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South Africa camps
Pafuri Camp update - June 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
Pafuri did not receive much rain during our rainy season which ended two months ago. Towards the middle of the month, there was some cloud build-up which looked promising and we were all hoping for a little rain at least - but with no respite. The mornings and evenings have become rather chilly with the monthly minimum dipping to a cold 3° C, but as soon as the sun rises, the landscape warms up nicely, reaching a maximum of 38° C.
As mentioned above, we did not receive a great deal of rain over the summer months, so the landscape is looking really dry and lacks any form of ground cover in many areas. As one approaches the river banks, the vegetation transforms into a thick and lush riparian forest, which attracts scores of wildlife at this time of the year.
June was another great month for game viewing as the general game sightings were fantastic as usual. Huge herds of buffalo and elephant are seen daily as they are in the habit of coming down to the river during the heat of the day... and often in front of camp. The Limpopo floodplains have also produced good sightings of both elephant and buffalo.
Following the trend of last month, leopard sightings have been outstanding! On the 17th, three different leopards were seen whilst out on drive. On the 28th, a female with two cubs was seen on Luvuvhu West, very close to Mangala. We estimate the cubs to be in the region of six to eight months of age.
The Pafuri Pride of lions is still busy with their quest for more territory on the southern side of the river as we didn't see them very often, although we heard their distant audio frequently at night. All in all we had six sightings of the Pafuri Pride and two separate sightings of a lone lioness.
A huge highlight for the month was the sighting of cheetah in the concession. Two adult males were seen along Pafuri Main close to the Outpost sign. At the end of the month, the duo was seen again, this time quite far to the east in an area which is quite suitable for cheetah hunting - we really hope that these two nomads settle in and stay for a while.
Other unusual sightings include that of an aardwolf late one evening. The visiting giraffe were also seen once or twice.
Birds and Birding
The birding was also really good this month, considering all the summer migrants have left. One can easily tick over a hundred species in a day if some time is spent "twitching."
The birding in the camp area has been particularly good with sightings of black-throated wattle-eye and chestnut-vented tit-babbler. Pel's fishing-owl was heard calling from camp very often but made the guides work for sightings as the best way to view them was to walk to the known roosting sites during the day.
June was an action-packed month as we hosted a number of unique and exciting events.
The first event was the Annual Pel's Census which is carried out every year at Pafuri during the month of June. The project is coordinated by the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), Kruger National Park and Wilderness Safaris. The census went really well and a total of 11 specimens were recorded along the Luvuvhu River.
The second event was the collaring of two elephants in the Makuleke Concession. Past guests to Pafuri funded the event which will provide great data for the ongoing research of elephant in the area. More details on this project on the Trust site here.
The third event was a corporate fundraising cycle trail which took place over a three-day period, covering the entire concession. Funds raised by the event went to Children in the Wilderness.
Photographs by Warren Ozorio
Pafuri Walking Trail update - June 2012 Jump
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It seems the wildlife of Makuleke was just as eager to start the 2012 Pafuri Trails season as Megan and I were. We and our guests were welcomed to camp on our first evening by a few bull elephants peacefully feeding around the periphery of camp, no doubt curious to see who had moved into their neighbourhood in the ana tree forest. On our second morning, it was the lions' turn to make a house call. After awaking to the urgent alarm calls of a herd of impala, we watched two lioness lead the Pafuri Pride across the Luvuvhu floodplain at dawn only 150 metres north of camp.
This theme continued through our first two months of trails, culminating with a leopard sighting most guides only dream of. This time, it was the sound of crunching bones and a few low growls that woke all in camp during the middle of the night. At 2:30 in the morning, we quietly emerged from our tents, wrapped ourselves in blankets, and stood next to the camp showers. From here we could see a large male leopard devouring an impala under the cover of darkness in a huge sausage tree. A young female leopard waited anxiously on the moonlight dappled forest floor below. When the big male, seemingly sated, came down out of the tree, she seized the opportunity and leaped up for a quick bite at the leftovers. But this apparently triggered his appetite again, and with a quick charge up the tree accompanied by a ferocious growl, he chased her off the kill and began feeding again. The drama played out for three more hours until first light, when the cold, sleepless, but elated trails group decided to make the short 20 metre trek back to camp to recount the night's events over coffee.
There has been no shortage of nature's drama elsewhere on the Makuleke Concession. One afternoon walk to Hutwini Gorge provided eight lucky trailists with an elephant experience none will forget. Tired after a long walk that morning, we opted for a short walk to the gorge, through which runs a massive and ancient elephant pathway. Late in the afternoon, we climbed up onto a boulder at the mouth of the gorge and sat silently. After one hour, our patience was rewarded when we heard a low rumble in the river valley. Minutes later, a herd of 30 elephant paraded past us, only seven metres away, but unaware of our presence just above their eye level. We watched, listened, and smelled as mothers came through with calves in tow and a few straggling young bulls brought up the rear of the group. With light fading fast, there was no time to linger, so we climbed down only to find another elephant herd coming the opposite direction out of the gorge. We scrambled back up and watched them file past as well. In all, 50 pachyderms crossed little more than a trunk's length away from us, and the Hutwini elephant highway lived up to its reputation.
Sightings of the world's second largest terrestrial animal have also been plentiful, as several white rhino tracking missions were successful. Other notable mammal sightings included buffalo, spotted hyaena, bushpig, eland, four-toed elephant shrew, springhare, Cape clawless otter, giraffe, blue wildebeest, honey badger, civet, genet, white-tailed mongoose, hippo, Sharpe's grysbok, greater cane rat, and thick-tailed and lesser bushbaby.
The Pafuri birdlife also provided the twitchers with some big additions to their lists, including Pel's fishing-owl, racket-tailed roller, black-throated wattle-eye, Bohm's spinetail, grey-headed parrot, three-banded courser, Narina trogon, Dickinson's kestrel, white-breasted cuckooshrike, southern ground hornbills, eastern nicator, African yellow white-eye, lemon-breasted canary, white-headed vulture, and crested guineafowl, to name a few. A sighting of a pair of Verreaux's eagles talon-grappling is also worthy of mention.
The Limpopo River has run completely dry, leaving the dwindling Luvuvhu, a handful of pans, and a few natural springs as the only sources of water on the concession. Our last rains (in March) are now a distant memory and as the days start to lengthen again, it seems this dry season will push the Makuleke wildlife to its limits.
Camp Jabulani update - June 2012
Kings Camp update - June 2012 Jump
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The dry and rustic red leaves of the Tamboti trees shower down on the red soil of Timbavati and the green grass turned golden brown.
These are all signs that winter is here. The cold mornings and evenings often coincide with a lot of animal behaviour especially from the big cats. Lions and leopards prefer the cooler months and one can notice in their daily behaviour that they tend to stay active for longer. This means hunting in day light for us to see and be part of.
The Machattan pride was dealt with another brutal blow when two of the seven male cubs were killed in two separate attacks by two new male lions. The two males are both adults and are in an early stage of development of dominance. Both look fantastic and are extremely muscular. Their manes though are not fully developed yet and this indicates an age of approximately 6-7 years.
So, before you think it is unjustifiable for the cubs being killed we must remember that it is essential that new blood enters the area which is important for the prides future. I am still not 100% convinced the two new males will remain in our area but if they do then we have new male lions that could mean more stability for the resident prides in the future. The Timbavati males have been absent from our area for more than a year and it is safe to say that there tenure is over. For the last year nomadic lions moved in and caused a lot of disruption to the lodges game drives but more importantly the resident prides. I am hoping that the new males will make a positive stand and take action against the nomadic lions as they try to establish a fixed range during the next few months. This is going to be an exciting and thrilling time for us to witness.
Our leopard sightings are on a high and every month the numbers of total leopard sightings keep on increasing. Part of this is due to two young male leopards in our area named Xinope and Mfana. Both adult resident female leopards Ntombi and Rockfig Jnr still produce most of these sightings.
Ntombi and her cub need to be mentioned simply because her small cub of 7 months is finally showing signs of habituation. This is great because I thought at one stage that there is no chance of this cub ever becoming relaxed. Well, I am glad to tell you that he has proven me wrong. I have managed to capture a few close-up images of this young animal. I would assume that he will produce good sightings over the next 2 years.
