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Wilderness Launches Wilderness TV
17 May 2012
May 2012 - Wilderness is thrilled to announce the launch of the new and exciting "Wilderness TV," which was unveiled at the company's annual Indaba function held at the Oyster Box Hotel on Sunday evening 13 May 2012.
The concept of Wilderness TV has taken a digital platform and transformed it into a virtual training environment for staff. The system puts the learning process into the hands of the staff, allowing them to log on whenever convenient and use the opportunity to develop their skills and knowledge through a video interface, which demonstrates effective and efficient techniques and standards in all aspects of hospitality from coffee, to wine, to housekeeping, cocktail-making and much more.
Wilderness TV, complete with its own novel jingle, is essentially the company's own internal "YouTube" and, while used primarily as a training tool, has also seen rapid development as a fast and effective communication platform, empowering staff and allowing them to see what is happening in other countries and operations within the Wilderness Group instantly and graphically. This is revolutionary in remote environments such as those in which we operate: the forests of the Congo Basin, savannahs of Botswana, deserts of Namibia and other far-flung destinations.
Aside from a training and communication platform for staff, it is also envisaged that Wilderness TV will eventually be made accessible to guests in some of the camps as a way of sharing even more interpretive detail of the local environment, partnerships and unique features, as well as some of the group's truly inspiring staff and conservation success stories that make our conservation and safari organisation so exceptional.
Wilderness TV will also be hosted on a new online portal also launched at this year's Indaba - "The Wilderness World." This platform will be made available to travel partners across the world, allowing them to log in and learn more about the world of Wilderness. Agents already have access to the "We are Wilderness" blog, which will feed into the portal as well as the noticeboard, offering camp news and general news about the company and its non-profit organisations. All users will be able to provide feedback and also to hold their own discussions about the content they see.
These initiatives underline again our commitment to staff development and inspiration and of course to the travel trade. Blending cutting-edge modern digital technology with the grounded authenticity of the oral tradition is somehow a uniquely African innovation.
Wilderness Announces 4Cs Hero for 2012: Mpho "Poster" Malongwa
02 May 2012
Wilderness is thrilled to announce that the 4Cs Hero of 2012 is Mpho Malongwa of Botswana, fondly known as "Poster" to guests and staff alike.
The 4Cs Hero Awards this year were characterised by a really high standard of nomination with outstanding efforts and achievements by all the individuals. A closely contested vote by our judging panel of sustainability coordinators (Derek de la Harpe, Alexandra Margull, Sue Snyman and Brett Wallington) was eventually won by Poster after an initial deadlock in the votes.
Poster wins 10 000 Pula and the opportunity to donate another 10 000 Pula to another sustainability project of his choice being undertaken within the Wilderness Group.
Poster Malongwa - Rhino Monitor, Mombo Camp, Botswana:
Thanks to his efforts on the Botswana Rhino Reintroduction Project, Poster has spread the conservation message throughout Botswana and the world at large, garnering a massive amount of support through donations and raising awareness amongst the communities he encounters on his patrols. Over his 11-year tenure, he has raised a tremendous amount in donations to the Rhino Project, and actively plays his role both in the field as Rhino Monitor as well as that of an ambassador to the rhinos' cause wherever he goes.
He is the cornerstone of the Mombo Choir, and a valuable interface between our guests and the culture of Botswana - he sings traditional songs as well as his own compositions, displaying his passion for his cultural roots and identity. In his evening presentations to guests on the rhino project he actively engenders his pride in his community, both at home and within the camp. As a conservationist, he goes beyond the parameters of his job by encouraging and educating staff on all levels to know more about rhino and to see them with him where possible. In a commercial sense, apart from the donations his efforts attract, he is also known in the outside world as a stalwart of Mombo and to this effect maintains the profile of Mombo to encourage visitors to the area. He is always on hand to meet guests, talk about his project, help out in camp, and make himself available to all to assist, no matter how small or big the task may be.
Poster left school with only a Std. 3 level education. In the past 11 years, he has grown his skills to a level where he is able to work with a variety of specialists in the field. In doing so, he has encountered many, and thus grown the Wilderness environmental commitment and development among them. Poster's influence goes beyond his standing as a giant of Mombo, into the arenas of government departments, the Botswana Defence Force, the rural communities, as well as with international donors.
Poster is the embodiment of a 4Cs hero in every way: Culture, Community, Commerce and Conservationist. The success of Botswana's rhino project is in no small way due to his incredible commitment.
Other nominees for the prize were:
Agnes Bezuidenhout - Manager, Doro Nawas, Namibia
Danger Chipino - Guide, Mvuu Camp, Malawi
Matthew Johl - Dive Instructor, North Island, Seychelles
Isaac Kalio - Guide, Busanga Bush Camp, Zambia
Howard Marsh - Chief Engineer, Northern Air Maintenance, Botswana
Kimberley McEwan - Internal Relations Department, Wilderness Air Botswana
Enos Mngomezulu - Head Guide, Pafuri Camp, South Africa
Charles Ndlovu - Assistant Manager, Little Makalolo, Zimbabwe
Chris Roche - Creative Resources and 4Cs Manager, Johannesburg, South Africa
Background to the 4Cs Hero Award
Wilderness is defined by the "4Cs" - Conservation, Community, Culture and Commerce. But the 4Cs are only as good as people in the company make them. And so the 4Cs Hero Award recognises and rewards the achievements of the unsung heroes of Wilderness. And in fact, the heroes we've nominated come from all over our family, from the back of house to the offices, but each one is involved in the day-to-day implementation of our 4Cs philosophies and thus embodies some or all the aspects of the 4Cs.
Wilderness Integrated Report 5th in Corporate Register Worldwide Reporting Awards
03 May 2012
May 2012 - Wilderness Holdings is thrilled to announce that the Group's Integrated Report has taken 5th position in CorporateRegister.com's Reporting Awards for 2012, in two categories: the Best Integrated Report and Best First Time Report.
CorporateRegister.com is the primary global reference point for corporate responsibility (CR) reports and resources worldwide. This is the fifth annual independent CR Reporting Awards recognising global leaders in Sustainability and Integrated Reporting and is voted on by more than 6 000 members and various other stakeholders of CorporateRegister.com.
As the world's largest directory of non-financial reports (almost 40 000 reports from 9 000 companies in 160 countries), this recognition by CorporateRegister.com of our efforts is incredibly exciting. Indeed, Wilderness found itself sharing a platform with well-known multinationals such as Coca-Cola, Bloomberg, Hyundai Engineering, and many others.
While a new initiative for the group, the Wilderness Holdings Integrated Report has demonstrated leadership in integrating sustainability issues into the annual company reports (which have accordingly evolved to include a wide range of issues aside from financial aspects), and this was made clear in our fifth position in the Best Integrated Report category.
The purpose of the CRRA is to present the best of global responsible annual reporting practices in order to help drive change. This recognition of our efforts in this prestigious arena is both gratifying and humbling for the Wilderness Group.
Finally, it is of particular importance to us that, in successfully integrating our financial and 4Cs sustainability framework into one coherent report, we have demonstrated that each aspect of our business - Commerce, Conservation, Community and Culture - is as important as the other: by doing good we can create value for our shareholders.
Below is a list of the winners in the two categories for which Wilderness entered:
Best Integrated Report
Novo Nordisk A/S
Vancouver City Savings Credit Union
Wilderness Holdings Limited
Best First Time Report
La Trobe University
American Water Works Company Inc
Wilderness Holdings Limited
Two Wilderness Collection Destinations in Robb Report's Top 100 Resorts
09 May 2012
The Top 100 Resorts is a very select list, with only 15 destinations in the Africa and Middle East group. To have two out of four Wilderness Collection destinations within this category is a gratifying achievement.
Abu Camp allows its guests to interact with a herd of elephants, and enjoy uniquely designed accommodation that combines airy spaciousness with distinctive furnishings. North Island, with its 11 handcrafted villas and aura of tropical sanctuary where indigenous Seychelles species are being reintroduced, was noted by the editors as: "A private island with few peers."
The Robb Report magazine's Top 100 Resorts are not about popularity, but rather a selection of the most exceptional and exclusive properties. Robb Report's editors "spent the entire last year scouring the globe for the most exclusive retreats on earth?. The result is a one-of-a-kind compendium of resorts that we recommend with no hesitation."
