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AFRICAN SAFARI NEWS

March 2012

(Page 1 of 2)

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

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


GENERAL UPDATES
Wilderness lauded in the inaugural Active Travel Awards (Outside Magazine)
March 2012 - Wilderness is thrilled to have been selected by Outside, America's leading multimedia active-lifestyle brand, in a number of categories in its first-ever Active Travel Awards. 

The company as a whole was named Runner-Up in the overall Best Travel Company category, while our newest venture, Odzala in Republic of Congo, was named Best New Safari. North Island received a mention as "pinnacle of indulgence" in Best Islands category, won by Seychelles.  

To select this year's awards, Outside tapped into its global network of correspondents to showcase a definitive roundup of the best new adventures, exotic retreats, beaches, local food, bars with a view, on-time airlines, screaming deals, gorgeous islands, as well as a roundup of its favourite destinations.

Outside's statement that "The awards reflect more than just a collection of unforgettable trips?it's a road map to life-changing experiences" is a concept that particularly resonates with Wilderness, as we strive to create journeys that change lives - those of our guests, our staff and the communities around us. We are therefore proud to have achieved such accolades - as Outside mentions: "Wilderness Safaris ? was founded with a simple but novel idea: offer a superior travel experience while conserving land, wildlife, and local culture as part of its business plan."


60 Minutes in Botswana with Great Plains
In February 2012, Great Plains' Duba Plains, Zarafa & Selinda Camps hosted Lara Logan and a team from CBS' 60 Minutes. Logan was in Africa to profile Dereck & Beverly Joubert and shoot the Jouberts' important conservation work with Big Cats in the Duba Plains area. The team followed the Ma di Tau and the prides from their 2011 award-winning feature, "The Last Lions," released by National Geographic Entertainment. It was a dramatic shoot - Dereck was bitten by a venomous snake the day before 60 Minutes arrived, but miraculously, he went on with filming & giving interviews for the future broadcast, slated to air in May or June 2012.


Wilderness lauded in the inaugural Active Travel Awards (Outside Magazine)
March 2012 - Wilderness is thrilled to have been selected by Outside, America's leading multimedia active-lifestyle brand, in a number of categories in its first-ever Active Travel Awards.

The company as a whole was named Runner-Up in the overall Best Travel Company category, while our newest venture, Odzala in Republic of Congo, was named Best New Safari. North Island received a mention as "pinnacle of indulgence" in Best Islands category, won by Seychelles. 

To select this year's awards, Outside tapped into its global network of correspondents to showcase a definitive roundup of the best new adventures, exotic retreats, beaches, local food, bars with a view, on-time airlines, screaming deals, gorgeous islands, as well as a roundup of its favourite destinations.

Outside's statement that "The awards reflect more than just a collection of unforgettable trips?it's a road map to life-changing experiences" is a concept that particularly resonates with Wilderness, as we strive to create journeys that change lives - those of our guests, our staff and the communities around us. We are therefore proud to have achieved such accolades - as Outside mentions: "Wilderness Safaris ? was founded with a simple but novel idea: offer a superior travel experience while conserving land, wildlife, and local culture as part of its business plan."


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WILDLIFE NEWS
The Yellow-Eye Pride of Abu Camp
Sighting: The Yellow-Eye Pride... An Amazing Story
Location: Abu Camp, Abu Concession, Botswana
Observers: Joseph Molekoa, Motamo Mate, Ben Ndjavera,  Jaco Tlotlego, Mike and Anne Marchington, Julian Münder, Nina Reichling, Caylee Christos and Virgil Geach.
Photographs: Mike Marchington and Joseph Molekoa.

Since the annual inundation started subsiding on the Abu Concession last year in September, we have been getting to know the Yellow-Eye Pride of lions: A tenacious lioness with her three offspring, who are now about two years old, two males and a female. Naming them the Yellow-Eye Pride stems from the fact that one of the young males has amazingly bright yellow eyes.

The dominant female is an extremely adept hunter, taking down large prey such as young giraffe, large male kudu, roan antelope, zebra as well as regular smaller kills such as impala, all of which have been well photographed. The best photographs we have so far of the youngsters is when they came across a pangolin one morning. Guests were treated to the most amazing spectacle of them playing with the rolled up scaly ant-eater, as if it were a football.

The pride have become very accustomed to our game drive vehicles, to the extent that the young female likes to follow the vehicles for a short distance when the guides pull out of a sighting.

Yellow-eye pride male and female    Female with kude

We have all become rather possessive over this pride, having got to know them so well. Life around our camp is harsh for the lions, which constantly have to compete with the dominant predator - the hyaena. With the large hyaena clans that continually skulk around their territory, lion and leopard continually have to defend their prey and they often lose their bounty to these formidable packs. The Yellow-Eye Pride seems to have managed well and has been witnessed teaching a couple of hyaena a lesson when they get too close to their dinner - but they have also been observed losing the battle, so they have been found hunting as much in the day as they do at night.

On the 28th of February, a disturbing incident took place.

Guides had heard some lion interaction near the airstrip and decided to investigate. The first sign they picked up, besides their tracks in the sand, was a splash of fresh blood in the middle of the road. Thinking that the lions had just made a kill, they followed. What they found was not what they expected: a large, black-maned lion lying in a clearing. Their immediate thoughts were that this intruder had come into the area and managed to chase the Yellow-Eye Pride off their kill. This was not so.

Female from yellow eye pride    Injured female at Abu Camp

A short distance from where the intruder lay, they came across the Yellow-Eyed male - he was clearly badly wounded and the blood we had found was unfortunately his. While still observing, the large male got up and approached the young male once again who tried desperately to back away, cowering, growling and mewing. He was begging for his life. Fortunately the big male did not attack again. He scent-marked, raked the ground and moved off without so much as looking back at the havoc he had just wreaked. 

The guides continued to observe the young male who then bravely got up, and literally dragging his hind quarters behind him, moved into the thicket on a nearby island. The news spread around the concession and a veil of sorrow hung around the camps.

That evening, some of the managers approached the island where the young male was last observed - they could see eyes shining in the spot light but no sound or movement. The worst was feared.

The following afternoon, another contingent of managers went to visit the island, not a blade of grass moved. Just as the sun was going down, the remaining three pride members appeared from the tall grass. It was pitiful; they approached the island uttering low mewing sounds, calling their fallen family member. It was extremely difficult to say whether there were any answering calls coming from the island and all watched in great sorrow. The pride stayed for a few minutes and then left the island heading south over the wet floodplains uttering soft calls as they departed. Everyone felt that a conclusion had been reached - he was dead.

The remaining three members of the pride have been seen in and around the area since then. On at least three different occasions when the pride was spotted, they appeared restless, uttering the same soft mewing calls. This is apparently not unusual behaviour for a pride that has recently lost a family member. 

The three remaining Yellow-Eye Pride members have been spotted and photographed by guides and guests quite regularly this month and on the 11th of March, our Dutch guests at Seba had a morning game drive out of the top drawer. 

Their first exciting encounter was with a leopard, sitting in the middle of the road. The sheer size of the beast automatically indicated that it was a male. Their guide, Joseph, immediately stopped the vehicle and all the guests got their cameras ready to photograph him. As they honed in on the creature, he suddenly shot off into the tall grass next to the road and came out with a kicking, struggling steenbok clamped in his jaws. As soon as he managed to get his kill under control he slowly dragged it back into the tall grass where they lost sight of him.

As if this was not enough excitement for one day, they had no sooner left the leopard sighting when they came across the three members of the Yellow-Eye Pride a short distance further, swimming across a deep channel. They were lucky enough to be able to follow the trio who were then observed climbing a fallen baobab tree nearby. Not too shabby for a morning drive!

Male intruder on yellow eye pride territory    Frail female

On their last morning at Seba, the 13th of March, our Dutch guests were treated to the most amazing sight of all. They were once again driving in the vicinity of fallen baobab, when they came across the Yellow-Eyed male! The news has spread like wildfire filling the camps with huge excitement and anticipation.

He is very thin and walking with a limp but he is still alive! He was observed again this afternoon lying in a thicket calling his pride. For a short while our spirits are lifted - now we all hold thumbs that he can pull through.

The last time that the pride of four was seen together on a kill was the 25th of February when they were found feeding on a large male kudu. Considering that he has managed to stay alive for 19 days with such bad injuries, one has to ask the question: has he had help from his pride? 

I am really not certain if any observations have ever been made of "Brood Care" among lions but all of us who have been observing this pride on the Abu Concession are of the opinion that the three healthy members of the Yellow-Eye Pride have been caring for their stricken son and brother. Is this fact or fantasy? 

