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South Africa camps
Pafuri Camp update - September 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
We were surprised by early rain this year! The first summer rains arrived on the 7th, and we received a total of 25mm. Usually the rain only begin in mid-November, so this was a pleasant and much anticipated treat. On the 16th, we received another bout of rain, which has now left the environment looking fresh and rejuvenated - the Luvuvhu floodplains looks extremely beautiful at the moment.
Summer is knocking on the door as we experienced a monthly maximum of 42° C towards the end of September.
September was another month of great game viewing topped up by aardvark and sable sightings.
The Makuleke Concession has it all - leopard, lion, rhino, buffalo, elephant, aardvark, sable and eland. Sable are extremely rare in the Kruger National Park, so we were ecstatic when Enos found a female along the floodplain.
General game viewing was excellent as always - the big herds of buffalo are still roaming around the Limpopo floodplains, with some impressive herds sticking along the Luvuvhu River. Elephant herds are seen in the same areas, as the new growth is starting to sprout in these areas. Some large elephant herds and a number of old bulls have also taken a liking to the camp area, creating some close up encounters for our guests.
Leopards continue to dominate the bug cat sightings, with the highlight being the sighting of four leopards feeding on a kudu carcass on the 14th. We had a total of 17 leopard sightings for the month.
On the 5th we saw the Pafuri Pride male (Nkanu) and two females on a buffalo kill. After this encounter, they were not seen for the rest of the month, as they headed onto the southern banks of the Luvuvhu River. A young nomadic group of males was seen briefly, but they appear to just be moving through as they were not seen again. We had a total of 10 lion sightings for the month.
Birds and Birding
Birding is starting to take an interesting shape as some of the migrants are coming back; the Pafuri guides always compete on who saw the first migrant bird to arrive. So far we have seen the yellow billed kite, Wahlberg's eagle, Klaas's cuckoo, pygmy kingfisher, to name but few and we are waiting for more to come. The resident specials have been seen too this month; Bohm's spinetail, mottled spinetail, Pel's fishing-owl and racket-tailed roller.
As the 22 September was International Rhino Day; we offered our guests an informative presentation on rhino, to help raise awareness on their plight.
On the cultural side of things, we did a number of trips to both Thulamela and the Makuleke village. The feedback from both of these trips was really positive.
Pafuri Walking Trail update - September 2012 Jump
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Camp Jabulani update - September 2012
Kings Camp update - September 2012 Jump
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The sweet smell of spring is here...
Spring has arrived and the bush is looking amazing after about 25mm of rain that we have had!
The grass turned green, nice smelling flowers came out and the bush is in general very lively with plenty of bird activity and amazing sightings of general game.
We had amazing sightings right throughout and it was a wonderful month for photography!
Ntombi and her boy made up most of the sightings during the month, with us recording them on kills on average every 2-3 days during the second half of September. Most of the kills were small prey (Steenbuck, Grey duiker, Bushbuck) which usually last them only about 6-8 hours. The youngster literally eats his mother out of the house and therefore she has to kill frequently. They are both very entertaining and were seen a few times in very close proximity to the camp, around the waterhole and toward Rooms 4 & 5.
Tumbela showed up for a few visits and we had a very pleasant sighting of her on an Impala kill with some amazing interaction with 3 Hyenas of the local Rockfig clan.
Rockfig Jr. is walking massive distances within her territory and sightings were very infrequent. Her youngster is still not responding very well to vehicles and sightings of him are usually very brief, but one can get him out and more relaxed at times.
Umfana is still occupying a large portion to the east but of late he started moving back into the territories where he grew up. This young leopard is now approaching 3years of age and he is developing into one beautiful, large and strong male leopard.
Highlights of the month were strongly divided by three groups of lions.
The Mafikizolo pride of 5 killed a large Cape buffalo bull toward the North Eastern corner of our traversing close to the Kruger Park boundary. The males in the group are still more approachable than the lionesses but they are getting better the more they are found on kills. Later in the month they chased a new group of lions (2 young males and 3 lionesses) off a buffalo they killed, finished it off and drove the newcomers further to the West.