The Wilderness Collection is a selection of iconic destinations, and we are delighted that we are able to remain true our goal of sharing such unique wild places with guests from all over the world, with as light an eco-footprint as possible, and at exceptional levels of service.
While this accolade is extremely rewarding for our operational camps, we are looking forward to increasing our exposure with the opening of Odzala and Segera this year.
Chief's Island Constrictor
Sighting: Chief's Island Constrictor
Location: Chief's Island, Botswana
Observers: Brooks Kamanakao
Wilderness guide, Brooks Kamanakao shares a fantastic and unusual sighting with us whilst on a boat trip to the famous Chief's Island:
"Whilst staying at Xigera Camp for three nights, my guests and I decided to take an early morning boat trip to Chief's Island and see what we could find along the waterways as the annual inundation surges into the area, refreshing the Okavango Delta. The birding was fantastic, as the waterway was packed with waders and other water birds. However, the highlight of the morning was brought to our attention by an angry mob of birds which appeared to be mobbing an African Fish-Eagle which was proudly perched on top of a tree. We stopped the boat to have a closer look, and upon closer inspection we were amazed at what we found.
The party of angry birds was not mobbing the fish-eagle, but were trying to harass a Southern African Python which was in the process of killing and consuming a Cape Turtle-Dove! The dove expired quickly as it was constricted by the powerful snake. As soon as the dove expired and the snake started the slow process of consuming its prey, the angry avian mob intensified their attempts on the serpentine intruder. Their efforts paid off as the snake soon lost its grip in the tree and began dangling by its tails - not giving up its meal. The python eventually fell into a stand of wild date palms and we lost visual."
Pythons typically use the ambush technique to hunt, and this python would have waited dead still on a branch of the tree, using its cryptic colouration to blend in perfectly with the surrounding area for a good long while... When the dove got close enough, the python suddenly struck out - grabbing the dove before starting to coil around it.
Taking a closer look at the island, one would have to conclude that the serpent must have swum about 500 metres from the closest landmass. This reptile must have opted to feed on birds, as there would have been a lack other small mammals to feed on, it being such a small island.
The Owl with a Tail
Sighting: The Owl with a Tail
Location: Chitabe Camp, Chitabe Concession, Botswana
Date: 10 May 2012
Observers: Anita Campbell and BB
Photographs: Anita Campbell
After a very productive morning drive and relaxing afternoon siesta, we departed for the afternoon game drive in high spirits, expecting to find some high profile wildlife. We left camp at around 16:45 and shortly after departing, we heard the familiar and characteristic alarm calls of some francolin. "Leopard?" This was the first thought that popped into everyone's mind, as this was confirmed by the expectant and excited look on everyone's faces. We veered off the beaten track and our guide, BB, had his eyes glued to the ground for fresh feline tracks whilst our eyes were combing the bush for any hint of a rosette. Our enthusiasm wore off quickly as the alarm calls faded away and we hadn't spotted any tell-tale signs of a predator in the area...
We decided to return to the road as there were no further signs leading us off road to a feline sighting. As we approached the road, we heard the francolins burst into a panic again, so this time we stopped the vehicle to take in the hints and clues. We soon spotted the panicked fowl, which were looking into the canopy of some tall trees. We followed suit and looked into the canopy. BB quickly spotted a Verreaux's Eagle-Owl. The sun was directly behind the bird, so BB moved us into a better position to observe the large raptor. As soon as the glare was out of our eyes, one of the other guests shouted, "You have owls with tails in Africa!" BB queried, "An owl with a tail?"
I thought that perhaps a leopard had lifted a kill into the tree and the owl was scavenging off the remains. BB was confused as he could not see the owl clearly, so we reversed a little so that BB could confirm our theories. After having a look, BB pointed out that the owl had been feeding on a small-spotted genet! We marvelled at the owl, which was fast asleep, not surprising as a genet is a rather unusual and large meal for an owl. As we started to leave the sighting, another eagle-owl flushed from the canopy and flew to its sleeping companion.
This was definitely one of those special sightings of the smaller wonders... we were not disappointed that it wasn't a leopard!
Progress at the New DumaTau Camp
Scheduled to open at the beginning of July, the rooms at the new camp will be on three levels and have views of Osprey Lagoon. There will be 2 family rooms – below right is one in the process of being built. The camp will be on raised walkways, with lower intervals to allow for elephant traffic. DumaTau will be the 5th camp in Botswana to go fully solar after Banoka Bush, Kalahari Plains, Xigera and Mombo/Little Mombo – below left is the bank of solar panels that have been installed. As the new camp is located closer to the water's edge, the plan is that the fire deck, pool and hide will all be on pontoons in the water at various locations in front of the camp. The DumaTau barge is also operational again (from both the old and the new camp), available for midday activities including fishing excursions.
Family Room at Xigera Camp
Now complete and open for business, the new family room at Xigera consists of two rooms, each with their own bathroom. The second/child room does not have a separate entrance and deck, and is accessed via a short passage from the main room.
Activities at Abu Camp
Note that elephant activities are offered all week and 'Friday is elephant rest day' is no longer applicable at Abu.
Kulala Desert Lodge
Refurbishing and increasing the size of the camp is well underway, and we are still on track to open on 2 July 2012.
Cape Grace Refurbishment
The Cape Grace is undergoing a refurbishment of their main kitchen, which started on 04 June 2012 and will be in place until 08 July 2012. The kitchen project is part of the hotel's maintenance program to upgrade services and facilities to ensure a continued delivery of service excellence within the hotel going forward. Guests will still be able to enjoy breakfast and dinner in Signal Restaurant throughout the duration of the refurbishment and lunch will be available in Bascule or in the comfort of the guest's room. The scheduled work will be limited to the hours between 11:00 and 16:00 daily. Due to the extent of the work involved there will be specific days where noise will include that of a jack hammer or grinder but this will be limited to specific days as outlined below:
04 – 06 June 2012; 11 June 2012; 18 – 20 June 2012; 25 June 2012.
No report this month.
North Island Update - May 2012 Jump
to North Island
You may recall our enthusiasm after witnessing four Aldabra giant tortoises laying eggs during the past rainy season, in our quiet presence. The same female nested too close to the road on two occasions, so we decided to relocate the eggs in order to give them the best chance of being successful.
Just as with turtle eggs, one has to pay special attention to not rotating the eggs during such an intervention. After carefully translocating the eggs, the Environmental Team had to wait patiently until the hatching date - which is between four to five months later. We marked the expected hatching day on our calendars and, after placing wire mesh around the nest, it became our daily duty to check the nest at least three times for emerging babies.
Our disappointment was great when nothing happened - even after a few rain showers that softened the soil. After waiting a further two months, the team decided to dig up the nests to investigate what happened. The first two nests had gone bad and the eggs had decomposed. The third nest contained empty eggs with no embryonic development inside. We left the last nest in hope that it will still produce hatchlings.
Perplexed by this, we approached the local experts on turtles and tortoises. According to these authorities, this is a common occurrence amongst this species of tortoise. We are keeping our fingers crossed that this is not the case with future nests.
Kings Pool Camp update - May 2012 Jump
to Kings Pool Camp
The weather in May was very pleasant. The cold winds of winter had not yet reached us, although we did have a little warning that winter was on its way through. In mid-May temperatures plummeted for two or three days - just a friendly reminder to unpack those woollies and prepare for winter.
Birding has been very good this month with many great sightings of Wattled Cranes, Southern Ground-Hornbills and a huge variety of raptors including Martial Eagle, Tawny Eagle and of course our resident Little Bee-eaters which entertain us every afternoon during high tea with their acrobatic flights in pursuit of flying insects.
Great news for the cat lovers is that our local pride of lions, the LTC Pride, still has their small litters of two cubs. A couple of times some of our guests saw the lioness relocating the cubs to the new den. It was an experience for the guests to see the lioness moving around with the little tiny cub in her mouth. We have spent hours watching these future 'kings' of the Linyanti play and pounce at anything that moves! They will hopefully turn into one of Africa's greatest and most respected predators.
