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Wilderness "Airport" Lounges
We have lounge facilities available to our guests in both Botswana and Namibia. In Maun, it is at the Okavango Wilderness Safaris (OWS) offices while in Windhoek, it is physically located at Hosea Kutako International Airport.
Abu's Yellow-Eye Pride - A Follow Up
Sighting: The Yellow-Eye Pride - A Follow Up
Location: Abu Camp, Abu Concession, Botswana
Date: 4 July 2012
Observers: Thapelo Sebetlela, Kgaga Kgaga; Newman Chuma
Photographs: Joseph Molekoa, Mike Marchington
Many of you who have been fortunate enough to have met the tenacious Yellow-Eye Pride of lions on the Abu Concession and who read the dramatic story posted in March, about the fight that ensued between the young Yellow-Eye males and a large male intruder, leaving one of the males badly injured would probably like to know how the pride is doing.
The last time that the injured male was spotted was late in March, just after the arrival of the inundation. He was found swimming across a wide body of water. When he heard the game drive vehicle he looked back once, most pitifully, and carried on swimming determinedly. The other members of his pride were nowhere to be seen. He was heading towards the sand tongue, home to many other lion prides. The guides predicted that he wouldn't stand a chance if he entered hostile territory.
For the past couple of years the lions have made the sand tongue their winter hunting ground and they would often stay out of the camp territory for three months. With the water between the camp and the sand tongue being so high, the chances of spotting the felines by boat are rare.
So, once again, everyone resigned themselves to the fact that his fate was sealed - he was probably not going to survive the winter and the pride would more than likely be reduced to three. A sad thought, considering how hard he had fought to stay alive, after his encounter with the big male aggressor.
Well, contrary to the history of the area, the pride returned to their favourite territory, around Abu and Seba camps, late in May and against all odds, the injured male has survived, looking fit and healthy. This pride male is definitely making use of his nine lives.
Statistically his chances of survival were very slim for a single male on his own, trying to eke out an existence while nursing some very serious injuries. Questioning some of our very experienced guides though, they say that over the years they have noted that in areas where there are low populations of lion and a lot of prey, the lion may not abandon a seriously injured pride member. They say that if a pride makes a kill, they will continue to call in the injured party. In this case, it is likely that he was just able to get enough sustenance, with the help of the other pride members. He was obviously also lucky enough to have stayed out of the way of "bigger boys" than himself.
We are all ecstatic over the news and have great hopes for the future of our resident pride. The theory that stricken pride members are often abandoned by their pride has not applied to the Yellow-Eye Pride - they appear to have looked after one of their own and remain as tenacious as ever.
It has taken almost a month though, to get some pictures of him. At each sighting it has been noted that he is definitely a lot more subdued than he was before, preferring to remain in the background and often hiding low down in the grass, making photographing him very difficult. But finally, patience paid off and he has graced us with a couple of acceptable photos, showing off his well mended body.
We love miracles!
Lions Dine at Little Mombo
Sighting: Moporota Pride
Location: Little Mombo
Observers: Claire Tinsley and Graham Simmonds
Photographer: Graham Simmonds
I was getting ready for the beginning of another beautiful morning in Africa when I heard the alarm calls from the resident troop of baboons that often roost near Tents 9 and 10. The next thing we know, a very jittery housekeeper came knocking on the door, saying that there were lions under the boardwalk at the junction of Little Mombo Tents 2 and 3!
Upon investigating, we found four lioness on a fresh impala kill. We immediately alerted all camp staff and guides. The guides were not far from camp, so they all executed a sharp U-turn and came for a closer look - all this before the first cup of morning coffee.
No report this month.
Wilderness Touring Cape Town Update
We have been advised that the SA Jewish Museum and Holocaust Centre will be closed for renovations from 26 July 2012 to 12 August 2012.
No report this month.
North Island Update - July 2012 Jump
to North Island
The Seychelles has six palm species that occur nowhere else in the world and are therefore considered as endemic to the archipelago/islands. North Island is lucky enough to have five of the six. Some species were probably present before humans occupied the island and have been reintroduced during our island rehabilitation to replace alien invasive species as these were removed, whilst others, such as the coco de mer, were introduced to help preserve the species.
Palms mature slowly, and the task we embarked on to re-establish them as components of our native forests is therefore a slow process, requiring patience. Hence our happiness after noticing that one of the deckenia palms, planted at the turning circle where the road branches off respectively to Honeymoon Beach and Sunset Bar, produced flowers for a second time.
This palm species, also known in the local Creole language as "Palmis", became rare because it was used to make the so-called "millionaire's salad", which involves removing the edible terminal bud - thereby killing the tree.
On North Island, the divine palm salad served to our guests originates from the exotic commercial coconut palm instead, since "Palmis" is now a protected tree in the Seychelles.
When driving through the forest on your way to our Sunset Bar or Honeymoon Beach, you can distinguish the endemic palms by the spines on their stems, apparently developed as defence against the appetite of the giant tortoise in the area! Deckenia palms are the ones with the yellow spines and long leaves with many leaflets, rather like a coconut tree.
Ask your host or villa attendant to organise a forest walk with our knowledgeable guides, so we can show you our planted coco-de-mers and the rest of our palm family.
Kings Pool Camp update - July 2012 Jump
to Kings Pool Camp
Weather and Landscape
There is no doubt about it - July brought with it some very chilly winter mornings and evenings. Hot water bottles and cosy fires have been the order of the day, and ponchos and blankets have been a most welcome addition to the brunch and dinner table.
The vegetation continues to thin out, and every day we're able to see further into the bush. Animals are coming more and more to the river to drink, and as a result we've got a plethora of animal activity in and around camp, causing much delight and interesting excursions to and from rooms!
Game viewing this month has been spectacular! Winter always provides an abundance of general game, and July has been no different. The Linyanti Concession is known for its abundance of elephant, and vast herds of these majestic beasts have been providing very special viewing for guests, who have been able to watch them crossing the Linyanti River, or drinking fresh water from the sunken hide waterhole only metres away from where guests are sitting. Elephant have been regularly coming through camp as well, making siesta time a real elephant viewing treat. Every day we watch as elephants congregate serenely on the other side of the river west of camp, slowly moving backwards and forwards from Namibia, enhancing the already beautiful view from camp.
Perhaps the main source of suspense and nervous excitement this month has been the coalition of five male lions that has tried to infiltrate the area. Our own resident Kings Pool Male lion has so far been successful in keeping them at bay, and we've all been woken to sounds of roaring coming from two opposing lion camps. Guests were very lucky to observe the intense interaction between the Kings Pool Male and these five lions, something that was a spectacle to behold as our male chased them off to the accompaniment of much snarling and roaring. We were all initially concerned about the two cubs that the Kings Pool Male has sired, and which we have watched grow from birth - had the coalition been successful in usurping our male's territory we would have had to see these cubs being killed, and our male driven off or he himself killed. Everyone has been relieved to note that this more than likely won't happen any time soon.
Staying with our resident lions, we have been fascinated to observe that they seem to have become specialists in taking down baby elephants. This is no mean feat when one considers the obstacles that they would have to overcome in terms of mother, aunts and brothers in order to do this. So it has been very interesting that over the past month we have seen these lions feeding on baby elephants in no less than three separate sightings.
Of course one cannot talk about the Kings Pool area without bringing up leopards, the other abundant predator species here. Guests have been treated to excellent sightings of these beautiful cats, and have been lucky enough to see a baby leopard cub, as well as numerous sightings of them feeding on impala, and once on a porcupine! There can be few things better than having sundowners on the barge and coming slowly upon a female leopard up a tree with her kill, something that has happened twice this month.
Winter is also a lovely time to view hippo. The lukewarm sun means that they more often move about out of water during the day, treating us to clear views of their shiny, boulder-like bodies. These, along with the abundance of other general game that filters through Kings Pool, make it a truly special place.
