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South Africa camps
Pafuri Camp update - May 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
As we approach the beginning of winter, the mornings and evenings are very cold - at least during the day it is nice and warm. We have already experienced a night-time low of 6 ° C, so we are expecting a pretty cold winter.
The bush is drying out very quickly as most deciduous trees have already dropped their leaves as we didn't receive much rain at all during the rainy season, which is now long gone...
Game viewing this month has been phenomenal! We started off with several leopard sightings and it continued throughout the whole month. We had 26 leopard sightings this month compared to 23 last month. On the evening of the 20th, just before we started with dinner at the boma, a leopard walked past and a herd of impala immediately started to alarm call, drawing our attention to the spotted feline. The following day the very same leopard was seen around the staff village.
As we would have expected with the abundance of leopard sightings, the lion sightings were not good this month, as the Pafuri Pride seems to be very active on the southern banks of the Luvuvhu River. The pride was seen on four occasion during the month and the dominant male (Nkanu) was also seen a couple of times. The young nomads that have popped up in the concession over the last two months were not seen at all this month and we suspect that they have moved on to another area in their search for a vacant territory. There have been reports of the three lions (a male and two females) on the extreme western side of the concession, so perhaps we will have a more competitive lion population in the concession in time to come?
Elephants are plentiful and we have been seeing large breeding herds almost every day on game drive and sometimes at camp. Buffalo herds are seen regularly around the floodplains. We have been seeing large herds of eland as well on the floodplains, as these animals are seen mostly in the drier months.
There were two giraffes that were seen last year for at least two and half months and they disappeared for about seven months after that. The reason why the left, no one knows, and guess what... This month three giraffe are back again! We are happy and proud to say that we have three giraffe in the concession now and hopefully they will stay longer this time. Surprisingly, these animals are so relaxed and we really don't have a clue where they came from.
General game viewing has been outstanding as usual. There are lots of nyala, kudu, bushbuck, warthog, zebra, impala, baboons and vervet monkeys all over the concession.
Birds and Birding
Birding has been good this month and we have spotted our resident specials such as Pel's Fishing-Owl, White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Eastern Nicator and Three-banded Courser.
The birding highlight for the month was the sighting of a Martial Eagle preying on a white-throated monitor lizard. When Enos arrived at the scene, the large raptor had already removed the formidable lizard's eyes in a bid to subdue it. The lizard was thrashing around like crazy and managed to chase the bird away. We are sure that the eagle returned to finish the mortally wounded lizard off later.
Fulvous Duck are not commonly seen in Pafuri but we saw three at Crooks' Corner. Overall it was a good birding month.
On the 12th of May the Save the Elephant NGO and the Kruger National Park vet team came to put collars on two elephants - which subsequently became known as Mondli and Mangala. To date 12 individuals have been collared since the project started in 2009. This is an ongoing project to monitor the movement of these animals across the Trans-Frontier Park and the next collaring is happening again in June.
Pafuri Walking Trail update - May 2012 Jump
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Camp Jabulani update - May 2012
Kings Camp update - May 2012 Jump
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Winter mornings are very chilly and the guests savour our famous "Choco-rula" (Hot chocolate mixed with Amarula) during the breaks in the morning to warm up!
The Impala rutting season is also in full swing and daily fights between males in bachelor groups are a common sight full of photographic opportunities! During this time the rams are often killed by predators, especially Leopard, as they lose focus of almost everything except fighting off the intruding ram.
These males fighting were very entertaining and the guy with the shorter (broken) right horn turned out the victor with his 'jabs'. The following day his luck ran out as he was killed by 'Umfana' male leopard. (see Leopard)
Two new Hyena dens were discovered. One down South from camp and the other more to the East (possibly the 'Rockfig' clan). The young ones are not very active yet, but we'll keep you updated throughout the next few months.
Both 'Ntombi' and 'Rockfig jr.' were seen regularly during the month and we are HAPPY that both the boys are quite approachable by the vehicles!
'Ntombi' and her 5 month old boy spent a lot of time in close range around the camp and were found several times on kills, ranging from Steenbuck and Duiker to large adult male Impala. The youngster was very nervous at first but during the last 3 weeks, after a few approached kills, he started to show more confidence towards the vehicles and people talking. We are sure to have more exciting sightings of them as the lad grows up!
'Rockfig jr.' and her 6 month old boy were also seen frequently with highlights being the confident attitude the cub developed which will be beneficial to his survival in the future. He is very clued up and vigilant about happenings around them when they are on a kill!
'Umfana' (Ntombi's previous cub, grown up), made up a decent portion of May's leopard sightings. He spends a lot of time in the East ('Rockfig jr. territory) and often run into some trouble with this experienced female. He does however stand his ground at his kills if she shows up and drives her away. Even though she has experience on her side he is much larger than her.
He managed to kill that male impala I spoke about earlier and dragged it off into the riverbed close by. Here he had some visitations from another well known leopard, 'Tumbela' (Rockfig jr.'s previous cub, 4 months older than him)!
We had AMAZING lion sightings during the month!!
The Machaton pride spent a lot of time on our traversing and was seen three times on good sustainable kills.
Midway through the month they killed a large buffalo cow and after two days they got chased off by two new males from Avoca to the far South of the reserve. A few days later they killed a calf from the same large herd of Cape buffalo, but finished that in less than 6 hours.
Not long after that kill they got lucky with a young giraffe but got chased off again by the same two males on the second evening!This was quite brutal and one of the young boys got killed in this encounter… The rest of the pride scattered and was seen on different locations and in split compositions.
Two lionesses and two youngsters made it off to the South, but one lioness remained searching for the remaining four youngsters. During that night the last remaining 'Timbavati' boy showed up investigating the area after a very long absence. He his now struggling to maintain the bigger territory by himself, hence the intrusion from other males seeking territory!
He caught up with the grouping of four on yet another giraffe kill! One day later the remaining lioness got the other four boys rounded up and tracked the pride down up to the kill!
The 'Ross' pride from the Klaserie reserve showed up for a quick two day visit! The group composition was 2 large adult males, 6 adult lionesses (4 pregnant or with cubs) and 2 young sub-adults.
We saw two young lionesses from the 'Jacaranda' pride twice up North and both times we saw them they had full bellies. Clearly an impala per day keeps the doctor away! LOL
The 'Mafikizolo' pride completed our lion show for the month and we saw them on a few occasions following a big herd of Cape buffalo around.
ELEPHANT AND CAPE BUFFALO:
I can not even describe the numbers of both species that frequented the WHOLE traversing during the month! All I can say is WOW! Herds and herds of them ALL over!
See special sightings…
Any of our Rhino sightings! Not much information to be mentioned as per usual, but we did get lucky to see a Black Rhino!!
Greetings from Morné Hamlyn and the Kings Camp guiding team.
Report written by Morné Hamlyn.
Photography by Morné Hamlyn.
Video clips by Morné Hamlyn.
Leopard Hills update - May 2012 Jump
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Dramatic leopard interplay has dominated proceedings this month following the recent sensational lion dynamics. Grasses are beginning to recede and winter is settling in as the sunsets are becoming more and more intense and dramatic!
Smaller herds of buffalo have been drawn up to the Sand river and one such sunset was shared with an old bull "Daggaboy" trying his luck while pursuing a young female across the sandy shallows and into the emerging darkness.
A very busy month for the regal leopardess, she has been wandering far and wide while successfully winning over the 2 dominant males that bisect her territory in half. She is looking rather skinny and has a flesh wound on her back leg, possibly from the Kashane male, who seems to have had enough of her over eager flirting!
She is most likely pregnant now and can take a hard earned break from the males while looking for safe den sites…we are all hoping she chooses the safety of the cave below the lodge as she has done previously!
Here she is below mating with Dayone.
