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WILDERNESS COLLECTION LAUNCHES INNOVATIVE APP
Beginning with a map of Africa, the app introduces its viewers to the world of the Wilderness Collection. Each of the Collection's four iconic destinations - North Island (Seychelles), Abu Camp (Botswana), Odzala Camps (Republic of Congo) and Segera Retreat (Kenya) - is explored through the use of realistic digital scenes that visually encapsulate a number of each area's unique aspects. By 'swishing' to the left and right, iPad viewers can explore each expanse virtually, getting an idea of what makes each place so special.
Since the Wilderness Collection shares and articulates the Wilderness ethos of the 4Cs - Commerce, Conservation, Community and Culture - the 4Cs language begun in the 4Cs Wilderness World iPad app has been used here too. Information boxes dotted throughout each scene allow viewers to learn more about the various pioneering projects and enterprises in more depth, through the use of photos, links and PDFs.
In this way, prospective and repeat guests can gain insight into the amazing places that make up the wonderful world of the Wilderness Collection! In addition, each villa at North Island and Segera Retreat has its own iPad, on which the App is preloaded as well as a large amount of other information pertaining to each destination and its activities.
The Wilderness Collection App is available now on Apple's iTunes Store under the name "Wilderness Collection" here.
Bradfield's Hornbill in the Central Kalahari
Location: Kalahari Plains Camp, Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Botswana
Date: 24 October 2011
Observer: Anthony Bennet and Victor Horatius
Photographer: Anthony Bennet
A Bradfield's Hornbill has been regularly sighted around Kalahari Plains Camp for some time now. It was first observed back in August, often on the ground, in the company of Southern Yellow-billed Hornbills, feeding on ants.
It has also been seen inspecting White-browed Sparrow-Weaver nests - prodding its beak into the nests presumably looking for insects. The nests did not appear to be occupied by weavers at the time but the hornbill could have been investigating into the presence of chicks. As it is known to feed on a wide range of insects, some small vertebrates, fruit and seeds, this seems to be unlikely however. This bird has been staying in the immediate vicinity of camp with continued sightings to date.
What is so significant and exciting about this sighting? Considering the distribution of this hornbill species, it is being observed quite a distance from its known habitat of north-east Botswana where it prefers tall broad-leaved woodland mosaics as opposed to the acacia scrub of the Central Kalahari.
Whether this is indicative of a southward range expansion for this endemic southern African hornbill species only time will tell. For any birders visiting Kalahari Plains Camp right now, this is definitely something uncommon to look out for!
A Costly Clash Between Packs
Sighting: A Costly Clash between Packs
Location: Savuti Camp, Linyanti Concession, Botswana
Date: October 2011
Observer: Grant Atkinson
Photographer: Grant Atkinson
There are two packs of wild dogs that make use of the area around DumaTau and Savuti Camp. One is called the Zibadianja Pack (named after the local name for a large lagoon that forms the source of the Savute Channel). The other is known as the Linyanti Pack. Both packs denned successfully during the 2011 season, with the Zib Pack bringing 13 pups out of a den near Selinda Camp, far to the west, and the Linyanti Pack emerging slightly earlier from their den (east of DumaTau) with 10 pups.
This is always a period that we watch with interest in order to measure the levels of mortality in the vulnerable young pups. The Linyanti Pack lost one pup soon after moving away from the den in early August, leaving nine healthy youngsters for the pack to look after. The Zib Pack also lost a single pup by the time they left the den, leaving 12 youngsters remaining.
After this post-denning period, both packs moved towards the productive hunting grounds of the Savute Channel in the Linyanti Concession. Wild dog packs are territorial, and defend their hunting territories fiercely against other dog packs. The Savute Channel, at a depth deep enough to deter crossing especially with young pups, lay between the two packs though, and by September both packs were hunting along the length of the channel, on opposite sides. It was during this month however that two dogs from the Linyanti Pack, including the alpha female, disappeared. The cause of the disappearance was unknown to us, but as her pups had finished suckling this did not have a direct impact on their survival, although the alpha female was obviously an important dog in her pack. The loss reduced the Linyanti pack to nine adults and the nine remaining pups.
For several days in early October after this disappearance the two dog packs were opposite one another on the Savute Channel and finally the tension became too much. The larger Zib Pack crossed to the north bank, and attacked the waiting Linyanti Pack in a savage territorial fight. After the fight, the dogs were scattered for several days. The cost of the fight was high, with two adult dogs from the Zib Pack dead or missing, leaving the pack ten adults strong. All twelve pups survived unscathed.
The Linyanti Pack appeared to have lost the fight, and moved to the east - which means that we have not been able to observe these animals since the clash, and do not yet have a clear idea of any adult mortalities - all their pups have survived however.
Since the clash, the Zib Pack has suffered further mortalities, losing two pups to lion attacks. This really puts into stark relief just how finely balanced wild dog survival is. It is not all bad news for the dogs however, as both packs still have a high percentage of their pups remaining alive after six months, and each day that the pups survive sees them bigger, stronger, faster and more likely to make it to adulthood.
Abu Elephant Activity Update
Note that we are now able to ride with 6 guests (was previously 5), and will walk with 6 guests (previously 7) for the elephant activity at Abu Camp, effective immediately.
Abu now Offering In-room Treatments
Abu is now offering massages, manicures and pedicures as in-room treatments subject to availability, at an additional cost.
Canoeing Re-introduced plus New Log-pile Hide at Savuti Camp
Canoeing has been re-introduced at Savuti Camp as a midday activity. In addition, on a request basis and managed on the ground by the camp, there may be opportunities (depending on guest numbers, guides, etc.) to experience an afternoon sunset canoe trip as an alternative.
New at Savuti is a log-pile hide built on the bank of the channel (just up from tent 7). The location allows good close viewing of elephants passing and crossing the channel. The log-pile hide in the dried up channel in front of camp disappeared when the channel started flowing again.
Pafuri Walking Trail
The Pafuri (Makuleke) Concession is perhaps the best area for walking in the entire Kruger National Park. It is blessed with exceptional biodiversity, spectacular scenery, seasonally high densities of many large mammal species, a feeling of wilderness and remoteness, and a sense of deep history.
The 24 000 hectare area is sandwiched between the life giving arteries of the Limpopo and Luvuvhu Rivers, both with well developed floodplains and a series of vitally important seasonal pans. Between the floodplains lies a ridge of hills with a network of drainage lines and secret perennial springs to which the area's game is drawn. Rugged baobab dotted kopjes jut from mopane woodland providing endless vistas across palm-studded floodplains, acacia woodland and ethereal riverine forest.
Undoubtedly the best way to experience the biological wealth of the area and its timeless wilderness is on foot.
No report this month.
North Island Update - October 2012 Jump
to North Island
Kings Pool Camp update - October 2012 Jump
to Kings Pool Camp
Weather and Landscape
Summer is clearly here. We experienced temperatures of between 23 - 36° C. This has been quite pleasant as October is known for its exceptionally hot and dry conditions in Botswana. We even received 32mm of rain which is also unusual for October.
Gusts of wind have stirred up dust clouds this month, and the small amount of rain which we received was not enough to settle this dust. However, the skies promise rain as there has been some impressive clouds formation forming towards the end of the month.
The wildlife which is still driven by thirst and the lure of fresh water along the Linyanti River, is concentrated along the riparian belt.
Elephant are crossing the Linyanti River on a daily basis, providing us with superb sightings from the camp deck and these movements happen around brunch time. It is just awesome to have the privilege of enjoying sightings like this while eating tasty food.
Camp staff and some guests got to witness something very rare outside Tent 9 when they found a pair of elephants mating! This is rarely seen and in my 14 years in the bush, this is only the second time that I have witnessed this.
The Sunken Hide has also been very effective during October, with elephant coming within touching distance. This has allowed for some great photographic opportunities which led to some creative compositions being shot.