We'll continue to observe and report back on our findings and let's hope it has a happy ending.

Anne Marchington


Caracal seen in Nyika
Sighting: Caracal Spotted in Nyika
Location: Chelinda Camp, Nyika National Park, Malawi
Date: 13 March 2012
Observers:  Sam Chiwayu

I was on my way to Mzuzu, about 30 km towards the Thazima Gate in the Nyika National Park, when I spotted an animal which at first glance appeared to be a duiker walking along the road, but after watching it for a few moments, I noticed that it was walking like a feline.

As I approached a little closer, I was blown away when I noticed it was a caracal! The elusive feline quickly slipped into the thick vegetation before I had time to get my camera out and take a picture. However, I had a clear view of the caracal and was able to positively identify it.

In 2010, we had a report of a caracal in the same area by a group of travelling guests. This is a great sighting indeed and we will keep our eyes peeled when passing through this area in future.

Sam Chiwayu


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CAMP UPDATES
BOTSWANA
Mombo Camp Switches to 100% Renewable Energy
March 2012 - On 7 March 2012, following an investment of BWP6 million (US$ 860 000), Mombo Camp officially switched over from diesel-powered generators to renewable solar energy.

Since the announcement, plaudits have been rolling in for what is most likely Botswana's largest solar array and the news has sped excitedly around the Wilderness staff family both in Botswana as well as other parts of Africa. According to Group Sustainability Director, Derek de la Harpe, "Wilderness will not build another camp without incorporating a major element of renewable energy. At the same time we have embarked on an ambitious retrofitting process with Mombo now joining Xigera, Kalahari Plains, Banoka Bush Camp and Zarafa as being 100% solar powered. Over the course of 2012 we anticipate completing this process for at least another three camps, the rebuilt DumaTau among them."

Renewable energy at mombo camp    Solar array at Mombo Camp

The Mombo solar array consists of 396 photovoltaic panels of 230W each, with 194 batteries. This equates to a 91 kilowatt array that produces in excess of 450kWh per day. In addition 30 solar geysers have reduced the need for fossil fuel usage even further meaning that the risk (and carbon footprint) of delivering fuel to Mombo across the fragile Okavango Delta is even further mitigated.

In simple terms this means that reduction in expected carbon emissions for Mombo over 2012 are of the order of 97%! We thus expect to emit only 6.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents over the course of 2012 compared to 215 tonnes during 2011.

As Wilderness Safaris Botswana MD, Grant Woodrow, said at an announcement in Maun, "This has been a mammoth task, and many contractors and Wilderness staff need to be congratulated for taking this bold financial step and getting the job done. Pula!"

New Duba Plains Bridge!
The team at Duba Plains completed a new bridge in preps for the 2012 flood season. The bridge links Duba Plains island to the main game viewing island across the channel. This construction eliminates the need for us to ferry guests by boat to the other side of the channel and awaiting vehicles. Vehicles can now come right into camp, again.

New bridge at Duba Plains


KENYA
Mara Plains remodel
Phase 1: From 10th April until 31st May 2012, Mara Plains will be closed to erect two new luxury en-suite family tents & carry out improvements to the main areas and back-of-house. Will re-open in June for peak season. Phase 2: From November 2012 until March 2013, camp will close in order to complete the full renovation. Anticipated reopen date is late March - early April 2013.

EXPLORATIONS SAFARIS
No report this month.


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Seychelles
North Island Update - March 2012              Jump to North Island

No report this month.

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Botswana Camps
Kings Pool Camp update - March 2012               Jump to Kings Pool Camp

It has been another pumping month at Kings Pool, as the summer rains fade away (with the occasional deluge to keep us on our toes) and the distinct, dusty chill of winter hangs in the air during early morning breakfasts! We have had incredible sightings once again at Kings Pool - the 13-strong pride of lions gracing us with their presence, the return of the great, grey giants, wild dogs on the soccer pitch and pregnant leopards bringing the promise of another generation of elusive spots.

The lions have the last laugh ? or do they?
The large pride of 13 lions that normally frequents the DumaTau domain decided to share their loyalties this month and caused quite a stir on the Chobe Airstrip one morning. At first, the 13 lazy cats provided ample opportunity for many guests to click away to their hearts' content, and there was much excitement on the radio as the guides watched and waited for their feline siesta to pass. However, the lions seemed more than comfortable, and eventually the guides moved on. Not long after this, there was a call on the radio from an approaching pilot, making his usual greeting to check that the airstrip was clear. The response was not what he expected, and it came from one rather harassed guide on the airstrip making futile attempts to shift the still sleeping lions from their position. Those lions were not moving for any man, vehicle or plane, and so ensued various radio exchanges between 'helpful' contributors advising the guide on various 'shifting' techniques, while the pilot flew overhead. Eventually, having had their fun, the lions moved into the shade, and the day could continue as normal! The arrivals had a little more than they had bargained for, but 13 determined lions were admittedly a fabulous introduction to the Linyanti Concession. 

As for our more regular feline residents, the fast-growing adolescent male lion has been making quite a show of himself, much to the exasperation of his older and more experienced female guardians. One afternoon during brunch, a chorus of baboon alarm calls was heard close to the back of the kitchen. A manager raced out to see what was happening, and soon called in to announce that the adolescent male was lying in the shade, 100 metres from camp, with the Silver-Eyed female and another lioness. We fetched the guests and jumped into a game viewer to see for ourselves, but before we had even left camp we were urged on the radio to hurry as the young lion was attempting to climb a tree to hunt a baboon. 

We arrived minutes later and sure enough, the foolhardy male was launching himself into a flimsy Kalahari apple-leaf to try and reach a young baboon that was clinging for dear life at the top. After several failed attempts, which resulted in him falling very unceremoniously onto his back numerous times, the young lion gave up and padded off after his elders. He could hardly bear to take himself away, but retreated to a nearby tree. The young baboon crept down from the tree and, looking over his shoulder constantly, tip-toed to a sturdier alternative nearby. The young lion exploded from his resting place and raced past us to chase the baboon once more, but was clearly bewildered and kept returning to the apple-leaf to continue his disastrous mission of launching himself upwards. The baboon, now cocky and brazen, merely laughed at him from his perch, thanking his lucky stars that he survived for another day, after a very close call.

Winter brings our tusked giants back, but what of the hippo?
The journey from the airstrip back to camp, and indeed within camp itself, is increasingly filled with signs of the approaching dry season. The sound of trumpeting from behind the kitchen during the afternoons, and the more frequent sightings of those famous grey giants, are early announcements of the incoming season. Clearly, the pans that developed over the summer months, deep into the mopane woodland, are drying up, and Kings Pool is welcoming home its winter residents. Breeding herds of elephants are being seen more commonly along the river, with two new babies delighting guests regularly. Still pink, and able to fit under their mothers' tummies, they emerge from behind protective aunts and grandmothers, blinking in wonder at vehicles filled with enthralled visitors.

Although the elephants are making their come-back, there is still a strong hippo contingent staking its claim in front of camp. One hippo in particular, has caught the staff's attention. Nicknamed 'Flump,' this hippo has formed the centre-point for meet-and-greets with guests, as his chosen shelter is in a small pool directly in front of the main deck. He has seemed so comfortable there, that we did begin to worry at one point that he was sick or injured, as he would glide into the pool and rest his head on the reeds so as to avoid the effort of paddling upwards while sleeping, in order to breathe. He has a cut on his right ear, and a limp when he walks, leaving us to believe that he may be recovering from a fight. Either way, we have become very fond of him, and we each make a point of saying good morning to him when we come to work. 

One afternoon recently, two guests were relaxing by the bar and they had been admiring our favourite hippo in his usual position, so we wandered over casually to see him ourselves. As we did so, one of the guests announced that she had just seen him, with "a little friend." She pulled us over to the deck and we saw, to our complete amazement, the 'friend' that she referred to. There 'Flump' lay, in his usual state of hazy comfort, with an equally happy-looking baby crocodile sunbathing on his back! Not something you see every day, but confirmation to us that this is no ordinary hippo, and an increasingly admired member of the Kings Pool team!

The leopards leave their mark, perhaps a little too close for comfort?
We have had our usual bounty of leopard sightings, with one female attracting more attention than usual now that she appears to be pregnant. We watch and wait for the spotted arrivals, and look forward to beautiful sightings of tiny cubs in the future! 

