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AFRICAN SAFARI NEWS

January 2012

(Page 2 of 2)

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

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


South Africa camps
Pafuri Camp update - January 2012               Jump to Pafuri Camp

Weather and Landscape
Pafuri is so beautiful now - at the beginning of the month it was so dry, but fortunately we were blessed with good rain on the 18th and 19th. We received about 75mm, an excellent amount for plants and animals. Almost all the pans have now filled up with some water, allowing the wildlife to disperse away from the Luvuvhu River.

The weather was absolutely perfect this month. There were only four days where the temperature exceeded 40°C and one cannot complain since Pafuri is known for its extreme temperatures at this time of the year!

Leopard in tree    Impala seen around Pafuri Camp

Wildlife
This month, one never had to go too far from camp to have great general game viewing, as large groups of impala, buffalo, zebra, nyala and warthog were seen along the camp access road daily.

As expected for this time of the year, a large number of elephant have dispersed from Pafuri, heading further south into central Kruger, some venturing north into Zimbabwe too. This natural cycle is needed as the Pafuri environ gets a chance to recover after the months of dry season feeding pressure. We did have a couple herds and bulls which we encountered whilst they were passing through the area. 

For the last couple of years, a research programme has been running in the Pafuri area, whereby a select number of elephants were collared in Pafuri during the dry season, with the goal of shedding more light onto the local migration these animals undertake according to the precipitation cycles.

Bufallo seen at Pafuri Camp    Wardhog family seen at Pafuri Camp

Predator sightings were pretty good this month, and once again it seems that predator species sightings are all connected in one way or another: while we had fewer lion sightings than usual, we had great leopard sightings on a regular basis. The Pafuri Pride was seen on four occasions this month, and we suspect that they too have dispersed over a wider area, following the prey species. We also encountered two subadult males on two occasions along Luvuvhu West; possibly they are shopping for a territory of their own?

We had a total of 12 leopard sightings, with the feline highlight being a mating pair, which was observed on Luvuvhu East.

Rhino sightings have also been above average this month and we have been pretty lucky to see them, both on foot and from the vehicle.

Birds and Birding
Birding was once again fantastic at Pafuri this month, especially since all the migrant species have arrived and the pans have filled up.

Zebra seen around Pafuri Camp    Leopard at Pafuri Camp

A great find was that of a Dwarf Bittern at Hlangaluwe Pan, and surely with the increase of rain, we will find more of these birds at the other pans. Pel's Fishing-Owl sightings have still been good, despite the substantial rise of the Luvuvhu River.

The pair of Racket-tailed Rollers at Marker 7 have two chicks, which we saw for the first time at the end of the month.

All in all, it was a great birding month with a total of 253 different species being recorded.

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Pafuri Walking Trail update - January 2012               Jump to Pafuri Walking Trail

No report this month.

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Camp Jabulani update - January 2012              

No report this month.

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Kings Camp update - January 2012               Jump to Kings Camp

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

January lived up to ALL of summer's expectations
...

GENERAL:
There were lots of baby animals, amazing general game, various reptiles, insects and birds. Then we also had some flooding from the 17th -20th of January. As you can imagine by now, the bush is in Very Good Condition and the animals are doing very well. Due to the floods we had camp closed from 17th -28th of January, so only Two Thirds of the month was experiences with guests.

Impala around Kings Camp    Zebra seen around Kings Camp
Turtle at Kings Camp  Snail at Kings Camp  Lizzard at Kings Camp

On a smaller note... we were well entertained by the presence of many dung beetles rolling their gathered nesting balls of dung off to chosen nest sites.

Dung beetle at Kings Camp

Three Main groups of dung beetles are found namely Rollers, Tunnelers, and Dwellers.

TUNNELERS: These handle the dung by tunnelling underneath it. They then bury the dung underground which prolongs sustainability as food. This also aids in protection of larvae from parasite and predators.

DWELLERS: Most of these species are usually quite small. Their eggs are deposited directly into the dung where it was dropped.

ROLLERS: These are the most commonly seen by guests; they handle the dung and then roll it away to bury it some distance away from the gathering point. The dung is rolled into round balls, called brood balls, and this is the food source and brooding chamber. The male usually rolls the dung ball with the female clinging onto the side. One egg is deposited in each ball and a female can construct up to 6 Brood Balls in her life time.

Dung beetle

We will focus on the Rollers as they are most commonly encountered in the summer. Many dung beetles feed on a variety of vegetation including Mushrooms, Decaying Leaves and even Fruit, but most feed on dung excreted by herbivores and omnivores. Dung beetles have a very strong sense of smell and can locate on dung from some distance away.

Bird sightings were Amazing!! This due to the fact that masses of Red billed Queleas decided to nest in our area again they used around 1,55 Square Miles of nesting space.

They estimate 37 million Red Billed Queleas in the Kruger Region, occurring in nesting colonies of up to 1 million birds. Their presence attracted the attention of many raptors preying on the nesting birds.

Raptor sighings included Tawny Eagles, Whalberg’s Eagles, Lesser Spotted Eagles, Booted Eagles, Gabar Goshawks, and African Harrier Hawks just to name a few.

Whalberg's Eagle at Kings Camp

I also had an amazing sighting of a Southern Yellow Billed Hornbill crushing and eating an adult chameleon!

Southern Yellow Billed Hornbill

More birds:

Malachite Kingfisher at Kings Camp  Kingfisher at Kings Camp  Bird at Kings Camp

LEOPARD:
Good news on the spotted front is the pregnancy of the M’bali female and the confirmed births of cubs from Rockfig Jr (2 cubs) and Ntombi (Tracks for 2 cubs)

Starting in the North we had regular sightings of Hlakisa Female with her 16 month old Boys. The female and one boy, named Makeppies, are very approachable. Him and his brother entertained us for two days around an impala carcass they kept loosing and winning back from hyena. Some unbelievable interactions and tree climbing skills were observed.

Leopard at Kings Camp    Leopard with kill in tree

The old girl up north M’bali, is pregnant again and spends a lot of time on the Java property. She has not been successful since Kuhanya was raised 4 years ago. We’ll monitor her closely and post updates as soon as we learn more.

Pregnant leopard at Kings Camp

Kuhanya was seen a few times and still spends a lot of time in the far north around Motswari. She is now just over 4 years old and should be sexually mature during this year. Can’t wait for her to have her first cubs!!

Moving further south we saw mainly Rockfig Jr., Umfana, and Xinope-nope. Ntombi has given birth in some difficult terrain and we haven’t seen much of her. After the floods we have been noticing a lot of her tracks with the cubs not too far from the camp. It’s just a matter of time before we bring you updates on her.

Rockfig Jr. Was seen hunting frequently to the east of camp and twice after making kills the vehicles followed her to where she hid the two cubs. She is still nursing them and has not started taking them to kills yet. Due to their small size and dense locations we haven’t interfered too much in the areas and will be waiting for her to start taking the cubs to kills in the next month.

Rockfig Jr.  Close up of Rockfig Jr.  Rockfig Jr. on the hunt

Umfana has now moved further east and explores a lot around Eagle Owl and Cheetah plains. These are perfect terrains, close to the Machaton River, for a young leopard to hunt in. The two plains run along the river and attract lots of Impala whilst the river provides good cover for him. Let’s hope that he finds available territory within our traversing for more entertaining sightings.

Umfana seen around Kings Camp

LION:
The Mahlatini males (two of the three) killed a young buffalo further to the north and one of the adult females of the Xakubasa Pride joined them on the kill. We noticed that she was lactating and that she has cubs hidden just outside our traversing on Ingwelala. This female is the sister of the lioness that has the two white lionesses during 2009/2010. We were pleasantly surprised the next day when she actually brought her 3 tiny cubs to the kill. They are not that used to vehicles and moved into cover as soon as we arrived.