Birds and Birding
It's always such a pleasure when guests take an avid interest in birds, because there is such a rich diversity of birdlife here. Giant kingfishers have been seen regularly, saddle-billed storks, vultures - including the lappet faced vulture - and branches hanging under the weight of guineafowls as they settle down to roost for the night.
Even a very rare racket-tailed roller has been spotted recently. Every evening we watch as flock upon flock of Burchell's starlings fly across the Linyanti River to the Namibian side, creating an aural and visual spectacle as they go. When mornings are quieter in terms of mammals, there is no shortage of birds to keep guests entertained.
DumaTau Camp update - July 2012 Jump
to DumaTau Camp
July was an incredible month for game viewing at DumaTau. We continued to enjoy consistent sightings of the large DumaTau lion pride, several leopard, the wild dogs, and plenty of elephant (of course!).
This winter has been milder than the last. We experienced one cold front in mid-July, with a minimum morning temperature of 6° C. Temperatures have typically dropped to 10 or 11°C each morning, and the days have been warm and sunny, with an average maximum temperature of 28°C. The area is very dry and dusty, with little low vegetation left for animals to eat. Larger bull elephants have been taking great pains to reach the greenery on high branches, while the smaller members of the herd are forced to chew at branches and bark, or dig up roots. This season will only become more difficult for the area's elephants, as rain is still several months away.
Each year the dry terrain makes for excellent predator viewing. The wild dogs are currently denning close to the old DumaTau Camp. We have closed off the roads leading to the den site to avoid disturbing the dogs during this sensitive time, or tempting the curiosity of competing predators. Once the pups are older, our environmental team, together with the concession guides, will determine whether we can open the site for careful viewing. Only then will we have an opportunity to learn how many pups they are raising.
For now, we are following the dogs as they hunt. They normally leave the site twice a day to take down prey to feed themselves, and to regurgitate for the young ones waiting patiently at the den. On one particularly exciting morning the vehicles were following the pack hunting when they came upon a lone dog attempting to kill an impala. He had the impala by the neck, but this antelope was not willing to give up easily. He fought back and managed to throw the dog to the ground. The dog may have been expecting other pack members to arrive and assist him in the kill, but they never arrived, and after pushing the dog away several times, this plucky impala eventually walked away largely unharmed!
The DumaTau lion pride is also doing well. Their young cub has survived and the pride of 15 has been seen hunting along the channel between Savuti and Shumba pan, targeting buffalo. Guests have also seen them feeding on baby elephant and hippo.
We have also enjoyed lovely leopard sightings. The DumaTau male leopard continues to dominate his range close to the camp. He likes to hunt warthogs by waiting to attack them as they leave their burrows. He has been seen with several females, but he tends to resist their advances, confirming our doubts about his current mating capabilities. We are pleased that his disinterest in mating has not sent him retreating, and we feel lucky each time we are able to photograph this handsome cat.
July was memorable for more than just predator sightings - it was also the last full month spent in the original DumaTau Camp. After nearly 15 years of operation we moved down river to our brand new site at the start of August. The camp is already garnering great reviews and we look forward to welcoming guests to a beautifully redesigned home, the hum of the diesel generator replaced by the silence of total solar power. While we settle into our stunning surrounds, we would like to bid a fond farewell to the old camp, which has provided countless happy memories for both visitors and staff.
Managers: Gerard, Claire, Abbie, Abi, Ben, KG, Lindi and Dudu.
Guides: Bobby, Lazi, Mocks, Moses, Name, Ona and Tank.
Photographs courtesy of Claire Binks
Savuti Camp update - July 2012 Jump
to Savuti Camp
If you are a regular follower of the Savuti Camp monthly newsletter then you will recall from last month's that we ended the month with exciting scenes of the lion pride hunting buffalo - they were however unsuccessful in their attempts. If you are reading this for the first time then you should catch up on last month's action before reading on.
I ended off last month saying we were eagerly anticipating further excitement between the two titans. However, a few days after that epic encounter the lions moved off and left the large buffalo herd in peace.
Meanwhile in front of camp the elephant herds have continued to gather. I mention the elephants in just about every newsletter and for good reason. These elephant herds are such an integral part of the Savuti Camp experience. At the beginning of the month we had a guest whose passion for elephants brought her to Savuti, where she hoped to see the impressive creatures in their natural environment. Having never been to Africa, she had never seen them in the wild. It was humbling and a privilege to share in her lifelong dream as she enjoyed fabulous elephant sightings every day.
A clear elephant path can now be seen through the reeds behind the old Savuti logpile hide on the opposite bank. On the northern bank the path continues on behind Tent 7 and behind the camp. This is their regular crossing point, providing spectacular photographic opportunities from the rooms and the main area.
As we had predicted, the resident wild dog have denned in the concession. The den site was located early in the month and the roads leading to the site were closed off so as not to disturb the pack. We now wait in anticipation for the arrival of the pups in the coming months.
However this did not signify the end of the wild dog sightings. Around mid-month, while out on a morning drive, our guides found the dogs not far from the Linyanti River. Some of the dogs had bloody faces and others were tugging away at the remains of an impala kill. But this time there seemed to be more excitement than normal as the dogs were vibrantly chattering amongst themselves, clearly focused on something in the tree above. On closer inspection we saw a female leopard in the high branches of the tree, hissing and snarling at the dogs below. In the neighbouring tree we found her cub, looking rather shaken up from the experience.
After interpreting the scene the guides deduced that the leopard had killed the impala, but before she could get it safely to the young leopard to feed, she was stormed by the large pack of dogs and chased up the tree. It is not uncommon for wild dogs to chase leopard off their kills and up into trees. With the large number of dogs in this pack, the leopard had little chance of defending herself and her kill.
The winter temperatures seem to have once again remained relatively mild. With a lowest morning temperature of approximately 8° C (46°F), the early morning wake-ups have become easier for guests and staff alike. Towards the end of the month one of our guests noticed the flower buds starting to blossom on the trees around the camp. The vegetation is still very dry and we don't expect much greenery to appear until after the first rains later in the year (around early Nov).
And then, just when we started to wonder where the lion had gone, our guests returned from game drive with wide eyes and waiving arms. Unable to find the adequate words to recount their experience, they produced their video clips and photographs to tell the thrilling tale of their afternoon experience. The pride had reappeared on the south bank of the channel and where once again badgering the buffalo, only this time with clear intention. Everyone watched with bated breath as they managed to separate one individual and drive it towards the water. In no time the buffalo had five or more lion on its back, all fighting aggressively to bring it down. Finally after trying desperately to fight the lion off, the buffalo gave up - the lion had earned their prize.
It was an enthralling end to another busy month at Savuti Camp. We are now well into the last half of the year and look forward to the changing seasons that will bring the new rains, warm sunny days and new life to the concession.
Until next time...
Zarafa Camp update - July 2012 Jump
to Zarafa Camp
The month of July will be dedicated to the largest of our many diverse mammals - Loxodonta africana - the African Elephant
Simply put, they are everywhere.
We have not had rain since April, even after a very poor rainy season. This has meant that all the seasonal waterholes around Zarafa and the Selinda Reserve have dried up. The ground is baked and dusty. The only places left to drink are the winter waterholes around camp and in and around the large Zibadianja Lagoon. We always have good elephant numbers and they are a common site in this area. This season however, the numbers have just exploded. As a camp manager it has become very interesting planning our days, even making sure that we have plenty time to make it to the airstrip on time, the "traffic" on the way can really cause delays. The most fun we have with these giants is in the camp itself. Regular visitors come and keep us company, often large bulls, who dominate the pathways...
