(Page 1 of
No report this month.
The Cub Killer Strikes at Mombo
Sighting: Cub Killer
Location: Mombo Camp, Chief's Island, Botswana
Date: 12 June 2012
Observers: Ryan Green
Photographs: Ryan Green
At the end of last month, Mombo guides found Legadema at the Broken Baobab. This enormous tree has a large hollow at its centre, which is one of her favourite hiding places. As they watched her climb into the hollow, the telltale sound of tiny cubs mewling emanated from within.
A few days later, we tracked Legadema over an afternoon, hunting in the middle of the day, until she unexpectedly led us to her new den site on Limpy's Island. Perhaps the constant passage of hyaena and baboon past the Broken Baobab had prompted this move, and she had chosen a new place of safety for her little ones. The new den site was deep below a dense woolly caper bush, in an open, grassy plain, and as we approached, we could once again hear the mewling of at least two cubs. We then left the area, to give her the peace she needed.
Two days later, we had an amazing sighting with her in the forest close by, as she defended her kill from three young male lions from the Mporota Pride, and we were sure that night she would return to her den to suckle.
The following morning, we found her once again in the forest of Limpy's, but behaving strangely - moving around and scent marking, close to the caper bush.
The reason for this became apparent when we sighted the Serondela male leopard on the prowl. She was obviously attempting to distract him from his intentions, which were soon to become apparent. The male disappeared south into the forest, while Legadema continued west, still trying to draw as much attention to herself as possible.
While the other guides remained with Legadema, I went in search of the male. I found him deep in a thickly-vegetated corner of Limpy's, at the base of a large ebony tree. He jumped up into the tree and disappeared for a moment, before emerging again with a mewling leopard cub in his mouth.
He moved deep into a fever berry thicket before lying down and playing with the cub in an almost intimate, affectionate fashion - it was a very strange moment, an encounter with a side of nature not many people have witnessed - what appeared to be a gentle, tender encounter, was in fact far more sinister than that it appeared. This went on for about half an hour, before the male's attentions appeared far too intense, his licking far too rough, his eyes darting around the watching, silent forest - and then I realised that he was eating the cub!
This was an incredibly intense thing to watch; to be a dispassionate observer of a behaviour that few have seen - the urge to intervene crossed my mind, but the futility of such actions and our own anthropocentric, sentimental views of nature quickly made me take up my camera and just document what I was seeing and let nature take its course.
After a few minutes that seemed to go on forever, the leopard got up and moved away, prowling around, looking perhaps, for the other cub. I got out of the vehicle and looked at the spot where he had been - not a trace of what had recently happened remained - not a drop of blood, a wisp of fur, nothing.
The leopard, who has now been named Mmolai (killer) then, disappeared in to the forest once more, and I left the area.
A few hours later, another guide told me he had seen Legadema a considerable distance away from the scene, carrying a cub, removing it from danger. The future of this little one remains bleak with Mmolai on the scene, as he will kill any cubs he encounters in his newly acquired territory, but we remain in hope.
Predator Face-off in the Delta!
Sighting: Water Fight!
Location: Mombo Camp, Chief's Island, Botswana
Date: 8 June 2012
Observers: Matthew Copham and Pia Dierickx
Photographs: Pia Dierickx
As a safari guide in the Okavango Delta, I was on a game drive with photographer Pia Dierickx, when we came across a pride of 18 lions heading purposefully towards vultures on a carcass on the far side of a shallow channel. Lions in this aquatic landscape regularly swim or wade through water, but do so carefully: a small crocodile could be food, but a large one could be dangerous - and both species know it.
On this occasion, two of the lionesses walked straight into the channel, their eyes on the vultures. The first did not see the lurking crocodile and although the second did, she continued after her companion. Swiftly, the crocodile moved into the deeper water ahead of the second lioness and sprang the trap.
Although over in a second, the action was captured by Pia's camera...
In the end, the reptile was sent swimming into the deepest part of the channel while the lion was sent scuffling away on dry ground with a battered face and bruised ego.
Who's the Bigger Pig?
Sighting: Who's the Bigger Pig?
Location: Pafuri Camp, South Africa
Date: 19 June 2012
Observers: Warren Ozorio, Willem Cronje and Janet Wilkinson
Photographs: Warren Ozorio
On a recent trip to Pafuri, the first thing that we noticed was how dry the area is at present. Generally speaking, the extreme northern section of Kruger is one of the lowest rainfall areas in the park, receiving a mere 400mm of annual rain on average. Following a general pattern of ten-year cycles, the Pafuri area is in the middle of a dry cycle and received very little rainfall during the last rainy season, which ended two months ago.
When an environment dries up and both food and water become scarce, the warthog population is amongst the first species to go into dietary strain and lose physical condition. However, we did see plenty of warthog in the area and they still appeared to be in good physical condition. These common little critters are easily overlooked when on safari - much the same as impala. When we came across a duo of boars, one of them an adult and the other a subadult, we decided to watch them for a little while as they were very relaxed in the presence of the vehicle. What happened next surprised us.
The bigger hog found some tasty rootstocks to feed on, and began digging them up, advertising his excitement by snorting while digging through the dry sand. The younger male approached with a certain measure of caution. The adult stopped and stood up, looking at the younger warthog. The younger warthog immediately adopted a submissive role in a way that reminded us of hyaena displaying submission to dominant individuals.
The subordinate male approached the bigger male with a low-slung posture in a bid to avoid direct eye contact, while the bigger male lifted his head slightly to advertise his tushes (tusks). As the younger male was in touching distance, the big male placed his chin on the younger male's snout, placing his tushes in close proximity to the subordinate's eyes (one of the reasons as to why warthog boars have the protective warts beneath their eyes). The young male proceeded to lie down and expose his belly. This is done to further show submission by exposing the vulnerable areas such as the abdomen and genitals. The large male sniffed the subordinate's genitals, grunted in dominance and continued to feed as if nothing had happened. The younger male skulked off - his place had just been reaffirmed in the hierarchy.
As we edge further into the dry and trying times, both inter- and intra-specific competition will only increase and submissive displays may no longer suffice. So, keep a lookout for such interesting sightings amongst our more common species!
Mombo's New Leopard King asserts his Rights
Sighting: Mombo's kings scramble for territory and mating rights!
Location: Mombo Camp, Chief's Island, Botswana
Date: 25 June 2012
Observers: Tsile Tsile and the Berg Family
Photographs: Samuel Halberg and Kristen Berg
Legadema was sighted cavorting with the very same male leopard that had killed her cubs a few weeks earlier near far Eastern Pan and some have nicknamed him Mmolai (Killer). It is also the same male leopard that was seen killing Pula's cub in April.
The two went about their romance oblivious to the onlookers and it was only when they were spotted by a troop of baboons foraging nearby that they were forced to stop and retreat to a safer area where they would not be disturbed by the cacophony of alarm calls attracting the wrong kind of attention. The male lead the way, with Legadema close behind, as they headed further inland, north towards the A.P.U Road. Leopards can mate continuously for days on end before returning to their solitary lives.
It is hoped that the new male has finished his instinctive behaviour - of killing off any existing cubs that were sired by Lebadi (the previous dominant male) and can now start a new generation of leopards in the Mombo area. His sheer size and nature is good news for any offspring that will inherit his genes.
However, in an amazing twist to the saga, Lebadi has once again been seen not too far from camp, in Ebony Forest, smack in the middle of Mmolai's territory. Has the new male been too busy chasing the females around and killing off Lebadi's gene pool - thus neglecting to protect his territory? This does not bode well for any newborn cubs and it seems the two males' struggle over the rich feeding and breeding rights of the area is not over yet.
No report this month.
No report this month.
North Island Update - June 2012 Jump
to North Island
Kings Pool Camp update - June 2012 Jump
to Kings Pool Camp
Weather and Landscape
The cold mornings of the African bush are upon us and forfeiting your warm blankets and comfortable beds can be testing, but with the amount of action happening around Kings Pool Camp, one cannot afford to miss the chance of witnessing some of the amazing game viewing and encounters that we have been experiencing this month.
Water levels have subsided considerably, water sources are becoming more isolated and the vegetation has started to thin out. This all adds up to some incredible game viewing.