There were clear tracks of a big male leopard outside one of the managers' houses one morning recently - they were pointing directly towards the front door, leading the inhabitants to believe that he was having a quick snoop around while they were sleeping! It is usually the larger and more sociable big cat that can be heard near camp, guests are waking up every morning to the thunderous roars of our resident male lion, Romeo. However, with two troops of baboons in camp and the family of growing warthogs, the leopards cannot resist treading the boardwalks of Kings Pool. 

So we look onwards to winter. Our summer visitors are beginning to migrate north: bets are being placed on the last call of the Woodland Kingfisher, for example, but while these are becoming less vocal, there are still the occasional flashes of blue as they dart through the trees. Camp is filling up with guests as we come out of the quiet season, and we look forward to hearing stories from our foreign visitors of their encounters with mischievous lion, friendly hippo and of course, the famous Linyanti elephant.

Guest Comments
"The best camp we have encountered so far."

"From the little things to the bigger ones, a superb experience!"

"The ambiance, the safaris, the service - all exceptional."

"My experience at Kings Pool is only diminished by my ability to articulate its true impact on my mind, body and soul!"

Staff in Camp
Managers: Callum, Jemima, Julie, Koziba and Roger.
Guides: OD, Diye, Ndebo and Lemme.

Newsletter by Jemima Middleton

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DumaTau Camp update - March 2012               Jump to DumaTau Camp

The bush was thick, but this did not prevent guides from finding and sharing wonderful sightings with the guests this month. Predator sightings were consistent and we have been pleased to welcome back huge breeding herds of elephant. Rainfall was low this month, and evening and early morning temperatures have dropped steadily. Summer has bid us farewell, with a total rainfall of only 28 mm. The lowest recorded temperature was 16°C, but the days were still hot, with a high temperature of 35°C recorded in mid-March. 

Despite the low rainfall, the water levels are rising as the first surge of the annual inundation pulses in. The Savute Channel is pushing up against the sand ridge at the end of the channel backflow and we have noticed the Linyanti levels rising just below our own swimming pool.

Landscape over Duma Tau Camp    Sunset over DumaTau Camp

After over a year of sporadic lion activity in the area, DumaTau is living up to its name - The Call of the Lion. We soaked up the excitement of having a large pride of lion close to camp on more than one occasion. We have enjoyed frequent sightings of a large pride of 15 lion. This pride is made up of one dominant male (his brother, Mavinyo, was killed last year by the concession's dominant male, whose territory remains in the vicinity of Kings Pool Camp), three mature and two subadult females, two subadult males, four cubs who are over a year old and three cubs who are ten to eleven months old. The dominant male has been fighting with the two subadult males in the pride, and we suspect that they may be pushed out soon to fend for themselves. The pride has been hunting often, preferring impala, kudu and warthogs.

The lone Savuti female lion has had a busy month. The large pride's dominant male mated with her last year, and a few weeks ago she was discovered with three two-month-old cubs. Guests were privy to an intense confrontation when the big pride encountered this female with her cubs and the male enjoying a kudu kill. Guests watched in awe as the large pride chased the mother away, leaving her young cubs alone. The male did not defend her, choosing to defend his meal instead! We worried about what the large pride would do to the cubs, but it seems they were simply curious and guests were relieved to see them play with the defenseless youngsters. 

We wonder if this male has over-extended himself in attempting to manage opposing females, and we will be paying close attention to all these lion in the coming months. We are happy to report that the tracks of the lone female and her cubs were seen recently, leading us to believe that they have been reunited and are doing well. 

Wild dog did not disappoint this month either. We have seen the Linyanti Pack several times. All nine puppies are growing well, and the nine adults are in good condition. They are hunting impala and baby kudu to keep the pack strong. The return of lion to DumaTau has certainly impacted their movements however. The large pride came across the dogs with an impala kill and forced them to give it up and move away. They covered a large amount of ground, moving east of Savuti Camp, and were seen near Kings Pool a few days later. Since then they have remained mobile, covering large distances, likely in an attempt to avoid confronting the lions again. 

Red-Billed Hornbill    Pangolin seen at DumaTau Camp

Leopard have provided us with quite a few exciting game drive stories. Guests watched the DumaTau male mating with a Zibadianja female. This male is approximately twelve years old and only time will tell if he mated successfully. His territory appears to be shrinking; he has to contend with one big male to the east of DumaTau, and another who is moving in from the airstrip. The DumaTau male may be avoiding these intruding males, and his movement has been contained to the area between the new DumaTau site, the current camp, and the south-west bank of the Savute Channel. 

One vehicle was lucky enough to see the Mopane female leopard with a two- to three-month-old cub. The small family was taking a drink of water from the pan. Another female was seen recently who is heavily pregnant. Her belly is close to touching the ground, and we expect her to give birth soon. 

Our guests do not always need to leave camp to see leopard; we have had leopard near and in camp a few times this past month. One female was even found resting on the boardwalk after dinner, perhaps hoping to catch one of the many baboons that frequent the mangosteen trees in camp. 

General game viewing was fantastic in March. The zebra are slowly returning to the Savute Channel, and a few buffalo have also been seen. Nearly every game drive includes at least one elephant viewing, and guests have enjoyed watching large breeding herds cross the water and feed close to the vehicles. Our resident elephant bulls are in camp almost every day, and continue to delight us with their attempts to eat the choicest leaves, even if this means they have to stand on their tiptoes to grab them! 

Impala at DumaTau Camp    Elephant at DumaTau Camp

There is no shortage of birds in the Linyanti, though decreasing temperatures mean that migrant species, such as some of the bee-eaters, are on their way out of the area, headed for the equatorial climes or the north. The same pair of Secretarybirds is still breeding between the transit road and the camp. We have also been entertained by a very busy Red-Billed Hornbill that was foraging and hunting exhaustively to supply enough food for his family and female, who was until recently sealed into the nest with her young. She has broken out now, and we are eager to catch a glimpse of the chicks!

It appears that not a month goes by at DumaTau without at least one pangolin sighting, and March was no exception! We were also visited by more than one brave and noisy honey badger. They are usually seen close to Room 1, and do not shy away from humans when we encounter them. 

As we transition from summer to winter, we expect to be blessed with even more thrilling sightings of predators, general game, and birds. 

Staff in Camp
Managers: Abbie, Abiella, Ben, Cara and Dudu.
Guides: Bobby, Lazi, Moses, Name and Ron.
Photographs by Abiella and Claire.

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Savuti Camp update - March 2012               Jump to Savuti Camp

Without notice or warning they arrived in camp, as if having been away for the summer break and now returning for the winter. The elephants peacefully made their way through the camp, happily stripping the trees of their remaining lush, green foliage.  

The return of the elephants into the camp is a sign that winter is well on its way. During the summer months the vegetation in camp is left unharmed, as the elephants feed elsewhere. As the vegetation in the surrounding areas dry out with the disappearing rains, the pachyderms slowly make their way to camp to eat what's available between the rooms. 

Pangolin seen at Savuti Camp    Elephant seen at Savuti Camp

That's not the only sign of the imminent winter arrival. The thick dark clouds that used to threaten us with lighting and thunder showers have disappeared. What's left is a clean blue sky. In the evenings our guests sit around the fire to marvel at the blanket of stars that the cloudless sky puts on display. 

And then there is that crisp morning air that has snuck up on us. The darker mornings have guests gathering around the morning fire. The guides are starting their morning safaris with long trousers and a thin jacket. Some even using their winter beanies and gloves to combat the cold breeze in the open game viewers. While the ponchos are being used to keep guests warm from the early chill. 

Out in the wilderness we've enjoyed some spectacular sightings. The wild dogs were seen on several occasions, at times right in front of camp. The breeding elephant herds have also begun to show themselves all over the concession. 

Late one evening one of our guides, Lets, returned with evident signs of excitement sprawled across his face. His guests produced a video clip of a rare pangolin. It was a first for our guests and only the fourth sighting for Lets, a guide with more than five years guiding experience. We listened with enthusiasm round the fire as they relived their pangolin experience.

Lion at Savuti Camp    Lion at Savuti Camp

Out on the airstrip the pride of 14 lion appeared to welcome new arrivals to the concession and bid farewell to those leaving us. It was incredible to witness as the lion lay on the side of the airstrip, undisturbed by the large aircraft buzzing up and down the runway, but this was not the only sighting of the pride that our guests enjoyed. Through the month they were sighted all over the concession as they moved about looking for a meal to feed the 14 hungry stomachs. 

