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Wilderness "Airport" Lounges
We have lounge facilities available to our guests in both Botswana and Namibia. In Maun, it is at the Okavango Wilderness Safaris (OWS) offices while in Windhoek, it is physically located at Hosea Kutako International Airport.
Curious Mongoose near Mombo Camp
Sighting: Mongoose feed on an impala carcass
Location: Mombo Camp, Chief's Island, Botswana
Observers: Ryan Green and Graham Simmonds
Photographer: Ryan Green
Shortly after leaving camp for an afternoon drive we came across a dead impala ewe - untouched by predators. It was unknown what had actually killed her but she was clearly pregnant and perhaps this had something to do with her demise. What was really interesting about the situation is that a business of banded mongoose (business being the collective noun for mongoose) were very interested at the sight of this large (in their eyes!) mammal lying still and unresponsive.
Mongoose the world over usually eat insects, snakes, lizards, rodents and other small creatures but also sometimes carrion. Some of the group were sunning themselves and totally uninterested whilst a few were cautiously approaching in their well-known fashion, where their heads are pointed and extended towards the source of interest and their legs are stiff and ready to spring into action at the first sign of danger.
After a few minutes of inching closer they realised that the impala was still showing no signs of life and decided to touch and smell the impala. One family member went to the udders of the impala and started scratching around that region whilst a few had made their slow progress towards the head. Dead or alive, they knew where the mouth was and seemed extremely nervous to approach.
After they were completely certain of no repercussions to their inquisitive antics they decided to gnaw on the hoof and foreleg. They eventually decided that this was not a favoured food source and quickly went back to their foraging ways with merry toots and whistles and snapping up any unsuspecting beetle or grub.
Going Bananas on North Island
Sighting: Going Bananas on the Island
Location: North Island, Seychelles
Photographer: Linda Vanherck
Most of us know post-rat-eradication means "moorhens galore" on the island. Indeed, after the successful eradication of the black rat (ship rat) in September 2005, this originally shy marsh rail (not a duck, folks!) - which could only be spotted occasionally -stalking between the reeds, has rapidly spread across ALL habitats on the island as a result of the falling away of the main predators of their eggs, chicks (ground breeders) and even adults.
With increasing numbers and food competition going up, the birds rapidly became opportunistic feeders, picking at whatever they can get their beaks on!
We thought finding them feeding on a squashed coconut that was driven over on the open grasslands between the foraging turnstones, and between the pumpkins in our vegetable garden was remarkable and thought "we had seen it all."
Until today, when passing the banana trees in the veggie garden, we stumbled upon this bold tree climber, "going BANANAS" - quite literally!
Sable Herd in the Kafue
Sighting: Lots of Kafue Sable!
Location: Busanga Bush Camp, Kafue National Park, Zambia
Date: 17 September 2012
Observers: Tara Rowe
Photographer: Isaac Kalio
Sable antelope in the Kafue National Park are notoriously shy. Even though we do find them every other day, it is usually in small numbers - a lone bull, or maybe a few females.
Over the past week or so, we have been lucky enough to find a large breeding herd (certainly large for this area) of over 30 sable on game drives towards the tree lines on the edge of the Busanga Plains, a very rare sighting for us.
With the sable being an iconic antelope with its large scimitar-like horns and beautiful facial markings, this well relaxed herd has allowed our guests to sit and learn more about this rare and graceful creature in close proximity.
Within this group the large and impressive dominate male can be seen overseeing his females, and his posturing and constant tactile communication (physical contact) ensure that his bond with the whole herd remains strong.
We seldom get such interesting insight into these animals as we only tend to see them in much smaller groups - a fabulous sighting indeed.
Wild Dog at Kalamu Lagoon Camp
Sighting: Wild dogs at Kalamu
Location: Kalamu Lagoon Camp, South Luangwa, Zambia
Date: 18 September 2012
Observers: Solly Tevera
Photographer: Solly Tevera
A pack of wild dog seems to have finally settled in the Luamfwa Concession somewhere - the question is: where in the area?
Since the beginning of September, today was the fifth sighting to be recorded in the area. The pack has four adults and eight pups which are almost fully grown. The previous sightings have just been glimpses, but today, our guests were very lucky to observe them hunting during the early hours of the morning.
Although the hunt was unsuccessful, seeing a large group of this rare species with young puppies is always such a treat and privilege.
We will be keeping a close eye on this pack and keep everyone updated.
Skimmers nest at Zarafa
Sighting: African skimmers nest at Zarafa
Location: Zarafa Camp, Selinda Concession, Botswana
Date: 22 September 2012
Photographer: David Murray
Our local African skimmers have chicks!
There is an island that we can see from Zarafa Camp, to which we can easily boat, where a number of these endangered birds are nesting. In between enjoying the incredible general game viewing season we are having while on game drives, guests often go out on the barge for a sundowner cruise to this area.
The skimmers have only started nesting in the last two seasons, which is a great success for us and a major bonus for the conservation of the area.
On our last visit to the island, we watched as the skimmers mobbed a hamerkop; they were clearly unhappy to have the visitor in their breeding grounds! On the other hand, they didn't seem to mind us!
No report this month.
Wilderness Touring Cape Town Update
We have been advised that the SA Jewish Museum and Holocaust Centre will be closed for renovations from 26 July 2012 to 12 August 2012.
Governors Private Camp News
We have been working hard on a whole new look and concept at Governors Private Camp. We have added all new soft furnishings in the tents and bar tent and there is a new bar / mess tent on the oxbow overlooking the Mara river. The tents now have bathrooms with plumbed in showers, flush toilets and taps with running water. There is also wifi available in the bar / mess tent area.
We have also changed the way the camp is booked. This means that from January 2013 we will be accepting indivual bookings at Governors Private Camp which means you can book a tent and share the camp with others. The camp will still be available for private groups too. Inorder to book the whole camp privately you must book and pay for 6 tents per night or if your group will occupy more than 6 tents, you must book and pay for every tent occupied. All this means you can enjoy this very special location without having to book the whole camp! If you would like to make and enquiry or make a booking for Governors Private Camp then please contact us.
Loldia House News!
We have been welcoming back lots of repeat guests to Loldia this month. One guest, manager Colin first met whilst guiding in South Africa and then again at Little Governor and now at Loldia which was a lovely surprise, travelling with a group of Born Free Supporters. It is always a comforting feeling to have people returning to our little piece of paradise!
Although we have not had as much rain this month, Lake Naivasha's water level continues to rise thanks to rain falling in the catchment area. The garden remains an emerald green, dotted and splashed with various bright colours from the flowers that are still growing in profusion.
There are lots of young animals around the farm. Nature has a way of making sure the young arrive when they can be best provided for.
Night game drives have been very popular this month. Of an evening people can see bat-eared foxes, hyenas, porcupines and so many hippos! There was even one account of a very close face-to-face encounter with a young bull hippo. The driver gave way, the hippo trotted off and the guests were left with an amazing memory! Two leopards were seen this month, one while gently strolling down the road with not a care in the world. It was not even dark at the time!
The flamingos are still moving around a fair bit. We like to give our visitors as much chance as possible to see them – a visit to Lake Nakuru often enough brings results while one can get quite close to them on Lake Oloidien, the smaller lake where we go for our boat rides. There have been some lovely pictures taken from the water's perspective.
Absolutely fabulous news from the school! Ole, our head barman has just heard that his daughter has been accepted at Nairobi University! She was a student at Loldia Primary School, the local school which we support. This is a great credit to her and the school. Congratulations all round!
Well, once again our invitation stands. Join us out here on tranquil Lake Naivasha for a time of peace, engaging conversation and grand hospitality!
Certificate of excellence from Trip Advisor
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge just got a lovely suprise when we received this certificate of excellence from Trip Advisor in the post... Thanks to everyone who reviewed their stay on Trip Advisor.
Guests have been enjoying some fabulous gorilla trekking lately. On one trek Sabyinyo gorilla family were on the wall which forms the Park boundary so the trek was very short. This group have taken to eating Eucalyptus so are spending most of their time lately close by. The Agasha group were a little more difficult to find with a 2 1/2 hr trek to get to them. At first they were on a very steep slope in thick vegetation but eventually the gorillas moved into an open flat area where everyone enjoyed good views and great photos of them.
At last it has stopped raining so trekking is much easier. On one days trek a Silverback took hold of one of our guests legs to steady himself as he walked passed the group of guests on a steep slope. Then on another day several guests were touched by gorillas on their trek! Towards the end of the month there was a lot of agitation within the Sabyinyo group. Guests were charged by the No1 Silverback and mock threatened several times! The reason appeared to be caused by a new female that had joined the group which was preferring the No2 Siverback. The next day the group was much calmer (one guests visited this group twice) but it was noticed that the No2 Silverback had received bites on his back. Obviously firmly put in his place by the first silverback.