The large elephant population in the Linyanti area always blows guests away. This year, the herds came back early because we didn't have a lot of rain and most of the natural waterholes are dry all ready. At this time of year it is not uncommon to see up to 200 of these majestic giants on an afternoon activity. Game drives and our barge, the Queen Silvia, often bring you up close and personal to this iconic species of Africa, but one of the greatest ways to potentially view an incredible spectacle of these animals is from our famous sunken hide where you can view them at really close quarters.
As the dry season encroaches, elephant numbers increase drastically as migrating herds and individuals make their way into the Linyanti from as far afield as Chobe National Park which has the highest elephant population in the world, while some also come from the Caprivi Strip of Namibia - all searching for favourable feeding and watering grounds on this vast concession.
The huge numbers of migrant elephant have to first cross the Linyanti River, and this is what blew most of our guests away. The sight and beauty of a hundred-plus elephant, ranging from newborn babies to enormous bulls, swimming across this natural boundary as the amber sun begins to dip into the horizon is hard to explain. All this while sipping down a refreshing sundowner on the immaculate double-decker barge, slowly drifting along the beautiful Linyanti River.
Predator sightings and interactions this month have been astonishing and plentiful. The LTC Pride of lion has been seen on a regular basis in camp and throughout the area. This is largely due to some very exciting news - the two cubs that were born in April are still doing very well and were sighted many times in June feeding on their prey with the rest of the pride. The pride male is often seen passing Kings Pool Camp in the evening or morning, marking his territory by roaring, and has provided some phenomenal photography opportunities for our guests this month.
Lion cubs are not the only addition to the predators of the Linyanti. A wild dog pack of three which broke away from the Zib Pack three months ago has started denning east of Linyanti Tented Camp. The denning pack was discovered by the wild dog researchers in the area. The LTC Pack was seen hunting regularly and often came close to camp. We are hoping that this pack will den at the same site as they did last year.
Trying to keep up with a hunting pack was often the highlight of our guests' stay. On one fresh morning, one of the guides, Lemme, came across freshly stamped tracks on the road just outside camp heading eastwards. Judging from the tracks he could see they were moving very fast and most likely on the hunt. A cautionary word to the guests told them it was going to be a bumpy ride but if they were to stand a chance of seeing them, they would have to move fast. Soon after finding the tracks, Lemme saw some kudu running at full speed coming from a northerly direction, and a few minutes later he saw the dogs running behind the kudu. Unfortunately for the dogs, this hunt was not successful, but the pack spent the next hour looking for any opportunities, only to find wary prey items that bolted away swiftly. Lemme and his guests followed the pack the entire time from a respectable distance.
The dogs eventually decided to have a siesta and pulled into some shade. Lemme and his guests decided to revisit the pack during the afternoon - and what a good idea this was. They found the dogs sleeping in the same spot. As the sun started to set, the pack became vocal and excited and embarked on another hunting foray. Suddenly, the pack honed in on a herd of impala and exploded into action, quickly seizing an unsuspecting meal. The pack killed and devoured the impala in no time - about 200 metres away from camp. The energised yelps of excitement and victory sounded in the crisp evening air as the sun was going down. Amazingly, within 10 minutes, the impala was completely devoured and the dogs headed more to the north towards the water and there took down another impala, so they had a double kill. This was truly a memorable sighting for our guests to see 15 dogs feeding. For more details on the Okavango-Kalahari Wild Dog Research Project.
The leopard sightings this month around Kings Pool have been off the charts. With up to four different individuals being seen in one activity, one can only conclude that Kings Pool must be one of the greatest places at this time of year to view this elusive cat in its natural habitat. One of the resident female leopards (the Slender Female) was a baboon killing machine this month. We witnessed her killing four baboons all on separate occasions. The four kills took place just behind the camp kitchen, and frantic screams and shouts from the resident baboon troop were heard every night.
General game has also been prolific with large herds of zebra, giraffe, kudu and impala seen daily and for some reason a small family of waterbuck has just decided to spend most of their time in front of Tent 9. Hippo are frequently seen in and out of the water in front of the camp sunning themselves. The most cunning predator of the water, the crocodile, is often seen lazily cruising in the river in front of camp. The resident baboon troops provide daily entertainment and watching them go about their business from the comfort of the rooms is always a treat.
We have also had some unusual sightings for the month, which included five sable antelope on the airstrip, four roan in front of camp, and the lion pride feeding on a roan carcass.
Birds and Birding
Birding has also been great for this time of the year when the masses of summer migrants have left us. The beauty of birding is that there is always something going on which fills in the gaps between mammal sightings - building a complete safari experience.
We had some unusual sightings for the month, which included four wattled crane, southern ground hornbill, slaty egret, rufous-bellied heron and a pair of giant kingfisher which have started roosting close to Tent 5.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Alex and One Mazunga, Julie Sander, Rikki Lotter, Kenny Lugayeni and Sylvester Mokgosi
Guides: Diye Kennetseng, Khan Gouwe, Lemme Dintwa and OD Modikwa.
Newsletter and photographs by Alex Mazunga
DumaTau Camp update - June 2012 Jump
to DumaTau Camp
In June we bundled up to welcome the first chilly winter nights. Midway through the month the minimum temperature dropped to 3°C. The rest of the month saw minimum temperatures hover between 10°C and 15°C, with an average daytime maximum temperature of 28°. Guests have enjoyed clear skies, with occasional gusts of wind. The ground continues to dry up, although vegetation remains somewhat lush and green close to the water's edge.
The large DumaTau pride of 15 lions has been moving along the Savute Channel this month. They were seen on one occasion attempting to hunt buffalo, but the buffalo fought back in a dusty display and forced the lions to retreat. One of the females from this pride was nursing three cubs, but sadly lost two. The surviving cub is still doing well. We have not seen much of the lone Savuti female, but she was last seen with all three cubs thriving. We suspect that she has moved further to the east to avoid the larger pride.
The DumaTau male leopard is still rewarding guests with fantastic sightings. He continues to patrol in and around the camp, and appears to be healthy and in control of the area. He has been sighted mating with a few different females, including the Zibidianja female, but we remain doubtful that these encounters will result in new cubs, as he is beginning to show signs of age. At the end of the month he ambushed a baby zebra using one the game viewers as cover. While the mother of the zebra managed to chase him away, the sighting was certainly one for the books. Another young and healthy male leopard has been seen roaming between DumaTau and Savuti camps. Our beloved DumaTau male may soon see his days as the dominant male numbered as he continues to face the threat of younger and stronger males.
Wild dogs sightings were numerous in June. The Linyanti Pack is seen most often, and we believe they have pushed the Zibidianja Pack out of the area. Their movements have been impacted by the presence of the large DumaTau Pride, as they attempt to avoid confrontation with the lions. The alpha female is in the latter stages of pregnancy and by month's end they were in search of a suitable den. The dogs travel close to camp often, and on one particularly thrilling morning they killed an impala in front of Tent 6!
June has been a busy month, with plenty of fantastic game viewing to keep us distracted from the increasing cold. We expect July to bring more action from all our local predators. It would, however, be unfair to close this month's news without mentioning the elephants. The bulls have been visiting camp each day, leaving quite a mess of large tree branches in their wake. Hardly a day goes by without at least one elephant "road block" that prevents guests and staff from moving between their tents and the main area. All we can do is wait patiently and enjoy watching these beautiful pachyderms that are truly this camp's defining feature.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Gerard, Claire, KG, Lindi and Abi
Guides: Bobby, Lazi, Mocks, Tank and Ona
Savuti Camp update - June 2012 Jump
to Savuti Camp
It's June, and that means winter is here! With winter comes bitterly cold mornings and cool evenings right? Not exactly! For most of June we have enjoyed a rather mild introduction to the winter season. I recall last year being a far chillier experience. Guests were tightly snuggled around a burning fire, dressed in the entire contents of their luggage plus extra blankets. This year, with the exception of a couple of cold snaps, we have had some blissful weather.
Out in the wilderness however, the dry winter season has made its mark. The once lush green trees now stand bare, almost completely stripped of their leaves. The many large pans, normally a good source of water, have all dried up, forcing the wildlife down to the Savute Channel for water.
The large breeding herds of elephant have once again begun to frequent the camp. There are fewer experiences more memorable than enjoying your brunch, after an exciting game drive, with a herd of elephant peacefully feeding at the water's edge on the opposite bank. In camp the elephant have begun foraging through the remaining greenery between the guest rooms and along the boardwalk.