Derek and Beverly Joubert have spent some time in camp and expressed their joy for seeing so many pachyderms around. They were amazed at how relaxed the elephants and wildlife in general have become, as they recounted a different story six years ago.
July has not only provided amazing elephant sightings, it has produced many other great highlights, which included the following: wild dog puppies, huge herds of buffalo, regular leopard sightings, fantastic encounters with the Selinda pride of lions, occasional cheetah sightings - one very close to camp, honey badger, hyaena, roan, sable and eland. All in all, it was an extremely productive month with a great diversity of sightings and encounters!
We are sure that August will continue the trend as we move towards the summer months.
Text and photos by Willem Bakhuys Roozeboom
Selinda Camp update - July 2012 Jump
to Selinda Camp
July has been an interesting month at Selinda. It was a month full of extraordinary sightings and exciting times as a mass of water has arrived in the area turning the camp area into island - all game drive excursions have to now tackle deep water to and from camp.
The Selinda magic starts in camp with a great glow of the sun coming behind a line of palm trees like a big bolt of fire. Bradfield's hornbills glorify the break of day around the fireplace giving guests a great photographic moment with the sun in the background.
The thrill of the wilderness is on-going in Selinda, starting with the grunting of hippo at night and all through the sizzling action of the day by wild dog, lion, leopard and even cheetah sometimes. Recently, we had an amazing interaction of the following three carnivores: wild dog meticulously taking down an impala, a leopard hijacking it from them and all the hyaena could do was watch the leopard enjoy its succulent meal safely from the comfort of a tree. The wild dog are currently denning, which is another boon.
Elephant encounters were regular on game drives and boat cruises. Herds of elephant roamed the Selinda Concession every day, with many of them ending their day along the spillway, making the sundowner boat cruises a great experience. It is always fun to watch these herds crossing the river, as the smaller members of the herd become completely submerged, using their trunks as a snorkel. There is one bull elephant in particular which has taken a liking to Selinda and spends all day feeding throughout camp.
We are very excited for August and are keeping our fingers crossed for a sighting of the wild dog pups which will emerge any day now.
Camps Update - July 2012
• No report for this month.
Lagoon camp Jump
• On the 22nd of July, a small group of wild dog puppies stuck their heads out of the den briefly, before disappearing back into the den. Three days later, they all emerged a little shyly, and we were able to count ten of them. By the end of the month, they were trying to eat a little of the meat that the adult dogs regurgitate for them, but they are still suckling.
• Still continuing with their unusual – for wild dogs – hunting skills, the pack are bringing down baby buffalos from the big herds that are in the area – sometimes catching more than one at a time.
• Elephants are also present in large herds - with one group having about 200 individuals. Kwena lagoon is a great place to goat the moment and watch the elephants drinking and playing in the water.
• A pride of three lions, new to the area, were seen – they were very shy, and not used to vehicles, so have obviously grown up deep in the bush. The other pride of six lions, that is seen fairly often in the area, had luck killing a buffalo. They later lost the kill to a clan of hyenas.
• We had a lovely sighting this month of a female leopard, located along Cheetah Plain, hunting warthog. She looked in excellent condition, and was very relaxed. Another female leopard was seen in the woodland area, where we suspect she is hiding a cub as her teats are swollen, and she was making contact calls. A male leopard also had to make a quick escape up a tree, when the wild dogs came upon it on the ground!
• The other spotted cats – the cheetah brothers, were also seen several times this month, resting on a termite mound, and also feeding on an impala they had just hunted. On another occasion later in the month, they were seen with blood on their coats, but no sign of a kill. It is likely that they had managed to catch something, but that their prey was stolen by a larger/stronger predator.
• The hyena den is active as ever, with up to five generations, and eight young there at a time. They did all move briefly to a buffalo carcass left by the wild dogs, but then returned to the den. Another clan of hyenas was also seen feeding on the left overs of buffalo kills. The youngest cub is still pitch black in colour, and was seen being carried in the mouth of its mother, on the way to the den.
• Wonderful night sightings have included caracal, civets, honey badgers, and porcupines very close to camp. Lots of lovely general game is present as well, with elands, roan and sable herds still being seen. Raptors are taking advantage of the short grass and clear skies, with excellent sightings of tawny eagle, brown snake and African hawk eagles.
Lebala camp Jump
• At the end of last month, four lionesses were spotted with two shy little cubs in tow. A male lion was very much on their scent, and although the females were seen several times early on in July, no cubs were with them. Sad to think the male lion had successfully hunted down and killed the young cubs, but this is part of nature. However, in the middle of the month, up popped the little cubs again, seen with one of the lionesses! Subsequent to that, the same grouping of lionesses was seen over several days at the end of the month, without the cubs, but this may just mean that the females are getting good at hiding them, with the mother going back to feed them at regular intervals… fingers crossed they are seen again soon. The lionesses themselves look to be in good condition, and have had success catching a young wildebeest at Twin Pools, and were also seen watching a herd of buffalo that moved nearby them.
• Although the Lagoon dogs are hunting up close to where their den is, the Lebala area was visited by a pack of five dogs from the neighbouring Selinda concession. They managed to pull down an impala, and were found feeding on it, before heading back into Selinda.
• July was a fairly mild winter month this year – there were several days of biting cold, and matching winds, but less than we have had in recent years. There was very little rain during the early months of the year, and northern Botswana is getting drier and drier, with water being less available away from the rivers and flooded plains. General game and elephant herds who previously would have liked to spend a lot of time in the mopane thickets, are forced out into the more open areas to drink, and to refresh. Nothing more exciting than a dusty thirsty elephant spying a large body of water: his or her feet seem to pick up speed, the trunk jiggles about in a frenetic manner, and the focus is very much on getting to the water in the fastest possible route. Little ones caught up in the excitement, stumble alongside the adults.
• In any herd of animals, individuals sometimes get separated, and then struggle to catch up with the group. This is a potentially dangerous situation for any individual, as safety in numbers is a key defence strategy operated by many species, irrespective of size. Nothing appears to get more panicked than an elephant that has been separated from its herd. At Lebala, herds of elephants often move around the outskirts of the camp at night, feeding as they stroll along. Sometimes, they will stop for a while, to feed on a particularly lush area of vegetation at the water's edge. Young males in particular, not quite old enough to leave the matriarchal herd yet, but cheeky enough to think themselves independent, often straggle along behind the main group. One night this month, a nice sized herd of elephants moved along the edge of the camp, calmly and quietly, as guests sat around the campfire after dinner. The light of the nearly full moon showed their black silhouettes crossing the small channel in front of camp, and off through the floodplains. A beautiful sight, all was quiet for another ten minutes or so as guests enjoyed the memories of the sighting. Then from the far end of camp, past the last room, came a blood-curdling screech and trumpeting that translated as 'panic' in any language: an adolescent elephant had been too interested in a particular tasty treat, and had not noticed the rest of the herd move off. Finding himself alone, he launched straight into emergency mode, and trumpeted at full decibel level. A far off answering trumpet indicated the direction he should head in, and he was off…. Moving as fast as he could run, and trumpeting the whole way, he charged through the camp, not worrying about how many trees he had to push out of the way, and narrowly swerving around the sides of the rooms as he made a beeline for the rest of his family. The black shape shot across the channel, and out into the floodplain, where the rest of the herd waited for him, sending calming rumbles out to him as he rejoined them
Kwara & Little Kwara camps Jump
& Little Kwara camps
• The wild dogs are hunting early in the morning quite far from the den, and then in the afternoon hunting closer to the den area, allowing enough time for them to get back to the den before it is too dark. At the end of the month the puppies became more and more active, meaning that the adults would often have to sneak away to hunt so that the puppies could not try to follow them away from the safety of the den. The pack still totals 22 individuals – 12 adults and ten puppies, though two of the puppies look much smaller than the rest.
