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South Africa camps
Pafuri Camp update - November 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
We have had a series of extremely hot days this month and we are desperately waiting for rain - the area is still very dry. The highest temperature recorded for the month was a balmy 43° C.
This month was excellent for general game viewing in Pafuri. On the 21st, the first baby impala was seen on the southern access road to the airstrip, but that is the only one which we have seen so far - the impala must be holding back on calving as long as they can as they wait for the rain to arrive. However, many nyala and bushbuck have dropped their calves and many babies can be seen walking around on wobbly legs. As expected, the large male baboons have been feasting on these poor babies. We are happy to report that the giraffe which moved into the concession a couple months back are still seen regularly, mostly along Luvuvhu West and the airstrip area.
While it is very dry in Pafuri, having had no rain, at the same time it is a blessing in disguise because we still have some elephant in the concession - these animals usually having left us for summer pastures already. Large herds of elephant are seen on a regular basis and this is because the Luvuvhu River is the only source of water during these dry times - not only for elephant but the river becomes the epicentre of activity and attracts droves of wildlife on a daily basis.
Buffalo are still seen scattered throughout the concession, but are mostly concentrated along the Luvuvhu River, Makwadzi, Banyini and Hlangaluwe Pan, with the average herd size being in the region of 10-20 animals.
Lion sightings were average this month, as we had a total of 11 sightings. As the dominant male continues with his quest on the southern banks of the Luvuvhu River, the lion dynamics of the Pafuri Pride are changing significantly - especially since there are nomadic lions wandering through the concession. On this note, three young males have been seen along Luvuvhu East.
In terms of leopard sightings, we enjoyed a total of 15 sightings for the month, with the highlight being a mating pair that was seen along Luvuvhu West during a night drive. Interestingly, the two leopards that we often see along Luvuvhu East were not seen at all; we can only imagine this has to do with the three young lions wandering around that area.
We were really happy to have some quality hyaena sightings, as we encountered these interesting creatures a total of 13 times.
Rhino sightings have been good in the area, as we recorded a total of seven sightings for the month. A film crew visited Pafuri at the end of the month and were rewarded with a great rhino sighting after tracking them on foot for some time.
Birds and Birding
Birding this month was phenomenal - most of the migrants are back. We are still waiting for the waders to come and visit the pans; hopefully when it rains they will come. We managed to record 264 birds this month.
On the 8th we had an interesting sighting of the African fish-eagle catching a cane rat in front of camp. The large rodent put up quite a fight, but in the end, the eagle's creativity and persistence paid off. Some of our guests missed the game drive to watch this incident and were rewarded with some great photographs of this unusual sighting. For the full story, click here.
We have taken some of our guests to the village to explore the culture of the Makuleke people. The film crew, Born to Explore, which was here towards the end of the month, had a great time in the Makuleke Village. They spent the whole day in the village doing so many different things including cooking pap, eating termites and partaking in some traditional dancing.
Two of our guests also took on a "Big Birding Day" and managed to record 160 different species in 24 hours.
Pafuri Walking Trail update - November 2012 Jump
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Camp Jabulani update - November 2012
Kings Camp update - November 2012 Jump
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Welcome back to our regular followers and to those of you who are new, this month there were numerous amazing sightings again in the magnificent Timbavati Game Reserve. Summer seems to be in full swing as the temperatures soared again and the evening thunderstorms were absolutely amazing to watch with some spectacular lightning and thunder.
The lion sightings this month mainly comprised of the Machaton pride who are still split, but doing well. Three members of the pride managed to kill a wildebeest on Giraffe plains. The other two remaining pride members were very nomadic this month being spotted in various locations. The two dominant males were seen numerous times during the month and were even seen mating with an unknown female. In the north east the Mafikizolo pride made a few appearances and are looking in good condition.
Once again the leopards in the area were up to their usual tricks. The young male Makeppies decided to do something extremely unusual and managed to kill a new born giraffe calf, unfortunately for him it was to big to hoist into a tree and it was lost to a hyena.
The old lady, Mbali, was seen on a few impala kills, proving once again experience is very important in the bush. The Rockfig female with her cub were seen a few times and fortunately her cub is slowly becoming more accepting of the vehicles. Umfana, the young male is doing very well and seems to have the phenomenal hunting skill of his mother Ntombi. The Thumbela female also provided some great entertainment with her kill near Vulture crossing. Ntombi and her cub again provided us with the majority of our sightings and were seen very close to the camp on numerous occasions. A new female, now named the Marula female was seen near the Rock Fig airstrip and seemed very relaxed around the vehicle so lets hope she sticks around.
Cape Buffalo & Elephant
Our camp was frequented by a few 'Dagga Boys' (old buffalo bulls) who took up residence outside the lodge for a few days making our morning walks a little more interesting as they would often stare at us from a distance, trying to remind us whose camp it really is. We were also fortunate to see many different bachelor groups around our traversing area.
The Kings Camp waterhole seemed like a regular sundowner spot for the elephant herds in the area. We also had an interesting sighting of some elephants digging in a dry river bed to get to the clean sand filtered water. Those water holes in the river bed were then used by other animals regularly until the water subsided.
The Spotted hyena dens remained active for most of the month, with the previous month's cubs still doing well and becoming very inquisitive towards the safari vehicles. There were also a few new cubs seen, this clan seems to be very successful at the moment.
An amazing sighting was had by all when a pack of 26 Wild dogs came on to the property. Seeing so many playing around the Lily Pan area was awesome. Luckily for us they were seen regularly through out the month.