Leopards have been an absolute treat during October - sightings have occurred on a daily basis. The mother with her two cubs (male and female) are still doing well. She has been very successful with her hunts especially with impala. One big nomadic male leopard has also been seen in the area this month, patrolling his riverside territory east of Kings Pool with his rasping calls, we think it was possibly a mating pair but we couldn`t tell because the female was skittish. He is a very relaxed, not bothered with the safari vehicles at all.
The wandering buffalo herd has also made an appearance on the Kings Pool stage. They occasionally enter our area from the Savute Channel region or Chobe National Park region. They are always welcome at Kings Pool but so far have not accepted our humble offer to stay permanently. We also saw several big herds of roan this month ranging from five up to twenty animals.
Lions have been seen regularly this month with some amazing sightings of lions feeding on young elephants. During this time of the year, elephants often die of thirst in the dry woodland which provides carnivores with huge amounts of food! The good news for this month is the arrival of the newly born cubs from the LTC Pride female which was pregnant, we are not sure yet how many cubs because the cubs are still hidden in the thickets but the guides saw two cubs so far and we have closed the den area until further notice, for the safety of the new born cubs. The other two cubs from her sister are still doing very well and growing bigger and strong every day.
One of the highlights for the month was when Lemme and his guests found the entire pride sleeping by the old airstrip. After spending some time with the sleeping pride the lions began to stir and awaken. There was a breeding herd of elephants feeding close by in a floodplain. The herd soon started moving into the woodland as it was becoming dark. Three sub adult stragglers were left behind, all the time being watched by the LTC male. The unsuspecting stragglers walked right past the lions, with the male exploding into action. The large male jumped onto one of the young elephants back. The lion went straight for the neck, quickly grounding the squealing elephant. The matriarch and the rest of the herd swiftly returned to try and help their fallen member, but it was too late. The rumbling, trumpeting and squealing from the elephants was unreal. What a great meal for the pride?provided by the pride male.
The wild dog pack has moved out of their den area in the Savute Channel and has come to hunt around Kings Pool. It has been an absolute treat having these endangered carnivores on our doorstep because the last time we saw them around Kings Pool area was beginning of June. The pack currently has seven pups with them.
We have had an amazing time at Kings Pool, and hope to see you all here soon.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Alex and One Mazunga, Julie Sander, Frank Maule and Tizzar Batisi.
Guides: Khan Gouwe, Lemme Dintwa, Diye Kennetseng and OD Modikwa.
Newsletter and images by Alex Mazunga
DumaTau Camp update - October 2012 Jump
to DumaTau Camp
Savuti Camp update - October 2012 Jump
to Savuti Camp
It has been a very successful month at Savuti. Even though the Savute Channel is drying up rapidly, the wildlife experiences are still breathtaking. Moreover, with the incredible heat, various antelope species and elephant are hanging around the channel in a bid to find palatable food and drinkable water.
On the predator side, the DumaTau Pride, which consists of a lioness and seven subadults, has been quite active in the area. On one occasion, the pride spotted a small herd of buffalo just east of camp on Longman Island. The pride looked hungry and was fixed onto hunting the buffalo. As soon as the small herd started to cross the channel, the lions sprang into action and piled onto a young buffalo. The rest of the herd responded with aggression and a lengthy stand-off ensued. The lion were persistent, which paid off as they made a successful kill in the end.
A large herd of eland has moved into the area, probably drawn to the channel as well. These antelope, being the largest antelope species in southern Africa, are quite skittish as they are also one of the slowest moving antelope. Despite their edgy nerves, we had a number of great sightings.
Since the large amounts of rain that we received in 2008, many of the cheetah in the area moved off to more open areas, but two large males decided to stay along the channel. These males have been spotted on a regular basis and are relaxed in the presence of the vehicle, allowing us some great game sightings. In addition to this duo, a group of four young cheetah were seen in the area once this month.
Towards the end of the month, we started to receive some light rain and drizzle - activating the environment to spring back to life. The vegetation has turned over a new page and new growth is sprouting all around. The wildlife has followed along and many species are giving birth.
Zarafa Camp update - October 2012 Jump
to Zarafa Camp
We just don't know where to begin when it comes to the wildlife sightings we've been having in October. Elephant everywhere, several prides of lion, leopards hunting and a total of 33 wild dogs, divided over three different packs... and this is all happening just in and around camp! Throw in large herds of elephant with tiny babies blocking the roads for new arriving guests, just to end off.
Two male lions visited camp and walked along the pathways at night during the first big thunderstorm, keeping our guests awake with their heart-stopping roars while the lightning lit everything up - this is primal Africa, and we're living right in the middle of it.
Two days after this sighting, one of the wild dog packs were in camp. Shortly after arriving in the area just in front of camp, the pack of 18 dogs was chased away by an irate herd of elephant which clearly did not like the presence of the dogs.
Till next month.
The Zarafa Team.
Selinda Camp update - October 2012 Jump
to Selinda Camp
Summer is on the way! We were all astonished at how quickly the trees and shrubs on the Selinda Reserve have started to green up this month. Astonished because it was not until late November last year that this started to happen. We have had some rain too! Not a lot at 3.5 mm but it is certainly a start, and the bush has responded amazingly to this minimal amount of rain so far.
Sightings this month have been excellent once more. Sightings have been dominated by the birds around Selinda Camp, as many migrants return and have paired up to nest and raise their young. A pair of African paradise-flycatchers have started nesting around the camp and are guarding their new eggs with great gusto!
The resident pride of lion has established itself on the northern side of the Selinda Spillway and has provided great sightings, almost on a daily basis. The pride is currently made up of four females and a new male which arrived in the area sometime in September. This pride has formed in addition to the Selinda Pride which has settled south of Selinda, quite close to Zarafa Camp. This is exciting news as it further bolsters the lion population in the area.
Leopard sightings have been fantastic too as we have enjoyed regular sightings. We had one sighting of a large male cheetah this month. This particular individual was sighted frequently last year, so hopefully he will settle in the area once again.
The Selinda Pack of wild dog have provided much excitement for our guests as the pack has settled on the edge of the spillway close to camp. The pack is made up of eight pups and ten adults. We are keeping our fingers crossed that all these pups will survive.
All in all it has been a great month and we now wait with anticipation for the rains to arrive - cooling off the environment and sparking the explosion of new vegetation.
Camps Update - October 2012
No report this month.
Lagoon camp Jump
• Early October saw the three cheetah brothers reunited for the first time in over a month! It was lovely to see them all together again – they looked well fed, and had just killed an impala. The rest of the month, the brothers stuck close to each other. However, their territory is huge, so it can be a long time between sightings of them, as they patrol and survey their domain
• Hundreds of carmine bee eaters have arrived for the breeding season. These stunning birds are everywhere, but the most exciting place to see them is from the boat, as they nest in holes in the banks of the river.
• Interesting combination of lions this month, with a female with three sub-adults being seen feeding on a kudu and buffalo, and then a female with 1 sub-adult feeding on a zebra. A few days later these two small prides met, and fed together on a small elephant. Late in the month, the pride of six (2 lionesses and four sub-adults) made an unusual kill: honey badger. These ferocious little beasts are rarely caught by predators, as even lions are a little hesitant around them, and they have a tendency to stand and fight rather than flee. Sadly, this one didn't win the day, and provided a small meal for six lions. It was obviously only snack-size, as the next morning, the same lions were seen hunting for bigger game along the floodplains.
• Several leopards have been seen this month, including the female with two young cubs. Although they are shy during the day, when found at night, they are much more relaxed. Four other females and two males have also been seen.
• Early on in the month, the Lagoon pack of wild dogs were frequenting the area around Lebala, as the Southern pack have been able to take longer forays into their adjoining territory now that the water is receeding. However, in the middle of the month, the Lagoon pack appears to have lost one of the puppies – and the pack count is now 16 adults and 8 puppies – still not a bad number for a litter of 10, in a species that normally has a high infant mortality rate.