But it's not an easy season for the elephants. As the dry season settles in, food begins to diminish. The large herds now have to travel longer distances in search of nutrition, stripping the almost bare trees of their last leaves. Many of the older or weaker elephants will not survive the dry season. Already this month several elephant carcasses have been discovered; proof that it's going to be a difficult season ahead.
For many guests it is saddening to find a dead elephants while out on safari. But as with everything in nature there is a balance. These dead elephants provide a good food source to the predators in the area. The large lion pride that has now settled into the concession have been seen on several occasions feeding on these carcasses - providing yet another spectacle for guests to witness.
The lion have had a rather active month around the Savute Channel. There are 14 adult or subadult members in the pride as well as a young cub who seems to be settling in well. There is an impressive dominant male in the area that was seen with the pride on a few occasions. Through the month this pride has provided some sensational game viewing, often seen roaming along the channel in search of prey.
The arrival of the buffalo herds in early June has also provided some exciting viewing. The lion seemed to have focused much of their attention on the large herds, often following them for days at a time. On one particular late afternoon game drive our guides spotted the herd running across the road with several lion close behind. They watched in amazement as the lion flanked around the buffalo in a war-like strategy.
But buffalo never give up the fight. They chased the lion off using their massive horns as lethal weapons. An injury from a buffalo horn can be fatal for a lion so they chose to back off. Instead they kept their distance, watching the herd closely. This incredible interaction continued well into the night and we suspect we will see a lot more of it in the coming months.
With July approaching we look forward to more excitement in the Linyanti Concession. Updates from the guides suggest that the wild dogs are looking for a den site with the dominant female now heavily pregnant. This means we may not see the dogs for several weeks, as the den is a sensitive site that needs to remain hidden and protected. But we wait with bated breath for the arrival of their new litter when they emerge from the den.
As we head further into the dry season we suspect we will have more frequent visits from the elephants in camp and we look forward to more gruelling tales about lion/buffalo interactions.
Till next time,
The Savuti Camp Team
Zarafa Camp update - June 2012 Jump
to Zarafa Camp
June was a fantastic month at Zarafa and we had tons of fantastic sightings and experiences. So we thought this month, we would list the top ten experiences at Zarafa.
10. Cheetah on the way out to the airstrip. Often the last mammal anyone ever sees on a safari is an impala or maybe a warthog grazing at the airstrip before they leave on a plane. For a recent couple it happened to be a cheetah as we tracked one on the way to the airstrip using the stare of a male giraffe for assistance.
9. Bag-piping sundowner - a first ever for us at camp. One of our guests brought his pipes with and serenaded all of us at a lagoon during sunset.
8. A herd of at least 80 buffalo seen in front of Zarafa. It was the first time that we have had such a big herd around. As the conditions in the area further dry up, we expect to see more large herds around.
7. Finding a route through the channel that now links Selinda and Zarafa. With the water levels increasing, we were able to navigate through the myriad channels in the motor boat.
6. The African skimmers are back and as photogenic as always. A five-minute boat trip from Zarafa and they can be seen skimming through the waters of the lagoon at dawn and dusk.
5. Sitting at Coppa Loop, watching the elephant herds come in to drink. A favourite spot to just park up and watch as literally hundreds of elephant come down to drink throughout the day.
4. Tracking the new dominant male lion of the area. A new male to the reserve has come down from Namibia, we think, to stake his claim for the area. He is incredibly shy and only a few lucky guests and staff have managed to see him. Excellent tracking skills are required.
3. Leopard and guineafowl. One of our guests, Francois, spots his first-ever leopard catch a guineafowl during the middle of the day. What a fantastic sighting!
2. The night drive with cheetah and aardvark. One of our guides, Kane, showed off his skill with an extraordinary sighting of an aardvark near camp but more so of a sighting of a female cheetah, pregnant, hunting at night which is unheard of as it is so dangerous for them.
1. The top spot this month goes to wild dogs. The dogs have recently started to den and we have managed to discover where the pack has denned. 11 pups have since emerged from their den.
As you can see, we had some diverse sightings which were all special. We look forward to the upcoming months and will keep a close eye on the wild dog den.
Selinda Camp update - June 2012 Jump
to Selinda Camp
Well, I don't know how to start this off other than to say the game viewing and most especially that of predators here on the Selinda Reserve has been spectacular this past month!
If the predators of the Selinda Reserve were playing a game of cards, they would have a winning hand. We've had the "Big Cat Full House" dealt to us a few times in the past week. On one occasion our guests were not able to get off the boat as a pride of 10 lions was sleeping on the jetty. Luckily for us, one of the pride members decided to start hunting and was followed by the rest of the pride, allowing us to get off the boat and onto the vehicle.
Shortly afterwards, we found a leopard that was hunting some unsuspecting guineafowl. The feline leapt high into the air in a bid to catch a fleeing bird but was unsuccessful this time. The gameviewers continued towards the bridge in order to cross the Spillway. Just before the bridge, the group found some very fresh cheetah tracks and started to follow them. The group was struck with awe when they came across the 'Band of Brothers', a resident coalition of three large males which we see in the area from time to time - this was amazing as all three species of big cats in the area were spotted in one drive.
This was not the end of the lucky run, as the following morning, the guide had his sights set on the area's wild dog and planned the activity around finding them. The group managed to find some members of the Selinda Pack trotting through the grass on the edge of the Spillway. The rest of the pack had just killed an impala and were squabbling with a lone hyaena over the spoils. Soon after we arrived on the scene, a few more hyaena joined in too. The Selinda Pack was forced off of the kill, leaving the remains to the hyaena.
Thus concluding the Selinda Reserve Royal Flush!
Camps Update - June 2012
• No report for this month.
Lagoon camp Jump
• Although the wild dogs at Kwara may have denned before our 'traditional' pack up at Lagoon, news came through on the late afternoon of the 21st of June, that the alpha female had chosen a den. She had spent most of the last month moving around the concession, investigating her old den sites, and surveying potential new ones. Ultimately, it was a den that she had used four years ago – just a short distance south of the camp – that she selected as her first den site this season, and this is where she will have given birth. That afternoon, she was down the den, and did not join the pack for the afternoon hunt – nor will she, until the puppies are old enough to be babysat by another member of the pack, some months hence.
• Later in the month, the wild dogs changed hunting tactics and for five mornings in a row, managing to catch buffalo calves from the large herds that have been seen in the area. This is a very risky business for the light-weight wild dogs, as an angry buffalo mother is a formidable opponent, let alone the rest of the herd. Even with the buffalo, the dogs were still hunting in the afternoon – usually impala or young kudu.
• Although the lions were elusive this month, mostly staying in the part of the concession closer to Lebala, there were tracks of a lioness close to camp. The three brother cheetahs also arrived back in the area this month, looking healthy and well-fed.
• Lovely sightings also this month of the hyenas with their cubs suckling from their mother, and also a caracal sighting in the evening. General game is prevalent, with the common giraffe, zebra, wildebeest and tsessebe, as well as regular sightings of herds of eland, as well as small herds of roan antelope and sable
• Some of the smallers sightings this month: a common platana frog was found hopping along the track, trying to find water, short-tailed eagles fed on the remains of the kills left by the dogs.
Lebala camp Jump
• The 2nd of June brought an interesting event for the workshop staff at Lebala, as a pack of wild dogs killed a waterbuck after the guests had gone to bed one night. They relaxed in the open fronted garage after having their midnight meal! Although the guests didn't get a chance to see them there, the next morning the dogs were found not too far away.
• A couple of days later, the pack of ten dogs hunted and killed an impala, only to have it taken off them by a group of hyenas. The next day, the hyenas obviously thought they were on to a good thing and found the lagoon pack of dogs (18 individuals) that had just caught a warthog. However, this time, the tables were turned, and the dogs chased the hyenas away. Finding the closest source of cover possible, a hyena dashed under the stationary game drive vehicle, before slinking away when the dogs returned to their kill. The same dogs killed an ostrich the next day – a very unusually kill for wild dogs.
• Later in the month, a leopard was seen stalking an impala, when suddenly a different group of impala came running past – the leopard managing to catch one and pull it down by the neck. Less than five minutes later, three wild dogs appeard from the bush, and went straight to the leopard and took over the kill.
• A group of three lionesses didn't have as much luck as the dogs though, as the same day they hunted and caught a young calf, that had become slightly separated from the main buffalo herd. Realising what had happened, and responding to the cries of the calf, the buffalo herd turned and moved in on the lions. Greatly out numbered and unable to hang on to their prey, the lionesses had to flee from the impending arrival of very upset weighty buffalos. The calf managed to then move off with the rest of the herd, though the state of its injuries were unknown.