Another exciting male leopard that is fast becoming a resident male to our area is the 3+ year old Xinope male. This is truly a stunning looking leopard as rich dark colours covering his spotted coat. He is super relaxed and produces great sightings. Our guests can't believe that he is a wild animal due to his relaxed nature. Several kills were recorded from this male close to our bush dinner spot and he is also spending more time in the proximity of the camp. I managed to capture this great image of him drinking late one afternoon.
The spotted hyena is a social animal which lives in large communities called "clans", which can consist of 12-13 individuals in our area of Kruger Park. Group-sizes also vary geographically.
All females dominate over all males, with even the lowest ranking female being dominant over the highest ranking male. It is common for females to remain with their natal clan and the males typically disperse from at the age of 2 years.
The clan is a fission-fusion society and this means that clan-members do not always remain together, but may forage alone or in small groups. High-ranking hyenas maintain their position through aggression directed against lower-ranking clan-members and we tend to see a lot of this kind of aggressive behaviour at the dens. Few people also know that hyena hierarchy is nepotistic meaning that the offspring of dominant females automatically outrank adult females subordinate to their mother. However, rank in spotted hyena cubs is greatly dependent on the presence of the mother; low-ranking adults may act aggressively toward higher-ranking cubs when the mother is absent although this is rarely seen at the dens. The females only care for their own young and males take no part in raising their offspring; cubs are able to identify relatives as distantly related as great-aunts.
The clan's social life revolves around a communal den and this is interesting as we see most of the behaviour around the dens too with guests often being surprised at how beautiful these underrated animals are. It is also important that we as guides inform guests properly about hyenas and their ecological role in the system.
The dens can have more than a dozen entrances, and are mostly located in old unused termite mounds in our area. They almost never dig their own dens, having been observed for the most part to use the abandoned burrows of warthogs, springhares and jackals. The tunnels are usually oval in section, being wider than they are high, and narrow down from an entrance width of ½-1 metre. Dens have large bare patches around their entrances, where hyenas move or lie down on. Because of their size, adult hyenas are incapable of using the full extent of their burrows, as most tunnels are dug by cubs or smaller animals. The structure of the den, consisting of small underground channels, is likely an effective anti-predator device which protects cubs from predation during the absence of the mother.
Our dens are mostly used by several females at once, and it is not uncommon to see up to 5 cubs at a single site.
The next time your visits the camp and the dens are active please ask your ranger to take you to a den and witness firsthand the remarkable behaviour of this misunderstood animal.
Report written by Morné Hamlyn.
Photography by Morné Hamlyn.
Leopard Hills update - June 2012 Jump
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Temperatures haven't quite reached the usual chilly June evening and early morning depths and wildlife has revelled in the extra warmth. Surface water is evaporating fast, drying up remaining mud pans and increasing species and interspecies competition around waterholes.
Dust and the occasional bushfire create dramatic sunsets and we have been lucky enough to share a few such sunsets and sundowners with many bushveld inhabitants who have joined us.
Sometimes an unexpected visitor arrives for sundowners, this is the female Hyaena that has the 2 sub adult cubs we viewed at their den site almost a year ago now! We saw the 2 youngsters looking very healthy!
A sunset with the graceful lady of Leopard Hills
A wonderful month spent viewing our favourite elegant leopardess on many eventful occasions. What always impresses is the vast amount of distance that she covers while patrolling! In one day we discovered that she purposefully covered the perimeter of her whole territory…probably walking around 15km which kept her on the move the whole day!
She was still very busy mating with Dayone in the first 2 weeks of June (See video) but has since parted from him and concentrated on securing her own territory! A few brief sojourns brought her through the lodge area, one memorable morning she strolled through reception before morning tea and paused at room 1 where our repeat guests Len and Sue were patiently waiting to come through to the deck. She paid them a visit to their room over 3 years ago when they were last here and it was almost like she was just checking in just to say hi and welcome back!
Most likely she is now pregnant and we should see a new and hopefully successful litter in the beginning of the summer.
Amazing how things can change so quickly in the bush…our most consistently viewed leopard for the last year and now we are lucky to see her once a week! She has moved to a far denser area up by the western section of the Sand river. Feeling pressure from Metsi in the south, she has possibly found some vacant space up there to claim as her own.
Not seen much this month other than when she was mating with Dayone male for a few days (See video of the mating). We had presumed last month that she had cubs hidden in a nearby koppie but can't be sure. Has she lost the cubs or is she just making sure that Dayone accepts them by enticing him again? Time will tell…
She has revealed herself a few times from her dense habitat along the Sand river, she always manages to slink away so every moment we have her in view is cherished!
Shangwa & her young male
She is coming into heat again now that the young sub adult is independent! She was interestingly seen way out of her territory south of the Sand river following Dayone male around.
She has been seen a few times this month, on one occasion even following Dayone to the front of our camp to mate…deep into Hlaba Nkunzi's territory.
Not seen as frequently as the previous month, most likely due to Hlaba Nkunzi possibly being pregnant now and no mating opportunities for him here in the west of his territory. He has just been breezing through while patrolling and not sticking around too long!
An extremely busy boy this month dealing with female's throwing themselves at him from every direction. One morning we awoke to a leopard vocal cacophony east of our camp and went to investigate!
A flick of Hlaba Nkunzi's tail enticing him…
We had left Dayone mating with Metsi the previous afternoon in her territory just west of the lodge and expected to see them still together! On arrival we discovered that an irate Hlaba Nkunzi was the source of the uproar and had chased Metsi a few hundred metres west and then circled back to mate with Dayone straight away. Must be nice to have female's fighting over you!!! See video of Dayone vocalising impressively and the mating!
They have well and truly come into their own with a vocalising display that outperforms their predecessors in their last year of rule (Mapogo), both in frequency and intensity!
Another "daggaboy" was taken down with apparent ease, they seem to find one every time they are hungry and have little trouble subduing the most formidable prey in Africa.
They have managed to keep the sub adults away the Selati Coalition for most of the month, the short tail lioness (Mother of the 17month old cubs) has even been off away from the pride, enticing the boys to mate with her! Interestingly their behaviour has changed a little in that they seem to get active much later in the evening than usual! Sitting tight patiently, waiting for the coalition to vocalise so they can establish their position and then moving off to hunt!
Always alert, the lionesses are keeping the sub adults safe.
No time to rest, sleep with one eye open…
We experienced an extraordinary sighting with them one dark moonless evening. We remained with them until quite late and were watching them greet and allogroom each other!
A Nyala bull's alarm call suddenly echoed through the bushwillows after picking up their scent in some thick bush nearby. Ears all immediately cocked in this direction and they transformed into stealth mode, the lionesses forming a pincer movement in the direction of the sound. We turned lights and vehicles off and sat under the stars and listened…within 2 minutes we heard the bushes crashing, a frightened bark and then the growls of success! Half an hour was then spent watching the frantic feeding!
What was so unusual is that if the Nyala had not alarm called at the scent he would still be alive, talk about instinctual anti predator behaviour backfiring on the poor Nyala.
Such healthy looking young lionesses, they are full of confidence after mating with the Selati boys (See video of some mating). They did venture a little further west of their usual territory and actually paid Leopard Hills a brief visit for the first time while looking for the Selati Coalition (See Flehmen grimace on video). We could see they were as little nervy of the Ximhungwe pride and they didn't stay long before crossing north over the Sand river into their comfort zone (See amusing video of a river crossing)
Painted Dog Pack
The pack is denning far in the east, let's hope they have some more success with their current litter this year. We may see them if they venture west on the hunt…
Parades are in abundance and with our highly attractive camp pan on offer our guests are regularly being spoilt with a view of drinking elephants from the deck
What an amazing month of Hippo behaviour we have experienced! The cool weather and dropping water levels have truly awakened these fascinating beasts!
We seem to have experienced their whole life cycle from mating hippos, fighting bulls to a calf (only a few weeks old) venturing onto dry land with the protection of it's mother.
Interesting sightings in June
This is the same troop below in a more mellow early morning mood, funnily enough it's mom doing all the work while the guys just chill and let it all hang out in the morning sun!
Quite common along the Sand river and riverine drainage systems but not often seen in the open! This colourful individual decided to have a drink and was fairly relaxed with our presence…a Purple Crested Turaco!