• A young leopard was frequenting camp every night for a week. She was found asleep outside the kitchen and also on the doorstep of one of the guide houses. The jackals and baboons were intent on exposing her at every turn resulting in her struggling to kill. She has since been seen near Little Kwara looking very, very skinny but we are hopeful that she will have been successful.
• The male lions still seem to be searching for the female with the young cubs, which has resulted in them staying fairly close to the camp for several days, trying to pick up the scent as to where they have been moved to. One sub adult of 1.5 years was also seen close to the staff village with a bad injury, resulting in him breaking up with his mother and brother. After a day, his mother, elder sister and brother were found close to third bridge feeding on a kudu bull. Luckily, they later rejoined each other. Unfortunately, the lioness with cubs in the Splash area has also lost another cub, with just one remaining.
• The majority of our cat sightings are found after spending some time tracking – particularly sightings of the three cheetah brothers. We saw some very strange behaviour late in the month with the three brothers calling continuously and splitting up from each other. They were possibly in search of a female cheetah that was in the area.
• While still on the subject of cat sightings, they have been great this month, with 3 serval spotted on one night drive, one of them was very close to the airstrip.
• Lots of zebras have entered the concession, possibly being forced in by the flood waters which are reaching a peak in certain parts of the concession. The heronry is still quiet, with only a few herons and darters roosting there, but this will change completely in a few months, when prime branch space will be at a premium as all arrive to nest!
• Sometimes, its not just people that fancy a boat ride – on arriving at the boat jetty one day, the guide and guests were surprised to find a group of lions already waiting patiently. Queued up on the end of the jetty, their patience ran out somewhat when the guide didn't seem inclined to head to the boat and start up the engine. Taking matters into their own paws, the lioness made a brief attempt at boarding the boat, but was discouraged by the funny motion of the floor. The sub-adults looked on with interest. Realising they weren't going to be getting anywhere fast, since the people in the car didn't seem keen to budge, the lioness clambered into the water, with her offspring following her, and they swam off up the channel!
Nxai Pan Jump
to Nxai Pan camp
• Herds of elephants have been seen regularly drinking at the new water hole in the Nxai Pan area. Breeding herds and bachelor herds are coming daily to drink at the camp waterhole, with the young males pushing and shoving each other around in displays of dominance.
• Three adult lions were lucky enough to catch a good sized adult wildebeest in the beginning of the month, after laying in wait by the main waterhole. They spent a couple of days in the same area, relaxing close to the waterhole after finishing off the wildebeest.
• The female cheetah and her two sub-adult offspring were also seen several times in front of the camp. They were also spotted hunting springboks along the west road, but were unsuccessful at that time. Towards the middle of the month, they decided that the camp was not a bad place to hang out, and were found sleeping under the trees in the camp.
• Also taking up residence around the camp has been a steenbok – these tiny antelope are independent of water, and as a result are seen quite regularly in the Nxai Pan area. They do not live in herds, but with a partner. The lone little steenbok in camp seems to still be searching for a mate! In the meantime, feeling the warmth of the rooms, the cheeky little animal has learned to open any loosely locked doors by nudging them.
Tau Pan Jump
to Tau Pan camp
• Early in the month, the six sub-adult lions were left on their own near the camp. The first day they were seen by the borehole, and then next day, they had edged a little closer to camp. Perhaps this was a test of their skills by their parents, which obviously paid off, as on the third day the camp staff saw them chasing a young kudu in front of the camp, and catching it. This is quite unusual for them to be successful at this age (about 16-18 months) without a skilled adult to take the lead in a hunt. The two lionesses returned the next day, and collected the six sub-adults, and moved off to the east. Two days later, they all returned, looking well fed and in great condition.
• The two males then spent three days roaring around the Tau Pan area each night, and also looked in good condition.
• Cheetah sightings this month were good, with several sightings of an adult male cheetah – who is a quite shy of the vehicle at times. Another cheetah was seen a few kilometres from the shy one, in a much more relaxed mood – snoozing under a Kalahari apple leaf. The female cheetah with two young that we normally see around Letiahau has now moved closer to our daily game drive area. They were seen three times in the last week of the month, looking well fed.
• Not to be outdone by the larger predators, the waterhole is frequently the hunting spot for the black backed jackals. As it's one of the few sources of water in the area, all types of animals come to drink there, and this provides a great opportunity for the little jackals to catch something unawares. Sometimes it is birds such as francolins, but occasionally they are lucky enough to catch a small antelope. Sometimes it's the herbivores that put on an extra-ordinary display – perhaps in training for the opening of the Olympic games, a grouping of 13 giraffe gave an amazing exhibition of synchronised drinking – when they all dipped their heads to the water at once.
• However, the waterhole just isn't good enough for certain individuals, and the swimming pool is viewed as a tastier option. Whilst dinner was being served to the guests in the dining area, a leopard was seen drinking out of the pool. He was nervou, and quickly sneaked away when a torch was shone towards him. However, by the last week of the month, he had overcome his inhibitions somewhat, and was seen twice more drinking from the pool after dinner.
• Brown hyaenas, very different in looks to the common spotted hyaenas, with long hairy coats – inhabit the drier areas of Southern Africa and are a rare sighting. This month, we were lucky enough to spot one from the main area of the camp, quenching his thirst at the water hole. He didn't seem shy, or nervous.
• Another very unusual sighting – of the avian kind – happened early on in the month, right in camp. A yellow-billed hornbill killed a Kalahari scrub robin, and then ate it!
Mombo Camp update
- July 2012 Jump
to Mombo Camp
Xigera Camp update
- July 2012 Jump
to Xigera Camp
Weather and landscape
July has been a month of contrasts in terms of temperature. We experienced some very warm conditions as a couple days reached 29° C, but the minimums we experienced were 6° C. During the middle of the month we had windy conditions as a chilly wind blew in from the south, resulting from the cold conditions in neighbouring South Africa.
Earlier on in the month, we have noticed the winter sunrise has predominately taken a redder (if there was ever such a thing to describe the red sun) hue, and perfectly rising directly in front of the camp tents. This has persuaded most of our guests to opt for a late wake-up so as to take full advantage of fantastic sunrise reflection on the floodplain in front of their tents.
As the water levels have dropped around camp, wildlife sightings have been good, as our guides and guests can attest. One of the highlights for the month was the sighting of seven lion stalking lechwe on the banks of a channel! The same pride was seen a couple days later feeding on a buffalo carcass. All of this action was seen from the comfort of a motor boat.
The general game around the airstrip has been pretty good too, as quite a number of elephants have taken a liking to the palm trees on the airstrip island. Good numbers of giraffe, red lechwe, zebra, tsessebe and the occasional leopard have also been seen this month.
Hippo continue to entertain us, as we have often found a large pod of around 25 hippo lounging on the papyrus islands. We seem to have acquired a resident hippo, which has been sleeping within the camp area for most of the month. The lone hippo was quite relaxed in the presence of people and could be safely viewed from the raised boardwalks around camp.
Hyaena have also taken a liking to the Xigera Island, and were seen a number of times running amongst the shadows. They were also seen crossing the drawbridge a couple of times.
Due to the drop in water levels, the sitatunga have started to appear here and there. All in all it was a great month for game viewing.
Birds and Birding
Birding has been exceptional both in and around camp - we have been very lucky with Pel's fishing-owl, as this elusive birding special has been seen from camp as well as on the adjoining islands.
One afternoon an excited voice on the radio burst out "one of the endangered species of bird - the African skimmer... Xigera lagoon... amazing, amazing". This was the familiar voice of Moreri, one of our young charismatic guides calling in the sighting of the African skimmers, signalling their arrival to our islands.
Other common and very rare bird species being seen around include birds like Allen's gallinule, giant kingfishers, African purple swamphen, rufous-bellied heron, black-shouldered kite, lesser jacana, African spoonbill, African openbill, slaty egret, sacred ibis and white-backed duck to name a few.