• With the eagle eyes of the tracker and guide working as a great team together, its not often that guests manage to spot something before them. However, a young first-time safari visitor queried what the strange red thing was that was up a tree that they had driven past. A closer inspection was called for, only to discover it was the bloody remains of a porcupine, stashed in a tree. A little more investigating, and a leopard was found close to the bottom of the tree, injured as a result of its tricky hunt for the porcupine.
• You don't always have to venture far from camp to have the chance of seeing some pretty amazing sightings. In fact, you don't even have to venture further than the bar stool on some nights… a rather adventurous serval cat passed through the lounge and dining area, on the way to his nightly hunts, whilst people have been quietly enjoying a pre or post-dinner drink.
• A chilly end to the month as the temperature dropped to between 8 and 12 degrees at night, this is the start of the cold July months. You need to wrap up on the early morning and evening game drives, but its still pleasant during the day, with temperatures of around 25 degrees.
• Interestingly, there is also a second push of the flood waters, with water seeping across the flood plains. The spill way, which is the connecting fault line between the Okavango and Kwando rivers also increased in the flow of water moving into the Kwando river.
Kwara & Little Kwara camps Jump
& Little Kwara camps
• Lagoon was pipped at the post this year – for the first time since we have been operating in the Kwara concession, a pack of wild dogs – the 12 that we have been seeing regularly during the last two months – has denned in the area. On the 4th of June, guests were on a drive and came across dogs at a den site about an hours drive from camp. This was great news, as its likely that the dogs will then remain in the same area – though they may move den sites – and we will have the chance of seeing them raising young puppies. A few days later, the puppies emerged from the den for the first time – ten gorgeous mini-versions of the adult dogs, many with the lovely milky cream patterning of their mother.
• The den was moved about 10 days later to a site about 500m away – we are not entirely sure why, but a black mamba was seen by the guides on more than one occasion near the original site.
• The three brother cheetahs of Tsum Tsum seem to be based closer to camp, and were seen four or five times nearby. In addition, another coalition of two males and a female were spotted – still young, this will be a grouping of brothers and sister. The coalition of three cheetahs were seen several times this month, including when they were seen killing a female impala. As the grass gets drier, it withers and falls to the ground, creating nice open areas that are perfect for the cheetahs to hunt in.
• A lioness with two young was also seen eating a male kudu. It would be unusual for one female to be able to bring this down on her own, so we suspect that there were other lions involved in the actual kill. The next day, a male lion also killed a reedbuck, close to the airstrip (always a challenge for our arrivals and departures, when the camp has to radio the air charter company and advise 'keep an eye out for the lions' as lions are not always keen to leave their kills, even if there is a plane landing on the nearby runway)
• Game viewing has been great with the two male lions from the seven that we have seen in Kwara with two females from Shindi Area. They killed a kudu not far from the airstrip on the 12th and were located 10metres behind room number five at little kwara. On the 15th they were seen stalking tsessebes again in the area of the airstrip,
• General game viewing is also good with giraffes, zebras, and big herds of elephants. We also saw a serval cat one morning feeding on a python, which it had killed the night previous, and another two servals feeding on frogs. A surprise sighting of an aardvark, who dived back into his burrow when he realised he had been seen.
Nxai Pan Jump
to Nxai Pan camp
• As the weather gets colder, but remains sunny, the waterholes have become the meeting point – for friend or foe. This month the cheetah with her two young were seen regularly, often in the vicinity of the wildlife waterhole. Mostly relaxing, we were also lucky enough to witness them hunting and bringing down a springbok close to the waterhole.
• The lions also use the lack of water to their advantage, with ten of them (seven adults and three youngsters) lying in wait to the side of one of the waterholes, in the hope that some other thirsty animal would be caught off guard. No such luck on the times we saw them, but their patience would have won out at some point.
• Elephants continue to visit each of the waterholes, and even youngsters are being seen from time to time. The breeding herds are not always found in the park year round, but now is a good time to see them. The rest of the year, it's the males that dominate the area – and they definitely dominate – taking over the waterholes and keeping other animals out of the way!
Tau Pan Jump
to Tau Pan camp
• All six lion cubs are alive and well – and growing up fast. The bigger they get, the harder it is to tell the difference in age between the two sets of cubs that were born only a handful of weeks apart. Still playful as ever, they proving a larger headache for the rest of the pride as they get bigger. The pride was seen often this month at the waterhole, and passing through the camp – and heard particularly well in the early hours before dawn when the sound of their roars travels best through the air. Not that it has far to travel when they are in the camp and roaring… a thin wall and mesh windows doesn't block out a lot of sound!
• Towards the end of the month, the females and cubs moved away from the camp for a few days, leaving the two big males wandering around looking for them. Why the females do this, we can't be sure, but the two males continue to come to the water hole to drink, and look slightly despondent.
• Other large predators that were seen this month included cheetah at the Deception Valley area, and a few leopards. One big male leopard was seen close to camp, strolling along the road, and we had a good sighting of him before he sauntered off into the bush. Not too long after we lost sight of him, one of the staff at camp found the male leopard drinking sedately out of the swimming pool!
• Naturally enough, it's not all about big predators at Tau – there are plenty of other animals to see including large groupings of giraffe, wildebeest, oryx, black backed and side-striped jackals, bat eared foxes, cheeky ground squirrels and honey-badgers.
• Although elephants are a rare sighting in the Kalahari, another rare elephant sighting is that of the elephant shrew. This small rodent – the name is not descriptive of its large size, but rather of its large proboscis – was spotted in the late afternoon, darting around the sandy vegetation looking for food, in the vicinity of a group of ground squirrels
Mombo Camp update
- June 2012 Jump
to Mombo Camp
Weather and Water Levels
June was full of surprises at Mombo, not only with the animals but also the weather. The extremely cold snap that was received early June finally broke and shorts and t-shirt weather at midday happily returned.
It was also noticeable that the annual inundation has not risen as much as last year. Our markers set around camp indicated that the water was a good two inches below the level it was at the previous high water mark. The floodplains are still however full and the abundance of life they attract is amazing to behold. All creatures large and small flock to the waters as the interior of Chief's Island starts to dry up!
The general game at Mombo has been just as beautiful as ever. Herds of buffalo, elephant, impala, red lechwe and wildebeest have been around every corner. Warthog have been digging up the roots for a snack and vervet monkeys are chattering in the trees whilst the large troops of marauding baboons survey the scene for pods and fruits all just minutes from camp. However, arguably the favourite out of the 'general game' category, this month a large herd of giraffe have been loitering around the Sibiriana area with a lot of youngsters. The journey of giraffe in total numbered nearly 30, all in one area!
The lone wild dog is still seen regularly with her jackal companions. She has mostly been spotted on the airstrip just before dusk as she starts to stretch before setting off at an amazing pace after any nearby impala for some supper.
A young male cheetah has been sighted moving between Sibiriana and Suzie's Duck Pond. He is very skittish as he is still new to the area and hopefully, with time, he will become more relaxed around vehicles. That, and of course he will need the ability to dodge the various lion prides (Mathata, Moporota and Western Pride) that move like three-way chess matches around the area.
Mmamoriri's distant calls from Tree Line Bird Island in the early mornings are often matched with great sightings of the maned female and her Western Pride to the south of Mombo. Her amazing physique never fails to amaze and often arguments are a-plenty on the vehicle as to whether she really is a female. On closer inspection around the tail area, all bets are off and the guide can settle the guests' suspicions and assures them that this is not a prank!
On the leopard front, Legedema was seen mating with Mmolai who seems to be holding Lebadi at bay after ousting him from his territory. However, in a real twist, Lebadi was seen the very next day challenging Mmolai near Baobab Bob. It seems Lebadi has not given up the fight to be the dominant male leopard around camp.
Staying with the leopard antics in the area, the guides were excited when they came across Slim Girl sitting on a fallen tree south of Suzie's Duckpond. After admiring her for a while whilst guests were getting some great pictures she started surveying the scene and then calling; this was followed by a bundle of fluff emerging confidently from within the log. The playful cub had guests breathless as it (too young to determine sex yet) clambered over mom and the fallen tree. They were seen regularly for a few days before mom decided to move dens so as to not let any opportunistic predators locate 'home'. Slim Girl successfully raised a beautiful male leopard who became independent last year and we hope she has the same success with this little one.