Our aspiring young leopardess was viewed frequently during the beginning of the month, displaying her usual playful nature while assuming her favoured positions atop termite mounds and marula trees. Towards month end we have hardly seen her though as Metsi has been very active calling and marking, probably pushing her north into thicker territory near the Sand river!
More frequent sightings of her towards the end of May around the granite hills to our west and suckle marks on her belly confirm what we had presumed…that she has a litter hidden up there somewhere. She has been very active marking and calling, securing her territory for the testing months ahead as she supports the demanding cubs!
With the river settling down and becoming more accessible we are now viewing her more regularly. Sightings of her are always scenically breathtaking as they are invariably along the Sand river which has opened up after the flooding, living up to it's very apt name.
Shangwa & her young male
Not many sightings of Shangwa however the relaxed and inquisitive young male above who is rather large for his tender age of only 2 years has become independent and moved west exploring the Sand river.
Usually shy and somewhat elusive, this female has been seen on her own a few times this month! Has she perhaps become habituated due to the extremely relaxed nature of the Dayone male while they were mating??
He has again been seen far more frequently this month and he played a starring role in some really interesting interplay with Hlaba Nkunzi.
After mating successfully at the beginning of the month they met up again at month end when he was a little taken aback by the wily lady of Leopard Hills, who took him on at his own game!
After leading him on for a while and presenting herself very alluringly he eventually gave in and assumed the position…only for her to teasingly dart away at the last minute, have a good laugh at the surprised look on his face!
To say that this male has grown in stature very quickly is the understatement of the year! His territory has grown just as rapidly and substantially as his formidable size.
See his intimidating stare below as he patrols one morning.
Here he is keeping a weary eye on Hlaba Nkunzi's wandering paw while mating.
Maxabeni young male
What a wonderful surprise to see this young male, son of Maxabeni female from Londolozi venturing here into the Western Sabi Sand.
He was born in October 2008, at 3 and a half years of age he is dispersing, growing stronger and will be looking for a territory in a year or so.
This is the month they veraciously announced their arrival in style one golden sunrise at Leopard Hills Camp.
They have spent most of the month along the Sand river, taking turns mating with the Othawa females as well as hunting buffalo. They certainly have lived up to their reputation and managed to take down 2 tough old bulls during the month.
Look closely at the images to see some new battle scars that they are sporting! Most likely from competition while they feed or a flaying Othawa lioness claw!
It is admirable how these lionesses have managed to keep their distance from the Selati boys! What this has meant though is that we haven't seen them for much of the month as they keep a low profile. The only sighting that lasted more than a day was when we found them in the far north west with a giraffe kill, after that was finished they vanished again.
These 3 lionesses really have warmed to the Selati's and there has been a feast of mating activity. Chances of some successful progeny under the Selati coalition are looking very reassuring for a pride who really struggled under the dominance of the Mapogo! See video of some mating footage.
Painted Dog Pack
The pack of 9 have not been seen here the whole month, it appears they may be denning somewhere in the east. Hopefully they venture here soon while out on the hunt.
Many close knit family groups (parades) are also being drawn up to the Sand river as winter settles in. See video below of a sundowner spent with a parade on the river as well as some footage of some young bulls sparring!
There seems to have been an elephant calf baby boom over here, clumsy and boisterous, these young pachyderms are prime entertainment for our guests!
Hippo's are spending more time away from the safety of the water as temperatures drop. We also have a tiny new addition to one of the waterholes, in the below image try and spot the little head peering above the water while staying close to mom's protection.
Interesting sightings in May
Receding winter vegetation and cooler temperatures improves our chances of encountering some rarely seen nocturnal wildlife! See video below of a relaxed African Civet that we came across one evening.
Eager anticipation of the first warming rays of morning light finds many animals and especially birds clambering up to exposed perches. See if you can identify the below species warming themselves.
This small raptor preys mainly on lizards/small reptiles.
Usually found on the ground, this male was singing proudly for his territory.
A lot of rebuilding work has been done after the flooding along the Sand river…it is no different for a pair of Hamerkops that are reconstructing their massive nest, it could take them a few months!
Rocktail Beach Camp update - May 2012 Jump
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Rocktail Bay Dive Report - May 2012 Jump
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It has been a magical May! This is the most wonderful time of year with warm sunny days and excellent weather. Most days we experience only a light wind if at all and this in turn allows for flat, calm sea conditions. Water temperatures are still warm at 25 degrees Celsius and visibility averages around 18-25 metres but we are spoilt with lots of crystal clear days, where the visibility is 30 metres plus.
The first day of the month was Anne and David's last day of their stay. During a dive at Coachman's Ledge, Anne noticed a school of blue-banded snapper acting strangely and on closer inspection she saw a frogfish swimming in the middle of them! What an exciting find to start the month off.
The same day, a group of guests headed out for an Ocean Experience and watched a manta ray from the boat and later snorkelled with a big pod of bottlenose dolphins. The following day, guests were spoilt again when they snorkelled with another manta and the same group of bottlenose dolphins!
We were spoilt with manta sightings throughout the month, with a total of ten different manta rays. One of the most memorable sightings was during a dive at Solitude. The sea was flat and the water was crystal clear. We were swimming across the sand towards the main rock when we saw a huge manta ray gliding alongside us all. It was time for us to ascend and we did so slowly, watching the manta ray circling the reef. Then a second one arrived and they both continued to circle us for about ten minutes. We were all mesmerised and did not want to leave the water!
Recent research, much of it conducted in Tofo, Mozambique, reveals that there are in fact two different species of manta rays, not just one as was previously believed! Next time you see a manta have a close look to see which type it actually is!
Dolphin encounters were also magical this month - it was as if the dolphins were also enjoying the warm, clear, calm waters and having fun playing with us. One encounter was so special, as a pod circled and swam with us for ages. Steve said he had been waiting his whole diving career to experience something like that and he's been diving for forty years!
There were lots of shark and ray sightings including grey reef sharks, white-tip reef sharks, a leopard shark and a guitar fish, honeycomb rays and a round ribbontail ray.
Those are just the big boys, but in fact, we saw so many special little fish as well. Purple paperfish, octopus, porcelain crabs and partner shrimps (Perclimenes magnificus and Perclimenes ornatus) in anemones, lots of nudibranchs and flatworms, long-nose hawkfish, mantis shrimps, a few oscillated snake-eels, an orangutan crab, squat shrimps (Thor amboinensis) and some marbled shrimps (Saron marmoratus).
The funniest sighting this month was of a male ember-parrotfish that had a remora stuck to its side. Remora are sucker fish that stick onto bigger fish and catch a ride. They are normally seen on big rays and sharks, so it was strange to see one on a parrotfish. We saw him at Pineapple Reef and for most of the month there he was with his remora, sometimes just swimming around, happy with his mate and other times he was frantically rubbing himself against the reef or the sand in a vain attempt to rid himself of his passenger. It seems that he got it right though, because towards the end of the month we saw him swimming along happily without his free-riding companion!
Thanks for all the wonderful photographs, Anne Livingstone!
Congratulations to the following divers:
Claire and Jonathan Sydow for completing their PADI Advanced Course.
Antoine and Beatrice Thomas, Saskia Beinaerts, Ray and Carmen Lindsay, Fabrizio Ruffo, Dwayne Marx and Christian Spies for completing their PADI Discover Scuba Diving Course.
Laure Campoy, Kathy Wagner and Carmen Lindsay for completing their confined water dive of the Discover Scuba Diving Course.
Esteban Campoy for completing his PADI Bubblemaker Course.