The new group, within a few days, killed ANOTHER large Cape buffalo bull after the one they got chased off. Once when they were almost finished with the kill all 5 of them made their way to a nearby waterhole to quench their thirst. I managed to position us perfectly at the waterhole before the lions arrived and we managed to get the most amazing photographs of drinking lions in the most unbelievable light.
The new coalition of 2 males was by far the most frequent of our lion sightings during the month. Over the last 4 weeks they were joined in turn by 3 lionesses from the neighbouring Ross pride which came into oestrus shortly after one another. This may hopefully draw their presence across the main road more often to set up and broaden the boundaries of their current territory.
Cape buffalo and Elephant
We had a constant presence of a large group of 20 Cape buffalo bulls in the area around the camp. Frequently sighted on some of the individuals were the rare Yellowbilled oxpeckers between the more common Redbilled oxpeckers.
Elephants were also plentiful and most of the sightings were around the lush and green riverbeds and available water.
A pack of 7 Wild dogs (2 adults & 5 puppies) visited our area for about a week and we had some brilliant encounters with them.
Both our Spotted Hyena dens are still active and new babies were born into both clans! Keep following the blog for more updates on the new babies!
Thanks for reading the reports!
Morné and the Kings Camp guiding team.
Report written by, Morné Hamlyn.
Photography by, Morné Hamlyn.
A new Adventure
It is with a heavy heart that I announce that Melissa, Masai (our African Wildcat) and I will be leaving Kings Camp on the 25th October 2012. We are relocating to the Eastern Cape and are looking forward to new adventures.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank our very close and dearest friends/family for the wonderful 5 & half years we shared with you all at Kings Camp! (I shared a total of 11 years with some of you in the Timbavati)
• Managers Warren & Lisha and "our" kids, Cathan & Sveva.
• ALL of the Kings Camp staff (You guys ROCK!!)
• YOU! Without ALL our guests, the experience we built would not have been possible. Loads of friendships have developed over the years and we WILL stay in touch!
• All the surrounding lodges for cooperative, HARD work and friendships. (Tanda Tula, Motswari, Simbavati, Umlani, Karans Camp and ALL the land owners we shared amazing traversing with!)
Some of my favourites:
Love to ALL!
Morné, Melissa & Masai.
Leopard Hills update - September 2012 Jump
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Early, soaking Spring rains have transformed the dry, dusty the landscape into a rich green scattered with different flashes of colour as many trees begin to bloom. Most striking are the thousands of sweetly scented yellow flowers adorning the very aptly named Scrambled Egg Bush or Mopane Pomegranate!
This colourful specimen is next to a pan close to the lodge.
Along with all the fresh Spring growth a budding new wildlife photographer has sprung up…drum roll….introducing Raymond!
Another stunning African sunset spent with a journey of giraffe, a tranquil scene captured perfectly by Ray.
Always something happening up on the Sand river! Here a crocodile sun's himself as 3 species of waterbirds are unfazed (Black crake in flight, water thicknee and blacksmith lapwing)
A different perspective created by some stately kudu bulls feeding atop a termite mound at sunset.
She definitely has a cub/cubs hidden somewhere along the Mabrak river as she has been returning to the same spot for the last 2 weeks. This image is of her heading to possibly suckle after finishing off an impala kill (See video of her feeding).
We hope some good luck is on her side with this litter and maybe she will show a cub or two to us in the next few weeks!
Finally we have an image to share of this young leopardess who has been missing in action, she was found in the dense north a few times and is looking as healthy as ever! Wonder if she will settle up there and attempt her first litter…time will tell!
Hardly seen this month but her tracks have headed up one of the nearby hills over the last few days…dare we suggest that she also has a litter hidden up there!
