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South Africa camps
Pafuri Camp update - July 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
This has been the coldest month so far this year, it is also the dustiest month as the winds blow through. The flame creepers are starting to blossom however, giving us solace as these indicate the arrival of spring.
General game in Pafuri still continues to be great, especially in the afternoon along the river as well as around the camp. Bushpigs were sighted at least eight times this month. African civet and porcupine were very elusive this month, but their tracks were seen every morning on the roads.
Leopard continue to dominate the cat sightings. On the 4th, we had two different leopard sightings and on the 19th, we had five different sightings of leopard, three on Luvuvhu East, one on Luvuvhu West and one on Palm Vlei.
The afternoon of the 7th was one of Godfrey's greatest afternoon drives, moving from Pafuri to the old Nwambi access road on Luvuvhu East. He found a large breeding herd of elephant and buffalo a mere 600 metres from the camp. While his guests were enjoying that sighting, the baboons started alarm calling along the river. The game viewers then decided to head in the direction of the ruckus, only to find two leopard resting up in a nyala berry tree with an impala carcass. The felines were relaxed and all the guests in camp got to see them.
One of the highlights for the month was the sighting of two small leopard cubs in the Fever Tree Forest. The Mangala Female also has two cubs, and our trails guide spotted them whilst on foot. Without a doubt, Pafuri is peaking with leopard sightings. In total we had 38 individual leopard sightings, three of which were with cubs.
Lion are still elusive - we had a total of seven sightings of the pride and only one of the dominant male, Ramsay.
On the 20th, Enos spotted an aardvark while walking six guests to their rooms - what a sighting! The aardvark was about ten metres from the walkway and was very relaxed. The same aardvark was spotted two days later by one of staff members near the walkway. On the 23rd, Godfrey had a great sighting of another aardvark on Luvuvhu East.
Breeding of herds of elephant are often feeding at our doorstep. There have been a number of interesting encounters with staff, where they arrived late to work due to the pachyderms feeding along the walkway. The three visiting giraffe are still seen from time to time.
Birds and Birding
Winter birding has been great this month. The resident special birds have been spotted: Pel's fishing-owl, three-banded courser and lemon-breasted canary etc. We recorded a total of 230 birds for the month.
Pafuri Walking Trail update - July 2012 Jump
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I don't know how many times during the first half of the trails season Megan and I asked ourselves how there could be so many female leopards around, but no sign of any cubs. The July trails eliminated that question - there are leopard cubs all over the place.
First, we found tracks of a female with a young cub near Jachacha Pan in the Limpopo floodplain. Then we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a leopard with two cubs along the Luvuvhu River only 800 metres east of the trails camp. A few nights later, bushbuck and nyala alarm calls outside of camp before dinner put everyone on alert. Our camp host, Anna, then shone a torch behind the tents and saw another female leopard prowling past, not at all bothered by our presence. Two days later, while watching a pair of nyala bulls displaying and high-stepping around each other at the mouth of Hutwini Gorge, we spotted yet another female leopard moving across the gorge. Judging from the multitude of tracks coming in and out of the gorge, we suspect she may be denning there.
But the highlight of the month came on a couple of walks from the trails camp. Tracks of a crocodile more than 100 metres from the river made us suspect that it would only have come so far to scavenge. Sure enough, the tracks led us to a kudu carcass. As we cautiously approached, we heard a movement through the bush and saw a flash of a leopard darting into the fever berry thickets. Moments later we caught a glimpse of a leopard cub also moving into the thickets.
We returned that afternoon to set up a camera trap. On the way, we manoeuvred around two bull elephants before spotting the cub again. This time, it was playful and relaxed and offered us an excellent amount of time to spend with it. But upon arrival at the kill, we were greeted with a low growl. The mother was nearby, but she was concealed, and we could only see her once she began to move off. Then, focusing our attention back to the dead kudu, we saw that it was in the jaws of a massive crocodile. We froze, hoping to watch the croc feed without disturbing it, but after several minutes, it grew uneasy and moved back toward the river.
Checking photos on the camera trap the next day, we saw that mother and cub came back to the carcass again, were chased off by an elephant cow, then returned again, but it was the crocodile that took the "lion's share" of the meat, eventually dragging the whole kill to the river. A spotted hyaena, a day late and a dollar short, also paid a visit.
No measurable rain fell on Pafuri this month, so the bush is looking rather parched at the moment. The dry soils have been ideal for tracking, though, and several tracking expeditions have been successful, including a hair-raising experience with a pride of lions and several encounters with white rhino.
The elephants are apparently also keeping a close eye on water levels, as one young bull came into trails camp to examine our showers. He also had a close look at our firewood, perhaps foreshadowing the sub-zero temperatures that were to come. Although the hippo pools are shrinking, hippos have been seen or heard daily.
Giraffe sightings have been good. After several years' absence from Pafuri, three giraffe seem to have taken up residence here and can often be found among the basalt ridges and adjacent thornveld. Other notable mammal sightings on trail this month include eland, honey badger, spotted hyaena, giant cane rat, porcupine, white-tailed mongoose, four-toed elephant shrew, civet, genet, Sharpe's grysbok, and Cape clawless otter. Tracks of cheetah and springhare were also observed.
Bird sightings were highlighted by a Pel's fishing-owl 400 metres from the trails camp. Also of note, a pair of three-banded coursers mating, racket-tail rollers, Arnot's chat, Bohm's spinetail, African yellow white-eye, eastern nicator, white-headed vulture, black-throated wattle-eye, and southern ground hornbill.
As July winds down, some of Makuleke's botanical wonders have added a touch of aesthetic charm to the arid veld. The impala lilies are in full bloom, and along with the mountain aloes, are splashing the rocky outcrops with colour. The woolly caper bushes have also started flowering, filling the evening air along the floodplains with the smell of jasmine and attracting droves of iridescent sunbirds. The first of the flame creepers have also started to streak red through the riverine bush.
Camp Jabulani update - July 2012
Kings Camp update - July 2012 Jump
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Leopard Hills update - July 2012 Jump
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The bush has noticeably dried out now, browns and oranges predominate with the wind bringing in dusty mornings and evenings and dramatic colours and landscapes. Game viewing is superb in the low vegetation and birdlife has improved as some species migrate down from the higher areas seeking the lowveld warmth!
The Sand river is very low and easy to tip toe across!
Wandering far and wide during the cool sunny mid winter days, she is covering even more ground than usual, turning up in places where we would expect other territorial females. She has especially been exploring further north right up to the southern bank of the Sand river. The low vegetation and water levels plus higher density of prey is possibly enticing her there. She hasn't been seen with any of the males for the month so could very likely be pregnant and scouring these areas for safe den sites!
Still up in the north in a very thick area and we are patiently waiting for a good sighting of her so we can put up some images! She is missed more than any other leopard at the moment and it just reminds us of how spoilt we were in the last year by her playful nature and all the classic poses she provided us with!
Also mostly up north in her territory this month we were lucky to find her with an impala kill and hence enjoyed her in the same place for a few days.
Here she is looking rather satisfied with a full belly after quenching her thirst!
No signs of a litter...will see if she begins mating again!
As usual in winter she seems to be almost entirely north of the Sand river, maybe pressure from the southern females coming up from the drier south to seek all the attractions of the alluring river!
A typical intent glare directed at us through the long grass from this elusive female.
Interesting mating interaction involving the Dayone male has dominated her July! She followed him around so persistently for 2 weeks, even incurring a few minor injuries from his impatience with her! She also received a nasty gash from a warthog tusk, see below!
She has seen it all before though and is not too bothered about winning over a young 5 year old male! Her experience came through at over 13 years old and this mating could provide her with her last litter so she is giving it her all.
Not seen much in the west this month, let's hope to see him in August.
Firmly entrenched as the dominant male in the central west he has also pushed a tad further north to the southern bank of the Sand river! His month has been spent mostly with Shangwa female as well as patrolling his huge territory!
The north western sections of our traversing area have been a mystery since Xhinzele and Mashiabanje disappeared in January this year. We have seen distinctive tracks of a skittish male with a splayed left front paw and managed to get decent view of him one night, apologies for the poor image but at least it is something! This may be the dominant male in the north? Time will tell if he becomes more relaxed.
No good quality leopard video this month due to technical issues, no doubt the video cameras will manage to capture a cracking August.
No time to enjoy the sunrise, performing the Flehmen grimace while on the scent of an alluring lioness!
Mating pairs abound as the boys become men and entrench themselves in the western territory of the Sabi Sand. There are so many mating opportunities for them, especially the 4 Ximhungwe lionesses and to a lesser extent the 3 Othawa lionesses who are most likely all pregnant.