Cool winter evenings bring out the owls a little earlier, here is the second largest owl on earth (Verreaux's Eagle Owl) looking out for an early dusk meal! Amazing to think that they also feed on other large owls such as the Spotted Eagle Owl!
Rocktail Beach Camp update - June 2012 Jump
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Rocktail Bay Dive Report - June 2012 Jump
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It's whale time again! Yes, the humpback whales have arrived and we have seen quite a lot of them this month. Most of the sightings have been of whales breaching far out at sea, where the big splash of water gives them away. We have however, also seen some closer to shore and have been lucky enough to watch them as they travel along. During one particular Ocean Experience, we watched various groups of whales breaching and travelling and also saw a pod of spinner dolphins travelling alongside one of these groups of whales. This is just the beginning of whale season, so we are excited to see many more of these gentle giants in the months to come.
June is winter in our part of the world but it certainly did not feel like it this month, as we experienced wonderful warm and sunny days and clear weather, only getting cooler in the evenings and early mornings. We had a couple of windy days which created some swell out at sea but the remainder of the month we had flat, calm sea conditions with clear water. Visibility averaged around 15-18m, with a handful of "green water days" where visibility was around 8m, but we were also rewarded with some wonderful clear days with visibility at 25m plus. Water temperature at the beginning of the month was 24 degrees Celsius; this dropped to 22 by mid-month and then went back up to 23 by month's end. Not bad for winter.
Morne and Elaine came down with a group of divers to escape the Gauteng winter for a few days, and they had some wonderful dives. The group's first dive was at Gogo's where they saw a hawksbill turtle, a big potato bass, geometric eels everywhere, a white-capped prawn-gobi with his shrimp in the sand and Anelle found the tiniest little cowrie shell crawling along the sand - it must have been about 5mm in length!
The following dive at Pineapple Reef was the most entertaining. First we saw three big honeycomb rays, a honeycomb moray eel, schools of fusiliers and slingers and then, as most of the group was ascending, we saw Boris the potato bass charge down the reef followed by a huge school of slinger. We watched intently as we thought he had caught a fish, but then we saw something yellow lying on the sand at the top of the reef, in amongst all the fish. Patrick swam down and picked up what turned out to be James's weights! They had fallen out of his pocket whilst he was doing his safety stop. We had a good giggle and were entertained by the fish for the remainder of the dive as they stayed close to us, constantly swimming in and out to see if there was anything else worth chasing.
There have been some small sharks at Elusive over the past two months. Last month we saw a group of four from a distance and they were a bit shy, and as we tried to approach they swam away and we could not get a great view of them. It has been bugging me as I was not sure what type of shark they were and because of their small size, and slender head I was starting to think perhaps they were some type of hound shark. This month they got a bit braver and actually circled around staying in the same area. One dive we saw them from our safety stop and we still could not make them out properly and I then thought perhaps they were some juvenile sharks and all I could make out was a faint white on their fin tips, so then I thought well, maybe they are white-tip reef sharks but, the shape of the head still had me baffled. Then on another day when Gerald and I were diving, we finally saw the sharks properly. It was towards the end of our dive, in the same area of reef where I had seen them before and there were three of them circling in the flat rocky area at the edge of the reef. I paid close attention and noticed again the shape of their head, their eyes and black markings on the second dorsal fin. I excitedly asked Darryl once back on the boat and he said straight away that they were milk sharks but when I told him about the second dorsal fin being black, he said they were in fact black-spot sharks (Carcharhinus sealei)! I went and checked on Dennis King's Sharks and Rays E-book and yes, there was a perfect picture of the sharks we had seen. These sharks grow up to a maximum length of 100cm and typically weigh from 3-4kg. They feed on small fish, crustaceans and cephalopods. They are found singly or in small groups and are rarely seen by divers but occasionally caught by shore anglers. The ones we saw were full size and I am looking forward to seeing them again.
Another exciting shark sighting was whilst we were doing our safety stop at Coachman's Ledge. Just Richard and Anke were left and as I turned to signal "two minutes left", I saw a tiger shark. He was big, approximately three to four metres in length! We spent the remainder of our safety stop circling, watching the shark as he came into view and then moved out of sight a few times, before finally disappearing just as quickly as he had appeared.
Congratulations to the following divers:
Drew and Catherine Carr for completing their PADI Discover Scuba Diving Course.
Photographs by Michelle Smith
Yours in diving,
Darryl, Clive, Michelle, Ondyne
The Rocktail Dive Team
Makalolo Plains update - June 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
Winter is in full swing and the second week of the month produced terribly cold conditions. The minimum average temperature was a mere 4° C, with the lowest being 0° C. Once the sun came up, the conditions did warm up to a comfy average high of 27° C.
Just about all of the deciduous trees in Hwange have shed their leaves with exception of the Zambezi teaks and false mopane trees. The grass species have also thinned out with all the taller species being trampled flat. The natural waterholes and pans have dried out or have been reduced to muddy wallows. The winter waterholes are therefore attracting huge numbers of wildlife.
The dry season has been producing fantastic game viewing as expected. Because many of the waterholes have dried up in the area, the camp swimming pool has become a favourite drinking spot for a number of elephant - who seem to be spreading the word as the number of visitors increases on a daily basis. At the beginning of the month, it was mostly solitary bulls and small bachelor herds that visited the pool for a drink, but by the end of the month, breeding herds were taking advantage of the pool, and one could easily watch an entourage of 50 elephant come down to the pool for a drink.
Some cheetah have become residents in the concession as we have enjoyed regular sightings of this endangered feline. The cheetah seem to have settled into the Little Samavundla and Little Ngwehla areas and are preying predominantly on kudu and young wildebeest.
Leopards proved to be elusive this month as we didn't have many sightings of these felines, although we did find their tracks on a regular basis. A coalition of two large male lions has moved into the area - the two were seen in front of camp a number of times.
The highlight for the month was the arrival of the Prodigal Pride which consists of 21 members, including the dominant male. This super pride was last seen last year and then disappeared until now, hence the arrival of the young male coalition. The pride however is missing a few members since we last saw them, possibly falling victim to human-predator conflict in the adjoining villages.
It was only a matter of time before the Prodigal Pride bumped into the Makalolo Pride. The confrontation took place in front of camp and a two-hour battle ensued. We did not witness any fatalities but the battle was savage.
Other great sightings include spotted hyaena and roan.
Birds and Birding
Birding has been a little slow this month as all of the migrant species have gone and Ngamo Plains has dried up. The resident species, however, have continued to entertain the birders.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Sibs, Cosam and Cynthia.
Guides: Lawrence, Elias and Douglas.
Little Makalolo update - June 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
The temperatures have drastically reduced especially during the early hours of the mornings this month. The afternoons have been quite warm with temperatures ranging from about 24-29° C. Over and above the hot water bottles we provide at night, we are also providing hot water bottles for the morning drives to keep away the chills for our guests.
As a result of the low temperatures being experienced at the moment, most trees have now lost their leaves which has made game viewing a little easier. The reduced water levels have resulted in most of the natural pans drying up.
Animal sightings have been amazing this month with porcupine, caracal and wild dog being spotted a few times. The elephant have been coming to the pan in front of camp for a drink, one herd after another - making the hide very popular with guests.
We have had lone lions on several occasions and a pride of six young lion frequenting the camp area a number of times. On the subject of predators, we have found leopard tracks heading straight through camp on most mornings, perhaps this is why we haven't had the mischievous baboons around lately... We have been lucky enough to spot this resident feline a couple of times late during the night. Cheetah have also been seen a handful of times.
Other highlights for the month include that of mating elephant and some small herds of roan.
Birds and Birding
We had very good sightings of birds this month. The secretarybirds have been very active in the area and have been seen hunting most days. We had a great sighting of a secretarybird killing a large puff adder by frantically kicking it. Once the snake expired, the bird fed on it.
The red-billed francolins have provided a wake-up call for our guests every morning as they announce the arrival of the daytime hours.
"The quality of your excellent service and food was fantastic! Knowledgeable guides who took time to find animals and answer questions made the experience exceptional."
"We absolutely loved the people at Little Mak! Amazing energy and spirit - incredible service."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Rania Mutumhe, Charles Ndlovu, Tracy Peacocke and Vimbai Mandaza.