Lion killed a young buffalo    a Mahlatini male seen around Kings Camp
Lion with catch    Lion cub seen at Kings Camp

The Machaton pride was joined by one Timbavati Boy on some occasions during the month. One lioness seemed to be in oestrus judging by the big male grimacing to test her urine samples. This maybe a false alarm as he oldest cubs are only about 17 months old. They still thrive in the South-East following large herds of Buffalo.

Lion around Kings Camp  Lion at Kings Camp  Lion seen at Kings Camp

ELEPHANT, CAPE BUFFALO & WHITE RHINO:
Great Elephant herds spent time in our traversing around some of the larger dams, entertaining us with amazing scenes of them playing and swimming in the water.

Elephant seen around Kings Camp    Elephant calf at Kings Camp
Elephant at Kings Camp    Elephant herd at Kings Camp

Cape buffalo and White Rhinos had the same ideas and we had some unbelievable sightings of them competing around mud wallows on the hot days.

White rhino and buffalo    Buffalo at Kings Camp
Buffalo at Kings Camp  Buffalo at Kings Camp  Buffalo at Kings CampWhite rhino seen at Kings Camp    White rhino seen at Kings Camp

SPECIAL SIGHTINGS:
Again a pack of 13 Wild Dogs steal the show with regular sightings of them hunting Impala.

Wild dog pack seen at Kings Camp    Wild dog seen at Kings Camp

They even visited the camp a few times!

Wild dog visiting Kings Camp

AFRICAN WILD CATS:
Just a little update on our two cats Masai and Sirroccoe.

African wild cat at Kings Camp    African wild cat at Kings Camp
Masai and Sirroccoe    Masai and Sirroccoe

They have been fully converted to being day active and entertain guests throughout the day hunting in the long grass for insects and small snakes and the squirrels in the trees. Before nightfall they are collected and sleep indoors at night. Masai belongs to Melissa and I and Sirrocoe stays with Tristan.

FLOOD:
Tropical depression Dando caused some large scale floods in the region and this caused us to have camp closed down for almost the last third of the month.

Please check these links for more on this:
Well, that is it for the month!

Take care,
Morné Hamlyn

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Leopard Hills update - January 2012               Jump to Leopard Hills

The wettest month for at least 12 years has not dampened the wildlife dynamics in the slightest! Mother Nature has her unique way of cleaning things up and the waters have no doubt washed away all the stagnant material bringing new life and growth! Many previously inaccessible areas will now be opened up once the waters fully subside, especially along the river!

Leopards
Hlaba Nkunzi
6 weeks have passed since she gave birth in the rocks just below Leopard Hills and we are very happy to share that her cub is well and she was seen this morning moving the cub further east! It seems that she has moved her den site 4 times and has moved steadily east since relocating the cub from it’s place of birth.

Here she is carrying the 3 week old youngster from Leopard Hills to a new den in the beginning of January.

Leopard moving her cub

She is spending more time east and we hypothesise that this has much to do with the security provided by the massive dominant Kashane male! The accomplished regal lady possibly feels that the younger Xhinzele & Dayone males further west don’t offer as much protection for her cub as the older and more imposing male does!

Here she is during one of her visits to Leopard Hills towards month end drinking from the suite 5 pool.

Hlaba Nkunzi drinking from suite 5 pool

Let’s kick off 2012 with an updated approximate territorial map of the female leopards as some change has occurred recently.

Territorial map of female leopards

Hlaba Nkunzi is still ruling the central western sector but as mentioned is spending more time in the east.

Thlangisa’s home range is marked in blue because she is not truly territorial as yet but has begun to scent mark in the apparent vacant territory north west of leopard hills. Hlaba Nkunzi and Metsi may cede this land to her as they spend more time in the east and south respectively.

Thlangisa
Again she was our most consistently viewed female, mostly due to her relaxed playful nature and habit of using trees, rocks and termite mounds as vantage points but also due to the fact that she currently moves in a smaller area than the older territorial females.

Thlangisa seen around Leopard hills

Metsi and cubs
Judging by her movements it seems she has a rather unusually shaped longer narrower territory (See map) and although mostly frequenting the south she has been seen right up in the north west close to Leopard Hills where she is scent marking heavily with the presence on Thlangisa in that area.

She may also be pregnant and reinforcing her territory in preparation for having to provide for her next litter.

Her 2 sub adult male offspring have not been seen this month, they are approaching 2 years of age now so we assume they are fine but may have moved off in search of new terrain.

Xikavi
As we know she is one of our least viewed females as a result of her riverine habitat along the sand river, she is a stunning animal and we were spoilt to view her on the northern bank during the beginning of the month when we could still cross the river.

Xikabi seen around Leopard Hills

A really special behavioural sighting was watching her scent mark her territory (above image), only to be distracted from her duties by 3 nyala…she patiently inched herself to within 6 feet before being spotted without launching her attack!

Shangwa
No sightings this month of our most mature female leopard (13 yrs, 2 months)

Xhinzele
It’s been a quiet start to the year for our most consistently viewed dominant male! After putting in a few commanding appearances in the south of his territory he has been missing in action after the rains plummeted down, possibly he has been caught north of the sand river…we will keep you posted!

Mashiabanje
Again there have been no sightings in January, we will have to wait for the sand river to subside and can only expect an update on his whereabouts in a month or two.

Kashane
He was seen mating with the Tasselberry female in the south during the month and has put in one or two brief yet striking appearances in the east.

Dayone
He has continued reinforcing the central south western areas which he has claimed as his own.

He did spend early Jan up near Leopard Hills and displayed his brute power again when he made another kudu cow kill in the Mabrak river bed before the floods came down.

There was some interaction with a young male hyeana which darted in every now and again to steal a scrap, here is the spotted hyaena with an earful of kudu.

Hyaena feeding

Lions
Mapogo Coalition
The elder of the Mapogo and the short maned male have again been prowling together for most of the month, spending a lot of time east, looking after the ever present threat from the Majingilane's.

Elder lion at Leopard Hills    Elder of the Mapogo

The other less dominant male has joined up with the other 2 briefly but has been on his own or with the Ximungwe pride for much of the month.

Lion at Leopard Hills

There has been some competition amongst the coalition for the Ximungwe lioness coming into oestrus but nothing too serious as yet! This behaviour often gives us a more clear idea of the current dominance hierarchy amongst the coalition…it appears the short maned male is currently the largest and most dominant.

Ximungwe Pride
The 3 lionesses have remained with their four cubs (Ages ranging from 6 to 12 months) for most of the month. Spending most of their time in the south where there is abundant prey available at the moment and they have made a wide range of kills…buffalo, wildebeest, giraffe and waterbuck that we know of.

The lioness coming into heat has been roaring every evening towards month end, looking for the attention of the Mapogo, hopefully we will see mating lions soon!

Lioness at Leopard Hills entrance

See video highlights below of some the above mentioned lion behaviour (Crank up the volume and enjoy all the thunderous roaring!)

Painted Dog Pack
A pleasant surprise during the flooding period was that the whole pack of 9 returned briefly from the east looking as healthy as ever. The soggy ground limited our ability to follow them, as we all know a painted pack on the move is difficult enough to follow at the best of times on dry ground!

Painted dog seen at leopard hills

Spotted hyaena sightings are on the increase, this serengeti like scene below unfolded in the southern grasslands as 2 females finished off the leftovers of a Ximungwe pride waterbuck kill!

Spotted hyaena at Leopard Hills    Spotted hyaena at Leopard Hills

Hippo
Waterholes have changed shape and resident bulls are noticeably a little more cantankerous as they have had to find new resting places of the right depth at their old hang outs!

All the flooding has really unsettled the resident rafts along the sand river which has received a facelift and as the water subsides in the coming weeks we will find the newly formed hippo pools.