June was also the month where the Moporota lions kept coming into camp, mostly during the day. Their numbers varied but there were always hungry mouths to be fed. On no less than five different occasions, radios crackled from managers, drivers and staff who had seen the lions walking into camp. On one such occasion four females killed an impala right at the welcome area whilst managers were awaiting the arrival of new guests.
On another occasion everyone was made aware and the guides quickly picked up their guests and watched as the pride started stalking pockets of red lechwe and impala. On one successful occasion they killed four impala in one afternoon, right before tea time! Their next hunting sortie into camp a few days later resulted in only one impala been taken down whilst the others fled across the shallow floodplain between Tent 8 and the curio shop; this was arguably the most exciting time as one young male decided to take a stroll along the board walk from the curio shop past the gym where he napped for a while before heading towards Little Mombo. After sniffing around, he then clambered down the Little Mombo stairs and back onto terra firma where the rest of the pride were lazing in the late afternoon sun.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Vasco, Phenyo, Claire, Ruby, Nathan, Glen and with Graham at Little Mombo.
Guides: Tsilie, Doc, Moses, Tshepho, Cisco and on occasion helping out from Explorations were Russell and Victor
Photographs by Graham Simmonds
Xigera Camp update
- June 2012 Jump
to Xigera Camp
Weather and landscape
With average temperatures of 13 degrees Celsius minimum and 25 maximum, winter is setting in with a few cloudy days at the beginning of the month. Dazzling reflections of papyrus and palm trees on the water's surface will always be a sight to see in the Okavango Delta and as such Xigera Concession happens to be perfectly positioned to take full advantage of this spectacle. Thus the landscape around Xigera has not failed to deliver amazing sunsets on our mokoro and boating expeditions for the month of June.
The fantastic boat ride along the edges of Chief's Island have presented very beautiful lion sightings. Of particular interest was finding a lioness with her two subadult sons camouflaged behind a termite mound looking rather lazy and bored. Thanks to the instincts of our experienced guide, Barobi, we decided to wait it out and it paid off. Out of the grassland a stallion zebra walked in front of the termite mound oblivious to what we all now knew was lurking just behind! Coming face to face with the female lion the stallion behaved like a true stallion and side-stepped, kicked and sped off into the tree line with the lion close at his heels. Seconds later, a disappointed lioness strolled back to her inexperienced sons with not a drop of blood on her face, evidence of her failed attempt.
In and around Xigera our guides and guests have had fantastic viewing of buffalo, giraffe, zebra, elephant, crocodile and our favorite semi aquatic antelope, the red lechwe.
Closer to camp, we have seen the ever so elegant leopard for the first time since the end of April. She was last seen with a very young cub, Mmadiphala. They both emerged from the edges of the airstrip to the delight of our guides who had been left wondering what had happened to the pair. The two were seen over a few days after that and again vanished but we all know how important it is for the mother to bring her young one up safely and we all look forward to seeing them when the cub is ready to roam the area.
The elder daughter, Naletsana, had not been seen in a while, but also graced us with her presence by walking over the bridge onto the island one early evening - much to the dismay of the resident baboons and monkeys. One evening she brought in a water mongoose as dinner but was clearly not very hungry as she left most of it. Instead she gave the monkeys, kudu and bushbuck sleepless nights on the island. We always are reminded of her presence with the tracks she leaves on the daily newspaper (sand patch on the bridge) waiting to be checked every morning.
Camp News and Activities
Xigera's first "kids' mekoro" was launched on 30 June with two young sisters Sophia and Olivia. The first-timers poled in style and we are happy to say neither fell in. Many thanks to them for the picture.
We are also happy to report that the Xigera has been operating on solar energy for a full year now and the standby generator has not even reached its service hours yet, hurray!
The atmosphere in camp has been lively and exciting, rewarded with great feedback.
Staff in camp
Gideon Mvere, Olivia O`Reiley,Alex Samotanzi, Aaron Jones, Beatrice Coetser, Barobi Garenamotse, Dennis Smith, Onkabetse Mothupi and Teko Mbwe.
Additional pictures from Barobi.
Chitabe Camp update
- June 2012 Jump
to Chitabe Camp
The month of June has been a very productive month as animals start to gather at permanent waterholes or channels, while the rest of the surrounds dry out. We did have the occasional cold front pushing through from the south, making for some very chilling mornings where some of our guests ended up asking for hot water bottles on both the afternoon and the morning game drives.
A good example of how to keep warm in the winter is depicted here by this family of dwarf mongoose that cuddle up close together in order to keep warm. It is a truly great experience watching a family of dwarf mongoose who normally run away before one gets a chance to take any photos, but on this occasion they posed beautifully basking in the rays of the warm morning sun. Game drives are not all about big game, but often it is the smaller animals and their behaviour that provide food for thought and entertainment.
During the month of June we've had some nomadic male lion come into the Concession and they have been seen a couple of times taking down buffalo. Cheetah sightings this month have been great, with cheetah being sighted almost every two days.
The water levels have gone down compared to the same time last year, due to lower water levels than the previous year. This is a welcome relief for us as we still have ample driving area in which to traverse and the game is plentiful.
"Thuso our guide was extraordinary! His patience & knowledge were unique. The staff seemed to be a family & have one mission, to make the visit the very best!" - Kevin & Wendy
"We left extremely well taken care of in any respect guiding, food and service and game of course! It was an extremely enjoyable stay with spectacular game viewing, good food, excellent service and exceptionally good and qualified guide!" - Birget & Werner
"It was my first safari and words can't express how grateful and blessed I feel to have experienced this in my life. It has truly been the greatest adventure imaginable. BB our guide was magnificent, the hospitality of the staff was perfection and the animals were breath taking. It is difficult to verbalize the emotional and spiritual impact of this visit- I will be forever grateful! Thank you so much!" - Stacey
"A huge amount of wildlife to be seen and very well organized by our guide, Anthony was our guide and he not only possessed an expert knowledge but a good sense of humor and made or game drives, that much more enjoyable. The facilities were excellent and or stay was very comfortable. Sonny Boy, Lux and Ruth catered to our every needs and hospitality side, Cecilia kept our room immaculate, Lieana and Tiny ensured we were comfortable at all times. BB although not our guide, provided amusement and entertainment whenever we saw him. An excellent stay and a definite return & top recommendation. Alex also arranged a private dinner which came as a very good surprise and a fantastic way to end our stay at Chitabe. It was served by Chunda. Many thanks to both-brilliant!" - Brian & Kitty
"The game viewing was fantastic, but it was the fantastic staff that made the experience so special. Our guides EBS was an absolute pleasure to spend the day with." - John
Staff in Camp
Managers in Main Camp: Alex, Lieana, Tiny and Joel.
Managers at Lediba were : Moalosi, Kris
Guides for June: Barberton, Luke, Phinely, Thuso, Anthony, EBS
Vumbura Plains Camp update
- June 2012 Jump
to Vumbura Plains Camp
June was yet another exciting month at Vumbura Plains - with temperatures averaging a low of 12° C and an average maximum of 27° C. Most mornings were characterised by beautiful sunrises as there was a thin cloak of mist hanging in the air. In general, the water levels have started to recede and more roads are becoming accessible.
The Kubu lioness was spotted very close to the staff village after a few months of hiding the cubs from the rest of the pride. Since the nomadic males were in the vicinity as well, we thought she might have lost her cubs. When we found her, she appeared to be searching so we assumed the worst. Luckily that afternoon we located her again, and this time she was with her cubs.
The four nomadic lion males have been actively patrolling the area, being on the cusp of acquiring new territory. They have been seen actively hunting, as we found them chasing a giraffe and a number of buffalo too. Interestingly, the Eastern Pride was seen fighting with the Kubu lioness at a zebra carcass.
In terms of wild dog, the Golden Pack was seen on several occasions. On one occasion, we found the pack in hot pursuit of a wildebeest. Later on in the afternoon, we found the dogs chasing an impala. As the dogs grounded the impala and started feeding, a clan of hyaena swooped in and stole the carcass - a great display of how opportunistic predators will seize any opportunity which presents itself. On another occasion, the dogs were seen chasing a large herd of buffalo, and interestingly, some hyaena were following closely in the hope of stealing an easy meal.
We suspect the Golden Pack has denned and the pups are back at the den, as the adults make a kill and feed quickly and then gallop away - most likely to the den to feed the pups.