Guides: Dickson Dube, Honest Siyawareva, Bulisani Mathe and Charles Ndlovu.
Davison's Camp update - June 2012
Weather and Landscape
As we are now in the middle of winter, the temperatures have dropped quite a bit, especially during the early morning hours. The temperatures have dropped to an icy -2° C, but as soon as the sun shines over us, the temperatures warmed up to an average high of 25° C. As we edge into July, we have been experiencing some pretty windy conditions.
Most of the trees along the floodplains have fallen victim to frost and have shed all of their leaves. The vegetation in general has opened up which has made game viewing much easier. Ngamo Pan is now bare as the remaining vegetation has been scoffed up by the abundant zebra and wildebeest populations. The false mopane trees have managed to hold onto their foliage and provide much needed browse during the dry months.
Leopards have been visiting the camp almost every night. The resident baboon troops have been experiencing sleepless nights with the felines killing but a few. Just after a morning activity, our guests all got to witness a lion hunt while enjoying breakfast. A small herd of eland came rushing past camp with the lion in hot pursuit. Fortunately for the eland, the lion were not successful.
As Ngama has been over-grazed, the plains game has dispersed all over the area in search for adequate browse.
The lion population is rising in the area, and we suspect that our resident pride will be blessed with a few cubs soon as a couple of the females should be reaching the end of their gestation. One of the females may already be denning as she is not always present with the pride, and when we do see her, her mammary glands are enlarged. This large lion pride has managed to take down a number of buffalo - providing great some outstanding photo opportunities.
Ostrich Pan has become increasingly popular as huge herds of elephant arrive daily to quench their thirst. Eland and sable have also formed a routine of coming down to the pan daily for a drink. Perhaps the predators will pick up onto this routine.
Cheetah sightings have been good too as the open vegetation provides ideal hunting conditions for these speedy predators.
Birds and Birding
As winter arrived, a number of migrant birds poped into Hwange for a while. Big numbers of capped wheatear have settled into the plains. They are often seen sitting on the tops of termite mounds.
The ostrich in the area are in the middle of their breeding season and have been seen displaying their elaborate courtship display. On the subject of breeding, many of the raptors have started to nest as winter is the best time for them to nest owing to the increased food resources. As the vegetation thins out, an onslaught on the various dove species and ground birds in the area has begun.
"Seeing the elephant in such great numbers and in a healthy state, in 1996 they were very much in need of water. Being able to watch the action of the pride of lions over two days was fabulous."
'Seeing the cheetah and lion was amazing, but all the new knowledge of how animals think, work and live was what made the trip. Thank you for getting us much more than just the popular lions!"
"The rooms were so comfortable and every need was thought of. The biggest highlight though, was the staff. They were so friendly, welcoming and accommodating. The staff was the highlight of our stay (along with the animals, of course)."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Themba, Buhle and Avias.
Guides: Themba, Calvet, Brian, Robert, Livingstone.
Ruckomechi Camp update - June 2012 Jump
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Weather, Climate and the Zambezi River
The weather this month of June has generally been warm with maximums of 33.6 degrees Celsius, however we have had a few cold and overcast days. Evenings are chilly and require a fleece as do the mornings, but this is normal for this time of year. Minimum temperatures this month went as low as 8.3 degrees Celsius. The Zambezi River appears to have dropped significantly, possibly due to maintenance on the turbines at Lake Kariba.
The inland vegetation and trees are losing their colour and leaves, so large concentrations of browsers are now coming down to the evergreen riveline. Large numbers of eland and kudu are seen under the attractive Natal mahogany trees, which provide them with most wanted food and shade. The albidas are in full flush and every gust of wind brings the elephant into camp to feast on the immature pods. Nyala berry fruits are ripening, attracting large flocks of fruit-eating birds and mammals alike.
Mammal sightings were most exciting this month. Guests were delighted to see our first cheetah this season. The young male has been seen on several occasions after disappearing from the area.
With inland waters and grass drying out, more and more animals are gravitating to the river's edge and floodplain making these areas a predator's paradise. Lion and leopard are seen and heard on a regular basis. Zebra, kudu, impala, waterbuck and an increasingly large number of warthogs area seen daily.
Our resident pride of four lion has made itself known in and around camp. Whilst our waiters walked between the kitchen and dining room with food, they have had to keep an eye on the old lioness watching an impala on the other side of the board walk. Guests were taken by vehicle to their tents that night for safety. Later the lionesses were seen on the floodplain in front of the tents hunting. The old female has an injury on her back leg, but seems to be healing well.
The departure of most of our migrant bird species in April/May allows the keen birder to see more of our residential species. June in particular has had some good offers, young vultures in their nests, fish eagles coasting and the arrival of one of the Zambezi specials, the African skimmer. Walking on the floodplains has also been rewarding: sightings like the pale morph of Walberg's eagle, the collared palm thrush and Temminck's courser being just some.
This month we bid a sad farewell to Theunis and Belinda Botha, they will be missed. We are grateful for the input they have given us, particularly on the training side and wish them many blessings with their new venture and also await the birth of their first child.
We welcome Gavin and Mina Woest as our new assistant managers and hope they settle in well. Erica Masawi and Ted Maberly, both students, have come to help us out and learn more about the industry. We have also had a flow of freelance learner guides this month. We thank Tapiwa, Manuel and Ophious for their knowledge and assistance this month. At the end of the month Dharmesh Daya, a learner guide, also returned to the Ruckomechi Team. Welcome back!
"Great Camp, nice people and excellent meals as well as a comfortable room!" - Mike & Margaret (South Africa)
"An absolutely spectacular experience - this was our first safari trip and we could not be happier. Warm an welcoming, informative guides, elephant drinking out of the pool? We all felt special." -Alan, Judy & Seth (USA)
"The sundowner beach party was a special treat. Guides Gadreck and Champion were outstanding in their knowledge of area and wildlife. Both were very professional and courteous." - Robert & Mary Sullivan (UK)
Staff in Camp
General Manager: Carel
Assistant Managers: Gavin & Mina
Trainee Managers: Sandy
Guides: Gadreck, Kevin, Champion, Dharmesh
Students: Erica Masawi, Ted Maberley
Housekeeping: Chris, Spencer, Tichaona, Milton, Last
Laundry: Elias.M. Shame and Tichaona Muti.
Maintenance: William.H, Jack, Gerany, Tendai, Abiot, Calvin, Freddy, and Attwell
Kitchen: Eshuwet, Elvis, Collen, Elias.B, Wilson and Rayner
Waiters: Ishmael, Fadzanai, Brighton and Misheck
Storeman: Patrick and Paul
Village cook: William S
Newsletter by Gadreck and Champion
Mana Canoe Trail update - June 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
With the dry season taking a firm hold, the bush is now very dry, and in the mopane woodland there is a thick carpet of red and brown leaves hiding the dry earth. Many of the smaller inland pans have dried up leaving a hard crust, patterned with the spoor of elephant and buffalo, both of which along with the plains game will now have to use the river as their primary water source. The weather has been fairly mild, although a cup of hot coffee around the morning camp fire is almost a must, before the sun breaks the chill and starts the day.
The Zambezi River is ever-changing and is never the same from trip to trip. Towards the middle of the month, the wind started picking up late morning and early afternoon, making the water quite choppy and paddling a challenge, but the guides overcame this by stopping for the walks during the windy hours and taking advantage of the calm periods.
The game viewing has been very good in the last month, with animals having to move down to the river to quench their thirst. Elephant sightings are a daily occurrence, as well as the usual impala, zebra, warthog, kudu and waterbuck.
On a few occasions, the shy and rarely seen nyala has braved the open areas and allowed the guests a nice sighting. Lion have also been seen a number of times, with one group of guests witnessing an unsuccessful hunt. Eland sightings have also be quite frequent this month with a herd hanging around the open area behind Ilala Campsite.
One morning, during breakfast, we got to witness a very very special sighting as the wild dogs killed an impala no more than 30 metres behind the camp. This sighting is very rare and puts the guests into a very elite group that have actually seen wild dog hunting. It had obviously been a long hard chase, as both the dogs and the impala were so tired they stood panting, looking at each other for a few seconds before the rest of the pack caught up and started pulling the impala to the ground. Other special sightings this month include a lioness stalking an impala as the guests watched on one of the walks. We also found a group of lions feeding on a buffalo from the safety of a vehicle.