Yours in diving,
Darryl, Clive, Michelle, Ondyne
The Rocktail Dive Team
Makalolo Plains update - May 2012 Jump
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Little Makalolo update - May 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
Winter has certainly settled in, bringing us very chilly mornings and evenings. However, the afternoons have been awesome with high temperatures making us quickly forget the cruel chilly moments. Sadly our thermometer was (we suspect) hit by the cold one morning and it froze, never to rise again, hence we have no maximum and minimum recordings.
Due to the dry conditions that we have had, the grass has turned a golden colour which is very beautiful. Winter has definitely settled in as many trees now are leafless and those with leaves are all shades of brown, yellow and orange.
Game viewing has been great so far, as there are many elephant herds that come down to drink at the winter waterholes - one after the other. The camp hide has now become the place to be, as all our guests have traded their afternoon siesta for an action-packed session in the hide as the animals arrive in waves. Large herds of buffalo have been visiting the waterhole too.
The Linkwasha Pride of lions spent a week lounging around the camp area, but unfortunately they refused to show themselves during the day... however they wowed our guests as soon as darkness set in. The entire pride would often come out into the open and share their playful pride antics with us, as their cubs are now at a very playful stage and are constantly testing themselves against one another.
Our highlight for the month was the number of awesome cheetah sightings that we had. Our first for the month was of a female and her cubs. The cubs were cute and very playful all the while being very inquisitive about the presence of the vehicle. We had another great sighting of a male which came to the camp waterhole for a quick drink before moving off.
Other great sightings for the month included roan, wild dog and leopard.
Birds and Birding
With the onset of winter, most of the large raptor species are starting to nest. A number of vultures have been spotted scavenging on old kills, picking up bits and pieces of old bone in an effort to supplement their calcium intake to aid in good shell and egg production. Tawny Eagles have also been seen displaying osteophagy (the practice of eating bones).
A large flock of 25 Marabou Storks was spotted at Ngweshla sunbathing.
"The food was absolutely amazing! The staff were lovely and so friendly and our room was awesome. We loved the openness and views, copper accents were a surprise. We have never had a bathroom with a view. Piano playing and singing was awesome! Loved it!"
"How and where do I begin? Our time with you has been absolutely splendid. Being able to "unplug" from the dailies and just "be" has been the best. I desperately needed the calmness. Outstanding staff and the animals, wow wow wow!"
Staff in Camp
Managers: Rania Mutumhe and Charles Ndlovu.
Guides: Dickson Dube, Honest Siyawareva, Bulisani Mathe and Charles Ndlovu.
Davison's Camp update - May 2012
Weather and Landscape
Winter has arrived! The temperature has already dropped to 3° C on a number of occasions. The mornings are cold but it does heat up pretty quickly as soon as the sun rises. We experienced a maximum of 31° C during the middle of the month, but no rain as the rainy season left along with summer.
The bush that once was lush and green not so long ago has turned to browns, oranges and reds as the trees leaves change colour and fall to their rest on the Kalahari sands of Hwange. The grass is all shades of yellow, but there is still a lot of food for both the browsers and grazers.
It has been a very interesting month with a lot of animal sightings, especially because we have seen a number of rare species. In the first week our guides saw four striped polecats (also known as zorilla), which is very rare.
It was a very good month for lion sightings in the concession, as the resident pride has been seen in three separate groups on different occasions - 16 lion sightings were recorded this month. On the leopard side of things, there has been an individual which has taken a liking to the camp area, as we hear the characteristic 'huhuhu' call almost every night. We did see this master of the shadows on two occasions, but true to leopard nature, the feline was very elusive.
We have had quite a number of excellent bat-eared fox sightings throughout the concession as the landscape has dried and cleared. With this, game viewing in general becomes easier as the visibility improves, which has resulted in sightings of roan, African civet and honey badger.
A large herd of buffalo has moved into the area and, on a couple of occasions, they have taken a liking to the camp area and provided fantastic viewing and photographic opportunities. The camp also had the privilege to host a pair of mating sable, as the courting pair decided the area in front of the camp was perfect for them.
Other fantastic sightings include two cheetah sightings. We are sure that as we push into the dry season, wildlife concentrations are going to drastically increase around the winter waterholes.
Birds and Birding
Hwange always produces fantastic birding - the diversity and variety is staggering, even if all the summer migrants have left, we were still wowed by the resident birds.
African Fish-Eagles have been very vocal and have given guests at camp some wonderful aerial displays as they search the winter waterholes for food. As we edge into winter, the White-backed Vultures begin to nest, so we have had good sightings of breeding pairs preparing their messy stick nests.
"Loved the family unit and its location. All the staff were welcoming, open and extremely helpful and the guides were exceptional. Special kudos and applause for Calvet, Livingstone and Robert"
"Staff were warm and friendly, very accommodating. We loved watching all the animals come and drink at the waterhole. We do not eat wheat and the staff and chef were absolutely wonderful in accommodating us with great substitutions."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Andre, Tammy and Buhle.
Guides: Godfrey, Calvert, Brian, Robert and Livingstone.
Ruckomechi Camp update - May 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
The weather this month has been moderate. The early mornings and evenings have become chilly, but the midday temperatures are still nice and warm. We experienced average lows of 15° C and maximums of 32° C.
With the pods of the ana trees ripening and dropping to the ground, we are now seeing more wildlife congregate under these magnificent trees, in particular elephant and eland. The nyala berry trees are also bearing ripe fruit, once again attracting huge numbers of wildlife. As one drives off the floodplains and up and along the ridges, the air is filled with the scent of the flowering shepherd's trees, which are now in full bloom.
As we head into the dry season, the mighty Zambezi River has been teeming with wildlife, as the strong-flowing river provides precious drinking water. We also found herds of elephant swimming across the river in order to feed on the palatable vegetation on some small islands.
Once again the Ruckomechi Concession and its wildlife have delivered endless sightings. We have noticed an increase in animals moving towards the floodplains of the Zambezi River and down to the water as the bush is getting dryer and bare inland. Big herds of buffalo have been spotted making their way down the ridge from the mopane woodlands onto the floodplain to quench their thirst.
Elephant breeding herds have become regular visitors to the camp area, and species such as zebra, impala, waterbuck and kudu have also moved into the confines of the camp area.
This has been a tremendous month in terms of special sightings. One early morning, doing wake up calls for the guests, we noticed an impala ewe that had been killed by a leopard and was cached in a tree behind Tent 6. Having seen this, we knew that there was a very good chance that this leopard would come back in the evening to feed on its kill. That very night while having dinner with the guests, we heard sounds coming from the tree where the impala was killed and with this we decided to see what was taking place. As we took a peep around the corner of the dining area (as this was in very close proximity from where we were), we noticed two hyaena trying to get the carcass out of the tree. What an exciting sighting this was, watching the two scavengers try and climb up the tree with the leopard glaring down and hissing at them in anger. Surprisingly, the hyaenas' perseverance paid off as one of them managed to grab a small piece of the carcass and pull it down - it was at this moment that the feline sprang from the tree and dashed into some thick vegetation.
A small family of honey badgers has also been frequenting the camp area lately, with regular sightings almost on a nightly basis. The area and unusual sightings didn't stop there, as we saw a female porcupine with her young a couple of times too. Other great sightings include a awesome sighting of wild dog.
Birds and Birding
As there are a number of trees with ripe fruit, we have experienced some excellent sightings of the frugivore species such as Trumpeter Hornbills and African Green-Pigeons. The birding highlight for the month was the return of a Secretarybird to the area, as we have not seen any for some time. It is always amazing to watch these birds hunt and rummage through the grass.
This month the camp bids farewell to its assistant manager team. We wish Theunis and Belinda all the best in their future endeavours and thank them for their contribution to the Ruckomechi team.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Carel, Juliette, Sandy, Theunis and Belinda.