• Huge herds of buffalos are still frequenting the area along the water-cut – herds of around 1000 individuals are being seen regularly, still waiting for the heavy rains so they can move further afield. Elephants have already caught wind of the impending rain, and although there are still a lot of breeding herds around, the numbers are slowly decreasing.
• Hyenas are becoming the dominant predator in the area at the moment, ganging up and forcing lions off their kills numerous times. The den seems to be producing a never ending supply of hyena cubs! However, it would just take a couple of lions to hit upon the den at an inopportune time whilst the adults are away, to tip the balance in the other direction.
• Late October, and the babies start arriving: first to be spotted – two new-born tsessebes finding their spindly legs, and having to learn fast how to BE fast, before any of the predators catch them!
• Summer (or rainy season) is truly here with the arrival of the Woodland Kingfisher this month. One of the last migrants to arrive, they announce their appearance with a high chirp, followed by a liquid trill. Nothing evokes a change of season so much as that call, when it is has not been heard for more than seven months. It conjures up images of bright green leaves, green grass, beautiful scents and antelope babies - even though we have only had one quick thunderstorm so far!
Lebala camp Jump
• Wild dogs this month showed their co-operative pack behaviour, when they decided to cross a lagoon which had crocodiles lurking around. Two members of the pack were encouraged across by the rest of the pack, to the safety of the far bank. Wild dogs have a strong sense of pack responsibility, to the point of supporting a member of the pack who cannot hunt.
• Three leopards in one day was the record this month for the 'elusive cat'. It began with a very relaxed male seen at John's Pan, then a female was found hunting along Mogotho Road, and lastly, a second female was seen at sunset attempting to hunt impalas. Late in the month, a male and female leopard were found together, relaxing on top of a termite mound, admiring the view.
• The lionesses weren't so lucky this month, having kills stolen from them on the same day – having killed a kudu, a hyena clan came and chased off the lionesses, and then a warthog kill was stolen by a large male.
• It was a luckier time for a slightly smaller cat – and the guests that saw it – a caracal managed to kill a female impala. These beautiful cats, with tufted ears similar to the lynx, are amazingly strong, and can overpower prey that is larger than itself. An impala is a good meal for the caracal, at about twice its own body weight!
• With all the action happening out and about, and great predator sights to see, its also wonderful to note that a guest recorded one of the remarkable sightings as the painted reed frog. These tiny frogs (not much bigger than a fingernail) are beautifully coloured, but hard to spot, sitting motionless on the reeds. Another motionless frog, is the foam nest tree frog: these frogs are easily seen in, of all places, Lebala bar. Pale cream in colour and looking like ceramic ornaments, they spend the day sitting on top of picture frames, or resting alongside the bottles. They can make astounding leaps to catch insects near the lights, though perhaps not as astounding as the leap that is then made when they inadvertently land on someone!
Kwara & Little Kwara camps Jump
& Little Kwara camps
• This month we actually had two different packs of wild dogs – the pack that has been with us for several months, which now consists of 7 adults and 6 puppies, and second pack that has been seen twice of 5 adults and 3 puppies. It's likely that this is actually the original pack of 12, which has split into two packs. We witnessed them meet face to face, (or muzzle to muzzle) at Second Bridge on one occaision, and although the two packs chased around each other, there was not a large amount of animosity. The resident pack lost interest and went off to hunt impala.
• There was also an interesting bit of hyena and wild dog activity where a solitary wild dog killed an impala and, before the rest of the pack could get there to assist, three hyenas moved in quickly and grabbed the remains. Another day, hyenas managed to steal an impala kill away from the dogs, only to be chased out when a lion arrived to claim the prize! Later in the month, the lions didn't have it so lucky, when a lioness lost her reedbuck kill to a hyena who harassed her too much.
• Three male cheetahs were also seen several times this month in the Splash area, as well as a cheetah mother and her sub-adult cub, feeding on a baby tsessebe. Late in the month, they were lucky enough to find a female cheetah in oestrous, and one of the brothers mated with her. It was also a lucky escape for one of the brothers, as when they were spread out looking for the female, two male lions caught the scent of the cheetah and started following. When the cheetah finally saw the lions, he ran off, with the lions giving chase for quite a distance. Eventually, the lions tired and gave up on the run.
• At the beginning of the month four previously unknown male lions moved into the Four Rivers area, changing the movements of our resident pride, and forcing them to the eastern part of the concession. The resident male lions 'kidnapped' the solitary female lioness that frequents the central area of the Kwara concession, and are obviously waiting for her to come into oestrus, in the hopes of mating. Three Shindi females were also seen, one of which has two cubs of around 3 months old. Perhaps because of the prevalence of lion sightings this month, the leopard sightings were fewer, and seemingly a little shy.
• Of the smaller cats, two servals were seen moving around together, hunting.
• The heronry was overflowing with chicks, as well as parents that were busy feeding their hungry offspring. However, at the end of the month, elephants arrived on the scene to feed, and damaged a lot of the trees that the birds were nesting in. Sadly, many have had to move off, some leaving their chicks behind.
Nxai Pan Jump
to Nxai Pan camp
• There are large numbers of springbok in the area, with the females heavily pregnant, just waiting hopefully for the rains to come so that they will be able to feed their offspring well enough. A couple of males were still seen sparring – though it's a little late in the day to be fighting over females when the deed is already done!
• Black backed jackals are seen all over the pan, foraging, laying down and making frequent contact calls to each other.
• On the 4th of October, a male and female lion were seen mating at the waterhole within the pan. On the same day, two male cheetahs came into the camp waterhole to drink.
• Accountants don't get out of the office much, but once in a while, a journey from the Maun to the Nxai Pan Park headquarters to sort out the park fees payments is necessary. Unable to have much more time than driving straight into camp, spending the night and driving out the next morning, our nature-loving administrator was excited to see anything at all. Hitching a ride into camp with her were three guides and the guide-co-ordinator, who were heading into Nxai for a training session. Perhaps they bought some luck, or perhaps it was their skills coming into action, as in the short time she was there, our lucky Accountant managed to see elephants and two cheetahs drinking at the waterhole, lions feeding on an oryx, and last but not least, a leopard that was relaxing next to the 'main' road. And on her way out of the park, closer to the Baines Baobab side, the first few hundreds of zebra from the start of the migration were spotted! – early indeed!
• The rest of the month, the lions and the cheetahs did not disappoint, and were seen many days. As all the animals are now waiting for the good rains to fall, they are still reliant on the waterholes that dot the park. For the predators, this means an easy source of food as the desperate animals come in to drink.
Tau Pan Jump
to Tau Pan camp
• The start of the month saw the three adult lions (now comprising of two females and one male, since the other male left to pursue his own agenda) and six sub-adults drinking at the camp water hole with full bellies. They then proceeded to the western side of the waterhole where there is nice shade, and spend the whole day snoozing.
Later that day there was some drama, as the six sub-adults came face to face with a very thirsty looking cheetah at the waterhole. Thanks to his speed, he managed to outrun the lions, and returned the waterhole later when the lions had left. Normally, this particular cheetah runs when he sees the vehicle, but this time around he allowed us to view him for almost an hour as he drank, before marking his territory on a nearby bush and leaving.
• The six sub-adult lion cubs are still trying to fine-tune their hunting skills against the prey species animals that come to drink – but still no luck! The two lionesses then take over from the cubs on a serious note as they try to take something down for the family. Even they are struggling to succeed, as every time they try to stalk something, the cubs are always first to launch an attack, at completely the wrong moment! When the sub-adults are not busy stuffing up their chance of getting something to eat, they spend quite a bit of time wrestling one another. This helps build their muscles, and they do learn some techniques for how to bring down prey. The more they practice, the better they will get in the future, especially important for the two young males who are facing eviction in the near future.
• Yet another sighting of the brown hyena, sneaking into the waterhole to drink just as dawn arrived. Realising he was out late, he quickly trotted off into the distance to await the night falling again.