One morning on game drive we tracked down our territorial male lion as he led us to a giraffe carcass. By the next day, the entire pride was feeding on the kill. This allowed us to easily view the gorging lions for a period of five days as they consumed the entire carcass at their leisure. It's amazing to see the full cycle at play, how one animal has to die in order for another to survive. Vultures eventually cleaned the last scraps of flesh off the bones leaving virtually nothing behind.
With the waterholes drying out, the leopard territories will shrink and become concentrated along the river, as the wildlife congregate along the remaining water source. This became clear as we found four different females and two males along the river.
The wild dogs have provided us with some of the best predatory action this month. One of the highlight sightings for the month was when the pack was feeding on a large male baboon which they had killed very close to the camps kitchen. The sighting just got even better when the adults started calling out, and the next thing, two small pups arrived and were given feeding preference at the kill. The LTC Pack has taken advantage of the impala rutting season and has been seen hunting very often. On one occasion, the dogs were found having a siesta on the Kings Pool airstrip. Suddenly the pack jumped up in the true wild dog fashion and dashed into the vegetation, in hot pursuit of some impala. The dogs managed to ground an impala on the banks of the Linyanti River, only to have the kill stolen by a large crocodile which lunged out of the water and grabbed the kill and quickly dragged it under the water. The pack did not hang around and continued hunting. Once the dogs had left, a leopard came down from a surrounding tree and investigated the scene.
As the area dries up, the elephants return to the Linyanti in great numbers and we now have 'resident' bulls, which are seen daily in the camp area, feeding on the vegetation around the tents. Many herds have been congregating along the river as a result of the drying conditions.
Our barge, the Queen Sylvia, is back in action after a few months of refurbishment. The boat trips have allowed us some great sightings of the giant pachyderms crossing the river at sunset. During one of the sunset cruises, our guests witnessed a leopard coming down to the river for a drink - it was a pretty awesome way to end a pretty awesome day!
The general plains game has also been consistently good this month. We even have a new creature to add to our residents list - a three-metre Southern African python decided to stick around camp for a couple days.
There has been an old bull hippo that took refuge in a small pool very close to camp; he could often be found basking in the sun or grazing during the day. Sadly, the old bull died this month due to natural causes, and no time was wasted by the scavengers and predators. The first time we approached the carcass, we saw a large number of vultures perched in the surrounding trees, which indicated that a large predator was feeding. As we got closer to the carcass, we found a large leopard feeding on it. The next morning, when we arrived at the site, the entire LTC Pride was feeding on the old bull. Vultures and some hopeful hyaena were waiting around to steal their share of the spoils. The carcass was entirely consumed in ten days, as a whole range of predators and scavengers ate their fill, making sure that nothing in Nature is wasted.
Some of our guests experienced something very unusual on the 24th May whilst on a morning drive. The group had just stopped for some tea and coffee, when their guide, Diye, heard some vervet monkeys alarm-call not too far away. The game viewers quickly packed up their drinks and headed towards the alarm calls which were now quite frantic. What the group found was very unusual and surprising. They found a large male baboon eating a fully grown vervet monkey.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Alex and One Mazunga, Lindi Samuzanla, Sylvester Mokgosi and Kenny Lugayeni.
Guides: OD Modikwa, Khan Gouwe, Ndebo Tongwane and Diye Kennetseng.
Photographs and newsletter by Alex Mazunga
DumaTau Camp update - May 2012 Jump
to DumaTau Camp
The mornings are cooling quite quickly and the waterholes are retreating daily as the drying landscape sucks up all remaining moisture. The vegetation is thinning out, as most of the deciduous trees have lost their leaves and the majority of grasses have gone into a dormant state, shedding their foliage above the ground.
Large concentrations of wildlife have been congregating around the remaining sources of surface water in a bid to slake their thirsts. Huge mixed congregations of zebra, wildebeest and buffalo can be found at the remaining waterholes. This abundance of prey items has definitely caught the attention of the predator forces, in particular the lions.
There are currently two prides of lion that have been operating in the area. The LTC Pride consists of two females, a subadult male, a dominant male and two very young cubs, which are still being denned. This pride recently brought down a giraffe calf and fed on it for a couple of days, which allowed us some great sightings, as the cubs were brought out of the den. The other pride, known as the DumaTau Pride, is much larger and consists of 15 individuals. They too have two cubs that are roughly the same age of those in the LTC Pride. The large pride brought down a buffalo next to the Savute Channel, which again allowed us great sightings of the pride.
The wild dogs have also been taking advantage of the prey abundance. The LTC Pack, which consisted of 17 dogs, seems to have split, as three adult males have left the pack and were seen trying to cross the southern bank of the Savute Channel - perhaps the abundance of prey has motivated the large pack to split up into splinter groups?
On the subject of the channel, we were lucky to witness the dogs chasing a kudu and impala fawn, which took refuge and 'safety' by running into the water. The dogs did not follow the antelope this time, but unfortunately for both of them, they had literally jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire - a number of large crocodiles immediately snapped up both the kudu and impala. There were no signs of the Zib Pack this month.
Leopard sightings have been pretty good too, as the rutting impala have suffered many casualties at the claws of these elusive predators. The large DumaTau Male in particular has provided some great sightings as he has been very active in patrolling his territory. On one occasion, this large tom killed a sleeping baboon right next to the staff accommodation at camp during the early hours of the morning - causing quite a commotion as the baboon troop awoke in a flurry of panic. The leopard dragged the carcass into a quiet spot in between Tents 8 and 9, and spent the next couple of days feeding on it.
After almost a year of absence from the concession, a coalition of cheetah has moved into the area. It was fantastic to see these incredible felines back in the area. A group of four cheetah were seen regularly, but they appear very shy and are skittish, so we are treating them with respect and view them from a distance as we don't want to chase them away and instil a fear of vehicles.
This month, we had two very unusual sightings; the first was of a caracal that walked through camp. It is not often that we see these felines, let alone have one walk through camp. The second unusual sighting really surprised all of the camp guides, as we witnessed a baboon kill and consume a vervet monkey.
Towards the end of the month, we were pleased that the masses of elephant started to return to the area - we immediately recognised an old friend. George, as he had become known to the camp staff last year, has returned to the camp area and entertains us all day.
Lioness picture by Ona Basimane
Savuti Camp update - May 2012 Jump
to Savuti Camp
Over the weekend, Savuti Camp guests had the sighting of a lifetime when a lioness jumped out of the thick vegetation and killed a kudu on the bank of the Savute Channel - just across from the camp. Some guests even sat on their room decks and watched it all unfold.
Once the kudu had expired, the lioness dragged it into the thick vegetation. After tea, the vehicles crossed the Channel to get a closer look. Once the guides got there they discovered that the female had three young cubs with her.
The cubs and their mother were very relaxed and they came out in the afternoon sun to play before disappearing back into the bushes. Since then we have seen her and her cubs every day from the deck of camp. She seems to have her timing perfect, coming out just around teatime for everyone to enjoy before heading out on the afternoon drive.
We will continue to keep an eye on her, and here's hoping that she is able to remain in her safe haven on the south bank - that way, we will be able to watch her cubs grow from the comfort of the Savuti Camp deck!
Pictures by Stuart Parker
Zarafa Camp update - May 2012 Jump
to Zarafa Camp
Selinda Camp update - May 2012 Jump
to Selinda Camp
Camps Update - May 2012
• No report for this month.
Lagoon camp Jump
• Lion sightings this month included a large male who spent some time following a herd of buffalo before managing to kill a young calf – a very risky and dangerous achievement for a solitary lion, no matter what the size! Earlier on, a lioness had also been seen with two sub adult females.
• The three cheetah brothers were seen again, but although they all look in excellent condition, one of the brothers appears to be slightly lame in the leg. We are hoping he makes a speedy recovery, and this is just a temporary injury.
• As predicted last month, two of the wild dogs have split off from the pack, probably in the hope of forming their own pack. The remaining 18 are in excellent condition, and were seen killing several impala and a sub-adult kudu during the month. The alpha female should be visibly pregnant next month, and begin looking for a den site.
• The dogs were also interacting with other animals this month – chasing a leopard up a tree, and strangely, chasing an elephant as well – the elephant took fright, and tripped up in an aardvark hole before moving off at speed.