Guides: Gadreck, Kevin, Champion, Theunis and Mathew
Mana Canoe Trail update - May 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
The Mana Canoe Trails season has just opened, with the first trip being launching on the 17th of May. As the river has changed a lot since the close of the season last year, the guides were still exploring old and new channels that have formed and been cut off by the powerful flow of the mighty Zambezi River. The guides have managed very well and have already worked out the new routes for the season ahead.
As the rainy season draws to a close, the bush has started to dry out - the evidence is in the amount of fine dust in the air. The summer rains paste this dust to the barren earth in the hotter months, but as the wind picks up in late morning, you can often see whirlwinds and dust clouds blowing across the open floodplains. The temperatures haven't quite yet got the cold bite of winter, but the early mornings definitely have the a crisp freshness that only the morning camp fire and a cup of steaming coffee can ease.
Up close and personal encounters with crocodile and hippo are almost guaranteed for anyone that paddles along the Zambezi. Guest will not see a couple of the aquatic creatures; they will literally see hundreds, if not thousands throughout their trip.
There are always huge crocs lining the banks, showing off their impressive rows of pearly white teeth. The hippos in the deep channels watching you curiously as you pass, with the occasional loud snort, sending a fine mist of water over a metre into the air. With guests also seeing elephant, buffalo, lion, hyaena, waterbuck, impala, warthog, zebra, baboons and monkeys, the sightings for May have been very good.
On the last trip of the month, guests were lucky enough to find lion on two separate occasions on the same day! Both sightings were on foot - one though was particularly exciting as the guides found themselves in the middle of a territorial battle between the dominant male and two younger challengers obviously fighting for the right to call themselves king. As this is a very dangerous interaction, the guides kept a very good distance from the brawling males. Another very special sighting the guests got to experience was hyaena mating. This is very uncommon to see, and very few people have actually witnessed it.
The guests even got a brief glimpse of a leopard at the Chessa Campsite as it slunk away into the darkness of the 'adrenalin grass' that covers the floodplain in front of the camp.
Birds and Birding
As always the birdlife along the banks of the Zambezi was amazing, and the month of May was no exception. With the usual herons, egrets and noisy lapwings dominating the scene, as well as large flocks of the sombre looking African openbills. One sighting was of note in particular. At the Ilala Campsite, we witnessed a bat hawk showing off its incredible agility as it hunted the speedy little bats that are always so numerous just after sunset! With both the bats and the bat hawk silhouetted against the fading orange of the African sunset - it made for an incredible show.
Staff on Trail
Guides: Henry and Matthew
Toka Leya Camp update - May 2012 Jump
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As winter becomes reality, we are feeling the changes in the temperature during the nights as well as early mornings. Jerseys, jackets and blankets are appearing in game viewers as well as at the dinner tables. Despite this, day temperatures are still very pleasant and the blue starry nights are something that will definitely remain in many of our guests' minds.
Wildlife Sightings and other Adventures
Many who come to see the Victoria Falls have little expectations until they set their eyes on them. The feeling quickly changes to something related to awe. The word "mighty" best describes this natural wonder and many agree they should have not waited for so long to see them. Seeing them at their peak, such as at the moment, when the volumes of water are high and the spray is exceptional, is phenomenal. The stunning Falls will be like this for a long while yet before the river levels drop, and a new twist to their beauty emerges when you get to see exactly how deep they are and anticipate the amount of water that passes through at any given time.
This month we had the opportunity to take a few guests to see the lunar rainbow at the Falls. This experience of a lifetime is highly recommended and our guests loved it.
Wildlife has become more visible due to the dry season. As the grass turns brown, the herds of elephant and buffalo trample the ground increasing our chances of spotting the smaller herbivores. Guests are often astounded by the wildlife numbers in the area and, although there are no big cats to speak of, other fauna create much excitement. The animals here are habituated to our vehicles, so photographic opportunities of some rare species are often possible, and we pride ourselves on some of the best rhino photographic possibilities in the subregion.
Guests also like the fact that there is so much to do in Livingstone, while at the same time many take this opportunity to wind down after a week's safari in Zambia, Zimbabwe or Botswana. However, Livingstone is also a great starting point as the historical heritage of this town gives one a good insight into the African continent, the region and the early settlers. Cultural interaction is also at its best here and our relationship with the Sinde community has allowed most of our guests the chance of rubbing shoulders with the locals in their traditional homes and villages.
This month has seen a few changes in our guest offerings. Of note is the change in our traditional evening by offering the option of a braai as well as the traditional meal. We have also included the traditional option for most of our lunches, so as not to deprive those who would like to try an African dish. We have also taken into consideration the winter days and have moved our morning activities half an hour later and the afternoon activities half an hour earlier.
"We had an amazing time. The staff were so warm, friendly, and funny. Amazing food too! Thank you for a great adventure"
"Beautiful! Amazing staff could not have been better. Look forward to next time."
"Enjoyed my stay very much - Wonderful and accommodating staff. The Lunar rainbow was surely a highlight"
Management in Camp
General Managers - Petros Guwa
Camp Manageress - Gogo Guwa
FOH Manageress - Jacquie Munakomwe,
Assistant managers - Mavis Daka, Amon Ngoma,
Trainee Manager - Muchelo Muchelo
Lufupa River Camp update - May 2012 Jump
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Lufupa Tented Camp update - May 2012 Jump
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Kalamu Lagoon Camp update - May 2012 Jump
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May is such a transformation month providing us with so much diversification in weather, vegetation and wildlife. It has certainly seen the beginning of our winter season, daytime temperature remaining at around 28 degrees Celsius but night temperatures falling to a chilly 12 degrees. The average sunshine hours remain gloriously high and the chill of morning is usually quickly burnt away.
Although we have only been open little more than five weeks, we have been blessed with some great game sightings from the surrounds of Kalamu Lagoon Camp. A breeding herd of elephant has been regularly viewed feeding and quenching its thirst at the lagoon in front of the camp. The variety and diversity in Kalamu Concession is astounding, with every part of the ecosystem presenting something exceptional. Huge rafts of hippopotamus are seen frequently from the comfort of our rooms in the lagoon sun-basking together with crocodiles. Buffalo and giraffe are becoming a more common sight as the inland waters start drying out while the hyaena - veterans of the night - keep us awake and then lull us back to sleep. A pack of nine wild dogs has been spotted twice between Kalamu Lagoon Camp and Star-beds Camp; hopefully they will stay in the area.
Walking safaris in South Luangwa are unique and fascinating experiences of wonder and learning. This month was no different, especially with the opening of our Chinengwe Trail Camp. Sandy has had some incredible walks, not only through huge herds of browsing elephant, giraffe and grazing buffalo but also tracking down two female lion - a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for most. The same pride of lion walked through camp a week after.
Leopard sightings were superb this month, a few of which deserve mentions. Guests having a sundowners on their vehicle heard a warthog squealing from the bushes a few metres away. They quickly went to investigate and found a leopard dragging a warthog. Unfortunately for him, three hyaena chased the leopard and took the prey away. Another exciting sighting was a big male leopard attempting to bring down a puku. A female leopard was also seen from camp, wandering along the edge of the lagoon and having a leisurely drink. In fact, she has become a resident in camp and a few staff members have bumped into her on several occasions at night or as an adrenalin-packed wake-up call in the early mornings!
We look forward to June, and expect the game viewing to only get better as the inland water pans continue to dry.
Birds and Birding
Birding has been fantastic producing some exciting infrequent sightings, such as bat hawk and Walberg's eagle. We have managed to record over 124 species of bird through the month including birds like kurrichane thrush, crowned crane, and martial eagle to name but a few.