• A very photogenic leopardess was found twice in one day – first at the waterhole in front of camp, quenching her thirst, and then relaxing in an umbrella thorn. She kept changing positions, seemingly in order to ensure that everyone could get her 'best angle'.
• Although we have been seeing plenty of honey badgers out on our drives, sniffing around and digging for food such as rodents, reptiles and invertebrates, the camp staff are less than enamoured with these cheeky animals. Several times during the last month they have broken into our dry goods store (which is on deck, raised up off the ground) and had a fat and happy time having a midnight feast. Their sharp claws easily break into sealed plastic tubs, and they are even able to climb the shelves. The camp staff have always been very careful to ensure that everything is carefully locked away and out of animals reach – even the waste that returns by truck to Maun – but the badgers always seem to be one step ahead. An additional application of corrugated iron to the outside walls of the storeroom is hoped to keep them at bay – for a while at least.
Mombo Camp update
- October 2012 Jump
to Mombo Camp
October in Mombo was an extraordinary time - we have had some incredible sightings, some unusual behaviour, and a landscape of incredible beauty and diversity.
The temperatures have been, as expected, extremely warm - the landscape arid and dusty, resources, especially water, concentrated in ever-narrowing pockets. A splash of colour comes from the trees that have all burst into bud, giving a palette of electric greens to the otherwise dun landscape. Fruiting fig and mangosteen trees provide a bounty of food for a multitude of species, and everywhere we see the bright orange peels of the popular fruit carpeting the ground. Even the baobab trees are now slowly joining in the visual chorus, pushing out their leaves like awakening prehistoric giants.
Woodland kingfishers add an ecstatic trilling note to the air - the heralds of summer arrived towards the end of the month, and already we have seen the first new births among the red lechwe - the other antelope will attempt to delay birth until the arrival of the rains.
Apart from a brief mid-month shower of rain one night, the build-up of clouds each day has us looking to the sky, wondering when the rains will arrive in earnest.
The water in the floodplains is receding fast, so much so it seems as if a gigantic plug has been pulled out, sucking it away, leaving open plains that we haven't traversed in at least two years. These areas are once again attracting animal life - the most notable being white rhino: Serondela and his companions Bogale and Map wandering in the open plains were a sight to behold!
Buffalo too, have moved further into the plains, following the edges of the water, and we no longer see the old bulls in camp, just spy them in the distance towards Skimmer Hide.
The Mporota Pride is reduced in numbers now, due to the deaths of the one Jao Boy and a couple of the older females as reported last month, but they are still doing well and sighted often. The remaining Jao Boy somehow still clings on to survival against all odds, and manages to keep up with the pride. A few weeks ago the carcass of an old elephant cow provided him with a good feed with his family, and he appears to be surviving on what remains from the others' kills.
With him unable to patrol and mark the territory, however, the dynamics of the lion population are set to change. The Mombo Boys, magnificent males now, after their year-plus absence, have re-emerged on the scene - one of them was seen mating with a female from the Mporota Breakaway, or Akuna Pride at the airstrip. The beautiful male who had been spending time with this pride recently has moved north up to the Paradise Plains area, probably to avoid the Mombo Boys. He was seen with a buffalo kill he had made on his own - testament to the incredible power of such a cat in his prime.
On one memorable day, the Mporotas crossed the channel en masse near Hippo Hide just as we were preparing a picnic! On another evening, just before dinnertime, the baboons in the trees above camp alerted us to danger. Their sharp eyes and ears had sensed danger: the lions had killed a lechwe in the plain in front of camp. Within moments, the cacophony of shrieks and barks from the baboons was joined by the excited giggles and whoops of hyaena that had suddenly materialised out of the gloom. A phalanx of them moved in, shoulder to shoulder, tails up, teeth bared at the growling lions, which one by one lost their nerve and fled before the onslaught of superior numbers. One of the young males was the last to move away, but after a short retreat he rushed back in anger, growling and roaring, scattering the hyaenas. The hyaenas had already grabbed what they could, and ran through camp with their spoils, the male lion in hot pursuit. After the pre-dinner predator performance and the ruckus died down, cocktails were served in the bar to soothe everybody's nerves!
The Western Pride, presided over by the famous lioness Mmamoriri, has two young cubs with them now, and we look forward to observing them as they grow up with their pride. They are often heard calling from Skimmer to Bird Island further in the south, and with the previously flooded plains being dry now, we have the chance to access their usual haunts without difficulty.
The low water levels and our expanding explorations have also resulted in the re-discovery of the Boro Pride, a small group of females with three young cubs, who are being attended by the Western Boys, two magnificent males that we haven't seen in a considerable time.
Maru, Legadema's daughter, has also been seen again on a few occasions after a long absence - she appears to be in good health and strength, and relaxed as ever with our presence.
Pula, Maru's sister, has had an interesting time this October - her maimed right ear has healed completely now, and doesn't appear to cause her any discomfort or disadvantage. She is still a beautiful leopard, and now she has a certain hauntingly captivating appearance. She was seen in an interesting situation with a newcomer leopard recently - a female obviously in search of a territory wandered into her turf and made a kill, which she stashed in a tree. Guides following Pula at the time while she was on patrol watched her find the kill, and then, as she fed on it, the newcomer arrived. The two leopards had a stand-off in the same tree as they sized each other up, until the other female conceded the kill and the area to Pula as its rightful owner, making her way off to the south-west. We have noticed that Pula is now lactating, and she possibly has cubs hidden somewhere towards the Burnt Ebony area, which is an exciting prospect for us to look forward to.
Legadema has popped up a few times this month - early one morning she was seen on the decks of Little Mombo, before she disappeared into the palm scrub in front of the main area for the day. At about 3 pm, a herd of red lechwe wandered into the vicinity, and Legadema was quick to take advantage - she pulled a female lechwe down right in front of us, and after resting a few minutes, dragged it into the shade of the scrub. She fed on the kill for about an hour, before wandering right in front of the decks to have a drink as we watched with bated breath. There is a possibility that she may also be pregnant, so watch this space!
Blue Eyes, the male leopard with his territory to the south of camp, has been seen on several occasion, as well as Mmolai to the north. We hope this stability among the male territory holders will result in some success among the leopard litters.
The lone wild dog and her jackals are still providing us with some fascinating and exciting viewing. The three young pups are growing fast with all the extra food provided by their surrogate aunt, although they are becoming a little more wary of her as their understanding of the world around them and their place in it grows.
The hyaena den nearby has also been the usual huge hit with our guests - the entertaining antics of all the little denizens there provide hours of fascinating viewing. The social dynamics of these predators are on display, and this is an incredible opportunity to gain an insight into the complexities of their society.
Apart from the predators, the plains game here is seen in an abundance that only Mombo can provide - a multitude of species can be seen in one breathtaking vista, from hundreds of zebra, impala, lechwe in a floodplain dotted with wildebeest, giraffe, elephant in the distance, kudu in the woodlands, a loping hyaena in the far distance, lions in the shade... the truly epic scenery that Mombo is famous for!
In camp, we have the usual suspects keeping us either entertained or on our toes - monkeys and baboons swoop and crash through the trees, feeding on the bounty of African mangosteen berries and wild figs, the genets still slink around the bar during the evening, Fat Pants, the civet comes to visit once in a while, and the Pel's fishing-owls compete with the hippo, belting out their booming calls. On the subject of the Pel's, one afternoon we found the juvenile lying on the ground outside Tent 8. The bird appeared stunned, and after he managed to fly back into the cover of a nearby African mangosteen tree, the reason became apparent: he had been mobbed by an angry swarm of fork-tailed drongos, who had obviously knocked him off his perch onto the ground. Once he had regained his perch and his dignity, he regally ignored them until they lost interest and left him in peace.
Guides in camp for October were Moa, Tsile, "Doc" Malinga, Tshepo and Cilas.
Managers in camp were Jene at Little Mombo, Vasco, Ryan, Katie, Ruby and Glen at Main Camp. We bid a sad farewell to Vasco this month, who has moved on in the company and will now be based in Maun, but on a happy note, bid him and Miriam huge congratulations on the birth of their baby daughter! Vasco, you will be missed by all at Mombo, and you leave big shoes to fill.