Stay tuned for next months report.
Dean & the Kings Camp guiding team
Report written by Dean Robinson
Photography by Dean Robinson
Leopard Hills update - November 2012 Jump
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Impala lambing season is upon us and this year the long legged lambs dropped earlier than the usual 15th – 22nd November mass birthing! Due to the saturating rains and lush green landscape, we spotted our first lambs around the 7th November.
Here a little lamb is taken away from the action of some duelling waterbuck bulls by her protective mother.
Sunsets are as striking as always, this one was spent with a venue of vultures waiting their turn to scavenge the remains of a buffalo killed by the Selati males.
Her den site atop a rocky hill provided many hours of anticipation, patient waiting and eventually really exciting viewing at the beginning of the month.
Knowing the little cub was there and then waiting for a scurry across the rocks or a glimpse through the green blades of grass and even possibly a photo was such thrill for our guests.
This great moment and image below was taken by our guest and talented photographer, Jonathan Price and he kindly shared it with us.
Here is another fleeting view of the cub, justly rewarded for sitting at the den site for many hours!
She has now moved her den site to a nearby bush camp, it is still possible to view her at times but is a little more limited. We wait to see if she brings the cub towards her beloved Leopard Hills soon.
This particular sighting at her den treated us to once in a lifetime mother cub interaction, thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated by all the Leopard Hills guests.
The adventurous but now rather large cub decided to venture a little too far from the den for mom's liking.
So with much difficulty she picked up the heavy youngster and placed him back in the safety of the rocks.
She has had a tougher time than Hlaba Nkunzi though and has moved her den site every few days. First it was the Ximhungwe lionesses that passed perilously close by so she relocated, then it was one of the Selati males snooping around and most recently it was the young Nyeleti male leopard who poses the biggest threat, sniffing around in the area! She has now disappeared with the cub and we wait to hopefully find them again soon.
Still residing up in the north, she surfaces very rarely in the dense environment up there but when she is found she is as playful as always!
As usual in summer she is found less often in her dense habitat but she is possibly pregnant now after completing mating with Dayone.
Battle scarred above after a brutal clash we think with the big young Maxabeni male who has been intruding in his territory. We wait to see what the outcome is going to be between these 2, one would think Kashane has his number but time will tell…
Missing for over 2 weeks during the beginning of the month, there was a wave of concern and speculation that swept over the western Sabi Sand bushveld for this extremely popular handsome male.
He is a fighter though and turned up rather beaten up but OK towards mid month, whatever adversary he encountered out there gave him a real test! We don't know if it was another male leopard, lions or hyaenas…see video of him dragging his kill while regaining some strength, see the injuries on his back left leg in particular.
He is such an impressive and relaxed specimen of a male leopard, the females with cubs and our guests are all rooting for him to come back with a vengeance.
Maxabeni young male
Only just over 4 years old but he really is a large individual and he doesn't seem to be backing down to intimidation by Kashane!
Nyeleti young male
Now 3 years and 6 months old, he is not very big yet but still poses a threat to the cubs if he is not sent on his way by Dayone! Apparently he killed one of Ravenscourt female's cubs on our eastern boundary!
Something has to give with all these males now in the area, let's hope the 2 bigger older males stand their ground and protect their offspring! We wait eagerly to see what happens in the next few months.
Most of their month has been with the Othawa females that don't have cubs, see the submissive posture of one of the lionesses in the above image. There is still much contesting for mating opportunities with the young lionesses.
Otherwise they killed another buffalo bull during the month and have been up to their usual patrolling and marking as a tight and formidable unit of 4.
The cohesion of these tough and wily experienced lionesses managed to subdue a buffalo cow during the month and fill their hungry bellies, here is one of the lionesses eyeing out the prize just before the successful hunt!
Fantastic news is that the short tail lioness has given birth, we have seen all the visible signs and now look forward to seeing the survival of the first Ximhungwe cubs sired by the Selati boys!
At least one lioness has very young cubs while the other 2 have been mating with the Selati males regularly during the month.
Spotted Hyaena Den
In the image above the little cubs test the toughness of an Adidas shoe…
Remember to never leave your smelly shoes outside on your doorstep!
The cubs are very playful at 3-4 months old and are usually very active when the mother is there, a real treat to spend time with as you can see below.
Pack of Painted Dogs
Great excitement as they returned for a few action packed days of chasing everything they came across and turning a relaxing game drive into a roller coaster of an adventure! One sighting was really memorable as they chased the shy male leopard from the north (A male we had never properly seen) up a tree so we could get a good look at the big boy! See video footage under leopard November video.
Sadly it seems like one adult and 2 pups have been killed in the last 2 months, the pack now consists of 7 adults and 4 pups…still a very healthy number of 11.
Elephant parades have spread out into all tantalising green undergrowth so it a more of a challenge to find them but very rewarding when we do as there are many young calves around! There is lots of water around to wallow in on a hot summer's day!
A dusty sunset spent with the large herd of 500 leaves one with a true sense of the magnitude and vastness of unspoilt Africa at her best.
Interesting sightings in November
Mating pair of Wahlberg's eagles, this is the first time for all of us to see this and even more unusual to see the female is a pale morph (much rarer) than the normal brown morph male!
Usually shy and retiring this relaxed white tailed mongoose was foraging for insects and allowed us a chance to take some images and view him before he scurried off into thicker bush.
A water thicknee with a rather strange food source! It is well known that civets relish millipedes but most other animals avoid them…or do they??