Elephants
Parades have been in abundance and relishing all the new growth and of course the marula fruits are ripening…take care not to approach a large bull that is very protective of “his” tree!

Elephant seen at Leopard Hills

Waterholes filled to the brim are a young bull elephant’s delight! Enjoy the below video of some sub adult bulls sparring in a muddy waterhole during a rainy drive. It always pays off to throw on a warm poncho and head out into the rain!

Buffalo
The large obstinancy has again been seen frequently in the south along with regular sightings of “Daggaboys” up north long the river.

Bird quiz, see if you can identify this one!

Bird at Leopard Hills

Clue!
This is one of the “lesser” seen of this family in our area(in the south of it’s range), only present from early December to March. It breeds all the way up in Eurasia! See if you can identify it!

Interesting and unusual sightings captured in January

The gargantuan old crocodile has made an appearance once again in a waterhole close to the sand river due to the flooding of the river.

Crocodile at Leopard Hills

Dwarf mongoose peeking out of his termite mound shelter and checking if the rain has eased off!

Dward mongoose peaking

Excellent general game sightings of zebra as well as giraffe during the bountiful summer months!

Giraffe at Leopard Hills    Zebra at Leopard Hills

A bored spotted hyaena built a dung tower during the rain…

Dung of spotted hyaena

A majestic juvenile martial eagle

Martial Eagle

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Rocktail Beach Camp update - January 2012               Jump to Rocktail Beach Camp

With great excitement, we welcome in the New Year of 2012 as the camp gets firmly settled into the balmy clutches of high summer. The days have become gloriously long, warm and perfect for lazy days on our shimmering white beaches, with the Indian Ocean swells contributing to cooling breezes inviting our guests with the promise of crystal clear and refreshing waters. 

January has also brought with it some welcome afternoon summer storms, which bring cooling relief in the afternoons for the lush coastal forest, and all the resident creatures looking for some refuge from the sweltering summer sun.

With temperatures reaching the mid-thirties Celsius on a daily basis, it is not surprising that reptile and insect activity has increased exponentially. The local geckos continue in their ongoing onslaught on the insects attracted to the lights around the camp which makes for some spectacular African savannah-like predator/prey interactions on display each evening around the bar!

Similarly, the warm ocean is becoming increasingly busy as a number of marine spawning events start to occur around this time of year. This abundance of available food in the water miraculously occurs in conjunction with the arrival of the first loggerhead and leatherback hatchlings of this season, perfectly timed as to ensure a substantial supply of food for these little half-shelled warriors on their long and epic struggle to reach adulthood in the future. 

A number of sightings of these hatchlings have now been recorded in 2012, with an expected crescendo of hatching expected in mid to late February. Factor into this the continued viewing of loggerhead and leatherback mothers laying their eggs on our beaches throughout January, and we can safely say that these are very exciting times indeed for the healthy turtle populations of Rocktail!

Continuing on the marine front, yet another bountiful month for the divers was enjoyed, as sightings of whale sharks, Zambezi, white-tip reef, black-tip reef and even tiger sharks were recorded on a few occasions. Hawksbill, green, loggerhead and leatherback turtles were also recorded on our local reefs, with scattered sightings of the resident dolphin pods rounding out what can only be described as a legendary start to the New Year. 

Guests have even enjoyed the rare privilege of a snorkel swim with these smiling ambassadors (bottlenose dolphins) of the sea on a few occasions, and we hope these surreal encounters continue in the months to come.

All in all, it has been an incredible start to the year, with these perfect summer days expected to continue through February and long into the first quarter of the year. Along with the continued numbers of turtle hatchlings, we look forward to the eagerly anticipated arrival of the pregnant female ragged-tooth sharks to our waters any day now, and hope that we can once again enjoy their annual visit with some sightings of these majestic creatures in 2012.

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Rocktail Bay Dive Report - January 2012               Jump to Rocktail Beach Camp

No report this month.

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Zimbabwe Camps
Makalolo Plains update - January 2012               Jump to Makalolo Plains Camp

No report this month.

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Little Makalolo update - January 2012               Jump to Little Makalolo

No report this month.

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Davison's Camp update - January 2012

No report this month.

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Ruckomechi Camp update - January 2012               Jump to Ruckomechi Camp

Weather and Landscape
Temperatures remain in the high 30s (Celsius) and humidity in the high 70s. Total rainfall for January was 142mm, making the total for the rainy season 276mm. Having said this, last year this time we had received an amount of 565mm. Rain clouds build up every day, clearly dumping their precipitation on the Zambian side. We hope to receive more rainfall in February.

View of drinking hole

As the echo of thunder comes to a timely climax on the Zambezi floodplain, we witness a dramatic shift in the natural well-being of our floral ecosystem. The once-lifeless mopane trees have become a distant memory with the new flush of green. Summer flowers are sprouting up everywhere, in particular the pretty lady (Cleome hirta), waiting invitingly for their beautiful visitors - the butterflies. A plethora of grass species has sprung up, covering the lower and middle strata of vegetation.

Wildlife
On the floodplain we have seen a few elephant, zebra, waterbuck and the usual impala, but now with a bounty of babies. Around camp a couple of elephant bulls have kept us on our toes as they leisurely feed along the walkways.

A large herd of eland frequented a high rising ridge which was quite barren, but probably offered a great lookout point for the naturally nervous ungulates. On the smaller side of the antelope scale, we have had some great close-up sightings of bushbuck along the water courses.

On the island in front of camp is a lone baboon, fondly referred to as 'Robinson Crusoe'. He was first spotted in November, when he was possibly chased into the water and landed 'safely' on the island. There are no trees on the island, only grasses which provide a safe refuge for the outcast. Most afternoons he is seen walking the perimeter of the island searching for food - possibly he is feeding on crocodile and African Skimmer eggs?

Lion and hyaena vocalisations have been heard on a nightly basis, but mostly quite far from camp.

Clouds over Ruckomechi Cmap

Birds and Birding
The departure of the Southern Carmine Bee-eaters and African Skimmers has been replaced by the arrival of huge flocks of Woolly-necked and Abdim's Stork, seen foraging along the river, in particular at Basils Creek and at the small pans along the floodplain.

Goliath Herons, Yellow-billed Storks, Hamerkops and Saddle-billed Storks have found easy prey in the small pans and puddles where a magnitude of frogs and fish are trapped - ripe for the picking so to speak.

A total of 124 birds were seen this month - we have not been able to beat last season's record of 146!

Camp News
This month, we sadly say good bye to Sean and Sara, who have left us mid-month to take up a management position at a nearby lodge. 

Graham Cochrane has also left the guiding team and will be spending more time on his studies in a bid to obtain his pro guide license.

Until next time from a hot and humid Zambezi Valley...

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Mana Canoe Trail update - January 2012               Jump to Mana Canoe Trail

No report this month.

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Zambia camps
Toka Leya Camp update - January 2012
              Jump to Toka Leya Camp

No report this month.

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Lufupa River Camp update - January 2012               Jump to Lufupa River Camp

No report this month.

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Lufupa Tented Camp update - January 2012               Jump to Lufupa Tented Camp

No report this month.

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Kalamu Lagoon Camp update - January 2012               Jump to Kalamu Lagoon Camp

No report this month.

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Shumba Camp update - January 2012               Jump to Shumba Camp

No report this month.

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Kapinga Camp update - January 2012               Jump to Kapinga Camp

No report this month.

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Busanga Bush Camp update - January 2012               Jump to Busanga Bush Camp

No report this month.

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Malawi camps
Mvuu Camp update - January 2012
               Jump to Mvuu Camp

No report this month.