Until the next time, hopefully with a sprinkling of rain and the joyful event of the mass antelope births!
Pictures by Ryan Green and Moa Monwela.
Xigera Camp update
- October 2012 Jump
to Xigera Camp
Weather and Landscape
As always October has not failed to be the hottest month of the year so far, with a high of 38° C and a low of 22° C. The clouds have been lingering on the horizon, giving false hope that rain was on the way. We were graced with 5ml of rain for the whole month but also enjoyed a day or two of cool weather.
All the grasses have changed from their lush green colour from previous months during the annual inundation to a sandy brown hue. Although the water levels have dropped substantially, we have still been able to boat to the Xigera Lagoon and enjoy a comforting swim. The drop in water has allowed us to access more areas with the game drive vehicles and encounter some great wildlife on a daily basis.
Modipala, the female leopard, and her cub have been seen frequently on the way to the boat station at Xigera Lagoon, and on one occasion the cub was seen suckling from her mother - which was rather unusual as the cub is nearly nine months old now. On the topic of young animals, a hyaena den was found that is home to two young cubs. Initially the cubs were quite skittish and spent most of their time below ground. As they are a little bigger now and their curiosity has grown, they run around energetically and play outside of the den, providing us with some great sightings and photo opportunities.
With the lower water levels, the general game has been moving into the area, with large herds of buffalo coming into the concession. A lone wildebeest was seen wandering around for a few days, suddenly just vanishing, never to be seen again. A large dazzle of zebra has settled into the western section of the concession.
The game viewing from camp has been pretty good, as we still enjoy hippo visits every night. A number of kudu have also taken a liking to the camp area, thrilling our guests with their regal profiles as they browse from the surrounding trees.
On the birding side of things, the African skimmers have laid their eggs on the sandbanks along Xigera Lagoon. A sizeable flock of pink-backed pelicans and yellow-billed storks have also chosen the lagoon as their preferred spot to stay. The woodland kingfishers have also arrived, filling the air with their characteristic calls.
"It was our first stay in such a camp in Africa. We have been very impressed by the beauty and comfort of the camp."
"Diversity of water and land activities made for great experiences of the Delta."
"The singing and dancing in the boma was awesome. The hospitality and happiness of the staff. The welcoming and helpful spirit of everyone was overwhelming."
Chitabe Camp update
- October 2012 Jump
to Chitabe Camp
Weather and Landscape
The month of October is often synonymous with being the hottest time of the year, but this year, October was much milder and the high temperatures that most of us were expecting simply did not materialise. Daily temperatures were still in the upper 30s Celsius, but evening temperatures were very pleasant. We had a few passing thunder showers that missed us during the month, which meant that we continued with the dry conditions - but these in turn led to great sightings as the wildlife congregated along the remaining sources of surface water.
October brought with it great news for our pack of wild dogs as we had nine new additions to the much-diminished pack, and we are all keeping fingers crossed that they survive through to adulthood. The dogs are still at the den site and we expect them to make an appearance soon.
We were also treated to quite a few days of outstanding cheetah sightings. Throughout the month we saw three different individuals, two different females and a young male, who would occasionally rejoin his mother for brief periods.
The Tsame Pride of lions have moved more into the Chitabe Pride's territory and have pushed the Chitabe Pride out more towards the north-west of the concession. Again we have had fantastic action with the Tsame Pride who were on a buffalo kill at the first crossing from camp, giving us a few days of fantastic sightings close to camp.
We had another unusual sighting, this time right in front of the camp; coincidentally it was almost around the same time as last year. A large Southern African python took down one of the resident camp bushbuck in the floodplain in front of the main area. An amazing sighting to say the least.
Leopard sightings once again did not disappoint with many days where we would find three different leopards on a single drive. These sightings continued throughout the month.
General game was in abundance, with large herds of buffalo in the concession. Elephants were often in and around camp ensuring a constant supply of animal activity for our guests throughout the day, and we also had large herds of elephant being seen out on game drives.
The summer migrant birds have arrived with the first one being the yellow-billed kites, followed by the European rollers and finally the woodland kingfishers.
All in all, October was a great month with fantastic game viewing due to the drier conditions and temperatures that did not reach their normal highs - all resulting in many happy guests. Going into November we await the first real rains to come, but in the meantime, we can enjoy the "build up" of clouds that show lots of promise, but as yet no breakthrough rains and most of all, the next few months will give us the most amazing sunsets, which light up the whole sky in brilliant reds and oranges, made all the more interesting due to the clouds.
"Phinley's knowledge of wildlife, Kris and Alex's efforts to make Eli's birthday special - we appreciate it all!"
"Extremely personable and friendly staff, delicious meals, brilliant wildlife."
"Elephants walking past our room, friendliness of the staff - they always knew our names!"
"This camp is wonderful and extremely well run. Ebs was a wonderful guide - knowledgeable, articulate and considerate, as well as having a good sense of humour. We especially liked seeing the leopards. Meals were delicious and staff was friendly."
"We loved the personal attention and friendliness of the staff - first rate. We enjoyed the open air showers whilst listening to the baboons play. So many leopard sightings spotted by Phinley."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Alex, Masedi, Lieana, Kris and Joel. Moalosi and Ompile and Jossie at Lediba.
Guides: Gordon, Phin, Molemi, Anthony, EBS and BB.
Vumbura Plains Camp update
- October 2012 Jump
to Vumbura Plains Camp
Weather and Landscape
Yet another exciting, hot month in Vumbura Plains, with temperatures ranging from 26 to 36 degrees Celsius. We are still waiting for the rains to arrive though. A sure sign of the arrival of summer is the arrival of the woodland kingfishers which are here in full force, filling the air with their characteristic call.
All of the deciduous trees have long shed their leaves?making space for their explosion of greenery which is currently underway. The area is starting to resemble a lush and green Eden?much to the relief of the herbivores we are sure.
Wildlife sightings this month have been spectacular as the new found greenery attracts huge numbers of hungry herbivores...closely followed by hungry predators. We have noticed a big increase in the numbers of giraffe, baboon, kudu, impala and wildebeest. Sable, elephant and buffalo have also been seen frequently.
On one afternoon, some guests decided to go out and experience the area by boat?this produced some really interesting sightings for them indeed. The group had a great sighting of sitatunga out in the open! They were really blown away by this rare sighting.
We were also treated to great sightings of a pride of lions feeding on an elephant carcass. The gorging lions were constantly being bothered by some opportunistic jackals which were trying to steal some tit bits. A new male lion has appeared in the area and it was not long before the resident pride encountered him and chased him off?for now. The lions seem to have moved to the eastern areas of the concession.
The famous Golden Pack is still quite active in the area and we were lucky to witness them hunting and killing two impala on separate occasions. They were also seen chasing a wildebeest which was not successful for them this time. Leopards have been around this month and below is a sighting which simply just left our guests speechless.
One interesting morning as the guides were driving out of camp, they spotted a hyaena which seemed restless and unsettled - the guides immediately suspected the presence of another predator in the area. After a little investigation, the guides spotted a male leopard which was running away. The hyaena immediately ran to the area from where the leopard ran. As soon as the hyaena stopped, a young female leopard darted up into a tree where there was a warthog cached. Suddenly a low growl was emitted from behind the vehicle?a third leopard was standing there, looking at the feeding feline in the tree. Imagine that - three leopards and a hyaena in one sighting.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Kesegofetse, Martha, Britt, Lorato, Russell and Lauren.
Guides: Obonye, Setsile (ST), Ronald, Emang, Moronga and Zee (Sebonta).