Back in camp we have been regularly visited by a new elephant bull - his chipped tusk making him recognisable. Clumsily he moved around the walkway, clearly his first time in camp. Eventually he threw the balustrades off to get to the tree on the opposite side of the walkway. Normally they stop there, but not this fellow. He placed his heavy front foot on the middle of the walkway and slowly applied pressure until the wood beneath him crumbled. 

Peacefully he went about his business of eating the foliage around the rooms. Behind him he left a couple of hours' hard maintenance work. There is no doubt that as we head on to the winter season we are going to have more regular visits from our giant friends. 

Till next time
The Savuti Team

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Zarafa Camp update - March 2012               Jump to Zarafa Camp

Good Morning
Splash, splash, splash... While having my first cup of coffee, watching the slow rising sun this early morning I heard some heavy splashing heading my way. It was too quick to be an elephant and too elegant to be a hippo. When I walked to the edge of our deck I saw them coming: 12 beautiful red lechwe running through the water from the south where Tent 1 is situated. What a good way to start your day - if only we could 'arrange' this stunning wake-up call  every morning...

Good Afternoon
Zarafa has been taken over by the elephants this month. During the first week of March a large herd of 57 were around camp for a few days. Our guests had some breathtaking sundowners, right on our main deck, watching all the elephant around us. They were everywhere gently eating their way through the fresh, green vegetation. One of the great things of being in an unfenced camp is how the whole scene smoothly blends in the constant busy bush.

View of tent 1 at Zarafa Camp

Quite remarkably one of those busy grey giants, feeling so much at ease, picked out Tent 1 to give birth to a tiny, little baby! One of our housekeepers saw it trying to take its first steps and wriggling away into the bushes. The back of the ears were still pink and it had no idea what to do with that long, clumsy nose.

Good Night
Last night, over the sound of the grazing hippo outside our tent, I heard the lions roar again, just outside camp in the direction of where our resident leopard lives. That roar really comes from deep inside these powerful big cats. I hope they left each other alone this time.

It is such a privilege to live in a place like this, where every day brings a new wildlife surprise. Whether it is a group of red lechwe running through the shallow water while enjoying a cup of coffee, the intense roars of the Selinda Pride keeping you awake or the birth of a new tiny giant, right next to your tent - this truly is the closest you can get to paradise on earth.

The Zarafa Family

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Selinda Camp update - March 2012               Jump to Selinda Camp

March has seen the Linyanti area looking lush and green as the rains come to an end and the animals soak up the sunshine. The migrant birds are all still around as they fill up their tummies for their flight north in the next few weeks. Many guests have been delighted with the Southern Carmine Bee-eaters who fly alongside the cars, waiting for the insects to flush out of the way. Their beautiful crimson breasts are spectacular in the morning light. There have also been some great sightings of the Southern Ground-Hornbills, which are successfully breeding in the area and are often seen with juveniles. 

Leopard seen at Selinda Camp

We have had more regular sightings of a female leopard and cub  who are totally relaxed around vehicles, acting somewhat like models posing in the branches, stretching alongside a log and thoroughly entertaining our guests. It seems as though mum is prepping her cub for the big world as sometimes the cub joins her on hunts. 

As the annual inundation begins, the water levels begin to rise, the hippo spread out a little, settling into new areas and coming onto land for their nightly feed. On the odd occasion one can hear an assortment of vocals as two males fight for new territory. This experience is hard to forget as the noises reverberate through the night, almost amplified by the stillness of the evening air. 

Southern Carmine bee-eaters at Selinda Camp    Ostritch at Selinda Camp

March is a lovely time of year to be in the bush: temperate weather, lush green vegetation, beautiful grasses and a variety of wildlife are the order of the month. When the breeze picks up, one can almost sense the changing of seasons. The mornings start to get cooler and the days shorter and one can watch the sun rise migrating across the horizon. There are interesting times ahead with the rising water levels, forcing the Okavango system and its inhabitants to once again adjust to the seasonal changes.

Bring your gum boots and come and visit us! 

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Kwando Safari Camps Update - March 2012

Kwando Concession
• No report for this month.

Lagoon camp               Jump to Lagoon Camp
• A new pride of lions – 4 adults and two cubs about a year old – moved into the area early in the month. They spent some time following a herd of buffalos, but were not seen to have been successful in a hunt. It will be interesting times when this pride bumps into the regular lions of the area – though they may have just been sneaking through their territory, in the hope of catching some food.
• The three cheetah brothers were seen early on in the month, but then headed north into an area that we could not follow. Another type of cat – the caracal – was a more unusual sighting this month.
• There were several leopard sightings, including a female leopard who was chased up a tree by the wild dogs. However, her patience paid off, and the dogs lost interest. When they moved off, she climbed down the tree, and fed on the carcass of an impala that was located about 50m by the tree. The dogs themselves hunted a young kudu for themselves that afternoon. Earlier in the month, we had also seen a male leopard who had pulled an impala into a tree and was oblivious to the hours we were able to spend watching him eat and relax.
• Quite amazingly, all wild dog puppies have survived and are coming close to matching the adults in size. Now able to cover large distances as a pack together, they have been moving through the Kwando concession, going towards Lebala camp and then back again to the north-west every few days. This provides a challenge for the tracker and guide teams, but adds to the excitement, as hard hours of tracking are put in with the reward of a great sighting of the dogs at the end.
• In addition to the known jackal dens from previous months, a hyena den has been discovered. Interestingly, there appears to be only one female hyena suckling her two young in this den. Three porcupines were seen coming out of a hole near the den, with the baby hyena snuffling around the hole when they had left.
• The more unusual antelope – roan, sable and eland were all seen several times this month, together with regular sightings of giraffe, wildebeest, zebras and tsessebes. Breeding herds of elephants are seen throughout the area, and the bulls are still coming into camp – possibly looking for the marula fruit which is about to ripen.

Lebala camp               Jump to Lebala Camp
• The three cheetah brothers were seen at Lebala a few times early in the month, and caught a baby zebra, before moving north.
• At the end of the month, 11 wild dogs were seen (aptly along Wild Dog Road) chasing impala. They had no luck catching any impala, but they did bump into an African Wild Cat – a cat that is the same size as a domestic house-cat. Like most cat-dog relationships, the African Wild Cat still appeared to be the boss, stood his ground, and the dogs gave up and left. They had better success on later days, and caught and killed several impalas. After one of these kills, two hyenas appeared, and attempted to steal the kill off the dogs. The dogs turned on the hyenas, and several launched themselves on to the back of one of the hyena – both turned and fled, with out major injury.
• On an early morning in the middle of the month, a lion was heard calling close to Lebala camp. Rushing through breakfast, the guests headed out with the guides following the calls. The large pride male, regular to the area, was found not far away, very relaxed. He is not in good condition however, and lost his brother in a fight with pride that has a territory further to the east.
• Elephants still abound everywhere – large breeding herds, sometimes up to 100 individuals – are seen on most game drives. They are also seen regulary in front of camp, and can be heard during the night moving through the water, shuffling hippos out of the way.

Kwara & Little Kwara camps               Jump to Kwara & Little Kwara camps
• The beginning of March is the beginning of the fishing season – however, this didn't seem to be limited to just humans enjoying throwing a line in the water to see what they could pull up for dinner: the first 'legal' day for fishing saw a crocodile munching on a fish, and, in the same area, a serval cat, having dexterously grabbed another catfish out of the water with his paws.
• Lions were seen almost every day in March, mostly doing what lions like to do for most of the day/night: sleep! Two adults and one youngster did manage to stay awake long enough to kill a tsessebe however, and all the lions look healthy, so they all must be hunting whilst our backs are turned! At night, as the temperature cools down, its worth waiting around to see if they will call – the beautiful deep roars resonate through the night. Solo pride (seven individuals) came into their own later in the month, and spent a long time stalking a group of giraffe. After much effort, however, they came away empty-handed.
• This month we were lucky enough to see a pack of 12 wild dogs a couple of times – on one occasion they went hunting and killed a young kudu, and an impala at the same time, ensuring enough food for the whole pack. Three cheetahs also managed to kill a young kudu calf, and were seen feeding on that. When the cheetahs left the carcass, six hyenas quickly moved in to enjoy the remains. A solitary cheetah also managed to kill a reedback close to the airstrip.
• General game has been excellent, and there was a special sighting of a sitatunga in a marsh area. Normally this shy semi-aquatic antelope is only seen from the boat!