No report this month.
North Island Update - September 2012 Jump
to North Island
The nesting season of our green turtles has continued with high numbers of emergences, keeping us very busy with daily turtle patrols - requiring track recording and marking of assumed nests to allow further monitoring, especially during spring tides when certain sections of the beaches undergo the usual seasonal progressing erosion.
In the previous issue we reported a total of 66 tracks, 30 of which were assumed to be successful nests. The substantial increase of emergences (29 tracks counted in June) continued, with monthly totals of tracks of 32 and 30 respectively in July and August, bringing the total number of recorded emergences to 135, of which 63 are assumed to have led to successful egg laying. Due to high guest occupancy requiring the environmental staff to be awake and chirpy during daytime, we could not do many night patrols and so far only one emerging female has been tagged.
And whilst the continued regular emergences of the green turtles keep surprising us (as the nesting season is in theory coming to an end), the hawksbills are still to be seen in this new season. Let's see if they will be as numerous as last year: from September 2011 to March 2012 we counted no less than 142 tracks of which 67 were confirmed (egg laying witnessed by a trained staff member) and assumed nests (from interpretation of the digs found after the turtle returned).
Dr Jeanne Mortimer's word of caution of not letting our guard down regarding the species' protection is not out of place here: according to Dr Mortimer, green turtle females probably lay a minimum average of 3-5 egg clutches per season. Our "very large" track figures therefore originate from a still reasonably small number of turtles. In other words: North Island has, relatively speaking, a lot of green turtles compared to other inner islands, but not so many in absolute terms! So every one of those females is precious!
As for the much-needed rains, we did receive some showers but we are still hoping for more - a total of 626 mm was recorded so far, which fell over 59 days. What was baffling, though, was the response of nature in general, and the Seychelles white-eyes in particular, to the good rains at the end of August. Right from the very first good shower in a long time, the first territorial songs could be heard again in the staff village, thereby replacing our alarm clocks in the early morning just before sunrise! The first singers were soon followed by other males, clearly "challenged by the competition", and presently their amazingly loud songs can be heard all day long, even at the hottest time of the day.
Regular monitoring by experts Andre LaBiche and Elvina Henriette (amply familiar with our birds since they participated in the initial introduction as well as the post-introductory observations and ringing of fledglings born on the island) has been made possible via funds from the Protected Areas Project. Censuses are ongoing, but there is already reasonable confidence that our population has grown from the 25 initially introduced birds originating from Conception Island, to around 60 birds (LaBiche & Henriette, verbal comm. Aug 2012).
The rains and resultant greenery did not remain unnoticed by the tortoises - these appeared on the previously unpalatable grass plains at the heli pad. It is a delight to spot the juvenile tortoises, introduced from Silhouette Island, appearing so well-adapted to their new home. Several of them spent prolonged periods quietly under piles of leaves during the driest part of the year, but can now be seen again on the east plateau, foraging side by side with the older, larger Aldabra giant tortoises. By now, OJ, Warren, numbers 13, 16 and 48 have "become part of the scenery", whilst animals released on the Bernica mountain trail are also spotted regularly by delighted hikers who keep being surprised at the animals' amazing climbing abilities.
On the migratory birds front, the first whimbrels and turnstones were seen again from mid-August onwards, feeding on the grassy eastern plateau and on the beaches. A few grey plovers were seen subsequently. On 21 September, a cattle egret was spotted walking around in the staff village. Meanwhile, the white-tailed tropicbird chick at the monitored nest at West Beach has transformed into a bulky juvenile, to the delight of many a guest we showed it to.
Kings Pool Camp update - September 2012 Jump
to Kings Pool Camp
We were blessed with the first rains of the season in mid-September. Nothing too heavy but it included some amazing displays of lightning in front of camp, providing us with panoramic views of an electric sky.
Aside from the few rainy days, the weather has been hot with clear skies and we are starting to see regrowth in the dry woodland - the first signs of the green season.
General game species are common in the Linyanti during September because it is very dry in the woodlands and the wildlife is drawn to the Linyanti River to slake its thirst. From the bulky elephant to the minuscule elephant shrew, everything comes to the life-giving waters of the Linyanti. Kudu, giraffe, hippo, baboon, impala and warthog are seen throughout the whole day from camp, drinking and feeding along the river.
The LTC Pride of lion together with their two cubs are still doing very well and they took down many young elephant in September as if there was no tomorrow. One of the females is still pregnant, and we suspect that she will give birth soon. Hopefully she will use the previous den site which is close to the airstrip.
The Kings Pool Male lion is still strong and holding on to his territory. He has been seen the entire month with the rest of the pride and we suspect that the five males (one adult male and four subadult males) from Chobe might have challenged him because the whole pride spent the all of September to the west of Kings Pool. The five males have been seen regularly on the eastern side of the area - we are sure a serious altercation will result if the nomadic male coalition sticks around.
A vast herd of elephant has been seen this month west of camp, keeping our guests entertained while having brunch. The "super herd" was seen crossing the channel in front of camp going to or coming back from Namibia. The sunken hide has been producing some very good sightings of these grey beasts - up close and personal. Bulls still freely roam the floodplains and wander through the camp. We are also experiencing big herds of elephant crossing the Linyanti River between Namibia and Botswana from our boat, often creating amazing sunset scenes - truly a magical experience.
Leopard are often very difficult to find as they are solitary hunters and their camouflage is second to none. Despite this we have had a few fantastic sightings of these creatures. Often we find them on a kill as this is one of the times they remain in one general area. We have seen nine different individuals this month, including three cubs.
Southern carmine bee-eaters have been the stars of Linyanti Concession this month. We have a huge breeding colony of about 400 birds nesting at Blue Bush Cross Roads west of Kings Pool. Birds of prey are present in large numbers especially the African fish-eagle, brown snake-eagle and martial eagle along the Linyanti River. We are heading into our peak birding season in the next few months and are looking forward to some serious birding opportunities.
Some of our guests were very lucky to celebrate Botswana's 46 years of independence with us. All of our guests went out on morning activity, and when they returned to camp, the Botswana flag was flying high in the main area. The country's National Anthem was printed in both English and Setswana, so that the guests could join in with the choir at dinner. One of our guides, Diye, gave a presentation on the road to independence for Botswana from 1895 to 1967, which was then followed by singing and dancing at the boma.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Alex and One Mazunga, Frank Maule, Josephine Boitlhopedi, Tizzar Batisi and Kenny Luganyani.
Guides: OD Modikwa, Kahn Gouwe, Ndebo Tongwane and Diye Kennetseng.
Newsletter and photographs by Alex Mazunga.
DumaTau Camp update - September 2012 Jump
to DumaTau Camp
Temperatures soared this month with average highs of 40 degrees Celsius. We had a couple of days when the skies threatened some much anticipated rain, but the most we had was a few drops.
We are continuing to have great sightings of wild dog. The LTC pups are now old enough to join the pack out and about. The seven pups are growing at a rate of knots and are still looking very healthy and are being well looked after by the rest of the pack.
Leopards never fail to disappoint around DumaTau with excellent sightings of a number of individuals over the last month. The DumaTau Male is still patrolling the area and has been seen a few times mating with a young female. The Osprey Female, named after the lagoon in front of camp, has become our resident leopard and is regularly seen around camp. She has even been using the boardwalks! She recently killed a male impala in camp and remained, protecting her kill just outside the guide accommodation fence for a number of days.
Another young female, the Calcrete Female, has had what we think is her first cub. Some have been lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the little one when she is not hidden away.
The migratory birds have moved into the area in great numbers with sightings in camp of a variety of sunbirds and, of course, the southern carmine bee-eaters which have returned to their breeding grounds on the banks of the rivers bringing with them a burst of colour which is lacking from the landscape at this time of year.
A very rare sighting we had this month was that of a caracal. It was seen hunting quite close to camp.
The bushpig (fondly known as "Pudge") which used to keep us company at the old camp has discovered the new camp and we often see him around the camp late at night. Another visitor we have had on a number of occasions is a honey badger which likes to hang around behind the kitchen.
The newly outfitted barge and the other motor boats are as popular as ever with guests going out on to the lagoon trying their luck with a fishing rod and exploring the channels. Elephants cross the lagoon, sometimes with only the tips of their trunks (acting as snorkels) showing throughout the day. Gin and tonic in hand, could there be a better way to enjoy a sunset in the Linyanti!
We are (hopefully) coming to the end of a very long dry season. We are all praying for the rains to come soon to relieve some pressure on the animals and landscape, and we look forward to all the new life which will come with it.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Gerard, Claire, Big Ben and Lindi.
Guides: Lazi, Mocks, Moses, Name and Tank.