A tail flick of a Ximhungwe lioness signals for him to follow.
Flehmen grimace, in impressive Selati male fashion
The Selati males still have to work hard, constantly checking a lioness's urine while performing the Flehmen grimace. We were treated to this fascinating behaviour around a waterhole, the poor lioness couldn't even take a breather to quench her thirst with this male's persistent pestering!
In between all the mating they must eat! See below image of one of the males drinking with some buffalo blood on his paw!
We are rather sad to report that the lioness who gave birth on a hill just to the west of us was seen carrying a weak looking cub that died shortly afterwards! We are not sure what the litter size was and what happened to the others but it doesn't seem that it was the Selati males.
The thirsty lioness drinking from our camp pan just before she gave birth, see her bulging belly!
Carrying the little one past the camp.
The 3 sub adults are flourishing and have been baby sat by one of the lionesses while the other 3 lionesses are away mating and distracting the Selati's!
Here they are crossing the Sand river to the safety of the north! We are all rooting for the survival of these 3 brave souls who have fought so hard for their survival and have come so far since the takeover.
Most likely all 3 are pregnant and we will probably see a first litter emerging quite soon.
Painted Dog Pack
Still denning in the east...we wait for them to head west towards us on a hunting foray. We will definitely see them here more often when the pups are older and can run with the pack.
A number of herds all over this month, here we caught the spectacle of a morning drink.
Notice the hippo threat display in the background and if you look very closely and African fish eagle is in flight over the waterhole. What an African winter scene!
A picturesque drive along the lush Sand river in the afternoons is sure to provide a view of a parade enjoying their evening drink as smaller pans are now mostly dry!
Currently the numerous rafts are spending a lot of time out of the water soaking up the warm winter sunshine. If they are startled it is an awesome sight to see them charging at full pace into the safety of the water.
With their invaluable real estate shrinking they are becoming more protective over their precious resource as seen below when an obstinancy of buffalo arrived and took over.
This adolescent male entertained us with his curiosity and attempted show of dominance! You need to grow bigger canine teeth young chap!
Interesting sightings in July
We came across this unusual looking red headed raptor one morning (funny how ginger jokes were suddenly dished out in the direction of the ranger!)
Seriously this is quite a common bird of prey but this is the rare sight of a moulting sub adult. It is indeed a tawny eagle!
See below image of a mature adult female tawny eagle finishing off the spine of a grey duiker that she stole from a spotted hyaena.
See if you can decipher the morning newspaper of the bush and can pick out the tracks in the fascinating sequence below!
If you look closely you can see the tracks of a honey badger that dragged his formidable rock python victim along the road . A genet and a civet were then following to see if they could share in the spoils. AMAZING! Imagine being witness to such a sight!
A male coqui francolin in full song, not seen and heard too often!
Rocktail Beach Camp update - July 2012 Jump
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Rocktail Bay Dive Report - July 2012 Jump
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Winter signals the humpback whale migration and we are fortunate to be able to see these majestic creatures every year during this time. These humpback whales live in the Antarctic but as winter approaches they are forced to begin their migration and move to warmer waters. They move between their feeding grounds in the Antarctic to their breeding grounds along the eastern side of Africa as far northwards as Madagascar.
There are a few reasons for this migration. One reason is that humpback whales are air-breathing mammals just like us and even though they live in the ocean they need to surface to breathe air. During winter the Antarctic gets colder and more and more ice forms, covering the surface of the ocean. If the whales do not leave they risk being completely surrounded by ice and could end up trapped under the ice with nowhere to surface and breathe. Another reason is that they leave the colder waters for warmer waters to mate and have their babies. Why don't they just live in the warmer waters? Well, their main food source is krill and this is found in abundance in the icy waters in Antarctica, warmer waters do not produce an adequate supply of food for these whales. The whales feed as much as they can before their long journey and have a thick layer of blubber in which they store this energy as this has to last them until they return to their feeding grounds months later. Humpback whales loose several tons of weight during this migration and mothers that are feeding their calves can loose up to a third of their body weight!
We were spoilt with some wonderful sightings of humpback whales this month, lots of them travelling in loose groups, with a few sightings of individual whales. We have not seen any babies yet but there have been quite a few "teenagers" still travelling with their moms.
One really exciting encounter was at the beginning of the month, we had seen a few whales and then we saw a big splash as a whale breached. As we travelled along we saw that there were two of them, but that was not all, they were accompanied by four Risso's dolphins! These dolphins are the biggest dolphins that you find in the world; they grow up to four metres in length and can weigh between 300-500 kgs! When we saw the first one we thought that is was a tiny newborn whale, then we realised what it was, we were not even thinking about dolphins because other dolphins are not nearly that big. Risso's dolphins tend to live in deeper waters, preferring to be in areas just off the continental shelf and are therefore not commonly encountered in shallow waters. Even Darryl, in all his years out to sea, had only seen these dolphins less than a handful of times, so a very rare and special sighting for everyone!
Diving this month was good even though proper winter conditions have set in. Water temperatures have dropped to 21 degrees Celsius and visibility averaged around 15 metres.
Tillmann Gerding had a wonderful Discover Scuba Diving experience at Aerial. It was just Tillmann and Ondyne on the dive and they were lucky enough to get to watch two octopuses mating. Ondyne spotted the octopuses which were very well camouflaged as they tried to blend in with the seaweed; they were the same colour and even the same texture. As soon as the octopus realised that their disguise was not working they moved slightly away from one another and flashed varying colours across their bodies but once they realised that the divers were posing no threat to them they moved slowly closer together and went back into "seaweed" camouflage mode.
Octopus are capable of changing the colour and texture of their skin to camouflage themselves and hide from potential predators and prey. They have specialised cells in their skin called chromatophores that are responsible for the incredible colour changes. If their camouflage does not work, they use deimatic behaviour, which is when they "flash" their colours as a warning in an attempt to scare the perceived predator away. If this tactic does not work they will squirt out a jet of black ink to "blind" or distract the predator as they swim away. These octopus tried to scare the divers away at first but when they realised that there was no threat they proceeded with their courtship. The male tentatively reached one of its tentacles out and laid it on the female, she moved slightly away and he tried again. Finally she allowed him to place his specialised tentacle called a hectocotylus into her mantle cavity and insert his spermatophores (packets of sperm).
Sadly, the males die within a few months of mating and the females die shortly after their eggs hatch. In fact, octopus live for a relatively short period of time - in some species as little as six months. Another interesting fact about the octopus is that they have three hearts. They are one of the most extraordinary creatures to watch and are known to be amongst the most intelligent of all invertebrates.
The Westcott family were the only divers during the last few days of the month and they were spoilt with wonderful ocean experience memories of a large pod of humpback whales that put on a spectacular display, as well as having some wonderful dives. Antonia, who had just completed her dive course in the UK, did fantastically on her dives - even though her first dive was a bit surgy, she coped very well - well done and wishing you many more wonderful dives.
Congratulations to the following divers:
Elise Legallet, Phill Black, Tillmann Gerding, Stuart, Will and Alex Wilson for completing their PADI Discover Scuba Diving Course.
Paul Legallet and Sue Black for completing the pool session of the PADI Discover Scuba Diving Course.
Yours in diving,
Darryl, Clive, Michelle, Ondyne
The Rocktail Dive Team
Makalolo Plains update - July 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
As expected, we experienced cold conditions this month, but it wasn't as cold as last year this time. The lowest temperature experienced for the month was a chilly 0° C.
The winter waterholes are still looking good even although they are constantly visited by masses of thirsty animals. We have only found two elephant carcasses, as a result of the dry conditions. As we received very little rain in the wet season, we expect to find more casualties in the coming months, but we will keep our fingers crossed. The vegetation has dried out completely and has resulted in easy game viewing.
This month we witnessed an epic lion battle in camp. Unfortunately, one of the young males from the pride of 10 was seriously wounded. Douglas, one of the guides, spotted this male at Madison Pans, and he was not looking good. Hopefully the lion that inflicted the wounds does not encounter the injured male, as he will surely finish him off. Another lion pride killed a buffalo very close to the staff village, which had to be moved further away to avoid any confrontations between staff and feline!
A male bushbuck was seen around camp. This is not a common sighting in the concession, so we were all excited to see this elusive antelope. Other great sightings include a mating pair of black-backed jackals and some great sable sightings.
Birds and Birding
Winter birding was great this month, as the dry conditions have attracted some special species. We had a number of sightings of the yellow morph of the crimson-breasted shrike. Another special sighting was a racket-tailed roller.