The resident female leopard, Selonyana, has been successful in raising her offspring. The two have been seen together regularly. The pair have also been found on a reedbuck kill, both feeding side by side. It seems that Selonyana is spending most of her time on the eastern side of her territory. One of the highlights for the month involved both a leopard and cheetah - in the same sighting. We found the cheetah hunting, all the time being watched by a lazy leopard from the comfort of a tree.
Good numbers of sable, tsessebe and impala have been seen throughout the area. The prolific numbers of both vervet monkeys and baboons have also entertained our guests. Big herds of elephant have been hanging around camp, with most herds having some very small babies tagging along. Watching these youngsters is so entertaining as they are curious about everything and they don't quite have control over their trunks.
Amazing avian behaviour has been observed this month as the water levels begin to recede, exposing and isolating big numbers of fish. Huge congregations of pelicans, marabou storks and yellow-billed storks are flocking to the abundant food sources.
Managers: Dineo, Ras, Lorato, Britt and Martha.
Guides: Zee, Obonye, Moronga, St, Ron and Emang.
Little Vumbura Camp update
- June 2012 Jump
to Little Vumbura Camp
Weather and Water
With the annual inundation rapidly disappearing from the Delta, the climate has been unusually warm with minor cold snaps in the early morning. It has been a pleasure for guests as we have been doing a 20-minute boat ride out to the vehicles in morning and afternoons, so cold weather is generally not welcome when moving at speed on a boat.
Temperatures have only ranged from 15 degrees Celsius at lowest to 34 at the highest and with absolutely no rainfall it has been a perfect recipe for game viewing and enjoying the water activities the camp offers.
Out and About
Sightings have been excellent in the concession this month. Lion on kills, wild dog chasing hyaena and lion chasing wild dog. We have heard whispers that the Alpha female of the Golden wild dog pack, who was heavily pregnant at the beginning of the month, has given birth as she has not been spotted with the rest of the pack in a few weeks. We await the first sightings of the new pups.
Buffalo have been in abundance and as usual the sable antelope have been seen regularly.
Guests have recently had the honour, while out on mokoro, of a regular rare sighting! That of a Pel's fishing-owl feeding its chick. The chick is nearly ready to fly from the nest but is still not in full plumage so he should be there for a few more weeks.
"Very ''Rock Star" arriving to the camp by boat."
"We saw more in 1 day than we did in 3 at our last camp."
"The staff is fantastic!"
Staff in Camp
Managers: Millie, Hamish, Kabelo
Guides: Sam, Rain, Madala Kay
Photographs by Dave Christensen, Millie Goatley and Hamish Henderson
Duba Plains Camp update
- June 2012 Jump
to Duba Plains Camp
The water level continues to drop drastically, which has led to most places being accessible, enabling more chances to view game at different places that used to be inaccessible during this time of the year. June is also our coldest month and we have seen temperatures going down to as low as 6° C and the highest recorded being just 31° C. In general, this month the weather has been favourable.
Game viewing has been good as the grass has started drying up and becoming shorter with most trees also starting to lose leaves. Big herds of red lechwe have been spotted around the plains especially at Python Island and at times they would be sharing the plains with tsessebe and warthog, presenting a good platform for photography and viewing.
Duba Plains has an abundance of large birds like the Goliath heron that converge at drying crossings or pans to collect the fish and frogs that are affected by loss of water.
The war between the dominant male lion and one of his sons who has grown up over the last two years has intensified to the extent that the challenging son has been almost kicked out of the pride and he moves mostly with his lone sister all the time now. These two are still young though and it has been difficult for them to survive by themselves, as the two of them cannot take down their usual prey - the buffalo. They have tried sneaking back into the pride on a few occasions but only to be sent fleeing at the sight or roar of the dominant male lion. As hunger will not have mercy on them, they have been seen pouncing on baboons and killing a big one for a meal. This has kept them alive for the time being.
This situation is also not helped by the fact that their mother gave birth on the 10th of June and does not want them any closer either now. She hasn't brought her cubs out for viewing as she is only seen when hunting, with all the evidence that she is lactating.
The rest of the lion pride have been seen hunting the buffalo, but have had a fewer kills as the buffalo have been successfully defending themselves. Recently the lions killed one cow that was limping which was the obvious target when the hunt started. She was brought down within seconds and was breakfast/lunch/dinner for that day.
Banoka Bush Camp update
- June 2012
Landlocked, far from the coast and surrounded by higher altitudes, Botswana is a dry country; the Okavango Delta is indeed an oasis in an arid land. The winter season begins in May and ends in August. This is also the dry season when virtually no rainfall occurs. Winter days are invariably sunny and cool to warm. For the month of June we have been experiencing colder weather conditions compared to May, daytime temperatures often push up to 20 degrees Celsius while mornings drop down to between 3 and 7 degrees.
When it comes to predators, Banoka has proved to be home to many of these amazing creatures of late. One of many predator sightings that spiced up the month of June was a scramble for dead elephant remains amongst a clan of hyaena, black-backed jackal and African white-backed vultures - a very memorable and unforgettable experience for our guests.
Leopards were also seen in different locations, the female leopard that resides near the camp has been spotted a few times and the big male leopard was also seen east of camp feeding on an impala carcass.
We also had a very exciting sighting of four male cheetah in the open areas near one of our sister camp, Khwai Discoverer Camp. With regard to wild dog sightings a pack of four has not disappointed as they made their appearance on a number of occasions while a huge pack of 26 were spotted twice. Different prides of lions were also seen during the month with memorable sightings being two males feeding on a young buffalo carcass, the Magotlho Pride seen taking a well-deserved nap, and one male lion seen stalking to the west of camp.
General game is always good. Elephant are still seen around the camp feeding on mopane leaves, giraffe, impala, reedbuck, waterbuck have been in abundance; and a highlight was the big breeding herd of buffalo with young ones near the camp.
Birding has been excellent this month. Flocks of red-billed queleas have been stealing the show in the east part of the concession. These little birds are known to fly in flocks of sometimes hundreds or even thousands! They can practically darken the sky. Other birds seen were Arnot's chat, saddle-billed stock and grey heron.
Banoka Back of House Tour
Led by managers and the technical team, back of house tours were one of June's monthly highlights. This was offered to all our guests who were interested in seeing how things work behind the scene. The tour consists of visiting and discussing the water treatment system, sewage system, solar power as well as seeing the workings of the kitchen, laundry and housekeeping houses.
'An experience of a lifetime! Feels like being one of a very special family. Thank you to all of you at Banoka'. Brian & Kitty, Hong Kong
Staff in Camp
Leading the management team for the month was Bonang 'Mama B' Mambo, Lopang Lops Rampeba and Meshack Mish Jack. The guiding department was led by Morotsi Rogers Kesietswe, Christopher Chris Nyame, Wililani Willi Jenamo and Kgosietsile Chief Mothaedi who just came back from his one month leave. Cheri the manageress went on her one month leave. We were also privileged to have Onamile Ona Lekgopo, the guide trainer, assessing, evaluating and also conducting safari nature walks.
Newsletter written by Lopang Rampeba
Photographs by Avril Chun, Andrew Logan, Tshepo Tsheko, Philipp Herold
Jacana Camp update
- June 2012 Jump
to Jacana Camp
Apart from a cool spell early on in the month, June has been a wonderfully mild month with daytime temperatures averaging around early to mid-twenties while night temperatures drop to around 10 degrees.
One of our favourite times during winter on our paradise island is the development of the palm nuts on our thin, towering palm trees - a true delight for the many bull elephants in our area. Yes, Jacana is being visited daily by various bulls, both old and young, to devour this delicacy! Our daily routines are punctuated by the regular sound of the vigorous shaking of the palm trees as the bulls encourage the nuts to the ground.
As we know from our own experience, after a big feast the urge to snooze is hard to resist and our guests as well as ourselves are frequently awakened during the night to an unidentified noise. The thoughts of someone blowing down a very long pipe come to mind, only to realise that of course, one of the bull elephants is behind our tents and is fast asleep, snoring!
Imagine leaving your tent in the pre-dawn darkness and tiptoeing past a sleeping elephant, metres away from your door, in an effort not to wake him until you are a good distance away!
Another large sleeping beauty we had the great pleasure of watching was a young hippo bull who had chosen the bushes behind our boma as a comfortable place to sleep. Again, in the pre-dawn darkness, we were able to watch him snoozing until he woke, later making his way back to the Delta waters in front of one of our tents. A marvellous start to our day!