• Buffalo herds are immense in number – one is approximately 1000 individuals. Not to be outdone, there are many breeding elephant herds in the area, but luckily they have slightly less than 1000 members in their herd! Bulls, being bulls, in both species, are spending time fighting each other, and several elephant bulls in musth have created turmoil as they approach the breeding herds!
• The hyena den now has a total of 8 cubs, ranging in age from just a few weeks to six months of age. Parents come and go, sometimes leaving their offspring completely unattended, which can create mayhem with the older cubs up to mischief with their younger clan-mates. Still, they do not stray far from the safety of the den, and all move quickly into the den itself at the first hint of danger.
Lebala camp Jump
• As winter approaches, the nights are getting cooler, with the evening temperature averaging 15 degrees and the day time temperature getting up to around 28degrees. Towards the end of the month, gusty winds begin in the morning, and blow throughout the day, but drop off to nothing at sunset.
• The first day of the month brought a very relaxed leopard hunting in the mixed woodland. A few days later, another male leopard had better luck, and caught an impala. He pulled the female impala up to the safety of a large tree branch, where he could enjoy his meal at leisure, without the threat of other predators stealing his meat. At the end of the month, we found a lovely male leopard resting in the boughs of a tree. After watching him for a while, he clambered down, and we were able to follow him for about 30 minutes till he reached the edge of the water, where he had previously killed a male lechwe. The next day, we returned to the spot and the leopard was still eating the lechwe, with the kill on the ground. But the following day, the leopard had pulled the remains of the kill up a tree, and was feeding again, when another male leopard approached, and took the kill off the first leopard.
• The pack of 11 dogs from the southern area moved through to Twin Pools, and successfully caught a male impala. After all got a fair share of the kill, they spent the rest of the day relaxing under the nearby trees. Later in the month, ten of the pack were seen harassing two hyenas, and managed to bite one of them! The Lagoon pack of 18 dogs were also seen down in the Lebala area of the concession, and we were lucky enough – though some may view otherwise – to be present when they brought down a warthog in front of us. Though not for the squeamish or faint hearted, it was amazing to watch all the dogs quickly feast on the whole animal, finishing it off in a matter of minutes.
• Two shy lions – one male and one female were seen two days apart early on in the month. The male quickly disappeared into the thick blue bush, and female was spotted on an island along the waterside of Forest Road. She later crossed over the water, and tried to hunt amongst the Kalahari apple leaf trees.
• Perhaps we missed seeing a few of the lions, as we weren't looking in the right place – in the trees…! Lions, unlike leopards, are not known for going up trees, but they can climb (though they are not very elegant about getting back down again…). Many people believe that only certain groups of lions climb trees (reference is often made to the 'tree-climbing lions' of Lake Manyara) but any lion can, and will, climb from time to time. They climb to get away from flies, or even to enjoy a refreshing breeze in the warmer months. It's still quite surprising to see, and the lioness that was up the tree at Lebala this month looked a little unsure of herself as well.
• The big herds of buffalos that were seen en masse in Lagoon last month have begun moving into the Lebala area as well, with the large males leading the way.
• Lovely general game abounds as well, with giraffe, wildebeest, impala, zebra as usual, and there were sightings of herds of eland, roan, and a few gallivanting ostriches!
Kwara & Little Kwara camps Jump
& Little Kwara camps
• The wild dogs that were seen last month were sighted again early on in this month – all twelve of them – in the Splash area. They spent some time chasing impala, but were not successful at the time. They were seen several more times during the month, in excellent condition. As we approach the traditional time for dogs to breed and decide upon a den for the pups, fingers are crossed that they will choose a nice convenient location within the Kwara concession!
• Also in the Splash area, the three cheetah adults were observed relaxing and lying the shade. A couple of days later, they had moved to Giraffe Pan, and were attempting to hunt kudus.
• Three male lions spent some time trying to track down a lioness that had young cubs, probably with the intention of killing the cubs, as they had been fathered by a different male. The lioness managed to secretly move the cubs, to a new hiding place away from the male lions. Throughout the month lions were seen regularly, including a special dinner cabaret where the evening meal was interrupted for a few moments to watch the floor show of three lions strolling through camp!
• Overall, some amazing days were had in the Kwara area – one day guests manage to see eight lions, three cheetahs, a leopard and topped it all off with the pack of wild dogs. The general game, elephants and hippos were there in force as well!
• The special bird high-light of the month – the rare Pel's Fishing Owl. This beautiful large owl is often described as a 'fluffy teddy-bear', with its stunning beige, brown and golden plumage, and large black eyes. The owl's sole food source comes from catching fish and frogs in the darkness of night, splashing down into the water and grasping its meal with strong talons.
• Other water residents such as hippos are often overlooked in the Delta – overlooked, not because of peoples lack of interest in them, but because there is only a very small part of them that can be seen, with only eyes and noses and ears poking out of the water. The most people get to see of them is their yawning mouths, somewhere out in the middle of the lagoon. One morning, as many of the Kwara staff were quietly tidying up the camp after breakfast, a lot of loud splashing was heard from the edge of the lagoon on the far side of the pool deck. One very large hippo was making certain his territory was unchallenged, by chasing a slightly smaller hippo out of his domain. Unfortunately, the chase then continued through the camp, past the fire place, and in front of all the tents, all the way from Kwara to Little Kwara! There was lots of laughter and nimble footwork with housekeepers leaping onto the decks of the rooms and the camp hand who was tidying the fire place at the time, breaking Usain Bolt's sprint record…
Nxai Pan Jump
to Nxai Pan camp
• The elephants are on their way regularly throughout the day to the waterhole in front of the camp. Although they can be seen at the other waterholes in the park as well, the sense of perspective is quite different when you are standing on the ground (or sitting in the lounge!) and the white-dust covered elephants move quietly across the open area just in front of you. As the waterhole is quite deep, it is not uncommon to see an elephant half disappear into it, looking for the best place to get the tastiest water from.
• Few animals are prepared to try to drink whilst the elephants are there, as they have a tendency to chase off anything that moves! However, one plucky male cheetah decided that in the middle of the day, there was nothing better he would like than a drink of water, and trotted down below the rim of the waterhole. The elephants that were drinking on the side of the pan, eyed him cautiously, but decided he was not worth the trouble, and allowed him to drink unmolested. After a few minutes, the cheetah climbed back out again, and moved off into the open area on the far side of the pan, heading for the shade of the trees.
• A truly amazing sighting this month of ten wild dogs – a highly rare visitor to the Nxai Pan National Park - to find ten of them lying under a bush relaxing is a pretty special way to start a morning! What topped it off, was the dogs then moved to the waterhole in front of camp for a sun downer, where the elephants played a game of tag with them.
Tau Pan Jump
to Tau Pan camp
• The beginning of the month was a little out of the ordinary, with the infamous Tau Pan lions 'missing' for almost a week. On the sixth day, they appeared back at the waterhole at midday, to quench their thirst. First to come down to the waterhole was one male, who after drinking went to fetch the two lionesses and his 'brother'. The lionesses looked very hungry. The four of them napped under the bushes, before the two lionesses snuck away from the males. The male lions, on waking and noticing their ladies were missing, ran from side to side, trying to pick up the scent of their trail. After two days, the whole pride, including the six cubs, came back to the waterhole with full bellies, having obviously feasted on a kill the previous night. They spent the next ten hours in the camp, before heading off again.
• A day or so later, one of the male lions was then heard roaring in the early hours of the morning, and was seen drinking from the waterhole, before spending the rest of the day under the bushes close to the water. With the fall of dusk, he began roaring again, before moving off into the darkness late at night.
• In most areas, the shy kudus are seen in ones and twos, glimpsed in the bushes. At Tau Pan, we are lucky enough to see a group of around thirty adults, with ten young, regularly coming to the water hole to drink then browsing in and around the camp area.
• Other recent sightings in the area have included six bat eared foxes, with six cubs foraging and relaxing together. Day trips to Deception Valley have also been productive, as not only do we go through a wide variety of areas, but we have the chance to see different animals along the way. This month, the guests on these day trips have seen large groups of giraffe, lots of oryx, springbok and wildebeest close to Deception Valley, a cheetah with two cubs that caught a springbok and a very relaxed leopard that waited around for 20 minutes before moving off into long grass. Another male leopard was seen two days in a row in the area close to camp. He looked well fed, and was beginning another hunting attempt as he moved off.