Nxai Pan               Jump to Nxai Pan camp
• The female cheetah with her two young cubs is still being seen regularly – every day or two in the month of March. Although we were not lucky enough to see her kill, she and her cubs are obviously well fed, and we often saw her resting and relaxing close to the waterholes. One morning, a jackal got a bit too close for comfort to the cheetahs –jackals often follow predators to see if they can scavenge any part of a kill that is made. On this occasion, the cheetah cub took offence, and chased the jackal, managing to hit it with a paw. The jackals escaped, but ran off calling in distress.
• The recent rains have allowed fresh green grass to grown, making good grazing and attracting good general game including springbok, zebra and oryx. This in turn encourages the predators to the area, so as well as the cheetahs, we have had several sightings of the Nxai Pan pride of lions – a group of six adults with three young. One of the females was also seen with an unidentified male along Baobab Loop.
• The larger groupings of zebras have started to move back towards Magkadigadi Pans, but there are still good sized herds of around 30 individuals left enjoying the grass around the pan.
• The elephant bulls spend much of their time strolling around looking for good sources of food, but because of the limited amount of water available, they usually come via the camp waterhole at some point during the day, pushing the general game out of the way to drink.

Tau Pan               Jump to Tau Pan camp
• The Tau Pan pride of lions were seen most days this month – often around the water hole near the camp. There was a bit of a concern on the 11th of the month, when it appeared two cubs were missing, and the females were slightly bloodied – it was thought possibly an intruding lion had been involved in a fight with the pride. Luckily after five days, all the Tau Pan pride, including the six cubs, were seen together again, looking in good condition. , Towards the end of the month, they were spotted feeding on a giraffe, which they managed to finish in one day! Two days later they pulled down an oryx during the night, and had finished it by noon the next day. It takes a lot to feed four adults, and six fast-growing cubs!
• There were several sightings of leopards, including one male that spent 20minutes in the late afternoon relaxing on the road, before sauntering off.
• After the March rains, the antelope seem to be increasing in the area – lots of oryx, springbok, and wildebeest seen around Tau pan and along the road to Deception Valley. The beginning of the month saw a few new additions: oryx and springbok babies were seen following their mothers closely in the Tau Pan area.
• Investigating a cloud of dust that didn't seem to be decreasing in the breeze, a honeybadger was found digging in the ground. A couple of jackals stood off close to one side, interested in what the honey badger might discover, After about 15 minutes, the honey badger dragged a dead young warthog out of the burrow. The jackals tried to claim the prize, but were put off by the hissing and growling of the honey badger, as he trotted off into the bush with the warthog dangling from his mouth.
• Another unusual sighting was of a snouted cobra, which was attempting to hunt ground squirrels. The squirrels, however, were having none of it: a head to head fight between both species ended with the cobra slinking off down a hole, perhaps for a bit of a rest from the chirruping and chattering 'prey'.
• An interesting sighting of a pale chanting goshawk attempting to grab a guineafowl resulted in the goshawk being kicked and flung across the ground – leaving with a few bruises and a few less feathers!

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Mombo Camp update - March 2012               Jump to Mombo Camp

March in Mombo has been a wonderful month, with a small slice of each season showing itself as we move past the equinoctial tipping point. The Southern Cross creeps a little higher in the sky each night as the first faint hint of coolness pervades the evening air. 

Apart from a heavy downpour late in the month, we have had relatively little rainfall again, slowing the progress of the usually dense undergrowth that we would experience at this time of year. This has the advantage of making game a little easier to spot, although the vegetation is thick enough to conceal fairly large animals effectively. The floodplains around the camp are holding water, which increases a little each day, and the view from the front deck is a lily-studded meadow reaching out to a sweeping vista of green, with buffalo, hippo and elephant passing by. 

Leopard at Mombo Camp    Lion playing with tortoise

We have once again had a good month of leopard sightings, and on one morning managed to see three generations of Legadema's family! 

Pula and her two cubs have once again been the highlight of many of our guests' game viewing experiences this month. On one occasion, we found them all together in an ebony tree, a fresh impala carcass slung over one of the branches. The cubs' antics as they chased each other around the tree kept us entranced for several hours. On another afternoon we followed Pula on her own as she hunted near the airstrip, until she disappeared into the long grasses. The alarm snorts of impala rang out, and a rush of movement led us to where she had whipped a carcass up a very slender acacia tree, a hyaena close on her heels. She managed to precariously clamber around its branches as she fed on the kill, the slavering jaws of the hyaena waiting only a few feet below. We could only marvel at her agility as she did this almost casually, seemingly not paying the scavenger the slightest attention. 

Legadema has been a little elusive this month, although we have seen her a few times. We haven't seen her cub in a few weeks, but it does appear that she is still lactating, giving us hope for the little one's survival. 

The Serondela male leopard was also seen a few times this month, on one occasion mating with the Ngonyama female in the airstrip area. Slim Girl was seen twice in the Roller Road area, as well as two unknown leopards - a shy male near Siberiana, and another male near Croc Corner. 

Lebadi, the previous dominant male, is still around, and at time of writing has been seen clashing for territory and dominance with Serondela. His leg wound has also opened again, although it doesn't seem to be bothering him. 

Elephant seen at Mombo Camp    Elephant visiting Mombo Camp

The Western Pride of lions have been around a fair amount of time, and for a few days we had them feeding on a giraffe carcass on the treeline to Bird Island. We have seen this pride more in this area since the Mathatha Pride have been spending more time further south towards Simbira. 

The Mporota Pride made themselves scarce during the first couple of weeks of the month - the bulk of the pride may have crossed the channel into the western floodplains in search of prey, leaving the smaller group of females with the subadult males and a cub behind. We found this group one afternoon playing with a large tortoise - certainly not their usual prey! The youngest cub was fascinated by this new plaything, and spent ages chewing on its shell as the hapless reptile remained firmly wedged inside. The others took only a passing interest in it as the youngster dragged it about, until finally they lost interest as night fell and they set off on their nocturnal wanderings, leaving the tortoise to make his undignified escape!

A pack of 14 wild dogs were seen a couple of times early in the month, possibly from the same pack of 16 that were seen in the previous months. They appeared with all the vitality and energy characteristic of the species, and disappeared just as rapidly once more. This might be a pack in search of a home range exploring its possibilities, and we hope that they decide to remain in the area in the future, although it might spell trouble for our own lone wild dog. She has been seen often this month hunting from the Siberiana Road area, mostly with four jackals in tow. 

A large herd of several hundred Cape buffalo moved up through the concession again this month, doing a loop along the edges of the western floodplains near camp before turning back once more to the south. We had hoped to see some lion interaction with the herd, but if it did happen, we weren't around to witness it. 

Zebra have been congregating in large numbers in the area this month, and often we estimate there to be literally hundreds of them around us as they move through the woodlands. 

We had two rhino sightings this month and both were very special: Bogale and her little male calf, Map, were seen together. They were very relaxed, and allowed all of our game viewers a chance to get to see them. We also came across two other white rhino: Lone Tree and her calf, together with Mmabotsho, a female black rhino! 

Landscape at Mombo Camp    Southern Ground Hornbill seen at Mombo Camp

Birding has also been good - we have had sightings of Wattled Cranes almost every day, along with large flocks of White-faced Ducks, Comb Ducks and Pygmy Geese. Woodland Kingfishers are still around, and the bush echoes with their trilling calls. Soon they will head back north, and we will only hear them with the advent of next summer. 

The next few months will bring in the inundation in earnest, along with the fascinating changes in the environment it will cause - we welcome you to come and share the miracle with us at Mombo!

Guides in camp for March were Cisco and Moss at Little Mombo and Tsile, Sefo, Tshepo and Moses at Main Camp.
Managers were Graham at Little Mombo, with Pen, Glen, Nathan, Katie, Ryan and Claire at Main Camp.

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Xigera Camp update - March 2012               Jump to Xigera Camp

Xigera Camp has an atmosphere different to any other in the Okavango, situated on a dense tree island facing a papyrus-lined channel. Stepping off the bridge, you immediately feel a verdant calm overtake you - on boardwalks beneath the green canopy, monkeys swoop and chatter above you, birds call and flit among the boughs. If you are fortunate and patient enough, you might even spot otters slipping through the water in front of the deck. 

Activities focus on the waters of the Okavango, and the incredible diversity of life it sustains. The highlight of anyone's visit, however, has to be the hunt for the Pel's Fishing-Owls which live nearby. Gliding through narrow channels in mokoro and exploring the islands on foot for the elusive birds, eyes searching the canopy while the forest closes in around you is an amazing experience. 