A lot of her month has been following Dayone around as he patrols his territory, she was even seen in the open grasslands of the south, a whopping 10km out of her usual riverine territory while following him! They have been mating and let's hope for some success for this 7 year old female who has yet to raise a successful litter!
The grandmother of the west appeared a few times along the northern bank of the river.
One or two glimpses of him during the month but his interest in the west of his territory has waned a bit since Hlaba Nkunzi probably has cubs. Possibly he is also feeling pressure from the burgeoning Dayone male!
With Xikavi hot on his heels for most of the month he has been patrolling his expansive domain (they have been confirmed mating)! Not without a little irritation shown by the big dominant male! (See video).
His confidence and size just becomes more and more impressive, looks like he is going to be here and secure his territory for the females and their cubs for a long while!
Maxabeni young male
He is still frequenting the south where Dayone and Kashane don't really venture, he is getting much bigger and at 3 and a half years it is a matter of time before he becomes a potential threat to the 2 dominant male leopards.
Nyeleti young male
Like Maxabeni this 3 year old youngster is testing the water over here, hopefully he doesn't get too comfortable and Dayone sends him on his way otherwise he may potentially kill cubs...if he finds them!
Welcome sunshine after the first spring rains!
The darker maned Selati high up on the rocks, scouring his territory with a belly full of buffalo!
A testing month for the young kings of the west!
On the flip side they shared their first buffalo kill with the Ximhungwe females after the strong lionesses brought down an old bull.
They also faced their first challenge as the Majingilane Coalition stole the Othawa females for 2 nights on their eastern boundary! The 2 coalitions roared at each other throughout the night but there was no battle, seemingly the Majingilane are stronger as they are older and in their prime but the Selati boys did stand their ground and the Majingi's went straight back east the following day! See video for more of their impressive roaring!
Short tail female shortly after feeding on the old buffalo bull that 3 of these tough lionesses managed to subdue!
Lots of mating still going on with the Selati boys…not always too impressed with their performance, see the look on her face below!
Most likely all 3 are pregnant and we will probably see a first litter emerging quite soon
Pack of Painted Dogs that denned here in 2011
What a treat to see them frequently at the beginning of spring! The pups are at that age (Around 4 months) where they are so curious and playful, especially with their food. See images below!
The large herd has again been frequently seen as well as many old bulls up in the north along the river.
A different perspective of an elephant crossing at sunset!
At the moment first prize is to head up to the river and try and time our arrival with the excitement of a parade drinking or splashing across.
Wonderful hippo viewing continues and there is still some niggle between bulls with water levels still quite low as in the above image.
Interesting sightings in September
A stubborn honey badger always creates a flurry of excitement! We came across this individual who had just dug a yellow throated plated lizard out of a termite mound. He gave us one brief stare before running off with his trophy!
Not a great image but we managed to at least get a glimpse of him through the long grass and some evidence. This proves how these chaps are expert diggers with their 3.5cm long and razor sharp foreclaws, the hole that he excavated was half a metre deep!
Spotted hyaena sightings are almost daily at the moment, this guy was seen training his lungs in preparation for crossing the river this summer!
Seriously they often wallow in a waterhole for hours to cool after feeding as their powerful digestive system heats them up!
The migrant swallows are back and preparing their mud nests, we caught these red breasted and lesser striped swallows at the same mud wallow with lots of mud on their faces!
Tawny eagles are renowned as avid scavengers and often kleptoparasitise other birds and animals, this one stole a morsel from some vultures at an old Ximhungwe lioness kudu kill.
Owl sightings peak this time of year as the foliage is less dense, this white faced scops owl posed in the open for us and is one of the rarely seen medium sized owls!
Another intra African migrant just back and in his breeding plumage is the stunning African paradise flycatcher, this male paused briefly for a quick shot.
Rocktail Beach Camp update - September 2012 Jump
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Rocktail Bay Dive Report - September 2012 Jump
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Last month we were treated to the cutest sightings of humpback whale calves learning to swim and breach. September has proved to be a magical month for humpback sightings too. Towards the end of the month we began to see the southern movement of these whales as they start their journey back home - to the Antarctic, where the ice will start melting soon and they can once again feast on their staple diet of krill.