Birds and Birding
June has been a good month for birding with 110 species being seen during the month.
Specials including western banded snake-eagle, Lillian's lovebird, Bohm's spinetail, black-throated wattle-eye and racket-tailed roller. We were very lucky to also witness a lizard buzzard eating a yellow-bellied sand snake on a transfer back to Ruckomechi after a trip.
Staff in Camp
Guides: Henry and Matthew.
Toka Leya Camp update - June 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
On average this has probably been a very mild month of June in comparison to the previous year. However, a few days were quite nippy with frost on the boardwalks and frost bitten trees. The tradition of the fire place was revived and more and more exciting stories shared.
Water levels on the Zambezi River have continued to drop though it might be a while before we can get to the Victoria Falls without having to worry about the rain ponchos.
Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park has produced some fantastic game viewing this month. Rhino sightings have been really good due to the huge conservation and anti-poaching efforts in the area. The huge variety of plains game in the park has been phenomenal too, as huge mixed congregations, which are quite habituated to the vehicles, produce wonderful photographic opportunities. As the area is drying out a little, most of the wildlife masses along the river during the hottest hours of the day. Large numbers of crocodile and hippo are also found in the river.
The location of the camp is probably something that needs mention as the camp surrounds attract lots of wildlife activity. The river banks in front of camp have a gentle slope, which gives thirsty wildlife easy access to the river.
The river has not only attracted the larger mammalian species, but also a myriad bird species too. African finfoot and African skimmer have been seen almost daily, not to mention many other water bird species.
"This was a fabulous place to begin our African adventure. Everyone was wonderful as was the food and accommodation. Thank you so much!"
"Loved it! Great relaxed atmosphere but so efficient with everything- Best food and great coffee. Fabulous tour of the falls and the river."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Petros, Gogo, Jacquie, Amon, Mavis and Muchelo.
Lufupa River Camp update - June 2012 Jump
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Lufupa Tented Camp update - June 2012 Jump
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Kalamu Lagoon Camp update - June 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
As winter settles into the area, early morning temperatures have been a little chilly, ranging from 13-15° C. The camp fire has become a popular spot as all of the guests huddle around the warmth before going on an early morning activity. Nevertheless it warms up during the day to a comfortable 25-27° C and drops as soon as the sun sets.
Kalamu Lagoon is a true haven for wildlife as sightings have been impressive and varied. Each day offers an authentic wildlife experience whether you have opted for a game drive or bush walk with our experienced guides.
As the landscape is drying out and water is becoming sparse, the buffalo herds have been joining up together as they search for water. On one occasion, guests on foot counted over 400 buffalo in a single herd on the Chinengwe Plains. Elephant and giraffe are frequently spotted pruning the vegetation that is growing around the camp, as well as drinking and some wallowing in the lagoon in front of camp.
Apart from the abundant buffalo sightings, we have had some awesome sightings of hippo, zebra, waterbuck, puku, bushbuck, porcupine, bushpig and African civet amongst other species.
On the carnivore side, leopard sightings have been a highlight. Unfortunately, we have had no lion sightings although tracks were seen frequently and their audio was often heard. Of course, not to forget the hyaena, which patrolled the camp every night. We found a set of wild dog tacks which were heading out of the area. Let's hope they return soon.
Birds and Birding
Usually the winter months are not ideal for great birding, but it turns out that June was very productive in terms of birding. We had some great sightings of Pel's fishing-owl, bat hawk and greater flamingo (which are vagrant to the area). To add to this we had sightings of Wahlberg's eagle in both dark and light morph.
"From the nightjar to the hissing leopard in the tree 20 feet away - the excitement and beauty was never ending. We loved your camp; your pride and your welcome wonderful generosity .We are so moved and impressed with Kalamu."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Solly Tevera, Evie Bwalya and Rebecca Tembo.
Guides: Sandford Sakala, Joseph Mfune and Emmanuel Sauti.
Shumba Camp update - June 2012 Jump
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Kapinga Camp update - June 2012 Jump
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Busanga Bush Camp update - June 2012 Jump
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Mvuu Camp update - June 2012 Jump
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Mvuu Wilderness Lodge update - June 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
The mornings at Mvuu start off chilly but warm up quickly as the sun rises. Due to cooler temperatures and pleasant weather, all camp activities have been very comfortable. As evening approaches and guests stop for sundowners, a refreshingly cool breeze often blows, along with stunning sunsets that shine through the darkening silhouette of the floodplains. This is one of the best times to view the night sky in Liwonde. When moonlight is limited and clouds clear, a huge mass of sparkling stars can be seen spread across the entire night sky.
Game viewing remains as interesting as ever in Liwonde and we have encountered a lot of game movements throughout the month - especially in regard to elephant herds. We spotted a breeding herd of no less than 90 elephant by the airstrip. They appeared mildly disorientated and unfamiliar with their surroundings so we suspect that they were new to the park. We believe that this large breeding herd usually resides on the outskirts of Liwonde and entered the park via the Shire River. Unfortunately we also suspect that they've returned to the outskirts. As the dry season slowly sets in over the next few months, we hope that this herd will return to the park and game will start to concentrate around the river once more.
It's easy to spot baboons mating (our guides joke that they sense they are being watched and sometimes put on a show). Recently we encountered a less common occurrence in the camp dining area where we saw a pair of monkeys mating - all in clear view of our guests who found the whole display rather hilarious.
As mating season has arrived, the park's kudu are showing their dominance and we've seen several kudu bulls fighting and mounting one another in a dominance display.
Nocturnal sightings have also been good this month with porcupine, Meller's mongoose, white-tailed mongoose and genet all making our list.
The highlight for June came right at the end of the month when a group of 14 guests were enjoying a bush dinner. The group heard lion audio, which could've only been from one individual - Titus, the large male lion of the area. The opportunity was seized and we went in search of the impressive feline. Staff and guests jumped onto the vehicles and were rewarded with a fantastic sighting of Titus shortly after beginning the search.
Birds and Birding
This month we had some pretty amazing sightings of brown-breasted barbets which are usually quite rare. We have also had sightings of Pel's fishing-owl, giant kingfisher, palm-nut vulture, Bohm's bee-eater, and western-banded snake-eagle to name but a few.
A group of Mvuu guests embarked on the admirable feat of cycling 60km through Liwonde National Park, stopping for drinks and game viewing along the way. The group was led by our guide Danger and accompanied by a national park scout. We've never led such a long cycle through Liwonde National Park before and completing a circuit on this tough but scenic terrain is a challenge our guests and team should be proud of.
Njobvu Cultural Lodge visits have been ever popular this month. If you haven't been to Njobvu yet, make sure you stop by on your next visit to Mvuu. After a relaxing 15-minute cycle ride, you'll be able to enjoy a tour of the village or experience a traditional dance. The lodge also performs an incredibly melodic rendition of "Waka Waka" accompanied by a spectacular fire dance.
"A special thank you to the entire staff at Mvuu - always ready to go the extra mile. Thank you!"
"Duncan was great, friendly and professional, thanks a lot!"
Guides in Camp
Matthews, Mc Loud, Danger, David, Patrick, Duncan, Justin, Henry and George.
Newsletter by Henry, Patrick, Danger and Justine.
Mumbo Island update - June 2012 Jump
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The weather has been fabulous as we had sunny and warm conditions. The forest is lush and green and the rains are over and we have been enjoying clear skies.
Mission Malawi 5 (MM5) Cycling Expedition
In May this year, Kayak Africa put together and supported the fifth Mission Malawi Cycle Tour. Mission Malawi is a biannual charity challenge raising money for HIV/AIDS projects run by ActionAid in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. To date they have raised over £350 000.
Malawi is particularly hard hit by the AIDS crisis as almost 15% of the population is HIV-positive. Mission Malawi works directly with ActionAid so that all the funds raised go as grants directly to projects in Africa.
This May, the participants cycled over 400 miles along dirt roads in central Malawi: from Lilongwe, to Nkhoma Mission, to Dedza Pottery, to Mua Mission, to Phirilongwe Forest Reserve, to Nanchengwa, ending off in Cape Maclear. The team visited ActionAid partners along the way who are working with people living with HIV and AIDS to see first-hand the difference they are making to people's lives.