Photos by Grant Atkinson and Claire Binks
Savuti Camp update - September 2012 Jump
to Savuti Camp
Yet another month has come and gone. As the sun is setting over the last day of September we also bid farewell to another Botswana Independence Day. We celebrated with joyous smiles and real African rhythm, everyone clapped to the beat of their hearts. On the southern bank of the Savute Channel an African scops-owl was singing along, a song of freedom, and a song of happiness. In the distance we hear the voices of our Savuti staff choir, the shake-shake sound of their hips and feet. Everyone dressed in traditional wear and ready to mesmerize our guests around the fire and contributing to an unforgettable African safari experience - The guests felt right at home.
For some it was not such a joyous day - the lonely zebra who with his last breath became the supper for a few hungry lions. Also somewhere on the northern bank of the Savute Channel, there was a leopardess which was feeding with her cubs. Hyaena were lurking deep in the shadows, as their eerie calls loomed through the night - the bush never sleeps.
As we lay in our beds before another 05h00 wake-up call, the guttural toads lull us off to dreamland.
The morning started with a unexpected twist; the whooping sound gave them away - the wild dogs are in the vicinity of camp, moving swiftly so that we can only see painted flashes as the appear and disappear under and between the Savuti rooms. As the sun was starting to peak out its head more and more from behind the horizon we realised what was about to happen. It's hunting time, and a young female impala is the prey. She pounced passed the dogs in the hope to free herself from the last moment of her life - her only way out, the Savute Channel? So focused on the danger from behind, she did not grasp the danger that lurks in front of her - with a sudden snap she fell prey to the two metre crocodile that lay waiting patiently between the water lilies. And as her day ended, ours started. All the excitement made everyone crave a cup of caffeine before they set out on their morning activity.
Not long after all the guests were out of camp the vervet monkeys decided it is now their turn to try their luck at stealing a muffin or crumpet from the breakfast buffet, they did not succeed this time!
The African openbills were leaving their roosting place to go and forage for food during the remainder of the day, the squirrels were already enjoying the glistering sun on their coats and the crested francolins were chattering away in a cacophony as a part of our bushveld orchestra.
As the 42° C heat from today starts subsiding, so the wind started taking over - gently breezing through the trees, leaving a mere calmness in Savuti Camp. A few drops of water started flickering down to earth - could this be the first rains of the season? Unfortunately as swift as the drops came, they disappeared again, leaving the earth dry and dusty. We will have to wait for a few more weeks before the proper rain comes.
This might have been a brief description of what we have experienced during September, but you never know what is going to happen next. Every day is a new day, new experiences, new friends and new challenges. We look forward to October and what it may bring.
Until next month,
Diana, Jaco, Dittmar and the Savuti Family!
Zarafa Camp update - September 2012 Jump
to Zarafa Camp
Selinda Camp update - September 2012 Jump
to Selinda Camp
Camps Update - September 2012
No report this month.
Lagoon camp Jump
• Lovely sightings this month of leopards – including a female with her own little cub. The cub is quite shy, so the guides are being careful not to disturb it in any way, and slowly habituate it to the vehicles. The cub is estimated to be two months old, so really in the first days of discovering its environment. The mother is very relaxed, and it is by watching their mothers that cubs learn what is 'acceptable behaviour' for a leopard. So, if their mum is not nervous about some strange things rolling in from time to time and taking photos, they will not be. As the cub grows and gets braver, it will become more curious about new things, and will begin investigating its' surroundings. This will all help to provide delightful viewing opportunities for our guests.
• Lions have also been making forays into the area near Lagoon camp. In particular, a female with three sub-adults has been seen attempting to hunt buffalo on several occasions – all unsuccessful unfortunately. The sub-adults don't appear to be much help, they lounge around watching whilst their mum tries to take down dinner for them! Another pride of lions was also found in the north of the Lagoon area, feeding on one of the many buffalos that have been moving through the concession. The same lions were seen the previous week, tussling with hyenas, close to the hyena den.
• Early on this month, the Lagoon pack of wild dogs moved from their den to the area around Zebra Pan. Shortly after that, they disappeared into the thick mopane, and we have only had sporadic sightings of them, despite intensive tracking. This could be due to the lion and hyena activity in the area – all of which compete for the same prey, and are a threat to the young pups. At this age, the pups are too big to stay at a den, but not strong enough to be able to keep up with the adults if another predator approaches. It is likely that they have retreated to the thick mopane area until the pups are a little bigger.
• The two cheetah brothers were seen during the month, but the third brother is still missing. Last month they were within a few hundred metres of each other, but failed to locate each other. With that distance apart, it is more than likely intentional that one has decided to leave the other two, perhaps seeking independence.
• With the warmer temperatures swimming season is open for all in front of camp, and the elephants are parading down to the water, sometimes with only their (swimming) trunks visible! The youngest have to doggy paddle at double the pace to keep up with the herd, but there is usually a kindly relative along side ready to nudge them along. The hippos make sure they give the 'day visitors' a lot of space!
• It's also buffalos galore, with a herd of more than 1500 individuals – the largest we have seen this year – moving around the Muddy Waters area of the concession. The short grass is drying out fast, providing little for a herd this size to eat, so they need to keep on the move to find sufficient sustenance for everyone.
• Hyenas are still using the den for the youngest cubs (now a little older than two months) but the ones aged around 6-8 months are now moving around with the rest of the clan. This creates a lot of excitement at any kill, with hyenas of all shapes and sizes trotting in and out and grabbing the best food available.
• Another lucky sighting of aardwolf this month, as well as wonderful herds of eland, sable and roan.
• The most eventful sighting of the month was in camp during the middle of the day. Guests resting up in the last room were disturbed by unusual sound effects, that couldn't quite be identified, but didn't sound like anything that normally happens in camp during siesta time. The sounds were enough to disturb most other guests, and all the staff as well. Closer and careful investigation revealed the pride of seven lions, hunting at midday, had caught a adult kudu bull and were now enjoying their lunch just 100m or so from the guests' room!
Lebala camp Jump
• An action packed month with a lot of multiple predator sightings, and multiple kills!
• The southern pack of wild dogs were seen regularly, usually with the puppies in tow. There were several exciting interactions with hyenas chasing dogs, dogs chasing hyenas, dogs chasing leopards, and a very weird combination of wildebeest chasing dogs.
• The most amazing sighting of dogs was mid-month when one game drive vehicle found the adults from the southern pack of dogs harassing four dogs, initially thought to be from the Lagoon pack. Three managed to escape, but one was caught by the pack, and suffered a severe mauling before hiding in the reeds. The southern pack looked as though it was settling in for a long wait for the intruder dog to come out. Whilst this was going on, another game drive vehicle came across nine puppies. There was some confusion as to which pack these puppies belonged to… However, the adults from the southern pack soon realised they had been separated from their puppies while chasing the other dogs so they left the interloper and went to look for their offspring. They were about three km apart. The dogs dispersed, with the lead dogs finding the puppies all safe, and calling in the rest of the pack. The lone dog made his escape, dripping blood from his wounds as he headed off to try and link up with his three packmates. Interestingly, the next day the Lagoon pack was sighted with all adults and pups accounted for, and none injured, so the four dogs that were seen the day before were a third group that had moved into the concession temporarily.
• Leopard sightings were also excellent this month – and were not limited to the dogs 'treeing' them (probably not a verb found in the Oxford English Dictionary, but meaning when an animal is chased up a tree to escape a threat, and can't come down until the threat leaves…!). One very skilful female leopard managed to hunt three times in two days, pulling down a warthog, impala and finishing off with a reedbuck.
• Not to be outdone by the more famous tree-climbing felines, a lioness was found relaxing up a tree, admiring the view.
• The cheetah brothers were seen several times this month, after lots of hard tracking done by the teams. Both animals looked in good health.
• An elephant which had died near Steve's Pan provided an interesting array of visitors to the take-away service on offer. Hyenas were prevalent, but they made way for the avian scavengers, (white backed vultures and marabou storks), the jackals also sneaking in for a bite.
• It wasn't a lucky day for the impalas – who often bear the brunt of various predators dietary requirements – two found themselves being chased by a pack of wild dogs. Finding their escape routes limited, the impalas charged into the nearby water. One managed to bound out and escape the dogs but the other was quickly grabbed by a crocodile!
• Life in camp was also very active, with the elephants moving through the marsh in front of camp each day, and drinking at the small channel. During the night, sound effects were magnified, as they stomped through the camp, eating the trees, and shoving the hippos out of the way. The wild dogs visited the workshop one late afternoon, chasing an impala who launched herself into the channel next to the bar, and bluffed out the dogs. They ran across the open area in front of camp and pulled down another impala, only to have it taken away by 15 cackling hyenas, who in turn continued to tackle each other and make grabs at lumps of meat. However, it's not just the big stuff that keeps us entertained in camp: a small spotted genet was seen several times (including in the bar!), a francolin proudly escorted her eight, day-old chicks across the dining room, and a baby squirrel attempted to join in for afternoon tea in the lounge while its mother's back was turned.