• From the middle of the month, as the area gets drier, honey badgers were seen most days, digging in the ground for insects, scorpions and other tasty treats. These animals are not often seen in other areas, but in the Kalahari, they seem to have a sense of their own self-importance and are regularly seen during the day. An even more elusive predator, a brown hyena, was seen drinking from the Tau Pan waterhole. A few days later, he was found to have died, not far from the waterhole, from either illness or old age.
• Also seen drinking at the waterhole several days in a row was a pair of white backed vultures – who were then seen mating each day.
• A lovely month for sunsets – the crystal clear sky as the sun is setting is quite magical, particularly with the animals moving across the pan, in time for a traditional sun downer!
Mombo Camp update
- May 2012 Jump
to Mombo Camp
Climate and Landscape
May in Mombo is the magical time when the true beauty and wonder of the Okavango shows itself, when the waters of the inundation arrive, first in a trickle, building tiny rivulets over once-dry, but now saturated sand, turning into a flow and becoming a miraculous wetland in what should, in fact, be a dry winter thirstland. Suzy's Duckpond becomes a lake connected to the rest of the Delta and the floodplains push out and expand into shimmering expanses of water.
The interior woodlands have taken on the parched, dusty aspect typical of the winter season, while the only depression still holding water from summer rainfall is Eastern Pan; the rest are now expanses of cracked mud jigsaw puzzles.
Interestingly, the Jiga Jiga Channel that flows from the northern tip of Chief's Island down towards Honeymoon Pan and Siberiana has completely dried out, in antithesis to every other watercourse in the area. This would mean that it was entirely fed by rainwater this season, and that upstream a blockage has prevented a major channel from feeding floodwater into it: another fascinating insight into the incredible dynamics of the system that surrounds us. The drying up of the channel also creates unseasonal fish traps, which became a focal point for a variety of birds and small crocodiles feasting on the hapless bounty of trapped fish.
May is also the month that Legadema turns nine years old and on the week of her birthday she turned up, in all her glory, at the Broken Baobab. To add further excitement, the guides hear what they think is the tell-tale mewing of tiny cubs emanating from the hollow of the ancient tree.
Three lionesses have been seen in the area close to camp and up to Siberiana. Judging by their skittish behaviour they do not belong to the resident prides of this locale. Some of us believe they may be the Swamp Lions who used to frequent the floodplain in front of camp, now pushed inland by the rising waters.
The Mporota Pride continue to dominate the western region of the concession, although it appears one of the Jao Boys, he of the bad eye, suffered a further injury to the afflicted orb a few weeks ago, and we haven't seen him since. The remaining male has been seen regularly, patrolling the territory held with the assistance of his large pride.
The Western Pride was seen regularly this month. For a couple of days they were on a buffalo kill near Tssessebe Street, and on other occasions we found them in the Wild Sage Pan area.
The Mathatha Pride remain in the southerly reaches of the area, between Suzy's and Simbira, where we usually come across them.
The Serondela male leopard provided us with an extremely unusual sighting this month. Tsile followed drag marks on the ground one morning, leading towards the airstrip from Baobab Bob. The trail went on for a couple of hundred metres, which is unusual in itself considering the number of hyaenas that are around the area. It eventually led to a large shepherd's tree, where high up in the branches we could discern the shape of an animal that the leopard was feeding on. A closer examination revealed a uniquely shaped foot dangling through the thick cover that could only belong to one creature: an aardvark! This is the first sighting of this amazing creature for many years; but in rather unfortunate circumstances!
Later that afternoon, at the same spot, we found the leopard still in the tree, sprawled over some thin branches in an attitude of relaxation. Below were an adult hyaena and two youngsters patiently waiting for a tasty morsel to drop from above. All of a sudden the hyaenas stiffened and looked towards the baobab. The leopard, too, roused himself and moved to a more substantial branch, before the lone wild dog came bounding out of the scrub and ran right up to the tree. Scenting the leopard, she bounced on her hind feet and barked at the hissing cat above before scent-marking around the tree vociferously, watched by a bemused trio of hyaenas. This done, she shot into the bush once more and the hyaena loped off behind her. We have seen the lone wild dog regularly this month with her attendant jackal "packs", mainly in the area from Tortoise Kill down as far as Wild Sage Pan.
Lebadi, the old dominant male leopard, is still around. We found him on the prowl one afternoon near Eastern Pan.
The highlight of the month must be the three sightings we have had of a male cheetah. First we saw him in the area north of Eastern Pan, then way further south near First Mogobe. On the first occasion, he was being followed closely by hyaenas who seemed intent on driving him away in an example of interspecies competition. On the third occasion, he was in the Siberiana area, finishing off an impala kill in the early afternoon. By the time the hyaenas arrived, he had had his fill and nonchalantly walked away. We hope that he will remain in the area for the time being, however he faces stiff competition from the lion and hyaena populations.
The second major highlight (of many this month) was the return of the pack of five wild dogs seen a few months ago. They came into the area a couple of times, and once they were chased from the airstrip to beyond Suzie's Duckpond by the territorial hyaena clans. The female in the pack is pregnant which means they should be looking for a den site next month. It would be a huge bonus if they decide to have their puppies here in the Mombo area!
Large herds of zebra and giraffe are being seen all over the concession. On just one drive Brooks counted about eighty giraffe and countless zebra in the plains of Siberiana Road.
We had one rhino sighting this month: Mmabontsho, the female black rhino.
We celebrated a special occasion with our friend and guest Chris Wallinger, who racked up a 100 nights with us this month, having first visited Mombo in 1999! Chris has become a big part of our Mombo lives, and even considers himself to be an extra staff member when he visits. In honour of his achievement, we have named a place where he photographed Tortillis, Legadema's mother, in 1999, "Wallinger's Hollow".
Staff in Camp
Little Mombo: Tsile as guide and Pen as manager
Mombo Camp: Malinga, Moss, Sefo and Moses as guides and Vasco, Katie, Ruby, Dineo and KC as managers.
Xigera Camp update
- May 2012 Jump
to Xigera Camp
Chitabe Camp update
- May 2012 Jump
to Chitabe Camp
The month of May has seen winter descend upon us with very chilly mornings, lovely midday temperatures and the expected drop in temperatures in the afternoons and evenings - typical winter weather, which is actually just about perfect. The game has been excellent for the whole month and we have also started to get some good sightings of one of the resident female cheetah with her cubs, which is a good sign for us as it had been quite some time since we last saw this female with her cubs. Originally there were five cubs, but there is now only two.
One of the highlights for the month was seeing a leopard and a hyaena feeding side by side on an impala kill. This was very unusual as one would expect them to launch into battle, but for some reason they seemed to bury the hatchet and dined together.
The game viewing around camp has been fantastic for the entire month, so most of the drives took place around the camp area, hardly venturing far away.
Big numbers of buffalo have also returned to the area, attracting many more lion to the area. As luck was on our side, a group of guests who were doing a photographic course got to witness two subadult male lions taking down a buffalo and were able to get some great pictures.
On the subject of photography, the African sunset is always an iconic picture which tempts any photographer. One of our guides and his guests were peacefully watching the sun go down when a herd of buffalo easily numbering over a thousand started to cross the channel, kicking up dust which further enhanced the already beautiful sunset, and as the cherry on top, a large male lion started chasing the herd which stampeded off into the distance. This was a truly spectacular sighting.
Some of the other sightings that we had during the month was a huge African rock python, which was around six metres long! We also encountered two leopard which were in the middle of a territorial battle. Both the felines were female, and the altercation lasted the entire day.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Trevor, Joel, Lieana, Tiny.
Guides: Barberton, Luke, Molemi, Gordon, Thuso, Anthony.
Vumbura Plains Camp update
- May 2012 Jump
to Vumbura Plains Camp
This month, we had quite a drastic drop in temperature which was coupled with the first push from the annual inundation. The change of the seasons has caused most of the deciduous trees to lose their leaves and start turning brown. However, all the vegetation along the floodplains and water courses has managed to hold onto its green foliage.