The water here has also started warming up again and we've enjoyed lovely 22°C temperatures the whole month long - yay! A sure sign of water temperatures rising is sightings of flying fish. It's such fun to watch these fish launch themselves out of the water and literally "fly" across the surface - sometimes travelling up to 30-40 metres out of the water as they frantically try to avoid becoming lunch for a kingfish, couta (king makrel) or tuna!
Pineapple Reef has provided the stage for some awesome dives this month. Christoph Schetelich was enjoying a dive on this reef, when Michelle spotted an orangutang crab - a tiny little creature which lives in a certain sea anemone and is seldom seen! A couple of days later Murray Saunderson and Christoph were treated to an unusual sighting of a white-weedy scorpionfish. Then a few days' later seven different rays were spotted on just one dive at Pineapple. These were: a porcupine, two sharpnose, two diamond, a honeycomb and a ray that she wasn't able to identify as it was swimming away from them when they spotted it. Wow? amazing what one dive can uncover!
Aerial is our lovely house reef - not even five minutes boat journey from our launch site. It has so much going on - turtles are often seen sleeping or munching away on seaweed here and the cleaner shrimp give superb manicures for divers who have never experienced this before! Christoph again had the luck of being the only diver on a dive to Aerial - and what a thrilling experience he had. Michelle was busy pointing out a paperfish to him, when upon closer inspection, she found that the paperfish had a shrimp in its mouth! Lucky paperfish - unlucky shrimp! Boris our resident potato bass on Pineapple had also decided to have a change of scenery and he was found happily being cleaned on one of the cleaning stations on Aerial.
Later on in the month, Aidan De Boer was partaking in his first ever sea dive with Ondyne and no sooner had they slowly descended onto Aerial Reef when they spotted a green turtle happily feasting away on some seaweed. Aidan was very excited and couldn't believe his luck when around the next corner we found a hawksbill turtle, posing just for us it seemed! We thought that would be the last turtle sighting but we were wrong. As we cautiously peered into one of the overhangs, out swam the biggest loggerhead male! We weren't sure who got more of a fright?us or the loggerhead! He was absolutely huge. The dive wasn't over though and to top it all off they found a Mauritius scorpionfish. This particular fish is very rarely seen, so what an incredible log Aidan has for his first sea dive, and what a wonderful introduction to the underwater world here at Rocktail! His family were thrilled to hear all about his underwater exploits - so much so, that his father, Kevin and younger brother Brendan have said they want to join Aidan underwater too when they plan their next holiday to Rocktail later this year. We look forward to diving with you all soon!
Our Ocean Experiences have been bearing lots of sightings of spinner dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, eagle rays and of course lots of humpback whales and their calves. It's the start of turtle season next month, so we're sure to start seeing many more loggerhead turtles coming into the area. If we're really lucky we may even spot a leatherback turtle waiting for nightfall and the right tide to help her as far up the beach as possible to lay her eggs.
One little creature that has nothing to do with the underwater world, but has everything to do with the dive centre right now is a female grey sunbird. This little bird flew all around and after some deliberation, decided the best spot to build her nest was in our dive gear storeroom. A couple of days later her little nest was complete - hanging off one of our BCD's! She is certainly very clever, since building her nest in our storeroom, with the door always being closed, will prevent the vervet monkeys from getting to her eggs. While she was out one day, we carefully took a peep inside her nest and found two very pretty eggs, waiting to hatch. We'll keep you updated on the hatchlings in our next newsletter.
Yours in diving,
Darryl, Clive, Michelle, Ondyne
The Rocktail Dive Team
Makalolo Plains update - September 2012 Jump
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Little Makalolo update - September 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
With the increase in temperatures as we get into the 'suicide month' as October is referred to by the locals - due to the hot and dry conditions.