This is due to the series of defensive glands along both sides of their body that secrete defensive secretions of varying sorts that are generally foul tasting and sometimes either poisonous (Type of cyanide) or sedative.
Upon further investigation and observation it seems they are also eaten by frogs, lizards, tortoises, birds such as francolins, guinea fowl, herons, robins, starlings and now a water thicknee to name just a few.
Motion blur to try and capture the impressive pace of a Steenbok at full charge.
Rocktail Beach Camp update - November 2012 Jump
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Rocktail Bay Dive Report - November 2012 Jump
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November has produced a wonderful mixture of big and small creatures. The humpback whale sightings were fewer as the season drew to a close but they were by no means less spectacular. At the beginning of the month a group of American students from "The Travelling School" were enjoying a couple of days catching up with their parents. These students spend one school semester travelling in a different country, with their teachers, where they adapt their curriculum to learn about various subjects in other countries. All the girls together with their parents and teachers had a wonderful Ocean Experience where they got the chance to watch a group of eight humpback whales travelling along. There were adult whales and some babies and a couple of the adults performed wonderful breaches, jumping clear out of the water!
The last whale sighting of the month was on the 17th November. We were driving along the beach at the end of the day when we saw a mother and calf breaching. We stopped and watched them breach a few times before we continued to drive off the beach back to the dive centre, it almost felt as if they were waving goodbye.
Another very exciting big fish moment happened during a dive at Gogo's. Willis was about to ascend when I saw a big loggerhead turtle swim across the top of the reef, I signalled to him to have a quick look and as I turned back to catch Volker's attention to show him the turtle, a big blue marlin swam right past the three of us! Volker was also spoilt on the following dive when he saw a guitar fish, an eagle ray and a milk shark!
Vanesha and Prejlin had a magical dive at Aerial, just the two of them and Ondyne and lots of spectacular fish. On this one dive they saw a manta ray swim right past them, a big honeycomb ray lying on the sand, a huge black ribbontail ray sleeping in a hole in the reef, a sharpnose ray, a guitar fish, a swimming honeycomb moray eel and two tiny pineapple fish!
My most memorable dive of the month was at Pineapple Reef, with just Arne and Edwin. We were busy looking at a mantis shrimp which was quite shy and was just sticking its head out of its hole for a peek at us before disappearing back inside. I swam up over the ledge to move away so that Arne and Edwin could have a look and I saw two huge fish swimming towards us. It was as if things were happening in slow motion, my brain was trying to register which potato bass these were, none of them looked like Boris and they were brindle bass! - My brain screamed and I frantically reached down to get the other divers attention as these huge fish swam past us. We all hung there, watching these fish swim out across the sand before they disappeared into the milky water. These brindle bass were about five to six times the size of Boris! That's not all, as we continued down the reef a big manta ray swam past us as well, what a wonderful dive.
Pineapple Reef has also produced some wonderful little critters this month including a pair of whip-coral shrimp, porcelain crabs and partner (clown) shrimps in anemone's, a pair of orangutan crabs and a group of five-scribbled pipefish.
Aerial produced the most exciting critter sighting this month - a tiny harlequin shrimp! Morne and Elaine came down from Johannesburg with a group of ten divers for a fun weekend of diving. They were very excited to see the harlequin shrimp and were also very lucky to see the first female ragged tooth shark of the season! Hopefully we see some more of these sharks next month.
Congratulations to the following Divers:
Mattiu Lecarme, John and Francesca Ciacchella, Bruce, Jennifer and Jake Wilson for completing their PADI Discover Scuba Diving Course.
Katherine Hepburn for completing her PADI Discover Scuba in the pool.
Fynn and Tyga Pollock for completing their PADI Bubblemaker Course in the pool.
Rina Jude for completing her PADI Open Water Course.
Yours in diving,
Darryl, Clive, Michelle, Ondyne, Mandla and Sipho.
The Rocktail Dive Team
Makalolo Plains update - November 2012 Jump
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Little Makalolo update - November 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
"Wow it's hot - it's wet - it's cool...my goodness l am confused" one of our staff members comments the day when the weather was playing games. The rains had arrived. Temperatures have been as high as 40° C but fortunately we have received some good rains and have recorded up to 23.5mm of rainfall which has cooled things down a little. The beautiful flash of lighting on a pitch black night made us appreciate what a wonderful area we have as home and work.
In terms of the vegetation, the grass is green again and the bare spots of soil are becoming less and less. Most of the trees have a fresh covering of leaves with only a few species holding back to try and avoid the hungry browsing antelopes a little longer. The rains have also done a great job settling the dust and smoothing out the roads.
The beginning of the month marked some good sightings of the rare and seldom seen bird and mammal species, and as always, beautiful sunset shots of elephants on the airstrip. A big herd of no less than 200 buffalo visited Back Pan for a drink which gave our guests a great sighting.
Some of the special sightings this month included a bat-eared fox with tiny pups and a very interesting lion and elephant encounter. As expected, the elephant's size and bulk commanded respect and the lion was sent running quickly.
Cheetah sightings were incredible this month as we had great sightings of single males a well as a small family group of three which hung around Somavundla Pan for most of the month.
Over and above these sightings, the lions dominated as we had a total of 55 different encounters this month! We were just left speechless as this time of year is a time of plenty for the lion populations in the concession. We had a fantastic sighting of the dominant male lion interacting with his young male cubs - it was incredible to see the father-son interaction. A coalition of two other males have also skirted on the concession boundary and were heard them calling on several occasions. It will be interesting to see what happens when these two males encounter the resident male.
Other great sightings included leopard, wild dog and large herds of eland.