Kwara & Little Kwara camps Jump
& Little Kwara camps
• A lovely day of exciting animal activity, where three male cheetahs were seen harassing a female cheetah with her cub, was to be finished off with a quiet fishing trip on the Kwara channel.
• The keen fishermen were looking forward to an expedition where they could dip their rods in the clear, calm water and hook a good catch. Meanwhile, other inhabitants of the Delta were also launching an expedition of their own, hoping to hook a good catch. The boat cruised along the channel, looking for a good spot to throw in the lines, everyone enjoying the beauty of the reeds and birdlife that darts in and out of the channel. Rounding a corner of the channel, the guide and fishermen bumped into a group of individuals who had already made a catch, far in excess of anything they could hope to pull aboard their boat: five lions devouring a buffalo on a sandbank of the channel! An amazing sighting, the guests watched the lions from the upper viewing platform of the boat. The guide nudged the boat along the side of the channel, as he would with a game drive vehicle at a lion sighting. The tail of one of the lions started flicking to and fro – never a good sign – so the guide put the boat into reverse and backed out further into the channel. It appears that the lions were as surprised to see this strange thing come floating down the channel as we were to see them. They are used to the shape of the car, but not the shape of a boat. They saw the boat as a threat, and one game individual was preparing to make a warning charge at the boat if it got any closer! The guide and guests moved off in search of fish and left the lions in peace to enjoy their meal.
• It was also exciting to see the brief return of the Splash Boys (two big male lions that frequented the Splash area) … They made a quick foray into the area by the Kwara boat station, only to be chased back out by the current resident males of the area. In fact, its been a good month for catching up with male lions, with several sightings of four of the so-called Magnificent Seven, including one day where they caught four buffalos of assorted sizes from one herd!
• The latest on the wild dog pack that has been favouring the Kwara area is that some of the puppies are missing…. They now only number six, with no one knowing what happened to the other three pups. The adults are still hunting well, and have taken "souvenirs" of their kills back to the puppies, to get them used to the idea of where the regurgitated meat that they eat comes from! One adult female caught an impala, and diligently carried the impala head back to where the puppies were waiting, and then it was a tug of war between all of them. The rest of the impala was eaten in situ by the pack of 10 adults – total time taken: 7 minutes.
• However, these are not the only wild dogs that are currently in the Kwara concession: there have been two recent sightings of a small pack of four dogs (two males, two females), with five puppies. Where this pack has suddenly appeared from is unknown, but they will have to choose their territory carefully if they are planning to stay for a while, so they do not compete with the bigger pack.
• The exciting bird news is that the heronry is up and in full swing again! All birds are at different stages of nesting with many nests still being built, some incubating their eggs, and a handful of the earliest arrivals already raising their chicks. The next couple of months will provide wonderful sights and sounds as the many different birds use this safe haven. In the middle of the month, the heronry was visited by hundreds and hundreds of lesser and greater flamingos, before they moved on to their more usual feeding grounds.
Nxai Pan Jump
to Nxai Pan camp
• As things get drier and drier, the fight for water resources becomes stronger. Ever the bullies, elephants hog the waterhole, and this is possibly not sufficient to sustain all their needs. One night this month, an elephant decided he didn't want to run the gauntlet of the other bigger, tougher characters at the waterhole, and found his own water source. Bravely pushing against the wire of the electric fence (which has a mild current, supposedly just enough to deter a half-hearted elephant) he snapped it, and made a bee-line the geyser at Room 1. A gentle nudge, and that was the end of the geyser and start of a long and un-interrupted drink of water!
• A lioness with three cubs around four months old was keeping a low profile, and was seen moving away from a water hole as two big male lions approached. The males are from the Kgama Kgama area and are a potential threat to the cubs if they are not their own offspring. On the same day, two male lions and one female from the pride of 11 were seen mating, the two males seemed unperturbed about 'sharing'. If the female produces a litter of cubs, then both males have a vested interest in their genes being handed down to the next generation. The male lions may be closely related, so no matter who sires the cubs, it will still mean their hereditary line will be continued for them both.
Tau Pan Jump
to Tau Pan camp
• One lioness was seen near Sunday Pan waterhole, with wounds – evidence that not all is happy in the lion family. There seems to be a constant tussle between the Passarge Pan lions and the pride that frequents the camp waterhole.
• Around the camp, the six sub-adult lions are still present and healthy, but are not always joined by their older family members. One big male was only seen at the end of the month, coming down to drink water after a lengthy self imposed solitary spell. Amazingly this male lion has decided to go solo, leaving behind his pride of two lionesses, six sub-adult cubs and the other male. Later, the six sub-adults were seen play-stalking each other, and any prey species that came down to drink, including kudu and oryx.
• The 'usual suspects' have been sighted regularly out on game drives too: cheetahs, leopard, jackals, giraffe, oryx, and all the other general game. Honey badgers are still active as ever (both in camp and out!).
• The elusive brown hyena has also been visiting the waterhole, to slake its thirst - or so I am lead to believe. It is conveniently absent whenever I visit the Kalahari, and after 14 years of looking for one, I view these reported sightings with a certain amount of disdain (or perhaps that should be disbelief…).
• As dry as things are now, the whole country will only get drier before the rains begin, hopefully in October. We were lucky enough to have a very brief few drops of rain on the 28th September – not unexpected, as there is always a light shower somewhere over the country around the 30th of September, to celebrate our Independence Day. Pula!
Mombo Camp update
- September 2012 Jump
to Mombo Camp
September is a month of colour at Mombo- although the land is dry and dusty, the sap begins to rise in the once-bare trees, pushing out a wonderful palette over the otherwise dun and brown landscape. Rain trees bloom in great bulbous bunches of purple, each comprising of a tiny flower, which carpet the ground below the trees. Sausage trees burst with electric green leaves, and sprout huge blood-red blossoms, attracting herds of impala and baboons, who feast on their sticky-sweet petals. This is the time when we look for leopards concealed in their leafy boughs, waiting for unsuspecting prey to pass below. In contrast with the bright greens, monkey thorn and knobthorn acacias flower a vivid yellow, knobbly combretums complement them with their flowers like firecracker bursts.
The blossoms of the African mangosteen trees are altogether more nondescript, of a greenish colour and only about an inch long. What they lack in size and hue however, is an irresistible taste, particularly to elephants. There were two huge elephant bulls that spent a couple of weeks around camp, each stationed below one of these trees, delicately sucking up these tiny titbits with their enormous trunks.
The waters in the floodplains are now drying out more rapidly day by day, leaving a rolling carpet of green behind, teeming with grazing mammals- from the ubiquitous red lechwe to zebra, impala and baboon; the treelines conceal kudu, giraffe tower above, lions in the shade.
The wildlife viewing this month has been, as always, wonderful, with a lot of lion activity being a highlight.
The Mporota Pride provided some fantastic sightings this month, sometimes where we didn't even have to leave the camp to observe them! One afternoon, Will and Zita Gibson had only just arrived when we saw the 12 lions making a kill right outside the entrance! They made several other kills which we were able to observe - a buffalo on Limpy's Island, and on another day a young elephant out in the floodplain in front of the camp. The morning after the buffalo had been finished off; they decided to come over to the water in front of camp for a drink, before lazing in the shade in front of the tents for most of the morning! This necessitated a shutdown of that end of camp- with the lions that close; we couldn't have any movement to attract their attention. Finally when they moved off at around lunchtime, guests were once again allowed back to their rooms.
One afternoon we had the astonishing sight of them clashing with Mmamoriris' Western Pride, right in front of the Mombo Lounge - the maned lioness saw them off in a fury of roaring and crashing through the water, scattering the Mporotas all over the place. This occurred just as guests were about to depart for their afternoon drive, and necessitated some more evasive action on our part. At night we often heard whooping and roaring as they came into conflict with the hyaena clans of the area - some of these battles they lost in the face of superior numbers, others they won due to the presence of the males of the pride. We found the body of a lioness we believe to be part of the pride - we didn't know what had killed the old female, possibly age, but we found a hyaena already working on her carcass. From a peak number of 22 animals in the pride last year, we now only find a maximum of 15, if the old Jao Boy is present. We analysed why the lions have been sticking around camp, click here to read our findings.
Other male lions are now starting to penetrate the area, possibly sensing a power vacuum forming - the Mombo Boys, three youngish males that disappeared about a year ago, are now back, and looking in their prime. The new male with the Mporota Breakaway or Akuna Pride, is also a contender for dominance.