Yet another exciting month for the team as our kitchen and front of house prepared and got going with the new menu. Some new items were added to the menu, and they have already received praise from the guests. The staff all enjoyed learning how to make the new dishes and the kitchen is filled with laughs and WOWS!
Staff in Camp
Managers: Gideon, Cathy, Alex and Murray.
Guides: Palo, Daniel, Moreri, Barobi and Dennis.
Chitabe Camp update
- July 2012 Jump
to Chitabe Camp
Vumbura Plains Camp update
- July 2012 Jump
to Vumbura Plains Camp
We have had some really cold days at the beginning of July, but it has since warmed up towards the end of the month. The annual inundation has also slowed down a lot and the water levels have dropped a fair deal. As the waters recede, scores of water birds move in to feed off of the exposed fish and crustaceans.
We have also seen an increase in the numbers of zebra and wildebeest which now frequent the dried-out floodplains. Giraffe, lechwe, impala, tsessebe and waterbuck are often mixed in amongst the masses of plains game. Big herds of buffalo are also pouring into the area as they savour the new shoots which are sprouting up in the newly exposed areas. Vumbura Plains has become famous for its sable sightings, and we have not disappointed this month, as we have often come across breeding herds of these rare and beautiful antelope.
Big numbers of plains game translates into an open invitation for the predators in the area, hence the great predatory sightings which we have experienced. The lioness with the cubs that hangs around the Marula Island has now started to cover more ground now that the cubs are a little older. The small feline family has also taken a liking to tree climbing, as we have found them lazing in a tree a couple of times. On one occasion, we found her and the cubs feeding on a buffalo carcass. We also found another group of lion which is new to the area and were found on the western side of the airstrip.
Now that Selonyana the leopard has dismissed her cub, we have found her courting a new male that has just wandered into the area now that the water levels have dropped. We also came across an unidentified leopard in the area and during one of the sightings, this feline got quite close to a hyaena den where the adults were not around. Luckily for the hyaena cubs, the leopard did not sniff around the den much and just moved along.
The Golden Pack of wild dog is still around the area and we suspect that they are denning. When we do encounter them, they are totally focused on hunting and once a kill is made, they rush off into the bush after gorging - a good indication that they are denning. On one occasion we found the pack being charged by an irritable elephant.
The team of managers at Vumbura for the month of July was Kago (KG), Martha, Noko, Britt, Lorato, Lebo and Ras. The guiding team was made up of Ban, OB, Emang, Lazzy, Ron and Zee.
Images and newsletter courtesy of Kago (KG)
Little Vumbura Camp update
- July 2012 Jump
to Little Vumbura Camp
Weather and Landscape
The annual inundation has come and gone. The waters receded much quicker than they did last year, and this has been fantastic for game viewing throughout the concession. The temperatures have been steady, with the August winds approaching and making the mornings quite chilly. The midday and evenings have been quite comfy.
Out and About
Unfortunately with the water levels dropping, some really great boating areas have become less accessible, but one can still access these areas with a mokoro. This allows for more exploring and diversity as there are now hundreds of small islands, all with their own special something to offer. This has led to some of the best views of the elusive Pel's fishing-owl, with a total of nine fantastic sightings.
As our camp is on an island, when the water levels are high, there is not much vegetation for wildlife to feed on, but now as more dry ground is exposed, the game viewing around the camp has been stunning. A large male leopard has moved into the area and has been seen on numerous occasions courting the resident female, Selonyana (Pretty Little Thing). Selonyana has reared one cub successfully to date, and we hope to see a new cub or two soon.
We also experienced a couple hyaena hunting near camp and on one occasion there was an altercation between the resident lioness with two cubs and a few of the hyaena.
A little further away from camp, there have been occasional sightings of wild dog. The Golden Pack has been scarce as they are currently denning and solely focusing on hunting and providing food for the pups.
"The food was great - thank you and well done!"
"All the staff were very enthusiastic, friendly and helpful. A great team!"
"Kay is such a gentleman and a fantastic guide."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Millie, Hamish, Mma Kay and Kci.
Guides: Sam, Rain and Sevara.
Newsletter by: Hamish Henderson
Duba Plains Camp update
- July 2012 Jump
to Duba Plains Camp
Banoka Bush Camp update
- July 2012
Weather and Landscape
June and July are known as the peak winter months in Botswana, but July was a little warmer than June. We did experience some wind; perhaps the arrival of spring is not too far off?
In terms of the annual inundation, the waters have reached their peak and the numerous channels, lagoons, waterways and arterial rivers have filled up nicely. Interestingly, this year, the inundation was mild when compared with the previous two years. The raised water level however, has still allowed for boating and we have been offering this activity to all of our guests this month.
"There was a lion in camp last night!" declared one of our guides, Rogers, pointing at the male lion spoor that was visible on the pathway to the guest tents one morning. All the guests followed him to the pathway to see the prints of the king of the jungle. Looking at the tracks, it clearly shows that this male lion had walked through our camp the previous night, probably when we were already in bed. Everyone had fun analysing the tracks, painting a mental picture of the feline walking through the camp at a leisurely pace under the cover of darkness.
The month of July has started on a high note - it was actually a continuation of the previous month in terms of predator and general game sightings. The Magotlho (eastern side of Banoka) Female leopard was seen three times in the same week - in different places. She was also spotted trying to stalk a breeding herd of impala (although she was not successful), and was also seen the next day in a different area, sleeping up in a tree.
Four wild dog were seen in the Magotlho area too, and are believed to be a newly formed pack that broke away from the resident pack which was enormous, having reached 27 members.
The elephant are back in and around the camp area. A couple of big bulls have been seen every day in camp - they spend the whole day grazing and browsing in the mopane woodlands. They often come to the Banoka Lagoon for an afternoon drink, providing some great photographic opportunities for our guests. Two hippo have also taken a liking to the lagoon and can be seen basking in the sun all day, only stirring to stretch now and again.
Large herds of buffalo have also started to move into the eastern parts of the concession.
Giraffe, impala, kudu, steenbok, tsessebe, vervet monkey, baboon and lechwe are common sights throughout the area; all help complete a holistic safari experience.
The highlight for the month was the return and subsequent sightings of both roan and sable in the area. We have encountered these elusive and beautiful antelope in the mopane and apple leaf woodlands close to the airstrip. They are quite skittish but we have managed good sightings of both.
Birds and Birding
Winter birding is generally quieter than the wet summer months, with the summer migrants having flown, but our resident species have kept us busy and entertained. With the help of boating, we have seen some great waterbirds along the channels. Some of the birding highlights for the month include: Verreaux's eagle-owl, Senegal coucal, African jacana, grey heron, African spoonbill, hamerkop and rufous-bellied heron to mention but a few.
It is with great pleasure to announce our second village trip for our guests. It was on the morning of July 28, when we embarked on this exciting prebooked village tour with our guests. We and our guests spent almost the whole day at the Khwai Village Kgotla (meeting place), where all the trip activities took place. Our guests had an opportunity to learn about Bushman culture, traditional dances and singing, healing rituals, history and other interesting things about the current descendants of the earliest settlers of the Okavango Delta. It was a very memorable experience for our guests.
"One of the highlights of our stay at Banoka Bush Camp was our visit to the Khwai Village. It was a great opportunity to let us see some of the local customs and cultures. Everyone was so welcoming and we had a great experience."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Bonang 'Mama B' Mambo, Lopang 'Lops' Rampeba and Cheri 'Coco' Ross.
Guides: Rogers, Chief, Vinny and Reuben.
Photographs by Rogers, Jamie, Ryan and Lops.