We were privileged to host another successful Children in the Wilderness (CITW) camp. We were lucky to have two volunteer tent leaders in Lucy Danford (USA) and Stella Mwale from Malama Village. Stella Mwale attended her first CITW camp in 2008 which was also the first CITW programme in South Luangwa. Since then she has attended three programmes, two of them as a student and the last one as a volunteer tent leader. Stella has showed her interest in conservation and would like to ultimately become a guide at Wilderness Safaris, however in the meantime she is very excited to have been offered an opportunity at Kalamu Lagoon Camp as staff chef.
This year we would like to welcome Joseph Mfune and Rebecca Tembo to our Kalamu management team. Joseph is a professional walking guide, so no doubt he will bring a lot with his experience.
Rebecca Tembo is a trainee manager coming from Fair View School of Hotels where she has just graduated in Hospitality Management. We are grateful to have her in the team.
"There was no word for all the experiences I was allowed to have here. Everything was great." (Switzerland)
"Thank you for this wonderful time, you are all great." (Switzerland)
Staff in Camp
Managers: Solly Tevera, Evie Bwalya and Rebecca Tembo
Guides: Sandy Sakala, Joseph Mfune and Emmanuel Sauti
Shumba Camp update - May 2012 Jump
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Kapinga Camp update - May 2012 Jump
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Busanga Bush Camp update - May 2012 Jump
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Mvuu Camp update - May 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
As is typical for this time of year the days grow ever colder and drier and it is now definitely necessary to wear our custom-made ponchos on game drives and sit around the boma fire in the evening. Early mornings are wonderful with occasional dawn river mists. The perennial waterholes are drying up and while some remain we can already see increasing numbers of elephant on the river and increasing numbers of buffalo and sable antelope on the northern floodplains.
With the seasonal waterholes drying up rapidly, an astounding variety and number of animals can be seen congregating around the remaining water sources, taking advantage of the water as well as the associated vegetation around the surface water. The general game activity really has been superb and is definitely on the increase.
We were entertained by constant elephant activity, with many encounters of both bulls and large breeding herds. On more than one occasion we got to witness the gargantuan mammals mating, starting the 22-month gestation period that elephant cows undergo to produce a calf weighing in at around 120kg - amazing to think that the large adult males can weigh in at 6000kg.
Our guests were also treated to a number of small wonders throughout the month, some of these sightings including: nine bushpig, a group of five porcupine, eight Lichtenstein's hartebeest and three roan.
Birds and Birding
May was great for birding, as the avians came to the party. Some of the notable sightings include: an Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike feeding its young, a flock of over 50 Lilian's Lovebirds near camp - these common 'specials' usually live in flocks of 20 or less. Regular daytime sightings of White-backed Night-Heron, increasing sightings of Martial Eagle (a rare resident) and numerous sightings of Bronze-winged Courser on the Ntangai River. Brown-breasted Barbets were also sighted in and around camp throughout the month. The highlight for the month was a White-headed Vulture, Osprey and a Palmnut Vulture all sharing the same tree at Mkango Corner.
Recently Dr. Claudia Weinspach and her friends from Germany enjoyed a popular new activity at Mvuu - a full cooked breakfast on the boat! Dr Weinspach had the following comment:
Thank you for all your help during our time at Mvuu, we enjoyed ourselves very much, it was a special experience because you put so much effort into your guiding. Especially the day when we had breakfast on the boat and saw the elephants bathing."
Mvuu Camp says farewell to Amini Wailess, who has retired after 17 years of service at Mvuu Camp. We wish him a long and happy retirement.
Mvuu Wilderness Lodge update - May 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
Temperatures at Mvuu are dropping and the weather is getting cooler and cooler - especially in the mornings. As we head towards winter (which is characterised by dryer days, cold mornings, warmer afternoons and chilly nights), guests are advised to bring something warm to wear on safari activities during the early and later hours of the day.
The river's edge remains lush in appearance, but the floodplains are slowly drying out. Many trees are starting to lose their leaves and large leafless baobabs now create stunning silhouettes against sunrises and sunsets. Some impala lilies are coming into bloom and adding a burst of colour to the park.
Game viewing has been wonderful, as the park's animals are emerging from the thickets around the river in search of water. Most of the natural waterholes in the park and sanctuary are drying up and as water becomes scarcer within the park in the upcoming months, we expect to see a higher concentration of wildlife (particularly elephant and antelope) frequenting the river more often.
We've spotted warthogs mating on several occasions while African civet, white-tailed mongoose, large spotted genets and porcupines were all seen regularly throughout the month. Small herds of zebra, buffalo and Lichtenstein's hartebeest were all seen in the Rhino Sanctuary.
Lion tracks were spotted twice during game drives and once more we know that Titus the lion is close, but he remains as elusive as ever. It has been a fantastic month for elephant sightings because, while many of the herds seem to have retreated over the last few days, some herds have very young calves in tow. Here are some of the amazing elephant sightings that occurred earlier in the month:
30th April: Matthews and his guests watched a herd of elephant for over an hour as they did up to ten different actions; here's what Matthews has to say. "We watched them showing off in front of the vehicle, trumpeting, wallowing, lying down to rest, suckling, play fighting, sniffing, smelling each other, the calves were imitating their mothers' actions, and young bulls were climbing on each other's back to reach higher tree canopies."
5th May: The Mvuu star-beds platform is located just 15 minutes north of the lodge. The structure is located beside a small stream and overlooks the floodplains with excellent views of the river's edge. Samuel reports the following from opposite the star-beds platform: "We saw a breeding herd of elephant near the star-beds. Within the herd, there was a female with a tear in her ear (we have watched over the years and she is easy to recognise due to her distinctive ear shape). The female had a newborn calf with her that was merely a few days old and suckling. The older calves kept trying to suckle and the female kept pushing them away. When she was fed up she trumpeted in the direction of the older calves and chased them away. This female is well known to all the guides at Mvuu. One day when I was on a game drive, another large elephant attempted to charge the vehicle; however this female intervened and prevented the charge. She dragged the larger female away from the vehicle and proceeded to cross the road with her."
Other game sightings remain encouraging. On May 14th, McLoud and his with guests spotted eight zebra, nine roan antelope, 36 sable antelope, a herd of 70 buffalo, three Lichtenstein's hartebeest, 12 bushpigs and fresh black rhino and lion tracks.
Birds and Birding
The list from Mvuu continues to offer a rich variety of birdlife. Sightings include the cross breeding lapwing pair (from last month's newsletter), Böhm's Bee-eater, Pel's Fishing-Owl, Dickinson's Kestrel, African Hoopoe, African Fish-Eagle and Palm-nut Vulture which were all seen regularly.
Brown-breasted Barbets, African Skimmers, Arnot's Chats, Grey-headed Parrots, and Brown-headed Parrots are all back at their nesting places.
During the month, Mvuu guides and their guests took part in the Annual Vulture Census and managed to make some good accounts of the species. Matthews spotted a Palm-nut Vulture and a Bateleur attempting to approach a baboon carcass. Both scavengers ended up being chased away by a group of Southern Ground-Hornbills.
The birding highlight for the month was the mating pair of Palm-nut Vultures which was found about 400 metres south of Mvuu Camp.
The Rhino Tracking Experience
Wilderness guides and guests were on hot on the trail, tracking three black rhino and following their spoor. As the group moved into the thicket, the three rhino were spotted just 50 metres away. The rhino walked towards the mopane woodlands and the group followed them for about 40 metres.
The rhino tracking experience is a new activity at Mvuu Camp and Lodge. Following three hours of tracking (filled with information and learning about the black rhino as well as an opportunity to get involved with practical monitoring of the species), guests then end the activity with a bush breakfast in the rhino sanctuary. The activity costs USD 40 per person and 90% of the proceeds go towards the conservation of black rhino in Liwonde National Park.
