, hence her harsh treatment towards him.
The island has also been lucky enough to have a herd of buffalo that have moved into the area. They are keeping us entertained, even if we can only watch them from a distance, since they move off if approached to closely. On numerous mornings we have seen them on the floodplain in front of camp.
Elephants, elephants, oh, did I mention elephants?
On many nights, these usually quiet giants have kept staff and guests awake. A herd of elephant had made itself at home in the camp. But something was always wrong; they had very restless nights leaving us sleepless, due to their trumpeting, rumbling and running through the bushes the whole night. Luckily for staff and guests the herd did leave the camp after a few days.
We came across a beautiful herd of elephant at the airstrip one morning, a herd of about 120 all congregating together - for this part of the Delta that is enormous! It was a pleasure to watch the little babies being well protected by the mothers and aunts while the juveniles and subadults had no worries in the world. The young bulls tried to intimidate vehicles and guests when they could, but with no luck. Three young calves at the airstrip were playing, chasing and falling over each other. It was just too wonderful for words.
During a bush dinner one night we had a lot of excitement. As the guests arrived at the site we were surprised to spot a female leopard lying about 80 metres from us just relaxing. Then out of the bushes came a female hyaena that then chased the leopard off. During our meal under the stars, the hyaena would often take a turn past the vehicles and the dinner table to make sure that everything was in order. When the guests left the site, they spotted the female leopard again, this time only 100 metres away laying on a termite mound watching the proceedings with a careful eye.
Birds and Birding
We still have the beautiful mating pair of Wattled Cranes in the area, splitting their time between the airstrip and the floodplain in front of camp. We see Dickinson's Kestrel, Greater Honeyguide, Klaas's Cuckoo and the ever-present summer visitor, the Woodland Kingfisher, almost daily.
"The attention to detail is amazing. You are made to feel welcome. The management and staff are incredibly friendly and accommodating. Thank you for a great stay!" Anna and Marcus.
The hospitality of this place is first class, excellent management and staff. Saw a lot of different animals. We would like to come back." Fritz and Marianne.
"Our guide Johnny was patient and knowledgeable. He was able to spot animals that we would never find. Even if we did not see all the leopards it would have been a worthwhile adventure. The staff at Tubu Tree was friendly and approachable. They made us feel comfortable and relaxed. I would definitely come back and recommend this camp to everyone I know." Jacob and Lenni.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Hein Holton and Eloise Van der Walt.
Guides: Johnny Mowanji and Moruti Maipelo.
Newsletter by Eloise van der Walt.
Kalahari Plains Camp
update - January 2012 Jump
to Kalahari Plains Camp
to Page 2