Pel's Fishing-Owls at Xigera Camp    African Openbills at Xigera Camp

We found an almost fully-grown juvenile with a freshly caught catfish sitting on a bough high up in an African ebony tree. The owl barely reacted to our presence, only occasionally peering at us curiously as the light from the early morning sun filtered delicately onto its orange plumage. After watching it for a while, we slipped away and walked back to our mokoro. Poling through the calm sedge-lined backwaters, we looked for reed frogs clinging to their stems and peered at the fields of water lilies for any sitting on their petals. These brightly-coloured frogs are great photographic subjects, and we found several. 

On an afternoon game drive, we came across a herd of eight enormous bull elephant feeding on a fallen lala palm. They were clustered closely together, and feeding in an almost eerie silence, only occasionally broken by rumbles if the younger bulls overstepped the mark with their elders in the pecking order. This interaction was fascinating to watch, in an exquisite setting of an open plain studded with palm trees. Other game sighted were red lechwe, reedbuck, tsessebe, zebra, impala and giraffe, where we came across a mother suckling her calf only a few metres away from us. 

A boat ride towards Chief's Island to the east provided a wonderful experience of the Boro Channel with views stretching for kilometres across inundated plains dotted with beautifully sculpted tree islands. We encountered elephants deep in the water feeding on papyrus, buffalo bulls feeding in shoulder-deep water, a multitude of red lechwe and several pods of hippo. Our sharp-eyed guide Palo spotted a tiny crocodile, no more than 30 centimetres long and we were able to observe and photograph this tiny character for several minutes as he drifted among the lily pads. 

Frog on water lily    Elephants at Xigera Camp

Birding from the boat produced a multitude of species, from the larger Saddle-Billed Storks and African Fish Eagles, through to African Openbills, African Jacanas trotting on lily pads, to Little Bee-Eaters, various cisticolas and Malachite Kingfishers. 

All in all, in the few days I spent here we encountered a wonderful diversity of species, from large mammals to birds and reptiles, and really absorbed the extraordinary beauty, peace and tranquillity of the Okavango. 

Ryan Green


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Chitabe Camp update - March 2012               Jump to Chitabe Camp

No report this month.


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Vumbura Plains Camp update - March 2012               Jump to Vumbura Plains Camp

March at Vumbura Plains has been filled with much magical game viewing and activity. We have had a slight drop in temperatures and had one heavy thunderstorm that gave us 60ml of rain in three hours. This has added to the rise in water levels in the area and filling the pans and water puddles on the road that had dried up. We are starting to feel some chilly mornings and this is a sign of the winter being close.

The game viewing in the area has been magical, with a lot of general plains game, giraffe, red lechwe, impala, tsessebe, wildebeest, kudu and many more. We are very lucky to have the floodplains that we have in this area as nothing beats finding general plains game on these plains. We have also come across herds of buffalo and elephant on a couple of occasions - Jacky's Pan seems to be the favourite spot for these animals at the moment. We also have been coming across sable, which are very special to see.

Lion at Vumbura Plains Camp   

We also have been very luck to come across a variety of high profile predators - leopard, lion, hyaena and wild dog. The Golden Pack has been seen in front of camp a couple of times and have even made some kills here. But as we know, these predators can cover large areas of ground - they have also been seen a number of times on the western side of the airstrip. Lately, the pack has taken a liking to hunting warthogs which can be a dangerous activity in its own right. Unfortunately one of the pack members perished in the act of bringing down one of the formidable hogs. This however, did not discourage the pack from pursuing warthogs, as a week later they made an impressive kill in front of camp.

Our guests have also been thrilled with the lion sightings which we have experienced. A two male coalition has been frequenting our area. Two younger males from the Eastern Pride have also been sighted a couple of times, once even feeding on a buffalo carcass. A lioness with three cubs has been spotted several times hanging around the Spurwing Bridge area. We had one sighting of a huge male, new to the area... possibly he is looking to acquire some new territory?

A leopard with a cub has also been seen around, sometimes dangerously close to the lion den by the bridge. Both the cub and its mother are in great condition and the last time we found them, they were feeding on an impala ram close to camp. We have come across a new male leopard which we haven't been able to positively identify as he is very shy and stays in the thick vegetation.

Soccer team at Vumbura Plains Camp    Elephant at Vumbura Plains Camp

The monthly highlight for all was when the wild dogs were feeding on a kill, when suddenly some lions came charging in and stole the kill, but the dogs did not give it up without a fight... a very unusual occurrence.

We are very proud to say that the Kwedi Sables soccer team and the Vumbura Plains soccer team have donated P2000 to Children in the Wilderness after playing a soccer tournament in the village. 

Staff in Camp
Managers: Kago, Martha, Lorato, Britt, Lebo, KCI and Wayne.
Guides: OB, Ban, Ona, Emang, Zee, Laz and Henny.

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Little Vumbura Camp update - March 2012               Jump to Little Vumbura Camp

Weather and Landscape
It seems as though the erratic rainfall patterns from the last few months are beginning to settle down. Throughout this last month we have only had roughly 15mm of rain which is a dramatic change from last month's 142mm, but with temperatures reaching the  early 40s (Celsius), rain would be very welcome some days.

Although the rain has slowed down, the water levels are rising steadily, which indicates the arrival of the annual inundation. We have already begun making preparations to move our operations to Paradise Boat Station near the airstrip and have already begun boating guests on occasion from the airstrip to camp, which is always a pleasant surprise for guests. Also with the rising water the boating activities have become more prominent and enable the guides to visit Hippo Pool, which is home to roughly 40 hippo.

Impala at Little Vumbura    The golden pack at Little Vumbura

Wildlife
The drives have been nothing short of spectacular! Our guests have had excellent sightings of an array of apex predators plus huge masses of plains game, which attract the plethora of predators. A sighting of note was a sable with four calves - this is a fantastic sighting of the rare antelope.

The resident pack of wild dogs (the Golden Pack), have been very active this month in our area of operation as we have seen them relaxing, hunting, playing and patrolling. Unfortunately one of the adult members was killed by a warthog during a hunting foray. Having said this, the pack has taken a liking to warthog as they have frequently been spotted chasing the hogs.

Cheetah at Little Vumbura    Leopard at Little Vumbura

Other highlights for the month include a couple cheetah sightings and some great leopard sightings.

Birds and Birding
There is a distinctive new noise filling the camp this month, which would be the call of the Lesser Striped Swallow, which has returned to the island to begin building nests - while sometimes this can be a bit of nuisance, as they build their nests in light fittings and any nook and cranny they can find, they are fascinating to watch work.

Guest Comments
"Without a doubt, seeing Sable was just incredible!"

"The tents are excellent"

"Our guide (Sam) was exceptional"

Staff in Camp
Managers: Frank, Millie and Hamish.
Guides: Sam, Sevara and Dennis.

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Duba Plains Camp update - March 2012               Jump to Duba Plains Camp

No report this month.

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Banoka Bush Camp update - March 2012

Weather and Landscape
March has been a somewhat pleasant month in terms of temperature and weather. The days may be slightly on the hot side (not uncomfortable though) but almost every second day the skies close up and our guests are treated to a short, yet very powerful, spectacle of the power that Mother Nature has up her sleeves. The storms are generally short-lived, and after the commotion has subsided, there is a fresh feeling in the bush.

The vegetation is very thick and lush owing to the regular downpours of rain and warm conditions. One can see that all the wildlife is benefiting from the sweet and palatable vegetation.

Wildlife
With the end of the rainy season in sight, several herds of elephant are making their presence known in and around the camp. A young bull has been frequenting the camp almost every day and giving our many guests a lovely show from the comfort of their decks. The small resident hippo pod is also enjoying the swelling of the lagoon in front of camp, and at some points a young calf has been spotted swimming with its mother.

A thrilling sighting this month was a female leopard with two gorgeous young cubs near the camp. The guides have estimated the cubs to be roughly one week old, and the mother is very protective of her babies, therefore a decision was made to limit the amount of vehicles travelling to see her to avoid stressing her out. Our guests have also seen other leopard on many different occasions, but the mother with her new cubs remains the star sighting for this month.

Elephant seen at Banoka Bush Camp    'earth stars' fungi at Banoka Bush Camp

Lion have also been spotted regularly, with three beautiful females sitting at the airstrip giving all our arriving guests a lovely sighting as they step out of the plane. There has also been a pride that was in camp for three days, and after they left, a young male made his presence known one evening. Hyaena, wild dog and small-spotted genet have also being seen quite regularly in and around the camp.

The general game has also been very prolific and a group of guests was pleasantly surprised when a tower of giraffe was spotted crossing the river during a mokoro excursion.