"The overall holiday was totally fantastic. It is impossible for us to understand how your Mvuu team are always able to make it even better than the last visit every time. Mvuu has always been our No.1 destination and we will always keep coming back. We'll continue to tell others as well and bring more visitors with us as well. Well done to the Mvuu team, keep up the good work."
Staff in Camp
Guides: Matthews, Mc Loud, Danger, David, Patrick, Samuel, Duncan, Samuel, Justin, Henry and George.
Newsletter by Samuel
Mumbo Island update - May 2012 Jump
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The weather has been fabulous, as it has been sunny and warm and the rains have gone, leaving clear blue skies behind. The forest is lush and green, and creates the perfect contrast to the azure waters of the enormous Lake Malawi.
Our orphan clothing project has continued and is now its fourth year. Basically, we source old cushions and make clothing from the covers for orphaned and disadvantaged children in the local community. Billy, our local tailor, remakes the cushion covers into charming outfits for the children who are looked after by a man - appropriately named Vision.
Vision runs an informal orphan feeding program. Vision and his wife provide one meal a day for these children. Vision has created a small vegetable garden which he uses to produce food for the children as well as funds to aid his project by selling surplus produce. Most of the fresh produce at Mumbo Camp also comes from this garden, thus continuing the virtuous cycle.
Chelinda Lodge update - May 2012
Weather and Landscape
We expected the rains to have ended by now, but we still get the occasional heavy downpour. The roads have just been graded and are a little muddy following some heavy rainfall. After rains on the plateau, fog develops from the east. As the fog clears, it paves the way for clouds, followed by clear skies that bring with them cold winds.
One can experience all four seasons in a day. The evenings have been very cold lately, resulting in frosty mornings especially in the valleys. We are expecting some fires soon as the Nyika Vwaza Trust starts its annual fire programme.
As palatable grasses are becoming increasingly scarce on the plateau, herds of antelope are now scattering beyond the range of our usual game drives, in search of greener pastures. Leopard sightings however remain very good and pretty regular.
The leopard highlight for the month took place when Apollo was on game drive along the Dembo Road returning from the airstrip, when he came across a large male leopard that jumped into the road a little distance in front of the vehicle. The game viewers followed the leopard down the road for some time until the feline darted off the road towards some strange noises that were emanating from some scrub along the road. The noise came from two hyaena that were feeding on a fresh reedbuck kill. The leopard hung around in the shadows, waiting for a chance to scavenge from the hyaenas' bounty... an example of the tables being turned!
A bit closer to home, Whyte spotted a leopard in the afternoon near Chalet 4 at the camp. The last time a leopard was seen so close to camp was in 2009.
The rare sighting for the month was that of a pair of Cape clawless otters. Stanford found the otters at Dam 3. This is an exceptionally rare sighting for the Nyika. Cape clawless otters are diurnal (active during the day) but are also known to hunt on moonlit nights. They are usually most active during the coolest parts of the day, which explains why we spotted them at 8:15 in the morning. This species of otter is very playful and agile and they are excellent swimmers. Unlike other African otter species, the Cape clawless otters spend a considerable amount of time out of the water and often wander several kilometres away from water sources.
Birds and Birding
This month we saw a number of African Black Ducks at Dam 1. We've also had good sightings of Hooded and White-backed Vultures. Hooded vultures are one of the rarest vulture species seen on the plateau. This particular vulture's bill allows it to get to bits of flesh between bones. These birds also feed on small mammals, birds' eggs and flying termites. Their diet also consists of worms and other insects that they dig up from the soil. They are known to scavenge from human settlements in some parts of their range. Their small size prevents them from successfully competing for large carcasses, so this species is mostly seen on the periphery of a carcass, fighting over scraps.
Lady Luck has been with Chelinda School once again. The Seed Co. group donated assorted items to the school. Textbooks, ballpoint pens, pencils, rulers, dusters, exercise books as well as some cash was generously donated. Wilderness Safaris and the Chelinda Camp and Lodge staff would like to express our gratitude to the Seed Co. for their generosity towards the school and the community.
Guides in camp:
Apollo, Whyte, Brave, Patrick and Sam.
Newsletter by Sam and Apollo
Desert Rhino Camp update - May 2012 Jump
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Palmwag Lodge update - May 2012 Jump
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Doro Nawas Camp update - May 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
This month we experienced very clear and cool conditions, indicating that the rainy season has reached its end and we are now approaching the winter months. The clear skies have created ideal conditions for star-gazing. The mornings have also become quite fresh and chilly, but as soon as the sun stretches its rays over the landscape, it warms up quite nicely. Daily highs have been fluctuating between 28 - 32° C, cooling to around 15° C at night.
The two elephant herds (the Rosie and Oscar herds) that frequent Doro Nawas and the surrounding areas have been spending the last three months at the foot of the Grootberg Plateau taking advantage of the palatable and nutritious vegetation.
This month, we are pleased to say that both herds have returned to the Huab River and we have had some great sightings of these desert-adapted giants. The three babies that were born last year are doing well and are growing rapidly.
A small herd of black-faced impala were introduced into the area a couple of years back and they appear to be flourishing, as the population is increasing rapidly. This is excellent news, in light of the fact that there are an estimated 3 000 wild black-faced impala left. Read more details on this amazing subspecies here.
General game sightings have also been fantastic as we have encountered good numbers of Hartmann's mountain zebra, giraffe, oryx, kudu, springbok and klipspringer.
This month, the camp was visited by a horned adder which took refuge in the long grass along the edges of camp. Richard, one of our guides showed the serp to some guests before moving it to a more suitable spot further away from camp.
Robert "Ralizo" Nukuru from maintenance is not only a funny guy, but he is very dedicated to what he does. Robert went the extra mile by serving one of our guests, Betty with room service as she had injured her knee and found it painful to walk to the main area for meals. Betty was so touched by Robert's great service and compassion that she made a point of commending him for his great service. We have decided that Robert is the chosen Service Hero for the month - Well done Robert, keep up the great work!
The Doro Nawas Wilderness Choir has done it again! After taking top honours at last year's Joint Venture Lodge Song Competition at the Tourism Expo held in Windhoek, they achieved second place this year as they gave a fantastic performance which was thoroughly enjoyed by all.
Bush dinners and breakfast still feature at the top of our guests' highlights.
"We did not know that we have such beautiful lodges in Namibia, neat, welcoming, super dinner and dancing."
"Courtesy of the staff and room service was excellent!"
"Wow, what a great place to stay! Excellent staff, beautiful surroundings. Everything was simply perfect."
"The facilities and staff are wonderful. We have so enjoyed being "in the middle of the desert" and taking in the scenery. We don't get many chances to be in such an isolated area and I think that is a very strong selling point. Just being here was a treat!"
Staff in Camp
Managers: Agnes Bezuidenhout, Morien Aebes, Theobald Kamatoto, Jason Lundon and Emsie Skrywer.
Guides: Richardt Orr, Ignatius Khamuseb and Michael Kauari.
Newsletter by Theobold Kamatoto and Richardt Orr.
Damaraland Camp update - May 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
The days are growing shorter as we move towards winter. The wind has also changed as the bergwinds (warm) compete with the cool south-westerlies. In mid-May we had a few days of cloud build-up but no rain was forthcoming.
At the beginning of the month we were still driving to the Kliprivier area to search for the desert-adapted elephant, which were taking advantage of the palatable vegetation in the vicinity of the river. Whilst on one of these drives, one of our guides and his guests were treated to a fantastic surprise. The group managed to spot a female leopard that had killed a springbok calf. In order to avoid disturbing the leopard, the group enjoyed the sighting from a distance, and even managed to get some great photographs.
During the second week of the month, the Oscar and Rosie herds returned to the Huab Valley, making our tracking excursions much easier. A third breeding herd is making its way into the valley too, but are still sticking to the mountainous areas for now. The elephant tracking experience has been really popular this month, as we have encountered large amounts of wildlife while searching for the elephant.