Newsletter written by Lopang Lops Rampeba
Jacana Camp update
- July 2012 Jump
to Jacana Camp
Weather and Landscape
This year, the annual inundation has not been as dramatic as the last two years. As the water levels recede rapidly out of the Delta, they rise rapidly further downstream in Maun. It is amazing to watch this dynamic ecosystem change on a daily basis.
As the water recedes, more areas are becoming accessible as more channels are exposed and created by the mega herbivores of the Okavango. Mokoro rides have really been popular this month as they favour the shallower waters.
Did you know that when on water, sounds travel further and are much clearer? Jacana, being a beautiful island camp, situated in the middle of an expanse of water, gives us the opportunity to really hear the night sounds. With this in mind, together with the guests, we have been having great fun identifying the night sounds. Of course when you don't know what it is, imaginations can go wild...
Starting with the hippo, most nights we hear the greeting grunts and snorts. If we listen really carefully we can pick up the blowing sound as they go under the water. Only once this month, have we heard the hippo fighting - leading to a pretty sleepless night for all in camp. A grazing hippo close by also produces a hypnotic sound, as the bulk grazers chomp away at the green shoots, slapping their lips together every time they take a bite.
Everyone silent, we hear a methodical swoosh in the water in front of camp. To the untrained ear, this is thought to be either a hippo or crocodile. We wait silently, knowing that this animal is coming onto the island. The sound of swooshing water stops and then we hear a few sounds of sucking mud and then nothing for a while. By this time our guests are all guessing, and then it starts, the sound of a huge rattle and if this is the first time the guests are hearing the shaking of the palm trees, they cannot think that it is an elephant - they normally think it is a baboon, and are surprised to learn that it is the elephant shaking down the palm nuts and of course this is an amazing sight to watch, as they shake the nuts down, and then close their eyes tight as the nuts rain down on them. If the elephant are not alone on the island, we hear the low tone rumbles as they reassure each other of where they are. Often the trumpeting elephants are heard on the island close by, either when playing or agitated. We had a nice view of them playing and rolling in the water in front of camp before wading onto another island to feed.
We had the pleasure of hearing the Jao lion confirming his territory. At first we could hear that he was far in the distance. We heard him getting closer and closer, until such time as he was on the small island behind the staff village. When lions roar, and they are on the move, they give out a few long and deep roars, and then change to several short guttural grunts. In general, when they are not moving, they just give out the long deep roars. He impressed some of our guests by just lying and roaring next to the vehicle - when so close you can almost feel the vibrations of the roar course through your body.
The very first bird to wake up in the morning is the African fish-eagle, its unique sound penetrating the grey dusk. About 10 minutes later, the African scops-owl, and then the Red-billed Spurfowl, starts to chatter. The ruckus chattering of the spurfowl is replaced by the melodious song of the white-browed robin-chat.
Jacana is a camp where you truly can experience the awakening of all your senses, and have the pleasure of the bush sounds fuse with your vision - a really wonderful experience.
"Having just returned from three incredible nights at Jacana Camp, it has to rate as one of the great highlights in our travels! We have been to numerous camps in and around South Africa, but Jacana was something truly special. The camp is beautifully situated on an island in the Delta, and arriving in a boat is a truly unique experience. The camp is very comfortable, the tents had exceptional views and the food (we were constantly being fed) was fantastic! Our hosts, Dan and Charmaine went out of their way to make our stay memorable. Charmaine even taught our children how to make paper from elephant dung, which she then bound into beautiful little note books for them to keep! Rex our personal guide for our entire stay was always friendly and really knowledgeable. The rest of the staff were always friendly and everyone went out of their way to make us feel at home. There are no fences around the camp, so Jack, an oldish bull elephant, and other younger bulls are common place in and around the camp. To listen to them shaking the fruit off the palm trees and eating from the trees outside our tent in the middle of the night, is something never to be forgotten. This unique camp and the experiences it holds for all visitors cannot come more highly recommended."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Dan and Charmaine Myburg.
Guides: Rex Sanyedi and Timothy Ntukwa.
Abu Camp update
- July 2012 Jump
to Abu Camp
Winter skies bring only sunshine to the desert land that is Botswana, extracting every drop of water from the ground and drying out the fauna of the area. In the Delta, the life-giving waters are dropping faster than previous years and leaving us with a landscape just perfect for game viewing.
Our resident pride of four lions has been very active in the area. On several occasions, guests have left the pride setting up a hunt just before sunset, to find them the next morning - belly's full - rolling in satiated delight. Their meals have ranged from zebra to buffalo and a whole range of antelope in between
Rare sightings have occurred too. After finding a relaxed leopard walking near the old airstrip, guests noticed she was sniffing the air and picking up her nose. A herd of impala nearby had caught her attention and she went into stealth mode. However, the impala were not to be made a meal of that day - a troop of baboons who had been watching the drama unfold began shouting in alarm and two large brave males charged at the leopard. Narrowly avoiding the sizable teeth of the two baboons, the leopard abandoned its hunt and ran for cover, later finding a sausage tree in which she settled down to some afternoon shut eye.
Great white pelicans, who are common throughout the Delta at this time of year, have been gathering around pockets of depleting pools, attracted by the thrashing of trapped fish. Joining them in the feast are African spoonbills, saddle-billed storks, slaty egrets and magnificent wattled cranes. It seems everyone wants a piece of the action.
Consistent with last year, our ever present hyaena clan have produced a second, small litter, of two pups. Sadly only one seems to have survived. This little one is growing cuter and more robust by the day and can be seen playing rough and tumble with the older five pups at the den.
All in all a great month for birders and big game alike, at Abu!
And never forgetting our wonderful elephants. Paseka is the star of the show at the moment, her training has escalated to the extent that she is now learning to carry one of the trainee elephant handlers - she is loving the attention.
Warona is growing at an incredible rate - she happily elicits milk from both Cathy and Kitty and then her mother, Shireni, of course. It is so heart-warming to observe the herd's unconditional love for this boisterous little elephant.
"Everything was just wonderful! If you can't find Cathy she is in my suit case."
"What a magical place, to be able to interact with the Abu Herd, it was incredible. The staff is unbelievably warm and knowledgeable. The rooms are gorgeous!"
"The whole experience changed my life!"
update - July 2012 Jump
to Kwetsani Camp
Weather and Landscape
Towards the middle of the month, we had extremely cold conditions with temperatures dropping as low as 4° C with the midday temperatures warming up to a chilly 14° C. The wind has also started picking up with the wind chill factor being a challenge for guests, especially when going out on early morning activities.
As the month went on, the temperatures stabilised a bit more, feeling a little more like spring with temperatures reaching highs of up to 26° C at midday. Early mornings are still a bit chilly however but when the sun rises, the chill soon disappears. There have been, on three separate occasions, 80% cloud cover with no indication of rain whatsoever. We hope it is going to be a good rainy season.
In investigating the water levels, we have discovered the water is going down faster this year than in previous years. This will make it easy for our guides to travel with the game drive vehicles to Jao, but maybe not Hunda Island. The floodplain in front of the camp is almost dry. Taking a guess, we think the road to Jao will be drivable in the next two to three weeks if the water level drops the way it's dropping now. We have already moved the Hunda jetty to the low level as well as the Kwetsani one.
It is so true what has been said - animals don't read the same books we do. They have surprised and excited us time and time again with their habits. We had so many animal encounters this month. Just when you think it can't get any better - it does!
One of the highlights was when the Jao Island Pride male walked through Kwetsani Camp. We heard him calling from about 4h00 in the morning. His roar got stronger and louder each time he called. By 05h30, he was in front of management Tent 3, where William and Angie stay. When MT did wake-up calls at 06h00, the lion was in front of the kitchen... with the staff taking cover inside! Not too long after that though, his roar faded to a distant call as he made his way back to Jao and the rest of his pride.