"I loved the game drives the best! The outdoor shower facilities were unique and wonderful. It's hilarious to see elephant drinking from the swimming pool."
"This was the best run camp in my opinion. The staff were extremely knowledgeable and well trained!"
"Lions in camp, baboons on the roof, delicious meals and snacks, everything was wonderful. The staff were all kind and welcoming."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Sibs, Cynthia, Cosam and Elizabeth.
Guides: Lawrence, Elias and Douglas.
Little Makalolo update - July 2012 Jump
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Landscape, Vegetation & Water
Apart from some teak trees and the ever-green false mopane, the trees have lost their leaves. This has opened up a lot of the bush and there isn't much cover left, the dry grass that is still available is soon about to become history as the animals finish it off and the lack of moisture is slowly killing it.
Climate and Temperature
Hwange winter has lived up to its reputation, with the last two weeks of July being mercilessly cold. The famous campfire became a highlight for most of our guests as they all bundled up around the precious heat. -5.5 degrees Celcius was the lowest recorded for the month, when we woke up to frozen bird baths and a bitter morning on which to consider a game drive.
Despite the cold, the animals have been a delight as they have been spotted at various waterholes and open plains. On two occasions we had a large herd of eland of between 60 and 80 coming through to the waterhole in front of camp for a drink. A small herd of wildebeest also made a visit one afternoon. The waterhole has predominantly been the favourite for many elephant and the numbers coming through to quench their thirst have significantly grown - in one afternoon we are getting between 200 and 300 elephants.
The Linkwasha Pride has had two new cubs added to the already big pride; it is exciting to see the lions thriving. Our resident leopard has been making appearances at the logpile just after sunset, leaving us wondering if he will be sitting on one of the chairs in the logpile one of these days.
After months and months of wondering where our rhino had gone to, one decided to show up just to show us they are still around. This was the highlight for the month as most of the guests in both concessions that day were ecstatic and in awe. The rhino was seen on two occasions drinking at one of the waterholes around sunset. The excitement in the camps was contagious as everyone was very happy to know that we still have these prehistoric and endangered creatures in our area. Another special sighting was the honey badger seen in camp foraging away.
Probability sightings for the month of July
Lion 74%, leopard 39%, roan 52%, buffalo 81%, rhino 6.5%, gemsbok 3.2%, cheetah 6.5%, hippo 100% and elephant 100%.
Three Meyer's parrot pairs have made a home by one of our rooms and are seen often feeding off the false mopane seeds. Black-headed orioles have been gracing us with their beautiful presence.
"Great staff, great food, fabulous game viewing. Loved the birdbaths in front of the room and dining area. Impressed by the fact that although the camp has been here for years, the impact on the environment is low. Brilliant."
"We received an incredible level of warmth. The staff were excellent. The highlight of our stay was the staff - all of them. Keep up the excellent work!"
"We loved the camp and our stay and we loved the charming staff. We loved the variety of game."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Rania Mutumhe, Charles Ndlovu (assistant), Tendai Zembe (trainee) and Vimbai Mandaza (trainee).
Guides: Dickson Dube,Honest Siyawareva, Bulisani Mathe & Charles Ndlovu
Housekeeping: Ernest, Meki, Angel
Maintenance: Charles, Never & Pious
Waiters: Jabulani, Simon & Tawanda
Kitchen: Mayisa, Shepard, Sendy, Edwell & Benedict
Davison's Camp update - July 2012
Weather and Landscape
This month we experienced some pretty cold winter conditions. The mornings were chilly and windy, but the by midday, it would warm up a little. We did experience a cold front during the middle of the month which dropped the temperature considerably. The temperatures for the month ranged from -1 - 24° C.
In terms of landscape, most of the trees have now lost their leaves, which has increased the visibility for game viewing. The false mopane trees still have lots of foliage, which is attracting tons of wildlife and avian visitors. All of the remaining grasses have now turned gold, making for some very scenic landscapes.
July was a fantastic month and we had some really great game viewing. A tremendous herd of buffalo passed right through camp as they continued their search for water. The guests enjoyed watching the herd as they stirred up the dust under their heavy hooves. The dust was effective at hiding a pride of lions, which sprang into action once they spotted a weakened individual in the herd. The lions managed to ground an old buffalo bull and dispatched him quickly, providing a very substantial meal for the felines.
Leopard, hyaena and cheetah were also seen during the month.
Hwange is well known for its large herds of elephant, which are attracted to the winter waterholes during the dry times. The pachyderms are visibly losing physical condition as we edge further into the dry season. In an attempt to gain adequate mineral nutrition, the elephants have started to display geophagy, more commonly known as eating earth or sand.
While the dry times are a time of little for the herbivores, it is a time of plenty for the predator populations, which flourish when the prey species struggle and weaken. The lions have been doing very well, and we saw three tiny cubs during the month. This particular pride has become very big and has subsequently split into two sub-prides.
The highlight for the month was the sighting of a white rhino!
Birds and Birding
Birding during the mornings and evenings has been excellent around the waterholes as many bird species visit at that time to slake their thirst. Capped wheatear have been seen in abundance, especially in the vleis and floodplains.
As winter is the breeding season for many raptors, we have seen a number of vulture nests around. Unfortunately some vultures opted to build their substantial nests atop palm trees ... which bear fruit that is favoured by elephant and baboon. We have come across one or two nests that have been shaken out of the palms by hungry elephant.
A female southern pochard was seen at a waterhole amongst a flock of red-billed teal.
"I loved the camps staff friendly attitude. We had a lot of fun with our guide".
"The walking safari was great with Themba. Certainly amazing and the highlight of my stay."
"All of it beyond expectations. The people, the care, food and accommodation were superb."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Themba, Buhle, Eugene and Avias.
Guides: Themba, Calvert, Brian, Robert and Livingstone.
Ruckomechi Camp update - July 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
July has been a pretty cool month, with the mercury dropping to a minimum of 7° C and rising to a maximum of 31° C during midday. We have experienced a fair amount of wind, and the wind chill factor was quite high, creating the need to layer up on warm clothing whilst out on drive. The mighty Zambezi has not dropped all that much this month, and it still draws scores of wildlife to its banks.
The smell of the potato bush in the cool evenings has slowly been replaced by the wonderful fragrance of the flowering woolly caper-bush. With the influx of elephant bulls in the area we have found that they are concentrating on eating the green torchwood plus the ana trees. The eland have started to do the annual 'trimming' of the Natal mahogany tree browse-line.
An expected ever-increasing population of elephant is now gracing us with its presence on and near the floodplains of Mana Pools. Here, on the western boundary, is no exception and the need for constant awareness of the presence of the 'long-nosed lumberjacks' is paramount. Hippo have also been very active in the area, and we have enjoyed viewing them out of the water as they bask in the warm sun.
With reference to the predators, the lions have started to show themselves in and around the camp, even going as far as to steal an impala kill from the leopard that hunts regularly around the camp area. Both felines have been seen on more than one occasion from the boardwalk.
The drama has continued as the two Ruckomechi Males (3-4 years old) move between different groups of females: our regular pair of mother and daughter and occasional visiting females that come in from the eastern boundary. Interesting times lie ahead as we wait with anticipation to witness what unfolds. We have not seen cubs for some time now and are concerned.
Wild dog have made fewer appearances but stole the show recently by taking down a kudu cow near the camp just moments before a game drive vehicle arrived to witness the happenings. As usual, the feeding session was rapid and only miniscule scraps remained.
Eland in herds, kudu and other common antelope are also more numerous now ensuring that there's always something to look at.
Nocturnally, honey badgers, civets and porcupines are stealing the limelight.
Birds and Birding
The visiting flocks of red-billed quelea are just getting bigger and bigger. The flocks have reached enormous proportions already, resembling dark clouds at times. As expected, a myriad raptors have arrived to take advantage of the abundant food source. We have enjoyed watching a variety of goshawks and falcons assault the masses of quelea.
As mentioned in previous Ruckomechi Newsletters, we have had the pleasure of having Ted Maberley in camp, taking up slack and filling the gap wherever or whenever needed. A big thanks to Ted. We said farewell to him on Wednesday 31st July, 2012 and wish him all the very best in his further studies and future.
We also said good-bye to Erica who will be doing further training throughout various other Wilderness Camps in Zimbabwe. We thank her for her time and contributions in assisting Ruckomechi during the past six weeks and wish her all the very best with her further studies in the hospitality industry.
"Wonderful scenery, great game, wonderful accommodation."
"Our pleasant welcome and attention to small details i.e. hot water bottles during cold nights."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Carel, Juliette, Gavin, Mina, Sandy and Dan.