Little Vumbura Camp update
- October 2012 Jump
to Little Vumbura Camp
In terms of weather, October has been surprisingly mild this season. However, we did record the monthly high at a staggering 45° C on one occasion. Our saving grace this month was the lack of humidity which is what usually makes an October in Botswana become known as 'Suicide Month'. The mornings in general have been overcast, making for some really scenic and beautiful sunrises as the sun's rays pierce the cloud cover. Once this cloud cover passes over, the conditions are perfect for our guests to laze around the pool and enjoy a siesta. In terms of rain, we only received a mere 3mm of rain, but we did experience a number of electrical storms.
Animal activity on the island this month has been fantastic. With the water dropping around the island it is allowing access to far more wildlife than usual. We have constantly had big herds of elephant in camp, hippo and an amazing event of a pride of five lions killing a kudu on the island! Unfortunately this pride did not stay long, but we believe they now know that there is easy game on the island, they will be back.
Outings in the concession have also been very successful this month. We had beautiful sightings of a cheetah feeding on its kill. This particular cheetah is a new male which will hopefully settle in the area. In terms of lion, the resident pride is currently rearing eight cubs and have been incredibly successful in their hunting this month as we have seen this pride feeding on buffalo, warthog and sable.
The hyaena den has once again provided great close-up sightings of their cubs, as they have now left the confines of the den and are often seen playing around at the entrance of the den.
The Golden Pack of wild dogs have been rather elusive this month, but we did manage to have a couple great sightings of this unique pack. When we did see the pack, they were chasing after either impala or reedbuck. The pack is now quite large as their pups are now joining them on the hunting forays. It is interesting to see how the pups interact with the adults.
On the birding side, the woodland kingfishers have returned and all we can hear now in the day is their characteristic 'chhrrrrrrrrrr' call.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Hamish, Millie, Sly and Kb.
Guides: Sam, Rain and Madala Kay.
Duba Plains Camp update
- October 2012 Jump
to Duba Plains Camp
Following a relatively dry season this year and also less in-flow from the catchment areas, the water levels have gone down drastically around the concession and most areas that would normally be submerged at this time of the year are completely dry. This dry spell will continue for some time as we do not expect any rainfall until about mid-November. Temperatures have been ranging between 32 degrees Celsius and 36 degrees Celsius during the day and between 14 and 19 degrees Celsius during the evening. This has led to a lot of evaporation.
With this great heat and less water at most places, large numbers of crocodiles have been seen this month, basking in the sun, probably calculating their attack on the next unsuspecting mammal that wanders too close. This has led to some amazing interactions between these predators and their prey which are driven by thirst to these dangerous areas.
In terms of vegetation, most of the deciduous trees have shed all their leaves and the grass has been trampled flat, making for some great game viewing owing to the increased visibility.
Towards the end of the month a large hippo died at Lion Pan - perishing from battle wounds that were inflicted by another male during a territorial fight. The carcass lay untouched for four days before two crocodiles sniffed it out and gorged themselves. The resident pride of lions did not visit the carcass, but there were seen almost on a daily basis hunting and feeding on their favourite prey - the buffalo.
With the strong presence and dominance of the Tsaro Pride in the area, the buffalo have been taking a pounding as they have lost physical condition due to the lack of palatable and nutritious graze and adequate water. As lions are inherently opportunistic hunters, they are taking full advantage of the weakness in the buffalo ranks - making excessive kills and feasting in this time of plenty. It seems the trend this month is the lions taking weak buffalo that have become stuck in the mud around the drying waterholes.
Small herds of elephant have been seen on a daily basis even around the camp. They feed on almost everything, from grass, leaves, twigs and branches. Water is enough from deep channels for these elephants and they need not travel far to get drinking water.
Other species that have been sighted on a regular basis are the nocturnal ones like the pangolin, aardwolf, civet, bat-eared fox and genet. We have also had great sightings of the more elusive antelope species such as reedbuck and bushbuck.
Banoka Bush Camp update
- October 2012
Weather and Landscape
October is known as the hottest time of year due to the high temperatures and it being the driest month with the promise of rain being a distant hope. October 2012 was different however when we were extremely surprised and happy to have a rain storm mid-month. The staff were all dancing in the rain with big smiles, the guests then joined in our celebration and although it was short-lived, it was enough to settle the dust and give us an amazing sunset.
The wild dogs have been spotted in camp at least twice a week playing in the mud pools and drinking from the lagoon before setting off on their hunts.
The three subadult lion males have now made camp their new favourite hangout, lying in the shade waiting for the sun to set and the darkness to begin, and one evening managing to take down a buffalo 30 metres from the staff village - guests could hear the entire event and got to see the remains at first light.
The highlight for this month was witnessing an interaction between a giraffe and a leopard, both willing to give each other space yet inquisitive to see who would give in to let the other move off.
Birds and Birding
The water has dried up and the birds have made their way to Banoka's lagoon - the wattled cranes have started visiting the lagoon daily, as well as a collection of white-faced ducks and African darters amongst the usual birds like African jacana and the resident African fish-eagle family.
An interesting sighting was when one of the housekeepers found a Southern African python constricting a red-billed spurfowl just outside one of the rooms.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Mama B, Meshack and Cheri.
Guides: Chief, Vinny, Rueben and Chris.
Newsletter and photos by Cheri Ross.
Jacana Camp update
- October 2012 Jump
to Jacana Camp
Another fabulous month on the little island paradise that is Jacana! We have found that the weather has been much more comfortable with less humidity and more frequent cloudy days than this time last year. We have even had a small amount of rain - only 4mm though. The temperatures have been averaging around mid-30s (Celsius) during the day and a comfortable 20°C at night.
All around the Delta, the water levels are dropping, and around Jacana is no exception. Each week, more and more grasses are being revealed between our island and the neighbouring islands. We are no longer using the shallower channels for our boats, instead we are limited to the deeper channels to transfer between camp and the airstrip. This journey, whilst a little longer, provides a greater opportunity to spot hippo as we pass through some of their favourite, deeper lagoons.
Living in such an environment, we are regularly treated to the wonders of Nature. There was one morning this month however, that stands out in our minds and hearts for the sheer beauty.
As the sun was rising in front of the deck and our guests were beginning to enjoy their toast and muffins, we could see a small family group of red lechwe at the water's edge about 50 metres from the deck. As we continued to watch them, we realised that there was a tiny newborn lechwe in their midst who was still a little unsteady on its legs. Coffee turned cold in our mugs, muesli became soggy in our bowls as, spellbound, we watched the mother introducing her wobbly little one to the water. Carefully, she led her baby through the water to the small island in front of us, stopping every few paces to allow it to catch up with her. She took nearly 20 minutes to make the journey that she would normally cover in two; by the time they reached the other side, the poor little one was exhausted and immediately lay down next to its mother! Our guide, Timothy, explained to the guests that she will repeat this journey several times over the following days in order to strengthen the baby's muscles until it can leap and bound through the water like the adults do. We had noticed that the mother was careful to avoid the hippo/elephant channel and Timothy said that this was to avoid the greater risk of a crocodile attack in the deeper channel.
Last month, we reported the sighting of a small breeding herd of elephants crossing between islands in front of the camp. The update this month is that this small family has been regularly coming onto our island to feed. Their behaviour is a little different from the mature bulls who normally visit Jacana, in that they are not as comfortable with our presence and tend to shy away from us, but nonetheless their presence on the island is delightful.
Although the water levels are dropping, our boat cruises and mokoro activities are still continuing as normal and we are experiencing excellent fishing trips to the deeper lagoons where tiger fishing has been the most successful.
On the bird front, we have welcomed the return of the woodland kingfishers to the island, and also the black cuckoo. A fortuitous scan with my binoculars from our viewing deck revealed two juvenile African fish-eagles perching together, something interesting as more often than not, the fish eagles will raise only one young. We have been hearing the harsh "kwark, kwark, kwark" of a juvenile fish eagle calling its parents throughout the month and are a little disappointed that we have missed their first flights.
With our constant warm weather, we are seeing a lot more of the smaller things on the island including snakes. We had an excellent sighting of a female boomslang, followed a day later by a male boomslang who mirrored her route, clearly picking up her pheromone trail.