Our guests have been taking advantage of our warm days to enjoy fishing trips for tigerfish and bream, in between their usual activities, and also the fun of learning how to pole their own mokoro, the traditional mode of transport of the Delta. This, our guests have found, is a lot harder than it appears when watching our experienced polers effortlessly propelling their mokoro forward.
For those less adventurous but no less keen to learn, another traditional pastime is basket weaving. The ladies of our camp are keen to keep the tradition alive of weaving baskets from palm leaves and take an enormous amount of pleasure in sharing their skills and knowledge with our guests and take the time to explain which plant roots they use to obtain the different dyes for their palm leaves. Long may this beautiful tradition continue!
Management: Phil and Jo Oliver
Guides: Timothy Samuel, Moruti Maipelo, Rex Sanyedi,
Abu Camp update
- June 2012 Jump
to Abu Camp
In a perpetually clear winter sky, a lone secretarybird soars across the plains landing at the top of a shepherd's tree, where it has its roost. On the ground, slender mongooses scurry away, taking cover in the fast thinning bush, and huge herds of elephant pass through the Delta, slow and majestic, undisturbed by the bustle around them.
The well-loved Yellow-eyed Pride has rewarded us with their almost constant presence this month in and around camp. The two strong young males are beginning to mark their territory and in doing so have filled our evenings with their deep roars. No sound in Africa instills quite such respect amongst those who hear it.
It is not only the lions that have come to visit us in camp. In the early hours of morning the occupants of Abu were awoken by the cackling of hyaena accompanied by the shrill screams of elephant. Amongst the chaos was the distinctive sound of a leopard, a shriek of anguish as her kill was stolen from her by a clan of hyaena. By sunrise nothing was left of the carcass - indeed, if it had not been witnessed, one would never know anything had occurred.
Amid the excitement of predators and prey, the Abu herd has remained humble and calm. Led by Cathy, the seven elephants that we call our family walk out into the wilderness each day to graze and wallow and just be elephants.
The lucky guests of Abu join them on these walks and watch - from the safety of the herd - buffalo, giraffe, zebra and other wildlife. It is a rare thing to watch a buffalo, just metres away, grazing serenely as if you were a familiar companion.
In camp we have introduced a new way to start your day. Breakfast with the elephants! And what a fabulous start it is! Hot roosterkoeks are served alongside the elephants while they enjoying their morning treats. Warona, in the meantime, provides the morning entertainment by charging at tree stumps and frightening away the vervet monkeys.
Just another unbeatable month at Abu Camp!
update - June 2012 Jump
to Kwetsani Camp
Weather and Water Levels
With the cold front sweeping through the Cape, trade winds have blown over the iced tops of the Drakensberg escarpment and, even as far away as the Delta, the midnight chill and morning breeze has been felt. June is mid-winter and so this is pretty much expected; cold mornings and a gust of wind before the red hot sun rises to warm us all up. There have been very pleasant days though, when one would lie on the pool deck and appreciate what the floodplains had to offer. The annual inundation has passed us and is about to empty into the sands of the Kgalagadi. As fast as it comes in, it seems to disappear as well.
The resident lion pride has moved to investigate the southern corner of their vast territory and have been quite visible. The two remaining cubs are full of joy as they have been seen playing merrily with the dominant male on several occasions. In the second week of the month, the lions took down a buffalo bull and took their time feeding on it with little disturbance from hyaena or other scavengers. Not living up to their reputation as scavengers, the hyaena instead were on a mission to make a name for themselves as cunning hunters. We have seen them unsuccessfully trying to take down an impala and bushbuck on the island, which is always interesting to watch.
If not heading out south to Pupup Island, our guests headed west to Hunda Island, which is an amazing experience for any wildlife lover. As always, there has been a great variety on Hunda, from ostrich to kudu, giraffe, zebra, buffalo, elephant and the list goes on.
On a special day a group of guests saw three different leopard at three different sightings. A female leopard that hunts at Tubu Corner has introduced a new feline into the territory, although a bit skittish, the two have been seen on several occasions.
Of course with the abundant waters, bird life has been amazing. From Kwetsani's main deck, the afternoon witnesses the African snipe make music from its tail in a typical mating display. We had a few unusual sighting: a black-headed oriel in camp which stole the limelight from our vervet monkeys! A black-shouldered kite, hovering above the water, was also seen preying on amphibious life forms.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Neuman Vasco, Ipeleng Pheto and Maatla Lekelandi.
We also bid farewell to Bradley and Annelize and welcome the new managers to Kwetsani, William and Angie Whiteman. They mean business and are going to love it here, we wish them all the best.
Guides: MT Malebogo, Gaopalelwe Ronald
update - June 2012 Jump
to Jao Camp
Weather and Water level
Winter is here and at the beginning of the month a very big cold front pushed over Botswana bringing very cold weather from South Africa. This created some very chilly days and nights which saw temperatures descend into single figures in the evening and climbing to low teens at midday. The mushroom heaters in the main area, the warm wraps and the hot water bottles in the beds went down well with everyone. Fortunately it only lasted a week before our beautiful weather returned: only dropping to low double figures in the evening and mid-twenties during the day.
Water levels continue to drop, however the channels are still flowing well and the water is clear and high enough for all the wonderful sights and activities available at Jao.
It has been another great month on the Jao Island. The young male leopard has been seen south of the airstrip again and he is relaxing nicely. To add to this, tracks of a female leopard have been seen which will also encourage the young male leopard to settle. A very large male leopard has been heard and briefly seen between Jao and Jacana; when the water drops maybe he will visit Jao Island too.
The female hyaena has been spotted almost every night this month and has even visited the walkway twice this month.
There are now two resident African civets on the island - a female and a male - maybe we'll have a family soon. Our resident mongoose family is doing very well and the numbers continue to grow. A power struggle is developing with a new young male who is challenging the old dominant male and it looks as if the old male who has been here for about eight years is soon going to be knocked out of the group.
There are also two resident genets, one by the offices and the other up by the main area. Both of which seem to have perfected the art of finding milk and a few other little treats when backs are turned.
The lion are doing well and their two cubs are still strong and healthy - a buffalo, a lechwe, two tsessebe and the last wildebeest on the island have been taken this month. With the water dropping and the red lechwe returning to the Jao floodplains the pickings are only going to get easier for the Jao Pride.
Elephant breeding herds are back. At the beginning of the month we only had the large males on the island as the herds were still coming across from the waterholes and the channels were still deep, but in the last week of the month the herds arrived filling the gaps around camp.
Finally, but not least, our otter family is still doing well with the two youngsters now almost fully grown and about to head out on their own.
Winter is sometimes a little challenging for birders, with the males not looking their best and the migrants away, however we are in the paradise of the Delta and even the hardcore birders will always have a good time here.
The big highlight of the month was the site of a greater honey guide seen twice on the island, the first flock of about 100-150 open-billed storks have arrived with the first few flocks of wattled cranes. Our resident giant eagle owls are nesting and to add to that we now have a nesting pair of barred owls as well. Then also a special sighting this month was a western banded snake eagle killing and eating a spotted bush snake.
These are just some of our birding highlights, but seeing all the water birds on the channels, the fish eagles fishing, the Pel's fishing-owl in camp, the busy weavers, the daily battle between the black-collared and the crested barbets and the babblers and the starlings, Jao is quite simply a birding garden of Eden.
Water activities have still been the most popular at the moment - however with the lions being as active as they have been and with the cooler weather the local drives have also been a highlight. Fishing has been enjoyed and some very nice tigerfish have being caught as well as pike and bream also coming on the bite.
This time of year, however, with the floodplain still covered in water, mokoro excursions are a very big highlight in any guest's stay - either morning or afternoon: the sun rising or setting with water reflection, lechwe around and lions roaring adding to the spectacular ambiance.
Hunda day trips are also popular and leopards have been seen on almost every trip across to the island. The consistency of the general game also adds to the experience and to top it off a picnic lunch in the middle of the bush.
Private dinners, floodplain brunches and sundowners have also been enjoyed this month, but the big highlight has been our barge sundowners in the middle of a lagoon on a large boat with a barbeque going and a full bar with cocktails while guests watch the beauty of a Delta sunset - it does not get better!
Staff in Camp
Antony and Kalinka Mulligan, Bryan Webbstock, Theresa Fourie, Phil Ngisi, Retha Prinsloo and Cindy Swart.