Guides: Gadreck, Kevin, Champion and Dharmesh.
Mana Canoe Trail update - July 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
It is very interesting to see the change in vegetation types at the different camp sites along the Mana Canoe Trail. At the start of the Trail, the vegetation is much greener than further along, inside Mana Pools National Park. The last night's camp site - at Ilala - is a completely different bush type, being surrounded by the large leafless mopane trees that are home to the infamous tsetse fly. The weather has been very mild with only the wind bringing a chill to the air.
We have experienced quite windy conditions whilst out on the river. As a result, the river has been quite choppy, but the guides have been taking advantage of the still conditions during the mornings, covering as much distance as possible before the thermal activity picks up as the sun warms up the Zambezi Valley.
As always the game in the Zambezi Valley has not disappointed. Great sightings of impala, waterbuck, warthog, kudu, zebra and baboon are almost guaranteed, with the ana trees providing a great food source for all animals from the baboons right through to elephant. This winter food source attracts the animals onto the floodplains and large gatherings are very usual to see.
One of the top sightings of the month has to be an elephant standing on its back legs. The Mana Canoe guests saw this on a morning walk through the floodplains. This unusual behaviour is stimulated by the ana trees whose high branches are out of reach for all except baboons and these giants who have learnt and perfected this skill.
Birds and Birding
The first night camp site, Vundu, is always quite exciting for birders as the Pel's fishing-owl can be heard calling regularly in the early hours of the morning, from the Natal mahogany trees. Unfortunately we haven't seen it yet but he seems to be a resident in the area. Another nice sighting has been that of African skimmers, flying low over the water with their enlarged lower mandibles skimming the water.
We are sad to say good bye to Ted Maberly who has been helping on the trail for the last two months, we wish him good luck in his career and the whole team will miss him greatly.
Staff on Trail
Manager: Daniel Peel.
Guides: Henry and Matthew.
Toka Leya Camp update - July 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
July was characterised by nippy nights and mornings followed by really beautiful temperatures during the day and lovely blue skies. The evening stars are definitely a highlight of the nights - much to the amazement of our guests who don't often have a chance to see such lovely clear skies full of stars. The temperatures actually dropped to as low as below zero in the early mornings. Our hot water bottles, known as 'bush babies' were also one of the many things that the guests enjoyed.
The water level along the Zambezi has dropped only a little, but the Victoria Falls are still as impressive as ever and add the cherry on top to the great wildlife sightings we had this month.
Despite the drop in temperature, we had a big increase in the number of elephant that frequent the camp area - much to the pleasure of our guests who got to experience some great elephant sightings and superb photographic opportunities right on their doorsteps. Although the landscape has dried up, the elephant are still able to get the choice bits of vegetation as they have been pushing over many trees, exposing the nutrient rich roots.
Whilst we were enjoying the elephant, Donald, who works in back of house and who spent the greater part of the wet season planting trees, was not so happy, as his trees provided some tender and juicy leaves and twigs for the big creatures. However, this is something to be expected and Donald has vowed to win the fight against the tree destruction and has germinated a whole lot more trees after also donating every other tree that was in his yard to the non-profit organisation that plants trees in the Dambwa Forest. This month saw us donate 700 trees to Green Pop, an organisation that managed to bring many people from all walks of life to planting trees in Livingstone this month.
Large herds of buffalo and waterbuck have taken a liking to the area surrounding camp, as they have been seen on a daily basis. The resident hippo also continue to entertain our guests, as they are very relaxed in the presence of people, again allowing for some outstanding photo opportunities, from the safety of the main deck at camp.
Giraffe and rhino sightings have also been great this month.
"A wonderful family of staff at Toka Leya. What more to say but thank you all so very much."
"Perfect in every way - Wish we could stay longer! All the staff were professional and friendly. Hope to see you all again."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Petros Guwa, Gogo Guwa, Jacquie Munakombwe, Mavis Daka, Amon Ngoma and Solomon Tevera.
Lufupa River Camp update - July 2012 Jump
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Lufupa Tented Camp update - July 2012 Jump
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Kalamu Lagoon Camp update - July 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
July weather was lovely with warm days, cool evenings and mornings, plus the wind has not been bad, although a brief breeze at sunrise would be experienced occasionally. Winter suddenly departed and summer took over with temperatures rising steadily to 34 degrees Celsius, marking the beginning of the dry season. It means transformation and diversification in wildlife and scenery.
What a wonderful month we have had, with the game viewing has been tremendously exciting so far. The Kalamu Pride is currently made up of two lioness and a subadult male and has been spending a bit of time on the other side of the Luangwa River. Fortunately the river has dropped rapidly and they crossed back and killed a buffalo calf. They were subsequently seen closer to camp on several days. Certainly our lion sightings have improved and we hope they stay in the area.
The leopards have once again been a highlight at Kalamu with guests witnessing four different leopard sightings on a single night drive. Leopard sightings have increased over the last two years, especially during the day.
With the inland water completely dry, the Luangwa River and the Kalamu Lagoon have become the only water source that lures massive amounts of game. Huge rafts of hippo and groups of crocodile are seen sunbathing together on the exposed sand banks of the Luangwa River. Elephant bulls continue to forage in and around camp both delighting and amazing our guests. Herds of buffalo, Thornicroft's giraffe (which are very unique to the park), roan, kudu, zebra and bushpig were encountered occasionally. Once the sun went down, we had sightings of porcupine, genet, honey badger, civet and hyaena.
Birds and Birding
Birdlife has been spectacular as usual! Large flocks of yellow-billed storks have been congregating around the lagoons. It is really interesting to watch them stir up the mud with their beaks, just waiting to seize a tasty morsel.
The Palearctic migrants and the intra-African migrants such as the red-chested cuckoo, white stork and southern carmine bee-eater have started to arrive in our area.
"Unforgettable experience. The staffs in particular were 5 stars."
"A pristine place, lovely staff, excellent location and unforgettable wildlife experience."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Solly Tevera, Evie Bwalya, Rebecca Tembo and Leah Banda.
Guides: Sandford Sakala, Joseph Mfune and Emmanuel Sauti.
Shumba Camp update - July 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
We have had great weather this month with the cold winds slipping away, leaving it clear and warm with the temperatures already reaching the mid to high 30s (Celsius). There is still a chill in the early morning air but that only makes a coffee by the fire that bit more enjoyable.
Shumba Camp is situated in the heart of the Busanga Plains, high up in the Kafue National Park making it a true wilderness area. Nestled under the shade of giant sycamore fig trees and surrounded wide expanses of breathtaking scenery, the camp blends seamlessly into the natural environment making it a truly unique destination for wildlife and nature lovers.
July has been an incredibly productive month as far as high profile wildlife sightings go! We spotted several leopard, one of which had some very young cubs.
Another great sighting was that of roan, and not only one individual, but an entire breeding herd. Great numbers of wildebeest, Lichtenstein's hartebeest, puku and red lechwe were seen, and on one drive, the guests were able to tick off 16 species of antelope - talk about a great diversity.
On the nocturnal side of things, we had some great sightings of African civet and serval. Both of these solitary and elusive predators were very relaxed and allowed us a great view of them.
Birding has been fantastic, as there is constant activity at any time of the day. The myriad summer migrants are starting to arrive in the area as they make their way to the southern hemisphere to take advantage of the upcoming conditions which are more than favourable.
"What a wonderful camp! Thank you to EVERYONE for all the delicious, beautiful treats."
"Thank you very much. Thanks to all the staff we will never forget you. Everything was just perfect."
"Thank you for a wonderful time! We enjoyed every moment."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Ashley and Tara Rowe and Christabel Phiri.
Guides: John D Muleka, Idos Mulenga and Sam Simunji Simunji.
Kapinga Camp update - July 2012 Jump
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Busanga Bush Camp update - July 2012 Jump
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At the beginning of July, Busanga Bush Camp (known as BBC) opened its doors to guests for the first time this season and hit the ground running. The first guests were treated to a lioness relaxing in the afternoon sun with her two playful cubs using her for pouncing practice a mere five-minute drive south of camp. She spent the next two weeks moving north and south around BBC, occasionally joined by another female who could be seen hunting from the BBC main area; unfortunately both of her hunts failed on that occasion.