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Mvuu Wilderness Lodge update - January 2012               Jump to Mvuu Camp

Weather and Landscape
As the green season continues, temperatures have been lower than usual with spells of rainfall throughout the month. The cool temperatures allow for relaxing and comfortable game viewing and the rains continue to encourage a luscious fresh growth of vegetation across the floodplains. The Ulongwe Road to Mvuu is now closed and we are directing all guests to the camp and lodge via a boat transfer. This one-hour boat transfer is extremely scenic and provides stunning views of the Shire floodplains. With the clarity of atmosphere induced by the rains, the view from the river at Mvuu is sweeping, and one can see the western edge of the Great African Rift to the west of Lake Malombe, and the imposing Zomba Plateau to the south in one circular sweep of landscape.  

Aerial census    Birds seen at Mvuu Lodge

Wildlife
Following the rains and increased growth of vegetation in Liwonde, the wildlife is dispersed far across the floodplains - as most of the Park's animals can now find food and water in abundance. The river is no longer the only source of water as the rains have brought about the occurrence of many natural waterholes, enabling herds of bushbuck, waterbuck and elephant to spread out and graze across the Park. This of course is an important factor in ensuring the long-term resilience of the Park and its continued ability to sustain large and diverse numbers of game as the river floodplains and surrounding thickets, much grazed and utilised by all the plains game and most notably the elephant herds, can now recover and rejuvenate.

Bufallo seen around Mvuu Lodge    Census at Mvuu Lodge

We had many great wildlife sightings and encounters and it is difficult to choose a single highlight, but there were four sightings which stood out and thoroughly impressed our guests and guides:

January 4th: More than a thousand baby crocodiles have been seen along the river near the Mvuu Lodge lagoon. The crocodiles would have hatched around December. Following their hatching, the mother crocodile delicately transports the hatchlings in her mouth to the water's edge, where she continues guarding them for up to two weeks. At birth, the hatchlings are usually around 30cm (12 inches) long and feed on small insects and other aquatic invertebrates until they are big enough to start preying on fish.

January 11th: Despite the rains, we still had some impressive elephant sightings. A herd of 80 elephants with a string of calves were spotted near Nangando, south of Ntangai. Our guides suspected that one of the larger bulls in the herd was in musth. During cyclical periods of musth, bull elephants are at their most aggressive. Their temporal glands swell and release a strong-smelling fluid rich in testosterone. 

January 12th: Over 100 buffalo were seen in the Rhino Sanctuary by guides Danford, David and four guests.

January 14th: On a game drive in the Rhino Sanctuary, two black rhino were spotted along with 18 Lichtenstein's hartebeest, 11 sable and 31 zebra. A game drive in the Rhino Sanctuary is an entirely unique experience in the Park. The animals inhabiting the Park in general aren't as habituated to game vehicles and tend to shy away quickly - whereas, the biggest treat a Sanctuary game drive yields is the chance to spot the elusive black rhino. To date up to 12 guides and 270 guests have been lucky enough to spot Liwonde's black rhino.

Birds and Birding
Summer season birding remains thrilling as always, and we've had several keen birders visit us this month. The beginning of the rains usually coincides with the arrival of many migrant birds who come back from the less hospitable climates north of the equator. Our list of 'regulars' this month includes Osprey, African Fish-Eagle, White-breasted Cormorant, Böhm's Bee-eater, Woodland Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, Malachite Kingfisher, Lillian's Lovebird and much more.  

Among the rare species are the unusual ones - in our case, the cross-breeding Blacksmith and Spur-winged Lapwings, an unusual pair who are bringing up two chicks at Skimmer Bank - their hybrid offspring bred with another Spur-winged Lapwing and now has subadult young - they seem seem strong and likely to survive. 

Another avian highlight occurred when a group of bird watchers from a bird club set out with a 'birding hit list'. The twitchers got everything on the their list with exception of the elusive Pel's Fishing-Owl. They did manage to have great sightings of Brown-breasted Barbet, Lillian's Lovebird, Spur-winged Lapwing, Böhm's Bee-eater, as well as a juvenile Palmnut Vulture plus many more.

Sports day at Mvuu Lodge    Sports day at Mvuu Lodge

Camp News
Danford takes to the sky
During the 2011 aerial census in Liwonde National Park, guides from Mvuu Camp and Lodge were asked to participate in the counting process. Danford Manda (former CITW orphan, now employed by Wilderness Safaris as a guide), assisted in the census and took to the skies in a microlight aircraft to help count total populations of game in Liwonde National Park. This is his story:

My first time to fly! In 2011, when the people from the National Park announced that an aerial census would take place and that four people from the guiding department were needed, I greeted the news with mixed emotions; I had never been on a plane before, but at the same time, I saw it as an opportunity that I could not pass on. So, when the General Manager of Mvuu Camp and Lodge called a meeting to discuss who the volunteers would be, I swallowed my fear and my hand was the first to be raised. 

Because of my good eyesight and reliable counting ability, I was among those chosen for the job. The next challenge was in overcoming my fear and keeping my composure during the flight. I must admit that the take-off was a little bit scary; with the deafening noise and the plane leaving the ground as if magic was upsetting the laws of physics. I quickly became overwhelmed by a feeling that I had never had, soaring in the sky, seeing the National Park I knew so well from a totally different perspective. The beauty of the landscapes made me smile, and I started enjoying myself a lot. We counted a lot of animals, among which were elephant, buffalo and warthogs. 

Once back on the ground, I was praised by the programme director for my counting and communication skills, and my new-found confidence in the air. I want to thank Wilderness Safaris for giving me this opportunity to broaden my horizon and participate in new experiences, giving me new confidence and the desire to learn more.

Sports Day
On 2nd January, Mvuu management organised a day to award employees who had demonstrated excellence throughout 2011, and to thank employees for their hard work and to start the New Year with a bang, management arranged a Sports Day. Mvuu's team took part in a variety of fun activities such as the egg and spoor race, tug of war, a dancing competition, running, bike and sack races.

David Mkandawire (deputy head guide), emerged the winner of the Employee of the Year 2011.

Patrick Mawulidi won the Guide of the Month for December 2011.
Nicolas Mataya (store man), won the Back of House Employee of the Month for December 2011.

Guest Comments
"Our Mvuu trip was really outstanding, like a piece of paradise! The food was very delicious. We have seen a lot of animals including many elephants even with baby elephants. I can highly recommend going by boat to Mvuu (I would not miss that even in the dry season)." - Dorothea.

Newsletter by Samuel

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Mumbo Island update - January 2012               Jump to Mumbo Island

Mumbo Island chosen as one of the Top 100 Hotels in the World!
Mumbo Island Camp in Malawi was recently chosen as one of the Top 100 Hotels in the World in the United Kingdom's Sunday Times Travel Magazine. Mumbo Island is an exclusive island camp on an uninhabited island that forms part of the Lake Malawi National Park. It has been owned and operated by Kayak Africa since the company was first awarded the concession to the island in 1996. Mumbo was one of only seven hotels chosen from Africa.

Rainy Season Means Mumbo Island goes Self-Catering
Instead of closing the camp on Mumbo Island during the rainy season, as we have done in the past, we now keep it open on a self-catering basis for those intrepid travellers who enjoy off-season travel and for local residents who may not be able to afford the higher rates during the main tourist season. This is an ideal time for groups of friends to book the whole island for a few days and enjoy the sensation of being sole residents of a deserted island paradise!

Guest Comments
"Mumbo Island is excellent, the location is great and the camp has a great feel to it. I loved the boardwalk and the views down into the water."

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Chelinda Lodge update - January 2012

Weather and Landscape
The rains are back in full swing on the plateau and we are also experiencing more mist. The increased rainfall has raised the water levels of the dams, and as a result, the Chisanga Falls on the North Rukuru River and the waterfall at Chelinda River are currently very spectacular and are visible from far away.