Birds and Birding
The summer migrants have arrived in full force and were seen competing for air space as we have more sightings of yellow-billed kites and a variety of cuckoo species. Racket-tailed rollers were occasionally seen around the Marula Loop and Spooky Alley.
"A positive check in a questionnaire box is not adequate to express my appreciation of the staff's hospitality. The guides and everyone else are great assets."
"We enjoyed everything. The school visit was fantastic and the wildlife sightings were great. We especially enjoyed the bush brunch and the private dinner."
"The atmosphere of the camp and the safari was unbelievable and your smiles and kindness with our children was fantastic. Thank you Rania and Nono."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Rania Mutumhe, Tracy Peacocke and Vimbai Mandaza.
Guides: Dickson Dube, Honest Siyawareva, Bulisani Mathe.
Davison's Camp update - November 2012
Weather and Landscape
November was a dry and hot month. Even in this dryness, the trees stood their ground and they are still covered in lush, green foliage. The heat did however cause some of the trees to droop and wither in a bid to save moisture from the parching heat. Most of the grass species have started to sprout new growth, providing a very welcome source of nutrition for the plethora of grazers in the area.
Elephant numbers in the area are dropping as the pachyderms spread and range over a bigger area in their search for quality food. Ostrich Pan and the camp area have been incredibly productive for game viewing as the large number of wildlife congregate in these areas. The area in front of the camp has attracted large herds of wildebeest, which have entertained our guests daily.
On the predatory side, lion were heard calling almost on a nightly basis and hung around the camp area as they followed the prey species. The highlight for the month was the cheetah sighting we had in front of camp. This was great as for all our guests in camp, as this was their first cheetah sighting and most of them were able to get nice photographs.
Other great sightings for the month included nice herds of sable.
Birds and Birding
Every day we were finding more and more summer migrants arriving. Towards the end of the month, Jacobin cuckoos could be heard calling from within every thicket of vegetation. It is always interesting to observe the behaviour of all the cuckoos at this time of year as they search for a secretly recruit surrogate parents for their offspring.
As many of the resident raptors nest during the winter month, we have many fledglings around.
This month we were privileged to host the Children in the Wilderness programme. Kids from the neighbouring villages were treated to a five star service. They adored game drives and being hosted by the staff at the camp. They were given talks and played games all related to conservation. Guides and the staff in general took turns to teach them about the environment and show them the value of conservation.
We all agree that it's better to make kids realize the value of our natural resources and conserve it. They then become ambassadors as they pass the massage to their family members.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Themba, Buhle and Eugene.
Guides: Themba, Avias, Brian, Robert and Livingstone.
Ruckomechi Camp update - November 2012 Jump
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Mana Canoe Trail update - November 2012 Jump
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Toka Leya Camp update - November 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
It gets worse before it gets better, was what came to our minds this month as temperatures rose to a hot 40° C for a number of days following the rain we received at the beginning of the month. This heat was short lived as thunder, lightning and cloud build-ups followed. It was only a waiting game and the unmistakable sweet smells of fresh rain swept in as a harbinger to the rains, which immediately settled the dust. The following morning when we awoke to a cool day, it was obvious that we were not the only ones waiting for some rain, as the birds were exceptionally vocal.
The water level in Zambezi was constantly rising throughout the month, indicating that the areas north east of us had received lots of rain.
The long spell we had without the rains after the first drops last month actually turned from good to worse as all the small green grass that had sprouted started to wither with the high temperatures we experienced prior to the next rains and what I feel is the real beginning of the wet season. One could see the desperation in a lot of animals as what had come as an early Christmas turned to a curse. The same wasn't the case for the browsers and large bulk feeders like elephant, as the trees continued to get greener and grow more succulent leaves.
Interestingly this change in the vegetation has not dispersed the animals from the area as we still had a lot of elephants come through the camp. This will definitely be something that all our staff will miss when the rains finally set in and the animals disperse. Hopefully this will not happen. As if it is a tradition, we watched again this year as the large herd of elephants cross over just in front of the camp from the Zimbabwean side. Last year at the same time we had the same size herd come through the same route and both guests and staff stood on the deck and watched these animals for what seemed forever as the animals took their time going from one island to the other then into the deep water and finally onto the mainland. Mumbling and disagreements was all that could be heard from the staff as they educated each other on the elephants swimming capabilities and most were worried about the smaller ones which they thought would not make it across the water. Some of the elephants became fully submerged, with only their trunks sticking out likes snorkels. This wasn't the only crowd pulling sighting of the camp, as a few days later, some camp staff came running to the office to report a rhino in the camp. This called for a break in the pre-dinner drink. To all our amazement, this specially protected animal had wondered into the camp area and was not fazed by the many people who had stopped what they were doing to come and watch it, neither was it phased by the camera flashes and torch light as the security chap tried to ensure that everyone had seen it.
The game drives and boat cruises as usual, yielded a lot more than what all our guests expected in this area. Birdlife always gets better in summer as we get so many migrants and one such migrant was the yellow-billed kites which seemed to be here in huge numbers. For water birds one needs a whole morning on the river as there are so many birds to put a cross on the check lists.
The build-up to the rainy days really enhanced the sunsets and made one of our house traditions - the out of camp dining experience - something memorable in most guests minds at the end of their stay as the clouds and a bit of dust that was obviously in the air enhanced the sunset colours.
"We had a fantastic time. The night sounds and service was outstanding. The food was delicious and the rooms were lovely. We love Toka Leya and the Zambian hospitality."