While the mornings are still cold up on the plains there is still an abundance of wildlife to view from your hot water bottle-equipped game viewer. The lechwe appearing through the mist as a lazy sun breaks the horizon is one of the sights that guests talk about most and still proves to be my favourite time of the day. Soon though the ground heats up to rouse the birds and the air is filled with the beating of wings, as little bee-eaters swing out and back from their perches. With a lot of water still around the camp, the birdlife is chaotic as the waterholes are swamped by masses of African openbill, saddle-billed stork, bateleur and sacred ibis vying for fish. Orange-throated longclaw were also seen a number of times.
Neil Midlane was in residence at BBC for a short time during the month too. Neil is a lion researcher for Panthera, a wild cat conservation charity, and he is based in the northern section of the Kafue. He stopped in to explain some of his work and show his results to the guests. Neil has been in the Kafue for three years, and knows the prides and individuals intimately and is able to show a side to these magnificent creatures not often seen.
Large herds of buffalo have been hanging around the camp, and they have been mixing with the abundant elephant herds, creating a great sighting, which is topped off with the scenic splendour of the area in front of the camp, especially when the sun sets. As the water dries up, the action around camp will only intensify.
Joe Hadley and the Busanga Team
Mvuu Camp update - July 2012 Jump
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Mvuu Wilderness Lodge update - July 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
While temperatures are warm during the day, mornings and nights have become chilly in Liwonde. The floodplains are continuing to dry up as are the waterholes in the forest. Due to the colder weather, some of the nocturnal animals have been less active in a bid to stay warm and conserve energy. However, the combination of clear skies at this time along with vegetation that is slowly drying up allows for greater visibility across the floodplains.
Now that it is noticeably getting hotter and drier by the week, the elephant sightings around the river are picking up. The elephants are usually sighted in and around the river on almost a daily basis as they come down to feed on the fever trees and common reed grasses which fringe the Shire.
Our boat safaris are the best way to get up close and personal with these grey giants. During one river cruise last week, Frank and Julius came across a herd of 80 elephants swimming opposite Mvuu. Our lucky guests were able to enjoy the spectacle for more than half an hour.
On a recent game drive, our guide, Angel, and his guests enjoyed the rare sighting of a black rhino crossing the road in front of them. On the same game drive, they spotted six bushpigs and a small herd of buffalo. On other walks and drives into the same area, guests have seen large breeding herds of up to 30 sable. A herd of around 100 buffalo was seen in the mopane woodlands. As the surface water in the area continues to dry up, the Lichtenstein's hartebeest will be drawn to the winter waterholes, along with myriad other wildlife.
On the predatory front, several of our guests enjoyed wonderful sightings of Titus, the dominant male lion in the area. On one occasion, the guests spotted Titus while having a bush dinner. The following day, he was found sleeping on the side of the airstrip in the comfort of some shade.
On the smaller side of the scale, we did enjoy a number of African civet sightings. We found a civet feeding on millipedes late on evening. Millipedes form the bulk of a civet's diet, and what makes this interesting is the fact that millipedes excrete alkaloids in defence, more commonly known as hydrogen cyanide. Civets are able to stomach these toxic secretions, and one can clearly see the millipede exoskeletons in civet scats.
Birds and Birding
African fish-eagles have been seen regularly flying over the Shire - "cartwheeling across the sky" as one of the managers Christopher describes it - in a renewal of their pair bonds. Pel's fishing-owls have been repeatedly spotted on the west bank, near the Natal mahogany trees downstream from camp. They have also been seen upstream around the cormorant breeding colony. Black-crowned and white-backed night-herons are frequently sighted in the riverine vegetation in particular, around the Lodge Lagoon. A pair of Verreaux's eagle-owls was spotted several times flying out of a baobab tree close to the main road during the day.
Other birding highlights include:
More than 100 African skimmers were seen resting on a sandbank close to Chinguni Hills during a boat safari. An African scops-owl was seen just before dark during a game drive on Sable Road. Matthews spotted a flock of 30 Lillian's lovebirds in Southern Ntangai, fairly close to camp.
The Children in the Wilderness Team (CITW) at Mvuu recently launched their new tree nursery based at Nanthomba School. CITW invited village headmen Kwenji and Ligwang'a, lodge managers and the founder of H.E.L.P Malawi to attend the launch. Three local primary schools were involved and helped to fill 200 seed pots with soil and seeds.
"A most beautiful place with such an abundance of wildlife. Very good sightings of Pel's fishing-owl and palm-nut vultures. Great tours with Henry. Thank you so much!"
Staff in Camp
Guides: Matthews, McCloud, Danger, David, Patrick, Duncan, Justin, Henry and George.
Newsletter by Henry, Patrick, Christopher and Frank.
Mumbo Island update - July 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
The temperatures for this month have been moderate yet comfy. The evenings tend to cool down a little, but there is no need for thick winter clothing, maybe just a light sweater. As we get closer to August, which is known as the windy month, the wind over the lake has picked up - making for some very interesting and exciting island crossings.
On the 17th July, the Department of Parks and Wildlife organised a trip to Mumbo Island for five university students to learn about environmentally sensitive waste management. The Department of Parks and Wildlife chose Mumbo as the best example of a tourist facility in a National Park where waste management is handled perfectly.
Mumbo Island Camp manager Joseph Kamanje accompanied the students throughout, explaining how all waste generated is transferred from the island to the mainland for recycling. Even the waste from the dry compost toilets is buried on the mainland and used a year later as compost for tree planting. Kitchen waste is separated into organic waste, plastics and tins and these are also recycled back on the mainland. The students were fascinated to see how Mumbo staff members recycle wine bottles by cutting them into drinking glasses and candle protectors used on the island and sold to other lodges in Cape Maclear.
The group, including a ranger from National Parks, enjoyed lunch and soft drinks on Mumbo before catching the boat back to the mainland. The trip was rated as "highly educational" by the students, who said they would now be sure to pass their exam with flying colours!
Newsletter by Tracey
Chelinda Lodge update - July 2012
Weather and Landscape
Nyika National Park is now adorned with frost and looks a picture in white in the early mornings. However, while the nights and mornings are cold, the days tend to warm up - getting to pleasant mid-twenties (Celsius) in the afternoon. New grasses and flowers are slowly germinating across the grasslands after the seasonal burning.
Leopard sightings on the Nyika remain consistent and varied - from leopards hunting, to leopards resting by the roadside in plain view. We've also had multiple side-striped jackal sightings and have seen a pregnant spotted hyaena exploring the plateau. This news is always welcome as the hyaena population on the Nyika has dropped over the last few years. Eland and roan antelope herds are now moving to lower areas of the plateau and into forest thickets to give birth and escape from the cold weather at higher altitudes.
We had a number of highlights for the month, which included:
A spree of leopard sightings began at the Chelinda Bridge, where Stanford spotted a large leopard strolling across the road and into the montane forest. A few days later, a leopard was spotted near the airstrip - hunting reedbuck in the grass. A little later on in the month, our guests enjoyed another sighting which offered excellent photo oppurtunities, when a large male leopard stood quietly by a clearing, just surveying the area for a good while before moving off.
On the canine side of things, Whyte spotted four side-striped jackals playing together by the Southern Loop at dusk. A couple days before this, Stanford spotted three of the dog-like creatures hunting near the Chelinda Bridge. While usually these interesting predators live in pairs, pups from previous litters will sometimes stay with their parents and help rear the latest ones: a survival strategy that increases the survival rate of the skulk (collective noun for a family of jackal).
At the beginning of the month, we had an exceptionally rare sighting of tree hyrax (dassie) by Dam 1 near Chelinda Camp. This shy little mammal is generally heard more than it is seen, as they give off a shrieking sound when alarm calling or advertising territory. During the day, the tree hyrax can be seen on the ground, as they awkwardly move from one thicket to the next, but at night, they climb into the trees and move with agility as they forage.
Birds and Birding
Birding can be tricky in July as many birds are not so active in the cold weather but nevertheless, the more common species on the plateau have been seen. On a forest walk, Whyte saw a bar-tailed trogon, Fullerborn's boubou, and bronze sunbirds. The pair of African black duck is still being seen regularly on the dam near Chelinda Camp - these ducks are territorial residents so we hope they are here to stay! Very soon we hope to see congregations of Denham's bustard foraging for insects in the burnt grasslands.
Other great sightings include spotted-eagle owl and white-backed vulture.
Newsletter by Sam, Chris, Apollo, Whyte and Stanford.
Desert Rhino Camp update - July 2012 Jump
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The weather has been constantly changing this month. It has varied from 3 degrees Celsius in the early morning to 18 degrees. The east wind has blown, but suddenly changes to the cooler west wind blowing in from the ocean. Every day is different, you never know what to expect - similar to the game viewing this month!