The month of May was also characterised by great and amazing sightings, quite often from camp. Right in camp, we were often treated to sightings of elephant, giraffe, kudu, red lechwe, impala, buffalo, tsessebe and some great sightings of sable - an antelope which Vumbura has got a reputation for fantastic sightings of in Botswana.
Big cats are always on the guests' list of animals that they would like to see and we have been very lucky to encounter leopards on a regular basis. Some very large males have been seen scouting the area. The female leopard Selonyana has been seen with her cub, which is almost a subadult and is looking healthy. Towards the end of the month, one of our guides came across a female with a very young cub, which we assume to be around three months old. The great leopard sightings did not stop there, as we had the privilege to witness a successful warthog hunt.
Continuing on the feline front, we had a very interesting month with regard to lions, as new coalitions have pushed into the area and are looking to take over the Kubu Boys territory. The tension is building, and it is only a matter of time until an epic battle unfolds when the area's dominant males are confronted by the new coalitions. Evidence of this was seen when, one night during dinner, a male lion walked right through camp, advertising his presence through his resonating roar. We all finished up dinner very quickly and jumped onto a vehicle to investigate the scene. We found seven males engaged in a savage battle. The resident lioness population has been on the move to try and prevent infanticide, and we hope that the new males don't find the cubs.
The wild dogs have also been very active in the area and we have seen them a number of times. Most of the sightings which we have had were of the dogs in hot pursuit of impala. We have been very fortunate to see them from camp. The pack has been witnessed killing kudu, impala and wildebeest right in front of camp. On one occasion the tables were turned on the dogs, as we saw them being chased by four male lions. Fortunately for the dogs, they were able to outrun the larger felines.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Kago (KG), Martha, Noko, Britt, Lorato, Lebo and Precious.
Guides: ST, Ban, Emang, Ron, Laz and Mock.
Photographs by KG and Noko
Newsletter by KG
Little Vumbura Camp update
- May 2012 Jump
to Little Vumbura Camp
Duba Plains Camp update
- May 2012 Jump
to Duba Plains Camp
Banoka Bush Camp update
- May 2012
Weather and Landscape
The month of May has brought with it a magical range of colours - first with the leaves of the Kalahari apple leaf changing from shades of green to a bright yellow before falling to the ground. The mopane trees give us a ray of warm colours as their leaves turn a spectrum of reds, yellows and browns. The landscape has started to dry out making game viewing all the better. Sunsets have been spectacular this month as the last rays of sun catch the dust in the air.
May was the month of lions at Banoka! Early one morning we were woken up by the roaring of two lions near camp - the guests and guides alike were all keen to see if they could find the lions, so jumped onto the vehicle quickly. After driving for only five minutes from camp, one of our guides found an elephant bull who had reached the end of his days, and the lions had taken advantage of the abundance of food and had already feasted on it. This event has brought about many exciting evenings and early mornings with all the predators, as hyaena have been in camp every night amongst the lions - as well as a beautiful female leopard.
Our guests were also spoilt by the sighting of a lioness with her cubs suckling one afternoon, and the same day saw two male lions at a buffalo kill.
As mentioned above, the vegetation is thinning out a lot, so game viewing is becoming much easier which has resulted in an abundance of general game sightings.
Winter has offered great opportunities for guided walks through the bush. Ollie took some of our staff to explore one of the islands near camp where we found spoor of many mammals, had to change direction a few times due to the many elephants encountered - this was an incredible experience which was enjoyed by all the staff. The guests have thoroughly enjoyed their walks, finding a sleeping ground used by our resident elephants amongst many other things. Walking really does offer an opportunity to experience the smaller wonders of the ecosystem and gain an intimate bond with nature.
"My soul has been renewed with laughter and love, thank you Banoka."
"This has been the best three days! Everyone has helped in providing superb memories and incredible experiences with lots of laughter. Loved it!"
Staff in Camp
Managers: Cheri, Lopang and Meshack.
Guides: Vinny, Chris, Willie, Rogers and Ollie.
Newsletter by Cheri Ross
Photographs by Ollie, Willie and Maureen Fox.
Jacana Camp update
- May 2012 Jump
to Jacana Camp
Winter is upon us in the Okavango Delta, with the return of hot water bottles to snuggle up to in the night and a bowl of steaming porridge to keep the morning chill at bay. By late morning, however, there is nothing better than basking in the warm sun and slowly discarding the warmer layers.
The annual inundation has reached our area as the many waterways and channels fill up with crystal-clear waters that have originated in the Angolan highlands. The rising water levels have created the ideal conditions for fantastic game viewing from the camp's main deck. We have experienced awesome interactions between African fish-eagles and Cape clawless-otters. Every time the otters swim in front of camp, the resident fish-eagles swoop down towards the aquatic mammals, causing them to scatter in a splash of panic. At first, we thought that the large raptors might be after the otters, but after watching these interactions for some time, we came up with a convincing conclusion. The fish-eagles were taking on the role of cattle egrets following a large herd of buffalo. As the otters glided through the water, the opportunistic eagles would feed off of the disturbed fish. Some of the fish being pulled out were huge - amazing how nature adapts in order to satisfy primal needs.
Mokoro trips have been very popular, with most guests indulging in this activity. Guests on mokoro trips have been enjoying some fantastic sightings of Pel's fishing-owl.
Recently, our guests returned from a morning game drive in a rather sombre mood from witnessing the death of a lion cub on the Jao floodplain. The lioness had led her three cubs through the water to cross from one island to another. The five-month-old cubs were too small to walk through the water and had to swim. One of the cubs grew tired and was clearly battling to keep its head above water. The exhausted cub started crying out for its mother, which immediately turned around and gave the cub a few encouraging pushes and nudges, before turning around and continuing the trek through the water. The poor cub grew tired again quickly and started calling out for its mother again. This time however, the mother was out of earshot and couldn't hear the cub. As nature dictates, only the strongest will survive, and this was a stark reminder to us all as we looked at the lifeless body of the cub as it floated in the water.
Our spirits were picked up again the following week, as some guests encountered a three-day-old elephant being carefully nurtured by its mother - thus we saw birth and death, the highs and lows of life...
Staff in Camp
Managers: Phil and Jo Oliver.
Guides: Timothy Samuel, Moruti Maipelo and Rex Sanyedi.
Abu Camp update
- May 2012 Jump
to Abu Camp
As the inundation reaches its peak this month and winter sets its cold grip on our evenings, the occupants of Abu Camp are spending more and more time wrapped in blankets and snuggled round campfires with Amarula-hot chocolate and marshmallows.
That is not to say, however, that the bush is not being enjoyed to its fullest. It is a well-known fact that the dry African winter brings some of the best game viewing of all and so we set off on long journeys with picnic baskets and hot coffee, ready to experience all that the wilderness has to offer.
The tree known as Double Baobab, which recently lost is footing and became 1.5 Baobab, has played host this month to a family of leopard - a young mother and her cubs. The family has decided that for now the area is home, and so a trip out toward this magnificent tree often rewards us with views of the enchanting trio. Closer to camp, the large resident male has been seen several times crossing the bridge that connects our island to the airstrip, his large paw-prints telling the tale of his nightly patrol.
Fishing in the Delta has never been so good - although it seems our skills are up against some serious competition. Beautiful African fish-eagles with their sharp eyes soar above, waiting for their chance to descend upon the water at the first sign of a splash. And Cape clawless otters, happily enjoying the abundance of water, snatch up fish from right next to the boat, showing us how superior their methods are.
Grand bateleur eagles, saddle-billed storks and on one occasion, lesser flamingo, colour our sky, perhaps en route to the Makgadikgadi Pans for the summer breeding season.
It is always interesting to see how people gravitate and become attached to the creatures around them. This phenomenon became apparent in all the human residents of Abu when a large and formidable lion attacked the young male from the Yellow-eyed Pride in March. Believing the worst, we all became stricken with sadness at the thought of the beautiful lioness who had carefully raised her cubs alone, only to lose one to this solitary brute. We felt her anguish as she returned the next day softly calling for him, hoping for any sign of life, with no response. After weeks of lingering in the area with her other two cubs, one day we saw him emerge from a bush, battered and beaten but alive! His doting mother had been bringing him food. As soon as he was able to walk, they fled the area, perhaps never to return. However, as the month drew to a close, we received a message on the radio that one of the guides had found a pride of four lions. We rushed out to see them, and there, lying healthy and happy in the shade were all four members of the Yellow-eyed Pride. We couldn't be happier to have them all home, safe and sound, on our concession. The deep voices of their roars once again join a cacophony of sound in the evenings.