"Beyond all expectations - great in every way! Thank you so very much."
"Glorious adventures by water and land. Such a splendid way to learn about this strong and lively country. Thank you for such a wonderful time we loved everything."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Petros and Gogo Guwa, Jackie Munakombwe, Amon Ngoma and Muchelo Muchelo.
Lufupa River Camp update - November 2012 Jump
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Lufupa Tented Camp update - November 2012 Jump
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Kalamu Lagoon Camp update - November 2012 Jump
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Shumba Camp update - November 2012 Jump
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Kapinga Camp update - November 2012 Jump
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Busanga Bush Camp update - November 2012 Jump
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Mvuu Camp update - November 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
The days in Liwonde National Park are incredibly hot and guests must remember to drink lots of water to stay well hydrated! We're at the very cusp of the dry season and although temperatures are high, it's possible to see storm clouds approaching in the distance accompanied by extremely powerful winds. It is only a matter of time until the rains arrive, putting an end to the dry season at Mvuu.
The heat and dryness of the park has turned Liwonde's water sources into game magnets. The Shire River draws herds of elephants to its banks throughout the day and they can be viewed with great ease from both the camp and lodge. Waterhole 3 in the rhino sanctuary is one of the park's many jewels - at this time it draws to it an abundance of elephant, bushpig, zebra, sable and buffalo along with a rich variety of birdlife.
A Month of Motherhood
Perhaps one of the most fascinating aspects of game viewing at this time of year, is the fact that many of the park's impala, elephant, warthogs and vervet monkeys can be seen with their young in tow. The interactions between females and their young are extremely intriguing to watch and allow for one to observe a great deal of protectiveness and caution. Vervet monkey troops can be seen climbing across the tress at camp and meandering up the lodge walkway with their young clasped tightly to their chests.
The Crocodile President Keeps Killing
The large crocodile that resides by the lodge lagoon (fondly called the President), which was seen killing a smaller crocodile last month, was seen with yet another dead crocodile in its grasp a few weeks ago. We've had a flood of great croc sightings, starting on 26th October, including two large crocodiles feeding on the carcass of a dead warthog by the northern side of Old Makhanga. The crocodiles in the Shire have a reputation for being extremely aggressive; they can often be seen basking on one of the sandbanks opposite Mvuu Camp and Lodge.
The Black Rhino Tracking Operation
Wildlife Vet Pete Morkel and the tracking team carried out a rhino conservation project and successfully fitted microchips in a number of rhino. This rhino operation was put in place to increase our surveillance of this endangered species and we hope that, as we continue to track, collar and monitor them, we can help ensure their continued protection.
David's Peculiar Encounter
"We were cruising along the Shire River with guests when we came across two male waterbuck fighting by the river bank. As the battle heightened, one waterbuck became tired and walked away towards the water's edge (which was teeming with basking crocodiles). In a matter of minutes a crocodile pounced on the unsuspecting waterbuck and dragged it into the water. In a twist to this "circle of life" type story, a big hippo which was resting nearby came to the rescue, charging at the crocodile and creating a window of opportunity for the waterbuck to escape from the crocodile's jaws and run onto dry land. As the wounded waterbuck tried to get further inland, the other waterbuck that it was fighting with chased it back towards the river's edge where a larger crocodile managed to grab it and disappeared into deeper waters with it in a flash."
"Great buzz with the staff - excellent hospitality and good guiding." - Kingsley Holgate.
"Excellent - especially Tom and Mathews, they provided us with service at its best and made our time at Mvuu very memorable."
Mvuu Wilderness Lodge update - November 2012 Jump
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Mumbo Island update - November 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
This month was characterised by hot conditions and the odd shower of rain - we are now keenly awaiting the floral flush that follows the rains.
Join our guided Lake Malawi Sea Kayak Safari in April 2013!
Discover the places between the places where tourists usually go! With the best multi-day sea kayaking in southern Africa on offer, this is an opportunity for adventurers and outdoor enthusiasts to get wet, get active, and get out there!
Covering 100 kilometres in five days of paddling, the route has it all: secluded bays, deserted islands, mile-long beaches and open-water crossings. Not to mention the warm, clear and seemingly endless waters of the world's fourth largest lake, the African fish-eagles, the tropical fish and the encircling forested hills that form the rim of the African Rift Valley.
Days will be spent paddling, swimming, snorkelling and generally working up an appetite. Overnight stops are at a variety of lodges and campsites along the way. Kayak Africa will provide all logistics including guides, support boat, kayaking and camp equipment, and of course delicious meals and cold drinks. Participants provide a love of the outdoors and a willingness to achieve something special.
Thanksgiving on Mumbo Island on November 22
It is not easy to source a turkey in Malawi, but our dedicated chefs on Mumbo Island managed their first ever Thanksgiving roast turkey and pumpkin pie on November 22 for our two families of American guests. This was quite a feat for guys who'd never even seen a turkey, let alone roasted one in a gas oven, in a reed kitchen, on an island without electricity in the middle of a lake in the middle of Africa! While the meal as a whole was a great success, sadly, the turkey was apparently "too dry". Ah well, better luck next time!
Chelinda Lodge update - November 2012
Weather and Landscape
Following the beginning of the season's 'light rains,' we expect the Nyika to transform into a lush green landscape once more. It is still warm and sunny during the days, cloudy by late afternoon and during the evening it gets chillier and you do need to keep a jumper handy.
There are five orchids in bloom on the plateau at the moment, the most common one being Disa robusta, which is growing in abundance in the fertile soil. Most of the areas that were affected by the September fires have a lot of flower cover, the most common of which are wild lupine, gerberas, daisies and geraniums.