Our reptile population seems to have boomed lately with more of the uncommon and elusive species making an appearance in the camp. Several Angolan green snakes and many stripe-bellied sand snakes have been seen on the paths. A large rhombic egg-eater was found crossing the driveway, and a few rhombic night adders were also seen. 

A different sighting this month was a common purple-glossed snake, which was found after the rains. It was a lovely sighting for the guests who were present as these snakes are fossorial (burrowing) and are very rarely seen. Chameleons and wolf snakes were also seen. A small surprise in camp was the spotted sandveld lizard - this was interesting as these beautiful black and white striped lizards with bright orange tails are generally not found in this area, usually further south in Botswana.

Birds and Birding
Birding has been quiet this month, with only a couple Southern Carmine Bee-eaters left in the area. There is a beautiful majestic Verreaux's Eagle-Owl that hangs out in the camp, along with a smaller family member in the form of an African Barred Owlet which has a small territory along the path by Room 4.

Martial Eagle at Banoka Bush Camp    Martial Eagle at Banoka Bush Camp

Wattled Cranes and Southern Ground-Hornbills are the endangered species which have been seen this month as well. There was also a Martial Eagle seen towards the west of camp, eating a rather large white-throated monitor lizard.

The Smaller Wonders
Southern foam-nest frogs, Angolan reed frogs and guttural toads are the amphibians that were found hopping in camp this month, and many of these are seen on the lovely mokoro trips and boat rides. With the rains, there are also lots of 'earth stars' popping up in the area. These small fungi are very interesting as they grow and disappear in a matter of hours, releasing their spores before shrivelling away.

Guest Comments
"This camp was my favourite out of all of them. Thank you so much for everything, it was amazing." Rachel.

"An outstanding camp in every way - exceeded all expectations. Wonderful staff made the days relaxing and rewarding. Thank you to all." Dennis.

Staff in Camp
Managers: James Moodie, Lopang Rampeba and Mamma B. 
Guides: Rogers, Chief, Vinnie and Willie.

Newsletter by James Moodie
Photos by James and Cheri Moodie

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Jacana Camp update - March 2012               Jump to Jacana Camp

Standing having coffee on the deck of Jacana, watching the sun rise has got to be one of the most magical moments in life. The skies are a fusion of colour that fills you with wonder. As the sun rises, the water shimmers with reflections of light and vegetation as well as flashes of aquatic and bird life. 

The stillness of the morning is broken with the song of birds - the African Fish-Eagle leading the way with its magnificent call. The pescivorous kingfishers dive for their prey with a silent plop to catch their daily quota of fish. The sycamore fig is in full fruit, attracting a variety of birds to the feast, together with the elephant. The Meyer's Parrots have found a beehive in one of the dead palm trees, and it has been quite a learning curve watching them eat the honey. 

Frog seen at Jacana Camp    flap-necked chameleon at Jacana Camp

Just inside the door of the laundry room, I was busy folding some linen and watching an old elephant bull eat off the young palm shoots only metres away, and I wondered then - how many people ever get to fold their linen with an elephant standing at the door, both of us relaxed in each others company. Of course, the old gentle giants that do come onto the island are a big wow factor for the guests, who have the privilege of being in safe proximity of these magnificent animals. Old Jack, as he is commonly known to the staff of Jacana, had not been on the island for at least five months and arrived all excited one morning to be back in familiar territory. He quickly went from point to point to see that his favourite feeding places were still there, before settling down to the business of pruning our island.

Now, with the fabulous upgrade of the Jacana tents, we get the sense of a comfortable island adventure. The spacious units look over the vast expanse of the floodplains and from your deck, elephants can be seen crossing from island to island. The outside showers are a must as it gives you a fresh freedom as you soak in the beauty of the Delta.

Elephant visit Jacana Camp    Sunset over Jacana Camp

The annual inundation is clearly coming in, so the night air is filled with the sound of the frog choir singing the 'Okavango song' for hours. The sound is so tranquil that soon you drift into a restful dreamland. As you walk between the main area and your room, you may come across the flap-necked chameleon, camouflaged among the greenery, hunting down insects. It is quite fascinating to watch as they focus on their prey, and then shoot out their long sticky tongue to capture their meal.

Jacana is a definite stop to all those who want to have a holistic experience of the Delta. It is a serene, comfortable camp, surrounded by an awesome variety of nature's wonders.

Staff in Camp
Managers: Dan and Charmaine Myburg.
Guides: Timothy Samuel, Moruti Maepela and Rex Sanyedi.

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Abu Camp update - March 2012               Jump to Abu Camp

No report this month.

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Kwetsani Camp update - March 2012               Jump to Kwetsani Camp

Weather and Landscape
The water levels are slowly rising and becoming visible across the floodplain, creating a perfect playground for the red lechwe. 

The air temperature is dropping slowly but there were still a few hot days with temperatures rising to high 30's (Celsius). The rainy season seems to be over and we only had one major storm this month.

Wildlife
The majestic Tubu leopard has recently given birth to two of the most adorable little cubs ever seen, with their chubby little faces and their tiny little spots. So far, mum has kept them hidden from danger and the threats that they will one day have to encounter. Only a handful of lucky guests have managed to see them currently, and an even fewer number of pictures have been taken of them. We hope they will become the future generation of leopards at Hunda Island and we have faith that they will survive the season, as the water is moving in slowly, making the island smaller and bringing animals, both predator and prey, closer to each other - as if an unwanted neighbour has pitched a tent in your very own backyard.

The Pied Kingfishers at Kwetsani Camp    Dragonfly at Kwetsani Camp

The Jao Pride, which consists of one dominant male, two lioness and five cubs have been seen too. The cubs are around three months of age and have become very boisterous and playful, but never straying too far from the protective paws of mother. At this stage their environment is a huge playground, as they constantly chase each other through the long grass. Their playful antics have provided our guests with some great photos.

A couple elephant bulls have moved into the camp area, taking advantage of the tasty vegetation growing amongst the camp structures. These gentle giants are always the talk at the breakfast table and sometimes are the loudest snorers in camp at night.

The resident hyaena have really become brazen lately. It has become a regular occurrence to be visited by the canine-like predators at camp, when enjoying a refreshment at the bar or fireplace. A couple of individuals will wander up into the main area's terrace and quietly move between the furniture, in the hope of finding a tasty morsel or two. If one sits quietly and patiently, these creatures of the night will happily continue with their camp foraging, all the time keeping a watchful eye on the observer.

The resident troop of monkeys have reared their babies well, as they have taught them how to swiftly and elegantly move through the trees in the same manner as the adults do. We have endless laughs as we watch the vervet monkeys move around camp in the tree line - the parents forever watching closely as their clumsy yet adorable young ones try to keep up and show off their new-found talent as they go along.

A number of hippo have been out and about. They are most commonly seen in the water, but lately we have seen them quite often outside of the water, grazing along and under the boardwalks. These bulk grazers give us a reminder of why one should not wander around at night.

Bat activity has been exciting too during the month. We have the occasional sighting of them as they dart through the darkness, but they do provide us with a serenade during the evening hours. Their clicks and squeaks and the chirps and beeps are incredibly synchronised in a way that only nature can explain.

Birding at Kwetsani Camp    Bird nesting at Kwetsani Camp

Birds and Birding
The Woodland Kingfishers have all moved off as the summer months have come to an end. The resident Pied Kingfishers have provided us with great entertainment, quite often from the breakfast table. It is really funny to watch them test the water temperature, swiftly diving into the water and exiting just as swiftly, quickly flying to a perch and shaking the water off their feathers. When they do start hunting, they hover over the water like a helicopter until a target is acquired. Once they have honed in on a target, they dart into the water, using their long beaks to seize the fish.

A pair of Green Wood-Hoopoes have built their nest in a cavity in a fig tree behind the camp's 'loo with a view' - this is a toilet with a large window that allows for awesome views of the plains - the perfect spot for some bird watching. The hoopoe pair energetically dart in and out of the nest, constantly feeding their demanding young ones.

Saddle-billed Storks have also provided great sightings as they fish in the shallow waters. They use the bright red colouration on their legs to attract fish within striking distance. A courting pair has taken up residence on the island.

African Fish-Eagle have been very active in the area as the annual inundation begins to pour into the area, causing the fish to spread all over in search of food. The water in the channels is crystal clear, making for easier hunting for the eagles - and every other water bird.

Staff in Camp
Managers: Bradley White and Annelize Hattingh.
Guides: MT Malebogo and Florence Kagiso.