Mist over Chelinda Lodge    Green landscape at Chelinda Lodge

Wildlife
Leopard sightings - extremely rare anywhere else in Malawi - continue to remain fairly common in Nyika. The leopards on the plateau have become more accustomed to approaching vehicles and tend not to shy away from them - allowing for some brilliant photo opportunities. On the subject of plateau predators, we generally only see three to four hyaena per sighting, but lately, we have been encountering between eight to ten individuals per sighting, often very close to the lodge.

The New Year was ushered in with some spectacular sightings, as on 31 December four different serval were seen at Dam 3 and the along the Chelinda Bridge Road. A large male leopard also made an appearance at Dam 3, shortly after the serval was seen. As if this wasn't enough, we encountered the clan of nine hyaena close to the lodge.

On 1 January, another leopard was spotted along with two side-striped jackals near Domwe Road. On the smaller side of the scale, but equally as exciting, a Jameson's red rock rabbit was seen - these are very elusive and sightings are very rare.

Leopard seen at Chelinda Lodge

Birds and Birding
Birding has been very good, especially since we have received a good amount of rain, activating the insect life and ultimately resulting in increased avian activity.

The Denham's Bustards all over the plateau have produced chicks, which are hiding amongst the thick grasses and scrub. On the opposite side of the avian scale, we have been seeing both Pallid and Montagu's Harrier, flying low over the grasslands in search of prey.

Guest Comments
"The scenery, biking, and birding was superb."

"Game drives just awesome!" 

"We will definitely be back again. This place is friendly and beautiful."

Newsletter by Sam and Apollo.

 


Namibia camps
Desert Rhino Camp update - January 2012               Jump to Desert Rhino Camp

Weather and Landscape
We have experienced very temperate weather conditions for this time of the year, along with a small amount of rainfall. Daily temperatures generally ranged between 10 and 25° C, dropping drastically after sunset due to prevailing winds. Most days were partly cloudy, but precipitation fell every three to four days.

The landscape is still very dry, as the hot African sun has sucked out most of the moisture from the vegetation. But there are signs of new growth with emerging grass shoots and leaf buds.

Leopard seen at Desert Rhino Camp

Wildlife
We have been very lucky with predator sightings this month, as a pride of lions has been hanging around camp. We were blessed with the resonating call of the big cats on most nights, often very close to camp. On occasion, these sounds of the darkness painted a clear picture of what was happening under the cover of darkness - a mix of lion audio interspersed with cackling hyaena calls told us that the two eternal enemies were engaged in battle, which was confirmed by the tracks the following morning.

The female cheetah, who has become known as Landy by all at camp, is still occupying the Agab area, showing herself to our guests a number of times.
Rhino sightings have been fantastic, and have provided our guests with some memorable encounters thanks to the nature of the rhino tracking/research which we do.

Other highlights for the month were the meerkat (suricate) sightings which we all thoroughly enjoyed!

Meerkats seen at Desert Rhino Camp

Birds and Birding
We have had some great sightings of the charismatic Bokmakierie, which announces its presence with its fluid call. Some the Namibian endemics have provided great sightings, such as the Benguela Long-billed Lark, Rüppell's Korhaan and Damara Hornbill.

Guest Comments
"We feel privileged to have shared your land and home with you, too bad we booked only two nights." Adrian (UK).

"We want to thank you for such relaxing, invigorating stay at Desert Rhino Camp!" Glen and Kim (USA).


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Palmwag Lodge update - January 2012               Jump to Palmwag Lodge

No report this month.


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Doro Nawas Camp update - January 2012               Jump to Doro Nawas Camp

Weather and Landscape
The weather was dominated by cloud cover, but no rain has fallen. We did experience very warm conditions, with the daily temperatures ranging between 18 - 38° C. Following annual trends, generally we experience a good deal of rain during January, but so far we have only had a couple of small thunderstorms in late December, so we are all keeping our fingers crossed for some good rain.

At present, the landscape is in a mix of summer and winter colours, as there is still a lot of golden grass cover, but many trees are sprouting news buds and canopy growth, especially along the dry riverbanks.

Elephants seen around Doro Nawas Camp

Wildlife
Historically, the desert-adapted elephant herds begin to move further north towards the Torra Conservancy at this time of the year due to the rainfall which usually falls during early January. As substantial summer rains have yet to grace us, the Rosie and Oscar herds have stayed in the area, allowing our guests some top-notch sightings.

A definite highlight and surprise was the sighting of a cheetah during an early morning drive. Doro Nawas guide, Michael, decided to take a scenic trip to Twyfelfontein with his guests who were from the Netherlands. While on their way, the group spotted something moving through the long grass and decided to investigate a little closer. Upon closer inspection, the group was blown away by the discovery of a cheetah, which was moving alongside the vehicle under the cover of the golden grass. The feline was very comfortable in the presence of the vehicle and ended up crossing the road right in front of the vehicle. This awesome sighting led to an in-depth discussion between Michael and his guests on all aspects of the endangered cheetah and their distribution in the area.

Birds and Birding
The birding highlight for the month was the sighting of an African Hawk-Eagle feeding on a Red-billed Spurfowl. The raptor had eaten well and left behind only the legs and a bunch of feathers. African Hawk-Eagles have devised a successful hunting strategy in order to target ground-dwelling birds such as spurfowl and guineafowl. The Eagles usually hunt in pairs, where one of the birds flies out in the open in a bid to get the attention of the prey species, while the second raptor swoops in low from the other direction and snaps up a meal, which is then shared amongst them.

Camp News
At Doro Nawas we always keep it happening - even if we have only two guests in camp. On Monday 23rd January, we surprised our two guests in camp with a delicious "river lunch" after the morning excursion and closed off the evening with another surprise dinner on the roof of their room. Agnes and the team popped a bottle of champagne and sang "happy birthday" to the birthday guest on this special occasion. This was thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated by the guests.

Dinner at dawn    Round Table Doctors visiting the locals

Wilderness, in conjunction with Round Table Doctors, have yearly initiatives of visiting local community villages to provide medical help to those who cannot reach or afford medical attention. Auguste Naris was one of the patients who they saw on a previous visit and they noticed that she was using a wrong wheelchair and promised her that they would replace it. Dr Zatjirua together with the Doro Nawas area manager and camp manager delivered the wheelchair to Augueste Naris this month.  

Morien Aebes, an assistant manager at Doro Nawas, took a broom and a bucket with linseed oil to clean the main building fire place area after noticing that everyone was busy with other camp maintenance. Thanks to her going the extra mile, she was chosen as the Service Hero at Doro Nawas of the month of January 2012.

Jason Lundon, who is running the maintenance department decided to kick off the New Year with fresh ideas of building new staff quarters and refurbishing the company assets. Since Wilderness is an environmentally friendly company, Jason managed to rebuild the camp sewage dam with the help of young local community people in order to reduce the camp's impact on the environment - thus fulfilling two of the 4Cs. 

Guest Comments
"The view was awesome, and the room was very nice and comfortable. Staff are very great."

"It was a very nice stay, compliments to all staff!"

Staff in Camp
Managers: Agnes Bezuidenhout, Morien Aebes, Theobald Kamatoto, Emsie Skrywer and Jason Lundon.
Guides: Michael Kauari, Ignatius Khamuseb and Richardt Orr.

Newsletter for this month done by:
Theobald Kamatoto and Michael Kauari.


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Damaraland Camp update - January 2012               Jump to Damaraland Camp

Weather and Landscape
During the month we experienced cool temperatures with comfortable mornings and afternoons despite being in the peak of summer. We did have a few hot midday temperatures, but this was very short-lived as we experienced some cloud build-up during the last two weeks of the month, which did drop some rain down on us, but nothing substantial.

The landscape is still covered in an arid cloak of dry grass, mixed with the new growth on the trees, especially along the ephemeral rivers. The ana tree seed pods have dropped onto the ground, attracting huge densities of herbivores to the river banks where they grow, in particular the desert-adapted elephants.