Rhino sightings have been just as good as ever. Tuta has been spotted frequently with her calf. Ben has made an appearance a few times. As reported last month, new rhino have moved into the area and seem to call this home now, as we have seen them on a few occasions this month.
Other game has been active in the Desert Rhino area. Spotted hyaena have been nightly visitors throughout the month. Sometimes only the call can be heard during the dark hours of the night; at others, guests have been lucky to see this nocturnal creature at dawn.
Bat-eared foxes have been spotted on the drives. These shy animals, however, tend to keep as far away from the cars as possible and so they are only seen through binoculars.
A huge herd of zebra has made its home around the camp. Every morning one can see the tracks, even distinguishing the small ones from the adults.
Leopard calls were heard at night with a kill found one morning. The elusive animal is very seldom seen but his tracks in the morning prove his presence.
The pied crows have been as active as usual. They accompany the staff throughout the day. Some vultures have been sighted feeding at a carcass a little way from camp. The lappet-faced and white-backed vultures were among the lucky scavengers.
A huge variety of other birds like black-breasted snake eagle, brown snake eagle, swallow-tailed bee-eater, Ruppell's parrots and rosy-faced lovebirds have been seen during the drives this month.
To enable the best view of the starlit sky for our guests, we spoil them to dinner under the stars next to the fire. Winter makes this a little more challenging, what with cold winds and cold nights, but a merry fire has kept them warm.
We would like say goodbye to Grace who has been part of DRC team for the last six months and warmly welcome our new waiter, Peter. Manfred is also a new addition; he joins the Save the Rhino Trust Team. We wish him also the best and much luck with his tracking.
Palmwag Lodge update - July 2012 Jump
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Doro Nawas Camp update - July 2012 Jump
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This month we awoke on a few occasions to mist covering Doro Nawas, causing freezing cold days. It seems, however, like we are slowly approaching the end of winter season with current daytime temperatures ranging between 16 - 28 degrees Celsius.
Friday the 13th is usually known as a bad luck day but for Doro Nawas Camp we were only lucky as the desert-adapted elephants visited camp and were spotted very close to the guest units as they were passing by. That created another WOW sighting for our guests staying at Doro Nawas as they could view the elephants from the deck of the main building and from the verandas of their rooms. The great beasts hung around camp for a couple of days before heading off and following their seasonal pattern.
Birders also had a chance to spot some specials such as the huge kori bustard and the Ludwig's bustard around camp.
Richardt, along with his guests, spotted a lioness one morning. This is a rare species for the area so the sighting caused much excitement. The lioness was feeding on a carcass, while a springbok in the background was watching the scene anxiously.
The staff and management went out of their way to create memorable experiences for our guests by organising a surprise bush breakfast, lunch in the riverbed and the Doro Nawas Wilderness Choir performed live at the end of dinner. One of the guests jumped on the keyboard and played some entertaining songs. Dr Flip Stander also did a presentation on his Desert Lion Project.
The bean bags scattered around the fire place are used in the day by our visiting children. The kids enjoy swimming and lying in the sun on these comfortable bean bags.
At one point, when there were no guests in camp and the camp managers were out, the staff decided that they wanted to clean the trash along the road from Betanies, which is the nearby village, up to Rendezvous - an activity that was gratefully received.
Lastly, but not least, our baby elephant was named after Jason one of the assistant managers. The ellie shares a birthday with Morien, an assistant manager - 23 July. Baby Jason is now one year old. Happy birthday to you all.
"I'm impressed with what you are doing for the environment. Michael our guide was superb beyond expectation. The staff were friendly from the moment we got out of the car." - Mr. Mathijssen
"First, handwritten notes for me and my mom, they made me gluten-free bread, sang for me for my birthday, gave me a beautiful book. Everyone is lovely and special. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Just continue to be amazing, my stay was perfect." - Sara
"Lucky to see elephants in front of our room, wonderful place!" - Eric
"Spectacular vistas, friendly staff, wonderful accommodation, outdoor shower and sleeping, good fresh food and conservation and children's programmes." - Wendy
"Nature walk with Michael to see elephants, sleeping outside and great food". - Runacres
"Everything was a highlight, I felt I had died and gone to heaven. We had nice time in the camp and around the camp". - Linda
"The location of the lodge, being able to see for miles in every direction. Also the surprise bush breakfast." - Andrew & Hook
"Friendliness of all staff members, surprise breakfast at sunrise and the game drive with Michael." - Deruyttere
"The site is beautiful, rooms are comfortable, spacious with the amenities we needed. Mostly, the efficiency, friendliness and hospitality of the staff, the guides and managers knowledge of the area will bring us back and we will tell our friends." - Pamela & Bill
Staff in Camp
Manager: Agnes Bezuidenhout
Assistant Managers: Morien Aebes, Theobald Kamatoto, Jason Lundon, Emsie Skrywer (trainee)
Guides: Richardt Orr, Ignatius Khamuseb, Michael Kauari, Michael Haindongo
Newsletter by Theobald Kamatoto and Richardt Orr
Damaraland Camp update - July 2012 Jump
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July was filled with many misty mornings and windy days. The windy conditions proved our guides' tracking abilities because by early morning all tracks of the desert-adapted elephants were erased like the previous evening's dream. So this encouraged the guides to track on secondary signs (e.g. feeding, droppings). The coldest recorded day was in mid-July with temperatures dropping to 4 degrees Celsius.
This month we were very excited about the birth of a calf within the Oscar elephant herd. Sadly, our joy was short-lived, because on day three, we could not find the baby and mother any more. On day four the mother rejoined the rest of the herd without her calf. We then knew the baby had passed away. She is a young cow and possibly, her baby was born weak; we also suspect she didn't produce enough milk for the calf. We mourn this loss with our desert-adapted mama.
July proved to be the month of the lion. Dr. Flip Stander of Desert Lion Conservation was in the Huab Valley from 11 - 23 July. During his time here, we were able to track the Huab Pride on several occasions with an 80% plus success rate if we were patient enough! We were even fortunate to attend the re-collaring of the male lion from the pride. During this period, it was confirmed that all eight cubs are still doing well and that there are five females and three males. The two females who are just over five years old now were initially born 200 kilometres north-west of their current home range.
A rare sighting this month was that of a caracal with a springbok kill. Unfortunately it was faster at disappearing then the guest cameras were in appearing. After some investigation of the dead female springbok, it was confirmed that it was killed by the caracal. The tracks in the vicinity and bite marks on the carcass all pointed to the small cat. It just shows the power of the cat which weighs between 14 and 19 kg while an adult springbok usually weighs around 40 kg!
This month a meeting was organised by Area Manager and Community Liaison Officer Pascolina Florry between the Torra Conservancy management and Damaraland Camp. The purpose was to discuss the lion activity within the Huab Valley, where lion-proof kraals should be erected and where communities are most vulnerable in terms of livestock predation. A letter of mutual agreement was signed to seek solutions. All of this is being done in order to conserve lion and develop lion tourism in the area.
Pascolina also made a day's journey into the remote corners of the Torra Conservancy, listing those with eye problems. The list will be used in the future when eye clinics are held in the area. This was also a day spent recording other social and community challenges that Wilderness Safaris can help with.
As we have been sent new uniforms with updated company logos, we distributed our old uniforms to the local school kids and hostel matrons who were thrilled to receive the gifts.
The guests who were with us on 15 July were given a wonderful talk by Dr. Flip Stander about the Desert Lion Project and the potential of lion tourism. The talk was so successful that only the enticing aromas of dinner were able to stop all the questioning that was taking place.
With all the hard work at camp, we all felt that everyone needed a bit of attention, love and support, so the staff baked cookies and overwhelmed the head office staff to say thank you for all the hard work.
"I nearly cried when I found the hot water bottle in the bed - it was awesome." Brenda
"The friendliness of all, the surprises like the breakfast, our guide Anthony. The hot water bottle!" Michael
The Damaraland Camp team welcomes Wayne Du Toit to the family, and we say farewell to Victor Hayward.
Managers: Maggie, Elfrieda and Wayne and Erica (assistant managers)
Guides: Anthony, Albert, Wilem and Johann
Skeleton Coast Camp update - July 2012 Jump
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Serra Cafema Camp update - July 2012 Jump
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Ongava Tented Camp update - July 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
Winter is in full swing and we have all been feeling the cold weather in the mornings and evenings. We have experienced a fair amount of wind which further cooled things down. The minimum lows experienced for the month were between 5 and 10° C, but as soon as the sun spread its rays over the landscape for a while, the temperatures did warm up, causing one to remove the thick layers of warm clothes.