The herds of elephant, pushed together for the first time in a year as they escape the dry lands surrounding the Delta, trumpet and rage at each other for coming too close. Impala entering rutting season send out loud and often unnerving noises into the darkness; who knew such a growl could emit from such a pretty antelope? And our constant companions, the hyaenas, whoop their long melodious call.
The hyaena cubs are moving further and further from their den, occasionally peeking out at us from under a bush as our strange party of humans and elephants pass by. A family of warthogs has taken to joining the herd on morning walks; perhaps they find our bulky humble elephants give a sort of familiar safety. Warona however does not take well to these intruders and chases them off with a storming charge and a shake of her ears before quickly retreating to the shelter of her mom. And young Abu, tired of the conversation of females, is seeking more and more often the company of wild bulls, rushing back to the herd as the days draw to a close, not wanting to be left behind.
Written by Cayley Christos
Elephant photographs by Julian Mendes
update - May 2012 Jump
to Kwetsani Camp
Weather and Water Levels
Once again, the majestic waters of the Okavango Delta, have begun their movement into the vast sands of the Kalahari, making their way to places unknown and areas left for discovery by the curious and the adventurous. We have not experienced the vast amounts of water predicted for this year nor have we reached the levels that last year brought us. But nevertheless, the year has been great so far, and we look forward to the progress still to come.
The early flitter of cold winds has arrived, and we prepare ourselves for the cold and the excitement of hot water bottles and cosy blankets at night. Various bird species have moved north for winter, while others are resident here. But yet again the Delta has not failed us, as animal species start to change and the smaller yet acclimatised insects and creatures come out to embrace with us another chilly winter filled with adventures and experiences we all need to share with the world.
Lions, lions, lions - what wonderful sightings we have had, from an enormous male under a tent, to the cute and cuddly cubs beneath our feet, as we walk to and from the tents on an elevated walkway that provides safety and security from creatures below. We have had the fortunate experience this season to watch as the young males and females have grown in size and in character, from feeding on a warthog knee-deep in water, to venturing across open plains and through deeper waters looking for suitable grounds to relocate to.
Leopard at Hunda Island have been a joyous treat. Many guests and guides have returned from Hunda bragging and boasting about leopards in trees with impala kills, to leopards being chased up trees by hyaenas. Our Tubu female leopard has had two cubs in December and is ever so careful and secretive when it comes to the safety of her offspring.
Elephants have slowly but surely begun to show their faces in and around camp, as they ever so eagerly await the ripening of the real fan palm-nuts way up high in the brushes of the branchless trunks. As the young ones learn and discover new tricks and survival tactics they still provide us with hour upon hour of humorous behaviour.
Lechwe have become more alert and aware of the lion in the area, as they have fallen victim to the feeding purposes of these hungry cats. As they run through the water in large numbers, the sounds that are produced are an alerting factor for photographers to whip out their cameras and click away as the next few episodes of lion hunting in water unfolds.
The Pel's fishing-owl has been spotted again, in and around the area surrounding the island of Kwetsani. Many pictures and memorable moments of this bird in action go with the excitement of being able to witness such an amazing experience so close to the place we call home.
Bee-eaters have been active and seen all over the island displaying the grace of their majestic flight while hunting for insects with skill in the tall grasses and above the clear trickling waters of the Delta.
Lilac-breasted rollers have provided beautiful moments for photography with their amazing colours and swift moving actions. These feathered friends and their phenomenal beauty are still with us during these cold times, and will remain with us through the cold and the dry period to come.
As Bradley White and Annelize Hattingh depart from the Delta, they say goodbye and farewell to the home they have made and the wonders they have witnessed for the last two years.
"We cannot express in words deep enough, how this experience and knowledge will remain with us for many moons to come. Leaving behind only footsteps in the sand that will in time be washed away by even greater floods to come. We step aside with great sorrow and sadness, yet still bearing smiles on our faces and warmth in our hearts as we know deep inside that those who will step in our place will leave even greater footsteps and create a life time of memories of their own.
We say thank you and farewell to David and Cathy Kays and to the family that they have created. We wish you every success and prosperity that you are most destined to earn."
Guides in Camp
Gaopalelwe Ronald, Florence Kagiso, Vundi Kushambo
Photographs by Bradley White
update - May 2012 Jump
to Jao Camp
Weather and Landscape
Winter has arrived - the mornings and evenings are getting a bit chilly and we have put the mushroom heaters out upstairs, the hot water bottles are ready and the boma blankets are out. However, the days have been lovely with no clouds or wind and temperatures reach a comfy 28 °C. These great conditions have allowed everyone to spend more time out on activities.
As we reach the end of the rainy season, the water levels have dropped a little, but we are anticipating the arrival of the annual inundation. The slight drop in water has attracted a myriad of water birds as the fish are now more exposed.
It has been an amazing month on Jao and on Hunda Island. The Jao Pride has returned home from Kwetsani. Unfortunately, only three cubs have survived thus far, but they appear to be healthy and are growing quickly - we are keeping our fingers crossed that these cubs will boost the size of the Jao Pride. The pride has been spending a lot of time along the floodplain, which is where we spend a lot of time too, doing mokoro trips. This coincidence has resulted in some great lion sightings from the mokoro. On one occasion, a lucky group of guests got to witness the pride stalk and kill a lechwe from the mokoro - a truly extraordinary experience!
The general game concentrations have been very good around the camp area, so one doesn't have to go far to experience the magic of this area. Buffalo have been moving into the area and we have seen a number of impressive bulls throughout the month. Elephant and hippo have also visited the camp area a good few times and often entertained our guests in between activities.
A real treat this month was the sightings of a water mongoose. These creatures are not uncommon in the area, but they are very elusive and it is rare to see one in the open for more than a blink - we experienced three very relaxed sightings.
On the subject of aquatic mammals, we are excited about the pair of Cape clawless otters that have set up a den just in front of the main area. They have produced two youngsters and have been teaching them how to swim and fish in clear view of all our guests - how amazing is that, to watch four otters catch fish while enjoying a hearty breakfast.
On another exciting note, the young male leopard that has been seen a couple of times seems to be settling down in the area. He was seen four times this month and is becoming relaxed in the presence of the vehicles. Let's just hope that this feline decides to stay and make his territory on our island.
Other sightings of note this month include some great sightings of honey badger - a very big male was seen three times this month around the airstrip area. Three sitatunga were seen as well.
Birds and Birding
Generally speaking, birding is somewhat more challenging at this time of year, as all of the migrants have left. However, with the abundance of aquatic food and the large number of fruiting trees, Jao has produced some outstanding winter season birding!
A very impressive martial eagle has been hanging around camp, possibly looking for mongoose or otters. Pel's fishing-owl has also been seen a number of times, as they too take advantage of the abundant fish resource.
The variety of bee-eaters and kingfishers has added splashes of colour to the surrounds. All in all, there has never been a dull birding moment on the island.
Our guests have been taking full advantage of the water activities, which include mokoro and boat trips. As mentioned above, there is a lot of animal activity close to the camp, so there is no need to go too far away. We spent most of our time on Jao this month and didn't need to go to Hunda Island very often. The water activities were often combined with drives, which allowed us to view some nocturnal wildlife.
We have also been doing barge sundowners and bush dinners before it gets too cold and this has also gone down well with all the guests.
When we did venture onto Hunda, we made a day of it and enjoyed a scrumptious picnic lunch on the island. There are currently lots of zebra, wildebeest, kudu, giraffe and elephant on Hunda. As usual, the island has also produced good leopard sightings too.
A big hit for this time of the year is the fishing which we have on offer at camp. Guests have been catching some great specimens of tiger fish, catfish and bream. All the fish are caught with a spinner and are released.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Antony and Kalinka Mulligan, Neuman Vasco, Billy and Minette McKechnie, Marina Lunga, Phil Ngisi, Retha Prinsloo and Cindy Swart.