Male lion around Damarland Camp    Male lion around Damarland Camp

Wildlife
As mentioned above, the general game activity along the dry riverbeds has been very rewarding, especially with sightings of both elephant herds - the Oscar and Rosie groups. 

On Friday the 13th, a drive to the Springbok River with photographer Dana Allen proved to be filled with good fortune, as the safari ended with us finding a male lion. This male forms part of a very small lion population in the extreme north-west of Namibia. We were also able to get a few photos of this very elusive and secretive cat. 

We were also fortunate to see a coral shield cobra after a light rain shower before dinner with the guests. These snakes live most of their lives underground and in sheltered areas and very rarely move out into the open.

New Years dinner at Damaraland Camp    Guide donates soccer ball

Camp News
On the 31st December, all of our guests returned back to camp early from their afternoon drives to rest and prepare for the night ahead. The night started off with good food and songs courtesy of the staff. As the night progressed the guests joined in on the dancing, which ultimately turned into a dance-off between the guest and the staff! Management and staff dressed up in traditional Herero clothing. With the only break being at 12 o'clock to welcome 2012 with champagne, then the dancing resumed until 2am in the morning.

Anthony Dawids, a Damaraland guide, donated a soccer ball to the Torra Conservancy soccer team, who have been going from strength to strength. The players were thrilled!

Guest Comments
"What a great place with fantastic scenery. Thank you for looking after us so well." The Clark family.

"What a beautiful place!  We thank all the staff for the most excellent dining experience, the boma and the bush breakfast was outstanding." The Ramos family.

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Skeleton Coast Camp update - January 2012               Jump to Skeleton Coast Camp

No report this month.

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Serra Cafema Camp update - January 2012               Jump to Serra Cafema Camp

Weather and Landscape
January was a very hot month as we experienced some very high temperatures. Most days were characterised by cloud build-up, creating humid conditions, which were cooled down by small showers of rain at night, creating fresh, cool mornings.

The Kunene River has dropped a little, but we are sure that it will rise as soon as we receive substantial rains.

Landscape around Serra Cafema Camp    Kunene River level dropped

Wildlife
Crocodile sightings have been fantastic. As the warm conditions help to speed up the crocodile's metabolism, this results in faster digestion - and the croc is then on the move again searching for prey. This has caused much excitement as we have seen large numbers of crocodiles feeding. It appears the hungry crocs have been very successful in catching domestic cattle, upstream on the Angolan side, that come down to the river for a drink.

Birds and Birding
A White-browed Coucal has decided to roost very close to camp in the riparian vegetation. This is quite a nice record for the area, as they do not occur further south into Namibia. They feed primarily on rodents, small birds, lizards and frogs. Due to their habit of inhabiting dense vegetation, good sightings and photographs are rare.

Crocodile seen around Serra Cafema Camp

Camp News
Our vegetable garden is going very well as our first vegetables have started to grow. Pretty soon our guests will be eating baby marrows, patty pans, pumpkin, corn and watermelon which have all been grown in our veggie patch. One step closer to being more sustainable!

Guest Comments
"The landscape is breathtaking; the animals are amazing, but nothing of that would touch our hearts as much as the beautiful, ever present  smiles of the local people. Thank you very much of taking care of us! You will stay in our memories!" Ingrida and Frederico.

Staff in Camp
Managers: Natasha, Ockert, Lynette, Chvonnie and Elizabeth.
Guides: Gerhardus, Dawid, Gert and Dinish.

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Ongava Tented Camp update - January 2012               Jump to Ongava Tented Camp

Weather and Landscape
Summer is definitely in full swing at Ongava! Just as the environment was at the peak of the dry spell, the heavens opened and we received the much-anticipated rains. The summer rains were started by a single downpour of 80mm. It was amazing to see how quickly the vegetation sprang into life, as the landscape transformed almost overnight. In terms of temperature, we have had some warm conditions, with daily highs reaching around 34 - 38° C. Towards the end of the month, the rains seemed to subside.

Sunrise over Ongava Tented Camp

The ground is covered in a fine carpet of green shoots and dotted with a variety of bright summer flowers. The trees have also celebrated the summer rain by producing new leaves, flower buds and even fruits.

Wildlife
Ongava Tented Camp, as always, never disappoints in the game viewing department. Despite the good rains that we received and the fact that there is lots of surface water around, the camp waterhole has been as busy as ever. Game viewing has been great at this waterhole, as we experienced large herds of eland, black-faced impala, zebra and giraffe coming for a leisurely drink.

The camera trap continues to capture great images of some pretty elusive nocturnal critters, with even a few lion visits.

Eland seen at the waterhole    Giraffe seen at the waterhole

Guest Comments
"We had a wonderful time with all of you. Thank you for your kind welcoming, we hope to come back in a few years!" - Hegelbach.

Staff in Camp
Managers: Gerda, Inge, Emile and Festus.
Guides: Rio, Leon, Me-Gusto and Bono

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Little Ongava update - January 2012               Jump to Little Ongava Camp

No report this month.

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Ongava Lodge update - January 2012               Jump to Ongava Lodge

No report this month.

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Andersson's Camp update - January 2012               Jump to Andersson's Camp

Weather and Landscape
This month we have experienced some wonderful rainfall and amazing thunderstorms. We have had some spectacular shows of lighting during the evenings and in one day we received 80mm of rain. The days are still quite hot but in the evening, the temperatures are very pleasant.

With the rain that we have received, the entire landscape has come to life and is covered in a deep shade of emerald green.

Spectacular lightning show    Spectacular lightning show

Wildlife
Sightings this month have been quiet, due to all the water and grass being available everywhere - the animals are not forced to stay in one area but can travel everywhere.

The Andersson's waterhole has been very popular with the black rhino, and we have been having regular visits from Odin, as well as a female that has become known as Elizabeth. She is about four years old and is full of attitude. On some days she will allow Odin to get close to her, but other days, she aggressively chases him away - perhaps she is coming into oestrus soon?

Lions have been around the area, but they too have dispersed and have not been seen around the Andersson's waterhole. Having said this, we have heard them calling on a nightly basis.

The resident business of banded mongoose have still been entertaining our guests in camp, as they are always active, frantically searching for a juicy snack or two. The little babies are also full of energy and are endlessly playing with one another.

Etosha has also been very productive with sightings, as many of the herbivores have had young. It is amazing to see huge mixed herds of springbok, zebra and red hartebeest, all with the newborns. This abundance translates to an abundance of prey, which has meant some pretty spectacular cheetah sightings for us. We have regularly encountered a female with two cubs, and often experienced the excitement of a hunt. The buffet of babies has also attracted lions to the feeding frenzy, and on one occasion, we saw a pair of lions mating.

Lesser Masked-Weavers builing nest    waterbucks at waterhole

As the elephant herds have moved further north, with the bulls in tow, we battled with elephant sightings during the month, but they will return to the area soon.

The arrival of the summer rain has also sparked the insect activity in the area and we have been seeing large numbers of mopane moths, which are attracted to the mopane trees to lay their eggs on.

Birds and Birding
Around camp the Lesser Masked-Weavers have taken over the acacia trees and they have been building nests frantically. The males have been very busy dancing and showing off their building skills to the females and some have been quite successful as they already have chicks, although this is not the case for all, as some males have had their nests destroyed by unimpressed females.

Guest Comments
"We really enjoyed the view from the lodge and the guided tours by Ramon." Ina and Elfert.

"We enjoyed the wild game drives and comfortable main area at the lodge. Fantastic service and hospitality - congratulations!" Van Casteren.    

"Seeing Odin the rhino and the eight lions together was unreal. The meals here were so gourmet." The Coetzee family.

Staff in Camp
Managers: Silvia Morgante, Corne Cocklin, Corrie Adams and Sakkie Hoeseb.
Guides: Shilongo Sauges, Franz Nuyoma and Ramon Coetzee.