Kayak Africa planned and 'recced' the route, provided the support vehicles, guides, tents, mattresses and all meals along the way.
After MM5 cycled from Lilongwe to Cape Maclear as their final destination, they still needed to complete the last 24 km to fulfil the targeted 400 km. With this distance in mind, Kayak Africa organised a cycle race between sixteen local cyclists from Chembe Village, Cape Maclear and sixteen cyclists from the MM5 group.
This took place on Sunday 20th May. The race began at Kayak Africa's reception in Chembe Village and the cyclists raced over the mountains to Nsaka Village and back.
After the race, Kayak Africa invited the local cyclists together with the MM5 cyclists for a special lunch at the Kayak Africa reception. Kayak Africa also rewarded the local participants with MK 2000 for participating in the race. MM5 gave each local cyclist a Mission Malawi 2012 T-shirt. They also donated clothes, shoes and one lucky cyclist received a mountain bicycle as a particularly fine reward for his cycling skills!
Both the local cyclists and the Mission Malawi members thoroughly enjoyed the race, as did spectators from both the villages of Chembe and Nsaka. An unusual and fun end to an excellent and worthwhile fundraising expedition!
Chelinda Lodge update - June 2012
Weather and Landscape
It has been very cold this month and we've experienced a lot of frost in the mornings. However, hot chocolate is doing the trick and warming all our guests up well. Fog is emerging from the pine plantation on the eastern side of the lodge.
As the dry season progresses, the northern section of Dam 1 is drying up, however, the larger section of the dam has lots of water and is in ideal condition for some rainbow trout fishing.
Game viewing is still good despite the lack of palatable forage. We've had leopard sightings close to the main road in the park. Warthogs are an increasingly common sight. This is very encouraging as it shows the population is growing. We also had a good sighting of an elephant bull near the woodlands (which is a popular area for the elephant in the park).
The grasslands between the lodge and hagenia woodlands are frequented regularly by bushbuck, and a small herd has been seen often amongst the chalets. A dazzle of seven zebra was seen grazing at dusk outside the lodge. South of the lodge, we've had sightings of three resident herds of reedbuck, up to 40 zebra and constant views of small groups of roan antelope. We haven't seen eland from the lodge this month, but they can be seen in large numbers on the edge of the plantation as you approach Chelinda.
Other common sightings include that of side-striped jackal, spotted hyaena, bushpig and porcupine.
Our highlights for the month occurred on the 15th June, when Whyte and his guests spotted one honey badger on a game drive near Nganga Road and then saw two spotted eagle-owls near the airstrip. The next day, Sam and his guests spotted a leopard stalking two porcupines near Sangule. The game drive ended with a serval sighting near the airstrip.
Birds and Birding
Lizard buzzards have been seen regularly near the hagenia forest close to the lodge. Lappet-faced vultures were seen on a number of occasions.
Our trainee guides were taken on a birding trip in the local forests for a bird identification course and they saw malachite sunbird, mountain-yellow warbler, yellow-browed seedeater, African-hill babbler and Malawi batis amongst many other species. We also spotted three white-headed vultures flying over the Chosi-Dam 3 road, heading towards Chelinda. We suspect that they were headed towards a kill near the old stables.
Newsletter by Sam, Chris, Apollo, Whyte and Stanford.
Desert Rhino Camp update - June 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
Winter has arrived and the weather has begun changing, sometimes quite drastically. We experienced strong east winds, especially during the afternoons. Generally speaking, temperatures ranged from a cool six degrees Celsius to a comfy 22 degrees Celsius. On a few mornings we noticed a cloak of mist drifting in over the landscape.
The landscape is very dry and is dominated by the impressive Damara euphorbia. The areas surrounding the natural springs are still quite lush with vegetation, especially mopane trees which grow along the seep lines - attracting lots of wildlife.
June has been an exciting month in terms of wildlife sightings as general game sightings have been abundant. Huge mixed congregations of zebra, springbok, oryx and kudu were seen dotted along the vast landscape. Moving away from the grassy plains and towards the rocky slopes, we had a number of fantastic klipspringer and rock hyrax sightings too.
The highlights for the month were the rhino sightings. A new black rhino bull has moved into the area and we have managed to track him and document some material which will help with easily identifying this individual in the future. The rhino research went really well this month, and we were able to share the rhino experience with all of our guests.
Two elephant bulls also made the camp surroundings their temporary residence resulting in a few "wow" moments.
Predator sightings have also caused much excitement and joy with our guests and guides. A pride of eight lionmade the Khoabes Spring their temporary home and hunting grounds, owing to the prolific prey numbers around. This pride provided some great photographic opportunities as they were quite relaxed in our presence.
A very skittish caracal also made a brief appearance before disappearing into some bushes. The afternoon drives produced many wonderful bat-eared fox sightings as well as a single brilliant aardwolf sighting. We also had a number of fantastic cheetah sightings too.
Birds and Birding
The birdlife has been pretty amazing, especially the raptor sightings, as most raptors are starting to nest now. We had some excellent views of a variety of vulture species as they were often seen perching on dead trees, waiting for the thermals to aid them in flight.
We had some great sightings of the following birds: lanner falcon, gabar goshawk, black stork and brown snake-eagle. All in all it was a great birding month.
Palmwag Lodge update - June 2012 Jump
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Doro Nawas Camp update - June 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
Winter is clearly here. The landscape has changed quite drastically as just about all of the trees are bare, even the species that grow along the riverbeds and tap into the subterranean water.
The weather has also changed a fair deal over the last month, as most days have been characterised by windy afternoons, bringing with them cool air from the Atlantic Ocean. The monthly temperatures have fluctuated between averages of 11 and 25° C.
Game viewing has been pretty good this month, as wildlife has dispersed all over the area in a search for moisture. The herbivore congregations have gotten much smaller but there is activity all over the area.
This month, our guests were really 'wowed' by the following sighting. We found a fresh oryx carcass very close to De Riet Pos during an afternoon drive. We surveyed the area just to make sure all was safe before climbing off the vehicle and heading to the carcass for a closer look. Once we arrived at the carcass, the story unfolded as we took up all the clues on and surrounding the carcass. We gathered that the oryx had been chased by a small pride of desert-adapted lion, which managed to bring the large herbivore down in what must have been a formidable battle for life and death for the oryx, who had obviously lost the battle. It was awe-inspiring to see all the pieces of the puzzle and to see some excellent examples of lion tracks in the soft soil.
In terms of desert-adapted elephant, both the Rosie and Oscar herds have returned to the area and have taken up residence in the Aba Huab River, which is expected for this time of year as these herds have made a habit of settling here for the last couple of years during the winter months. Most of our guests got to enjoy good views of these magnificent giants in their natural desert habitat.
We were also treated to a number of excellent cheetah sightings this month as a female and her cub have moved into the area. We will keep our fingers crossed that this cub reaches adulthood, adding to the cheetah population and further enhancing our guests' Namibian experience.
The Doro Nawas Wilderness Choir has done it again - they were crowned for the second time as the winners of the JV Song Competition held in Windhoek at the Annual Tourism Expo.
This month, the camp prepared a family braai for four of its guests around the pool. This went down very well as the guests really enjoyed the food and enjoyed the scenery and ambiance of the settings around the pool.
"The beauty of the landscape was fantastic and our guide Richardt was great and was very patient."
"The rooms and your hospitality were great, all the staff was very nice. The rooms were beautiful and the view into the wilderness is marvellous. One of the highlights was the dance after dinner. Thank you very much!"
"Our highlight was seeing the desert elephant in their natural environment. We really enjoyed the exceptional warmth and hospitality of the camp staff. The breakfast in the mountains and dinner under the stars was mind blowing."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Agnes Bezuidenhout, Morien Aebes, Theobald Kamatoto, Jason Lundon and Emsie Skrywer.
Guides: Richardt Orr, Ignatius Khamuseb, Michael Kauari and Michael Haindongo.
Newsletter for the month was done by:
Theobald Kamatoto and Ignatius Khamuseb.
Damaraland Camp update - June 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
Winter has been slowly on the approach for the last few weeks but the days have gotten noticeably shorter. By mid-June, the early morning fog started rolling into the area during the fresh morning hours. Night time temperatures have gotten quite chilly, but the daytime temperatures are still very comfy.