Cruise Mollowakgotta, Bee Makgetho, Solomon Kanyeto, Simon Tshekonyane
update - June 2012 Jump
to Seba Camp
Weather and Water-levels
What a spectacular and exciting month we have had here at Seba Camp. The weather has stabilised during the month, with the lowest temperature being 7.5 degrees Celcius, and the highest being 31 degrees. As is customary during the middle of the year, no rain has been recorded in the area, so it is quite pleasant to take drives out into the concession.
There has been quite a lot of excitement this month, as the 'less seen' animals have been popping their heads up everywhere. On one drive the guests were spoilt by a magnificent sighting of two honey badgers. It is very unusual to see these nocturnal animals during the day, and even more surprising that they were so relaxed around the vehicle. The pair spent quite some time on the road before moving off into the thicker bush.
Our resident pride of lion were found at a baby giraffe kill, and although the kill was not witnessed, the aftermath - along with four magnificent lions too full to stand up - was a sight to behold.
During one of our special bush dinners just outside camp, one of our guides, Joseph, heard noises coming from the area behind where our guests were eating. We loaded everyone into the vehicle and found the very same four lions hunting zebra. However, they were not as lucky this time round.
Of course, Seba Camp would not be complete without the many elephant that also call the camp home, and at any time during the day or night there is always the possibility of a meeting with these magnificent animals.
The hyaena calls still dominate the night soundscape, and with the recent lion activity, it seems to have increased. Monitoring our little hyaena family at their den near the airstrip has revealed that the six cubs are now fully mobile and are even leaving the den and following the parents to the camp on a regular basis. On some occasions they can be found playing with each other in the parking area, giving out small yelps as they bite each others' legs and ears. They are growing up very fast and are now fully coloured with the unmistakable hyaena spots all over their bodies. During the day they return to the den and can be found lounging in the sun, with the adults not too far away, ever watchful of their future clan.
Another large hyaena clan was found one morning after our four lion had made a kill, and the entire clan was in a frenzy fighting each other after the pride had finished their "lion's share." They were all full of blood and scars, displaying their natural scavenging aggression.
Another exciting sighting happened one chilly morning while we were having a warm cup of coffee. Fresh leopard tracks were found in the main area which would have taken the animal right through the fireplace area! Upon investigation, the leopard was spotted moving through the bushes near Tent 8, and as fast as he was spotted, he disappeared.
The buffalo are still around camp, and hippo are always good to watch out for during the boat rides.
In terms of camp development, the pool area is finally completed, which will offer us a wonderful reprieve during the hot months, now fast approaching. Another interesting prospect for our many guests is the offering of helicopter flights over the Delta. A test run was held during June and it proved to be very exciting, adding that little bit of extra spice to an already amazing holiday itinerary. Of course there is an extra charge for the flights, but from what was experienced and the comments thereafter, it is worth every penny.
"Amazing animals, wonderful staff- an experience of a lifetime! What a wonderful first safari! Thank you all so much."- Angus
"We have been to many game lodges in South Africa and this was above the rest. Peaceful and I honestly sometimes asked for the strangest things (I even ate a manager's chocolate) and nothing was too much. We had a wonderful birthday, thanks to the staff."- Suzette
Staff in Camp
Managers: Virgil Geach, Claire Bathfield, Alex Alufisha
Guides: Joseph, Matamo, Jacko
Newsletter and photos: James Moodie
Tubu Tree Camp
update - June 2012 Jump
to Tubu Tree Camp
Weather and Environment
This year we have noticed a very big difference in the water levels in front of camp this year from last year. Last year the water levels were deep around the boma area for the entire month of June - we could do our mokoro activity from the front of camp. This year, when we came into camp the water was shallow around the boma area and now has receded approximately five metres, forcing us to move our mokoro station to another area. The rumour is that we can expect another wave of inundations coming in, but as yet, we have not felt it.
On average, the temperature was at least 5°C warmer than last year. Last year the 'bush baby', given to the guests to hug in bed on the cold winter nights, was a must. This year, most of the guests did not want one, saying it made them too hot. If the truth be told, it would be nice if our winters were this mild every year.
As always the leopard sightings have been superb at Tubu Tree. These majestic cats never fail to wow our guests. We had some great sightings of a female with two young cubs in front of camp and several sightings of different leopard with their kills in trees. What was however the most exciting, was the sighting of an 18-month-old cub making her very first impala kill. She protected it from her mother with all her might and did not share a morsel. Of course, mom now knows that her baby is ready to hunt on her own and they will go their separate ways.
On two occasions a male leopard was seen in the distance and everyone thought it was a lioness at first until they looked through binoculars. This huge male leopard is shy, but we are glad to have the privilege of getting a glimpse of him every now and then.
Nature's pruners, the elephant, have once again had us in awe. There is something about these magnificent beasts that hold us all captive. Watching the interaction between the members of the breeding herds that come into camp is so fascinating. The young mothers alert, the babies playing and the teens wrestling can keep us all entertained for hours. A few days before a breeding herd came into camp, we had a young bull all on his own, just being mischievous. I thought he was lonely and looking for attention, but when the breeding herd came into camp, it seems as though he left with them, as we have not had to deal with his mischievous ways again.
The lions have been heard roaring in the far distance and only on one occasion was a lone lioness seen - but she did not stay long before going on to other territory.
The night air is broken often with the calling of the hyaena and wonderful sightings of these intelligent animals have been recorded. The interaction between hyaena and leopard is also a wonderful sight and lives in the memories of many a guest.
The giraffe is one of those animals that guests really want to see when they come to Africa for the first time. It is amazing for them to watch these tall animals feed, fight and walk together in a journey.
Although buffalo are often seen on the island, it is very rare to see them on the floodplains in front of Tubu. One morning an old dagga boy walked, as though in pain, past camp and then back again into the thickets on the side of camp.
General game has been in abundance around the island, congregating in large herds around the airstrip at night for safety.
A martial eagle feeding on a large black bird was an exciting sighting. The Egyptian geese in the shallows by camp decorate the floodplains, and it is really amusing to watch the open-billed storks go out in the formation of a search and rescue party, and slowly make their way in a line, heads under the water, out of the water, at an even and steady pace.
But what we suppose was the most unusual was the interaction between a red-billed hornbill and the white-rumped babbler. We rescued a babbler chick out of the shallows in front of camp and put it on a branch - where it fluttered and babbled. A red-billed hornbill landed next to it and began to gently touch it and tried to feed it in a motherly fashion. In the meantime the other babblers were frantically looking for food for it and intermittently came to feed it. After about 30 minutes, the chick was dry enough to try out his wings again and did so successfully with the incessant encouragement of the rest of the family.
Managers in Camp
Dan and Charmaine Myburg
Guides in Camp
Photographs by Daniel Myburg
Kalahari Plains Camp
update - June 2012 Jump
to Kalahari Plains Camp
Weather and Landscape
The month of June has been pretty cold, but not as bad as expected for this time of the year and when compared to the last two years at this time. We have experienced average lows of 5°C and average highs of 29° C.
The landscape is incredibly scenic at the moment owing to the flat, open areas which are occasionally broken by sand ridges - the Kalahari continues to be one of the most interesting places to see.
Game viewing has been spectacular, with few lion sightings but many leopard sightings. The Plain Pride of lion has tended to expand its territory with the onset of the dry season owing to the dispersal of the prey species. Generally the prey species move to the ridges and woodlands to get some shelter and to look for winter forage in the form of tubers, roots, bulbs and wild melons - resulting in the predators following them.
Leopard sightings have been outstanding as we experienced 12 recent sightings - certainly a record for our camp. We often saw a female with two subadult cubs, which were very relaxed in the presence of the vehicle. Two months ago, this feline family was spending most of their time around Mantshwe Pan and are now moving closer to the camp area, as they too are following the prey species. We were lucky enough to find them feeding on a gemsbok (oryx) calf carcass at Khudu Pan.
As night time temperatures are quite cold, large quantities of harvester termites emerge from their mounds during the afternoon hours to forage. This has attracted a plethora of mammalian and avian species, all taking advantage of the abundant source of protein. Bat-eared fox have been at the front of the queue and on one occasion we encountered 40 individuals along a 20 km stretch of road - all feasting on the termites.
Other great sightings for the month included cheetah, honey badger and black-backed jackal.
to Page 2