The big boys have been shaking up a storm. The elephant are enjoying the makalani palm fruit and giving the guests a show in return by head-butting the palms. Other species have been helping themselves as well, such as the baboons and monkeys. The bushbuck, impala and red lechwe have also been showing themselves. Several hippo have been walking through camp at night, occasionally stopping under the rooms, chomping away at the grass and sedges - getting the guests' hearts racing.
MT and Florence had done a day trip to Hunda with a party of eight - a family with a love for birding. They saw three leopard, a pangolin as well as the usual plains game species. There have been numerous sightings of leopard during the month as well. The subadult leopard female has also been seen on a regular basis.
Birds and Birding
This month we had the marabou storks hanging around on the floodplain. To join them in their quest for food was the southern ground-hornbills as well as a huge flock of egrets.
Hundreds of African openbills have been seen as well. Brown firefinch have also been making an appearance.
All in all, another tough day in Africa, with the traffic slowing us down on our way to work in the morning (breeding herd of elephant en route), the view from the office is not too bad (open plains of the Okavango Delta), negotiating with the other office inhabitants (vervet monkeys trying to steal the sugar), we really cannot complain, at all, about life at Kwetsani.
Staff in Camp
Managers: William and Angie Whiteman
Guides: MT Malebogo and Florence Kagiso.
update - July 2012 Jump
to Jao Camp
Weather and Landscape
July has traditionally been the coldest month at Jao and we have had two cold fronts push through this month, bringing with them some very cold evenings and mornings. The mushroom heaters, fleece blankets and hot water bottles on activities and in the beds in the evening, and a nice sherry or port on arrival back to camp, helped everyone through the seven or eight cold days this month. For the rest of the month, the temperatures slowly increased and although the wind seems to be picking up a bit in preparation for August, the weather is warmer. Staff and guests are starting to wear short pants and short-sleeve shirts and are even visiting the two pools again, so the weather is clearly becoming more pleasant and everyone is now looking forward to spring and summer.
The water levels continue to drop and very quickly - we have already prepared our low water jetties and probably will move over to them before mid-August, which is very early - but Jao is never short of water so our mokoro, boating and Hunda trips are still very active.
It has been a great month, one of the best this year both on Jao and across at Hunda. At Jao, a male honey badger was seen twice again this month and the otters - just the male and female - are seen most afternoons in front of the main lodge area.
The lion pride has been very active, although with the water dropping, they have been covering more ground. The large herds of red lechwe have only just started arriving so they have had slim pickings as far as food goes. Their movements have brought them onto the small camp island for most of the second half of the month which has meant staff had to be very careful in camp - but it has been very special being able to see lion cubs in camp.
Then over the last four months, we have been seeing a young male leopard a few times a month around the airstrip. But on the 21st of this month, he made his way into camp and was seen in the turning circle by the main lodge area. This is very special as it has been a while since we have had a leopard in camp. This is a great sign of how relaxed the animals are - that they are happy to walk through camp as part of their natural territory.
The breeding herds of elephant have arrived at Jao and on most days we see at least one, as well as there being always a few big bulls around. The hippo activity has also increased as more grass and land is exposed. With the dropping of the water levels, more feeding areas are available and this has caused some tension between big males "bumping" into each other. In the middle of the month two big males bumped into each other on the Jao bridge - we did not even know that hippo used the bridge, but after huge commotion and loud noise late one evening, we went out to investigate early the next morning to find a very big pool of blood and teeth marks all over the middle section of the bridge. After following the blood trail we found the hippo that came off second best about 100 metres away from the bridge in some thick reeds. He was badly wounded with big gashes in his neck and body from the other hippo. He lay there for three days before he had recovered enough to move on. Hopefully he will survive, as hippo have thick fat layers for protection and often the wounds look worse than they are.
With the water dropping, large numbers of zebra, wildebeest, giraffe and tsessebe should be arriving - in addition to the masses of red lechwe. The resident civets are still doing well: the female has clearly given birth as we have seen her since with a small belly and lactating. The male is on the other side of the island and the mongoose are also doing very well now with the water dropping and more area to forage for food.
We still have fairly regular sightings of sitatunga, as a group of three have taken a liking to the area.
With spring and summer on its way it looks like the second part of this year is going to be a cracker.
Birds and Birding
We mention every month that this is a birding paradise and this month was no exception. Most guests, even the serious birders, will tick off at least one bird on their life list in their stay at Jao.
Over the last few years we have had a strange visiting pair nesting at Jao: the southern black flycatcher pair arrive at the end of July every year for about four months and then are on their way again. The pair arrived on the 22nd and are doing well.
Wattled crane, African openbill and yellow-billed kites have started to arrive as summer approaches.
One of the birding highlights for the month was when some of our guests spotted a western banded snake-eagle feeding on a boomslang.
Although the water has dropped a lot it has not affected any of our activities, in fact for mokoro trips it has made it even better. The whole floodplain is available and now some of the deeper sections around the western side of the main island have now become shallow enough to mokoro as well. This means you finish a mokoro trip in the afternoon on the western side with an amazing sunset over the water!
The fishing has been very good, with great specimens of tigerfish being caught and released. The bream and pike are starting to come onto the bite, and next month with the catfish run, it will only get better.
Both half day and full day trips to Hunda Island are very popular, as there are some very large mixed herds on the island as well as good numbers of leopard, with a group of guests seeing four different leopards on the same day.
We have also been able to do floodplain brunches in the shallow water, bush dinners and even a wine tasting on a boat - everything that makes Jao the special and magical place it is.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Antony and Kalinka Mulligan, Bryan Webbstock, Theresa Fourie, Marina Lunga, Retha Prinsloo, Dan Chaknova, Mandy Sunderland, Brett Ervine and Cindy Swart.
Guides: Cruise Mollowakgotta, Alberto Mundu, Solomon Kanyeto, Simon Tshekonyane and Johnny Mowanji.
update - July 2012 Jump
to Seba Camp
July has been a superb month for all types of sightings, from animals to birds. With the cold snap having disappeared, the Delta has officially warmed up nicely and the animals are becoming slightly more active.
The vegetation has been slowly turning various shades of brown and yellow, and the trees have all thinned out, giving much better game viewing for the guests and guides. The water has receded quite substantially, which means the many water crossings are much easier to tackle, as well as the fact that the animals are now moving between the islands much more easily. The lion have been heard calling occasionally from camp, however only tracks have been found near the cement airstrip and near our bush dinner spot, possibly stalking the large herds of buffalo that roam the area. On one occasion, a herd of approximately 500 buffalo was found, and amongst the curious mothers were several young, a promising sign for these beautiful yet dangerous animals.
Several large herds of elephant have been hanging around the camp this month, many with newborn babies which adds to the wonder of the sightings. The mothers are very protective over their young, and any hint of a human presence sees them disappear into the bush for safety.
A pair of Cape clawless otters has made the Seba Lagoon their new home, and if you are lucky, you might get to see them both swimming around during lunch on the beach in front of the lagoon. A large-spotted genet has also made the front dining area his abode, and once everything is settled for dinner, he pops around to hunt under the main deck.
On one sunny morning, our experienced guide, Speedy, spotted the resident male leopard just behind the camp, making his way to the Old Airstrip. Speedy and his guests followed him for several hours before he jumped into a dead leadwood tree and slept for a few minutes, then jumped down and continued to destinations unknown. Upon inspection in the afternoon, he had crossed onto a neighbouring island, and has not been seen since, although his gruff barks can still be heard in the immediate area on some nights.
Each morning, the guides check the pathways for the "Seba News." Here, at least three times each week, these have produced a young female leopard's tracks, which points to the prospect of perhaps a young cub in the pipelines for the near future.
One night while having dinner, a guide called in fresh female lion tracks that lead directly to the camp, and although she was never seen, her call was rattling the tents deep into the night.