Just about all of the trees have lost their leaves, with exception of the false mopane which show off their evergreen foliage - this flash of green has attracted herds of elephant which feed greedily on the leaves. Most trees are now sprouting new shoots, some adding vibrant colours to the dry and parched landscape.
Water levels in the pans are dropping very quickly due to a combination of the heat and increased water requirements of the wildlife. The Kalahari landscape is becoming quite dusty as we edge into the peak of the dry season.
Summer has definitely made its presence known with temperatures hitting as high as 38° C. Apart from the heat, the reptile activity has increased so much as the ectothermic creatures emerge from their hibernation.
Game viewing has been amazing this month with elephants coming to the pan in front of camp as early as nine in the morning. Huge herds of buffalo have also been making their way down to the waterhole. We have enjoyed great sightings from the hide?and on one occasion a game drive spotted a mating pair of leopard in the hide at night!
The elephants have also taken a liking to drinking out of the camp pool, which would then be followed by a feeding bout on the vegetation around the honeymoon suite. Great numbers of sable and kudu have been seen at the camp waterhole too, often mixed with zebra and giraffe.
We have experienced some really great highlights this month! We had three white rhino sightings this month. We also enjoyed sightings of wild dog, honey badger and cheetah. The highlight of the highlights was the sighting of an elephant giving birth.
Lion sightings have been really good too, and on one occasion, a pride came for a closer inspection when some game viewers were enjoying their sundowners - this resulted in a hasty retreat into the vehicle, followed by a fantastic sighting. On occasion, the lions have terrorized a buffalo herd at the camp waterhole.
Birds and Birding
There has been an increase in bird sighting of late especially in camp where there is a fair deal of surface water. Some of the migratory birds are now very visible with an increase in the sightings of woodland kingfisher and violet-backed starlings.
The red-billed spurfowls seem to have mixed up their breeding times this year. They normally nest in November but we have a resident francolin which laid five eggs, hatched all five but lost two probably to predators.
"To Rania and all your team - many thanks for a wonderful stay. Buli, you rock! Best wishes to all."
"A great time at Little Makalolo Camp! Beautiful rooms, delicious food, very exciting game drives. Lots of animals, lots of excitement."
"Rania, Vi, our guide Buli; you have made my first trip to Little Makalolo unforgettable. The memories of glorious day and night drives. The sightings of a leopard, buffalo, zebra, hippos, etc too numerous to mention. Thank you to the wonderful, smiling and kind efficient staff. Hopefully this will not be my last safari at Little Makalolo. All the best to you."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Rania Mutumhe, Charles Ndlovu, Tracy Peacocke and Vimbai Mandaza.
Guides: Dickson Dube, Honest Siyawareva, Bulisani Mathe and Charles Ndlovu.
Davison's Camp update - September 2012
Ruckomechi Camp update - September 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
The weather has produced some very warm and dry conditions which truly reflect the pending arrival of the summer months. We are in the peak of the dry season, and it is clear that the landscape is craving the summer rains.
September blesses us with the flowering of the beautiful Zambezi tail flower - arguably the most beautiful of the wild flowers! With a soft peach cup-like centre and each petal extending down into a saffron coloured tail , all of which eventually twist together beneath the flower. All be it is a stunning flower, the sap of the plant is highly poisonous, containing straphantin, a substance previously used in modern medicine as a cardiac drug. Interestingly the anti-dote to staphanthin is found growing in a plant in the very same habitat, the baobab tree. The seed containing the substance, Adansomin.
The flame creepers are also flowering - covering most of the riverine trees in a carpet of deep red, which is relished by the monkeys and baboons.
Anyone coming on safari to Ruckomechi for the first time should be warned of the danger of addiction! Once you have experienced the welcome of the staff, the vast expanses, the changing skies, the river and mountains across, and above all, the unparalleled diversity of animals, you will want to return again and again - you have been warned.
A drive, a walk, or a cruise can be a wonderful experience because it gives one a chance to let the sense of wonder take over from the modern world of sophistication and also helps to put humanity in perspective as part of nature.