One amusing sighting was of the comic flap-necked chameleon crossing one of our pathways and climbing up a nearby tree. One can only smile whilst watching the chameleon: their walking style is so unusual that it brings to mind the old Bangles song, "Walks like an Egyptian"!
So all in all, a very interesting month at Jacana!
The Jacana Team
Staff in Camp
Managers: Phil and Jo Oliver
Guides: Timothy Samuel, Moruti Maipelo and Rex Sanyedi.
Abu Camp update
- October 2012 Jump
to Abu Camp
The first of the thunderstorms have wet the earth, creating beautiful mists as the scorching earth turns the drops into steam. Birds and beast gather along water channels and lagoons immersing themselves in cool Delta water. None enjoy the water so much as our beautiful elephants. Cathy and Abu, the water-babies of the herd, frolic for hours doing summersaults and spraying water into the air.
Chirping their distinctive tune, the woodland kingfishers have been teasing us the last few weeks. Only recently did we spot a pair of these pretty blue summer migrants sitting in the branches over Abu Lagoon.
The lions have been spotted on several occasions this month. The two young males have grown tremendously and are playing a very active role in hunts. A group effort recently saw the four take down a medium sized giraffe near the old airstrip. The next morning the guests got a beautiful view of them, as they walked down the airstrip toward some water, where they drank as the sun rose behind them. On another occasion they were spotted giving a tortoise a very hard time. Luckily his hard shell saw the lions giving up after a short while.
Trips out to the west, now possible due to the low water levels, take you not only to some of the most beautiful spots in the concession, but to some of the best game areas too. Pools teaming with noisy hippos, leopards stalking in the long grass, shy cheetahs and large herds of buffalo have all been seen.
To the south of camp new elephant research facilities are being built. This will add a very exciting dynamic to the Abu experience, giving guests the opportunity to not only spend time with elephants but to also understand and be part of a lot of the research that is done. This means that we have had to say goodbye to our beautiful bush dinner spot! Luckily, there are so many beautiful spots here at Abu that we had no difficulty in finding a new one!
We look forward to a mild and green November with the elephants!
update - October 2012 Jump
to Kwetsani Camp
Weather and Landscape
This month we have slowly eased our way into summer. The days have been hot with the afternoons being exceptionally humid. The monthly high was 38° C with the average being around 34° C. At night the weather has been very pleasant with an average temperature of 21° C.
As the days became warmer, the spectacular cumulonimbus cloud formations began to appear in the late afternoons. After days of seeing these amazing clouds build up with some spectacular electrical storms but no rain, we finally received a good shower on the 20th of October. Over the next week and a half we had a few other nights where the area of Kwetsani received a little rain but otherwise everyone is still awaiting the first big rain with bated breath.
October is also the month when the African bush is most vulnerable to fire. Throughout the month, we could see at night the bright orange glow on the horizon. Almost all of the fires tend to be on isolated islands surrounding the main island on which Kwetsani is located. Therefore the fires may look intimidating, especially at night, but never make it over to Kwetsani.
The water level continues to drop in the channels surrounding the Kwetsani area. Although the water may be low, it still allows us to boat to Hunda Island for game drives.
What an amazing month it has been for wildlife viewing for us. From the Kwetsani deck alone we have been able to sit back and enjoy everything this wonderful concession has to offer. We have had elephant, lion, leopard, hyaena, hippo and many more species pass by the Kwetsani deck.
The breeding herds of elephant are constantly making Kwetsani Camp a stopover. Throughout the month, especially in the afternoons, the herds will make their way onto our little island. Guests are able to sit back and enjoy high tea surrounded by whole family units or fall asleep to the sound of a large bull munching away under their tent deck. We even had a few groups of guests cancel going out on an afternoon game drive, just so they could watch a large bull elephant feeding around camp - what a privilege it is for all of us at Kwetsani to share these little bits of the lives of the wildlife surrounding us.
The lion have also been firm favourites during October. Although our little pride has only one cub remaining of the original four, the pride is still going strong. As the water has dropped, the pride has returned and continue to be specialist lechwe hunters. We were lucky enough to spot the pride feeding on the spoils of their hunts a number of times. On one occasion, during the early morning, the pride made a kill right next to camp alongside our water pump. What an awesome sighting this was!
We expect the upcoming months to become very interesting regarding the resident pride, as a young male lion has been sighted a number of times, right in the heart of the resident pride territory. What will happen when he encounters the Jao Males?
A little further away from camp, the game viewing on Hunda Island has been phenomenal! Our guests have witnessed leopard feeding on kills, resting with their cubs, actively hunting or just saddled over a comfy tree branch. Some of our guests barely managed to leave the boat station before getting a visual of a female leopard.
To top off these fantastic leopard sightings, the plains game viewing has also been excellent. Our guests have enjoyed the large amounts of zebra, wildebeest, giraffe and buffalo herds that frequent the island.
Birds and Birding
What a thrill it is to be a bird enthusiast around Kwetsani Camp. With a wonderful variety of wetland and savannah species, there is never a dull moment - and now the sounds of summer are back! All around Kwetsani we can hear the calls of the woodland kingfisher, Jacobin cuckoo and African-paradise flycatcher. They have joined a host of other species that are making their way south for summer.
It has not only been our summer migrants stealing the birding show at Kwetsani. Lately the owls have taken centre stage. Currently we have the largest owl and one of the smallest owls in the region calling Kwetsani home. The Verreaux's eagle-owl and two African barred owlets have been seen frequently around camp. One barred owlet even decided to join us for high tea one afternoon on our front deck. It is fascinating to see the contrast in size and features between the two species.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Dan Chaknova and Mandy Sunderland.
Guides: MT Malebogo, Florence Kagiso and Ronald Gaopalewe.
update - October 2012 Jump
to Jao Camp
Weather and Landscape
Summer is here! Those who call the Delta their home are already wise to the fact that October is probably the hottest month of the year and temperatures were reported as high as 38 degrees Celsius at Jao while other camps in the concession reported highs of 42 degrees Celsius.
We experienced only three short bursts of rain with a meagre 6 mm to date - the true rainy season is yet to begin. In the meanwhile, there are breathtaking views of heavy cumulonimbus clouds and spectacular lightning displays with only an empty promise of rain. The water level in the Delta continues to drop but the birdlife is still thriving and the fish are still jumping!
For any person who calls themselves a wildlife enthusiast, the sighting of a honey badger brings on a fit of excitement and this month, there have been two such bouts of excitement! Two honey badgers were seen at the Jao Bridge hurrying on their way in true honey badger style - nose down, a rapid trot and with an occasional grunt or snort announcing their presence. The Jao floodplain also boasted two honey badgers but this time, a mother with her baby. The youngster was having a hard time keeping up with the mother and had a sit down every now and then to catch its breath! This was only due to the inexperience of age as it was in perfect health and it was not long after the baby would take a rest that the mother badger would make a prompt turnabout to retrieve her offspring and then continue trotting along.
The elusive sitatunga also made its presence known on two separate occasions. The first was at the concession jetty, clearly unperturbed by members of the concession team who carried on with their work, and the second was on the Jao floodplain in full view of the main area. Two sitatunga were making their way across the plain with a steady yet alert manner - alas, they were too far away for any witness to take a decent photo for bragging rights.
In the camp itself, crossing the walkway that the staff frequent, a healthy two-metre-long Southern African python was found in the early hours of the evening as the temperature cooled. These snakes are constrictors and non-venomous so we were not worried. However, depending on which reference book you have available, the Southern African python, which is the biggest of all African snakes, can average 4,8 metres in length.
There were also Cape buffalo bulls seen on the Jao floodplain and the spritely Cape-clawless otter darting in and out the water lilies near the jetty in front of the main camp much to everyone's delight. Lastly, a pair of white throated monitor lizards was seen around the spa in a dramatic fighting frenzy - the reason for their fight being most likely for the mating rights to a female waiting patiently while tucking herself away in a nearby crevice.