Several hippo are also making their presence known along the channels, which makes the fishing and boating excursions quite an adrenaline rush. A very rare sighting this month as well was that of a Pel's fishing-owl, and although he has only been spotted once this month, it was a spectacular sighting as this particular bird is wanted on many birdwatchers' wish lists.
As for an update on the Seba Clan of hyaena, there is wonderful news as one of the clan females has given birth to two beautiful cubs this month! Due to the fact that the cubs are still extremely young, they are very rarely seen, only coming out to suckle in the early morning or late afternoon. The other six cubs are still active and are becoming very adventurous, now leaving the den to explore without the adults, their strangled calls quite comical as they practice their 'whoops', a characteristic sound of the night. Any time during the day, they can be seen lounging around the den, often lying on top of each other to get as much heat as possible, as well as to show how close and affectionate they are.
Another addition to the Seba Family is the introduction of a baby Meyer's parrot who is often found in one of the many sausage trees, screeching for hours on end as the parents tear the flesh from the sausage fruits. The African openbills have arrived in their thousands back to the Abu Concession, creating massive clouds of black as they all take off from the water's edge and land in trees and bushes, an amazing spectacle that almost everybody can appreciate even if they are not enthusiastic about birds!
As for camp news, our boats have been fully refurbished and have been fitted with consoles in order to make the journeys more comfortable for both guides and guests.
"We have been quite enchanted by the quiet serenity of Seba. Our hearts (and tummies) are full. Thank you to every warm smile offered and need graciously met. Perfect!"
"We loved the Mokoro boat ride, great sightings and the excitement of hippo and elephant in the camp."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Virgil Geach, Claire Bathfield and James Moodie
Guides: Speedy, Joe and Jacko.
Newsletter by James Moodie
Photographs by James Moodie and Speedy.
Tubu Tree Camp
update - July 2012 Jump
to Tubu Tree Camp
Weather and Landscape
Compared to last year, this was quite a mild July, except for the few days that we had a cold front or two over the area. The mornings started with a crisp 6° C along with a breeze (on the coldest of mornings) and the afternoons peaked at about 24° C. Very little clouds have been seen over the last month, the few that we did see were an indication of the cold weather that was to come in the days to follow.
In the evenings when the guests went to bed, they were accompanied by what we call a bush baby, not the primate, but a furry hot water bottle. These were a big hit in the evenings. The "bush babies" made the cold morning game drives more comfortable, when they were hiding underneath a poncho on your seat on the vehicle, after which they heated up your legs, once you sat down.
On a few early mornings we came across some elephant dung that had icicles on. It just shows you how the temperature can be different within a few kilometres.
The water levels have gone down a fair amount. The water in front of camp is almost completely disappeared from the shorter grasses, while in the taller reeds you can still see the glinting light as it is reflected off of the water. With the water going down in front of camp and all across the island, we have been spoiled with some amazing sights. Elephants will walk through the camp, just to come and have a drink of water in front of the main area.
In terms of leopards, Tubu Female and her cubs have been a major highlight this month. They have been spending many a night within the vicinity of camp, and most mornings you will see the family's footprints leading through the camp. The cubs are getting big now... a male and female. The young male is starting to get used to the vehicles a lot quicker than his sister, but nevertheless they have given us hours of fun and games.
Another highlight has been our new addition at the resident hyaena den. The little one (not sure of the sex yet, as it is very difficult to tell when they are young) has spent hours playing in front of the den, around the vehicle, with sausage tree fruit or just being silly. The cub looks like a mini-hyaena on the front part of the body while the back looks like it has been dipped in black paint. The cub has shown great interest in the vehicles when they arrive at the den, trying to chew on the metal step on the side of the vehicle just because it can, after which he/she will run off and bother/nag all the adults that are trying to catch some shut-eye after a big meal.
The hyaena and leopard interaction this month was also great. One of the ultimate sightings this month was a female leopard (Boat Station Female) who caught a large kudu; a little bit later her female cub joined her at the carcass where they started feeding. Later that afternoon they were joined by a male leopard, a herd of elephants in the distance watching their every move, a herd of giraffe - some of the males where necking (fighting for dominance and mating rights) as well as a martial eagle that came to sit in the tree above them. After most of the visitors left and the leopards had time to really enjoy their meal, a clan of hyaena came to crash the party. There was a big confrontation between the male leopard and some of the hyaena - the female leopards didn't wait around and stayed high up in the tree. After a lot of growling and snarling, the male leopard gave up and went to lie down in the shade of a tree. The hyaena then dragged the carcass all the way to their den, where the young pup was excitedly waiting to eat as well as play with the food.
For the second time in a year, we found a pangolin wandering around in the late afternoon. This one was a bit more sceptical of us and was not so keen on showing its face to us, but for many guests this was a highlight of their drive or trip.
With the fruit of the palm trees all ripe, we have had a lot of elephant visitors in camp. Shaking the palm trees in hope of a few ripened fruits that will fall to the ground or in most cases on their heads. You can hear the palm trees being shaken at all hours of the day and night.
Birds and Birding
Large flocks of African openbills have returned to the drier areas of the floodplains, where they can enjoy the small fish that are trapped in puddles as well as dine on a few frogs that were caught in the open.
Due to the water drying up, the larger waterbirds have made themselves at home. Wattled cranes, pink-backed pelicans, great white pelicans, marabou storks, yellow-billed storks as well as a few yellow-billed egrets and great egrets have been seen in different areas around the island.
"I had no idea that I would see such a wealth of species (mega fauna no less) in the span of just two days on one island! It was truly a remarkable experience. I took over 450 photos in a two day visit. I can now share this with my family. Favourite animals: hyaena, steenbok, kudu, warthog and all the birds!"
"We loved the tours with a knowledgeable guide, Simon. The terrific accommodations - excellent. The food was super. The staff was accommodating, very helpful and makes you feel like a member of the family. One of the highlights was the "cultural" night on Monday. Also, the staff particularly Eloise and Hein were extremely helpful, accommodating and knowledgeable."
"Friendly and welcoming staff, knowledgeable and excellent guide GT. Leopard sightings (two different females), elephant, giraffe, excellent food, beautiful birds and accommodation, mokoro and boat rides, and the boma meal was great. We had an EXCELLENT stay at Tubu Tree and would highly recommend it."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Hein and Eloise Holton.
Guides: Kambango Sinimbo and GT Sarepito.
Kalahari Plains Camp
update - July 2012 Jump
to Kalahari Plains Camp
Weather and Landscape
The month of July was quite cold as we experienced dry and windy conditions. The wind sucked the last drops of moisture out of the remaining vegetation, causing the trees to drop their leaves. This has made game viewing much easier.
The Kalahari delivered some exceptional predator sightings this month, with the leopard taking centre stage.
One morning, the guests were treated to an amazing sighting, when they came across the resident young male leopard feeding on a kudu calf kill. The group of game viewers was alerted to the presence of the leopard by the bleating calls of the victim's mother, which was standing close by - calling out to her fallen calf.
Just as the leopard started to feed, another leopard appeared on the scene, about 20 metres away. The approaching leopard adopted a submissive pose and lay down in front of the feeding feline, all the time avoiding direct eye contact. We then realised that these two were siblings as they soon engaged in a greeting ceremony with each other by rubbing heads.
Another great sighting was a pride of nine lions which were seen for the first time in the area. Two small groups of cheetah were found in Deception Valley.
Adding some more ticks to the predator list, we also had some great sightings of bat-eared fox, honey badger, aardwolf and the very rare Cape fox.
General game sightings have been really good, especially around any water source, as the wildlife has now shifted its focus on finding any moisture to slake its thirst in these dry times. We really enjoyed the big congregations of oryx and springbok. The waterholes have also attracted a plethora of bird species in the late afternoons too.
Till next month
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