Game sightings have been extremely good lately and the animals are well spread out across the plateau and are constantly on the move (often coming very close to the lodge and camp). A game count was conducted by the Department of National Parks and Wildlife from the 12th to the 15th of November and here are some of their results:
- A herd of 460 eland by the airstrip,
- a herd of 360 eland by Zungwala Road,
- 312 eland around Dam 3,
- four leopard,
- 67 warthog,
- 64 roan antelope in one group,
- one red duiker,
- lots of reedbuck,
- two blue duiker,
- eight samango monkeys
- three wattled cranes.
As can be seen, these counts are not complete and merely provide an indication of numbers and are only good for estimating total wildlife populations on the plateau.
We had a number of great wildlife sightings, but we had a number of highlights:
On the 1st of November, our guests and their guide were lucky to witness a pair of leopard mating close to Chelinda Hill. This is a rare encounter to witness. We enjoyed two more leopard sightings this month, one of a big male which was seen close to Dembo Road and the other was of another leopard that was seen skulking through the ferns by the airstrip.
On the 6th of November, 12 bushpigs were seen digging and foraging by Dembo Road during the afternoon. This was an unusual sighting, as a bushpig sounder on average consists of between six to eight individuals. It was also fantastic to see them in clear view during the daylight hours.
On the 24th of November, park rangers spotted six elephant bulls near the Runyina River. Elephant sightings are rare on the plateau, and it is always a treat to see them. We suspect that they wandered in from the Zambian side.
On the 28th of November, Apollo and his guests enjoyed some spectacular sightings in the Zovochipolo Forest - first he spotted six samango monkeys, then a serval and then three honey badgers running along the road.
Birds and Birding
A pair of wattled crane as well as a single bird are still hanging around the Chelinda Hill Loop. Around the camp, we do see a lot of black kites and last week we enjoyed the treat of a bat hawk which was spotted at the lodge. A pallid harrier was spotted at Dam 1.
"Thank you very much for this wonderful stay. The staff at Chelinda are outstanding."
"Chelinda Lodge has the best service out of all the places we visited during our holiday in Malawi. Thank you to the staff and management. We will be back."
Desert Rhino Camp update - November 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
Summer is definitely here! During the month we experienced mild to hot days with the average temperatures ranging from 20-35° C during the day and 15-20° C at night.
Due to the lack of precipitation, the land is barren - dominated by yellow grass. The mopane trees have started to sprout new growth but the dominant feature of the landscape are the Damaraland euphorbias. We wait with eager anticipation for the arrival of the summer rains.
It has been an exciting month as we have experienced some fantastic sightings. As mentioned above, the landscape is currently parched thus causing the wildlife to venture further in search for greener pastures. Despite this we still had fantastic sightings of general game while out on activity as we encountered springbok, oryx, kudu, steenbok, klipspringer, Hartmann's mountain zebra and giraffe. These congregations often created awesome photographic opportunities for our guests. The pronking springbok were always a favourite. Desert elephant also featured on the sightings list for the month.
On the predatory front, the camp was visited frequently by a number of spotted hyaena. We were very excited when we had sightings of the desert lions. We were lucky to have a good few encounters of these incredible predators.
Rhino sightings have been great and we have managed to collect a good deal of research data. A couple new individuals were recorded moving into the area and all the regular residents are doing great. All guests which went on a rhino tracking excursion were really impressed and blown away by the entire experience, many of them managing to get great photos.
Birds and Birding
Birding was good this month as many of the summer migrants have arrived, supplementing the already prolific avifauna of the area.
We had great sightings of black-chested snake-eagle, pale-chanting goshawk and marabou stork. The marabou stork is quite a rare sighting for us.
"We loved Desert Rhino Camp! Don't change anything."
"I really loved the design, the location and overall atmosphere of the camp. The work the rhino trackers do is also very impressive."
"Rhino tracking was exciting and rewarding. Friendliness of management, staff and guides was exceptional."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Helen, Agnes and Morien.
Guides: Ali, Raymon, Gotlod and Pieter.
Palmwag Lodge update - November 2012 Jump
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Doro Nawas Camp update - November 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
We have experienced a couple of cloudy, cool days in the beginning of the month, but as the month is drawing to a close the Namibian summer as we all know it is starting to reveal itself. The mornings have been relatively mild and cloudy, with a cool breeze blowing through the camp. The afternoons however, were dominated by scorching heat and strong gusts of dry wind. At the end of the month, we did experience some light rainfall.
The landscape currently looks quite dry, but it is starting to sprout new growth.
The calves in both the Oscar and Rosy Herds are doing really good and are growing rapidly - this is fantastic news for the desert elephants, and we are positive that these young members will further bolster the population of these incredible creatures in the area. As the social dynamics dictate in elephant society, one of the young adult males in the Oscar Herd has left the herd to lead the life of a fully grown adult bull. He will either remain solitary, or will join a bachelor group, meeting with the breeding herds for only a brief while to mate.
We have also noticed an increase in the number of red hartebeest in the area, as we have counted approximately around 40 individuals in the area. The oryx have all given birth, as every herd we see includes tiny new borns. Kudu and chacma baboon have also been seen a number of times.
On the predator front, we have enjoyed a couple cheetah sightings, although we were not able to get any photographs, our guests enjoyed seeing these elusive felines in their natural environment. The desert lions on the other hand were not seen in the area this month.