Pictures taken by Silvia Morgante and Corne Cocklin.

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Little Kulala Camp update - January 2012               Jump to Little Kulala Camp

Weather and Landscape
Summer has arrived and rain clouds have been forming on the horizon, teasing with the promise of rain. It is really dry now and the only form of moisture is the waterhole in front of camp. At daybreak, a variety of sandgrouse species arrive and rule the waterhole until the heat drives them away. They only move for the occasional jackal that comes to quench its thirst. As the day heats up, the springbok move in, and continue to come and go throughout the day. 

The maximum temperature for the month was a steamy 44° C, but the evenings have been very comfy.

Wildlife
The springbok are calving earlier than usual this season - the 'old school' guides say it is an indication of good rains to come. The calves stay together and often entertain us with their playful antics in the open plains. It is amazing, as - while this playfulness seems silly to us - it provides the youngsters with important life skills as they become more nimble, strong and agile. 

animals at the waterhole    Gemsbucks at the waterhole

The resident ostrich families are doing very well. We saw five new chicks at the beginning of the month and we are happy to report that there are still two around at the end of the month. Ostrich chicks are heavily predated on and only a very small number reach adulthood, so we will keep our fingers crossed for them.

On the predatory side of things, we have been very lucky, as we have had some great cheetah sightings. A couple of these sightings included the cheetah gorging on their kills. It is amazing to watch cheetah feed, as they greedily devour the choice parts in case a larger predator arrives and scavenges their kill. The cheetah have been mostly seen in the Witwater area.

The resident herd of oryx has grown, with the addition of a few calves pushing the number up to 47. These animals are without a doubt one of the most iconic desert dwellers. This particular herd constantly moves up and down the Auob River, feeding on the riparian vegetation. An interesting feature of this herd is that there is a leucistic oryx in the herd. It is very easy to spot amongst the other oryx as it is very light in colour.

The blue wildebeest have also returned to the area, and have been concentrated along the airstrip, taking advantage of the open area.

Staff in Camp
Managers: Ivan and Ilze Phillipson, Bona Florry, Carol Tommasi and Elaine Cerva.
Guides: Willem, Nikolas, Willem, Petrus and Abner.

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Kulala Desert Lodge update - January 2012               Jump to Kulala Desert Lodge

No report this month.

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Kulala Wilderness Camp update - January 2012               Jump to Kulala Wilderness Camp

Weather
The main highlight this month was the rain in the vicinity of the camp.  Obviously this did mean that our humidity levels rose somewhat; leaving us sticky and hot for the majority of the month. However, we were blessed with soft drizzle in the mornings of mid-January and this seems to have transformed the reserve from the stark-looking yellow grass into a carpet of green. Even the small pan seemed to gather all the surrounding water seepage and gave the effect of a small lake for a few hours!  The cloud and fog banks rested on the mountains across from the camp most days always leaving a promise of more rain to come.  The rainfall for the month was approximately 27mm.

Landscape at Kulala Wilderness Camp    Secretarybirds seen around Kulala Wilderness Camp

Wildlife
A crab spider visited one of our staff members. These belong to the anthropod family but their name derives from the fact that they look like a cross between a crab and a spider. Crab spiders have an incredibly long lifespan and use camouflage hunting techniques to catch their prey; they are also known to be passive hunters. This particular crab spider was sitting behind one of the couches, waiting for an unsuspecting insect to cross its path. Unlike any other species of spider, the crab spider can walk forward and backward like a normal spider but also sideways like a crab.  

Since the arrival of the rains, along with humidity, our guides sighted an African Hoopoe and we have noticed an increase in Black Kites.

Gecko seen at Kulula Wilderness Camp    Gecko seen at Kulula Wilderness Camp

A very special sighting was a barking gecko during the day. These little geckos only make themselves known at dusk emitting a very distinctive clicking noise.

The agama that has been found on the balustrade at the manager's office made himself very comfortable again, checking on all the comings and goings.

Two Secretarybirds were also seen quite close to the camp in the riverbed, feeding on any reptiles that they can find.  

Staff in Camp
Managers:  Enrico
Assistant Managers: Petronella and Dios
Guides:  Dawid, Richard and Moses

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Kenya camps
Governors' Camp update - January 2012               Jump to Governors' Camp

Weather and grasslands:
We have enjoyed some lovely fair weather this month with stunning early morning sunrises. The early morning temperatures have been generally cool at 13/14°C and mid day temperatures were warm and averaged 31°C. January was a relatively dry month with little pockets of rain in the evenings with no more than 3-5 mm at a time. One evening on the 16th we had 9 mm of rain and this brought on a colourful sunrise the following day. Total rainfall for the month was 16mm. The Mara River appears at a low ebb and is slowly receding. On the 9th of January there was a spectacular full moon, that afternoon guests took sundowners and moon risers, and enjoyed watching the sun go down and 15mins later the moon rising in the East, magic. With clear skies above this is a truly great evening to have a candlelight diner out under a full sky. There is still good grass coverage still within the Bila Shaka, Rhino ridge and Musiara plains. The conservation areas that shadow the reserve where livestock is present have shorter grasses; these short grass plains are home to Thomson Gazelle and Zebra.

Sunset over Governors' Camp
Photo courtesy of Katie Mclellan

General game:
We have had wonderful sightings of lion, leopard and elephant galore around the marsh this month and lots of regular sightings of the big 5.

Elephant pass through the woodlands and camps under the fall of night as the Warburgia trees are still fruiting the feed off these fruit and spend long periods of time under trees while picking up an individual fruit with the fingers at the end of their trunk. The Teclea Nobilis is also fruiting and this has drawn many birds and Olive Baboons who also have a soft pallet perfect for this fruit. There are young elephant calves some of which are only weeks old in the grasslands of the Musiara and Bila Shaka plains.

Elephant herd at Governors' Camp    Elephant at Governors' Camp
Photos courtesy of Katie Mclellan

Giraffe wander effortlessly across the open plans from the Acacia and riparian woodlands to the Mara riverine woodlands. Large and dominant males move from one breeding herd to another. On Paradise and Topi plains topi with their two month old calves are in the shorter grass areas, having a narrow muzzle means they prefer the shorter grasses. The males and the stronger older males have Leks where females visit. On the western fan of Rhino ridge that leads onto Paradise Plains the males are rutting, they grunt, strutting about between their leks, male sparring sessions can last literally a matter of seconds.

Giraffe at Governors' Camp
Photo courtesy of Samuel Kiplangat

Cokes Hartebeest with young that are also two months old are on Rhino Ridge, Topi plains and at Bila Shaka. Breeding herds of eland move back and forth between the conservation areas of Koiyaki and the reserve itself, there are some bachelor herds that float around here and one male has an incredible pair of horns, he is approximately 3-4 years old, when he reaches breeding age he will be an awesome animal. A large Eland bull can weigh in at 900/1,000 kgs.

Blue Monkeys being more arboreal are seen in the woodland canopy, the Warburgia fruit are keeping them occupied. Olive Baboons are also spending more time in closed habitat where the trees are now fruiting this adds to their omnivorous diet. We have had comical sights of baboons in the canopy of fruiting trees and large bull elephant feeding on the fruit below, these large bulls often rock these large trees to shake the fruit down, the baboons get caught up in the trees, often shrieking and have to hold tight, on some occasions the baboons have been shaken out!! On the 21st at 4.30pm four Baboons were shaken and fell to the ground.

There are good numbers of defassa waterbuck between the woodland verges and the Marsh, being in the genus Kobus their ideal habitat is well watered grasslands and marshes, they do not live in water as the name describes but will take refuge there to escape predators. When times are hard lion will feed on them although they have an oily and scented skin and the so called waterproofing secretions of the waterbuck’s sweat glands produce an unpleasant odor in its meat, lion will often avoid them if other species are available, hyena is the other main predator of waterbuck and their calves.