The Mathatha Pride has been seen a few times this month, usually in the area between Suzy's Duckpond and the floodplains near Wild Sage Turn.
The Western Pride, in between battling with the other prides, has been doing well, and we have an inkling that they may have cubs, hidden somewhere in the Bird Island area.
The lone wild dog is still going strong, and as we suspected when she starting spending time with a pair of black-backed jackals near Drift Molapo, she knew there was a den with pups nearby. We saw four of them early in the month as they first emerged from the den, and the wild dog was quick to start regurgitating her kills for them. This behaviour is reminiscent of last years "kidnap" incident where she actually tried to steal the pups from the parents. Currently, all is well though, and the jackals are enthusiastically sharing her kills and allowing her to get close to the pups to regurgitate food for them. One pup is now missing, however, possibly lost to one of the hyaena that have a den not far away.
After a long absence, Maru, daughter of Legadema, has been seen again on a few occasions in the Stompy's Road area. Pula, her sister, has also been seen in her usual haunts, although she has suffered some form of attack that has left her with most of an ear missing. What might have caused this will remain a mystery, although a hyaena would be the most likely culprit. Blue Eyes, the large male leopard from the south, has been seen a lot further north and closer to camp than usual, leading us to suspect he has been pushed here by another leopard. Legadema was curiously absent this month, and we only caught up with her last week.
We have found a couple of dead elephants this month- one near Suzy's, another on Treeline to Lechwe Haven. These were devoured by lion, hyaena, jackal and vultures over the course of several days.
The hyaena den on Galloping Horse Road is still a source of wonderful entertainment for guests - time spent watching the antics of these fascinating creatures of all ages gives a fantastic opportunity for an insight into the complexities of these amazing animals social structure.
The first avian visitors of summer have begun to arrive, in the shape of yellow-billed kites and southern carmine bee-eaters, and the watery plains are filled with an enormous variety of birds - from tiny pygmy geese to hundreds of white-faced whistling ducks, spurwing geese, herons, spoonbills, storks and fish-eagles above. The Pel's fishing-owls that inhabit Mombo Island have a youngster in tow now - so that on some evenings we are treated to the sight of three of them calling together from the same tree.
We ended the month with our Independence Day celebrations - where we all gathered in the boma to sing and dance together below the full moon.
Guides in camp for September were Tsile, "Doc" Malinga, Moss, Sefo and Anthony. Managers were Liz at Little Mombo, Vasco, Katie, Nathan, Nikki, Ruby and Ryan at Main Camp.
Xigera Camp update
- September 2012 Jump
to Xigera Camp
Weather and Landscape
Summer is finally here. Night temperatures have risen to an average of 19°C but we all still enjoyed hot porridge around the fire in the morning. Midday highs have regularly been above the average of 33 ºC and guests were happy to enjoy one of the many relaxing spots in the shade under a tree or umbrella on Xigera Island.
The channel flowing right in front of camp keeps the main area and dining room cool; it's dropping quickly though, as is the water on the floodplains. This will limit the reach of our boat trips, but at the same time allow us to use the game drive vehicles to explore regions that have been flooded for more than half a year.
As always, we had a short shower of rain over the Independence weekend which provided a welcome break. It was only 6mm but then again but then again every drop counts.
Once again this month, Xigera Camp has seen a lot of elephant activity. They have been seen regularly crossing the channel right in front of the lodge, as the African mangosteen starts to bear fruit.
Petunia the hippo is still frequenting Xigera, allowing great viewing from the boardwalk after dinner and the bushbuck have a new addition to their family.
The bridge to Paradise Island has seen a lot of traffic both over and under it - on one occasion while crossing the bridge after the afternoon game drive our guests were able to see just how a hippo walks under water as Petunia passed by below.
On more than one occasion we have had the pleasure of seeing leopard, hyaena and small spotted genet cross the bridge while sitting around the fire after dinner. With the water levels dropping we are starting to have more sightings of sitatunga, especially on the mokoro trips.
The Xigera Lagoon still has African skimmers and yellow-billed storks and on one occasion a flock over 200 flamingos. The Pel's fishing-owl is still seen around the camp and we now have a new addition to our residents as a giant kingfisher is often seen from the main area deck.
"The fishing trip was great. Swimming in the lagoon was really wonderful. The Independence Day dinner was very special."
"The variety of activities was amazing. We particularly like the boat activity and the opportunity to swim in the Lagoon."
Chitabe Camp update
- September 2012 Jump
to Chitabe Camp
The month of September has been a predictably dry month, with a little bit of light afternoon rain at the end of the month, to tease us and a few welcome overcast days to take away the heat. The colder weather of winter has all but left us, except for a few cooler mornings here and there; we are well on our way into a Botswana summer.
One of the Chitabe lion prides, known as the Tshame Pride, graced us with their presence and spent a leisurely afternoon on the other side of the channel, just opposite Lediba Camp. Grant Atkinson kindly gave us a photo of the lions with Lediba in the background. It is quite a treat being able to watch lions from the comfort of one's room and from the Chitabe Lediba main area.
On the 11th of September we had a rather sad incident when Ebs found a male lion digging next to a termite mound where the old female of the Chitabe Pride was hiding her cubs. Ebs spotted the lion digging and also noticed that there were some bones of a young cub on the ground close to the opening of the burrow. Ebs concluded that the nomadic male who had been seen moving in and out of the area was looking for the other cubs and hence was trying to dig them out to perform infanticide. The game drive vehicle spent most of the morning at the sighting as all the guests were waiting to see what the outcome would be. The male lion spent almost two days trying to dig out the "burrow" where the female had hidden her cubs, but the ground of the termite mound was extremely hard and the male lion, fortunately, was not having much success and eventually moved off. At one point we got a glimpse of one of the cubs who peered out of the burrow for a second or two and then quickly retreated back to the safety of the termite mound. On the third day the lioness came back from her hunting foray and we saw her moving around with one of her cubs. She kept calling for the other cub, but with no luck. A week later we again saw the lioness and this time she had two healthy looking cubs with her. Guides and guests all had a big sigh of relief to see the cubs safely back with their mother.
As usual we have had lots of general game around, with big herds of buffalo, impala and zebra throughout the concession. The leopards have also been sighted on a regular basis and we currently have seven different leopards which we are seeing. September has also given us a number of Cheetah sightings and Phinley was fortunate to see a female caracal with two kittens.
We ended the month celebrating Botswana's Independence Day on the 30th of September. 44 years ago, on September 30, 1966, Bechuanaland became the independent Republic of Botswana. All Chitabe staff were wearing their Botswana flag bandanas, with the blue, black and white.
"Big cats, elephants shaking palm trees outside our room, baboons coming to visit our tent, no rain! Our guide BB was first class, the happy staff made for a great trip."
"Every day was different and exciting, cheetah, leopard, and lions. Hospitality and dinners completed the day. Our guide was the best, job well done. Keep up the good job."
"All of the staff were particularly friendly and constantly seeking to make our stay as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. Thank you for the night drive, recipe and private dinner."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Masedi, Lieana, Kris and Joel were at Main Camp, and Moalosi and Six for Lediba.
Guides: Gordon, Phinley, Molemi, Anthony, Ebineng (Ebs) and Barbeton (BB)
Vumbura Plains Camp update
- September 2012 Jump
to Vumbura Plains Camp
We have experienced some dramatic changes of the weather during the month of September. We had a few cold fronts that came through at the beginning of the month and this is highly unusual in September. The weather has since changed mid-month to cool evenings and very hot days with temperatures rising to 38° C.
The summer conditions have resulted in an explosion of spring flowers. The knobbly creepers were the first trees to display their flowers, and were soon followed by the woolly caper bushes, which fill the air with a sweet scent. Most deciduous trees have sprouted new growth, adding many shades of green to the brown environment.
The annual inundation has receded a lot and this allows us to access most of the areas which we could not access with the high water level. We have seen huge dazzles of zebra and herds of wildebeest which are massing on the newly exposed floodplains as they follow the fresh flush of sprouting grass. Big herds of buffalo have left the mopane woodlands and have also made their way to the flood plains. Red lechwe, tsessebe, kudu, common reedbuck, waterbuck and sable have also been seen in abundance. September produced spectacular game viewing and in great abundance.
We have also experienced some fantastic predator sightings, with leopards stealing the centre stage. The large male leopard which was seen mating last month has been hanging around camp this month, providing our guests with some great views. The lioness with four sub-adult cubs is still hanging around the area and continues to eagerly climb trees. Click here to view a gallery of these 'arboreal' felines. After a few months of not seeing the large resident males, we came across a big male on a couple occasions.
We have enjoyed a couple cheetah sightings this month, as these speedy hunters have taken a liking to the open grasslands in the area.