This month we bid a farewell to Jason and Emsie and thank them for contributing to the management of the lodge. They will be replaced by Rosalia and Wayne.
"What a fantastic camp! The staff are very friendly and helpful and made us feel very comfortable and at home. The scenery was breath-taking. Thank you for a great holiday."
"The trip to Twyfelfontein and the Living Museum was unreal. Ignatius went out of his way to make sure we had a great time. He is very knowledgeable and made our safari so enjoyable."
"The game drive with Wilhelm was fantastic!"
"We were most impressed with the cooking - awesome work for such an isolated camp."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Agnes Bezuidenhout, Wayne Du Toit and Rosalia Martin.
Guides: Richardt Orr, Ignatius Khamuseb, Michael Kauari and Wilhelm Aspin.
Damaraland Camp update - November 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
The weather has been great this month. Some days were hot with the wind further parching us even when in the shade. Once the cool south-westerly winds would arrive in the afternoons, the conditions became very comfortable, and luckily we received these on most afternoons. We had a fair deal of cloud build up, and it looked like the clouds were rain bearing, but no rain fell this month. We are optimistic that the rain will arrive next month.
The welwitchia plants are currently flowering and are always beautiful to look at and wonder how old the plant could be.
Elephants, lions, rhino, cheetah and leopard - these five words sum up the month! We were blessed with many great desert elephant sightings, as the Oscar and Rosy Herds have moved into the concession.
Anthony and Explorations guide, Jimmy Limbo managed to find their guests a large male leopard in the Huab Valley. They set off with the goal of finding elephant and a pair of black-backed jackals grabbed their attention. Upon closer inspection, they spotted the feline walking in the distance. A week later another leopard was spotted along the lower parts of the Huab Valley. On the same day, a cheetah was found with three young cubs in the Slangpos area.
The Huab Pride of lions was seen on four occasions this month - the pride currently consists of two adult females and eight cubs. One of the adult females was tracked and darted by Dr Flip Stander with the aim of fitting a new GPS collar. Damaraland Camp was privileged to participate in the exercise and took the local village headman, Oom Rhyn with. This was a great experience as the lions were located very close to one of the villages. A satellite tracking collar was fitted which will allow the camp and Dr Stander to monitor the lions whereabouts in real time in a bid to avoid predation on village livestock.
This will be the first monitoring system of its kind for lion conservation in Africa and the world. Desert Lion Conservation (Dr. Phillip Stander), Damaraland Camp and Torra Conservancy will be the key stakeholders for this pilot monitoring program. So visionary locals like Mr. Rhyn who has suffered many losses are willing to give lion conservation a chance with ground-breaking techniques like this!
We were also fortunate to have seen black rhino on several occasions on our drives to the Springbok River. One of the highlights was seeing two females each with a baby within 200 metres of each other.
Other great sightings for the month include many giraffe encounters and a porcupine sighting.
Lena and her kindergarten project are progressing beautifully with the upgrading. Lena asked the headmaster of the Bergsig School for a few kids from the school to help with cleaning up of the kindergarten, and it was a big success. After a hard day's work, the kids enjoyed snacks that Lena distributed among them.
Chris Weaver with a WWF-donor group visited our camp. As they landed they went out for an afternoon activity where they found lots of desert elephants whilst on their way to the Torra Conservancy office. Here they were met by Mr Benny Roman, chairman of the Torra Conservancy. Mr Roman gave them a presentation on community based tourism and conservation.
On Saturday 24 November, The Hospitality Association of Namibia (HAN), held a gala dinner in Swakopmund. I'm happy to announce that Damaraland Camp received a gold medal in the lodges category from HAN. Eco-awards Namibia awarded us a special recognition award for best operational practice for rehabilitation during the decommissioning of Skeleton Coast Camp. Damaraland Camp was awarded four eco-flowers for responsible tourism and finally, all the hard work that has been done at Doro Nawas has paid off; they were awarded four eco-flowers from the previous three flowers they got two years ago.
"We loved the hill top breakfast. Maggie the camp manager is an outstanding individual. All staff are part of a real team of great people that enjoy what they are doing."
"Scenery is stunning, nature is pristine, camp staff done their best to make the stay comfortable."
"Viewing the magnificent and majestic geography. The staff are genuine, warm and have the most pleasant attitude."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Elfrieda, Maggy, Erica and Eddy.
Guides: Anthony, Albert, Willem and Johann.
Skeleton Coast Camp update - November 2012 Jump
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Serra Cafema Camp update - November 2012 Jump
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Ongava Tented Camp update - November 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
This month has been a very hot month, although not as hot as October but the temperatures have not been shy. The humidity has also been higher than the other months and the clouds have been present every day. We were pleased to receive some rain and this brings us hope of what is to come.
The environment has also noticed the change in weather as all the trees are blooming with bright green and tender leaves. Most of the grass species have also started to sprout new growth.
With the changes in the weather and the availability of fresh new grass and leaves, the animal movements have also changed and the sightings at the waterholes have decreased a little. Right after the storms the animals don't bother coming to the waterhole because there is so much surface water available everywhere.
The OTC Pride of lions has been quite active around camp and sometimes has kept everyone awake at night with all the roaring. The cubs are all growing strong and our guests thoroughly enjoy seeing them play about in the mornings.
Rhino sightings have been pretty good as these pachyderms still visit their favourite waterholes regularly. On one occasion, a group of 14 rhino was seen drinking at a waterhole during dusk...making the waterhole look very small. At the beginning of the month, one of the resident rhino cows, known as AuKooi, showed her new calf to us for the first time. We estimate the calf to be around one month old.