The skies were clear and we did not see a single cloud for the entire month, although we did see some smoke along the horizon from a distant fire. The landscape is incredibly dry and the prevailing winds have created ideal conditions for bush fires, so we are all on high alert and keeping a watchful eye for any signs of a fire in our area.
July has been a great month for sightings in both Ongava and Etosha. Due to the dry conditions, the waterhole in front of camp has produced many great sightings, especially during lunch time. Daily congregations of kudu, plains and Hartmann's mountain zebra, black-faced impala, waterbuck, oryx and giraffe meet at the waterhole. It is such an amazing sighting to see all these different species interacting with each other.
The resident lion pride has been quite active around the camp area and they appear to be doing very well as the pride is rapidly growing. There are now two litters of cubs within the pride. The cubs are all still very young and we have been lucky to see them a few times this month around the camp waterhole.
Lion sightings in Etosha have been pretty good too, as a number of our guests got to witness lions mating at close quarters. A handful of successful hunts were also seen.
Black-backed jackals have also provided some great sightings and photographic opportunities as they are still successfully hunting at the Gemsbokvlakte waterhole. Their modus operandum is to wait for springbok to climb into the waterhole and start drinking. The jackal then launches an attack and darts into the middle of the herd, inevitably grabbing one unlucky individual. Once the victim has expired, the gang of jackals then drag the carcass out of the waterhole and into the safety of some bushes before feeding. This behaviour seems to be unique to Etosha.
Rhino sightings have been good on both Ongava and Etosha as both species have been seen regularly. Despite the cooler temperatures, the rhino have still been savouring their mud wallows on a daily basis.
Birds and Birding
July has produced some great birding, especially around camp. Ruppell's parrots have started to congregate around the camp waterhole during the afternoons, as they enjoy a drink before roosting. White-crested helmet-shrikes have also been seen around the camp area which it quite unusual.
This month, we took great pride in spoiling our guests whenever we could. On one occasion, we surprised our guests with a bush dinner, which was set up in a dried up dam. The guests loved the experience and were serenaded by roaring lions that were not too far away.
On another occasion, we surprised our guests with a bush lunch. The guests wanted to spend the whole day out on game drive, so we took this opportunity to do just that and set up a relaxing lunch spot in the wilderness.
"Amazing wake up call, right on the time from the lions outside the camp. Our guide Bono was knowledgeable and friendly did an excellent job."
"Seeing a leopard, hearing the raw of the lion and seeing a lioness on the first night. Feeling close to nature, especially as the camp is not fenced."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Silvia Morgante, Corne Cocklin, Inge Kambatuku and Festus Eiseb.
Guides: Rio Aibeb, Leon Basson, Bono Gauseb and Me-Gusto Busch.
Pictures taken by Silvia Morgante
Little Ongava update - July 2012 Jump
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Ongava Lodge update - July 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
We can definitely feel the cold weather now. Due to the prevailing winds, the mornings and evenings have become very cold, as the cold conditions from the Atlantic sweep over us. The monthly average temperature for July was 24° C.
July and August are the driest months, and now all of the deciduous trees have lost their leaves, making visibility for game viewing so much better.
It has been another great month for game viewing in Ongava. Rhino sightings have been fantastic, with sightings of both species, even sometimes drinking side by side at a waterhole.
On the subject of waterholes, all of those that still have water have been attracting huge numbers of wildlife.
The Stompie Pride is back in the area and has been seen almost daily. Cheetah sightings have been pretty good too. We suspect that the predator forces will be cashing in on the abundance of prey species around the waterholes.
Three bull elephants have wandered in from Etosha and have been seen on a few occasions.
As we edge further into the dry season, the nomadic elephant herds are slowly returning to the south-western areas of Etosha, adding more variety to our full or half day excursions in the park.
"What a fabulous experience. So many animals in just two days. Wonderful food, comfortable villas and excellent guides and service. Loved it and great memories."
"A wonderful place with five star staff!"
Staff in Camp
Managers: Adriano, Agnes, George and Jason
Guides: Kapona, Henock, Abram, Willem, Teacher and Salomon.
Andersson's Camp update - July 2012 Jump
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Little Kulala Camp update - July 2012 Jump
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Kulala Desert Lodge update - July 2012 Jump
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Kulala Wilderness Camp update - July 2012 Jump
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Governors' Camp update - July 2012 Jump
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Weather and grasslands
Over the last month we have had cool mornings with many overcast days and low cloud. Early morning temperatures were as low as 12°C and averaged 15°C, although by midday we had warmed up to 25°C with balmy evening temperatures of 23°C. Grass growth is drying out slowly although protein level is still high, Bila Shaka, Paradise Plains, and some areas of Topi Plains, Emarti and Musiara Marsh grasslands have good grass levels. The Mara River level has maintained a reasonable level although a little rain at the end if the month brought the river up. The rainfall at Governors Camp for this month was 46.5 mm; much of this rain was on the 20th of this month when we had 41mm which came down in a deluge late the afternoon. At Little Governors the rainfall was 12.5mm.
Photo courtesy of Colin Welensky
Giraffe and resident zebra have been seen in and around the Musiara Marsh and Plains areas. Elephant have come back again with good numbers of them being seen crossing the Mara river on a regular basis.
Gnus:More wildebeest and zebra have been crossing the sand river, on the 28th good numbers of them were congregating near look out hill, the Posse and Burrangat plains. Some quite large herds of resident wildebeest and zebra and been seen passing through the conservation areas.
Cheetah - Malaika has now one cub her other one was taken by Hyena, this little cub is three months old, they are being seen near the double crossing area.
Bibi - has one cub, she is in the Bila Shaka river bed, looks like Sienna is taking care of her cub.
Sienna - has three cubs, on the 27th she was seen with Bibi's cub, will she take this little one over??
Gnus and Zebra have been crossing the sand river continuously and moving towards the Mara River with good numbers being seen latterly in the month. Large herds can be seen scattered across the Burrangat and Posse Plains.
Topi in good numbers can be seen congregating on Topi Plains, Paradise and in the conservation areas to the East of the reserve. Grass levels here are short with good leaf structure which is what Topi like. There also has been much spotted hyena activity here with them killing topi regularly. Topi have a habit of lying down and hyenas have capitalised on this habit of the Topi. There are a few Cokes Hartebeest scattered across Paradise, Bila Shaka and Emarti. Elephant cross the Mara River almost on a daily basis spending more time on the grassland plains. Midday is a good time to see elephant crossing the river.
Photo courtesy of Maina Wachira
A few warthog (Phacochoerus africanus) sows have given birth and this is a little early for warthog, generally they start giving birth at the end of September/October, three litters have been seen now. When water is available, warthogs will seek it and often submerge to cool down. They will also wallow in mud for the same purpose and to gain relief from biting insects and flies. Warthogs will often utilize empty dens created by aardvarks. Rather than fight, they often choose flight, and use recognized bolt holes or used dens as an escape from predators. They typically back in, using their tusks to effectively guard the entrance. Sows also use these dens to have their young. Females have litters of four or fewer young, females only have four nipples so anymore can be a problem, piglets will suckle for about four months.
Photo courtesy of Colin Welensky
The large breeding herd of buffalo have been seen within the Marsh and Bila Shaka, with this herd are many calves or varying ages, recently they have been in the Marsh grassland. Herd size is highly variable. The core status of the herd is with related females, and their offspring, in an almost linear dominance hierarchy. The basic herds are surrounded by sub herds of subordinate males, high-ranking males and females and old or invalid animals. The young males keep their distance from the dominant bull, which is recognized by the thickness of his horns. A characteristic feature of the adult bull's horns is they have fused bases, forming a continuous bone shield referred to as a "boss". Interesting to note is that the front hooves of the buffalo are wider than the rear, which is associated with the need to support the weight of the front part of the body, which is heavier and more powerful than the back.
Photo courtesy of Colin Welensky
On the shorter grass plains many Thomson Gazelle fawns are being seen. Female Thomson's gazelles give birth to single fawns after a 5-5½ month gestation period. They are unusual among ungulates in that they can give birth twice yearly, rather than just once. Thomson's Gazelles can live up to 10-15 years, although they are preyed on by most African big cats, hyenas, Black Backed Jackals and baboons. Half of all the fawns born will be lost to predators before reaching adulthood.