We were also fortunate to see the whole Huab Pride - two females, a male and seven cubs. This was the first time we could confirm that there is seven cubs within the pride. Dr Flip Stander, who has been researching the Namibian lion population for many years, invited us with our guests to join him on two occasions - once to view a male lion feeding on an oryx carcass that had been caught by the females. As part of his research, Dr Stander asked us to approach the feeding male - up to a safe distance of course - so he could observe the lion's reaction and behaviour towards an approaching vehicle, as these shy and elusive cats are not used to vehicles. It was very exciting for the guests and a great success as the male remained calm during the encounter.
Dr Stander invited the guides and their guests on another occasion for a sundowner during which he explained about his project and desert lion ecology. One of our guides Anthony also heard of lion activity towards the western side of the Torra Conservancy and decided to investigate early one morning with his guests. This proved most successful as they saw 12 lions (3 females with 9 cubs of different ages)! This was probably the pride which frequents the Desert Rhino Camp area.
Albert and his guests managed to find a large male cheetah along the Huab River during a morning drive, so it seems that the predators are moving into the Huab River, possibly due to the prey species that are now concentrating along the dry riverbed.
Birds and Birding
Birding has been pretty good considering that the summer migrants have left. We have experienced some great Secretarybird sightings, as they hunt the grassy plains of the Huab Valley near Slangpos. A Bokmakierie has taken a liking to our bush breakfast site, as we are always serenaded by the beautiful liquid call while enjoying a hearty breakfast at the scenic spot.
This month we had the honour of hosting a group from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The group consisted of 11 individuals who came from all over the world. The group joined us for a night as they wanted to talk about the joint venture which Wilderness Safaris has with the Torra Conservancy. It was a great honour to host such a high calibre group at our camp.
In terms of community news, we were visited by Dr de Kock, who did a site inspection at the Bergsig Clinic, which is not too far from the camp. He visited the clinic to see if there were adequate facilities to perform a range of eye-operations for the local communities. This will bring a huge benefit to the local communities in the area.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Maggie, Elfrieda, Victor and Erica.
Guides: Anthony, Albert, Willem and Johann
Skeleton Coast Camp update - May 2012 Jump
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Serra Cafema Camp update - May 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
Autumn seems to have arrived in the Kunene Valley. After the extra hot conditions we experienced in April, this is a welcome break from the heat. Still, daytime maximums for May reached 35° C once or twice.
Guests at camp and locals in the area were greeted in the mornings by a dense cloak of fog during a few mornings towards the end of the month.
A Southern African python was sighted on the dry floodplain just next to the Camp boardwalk one morning, making its way to the thicket for shade from the midday sun. The snake was a juvenile as it was just a little over 1.9 metres long, which is still pretty small as far as pythons are concerned. The snake still had a slight tinge of green colouring, which indicates that it was less than six years of age, as older snakes tend to be of a more brown hue. We often come across python tracks in the soft sand, but we rarely get to appreciate these beautiful snakes at such close range. After a few pictures however, the python disappeared into a thicket of mustard bushes.
Inventive Bush Ideas
One of our guests unfortunately aggravated an old injury while staying with us, which made moving from his room to the main area very painful. After some creative "out of the box" thinking, Elaine came up with an ingenious plan. With the help of our maintenance manager, Muhenye, she used the wheels of a scullery trolley and attached them to a deck chair - resulting in a very comfortable makeshift wheelchair. This made moving around the camp much more comfortable and easier for our injured guest.
Elaine Cocklin was part of the management team at camp until 2008 when she left. She rejoined the Cafema management team once again for a brief stint and she has now been transferred to North Island in the Seychelles. We bid her farewell and wish her the best at North Island.
"A thousand thank yous to everyone at Serra Cafema for a memorable four days and the perfect ending to our African holiday. Thank you Ben, Bona, Brighton, Denzel, Elsie, Lynette, Waltrud and Victor. Not forgetting your fabulous chef, kitchen staff, housekeeping- Everyone- This is a very special place. You are all wonderful. There is no "wow" big enough to describe this landscape, this place and the people."
Ongava Tented Camp update - May 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
With the end of the rainy season, everything is getting dry but it's also starting to get very cold. Winter has hit us quite quickly and the morning and evenings are pretty chilly. The guests are really enjoying the fireplace in the evening before dinner and the hot water bottles in the bed.
The landscape is drying out rapidly as the earth sucks up the small amounts of remaining surface water. The grasses have turned brown and most of the trees have lost their leaves.
We have experienced a very dry month and as mentioned above, most of the surface water has dried up. The only surface water remains at the bigger waterholes and the manmade drinking spots. This has caused huge congregations and numbers of animals to collect at one spot during the entire day, making game viewing very easy and productive in both Ongava and Etosha.
The camp waterhole has produced fantastic game viewing from the comfort of the main deck, including a few visits from the Ongava lions. One night during dinner, the camp's waterhole was visited by a very unusual visitor. A bull elephant from Etosha found our waterhole in his search for water, obviously breaking through the fence from Etosha. The pachyderm was seen once more the following day while on drive, but he must have returned to Etosha as he was not seen again.
The Ongava lions have been audible on most nights, serenading our guests to sleep. A handful of our guests were treated to a sighting of the pride's tiny newborn cubs, which popped out of their temporary den for a little while. This was a great sighting that was thoroughly enjoyed by the guests and the guides. The sighting did make our guides rethink about doing bush walks in that area for a couple days.
The endemic black-faced impala population spent most of the month rutting, as the males try to assert their dominance over one another in a bid to secure mating rights with the ewes. This is always an exciting time in the bush, as the impala are extremely vocal and physical and often don't pay attention to predators. It's amazing that such a small and elegant animal can make such a loud and intimidating noise. Sometimes it can be quite scary when that is the only noise that you hear in the middle of the night.
Guided nature walks have been very popular this month, as it provides our guests with an opportunity to explore the surrounding area and connect with nature on every level as all the senses come into play whilst on foot. It can also be quite an adrenaline rush when you see fresh lion tracks and you never know how close or how far they are from you. The walks really bring you closer to nature and you can concentrate on things that you would usually miss out on when on drive.
"At this very moment, I am the happiest woman in the world as I am at total peace. Thank you very much for the experience!"
"Wonderful stay, competent and dedicated staff, charming atmosphere. The game viewing was fantastic."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Silvia, Festus, Inge and Corne.
Guides: Rio, Leon, Me - Gusto and Bono.
Little Ongava update - May 2012 Jump
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Ongava Lodge update - May 2012 Jump
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Andersson's Camp update - May 2012 Jump
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Little Kulala Camp update - May 2012 Jump
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Kulala Desert Lodge update - May 2012 Jump
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Kulala Wilderness Camp update - May 2012 Jump
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Governors' Camp update - May 2012 Jump
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Weather and grasslands
Generally it was wet and with frequent rainfall for the first half of May. The Latter half has brought clearer skies and cool mornings. Early morning temps average 18°C midday 28°C with evening temps at 20°C. A 'sea of grass'
growth prevails all within Bila Shaka, Paradise Plains, and some areas of the
Topi Plains, Emarti and Musiara Marsh grasslands. The Musiara Marsh water level has dropped dramatically with evident open and gouged out channels in the banks probably left by the many Hippos. The Mara River level has dropped to a reasonable level. The rainfall at Main Governors for this month was 152 mm; much of this rain was in the first two weeks. At Little Governors the rainfall was 132.4mm.
Lion and Elephant are being seen daily within the Musiara Marsh and Bila Shaka plains.
Short Lived New Arrival
Charm the young Lioness had one cub that was one month old; she was seen carrying her cub from the Marsh grasslands to Bila Shaka frequently, this is quite a long way. Unfortunately the cub did not survive long and was either killed or abandoned in the last days of May.