The Golden Pack has left their den this month, which has allowed us some great sightings of these amazing predators. On one occasion, the pack was in the process of seeking prey when they came across the scent of some lions which were in the area. The pack immediately stopped, regrouped and started sniffing around frantically.
Staff in Camp
Managers: KG, Martha, Britt, Lebo, KB, KCI, Russell and Lala.
Guides: Ban, ST, Emang, Mock, Lazi and OB.
Little Vumbura Camp update
- September 2012 Jump
to Little Vumbura Camp
Duba Plains Camp update
- September 2012 Jump
to Duba Plains Camp
Banoka Bush Camp update
- September 2012
Weather and Landscape
Summer, the hottest season of the year, has arrived in full force! For all of us in the Okavango Delta, October means a high rise in temperature, and the arrival of the migrant birds and onset of the summer rains. It is this time of year that the hottest temperatures occur, pushing the mercury up to and above 40° C. The sky has been clear and brilliant sunshine has been experienced.
We have also witnessed some changes in the vegetation. Many of the trees are in full bloom, and the deciduous trees have started to sprout new growth - much to the relief of the browsers.
Despite the fact that it is difficult to determine when is the best time to visit the Okavango Delta, as this is a dynamic ecosystem; I personally believe the dry season is among the best times to visit the Delta. The month of September was a blast! It was infested with fantastic and awesome sightings.
More elephant have arrived in the area, following last month's trend. The resident hippo have caused a lot of excitement, as the small pod now has a baby which has been providing our guests with fantastic views of the baby from the camps main area.
One morning we all woke up to a stressed animal call - I was certain of only one thing; it was the distressed call of a buffalo that was running at full speed. My attempt to scan what was happening to this ungulate was fruitless because of darkness since it was around four in the morning. Even though it was half an hour before the early morning staff members pass by to the main lodge, I could hardly wait to read the tracks and signs left on the ground by this creature on its attempt to escape death. Eventually with the help of one of guides we drove around to assess and see what was going on. The buffalo tracks were clearly visible, and further tracking led us to spoor of lion and some blood stains on the ground. We were still curious about what might have happened next between the felid and bovid, thus still leaving us with incomplete story. All in all that was an amazing experience even though the story was incomplete.
The Mogotho female leopard is on top form - she was spotted a couple of times with her cub. Out of all the sightings, one will never forget when she was seen with a kill - an impala kill. Our guides were very fortunate to be there on time, thus giving our guests another awesome opportunity to view this cat dragging its prey to the nearest tree. We also had a good show from five spotted hyaena against one big male kudu near the camp just before dusk. It seemed like this antelope had wandered a little away from the herd thus giving the clan of hyaena an opportunity to try their luck. A sudden kick of dust ahead drew as the chase began. Animals are capable of the most amazing strength when fighting or escaping death. We first thought the hyaena were winning when we heard the distress call from an antelope but noticed that it had fled away leaving the hyaena in a state of confusion?sniffing around. The Banoka wild dogs pack has also been spotted on many occasions near the camp.
Among the special sightings, sable further enhanced our animal sightings for the month of September by availing themselves along the gravel road in the eastern side of the concession as well as along the western side of Banoka Camp. In addition to general game, big herds of buffalo were spotted time and again.
The Khwai Concession was a fantastic place to be for September!
Birds and Birding
The lappet-faced, hooded and white-backed vultures were sighted more than usual this month, mostly scavenging on old leopard or lion kills.
Wattled cranes and southern carmine bee-eaters are also among our guest's birds checklists. Most of the birds that were recorded this month are mostly the aquatic birds which were seen on boat activities as it is our only active water activity after the mokoro activity came to halt some few weeks back because of the water level decrease in the Delta.
This month, the camp celebrated its second birthday, as the doors were opened to guests on the 23 September 2012. The special day was celebrated with our guests, with some traditional dancing and singing.
We are very pleased with the construction of the new airstrip, which is only a ten minute drive from camp. We will keep you updated on its progress.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Lops, Mish and Luke.
Guides: Willie, Chris, Vinny and Reuben.
Newsletter by Lopang Lops Rampeba.
Jacana Camp update
- September 2012 Jump
to Jacana Camp
September brought two exciting events out of the norm - our first rain drops and Botswana's Independence Day!
Our first rain was quite a surprise as the chill of winter is still clear in our memories only a month ago. The temperatures throughout the month have been beautifully warm during the day, reaching a peak of 36° C. The same afternoon of such a peak, as we waved off our guests for their boat cruise activity and mokoro activity, we noticed distinct thunder clouds building in the east. All of us were rather surprised at seeing such clouds at this time of year, but as the sky darkened, we pondered as to whether or not it might indeed rain that evening.
All of a sudden, as we were setting up for dinner, the wind picked up and became very strong and as a precaution, we ran to the guest tents to zip down the outside canvas sides for protection. The wind continued, and by the time we were enjoying our starters at the dining table, a storm came through delivering our first rain drops of the season, all 2.5mm of them!
The vegetation on and around Jacana had already sensed the forthcoming rain as by the first week of the month, we were seeing new green shoots on the trees and the two large sycamore fig trees which frame our main area have already started to fruit, much to the enjoyment of the vervet monkeys, fruit bats and green pigeons alike.
With the increase in temperatures, and the mornings becoming lighter earlier, Jacana has changed to the summer schedule with our guests been woken by their guide at 5:30am instead of our winter 6:00am. Unfortunately of late, our guests' enjoyment of a "sunrise breakfast" has been compromised a little due to the layer of smoke seen most mornings over the horizon resulting from the wild fires in the Delta. We all hope that the lush new growth on the vegetation may slow down the eruption of these fires.
Every month, we report on the bull elephants frequenting our island, and this month is no exception. However, we had the most remarkable sighting of a large mature bull towards the end of the month, which left Phil and myself quite astounded. On checking the dining table set up for an outside dinner in the boma, we almost bumped into the bull who was silently feeding on a nearby tree. As he approached, we backed off to give him some space and, with our hearts in our mouths, we watched him move to the table and straddle the right hand end of it in order to reach up to a branch to feed. With his front legs on one side of the table, and his back legs on the other side, the table was directly under his belly and we were quite sure that that would be the end of not only the table, but also our lanterns and wine glasses?but no! When finished, the elephant gingerly maneuvered his left back leg across his right back leg, then swung his hips to the right and carefully picked his way around the edge of the table, only puckering the table cloth a little as he then walked off. Can you imagine a bull elephant consciously avoiding upsetting our dinner table!
Unfortunately, we have no photographs of this incredible moment but we were able to photograph him shortly afterwards behind our kitchen when he discovered our recycling bin. With a tusk, he had managed to lift open the heavy lid and rest it on his left tusk whist rummaging around inside with his trunk for our vegetable scraps. After a tasty snack of leek peelings, he replaced the lid and strolled off!
The great event of the month was Botswana's Independence Day on 30 September. We had a marvelous celebration that evening with our guests in traditional style to symbolise how the day was being celebrated in the nation's villages.
Each guest was given a Botswana flag to wave just as all of the Jacana staff entered our lantern-lit Boma singing traditional songs and dancing with great energy! The harmonies of their voices was simply beautiful to hear and our guests clapped to the rhythms and also joined in on one of the dances around the fire!
One of our guests was appointed "Chief" for the evening and after a delightfully appreciative speech of his experience in Botswana, we enjoyed the traditional food of beef seswa (or pounded beef), with papa (maize meal), relish, creamed spinach, butternut cubes and corn on the cob. But with a difference - all ladies, starting with the Chief's wife, were encouraged to follow tradition by serving their husbands on bended knee as a mark of respect. Lots of laughter and giggling ensued as each lady gracefully presented her offering to her husband! Our cutlery had been put away for the evening and instead we used our natural cutlery - we ate our delicious meal with our fingers, which only added to the atmosphere of the occasion. With the stars and the moon above us, we sat in a circle around our fire, it's golden light flickering in the middle of us, the boma was filled with the amused chuckles over the best technique of picking up the creamed spinach, all the while the earlier choruses echoing in our memories of Botswana's Independence Day...
Staff in Camp
Managers: Phil and Jo Oliver.
Guides: Moruti Maipelo,Timothy Samuel and Rex Sanyedi.
Abu Camp update
- September 2012 Jump
to Abu Camp
Another hot and dry month in Botswana, and as we watch the water levels recede we raise our eyes in hope of rain. As expected right before Botswana celebrated Independence Day on the 30th of September the sky opened up and sent us a beautiful thunderstorm before disappearing again, not to return until November we are sure.
It has, yet again, been a fantastic month for lions, to the detriment of a few zebra, buffalo and kudu. The strong presence of our resident pride has made the hyaena a bit wary and in the interest of their young cub they have abandoned their den.