Birds and Birding
We are proud to boast that we have a small family of the southern ground-hornbills that call the Jao Concession their home and this month they decided to liven up Jao with their antics. Two of the birds landed early one morning in the sycamore fig tree in front of the main area, one with a dead snake hanging limply from its beak. They then proceeded with their deep and booming call for a few minutes before making a dramatic exit flying over the main area's roof and off into the distance. The next few days they were seen foraging in the small openings alongside the road leading up to the main area and on a particular morning even slowing down traffic while they stood on the road calling. The last time they were seen, they made a visit to the office behind the scenes, again in a sycamore fig, perched and announcing their very obvious presence. In the local language of Setswana, the southern ground-hornbill is called a 'lehututu' which is derived from the bird's call.
Other birds seen this month were a pair of woodlands kingfisher, of all places, nesting in a pile of sand along the main camp road. The pile of sand has been left well alone for now until such time as the nestlings have grown and left the nest. The beautiful African-paradise flycatcher with its lingering orange tail feathers giving away its hide in the thick canopy of mangosteen trees it chooses to frequent can be seen fluttering around camp almost any time of the day.
We've had the pleasure of creating romantic dinners and settings for guests celebrating honeymoons and anniversaries. It seems that all of the staff (gentlemen included) have a romantic side as can be seen in the breat taking tables that were presented. We had a guest decide to decorate the guest comment book and within an hour of sitting with the book on the upper deck of the main area, we had the scene of the jetty and the channel within view sketched with skill in the gentlest of pastel colours. We also had some of the younger generation enjoy movie and popcorn evenings, chocolate-dipped marshmallows and countless games of Jenga making the days colourful, with the managers and guides letting their inner child join the fun!
Staff in Camp
Managers: William Whiteman, Angie Whiteman, Bryan Webbstock, Theresa Fourie, Retha Prinsloo and Phill Ngisi.
Guides: Cruise Mollowakgotta, Simon Tshekonyane, Solly Kanyeto and Bee Makgetho.
update - October 2012 Jump
to Seba Camp
October in Botswana is well known for the intense heat that the subcontinent experiences - and hot it was this month! The maximum temperature recorded for the month was just a little less than 40° C, with the minimum for the month dropping drastically down to 12° C.
The mokoro trips have been really popular this month, as they offered us some respite from the sweltering heat. Seba Lagoon has also become a haven for birds, animals and a variety of other creatures and critters - in particular the myriad frogs and toads which were heard calling every night.
Of course the elephant are always in camp, and several very large herds are making their presence known in the floodplains behind the camp, the tiny babies always entertaining as they learn to use their trunks as their majestic mothers do.
The two male buffalo are still in and around camp, taking to the islands to seek shade in the heat, often coming into the camp during the night to feed, along with the resident pod of hippo.
The resident lion pride was spotted several times this month, although it seems they have split up, as they have not been seen together for quite some time. There were also several leopard spotted throughout the month, although not as regularly as usual, due to the foliage that has started to sprout all over the place.
As for an update on the Seba Clan of hyaena, we have yet to find their new den, however, our guides have been finding lots of tracks on the northern side of camp. It appears that the clan comes around the camp on a nightly basis, and judging by the tracks, the pups are almost fully grown.
The birdlife was particularly impressive this month, with the summer migrants pouring into the camp in full force. Jacobin cuckoo, woodland kingfisher and the various water birds surrounding the Seba Lagoon was the order of the day. Martial eagle, African fish-eagle, white-backed vulture and marabou storks were all spotted around camp. The birding highlight for the month was the sighting of a melanistic gabar goshawk hunting in the undergrowth.
Until next time, enjoy the sun - James and the Seba Tribe.
Tubu Tree Camp
update - October 2012 Jump
to Tubu Tree Camp
Weather and Landscape
The heat of the October sun has driven all the game into the shade by 10am in the morning, but this sun and wind is calling in the rain, for which we are all desperately longing. If you are into photography, the gathering clouds, the smoke from the far distant fires, and the dust make for fabulous sunrise and sunset photographs.
Watching the baboons is one of the most pleasurable game viewing that one can do. Their social interaction is very interesting, and one can spend hours in their company. On one such occasion, the adults were just relaxing and grooming each other in the late afternoon sun, while all the young ones were energetic, running and climbing and hanging all over the trees. This particular afternoon, while being amused by the youngsters, we saw a very white, almost albino looking youngster - with pink ears and eyelids - trying desperately to join in the game with the other youngsters; however he was very weak. In addition, the other little ones as well as the teenagers seemed to be scared of him and would run away. The only ones that would play with him were babies of a few weeks old. It will be interesting to watch the progress of this young baboon.
When we first arrived at the end of September after our leave cycle, we could hear two different lions roaring in the far distance, the roaring getting closer and closer each day. One morning, at about 9am, a lion roared very close to the airstrip and soon after, another lion was seen running off into the distance. After a short search, the lion with the incredible roar was seen resting at the normal bush brunch spot. This convinced us that he was declaring this his territory, which is why we had seen the younger male running off.
Leopards in trees, leopards on anthills, leopards walking, leopards stalking, leopards killing - leopards, leopards everywhere. I don't think there is a day that goes by that we don't get a great sighting of these majestic animals.
Large breeding herds of elephant have come through the camp area at least once a week. All the newborn babies kept protectively under their mothers' legs, while they fed off the greenery around camp. This always has our guests in awe of these gentle giants.
The zebra are all giving birth to their foals this time of the year. New life on the plains is always fun to watch. Large herds of wildebeest and buffalo have also visited the island. It is also the mating season for the giraffe, which is always fun to watch as they awkwardly attempt to do the deed...
Birds and Birding
Once again, the birdlife has been phenomenal. The lilac-breasted roller, the broad-billed roller and the purple roller can all be seen at Tubu.
Some interesting bird sightings have included that of about 20 marabou storks feeding on the afterbirth of what we believe to be a zebra. A coppery-tailed coucal was observed catching and eating a snake and we have also had great sightings of a bateleur feeding on an impala carcass.
"Absolutely outstanding! Charmaine and Daniel were perfect hosts! GT was one of the best guides we've ever had in our 13 year love affair with Botswana! The presentation on spiders, insects and reptiles in camp was informative and welcomed."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Dan and Charmaine Myburg.
Guides: GT Sarepito and Gibson Kehemetswe.
Kalahari Plains Camp
update - October 2012 Jump
to Kalahari Plains Camp
Weather and Landscape
The summer rains have arrived a little earlier this year, as we have already experienced some decent rain in certain areas of the reserve, including Deception Valley, which has now transformed into a green oasis and is attracting huge numbers of wildlife.
We have experienced a fair deal of cold morning breezes blowing in from the north. The breeze dies down in the morning and strong gusts return in the afternoon, blowing across the open plains of the Kalahari. These gusts have caused some impressive cloud formations which then rumble with thunder and produce lightning which flashed across the skyline.
The month of October was blessed with some great feline sightings. The Kalahari Plains Pride stuck around the camp area for the first two weeks of the month. On one evening, our guests were treated to a special sighting when the lions emerged from some vegetation a mere 70 metres away from the lounge. The felines then lay down in the open while the guests enjoyed their sundowners while watching the lions. This experience was further enhanced when the lions broke out into call during dinner - serenading our guests. Towards the end of the month, we finally saw the two pride males together?it is truly impressive to see two of the legendary black-maned Kalahari males together.
Cheetah sightings have been rather good this month as a mother with her two sub adult cubs has been hanging around Deception Pan for most of the month.
Other great sightings for the month include honey badger, bat-eared fox, black-backed jackal, cape fox, oryx, springbok and giraffe.
In terms of birding, we have experienced some fantastic birding as the summer migrants make their way further south throughout the African continent. The red-crested Korhaan has stolen the centre stage, as they are currently breeding - wowing guests with their elaborate courtship display which as earned them the nick name of 'suicide bird'.
Newsletter by Fanie
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