The landscape has taken on a very dry appearance as just about all the vegetation has taken on a brown hue.
As the landscape has become parched, the wildlife has spread all over the surrounding area on the endless search for moisture and palatable graze.
Small herds of kudu and springbok have been regularly collecting and grazing just in front of camp, which has provided some great photographic opportunities, framed by the spectacular scenery on our doorstep.
The desert-adapted elephant have returned to the area and both herds (Rosie and Oscar) have been found along the Aba Huab River on a number of occasions. During the cool mornings, these graceful giants tend to move into the open areas - as they start off their days, the younger members in the herd display lots of youthful energy.
We have also had a handful of fantastic rhino sightings too.
Camp News and Activities
Children in the Wilderness visited the Damaraland Adventure Camp this month on an Exploration. Ten children stayed at the camp for two nights and spent lots of time out and about on a wealth of fun-filled activities. The group then visited Damaraland Camp and were given a complete tour of the camp and a presentation by Maggie. Hopefully the seed of conservation and sustainable tourism was planted in the young minds.
For some reason, this month has been filled with singing and dancing around the dinner table as both the staff and the guests would get stuck in and have a whale of a time. This month we also put quite a lot of effort into having more boma dinners, river lunches and bush breakfasts, just to add a little more spice to the Damaraland experience.
This month, some camp guests kindly donated money to the local De Riet village. Damaraland Camp donated food to the village to the same value as the cash donation.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Maggie Vries, Elfrieda Hebach, Erika Awaras and Victor Hayward.
Guides: Anthony Dawids, Johann Cloete, Albert Gaoseb and Willem Retief.
Skeleton Coast Camp update - June 2012 Jump
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Serra Cafema Camp update - June 2012 Jump
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Ongava Tented Camp update - June 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
June has been a very cool month, the mornings and the evenings very cold but during the day the temperatures have been very warm. The fire in the main area has been welcomed by everyone around which they warm up and share stories of the day's adventures. We have experienced windy conditions during the afternoons, which quickly dropped the temperature. The hot water bottles have been very popular with all our guests.
The landscape has dried out a lot, with just about all of the surface water gone.
June has been the month of the lions at Ongava Tented Camp. A pride consisting of two males and three females has been frequenting the area surrounding the camp - often being seen on drive and heard calling every night. One of the females has four small cubs, although the lioness has kept them a secret, only being revealed by the camera trap by the camp waterhole. Towards the end of the month, a handful of guests caught a brief glimpse of the cubs whilst on drive.
The pride also caused a lot of excitement when they chased a large waterbuck bull right through the camp and brought it down in the parking lot. This made departing and arriving from the camp the following day quite fun.
Rhino sightings have also been fantastic this month, with a couple of calves being seen with their mothers.
We have also experienced some rare and unusual sightings. The highlight for the month was that of a caracal with two tiny cubs walking along the road, quite relaxed in the presence of the vehicle. We also sighted a honey badger with her babies. After sunset, we have been encountering a few African wild cats.
General game sightings have been phenomenal as most of the wildlife activity is concentrated at the winter waterholes. One can easily see hundreds of zebra, oryx, eland, impala and kudu coming to the water for a drink.
Etosha has also produced fantastic and varied sightings, again at the waterholes. Elephant and lion were seen a handful of times in Etosha. As the environment dries up further, more and more elephants will move down to the southern sections of Etosha, but for now we have only seen solitary bulls and small bachelor groups.
Birds and Birding
Birding has been pretty good during the month, especially around camp. Quite a number of Monteiro's hornbill have taken a liking to the camp area, and can be found scratching through the soil throughout the day. Bare-cheeked babblers have also been active in the camp environs, and can constantly be heard cackling away as they fly from tree to tree. It has been wonderful to have both species around camp as they are both endemic to Namibia.
As the environment dries up, Ruppell's parrots have started to arrive in the area as they widen their search for edible fruits. It is quite easy to identify these birds as they have bright yellow plumage under their wings and belly, which is very conspicuous in flight.
"We loved seeing a black rhino with her calf, plus the dinner under the stars was awesome. The camp waterhole was fantastic and we enjoyed watching the animals come down for a drink."
"Lots of lions, just what we'd been hoping for! The food was excellent; Rio was extremely good at tracking down the lions and giving us ample time for pictures and enjoyment. Rio was great and Silvia was very helpful."
"All of the animals of Etosha and Ongava were spectacular and our guide's knowledge of them and their habitat was excellent."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Silvia Morgante, Corne Cocklin, Inge Kambatuku and Festus Eiseb.
Guides: Rio Aibeb, Leon Basson, Bono Gauseb and Me-Gusto Busch.
Little Ongava update - June 2012 Jump
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Ongava Lodge update - June 2012 Jump
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Andersson's Camp update - June 2012 Jump
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Little Kulala Camp update - June 2012 Jump
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Kulala Desert Lodge update - June 2012 Jump
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Kulala Wilderness Camp update - June 2012 Jump
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Governors' Camp update - June 2012 Jump
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Weather and Grasslands
Cool mornings with some overcast days and low cloud. Latterly there has been some pastel sunrises as the day warms up from a cool crisp early start. On the 3rd of June we had 18 mm of rain. The latter end of the month has brought on clear skies with crisp early morning temps being low as 12°C and average at 16°C, although midday are 24°C evening temps at 22°C. Good grass growth still prevails within Bila Shaka, Paradise Plains, and some areas of Topi Plains, Emarti and Musiara Marsh grasslands. 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 52 mm; much of this rain was in the first week. At Little Governors the rainfall was 43.4mm.
Photo courtesy of Katie McLellan
Elephant are being seen regularly in the grassland areas, lion sightings and good leopard viewing despite the long grass.
Gnus: Wildebeest were seen crossing the Sand River on the 24th and sightings from various sources in Serengeti confirm many more have been seen 60 Kms from the Sand River.
Cheetah - Malaika has two cubs that are two months old near the double crossing area.
Bibi - the Marsh Lioness is lactating we have not seen anything yet!!
Elephant are spread out within Bila Shaka, Musiara and Paradise Plains; there are many young calves all spread out within these small family units. Large bulls move within the Mara ecosystem looking for females in estrous who will cycle for up to 16 weeks. Older Bulls come into Musth and will stay in this condition for up to two months depending on their physical condition. On the 12th a large bull with a radio collar called 'Heritage' was treated by the KWS vet due to a large abscess on his right front leg. He was treated again on the 19th and is improving with the vet saying that he hoped for a full recovery. Once he had been treated he woke up and quickly crossed the river to the Mara triangle, before returning to the Eastern side on the 27th. This Bull was seen again in the west side of the Marsh on the 31st. The bull elephant called Blossom that frequents the camps and in particular Little Governors he was last seen crossing the river at Private Camp and he is in full Musth.
Photo courtesy of Maina Wachira Il Moran guide
The large herd of Cape Buffalo can still be seen along the Bila Shaka river bed and on the north bank of the Musiara swamp; there are many very young calves in this herd. Last count showed that there were nearly 400 animals. Lion from the Marsh pride and spotted hyena have killed and eaten some of the cows and young calves.
Photo courtesy of Colin Welensky
Cokes Hartebeest can still be seen in small pockets throughout Paradise Plains; Rhino Ridge and Bila Shaka plains, the few females close by Private Camp can still be seen. Topi that were on Topi Plains: many have been seen to have moved out to the conservation to the north east of the Talek River. A few can be seen on Paradise Plains. Near the main crossing points there is a flat area of short grass where topi congregate in good numbers. Topi prefer pastures with green grass that's medium in length with leaf-like swards as opposed to the long grasses that still prevail in most areas that are in the reserve.
On the 24th 3 Hyena were seen chasing a topi all over the Topi Plains and at the same time in a shallow river bed 4 lionesses of the Marsh pride and one male were looking on, the hyena were so engrossed in this chase they managed to chase the topi into the waiting lionesses. The lioness 'Modomo' quickly took the bait and the hyena lost out.
Impala herds with young fawns within the riverine woodlands and woodland fringes with the Bachelor herds being spread out. Defassa Waterbuck are being seen again in the Marsh, male bachelor herds are scattered.