Charm is now mating with Sikio, one of the Muskateers in the Marsh Pride.
Let us hope she is successful with the next litter.
Elephant with many small calves can be seen on the open grassland plains of Bila Shaka and also with the Musiara marsh and grassland plains, some of these Elephant calves are literally months and weeks old.
The large herd of Cape Buffalo can be seen along the Bila Shaka river bed there are also some young calves in this herd. Lion from the Marsh pride have killed and eaten some of the cows and young calves.
Olive Baboons are well spread out and will be seen between the camps with the long grass that is prevalent they are spending more time within the woodland and roadside verges, much of their diet seemingly is young grass shoots, seeds and insects. Recently on the 22nd two male baboons caught an Impala fawn near to main Governors, they consumed much of their quarry alone, not caring to share.
Cokes Hartebeest can still be seen in small pockets throughout Paradise Plains; Rhino Ridge and Bila Shaka plains, there always appears to be a dozen females close by Private Camp.
Topi have been spotted in good numbers on Topi Plains to the east of Rhino
Ridge and on Paradise Plains. Near the main crossing points there is a flat area of short grass where Topi enjoy congregating in good numbers.
Impala breeding herds with young fawns within the riverine woodlands and woodland fringes; there are some shorter grasses in these habitats, also Impala are varied feeders and will readily browse. There is a group of 8 Bachelors near the junction to IL Moran and Little Governors. Many of the Defassa Waterbuck that always inhabited the marsh grassland areas between Il Moran and Main Camp have moved to the North West area of the Marsh.
A few Thompsons Gazelles, males and females with their young fawns will be seen more apparently on the shorter grass plains, a few will be seen on top of Rhino Ridge and in some areas of Paradise Plains. Warthog sows with two or three piglets will still be seen throughout the grassland plains of Bila Shaka and Musiara although the shorter grass plains areas of the reserve and in the conservation areas are better places to see them. Lion in inhabiting long grass territories depend on Warthog for sustenance.
Giraffe are more apparent in the acacia woodlands outside of the reserve although the riverine woodlands you will see pockets of them, there is one very dark (chocolate) male that moves between the camps. Groups of males have also been seen in between the camps, dominant male Giraffe will walk great distances looking for females in estrus. Small breeding herds of Eland will be seen near Paradise Plains, Topi Plains and in the Emarti area, generally speaking after a good rains they are well scattered due to the
abundance of long grass.
In an oxbow lake near IL Moran camp a large Crocodile was killed by another on the 24th due probably to a dispute over territory from another male; it certainly bloated and was floating for some time, the other resident crocodile in this waterway had eaten all of his competition by the 30th. Female Crocodile lay eggs and the eggs hatch in approximately 65-95 days. The average is about 80 days. Crocodiles have a strict social hierarchy. Males will fight aggressively to govern territories with; many females, ideal sun basking spots, and access points for their prey items coming for water or to cross.
Spotted Hyenas are being herd more than seen, although there are a few
scattered sightings, the long grass does not help.
Two male Black Rhino have been seen near the crossing points on Paradise Plains.
White Storks are still evident in the Marsh.
Marsh Pride - There are up to 23 lion in this pride to include the four males.
There are the four older females Bibi, White-Eye, Joy and Half Tail.
The four Marsh Males (Musketeers) will move between Musiara marsh, Bila Shaka and Topi plains. The four young females are also being seen spread out. With the recent rains and long grass they have all been seen recently between the Marsh and Topi plains. They have been feeding off Warthog and Topi. On the 20th they killed a male Buffalo near the windmill area of Musiara Marsh and ate off it for three days. On the 28th early in the morning the four males and four females had killed a male Buffalo on the eastern side of Bila Shaka, by 4.00pm they had eaten all of it and Hyenas were left squabbling for the remains.
Charm one of the young females had a single cub that was born in the Bila Shaka river bed in the last week of April. She has carried this cub to the marsh and back again to Bila Shaka on two separate occasions. With the long grass it is difficult to hunt so a single female with cubs needs assistance and good prey value close by. She is with two other lionesses, one of whom is still quite thin. They have killed two warthog near the Marsh and were also part of the Buffalo kill on the 20th of this month. Two of the Musketeers 'Hunter and Morani' got in on this buffalo kill so for a few days there was plenty of food available.
Notch and the four males are being seen on the Talek river area near Emarti hill. The lone lioness that is often seen on her own between Bila Shaka and also on Topi plains has not been seen this month, she is part of the Marsh Pride and broke away in early 2006. The Lioness Nyota (initially known as Tamu) with one male cub called Moja can be seen between Rhino Ridge and Talek, this cub is about 4 months old. She was being filmed by the BBC and seemed to be mainly feeding off warthog which for a lioness on its own supporting a cub subsistent prey is the only way forward and warthog are relatively easy to hunt. On the 27th and 28th Nyota was seen on the west side of Rhino ridge at a place called Miti ya Nyuki. Joy and her 5 older cubs were being seen on Topi plains she also used to cross over in to the conservation areas adjacent to the reserve to the East, recently she has not been seen, and the last good sighting was on Topi plains on the 22nd at 10.00 am. Two of the older male adult cubs have moved away and Joy is now left with two females and a male. Bibi and Half-Tail were for some time being seen in west side of the Musiara marsh and are now being seen in the north east side
of Bila Shaka. Siena and 7 other females are being seen in the west side of the Marsh, listening to guides and the resident Maasai these lion cross over into the northern conservation area at night and have been seen feeding on the few Zebra here, they have been seen walking back into the reserve in the early hours of the morning. With long grass in the reserve lion are struggling to feed themselves when their main prey species is well dispersed.
The Ridge Pride of 12 lion including their 3 cubs which are 4-5 months old are being seen on the south bank of the Talek River, lastly on the 25th, the one young cub that has look malnourished is much improved.
The two males at Paradise Pride have been seen a few times on Paradise Plains and good sightings of them were on the 22nd and 27th near Topi flats which is close to the main crossing points; 6 lionesses of the Paradise pride have been seen off and on in the same area. There are many warthog here in this area of Paradise plains, these lion have been feeding off these warthog and Topi.
Sightings have been poor this month. Three males were seen east of Bila Shaka on 24th and 25th and we understand they were again seen in the conservation area on the 26th due to the short grass plains here. Cheetah generally struggle in long grass areas and prefer the shorter grass plains where their favourite gazelles the Thomson and grants are more prevalent. A female again was seen near the double crossing are on the 28th at 10.30am.
Olive and her two cubs that are 8 weeks old have been seen on the Talek River area briefly this month. Sightings of Leopard have been slim this month. The male Leopard near the croton thickets at Paradise was seen on the 20th. There are many impala here so these would support leopard. A shy male has also been seen near the Little Governors crossing point on the Mara River. Another male has also been seen briefly on the 25th near private camp. The male that habituates between the Il Moran and Little governors was seen on the 24th in the woodlands by the Hippo pools.
There are many impala here so these would support leopard. A shy male has also been seen near the Little Governors crossing point on the Mara River. Another male has also been seen briefly on the 25th near private camp. The male that habituates between the Il Moran and Little governors was seen on the 24th in the woodlands by the Hippo pools.
Walking in the Mara North Conservancy.
There have been no walks this month due to the onset of the rains. Driving through here there are good numbers of Elephant throughout the acacia woodlands, on the plains above the 'Flyover' there is a large herd of 120 Buffalo with young calves. Also on these plains a female Cheetah with a young 6 month old cub has been seen twice near the 'fly over' plains and she has been feeding off Impala and Thompson's Gazelle. She was last being monitored on the 28th near Lone Tree Hill in the conservancy.
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge update - May 2012
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