A Caracal was seen near Rhino ridge on the West side on the morning of the 25th. These small cats can be found in dry savannah and woodland areas, scrubland and also in rugged terrain in mountainous regions. Caracals are superior jumpers and will catch ground birds in flight. Here in the Mara they have been recorded preying on Rock Hyrax and Thompson Gazelle fawns although they have a more varied diet depending on Habitat. There are many Banded mongooses about and they can also be seen in the camp surrounds.

The large herd of buffalo are within Bila Shaka and Rhino Ridge. There are two other smaller herds’ one near Naibor soit and the other on Paradise plains. The resident male buffalo remain within the grassland verges of the Musiara Marsh and Bila Shaka, the four new male lion have preyed upon three of these now. Cattle egrets can be seen flighting between them, even using resting buffalo as a perch!

The hippo pods in the Mara River have been very noisy this month, with water levels dropping the pods are getting more closely packed together, often causing a rift between dominant males, who are forced to get too close.

Hippo seen at Governors' Camp
Photo courtesy of Steve Clark

We have enjoyed regular sightings of male black rhino up on Paradise Plains and Rhino Ridge.

Black rhino seen at Governors' Camp
Photo courtesy of Ann Aveyard

January has proved a great month for birding with good water birds being seen in the Marsh and other watered byways. Crested cranes have chicks and one of them can be seen near the Causeway. Woolly necked storks have migrated and have been seen catching small fish. Great white egrets and a Rufus bellied Heron. On the east side of the Marsh early one morning there were about 5 or 6 Black Necked Herons all together and this is a site which is not often seen. Long Toed Plover are close to the causeway and also Ground hornbills have been seen collecting litter perhaps for nesting material.

Bird seen at Governors' Camp    Groun hornbill at Governors' Camp
Photos courtesy of Steve Clark

Bila Shaka / Marsh Pride
Joy was last seen on the north side of Rhino rRdge at the beginning of the month, The three sub adults (two males and a female) will often join up with Joy and her cubs or will be with another female who also moves about. The other three sub adults have not been seen for some time now and are presumed to be in the Paradise and Olkiombo area. On the afternoon on the 6th the two young males and two females were seen in the long grass north of the Marsh and had killed a warthog.

Lions seen north of the Marsh
Photo courtesy of Ann Aveyard

The four new younger males arrived in October/November last year and displaced Romeo and Clawed. Romeo had not been seen for some time now but our guides had a sighting of him up on Paradise Plain on a kill towards the end of the month. We are sad to report that Clawed met his end this month outside the Reserve. He had been seen again on the Musiara Plains on the 16th on a buffalo kill with the four Musketeers, he was in such bad shape that the other males obviously saw him as no threat and allowed him to share the kill. He was suffering from Sarcoptic mange and looking thin, his back hindquarters were very wobbly each he got up to move. He had trouble eating due to his lower right canine which was nearly smashed in probably from a kick of an ungulate approximately two years ago and this more than likely put him under much stress, it is true that lion are incredibly powerful and successful cats yet they are very susceptible to damage and injury. We shall miss his presence around the Musiara area but his lineage lives on.

Lions feeding

These new males have been named and are Hunter, Scar face, Morani and Skip. The gash on the right side eye on Scar face is still open but he is looking well enough and is still active. On the 30th at 4.00pm the wildlife services vet darted Scar face and treated his eye lid, there was a little infection although surprisingly the eye itself is fine. They have been feeding off buffalo with three so far of these old boys being taken down between Bila Shaka and Musiara. The two young females from the Marsh pride have been seen on Topi plains recently.

Notch and the four males are being seen in the Talek region and early on in the month they were seen feeding off a Hippo; they have also been feeding off Buffalo.
Five females and two cubs that are approximately three months old are also seen in the Talek area. As well as another two females a young male about two years old.
The single male that turned up last month is still in the area below the Bila Shaka river bed. He was limping on right front leg although looks in otherwise in good condition.

Cheetah
A female cheetah at paradise has been seen frequently and on the 26th she had killed a Thomson Gazelle. The two male brothers were last seen on the Olkiombo area, in the morning of the 19th they were seen with a young female warthog. Another female has been seen on the north side of Rhino ridge although with grass levels so high cheetah sightings have been a little slim this month.

Cheetah seen around Governors' Camp
Photo courtesy of Ann Aveyard

The two males have been seen once only on the other side of the Talek River and that was early on in the month. Another female with an eight month old cub has been seen near Olkiombo and she has been feeding of Thompson Gazelles.

Leopard
Olive and her 13 month old cub have been seen quite recently again but her older male cub has been seldom seen.

The female leopard near the croton thickets at Paradise has two cubs; a male and a female which are about 4 months old now. They are seen frequently and have been feeding off Thomson Gazelles and warthog. There was an excellent sighting of all of them on the 27th of this month. The large male at the end of the Bila Shaka river bed has been seen more often this month. Another male leopard who is really quite habituated has been sighted near to the Little Governors junction and is the last offspring of the IL Moran Female who died about a year ago. He is often at Lake Nakuru near the Marsh and close to Il Moran; he has been seen feeding off warthog and many Bush Buck. Within the woodlands between Il Moran Camp and the BBC site two remains of Bushbuck have been seen.

Leopard seen at Governors' Camp
Photo courtesy of Ann Aveyard

A male is being seen from time to time at the Paradise croton crossing point up stream from the main rocky crossing point.

Walking in the Koiyaki Conservation Area.
Long grass is still prevalent in this area of Koiyaki with heavy dew on some cool mornings. Large numbers of elephant are seen passing through and are feeding on the grass coverage that is here. The acacia woodlands have not been affected and there is also evidence of young acacia growth. Most of the elephant dung contains grass and the whole fruit of the Warburgia tree which will germinate but out here they do not seem not to grow much more than ten feet perhaps due to insufficient water. Termite activity on elephant dung has brought up little mushrooms from the Termitomyces fungi spores. The Fungal Termite and the mutualistic fungi of the genus Termitomyces have a kind of symbiotic relationship and via SACCHARIFICATION which is the process of breaking a complex carbohydrate (as starch or cellulose) into its monosaccharide components which the termite can assimilate.

Interesting elephant dung find
Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

On the 26th an estimated 75 elephant were seen on the White highland ridge with three large males. Eland in small breeding herds of no more than 20, there is also a bachelor herd of 15 males with one young male that has a very good pair of Horns and is quite outstanding. There were three large bulls that frequented the acacia Gerrardii woodland near the Olare Orok River, on the 4th one was taken by lion.

Lion feeding on an elephant
Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

Zebra are more common here particularly in the shorter grass areas close to where livestock is present, in the last few days of January an estimated 150 Zebra were seen in the north of the conservation area. Lion are infrequently seen although there is the presence of four females and 9 cubs. On the 4th these lion were seen on a large bull eland they had killed earlier on in the night and they were being harassed by 24 Spotted Hyena, the sounds of the hyena could be heard from some distance. There is a herd of breeding buffalo an estimated 50 near the saltlick in the north of the conservancy there are also a few scattered old bulls with four often being seen together. Many Thomson Gazelles’ with a bachelor heard of over 30 males being seen just outside of the Mara reserve. Warthog are also being seen with piglet litters of more than 4 which is an indication that predation is less prevalent here. Breeding herds of impala are scattered throughout the woodlands and riverine pockets. A large bachelor herd of impala are near the Olare Orok River. Masai Giraffe can be seen throughout the woodlands and good numbers of them were seen recently. There are also some large males that wander form herd to herd, one of these males is very dark in colour almost to that of Chocolate and is an attractive animal.


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Rwanda camps
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge update - January 2012

No report this month.


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