The large troops of Olive Baboons can be seen in between the camps, and there are still more young infants being born, seemingly to increase the number of mouths. Female baboons stay in the same troop their whole lives and male baboons leave the troop when they are mature enough to search for a mate.
Warthog and sows with two or three piglets that are 9 months old now can still be seen throughout the grassland plains of Bila Shaka and Musiara. Although the shorter grass plains of the reserve and conservation areas are better places to see them. Sows have up to 4 piglets at birth. Giraffe will be seen through the open plains and a good sight is a herd of them crossing a wide open plain on the skyline. Two females have been seen to give birth and this is where the calf drops from quite a height, the mother stands while giving birth and calves at birth weigh in at about 100kg. Females have a gestation of 14-15 months and usually have a single calf. Male herds can be seen together. Bohors Reedbuck can be seen in long grass areas that are close to water and have coarse grass cover. Good places to see them are in the Musiara Marsh and the Bila Shaka river bed.
Thomson and Grants Gazelles will be better seen on the shorter grasses of the reserve and conservation areas, such as Rhino Ridge and Paradise Plains. The social structure of gazelles consists of several types of groups. Male gazelles are territorial throughout their adult lives, though not usually before 2-3 years of age. During the non-territorial periods males usually spend their time in bachelor groups or as part of a mixed herd. Likewise females will form migratory female groups that travel through the males' territory. As the female groups pass through, the territorial males will try hard to herd them to prevent them from leaving and one can see this vividly.
Spotted Hyenas are being seen more frequently, with clan numbers rising to over 20 to 30 members as they congregate when hunting and feeding. Topi Plains is a good place to see them and early mornings are a good time for it and also to get a glimpse of them hunting prey. On the 10th at 1.00am in the morning at Il Moran Camp a large clan of Hyena came through the camp and passed via the dining tent taking the ostrich eggs and knocking the ostrich bowl to pieces; before ending up behind tent number 3 where they fought for about 30 minutes, in this fracas they managed to knock down two water pipes which gushed out fountains of water which we think finally dispersed them, one hyena was found killed, looking at it in the morning light it was an old female whose teeth were well worn. This activity was probably the removal of a queen who has had her time by a daughter takeover.
Serval Cat sightings have improved this month. Two male Black Rhino have been seen near the crossing points on Paradise Plains often and the younger male had fought with the older one and suffered a few scratches around the face and horns. On the 18th the KWS vet had a look at him and cleaned up his wounds which were more superficial.
Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds
Marsh Pride - There are up to 21 lion in this pride to include the four males. The four Marsh males (Musketeers) namely Morani, Hunter, Sikio and Scar (whose right eye lid is still not quite healed, pictured above), will move between Musiara Marsh, Bila Shaka and Topi Plains. The four young females are also being seen spread out. With the long grass they have all been seen recently between the Marsh and Topi Plains. They have been feeding off the resident buffalo, Grants Gazelle and two wildebeest that had come in from the conservation areas. On the 4th they killed a male buffalo near Bila Shaka under a Balanites tree and another one again on 11th near the airstrip area of Musiara Marsh and ate off it for three days. On the 28th early in the morning the four males and four females had killed a male buffalo on the eastern side of Bila Shaka, 4.00pm they had eaten all of it and hyenas were left eating the remains. On the 24th Modomo and two other lionesses were seen on a Topi kill near the dry river called Kreys Lugga between Topi Plains and Bila Shaka. This topi they were eating was chased for them by a group of Spotted Hyenas that came in from Topi plains. On the 30th six females including Modomo (lioness with lip ulcers) were seen eating a wildebeest near the windmill area of the Marsh. The next day on the 31st they killed a warthog near the Musiara airstrip.
Photo courtesy of Bernadette Simpson
Notch and the four males are being seen on the Talek River and the double crossing area. On the 9th near the Talek river crossing on the north b ank they had killed a large male buffalo and were with three females. They had killed a large male hippo on the 15th near the Olkiombo sundowner tree and ate off it for three days with the Olkiombo pride of 8 lion. They kill hippo and male buffalo frequently. They are often seen on the south bank of the Talek River near to fig tree camp. Notch the old male is looking his age now and is often seen on the Talek River below the Olkiombo airstrip. The Lioness Nyota and her male cub Moja who is 6 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. Joy and her 5 cubs were being seen near Topi Plains and in the conservation area. She crosses between here and the conservation areas often. Two of the older male adult cubs have moved on. With long grass in the reserve lion are struggling to feed themselves, when their main prey species is well dispersed.
Another great shot from Bernadette of Joy and her cubs at 8 weeks old (Below)!
Photo courtesy of Bernadette Simpson
The Olkiombo Pride of 12 lion including their 2 cubs which are 8 months old, 8 females and 2 males which are about 2½ years old are being seen on the south bank of the Talek River. On the 1st July at 11.00am the four Notch males killed a Buffalo. The Olkiombo pride was also feeding off it at a later stage and we understand that one of the young sub adult males who were feeding on the buffalo was killed by the Notch males a few days ago. Two nomadic males at least 3 years old have been seen near Governors Private Camp and as far as Paradise Plains. These two are suspected to be the two males that were originally with Joy. On Paradise Plains near the main crossing points seven females are often seen.
Malaika and her two cubs that are approximately two months old are very active; with Malaika regularly getting onto cars and with the young cubs looking on. She is seen feeding off Thompson Gazelles and impala females. The short grass areas within the Ntiaktiak and Olare Orok rivers are good places to see them. There is another female within these areas that is also feeding off Thomson Gazelles.
Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds
Olive and her two cubs that are 10 weeks old have been seen on the Talek river area briefly this month; due to a slow season and wet conditions sightings have been poor. The male leopard near the croton thickets at Paradise and also near the mortuary crossing point on the Mara River has been 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 8 months old is being seen regularly. She had two cubs of which one was a female and it appears that this female has vanished in early May. She is feeding off Impala and Thompson Gazelles. On the 9th she was seen with a Thomson gazelle up a Boscia tree. Another male and female has been seen in the Governors BBC camp on the Mara River and Lake Nakuru area of the Marsh.
Walking in the Mara North Conservancy
Cool morning starts the day although the day warms up quickly. Elephant are spread out across the open grassland plains and as the day warms up they move into the acacia woodlands or the riparian woodlands that abut the Fly-Over ridge, there are good stands of Euclea Divinorum which they also like being in. Good numbers of Eland on the Eastern side with the short grass plains and there are also many Zebra here as well. A few more resident Wildebeest have been filing in form the east towards the Loita Hills. On the 30th an estimated 100 Wildebeest were seen to cross the Olare Orok River.
Thomson and Grants Gazelles will also be seen on these short grass plains and it is here on these plains that we conduct the walks. Topi and Cokes Hartebeest will also be seen along with good numbers of Impala with some large breeding herds particularly in the north east acacia Gerrardii woodlands, bachelor herds are also seen close by.
Recently there has been much activity from Aardvarks, as can be seen from the diggings into termite mounds from the night before. The Aardvark is nocturnal and is a solitary mammal that feeds almost exclusively on Ants and Termites (formicivore); the only fruit eaten by Aardvarks is the aardvark cucumber. An Aardvark generally emerges from its burrow in the late afternoon or shortly after sunset and forages over a considerable home range encompassing 10 to 30 kilometres, swinging its long nose from side to side to pick up the scent of food. When a concentration of Ants or Termites is detected, the Aardvark digs into it with its powerful front legs, keeping its long ears upright to listen for predators, and takes up an astonishing number of insects with its long, sticky tongue - as many as 50,000 in one night have been recorded. Aside from digging out Ants and Termites, the Aardvark also excavates burrows in which to live: temporary sites are scattered around the home range as refuges, and a main burrow is used for breeding. Warthogs and Porcupines will also use old Aardvark holes.
Spotted Hyenas have been seen in small numbers as they come back from their night time activities on the northern plains, there is a large clan of Hyena in this area. Two lionesses and a male have been seen in the croton thickets close to the Olare Orok River although the viewing was good they moved away quickly. One of the lionesses has been reported being seen near to Masai villages. Black Backed Jackals are also being seen in monogamous pairs. A pair was seen eating the remains of a young Thomson Gazelle fawn on the 22nd, more than likely they caught this themselves.
We hope to share the magic of our corner of the Masai Mara with you sometime soon.
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge update - June 2012
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