Guides: Cruise Mollowakgotta, BEE Makgetho, Caltex Odumetse, Johnny Mowanji and GT Sarepito.
update - May 2012 Jump
to Seba Camp
May has been the month where the weather has changed around completely. Mornings are getting exceptionally cold and the morning cups of coffee and tea are a welcome introduction to the day, along with a bowl of the chef's special hot porridge. The drives are very cold, so the use of ponchos is a must, along with the hugging of 'bush-babies' (hot water bottles).
The African mangosteen trees are still a safe haven for many birds, bats and monkeys, and the sycamore fig tree in front of our main deck is in full fruit. This creates a lot of excitement as monkeys are always attracted to the small fruits, providing countless hours of entertainment as they frolic from branch to branch. Green Pigeons also flock to these trees, and at any time of the day you can spot them almost hanging upside down getting to the ripe orange berries, their beautiful green plumage shining in the bright sun. A Bradfield's Hornbill was spotted in camp, flying in between the trees with our other hornbill species.
A small lion pride of four was spotted near the Double Baobab area of the concession, and all four were very relaxed around the game viewing vehicles, showing off their beauty and power by climbing a termite mound in full view of the guests and starting to pose in different positions - as if they knew the guests were watching them.
The hyaena den near the camp has seen the very small cubs growing up very fast, and they are even starting to wander as far as the airstrip at night. Of course the alpha female tends to nip at them to send them back to the safety of their home, but cheeky they are, and several hours later begin to explore again. On one morning, the clan was found near the den feeding on a kudu carcass, which was devoured in no time at all.
As the impala rutting season continues, the night sounds are dominated by the grunting and roaring of these aggressive males as they compete for dominance of the many herds surrounding camp. Elephant breeding herds are also a regular sighting in the camp, as well as the many hippos that swim and feed in and around the lagoon in front of the main area. Bushbuck, kudu and baboons are also found in and around the camp. There have been many leopard sightings as well, and many times they have been heard in close proximity to the camp at night. A buffalo bull has taken up residence and, as per the African experience, gives our guests an exciting walk back to their tents during the night and day, then relaxing in front of the rooms eating the soft reeds giving wonderful opportunities for photography.
Pygmy Geese seem to have moved into the main area, and although rarely seen swimming, they often get disturbed by the hippo and elephant activity and fly out the water, usually in groups of four, and head to a safer location. On one occasion in camp, a juvenile Martial Eagle was seen flying very low above the trees, and the most amazing thing about the sighting was an adult African Fish-Eagle who was attacking it continuously, although due to the size difference, the Martial Eagle did not seem to react much to this assault. There is a resident Verreaux's Eagle-Owl that has taken resident at Seba, and can be spotted along the entrance of the camp if you are lucky. There is also a resident African Barred Owlet that can be found around camp on most nights.
An exciting prospect in the development of the camp is the refurbishing of our swimming pool, which began construction to extend the length slightly. The new pool area will be finished within a couple of days, and it is already starting to take shape quite nicely. This will allow our guests to have more space during high tea - the view of the floodplain scattered with majestic palm trees will make the food taste that much better. Sunsets are still as beautiful as ever, and sundowners at Claire's Corner are the final touch for an otherwise relaxing day.
"This is the most wonderful experience I spent with my family. I will be thankful forever."
"Seba Camp and your entire team are amazing! You truly exceeded all our expectations and gave us some great memories. We'll be back!"
Staff in Camp
Managers: James Moodie, Virgil Geach, Claire Bathfield and Alex Alufisha.
Guides: Matamo, Speedy and Jacko.
Newsletter and photos by James Moodie
Tubu Tree Camp
update - May 2012 Jump
to Tubu Tree Camp
Weather and Landscape
Winter is on our doorstep, so to speak. Every morning there is a chill in the air, which is accompanied by a breeze that blows until midday, but once the breeze dies down, the jackets come off. The afternoon temperatures then increase to the mid-20s (Celsius). We have not seen a cloud in the sky for the last month.
The annual inundation reached its peak in the area, and the water level started to drop towards the end of the month. However, we have still been able to enjoy our water activities which include mokoro trips, boat cruises and fishing excursions. The fishing has been exceptionally good as the water level drops and exposes a mass of fish. Some great specimens of nembwe, stripped tilapia and African pike were caught and released.
May was another great month for leopards!
There is a young female that has taken up residence in the airstrip area. She is making her own kills, often challenges her mother (the Boat Station Female), and doesn't easily back down from the scavenging hyaena. She has learnt very quickly to take her kills up into a tree, unlike her mother who has the habit of dragging her meal into thick vegetation, resulting in her often losing her kill to the hyaena.
Close to the end of the month, the above-mentioned female killed a warthog during an afternoon game drive. Not long after being found by the guides, the hyaena also arrived. A great sight for sure, seeing the interaction between leopard and hyaena - the hyaena were waiting patiently at the base of the tree for a tasty morsel to fall down. When the guides returned to the sighting the next morning, they found the young female's mother feeding on the carcass. Her daughter was sitting at the base of the tree, glaring up at her mother and growling. What made this sighting truly unique, was the fact that two hyaena were sitting next to the young feline on the ground! The mother soon jumped out of the tree and disappeared. The daughter and one of the hyaena then had a 'stare down,' standing face to face, not even one foot apart, growling and snarling at one another. Eventually both of the predators turned around and went their own way. The game viewers retuned again in the afternoon and found the young female and a hyaena sleeping side by side at the base of the tree - how bizarre!
In the beginning of the month we found the Tubu Female wandering around, just south of the camp. The area that she was walking around in was riddled with hyaena tracks. The feline began softly calling out to her cubs, but with no response. Just as we thought the worst had happened, a tiny cub came dashing out of the thickets, straight to mom. After a lengthy greeting ceremony, the feline family walked into some brush and disappeared. We have not seen any signs of the second cub, so we assume that it perished at the teeth of the hyaena.
Large numbers of elephant have been congregating around Tubu and can be found on every outing. On many a night, guests and staff were held 'captive' at the main area by elephant that had taken to feeding along the walkways back to the rooms and staff accommodation. All the captives thoroughly enjoyed the siege as it meant extra time for viewing these magnificent animals, just listening to them feed and communicating in the darkness and still of the night. Large herds, some with very small calves, have been seen as well as many bachelor herds and solitary males.
The camp bush dinners have also been full of surprises this month. On one occasion a clan of nine hyaena rocked up during dinner and started sniffing around in the shadows edge. It was full moon on this particular night, so we could all see the hyaena clearly. The scavengers stuck around for a while and then ran off emitting their characteristic 'whoop' calls.
On another occasion, we were visited by a herd of elephant, which came as close as 50 metres away. The younger members of the herd were curious and wanted to have a closer look, but the matriarch did not allow it and promptly disciplined any youngster that came closer. After about an hour, the herd lost interest and moved off, crashing through the bush.
Birds and Birding
May turned out to be a great month for birding. Despite the migratory species leaving, the resident species have taken up centre stage and have not disappointed. A small flock of Retz's helmetshrikes have taken a liking to the large marula tree next to the bar. These active little birds are always calling and fluttering around.
The water birds have also produced some great sightings and records for the camp. African openbills, green-backed herons, slaty egrets, great-white egrets and goliath herons are often seen together, wading through the water searching for food.
On most mornings we could hear the awesome calls of a family group of southern ground-hornbill close to camp as they proclaim their territory.
"The managers, staff and guides were superior. Food was good and plentiful. Gluten-free foods were much appreciated. Animal sightings, thanks to our excellent guide, Gibson, including leopard, zebra, giraffe and many more, were exciting. Loved the baboons playing on our tent! Accommodation was lovely and comfortable."
"Stay in the middle of a big elephant herd, the "leopard-tracking", the visit of the hyaena at the bush dinner, the beautiful room, the mokoro trips, the very, very friendly and kind staff, and the very delicious food. Thank you for everything, we loved every minute of it!"
"The game drives! Monday night singing, dancing and food! All of the food was delicious. The guides were very informative about everything! The staff were outstanding... We loved everything about our visit - don't change a thing! Thank you so much."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Hein Holton and Eloise Van der Walt.
Guides: Kambango Sinimbo and Gibson Kehemetswe.
Kalahari Plains Camp
update - May 2012 Jump
to Kalahari Plains Camp
to Page 2