Leopards have been spotted all over the concession this month, with Double Baobab being once again the most rewarding area. A mating pair was seen spending the afternoon near the great tree.
Down to the south, big herds of buffalo have been seen. With the water drying up, the bovids are slowly moving north, giving us the chance to see them in all their brutish glory, creating huge clouds of dust as they stampede across the arid plains. Giraffe and zebra wonder graciously along the tree lines and are joined by large herds of wildebeest, all enjoying the refuge of water provided by the Okavango Delta.
On the birding side, some of the first summer migrants made their appearance this month - the most notable being the yellow-billed kite. Kites are medium-sized raptors, which have relatively long wings and are expert fliers. You will often see them diving and swooping nearby a carcass. Big flocks of African openbills are still seen over the channels, enjoying the feast of molluscs along the waters edge.
Our favorite bird sighting this month has been the continued presence of a pair of Verreaux's eagle-owls that join us around Marabou Pan for sundowners, they are so relaxed that guests have often come within reaching distance of them during afternoon walks with the Abu herd.
The Abu elephants have had an eventful month. The presence of elephant researchers Michael Mole and Shaun D'Araujo means that our ellies are getting spoilt with long drinks from hosepipes every morning and evening. While the others enjoy the watering during the exceptional heat, none are quite as excited as Warona who follows the boys around begging for her turn and snatching the hose pipe out of their hands.
Wish us luck as we battle through the soaring temperatures that signal October!
update - September 2012 Jump
to Kwetsani Camp
Weather and Landscape
The weather has been showing a change?as is expected in spring. The mornings still have a chill to them and winter pyjamas are still popular. However, within an hour or two, the layers of protection against the chill are readily peeled off and by lunch, the ice-cold drinks are in demand. There was a brief storm in the last week of the month and we received a much welcomed 5mm of rain to settle the dust, even if just briefly.
The water levels have dropped steadily and our guests arriving at the Jao airstrip are now being driven in to Kwetsani and no longer coming through on the channels by boat. For now, we are still able to boat in to Hunda Island but how long that is still going to be possible we shall have to wait and see.
If there is a species of the month for Kwetsani, it would be the African lion!
The Jao Pride male has created quite a stir in camp. He was seen on the floodplains in front of the lodge with the two females and the two cubs. They made a hearty meal of a red lechwe and then slept off the meal for two days in true lion style. The females headed back to Jao but the male announced his presence the whole night through. He eventually walked the perimeter of Kwetsani during the early morning, announcing his presence frequently, much to the delight and disdain of the guests and staff. By disdain we mean only that getting to work in the morning may delay you somewhat when you have to share the path with a lion! He was quite considerate in his timing as the guests grabbed their muffins to go and they had the pleasure of watching him reclaim his territory in a frenzy of scent marking. It seems there may have been another male lion that had moved through, creating a sense of urgency for our resident male.
General game viewing has been fantastic too, as the water recedes, new growth blooms in its wake - attracting a myriad of herbivore species. Elephant have been as active as ever, constantly landscaping the environment.
Birds and Birding
In true spring style, there is an air of love and industry and we've heard some new bird calls as some migrant birds make their way back while others are busily going about their business wooing a mate and building nests if their wooing has been successful. We have a green wood-hoopoe nest from our 'loo with a view' and being one of the most vocal and noisiest birds, overlooking the nest is impossible. The green wood-hoopoe is a cooperative breeder and you will find the whole family supporting the feeding of the chicks. They mostly breed in a cavity in a tree and as many as eight have been recorded in one cavity! We also saw the mating of two Retz's helmet-shrikes above the Kwetsani office.
Lastly, our resident Verreaux's eagle-owl is still a regular around camp and allows us some splendid sightings and photo opportunities for the guests. He sat alongside the walkway by Room 3, oblivious to the rapid fire shutter of the cameras. Later that same week, he observed the staff ending off their evening shift.
This month has been full of the most diverse and interesting guests! The Monday night traditional theme has seen more of our guests opting to also sing a song for the entertainment of the staff. We've heard Elvis and The Beatles tunes recited, but by far the most popular was a Jingle Bells tune with a dedicated message to Kwetsani. One of our guests requested spoons to facilitate his specialized 'spoon dance' and did a jig around the camp fire using tablespoons as clarinets, much to the amusement of the staff! We had an author who spent 15 years in Nepal as a travel doctor and wrote a book inspired by his time there. Our 'Jingle Bells' group comprised six veterinarians from the USA. The guide is still recovering from the calibre of questions that they asked! It is not only the magic of the Delta that motivates the staff to choose this line of work but the variety of magical people that stay at our lodges!
Staff in Camp
Managers: William and Angie Whiteman.
Guides: MT Malebogo, Florence Kagiso and Ronald Gaopalewe.
update - September 2012 Jump
to Jao Camp
Weather and Landscape
The month of September on the flats has been a transition month for us here at Jao. The month started off as cool and windy but the sun was definitely not shy towards the close of the month and this heated the flats and caused a lot of evaporation, causing the water level to drop further.
We got our first hint of rain later on in the month and stunning sunrises and sunsets as the dimming light reflected on the clouds. Water levels continue to drop but boating and mokoro activities will not be hindered at Jao.
What a busy month for the Jao male lion - for a long time he has been unchallenged and probably forgot he had a territory to defend. Mid-month there was an unfamiliar scent in the air, a scent that seemed to trouble the old and experienced male. There is an intruder in the area and this brought the local male alive; on one night during a bush dinner the intruder called and the Jao male answered him, we were caught in between the two! The intruder was probably wary of the call and started to flee, the Jao male followed him, calling with an even more aggressive tone. They ended up on the Jao Island and the lion roar broke what seemed like silence that night. The intruder is still in the area, a bit skittish and unfamiliar with vehicles. Wonder where this lone predator hails from?
As the giants of the flora kingdom bloom, they attract the giants of the animal kingdom. We have had increased elephant activity in and around camp as the pachyderms vacuum the fallen leaves and flowers on whatever surface they are on. It is almost as if each room has an elephant for a mascot or guard outside all night every night.
On occasion two honey badgers are seen crossing the Jao floodplain, where they come from and to where they are headed is a mystery; we have however noted up a north-east to south-west trend in their movement.
Birds and Birding
The summer migrants are back and it is always a pleasure watching the yellow- billed kites acrobat through the air, black-headed orioles chirp for us as we have our brunch and the golden weavers never seem to miss the late morning meal. A martial eagle nest has been seen and visited on occasion and this raptor has been seen on occasion with a kill, quite impressive was with a large monitor lizard - what a pleasure to watch!
As water levels drop there is a feeding frenzy at isolated fish traps as catfish surface from the drying water.
We can only follow tradition, and a sundowner drink to celebrate the sunset and a wind down after a game drive or boat activity. We have celebrated the sunset with cocktails in and out of camp. We have also had a few outdoor dining experiences for brunch, dinner and high tea.
With the floodplain ecosystem around us we get to experience mokoro, boats and game drives all year round. Our day trip out to Hunda Island, with a packed picnic lunch has been a great and fruitful experience for all.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Neuman Vasco, Brett Ervine, Marina Lunga, Retha Prinsloo, Dan Chaknova, Mandy Sunderland and Cindy Swart.
Guides: Cruise Mollowakgotta, Alberto Mundu, Simon Tshekonyane, Johnny Mowanji.
update - September 2012 Jump
to Seba Camp
"Hot" was the word on everybody's lips this month. The heat, although not yet at its maximum, has created new opportunities for activities while staying at Seba Camp. From bush swims to mokoro lessons in the shallow channels, boating or fishing trips to just having a snooze on the newly refurbished pool deck.
Whichever way you look at it, Seba Camp is a paradise in so many ways, the majestic palm trees creating the perfect backdrop to an already beautiful landscape, the Okavango Delta being the main attraction. Of course with the heat steadily rising each day, the water is disappearing very fast, making the boating trips an exciting time to view not only birds, but the many animals being drawn to the fresh, cool water of the remaining channels and lagoons.
Elephant, buffalo and hippo are the main attraction as they have claimed the camp as their own, sometimes creating some very exciting moments in the camp. Eyes, ears and noses should always be on full alert while walking through the camp due to the thick foliage that surrounds most of the pathways, as most of the larger herbivores seek shelter and shade from the midday sun. Two old resident buffalo bulls (dagga boys) have been spotted regularly in the front area of the camp at night, often blocking the pathways and giving our guests and guides their adrenaline fix for the trip! One lone bull elephant who is easily recognizable because of his one broken tusk, has decided that he is happy staying at Seba, and on several occasions during the course of the month has taken to sleeping against the guest tents, causing many a bleary eyed guest (full of smiles and stories) to arrive at breakfast the following morning and almost gulp the freshly brewed coffee in two sips!