Defassa waterbuck and impala are still regulars within the woodlands and grassland areas between the camps. Many giraffe will also be seen with males sparring or 'necking' with one another. Giraffe use their 18 - 20 inch (45-50 cm) long prehensile tongue and the roof of their mouths in order to feed on a significant range of different plants and shoots, most notably from the 'Acacia' species. Giraffes are the tallest of all living land animals and tower over all other living land animals. The reach heights of nearly 6 m (19 ft) their long neck consists of just seven vertebrae. This is the same number of vertebrae as occurs in all other mammals but in giraffes, each neck vertebrae is greatly elongated. Many prominent trees are well pruned by giraffe and these trees stand out from miles away, even the Warburgia leaves (African pepper tree) are eaten and these leaves are very hot so perhaps some giraffe like a bit of chilli in their greens!! There are a number of calves within these breeding herds; some lucky folk have witnessed a few sightings of Giraffe giving birth. A giraffe's heart has the formidable task of pumping blood at high enough pressure so that it can flow up the giraffe's neck to the brain. To accomplish this, a giraffe's heart is specially adapted. It can weigh up to 10 kg (22 lb) and generates twice the blood pressure of other large mammals. Having enough blood pressure to pump blood to the brain when the giraffe's neck is extended upward is one challenge, but when the animal lowers its head it risks injury due to excessive blood pressure. To counter this, giraffes have a pressure-regulating system known as the rete mirabile which restricts the amount of blood that rushes towards the brain when the giraffe lowers its head. On the reversal of this action with the giraffe raising its head fast there is a one way valve in the Jugular vein that reduces blood flow back.
Photo courtesy of Maina Wachira
A few Bohors reed buck have been seen and these are a shy quiet ungulate that like coarse grass habitat, there are few in the Musiara Marsh now that grasses are drying off a little these will be seen more often.
Eland in small herds can be seen in the Marsh areas and Topi plains, scattered herds can be found throughout the Mara reserve and conservation areas, large herds of zebra and a breeding herd of eland could be seen on the lower Topi Plains this month. Bushbuck favor closed and wooded habitat with males being relatively secretive and habitual in their movements, they also darken with age, one of these males whom we used to see often close to the entrance to one of the Governors Camps was taken by a Leopard who took it up a Teclea tree that was on the road and fed off it for a few days. We have had good sightings of Serval cats this month even though the grass is long in some areas that they are found. Large numbers of Spotted Hyena on Topi Plains, Rhino Ridge and Musiara Marsh, on the Topi Plains hyena have been feeding off topi, they are more active than their competitors the lion in this area.
Marsh pride - Bibi has a cub that is five weeks old and so does Sienna who has three both of which are in the Bila Shaka river bed area. On the 26th we noticed sienna with Bibi's cub; we all wonder if Sienna will take her cub over? Bibi is not a good mother with her losing young cubs last year.
Photo courtesy of Ian Francis
The four Musketeers have been fighting with Sikio and Hunter who have had numerous squabbles, in the evening of the 21st Hunter and Sikio had a dramatic fight above the windmill which was well documented by guests.
Photo courtesy of Steve Granger
Scar was chased out and for a time being was seen in Masai country, his eye is looking a little better and not so swollen, within a short time of these short encounters they were all recently seen quite close together and in good humour.
They have been mating with the young Marsh females. Modomo's lip ulcers or growths seem to come and go, a few days ago she was seen close to the Marsh with what looks like these growths have either fallen off or they may have been pulled off while feeding. They are all feeding off buffalo and a few resident gnus & zebra that have come through. The Marsh females and males are often between the Marsh and Bila Shaka.
Notch is being seen within the Talek River region with six females of the Ol Keju Ronkai pride, they are feeding off wildebeest and warthog. The four males have crossed the Talek River and are in the lookout hill area of the Burrangat Plains perhaps a change of diet with Gnu meat. Saying this they had killed and eaten many adult hippos from the Talek and Ntiaktiak rivers.
The Lioness Nyota and her male cub Moja who is 7 months old can be seen between Rhino Ridge and Talek. Nyota is often seen on the west side of Rhino Ridge at a place called Miti ya Nyuki. She has been feeding off warthog and the odd resident wildebeest that has moved through here.
Joy and her 3 cubs that are 15 month old are being seen regularly near the windmill area of the Marsh or just within in the conservation area she had four cubs and lost a cub earlier on in May/June, they have been feeding off gnus and zebra. Two of the older male adult cubs have moved on. The three cubs were scattered on the 22nd by three of the Musketeers with Joy being seen just on her own later on they were seen together again.
The Olkiombo lion pride of 12 including their 2 cubs which are 9 months old, 8 females and 2 males which are 2-3 years old are recently being seen near the Ol Kiombo airstrip and near the confluence of the Ntiaktiak and Talek rivers. They have been feeding off the resident buffalo here and zebra.
Malaika and her one cub that is approximately three months old are very active. Sadly Malaika lost a cub to hyena on the 19th very sad as she was a good and caring mother. Predator aggression with hyena being a dominant predator when in similar habitat as cheetah, hyena will do the same with lion cubs if they are found unattended. The short grass areas within the Ntiaktiak and Olare Orok rivers are good places to see them.
Photo courtesy of Maina Wachira
There is another female within these areas that is also feeding off Thomson gazelles.
A nice male cheetah was seen near Topi plains on the 21st and on the 22nd he had killed a Thomson Gazelle between Topi Plains and Bila Shaka, there is short grass here which is ideal Thompson Gazelle habitat.
Olive and her one cub that is 11 weeks old have been seen near the Ntiaktiak and Talek river area briefly this month; she lost a cub earlier on in the month and guides in this area are thinking perhaps this was from hyena activity again.
The male leopard near the croton thickets at Paradise and also near the mortuary crossing point on the Mara River is being seen often this month.
The female leopard on the rocky hill close to the Serena pump house on the Mara River with her one male cub that is approximately 9 months old is being seen regularly. She has been seen feeding of impala recently, a good sighting of here was seen on the 24th where she had killed an impala female and fed off it high up a Warburgia tree.
A female and her male cub have been seen near the BBC and Il Moran, she has been feeding off bushbuck and impala on the 19th they had killed a male bushbuck near to Il Moran Camp. On the 22nd the young male was seen carrying an impala ewe near the BBC camp on the Mara River.
Walking in the Mara North Conservancy.
Long grass still prevails in many areas below and above the 'flyover' of the MNC. There is very little ungulate activity here although until recently zebra will be seen on the plains above the 'flyover' ridge. On the plains to the east grasses are much shorter with good numbers of resident gnus and zebra that have come through earlier on in the month.
Elephant seem to be in smaller herds and they are concentrating on the Acacia woodlands. A few bulls can be seen on the open long grass plains.
Eland in small herds are being seen on the shorter grass plains to the east of the conservation area. Topi and a few cakes Hartebeest can also be seen in this area.
Thomson and Grants Gazelles are in good numbers here with two Thompson fawns being taken by Black backed Jackal.
Lion have been seen above the 'Flyover' on the 23rd a male and female were seen mating then two males being seen on the 24th and on the 26th early in the morning they were feeding of a zebra that they had killed, by 12.30pm there was not a item left. On the 26th 5 cubs and four females were seen at the point where we start the walk which is above a small ridge. Earlier on that morning we saw Zawadi and her 15 month old cub near to the start of Leopard Gorge. She looked in very good condition, on first sighting we mistook her for a male, and she is a big leopard as females go.
The female Cheetah and her one male cub were seen above the 'flyover' on the 23rd and they both looked in good condition. They have been feeding off Thomson Gazelles in the north end of the reserve where there are some very short grasses supporting good numbers of Thompson and Grants Gazelles
Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds
There is continued nocturnal Aardvark activity as can be seen by the many holes dug into the roads and grasslands. We have also noticed more activity regarding the plated ant eater the Pangolin who eat both termites and formicine ants; they will climb trees to get at the carton ants. Three types of pangolins exist in Africa-the giant pangolin, the tree pangolin and the most widespread, the ground pangolin. Pangolins have small heads and long, broad tails. They are toothless and have no external ears, although their hearing is good. Their sense of scent is well-developed, but with small eyes their sight is poor. The weight of the protective keratinous scales and skin make up about 20% of the pangolin's weight. The Pangolin preens itself by scratching with the hind legs, lifting its scales so the claws can reach the skin. It also uses its tongue to remove insects from under the scales. As pangolins have no teeth, the gizzard like stomach is specially adapted for grinding food. The process is helped along by the small stones and sand pangolins consume. They dig out insects from mounds with their sharp claws and use their extremely long tongues (up to 16 inches in larger pangolins) to eat them. In a resting position the tongue is pulled back into a kind of sheath that retracts into the chest cavity. Large salivary glands coat the long tongue with gummy mucus to which ants and termites stick to.
We hope to share the magic of our corner of the Masai Mara with you sometime soon.
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge update - July 2012
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