September has been a phenomenal month with a whole variation of mammal sightings. We have had incredible sightings of serval, a cheetah making a kill and then losing it to lions, a leopard with a cub at close quarters, the resident lion pride hunting as well as the sightings of the pride cubs. The predator offspring sightings did not end there, as we had some great sightings of the resident pack of wild dog, which also have young pups at the moment.
Elephants and big herds of buffalo have been pouring in and out of the concession in their search for water and palatable vegetation. On the nocturnal side of things, we have experienced great sightings of civet, porcupine and spotted hyaena to name but a few.
The first prize moment was when guests had a chance to see and experience a wild cat kill. They actually saw the whole event unfold in front of them on a night drive using a spotlight with a red filter. The cat stalked its prey, (mouse), cautiously and patiently in the short grass. The stalk was completely silent and in ultra-slow motion, with body low, each paw was moved with the greatest care and precision. The mouse moved a few inches to look for seeds, whilst the feline's ears, working independently took fixes on its new position. When the cat was within 50cm of the rodent, it stopped and then sprang high in the air in a great arc and landed on its prey with claws extended. The predator triumphant, somersaulted, with the prey in its paws and landed remarkably on its back - what a terrific gesture - with that he rolled over timeously and started feasting. Cameras were going mad?what a fabulous sighting.
Birds and Birding
The month of September, has been fairly productive on the birding side. The southern carmine bee-eaters seem to have settled into the area and we have a lovely breeding colony just west of camp which can be viewed from the afternoon boat cruisers. Some of the other highlights that we have had, have been the Pel's fishing-owl, pennant-winged nightjar, African Snipe and the long-toed lapwing.
We had a lovely couple that came and stayed with us for four nights that had a great interest in birds and managed to see 104 different species during that time, 12 of which were seen in one tree behind the dining room. That is the great thing about birding and Ruckomechi Camp, you don't have to go far to see things.
"We were so impressed with the quality of everything - the room, drives, service and the many loving extras, good night story, tea and drinks during the morning drives, sundowners etc. The gluten free food they organised exceeded all our expectations from all our other travel experiences."
"Everything was fantastic! We were able to see all the animals, birds and we were well informed of each species and their habits. The knowledge we gained was fantastic."
"Service is absolutely extra-ordinary, every detail is thought of. From coffee in the bush, private dinners, tailored outings depending on our interests. This was a perfect experience. The level of quality and warmth unmatched - we were thrilled to be here."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Carel, Juliette, Sandy, Dan, Gavin and Mina.
Guides: Gadreck, Kevin, Champion and Dharmes.
Mana Canoe Trail update - September 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
The usual sweltering heat of October has come early and the end of September was very hot with temperatures reaching up into the high 30s (Celsius). With the heat, the winds have picked up and brought cloud cover on a few occasions.
The bush in the Zambezi Valley is very dry. That said, there has already been new growth on trees such as the Zambezi fig tree, preparing for the coming rains. The sausage tree (Kigelia africana) is starting to produce its fruits - the 'sausages' are currently small green fruits about the size of a banana but when they mature they can reach weights of up to 10 kg and feed species such as baboons, impala and kudu, to name just a few.
The mighty Zambezi River was quite varied during September, with many days of strong winds, making the water very choppy and unsuitable for canoeing, followed by calm periods leaving the water looking like a mirror. The sporadic wind this month has resulted in a few a days on the river being cancelled and replaced with a leisurely drive through Mana Pools National Park, broken up by walks in the beautiful Mana Pools Floodplain, and mopane woodlands further inland.
The whole of September has brought extraordinary game viewing. With the bush being so dry, game is forced down to drink at permanent water sources such as Long Pool, Green Pool and the Zambezi River. With all this game concentrated near these water sources, it's hard to do a walk without having to dodge herds of elephant and buffalo. With the concentrated plains game the predators are never far off and lion sightings have been amazing and on almost every trip. Wild dog have also been seen on almost every trip, with the canoe trail passing through three different packs' home ranges.