When it comes to the birding, it cannot be disputed that Seba boasts some of the most magnificent viewing in the Delta. The summer migrants are starting to pour in, and all of a sudden new sounds and sights are being recorded. The yellow-billed kites are a general favorite as their elegant and graceful flying is always a pleasure to watch. Several Diederick's cuckoos are also being heard around the camp, and it is not long before the many other migrant species arrive. A pair of African fish-eagles have also taken residence in the front lagoon and during lunch they create the most amazing spectacle as they show off their fishing skills by swooping in and snatching fish out of the water. Another special sighting this month have been the lesser flamingos that have been seen soaring over the camp several times; their magnificent almost unnatural bright pink is one of nature's most beautiful offerings.
By far the most incredible sighting this month was a pangolin that was found by Speedy near the airstrip while on a guided walk. As the group neared this shy and endangered animal, it rolled itself tightly into a ball, showing why it is such a peculiar and fascinating animal. The guests enjoyed a few good minutes with the pangolin before leaving it - the pangolin unrolled itself and wandered back into the bush!
The lions have been very active this month, taking down yet another roan antelope. On one occasion they were spotted crossing the airstrip as a plane was about to land, and once the plane landed safely, the guests disembarked and drove no more than a minute to see these two magnificent young males. The other two females in that particular pride joined up with the males the next day and they all stayed the night at the bush dinner spot, no more than a stone's throw away from the parking lot! The next morning the guides found the pride around a zebra kill, again a stone's throw away from the camp, and they were all full and lazy from the night's feasting. The next evening, the Seba Clan of hyaena made their appearance and attempted to steal the kill, however the pride was too strong as the two males are now almost fully grown and magnificent in every way, so rather than risk their lives, the hyaena decided to create havoc in the camp instead! The Seba Clan has been doing very well lately, with the juvenile cubs and several adults becoming very mobile in the camp every night. As for our new little cub, well he is getting larger and larger every day, and is starting to show his colours and spots already. He is healthy and fit, often playing with the older cubs and also the parents as they socialize at dusk. Sadly the clan has moved dens, but we will keep you updated on developments as they unfold during the course of the month.
Till next month...
James and the Seba Team
Tubu Tree Camp
update - September 2012 Jump
to Tubu Tree Camp
Weather and Landscape
The weather has been perfect; everything shows that spring has finally arrived in the Okavango Delta. Morning temperatures have varied from the cooler low teens to higher teens (Celsius), while our day time temperatures have been around the high twenties to mid-thirties (Celsius). On a few occasions this month we have actually seen some clouds in the sky, just another indication of the change in seasons. With rains falling to the north (Kasane and Victoria Falls) as well as the south (South Africa), we have experienced some great weather.
Water levels continue to drop daily, with most of the island being dry now, with water on the boundary of the island, in the bigger channels.
Another indication that summer is on the way, is that more and more of the knobthorn acacia's are flowering; even the marula trees have sprouted new leaves. As you drive around the area, many of the trees are going green, adding a new colour to the brown bush.
Same as last month, we have been fortunate to add another three pangolins onto our list for the last month, all of them have been seen in the late afternoon, in an area called the Four Sisters. This area is very open, with tall grass and lots of termite mounds, as far as we have been able to tell is that all the individuals that have been seen have been different individuals.
On the leopard front, the Tubu Female and her cubs were seen a few times this month. The one cub is still very shy and for about two weeks we thought that they hyaenas might have killed him, as we haven't seen any sign of him?eventually we saw him at a kill that his mother made. The family has gone very far from camp this last month, and we saw their tracks often coming through camp. During an afternoon, one of our guides found Tubu Female close to the first bridge and she was hunting, but the herd of impala that she was stalking saw her coming. When the impala started snorting at her, she decided that it wasn't worth it and crossed the bridge onto the camp island. The cubs were not far behind her, she eventually went to lay down in the shade of a tree close to the bridge while the cubs decided it was play time. They climbed the two big trees next to their mother, seeing who could go the highest and on the smallest of branches as well. As it got dark their mother moved on and they had to stop playing to follow her. She walked towards Room 1 and walked past all the rooms and off towards the south, where we found her a day or so later with a kill.
The hyaena den has once again been offering us lots of great excitement as the six month old cub has become used to the vehicles, and as the vehicles arrive at the den, he will come and chew on the tyres or on the metal step on the side of the vehicle. While the younger cub (about a month or two old) has been seen bullying his/her mother while she is laying in the shade, waiting for it to come and nurse.
We have had a few fires in and around the area, as the grass dries out and the weather becomes hotter, we should start seeing more and more natural fires around the area. When an area has burnt down, it will remove excess moribund (dead plant material), which prevents the growth of less aggressive grass and plant species. Once this is removed the open soil gives these "weaker" plant species the opportunity to grow and the ash from the burnt grass will then join the nutrient cycle again, as the rain washes it into the soil. Once the rain comes, these areas will be the first to have lush green grasses, which will attract large amounts of plains game like zebra, blue wildebeest, tsessebe, impala and not forgetting the predators that travel after them. The burnt areas will also attract a variety of bird species, one in particular the Temminck's courser.
At the end of the month, one of the guides found a female hyaena feeding on a blue wildebeest, we are not sure if the blue wildebeest died of natural causes or if it was killed, but the hyaena found the perfect spot to eat her meal? the centre of the airstrip. After a morning of feasting on her own, she left the carcass to the 30 odd vultures (both hooded and white-backed), two marabou storks and a couple of yellow-billed kites. At about 11am we had a pilot that need to take off from the airstrip as he over-nighted at Tubu. When we got to the airstrip there wasn't much left of the carcass, only the skull, four legs, the rib cage and lots of skin - we had to drag the carcass off of the airstrip so the plane could take off.
Birds and Birding
We have on two occasions seen a red-necked falcon in camp, a bird that we have not seen before, so another tick on our bird list.
As days go by, more of the migrating birds are arriving back for the summer. We are seeing yellow-billed kites almost daily within the camp. The resident species have also provided great birding with some awesome sightings of large flocks of wattled cranes, saddle-billed storks, African marsh-harriers, black crakes, whiskered terns and lesser moorhens.
We have been following the day-to-day life of a family of black-collard barbets outside the office. The male has been busy excavating a hole in a dead branch in a jackalberry. With this specific barbet, the previous season's chicks will often help the mother and father look after and feed the new chicks. We will keep you posted on what is happening with the new chicks.
"Great hospitality from everyone at Tubu Tree. Remarkable guide - Delta. Food and cultural entertainment was fantastic. We saw five leopards, including a kill. We enjoyed the mokoro trips, and the birding was fantastic!"
"The staff went out of their way to attend to our every need - even before we knew we needed something. Gibson was an excellent guide! The meals were excellent! The rooms were kept exceptionally well. The laundry was very nice. All was A++!"
The amazing personal service. Everyone who works here is incredibly genuine, kind, and enthusiastic and we loved every minute we stayed here. Eloise and Hein are wonderful managers and have made our stay very memorable. We wish we could stay longer! Thank you to everyone for making us feels so at home here. Also we loved the pangolin!"
Staff in Camp
Managers: Hein and Eloise Holton and Sadie Camm.
Guides: Kambango Sinimbo and Gibson Kehemetswe.
Kalahari Plains Camp
update - September 2012 Jump
to Kalahari Plains Camp
Weather and Landscape
With summer approaching, daytime temperatures have been soaring, often reaching 45° C; however, the mornings are still quite chilly, dropping down to 6° C at times.
In terms of landscape, some of the tree species have started blooming, transforming the Kalahari into a colourful and vibrant landscape. The grass cover is still dry, covering the rolling plains in a golden carpet, which sways beautifully in the wind.
The month started off splendidly for the camp as we had some fantastic predator sightings.
During a morning outing, our guests were treated to an exceptional experience when they found one of the resident male lions feeding on an aardvark kill. The game viewers were tipped off on the location of the lions as they heard them calling during the evening. Even although the aardvark was dead, it is very rare to see one.
We were also very lucky with sightings of the Letiahao Pride, as we found them at the Letiahao waterhole a couple of times. We saw the prides new cubs for the first time this month. The cubs appear to be in the region of four months of age and they are still very nervous around the vehicles.
Another special sighting was when we found four cheetah: a mother and her sub adult cubs. We found the small feline family trying to hunt a herd of springbok, but unfortunately for the cheetah, they were spotted by the prey which took off immediately.
Other great sightings for the month included a brown hyaena which walked in front of camp during breakfast time, a relaxed Cape fox at Deception Valley, a good number of honey badgers and some bat-eared fox.
Newsletter by Fanie.
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