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Jao Camp update - March 2012               Jump to Jao Camp

Weather and Landscape
There was very little rain most of March, resulting in a total monthly rainfall of only 64mm, 44 of which fell in one day. However, after the large amounts of rain which we received last month and the annual inundation underway, the water levels are clearly rising. The influx of water has cleaned out many of the smaller channels, paving the way for the pending rise in water levels.

Towards the end of the month, the winter chill was definitely in the air, especially during the early mornings and late afternoons; having said this, daily highs still reached the low thirties (Celsius).

Crocodile at Jao Camp    Sunset at Jao Camp

As mentioned above, the water levels around camp have been steadily rising, resulting in the water touching the bottom of the Jao jetty, which makes for easy access for mokoro and boating activities.

Wildlife
It has been a great month, not only because we opened the revamped camp again to share this magical place with guests but also because the viewing has been great both on Jao Island, in camp and on Hunda Island.

This month was made even more special with the young lion cubs that are denning on Jao Island. This month is also the first time in a long time where guests from Tubu Tree Camp came across to Jao for game viewing!

The two lionesses have done well in looking after their cubs so far this year. Three of the five cubs are around the age of four months now and the other two are younger. At the beginning of the month, the two mothers split up and were denning their cubs separately, but towards the middle of March, they joined up and spent the rest of the month together. This was a good move, as they now enjoy safety in numbers and can allo-suckle each other's cubs. The water levels have restricted their movements a little, as the water comes in the island is getting a bit smaller. 

A male lion has also spent a lot of time with them as well; this additional member has helped them with hunting. In the last week of the month they caught a warthog and a zebra in the same week. The cubs are looking healthy as are their mothers and the old male is thriving off the females' hunts as well. It does look like at least one of the cubs is a young male - who is very inquisitive around the vehicles. As more water comes in the areas in which to hunt will decrease on the island.

Mongooses at Jao Camp    Elephant visiting Jao Camp

The rest of the viewing has been great as well - there are large numbers of red lechwe around and we have experienced many sightings of sitatunga this month too, three of which were seen at the Jao Bridge.

Hunda Island has also been amazing as there are some young leopard cubs which are denning there. Large concentrations of zebra, wildebeest, giraffe and kudu are also present - making for a magical day on the island.

This month we also saw the return of the elephant bulls into camp. They are in camp daily enjoying the wild figs, fresh leaves and grasses that have recovered while they have been gone - sometimes making it a little interesting when walking on the raised walkway back to your room!  

Birds and Birding
The birding is still amazing; even though the Yellow-billed Kites and Woodland Kingfishers have left us, there is still very good birding here.

A male Pel's Fishing-Owl (based on size) seems to have set up residency around Tents 2 and 3, which makes for amazing viewing in camp.

The resident Martial Eagle is on the prowl every day over camp - it has caught two mongooses and two Spur-winged Geese chicks so far. 

We have had a number of guests this month that have come to Jao specifically for the great bird viewing on offer.

To add to this month's excitement we have a number of youngsters in camp - as mentioned we have six baby Spur-winged Geese left - as long as the Martial Eagle stays away - as well as nine very small White-faced Duck and a young Crested Barbet that comes to the office every morning and evening.

Camp Activities
With the lions and cubs as well as the kills, local drives have been a big hit. However Jao is known for its water and boat activities, so guests have been doing a lot of boat cruises and fishing. Some very nice bream have been caught and the elusive tiger fish have also been caught regularly.

Pel's fishing owl at Jao Camp

With the water as high as it is, mokoro trips have been excellent. We have moved the mokoro station to the high water area already, which means the regular loading area is now full of reeds, providing great sightings of painted reed frogs, bell frogs and water lilies. Then as you come around the corner you come onto the renowned Jao floodplain and enjoy the sights and sounds - red lechwe, birdlife and space - a magical experience in the Delta!

The trips to Hunda have also been spectacular - the boat ride to start is breathtaking in the early morning and the excitement of perhaps seeing leopard cubs makes it even more exciting.

The spa has also been a highlight for all guests this month - the journey at Jao is not only animals and birds but also the specially designed treatments in the spa, from facials to wraps and scrubs through to massages, but nothing as special as the romantic treatment in our double treatment room finishing with a romantic dinner on the private spa deck. 

All of this makes it easy to relax and enjoy Jao!

Staff in Camp
Managers: Antony and Kalinka Mulligan, Billy and Minette McKechnie, Marina Lunga, Phil Ngisi and Cindy Swart.
Guides: July Mogomotsi, Cruise Mollowakgotla and GT Sarepito.


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Seba Camp update - March 2012               Jump to Seba Camp

No report this month.


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Tubu Tree Camp update - March 2012               Jump to Tubu Tree Camp

Weather and Landscape 
The water levels have been increasing daily, inch by inch getting closer to the main area and boma. All the impala and blue wildebeest have moved off and have been replaced by herds of red lechwe, which have taken up residence in the area in front of camp, providing some great sightings.

The temperatures have been very stable for the last few weeks, only showing a 10° C difference between maximum and minimum temperatures. The early mornings have gone down to about 20° C and the afternoons have been levelling out at between 28 - 30° C. We did experience two small rain showers during the month, but just enough to wet the soil.

Wildlife
What a month... again!

The leopards have had a lot of bad luck this month - many a kill was stolen by the marauding hyaena clans. A young female leopard was seen with an impala in a tree (which mom caught); she was so eager to eat that she bumped the carcass out of the tree which the ever-present hyaena snatched up very quickly.

Foggy morning at Tubu Tree Camp    Mokoro ride at Tubu Tree Camp

We were also spoilt with a sighting of the new generation of Hunda Island leopards: two cubs, estimated to be about three months old. Unfortunately we have only had one sighting of them as of yet. Hopefully as they get older, the Tubu Female (their mom) will bring them out and show them off to us. 

The marula tree in camp has been in fruit for the whole month, and the heavy ripe fruit falling to the ground has attracted a lot of elephants that come into camp daily to get their fill of their favourite fruit. A young bull has been in camp daily and even though he is not sure how to react to the presence of humans, he comes back day and night. He will either turn tail and run if he hears people walking on the deck or he will give a vocal and half-hearted warning charge, but generally he behaves himself. Most meals in the dining room have been enjoyed with his presence at the front deck.

With the water levels rising, we have had some unexpected visitors in front of camp. First there was big scaly kind - mister crocodile. The one we have seen a few times in front of camp is around three metres long, and we have also seen some smaller ones close to our brunch spot.
We have also been doing some boat cruises to the Jao floodplains to go and see the lion and their cubs, and we have been privileged to see them each time we have gone there. Leopard cubs on Hunda and lion cubs on Jao Island - we are truly a lucky concession.

Birds and Birding
After months of keeping an eye on the Wattled Cranes we finally saw what we have been waiting for - a juvenile Wattled Crane. We have seen the small family on numerous occasions, either in front of camp or at the airstrip, mother and father teaching their youngster. This is such a special occasion, since the Wattled Crane is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). Botswana is fortunate to have one of the single largest populations of Wattled Cranes in Africa and every chick that reaches maturity is a success story for the Wattled Crane population. It is estimated that the population is lower than 8 000 individuals within 10 countries in Africa.

Crocodile at Tubu Tree Camp    Leopard at Tubu Tree Camp

We've also had frequent visits in the afternoon from the resident African Harrier-Hawk. You can hear the squirrels, francolins and any other small bird in camp alarm calling, and if you look up in the sky, you will probably see the harrier-hawk choosing its target palm tree, looking for the chicks or eggs of the African Palm-Swifts and any other birds that have made nests in the palm trees. Not long after arriving in camp and finding his meal, he leaves camp in search of more...

Guest Comments
"Of course the leopard sightings, watching a herd of elephants cross to another island while on mokoro and great service and hospitality. Delta has also been an incredible guide."

"The service of the staff and the personal touch they provided was exceptional. Game viewing was great and our specific interests were attended to by our guide."

"The animal sightings were spectacular - couldn't have asked for more. Our guide was excellent (Delta) and we always felt safe with him. The food was awesome and varied. The special doings like the sunset and drinks in the water is an incredible memory. All of the staff were SO helpful and kind. Having Hein and Eloise join us so much especially at meal times, sets your camp apart."

Staff in Camp
Managers: Eloise van der Walt and Hein Holton.
Guides: Kambango Sinimbo, Kgaka Kgaka, Gibson Kehemetswe and Delta.


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Kalahari Plains Camp update - March 2012               Jump to Kalahari Plains Camp

No report this month.


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