Ongava didn't stop with the great and unusual sightings there...a small group of cheetah was encountered, and as the guests were looking at these marvellous felines, a unsuspecting black-faced impala ventured too close - the opportunistic predator sprang into action and lurched at the impala. Luckily for the impala, it was just out of striking distance. This experience highlighted how fast a cheetah can run and the guests were blown away by the speed. While on the subject of hunting, a giraffe was less lucky when it was grounded and killed by three young male lions. The lions fed on this carcass for three days and eventually the smell was too bad to approach closely.
Etosha has also been good and has received quite a bit of rain lately. Etosha always provides masses of wildlife, and this month was no different. The elephants however have been quite difficult to see as they tend to move north once the rains arrive. The large old bulls are still seen around Okaukuejo.
Birds and Birding
The birdlife around camp has been pretty good and there is a marked increase of species as the summer migrants arrive. It seems as the camp area is quite popular for nesting as the southern masked-weavers have arrived in number and the males are frantically building their nests in an attempt to woo a mate. A pair of African paradise-flycatchers has also started to nest around camp, and can be see dashing around collecting bits and pieces.
"Our first sighting of white rhino, the fun of sunsets, and the opportunity to have dinner with our guide. The numerous sightings of giraffe and seeing red hartebeest for the first time. The communal management with a fun sense of humour and helpfulness, chefs who prepared meals to perfection - these were some of our highlights."
"A special thanks to the chefs for gluten free baking and especially for my birthday cake. A highlight was the excellent guiding by Rio and our close encounter with the lions and rhinos."
"The lions roaring and creating havoc in camp every night. The caracal at the waterhole the one night. "
Staff in Camp
Managers: Silvia Morgante, Corne Cocklin, Inge Kambatuku and Festus Eiseb.
Guides: Rio Aibeb, Leon Basson, Bono Gauseb and Me-Gusto Busch.
Little Ongava update - November 2012 Jump
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Ongava Lodge update - November 2012 Jump
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Andersson's Camp update - November 2012 Jump
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Little Kulala Camp update - November 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
Summer has arrived here in the south of Namibia. The days are getting longer and longer, and the nights shorter. This means getting up earlier as well, but with the spectacular sunrises we have, it is worth it.
The cool westerly wind has been very constant, starting up in the late afternoons. The evening skies have been more beautiful than ever. The stellar constellations have also changed in the past few months. The Southern Cross can now be seen during early mornings and Orion is visible throughout the night. More and more guests have been sleeping outside to observe this.
In terms of wildlife sightings we have been very lucky this month. A Cape fox has been visiting the camp waterhole on a nightly basis, and mostly when the guests are enjoying dinner - allowing everyone a view of this elusive little creature. The fox was not fazed by the presence of people, as he was often focused on catching insects, often jumping around and darting here and there.
The Cape fox was not the only canine to regularly visit the waterhole - two black-backed jackals would visit the waterhole. Our guides have reported a jackal den not too far from the camp, so perhaps mom and dad are visiting the camp waterhole to get a break from the kids?
The resident ostrich family has been seen quite often too, and the chicks have grown substantially since last month. Interestingly, the male was often not with the family.
Birds and Birding
Following on last month's account of the nesting swallows at camp, we are happy to say that all the chicks are still around and seem to be doing well. The chicks have attempted a few flying lessons and are already becoming skilled flyers, often seen swooping over the pool area. Surely they will leave the nest soon.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Ivan, Lona, Lynette, Queen, Heinrich and Elizabeth.
Guides: Willem, Willy, Petrus, Teek, Nicky and Abner.
Kulala Desert Lodge update - November 2012 Jump
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Kulala Wilderness Camp update - November 2012 Jump
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Governors' Camp update - November 2012 Jump
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Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge update - November 2012
The rains have brought about lots of fresh bamboo shoots, much to the delight of the gorilla families. This unfortunately also brings the Gorilla families into close contact with poachers setting snares for bush-meat. Sadly there are still a small amount of subsistence poaching found in the park and more so in the bamboo forests where majority of the Gorillas families are found this time of the year. Within the last 2 months we have had 2 youngsters caught in these snares, one from Sabyinyo family and the other one from Agashya family, fortunately both incidents had happy endings. Thanks to quick response from both the Trackers and MGVP( Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project ), both youngsters are alive and doing very well! These two incidents have obviously brought great concern for the safety of the Gorillas and therefore the Park has increased their Anti Poaching efforts in these high risk areas.
About ten days ago, I went to go see the Amahoro family and now with 5 Silverbacks and a big Blackback, almost turning Silverback, in the family, the amount of testosterone flying around is just unbelievable. Constant chest beating and power displays throughout our one hour visit. Wrong place at the wrong time had me flying like a old rag when I received a backhand from the dominant Silverback. I got a photo and then it all went pear shape! When I sat up finally, one of the youngest members of the family thought this was just the best thing he had ever seen so also proceeded to walk past me and slapped me in the ribs. Much to the delight of the other guests. Best trek to date and I still have the bruised ribs to prove it. Another youngster was absolutely fascinated by my shoes and sat in front of me just staring at them, probably thought I had very funny looking feet. The youngster then leaned over and gently pulled on the one shoelace that stuck out from under my gaiter. Much to my surprise and amusement, the little one then sat back, took his left foot in his hands and lifted it up, showing me what his feet looked like. I was dumbstruck, but managed to get the photo! They are just absolutely incredible! No wonder so many of our guests get so emotional when asked about their experience with these great apes.
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