Birds and Birding
September has been a great month for birding with many of the summer migrants making their way back south, in preparation for the first rains of the season. The most noticeable of these is the southern carmine bee-eater; these beautiful birds have started to come back in full force and Mana Pools is actually one of the places known to provide ideal nesting sites for huge flocks. The bee-eaters nest in the sides of high sand banks, in large colonies. With the birds numbering in their hundreds, the canoes provide a great opportunity to see them close up. With the canoes slipping through the water silently the birds feel more comfortable with them being there and guests can often get right up to the bank where these birds are nesting.
At Ilala Campsite on the last night there is often a yellow-billed kite (also a summer migrant) that hangs around trying to steal titbits off unsuspecting guests' plates.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Daniel Peel and Russell de la Harpe.
Guides: Henry and Matthew.
Toka Leya Camp update - September 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
With the arrival of spring, there is a very noticeable change in the vegetation, as it 'springs' back to life, adding shades of green to the brown winter bush. The birdlife is notched up a level as the summer migrants begin to arrive, adding more colour to the environment as well as a cacophony of new sounds.
The temperatures did rise a little, but the biggest surprise was the arrival of some rain - we did not expect this at all.
The water levels on the Zambezi River have dropped a little, but the Falls are absolutely picture perfect at the moment as the spray is not so bad, allowing for great pictures to be taken.
September was an incredibly exciting month, packed with great sightings and animal activity.
The month was characterized by big game sightings. By this we mean many herds of elephant often came right through camp, and on one occasion, a herd of no less than 100 elephant spent some time feeding around camp. All of the elephant which came through camp ended up at the river, which is always amazing to watch, as the frolic and play in the cool Zambezi water.
Although the bush is starting to become more dense, wildlife was never difficult to spot as we had prolific sightings of kudu, waterbuck, bushbuck and common duiker. For most of our guests this month, the game drives were as much of a highlight as seeing the Victoria Falls.
Birds and Birding
On of our guides came back one afternoon and indicated that he had seen a flamingo on the boat cruise. Most of us laughed and thought we definitely needed to replace his binoculars. A few days later just in front of the camp, a young flamingo spent most of the day wading in the shallow - much to the amazement of all that laughed at the guide.
We also had the opportunity to see a few rock pratincoles as well as a number of African finfoot, which all seem to be spending their time in the channel in front of the reception area. The African skimmers have also given us some great sightings, with their bill shape and feeding methods exciting all our guests during the afternoon boat cruises. Huge flocks of African openbills have arrived this month too.
Fishing during September has been unbeatable. Many great specimens of tiger fish were caught and released. Even if only a small amount of time was available for fishing, the rewards were great!
"There were many highlights - starting with the arrival, the sunset cruise was a magical experience as was waking up with the sounds of the Zambezi River."
"Accommodation was outstanding, cleanliness extraordinary, staff always pleasant. Went out of their way to be helpful. Musical entertainment a nice touch. The visit to the village and boat cruise was an excellent experience."
"Amazing setting. The views were fabulous and our guide was very patient with us since we had small children and he taught us so much about animals and birds."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Petros and Gogo Guwa, Amon Ngoma, Jacqui Munakombwe, Mavis Daka and Muchelo Muchelo.
Lufupa River Camp update - September 2012 Jump
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Lufupa Tented Camp update - September 2012 Jump
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Kalamu Lagoon Camp update - September 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
It's getting hotter and hotter in the Luangwa Valley! Thankfully we haven't had much humidity and there is a persistent and cool breeze coming off the lagoon which is keeping the nights comfortable. Towards the end of the month the clouds have been building up in the afternoons, teasing us with the promise of rain.
September was full of exciting happenings - there is just so much going on in the bush!
The dry season in the Kalamu area has brought with it some excellent and consistent wildlife sightings.
The concentrations of game at the remaining water sources is just overwhelming. It is so obvious that the animals are yearning for the rains to come and the resultant palatable vegetation. We had a number of highlights this month around the lagoon, one of them being the sighting of an aardvark in broad daylight. Joseph and his guests first thought that the animal was dead from a distance. They were amazed to find, upon closer inspection' the 'dead' nocturnal animal was quite alive and enjoying its diurnal wonderings. The group of game viewers were so excited! This marks the fourth sighting of aardvark for the 2012 season.
Sadly, the Kalamu Pack of wild dog have reduced in size from 12 to eight individuals - this is very unfortunate and highlights the need to conserve this vulnerable species. We are not sure what fate the four missing pups met. However, the pack has been ranging around the concession, so we have had some excellent sightings of these canine predators. Some guests were fortunate enough to see the pack bring down an impala - let's hope that they stick around the area.
The Kalamu leopards continue break sighting records and produce great sightings. A mating pair was the feline highlight for the month. Watching leopard mate is truly a once in a life time experience which is seared in ones memory for many years to come.
In terms of lion sightings, the two old males were seen around the Fiya River confluence. The pair seems to have crossed over the Luangwa River - hopefully they will find the Kalamu females.
Elephants have literally been see in their thousands and were permanently seen around the lagoon. Large herds of buffalo have joined the abundant elephant herds in their attempt to sate their thirsts.
In addition to all these great sightings, we have also experienced great sightings of Thornicrofts giraffe, roan, hippo and crocodile by day, and at night, we often saw spotted hyaena, porcupine and white-tailed mongoose.
Birds and Birding
Birding has been superb as many of the lagoons begin to dry out; hundreds of water birds are seen wading through the shallow water in search of stranded aquatic creatures. We have seen great flocks of pelicans, yellow-billed storks, goliath herons, grey herons, great-white egrets and sacred ibis to name but a few.
'It was great we saw lots of wild dogs!'
'Great hospitality in a pristine piece of the Rift Valley paradise, thank you Kalamu Team.'
Shumba Camp update - September 2012 Jump
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The safari industry has many wonderful and diverse areas of natural beauty to offer those with a love affair of the African bush and as a camp manager, I come into contact with a lot of these people looking for the next place in this incredible continent to discover. Being based here at Shumba in the Busanga Plains, one would think gives me a biased opinion on how unique this area really is. You would be correct to a certain extent but because our guests that visit us here leave with such heavy hearts and memory cards full of photos to amaze those back at home? I have come to realize that my opinion is one that is shared by so many and is in fact not biased at all.
Weather and Landscape
The cold weather seems to have been a half forgotten dream in a distant past now as the temperatures soar into the high 30`s and low 40`s (Celsius). The fabulous evenings spent eating under the stars are now a firm fixture and why wouldn't you want to eat ''out'' when the evening temperatures sit at a very kind 25-27° C, letting you drift away as you tuck into another sumptuous meal while once in a while taking a look up into the heavens.
Now that the winds have passed we look forward to the arrival of the rains in late October which bless the dry earth and bring back so much life and colour to the park.
There have been some great and very interesting sightings this month with the most spectacular of them being the return of wild dogs! There have been regular sightings of a lone male dog on Kapinga Island. A large pack of 17 wild dog have also been seen close by - this is great news as the last time we had wild dog in the middle of the Busanga lions turf was in 2007.We hope they settle in the area and will keep you updated on their presence in the area.
Another great highlight for the month was the large herds of sable which we encountered whilst out on game drive. These herds often numbered around 30 - 40 individuals. Large herds of buffalo have also been seen, scattered all over the plains.
The feline predators have come to the show too, as we experienced a good number of leopard, lion and cheetah sightings. On one occasion, we found a pride of lions feeding on a hippo carcass. This provided us with some great close up views of these powerful felines whilst they fed and squabbled amongst each other.
We were extremely excited when we found a serval with two tiny kittens.
''Hospitality, comfort, relaxation and ambiance - both in the bush and in camp. Exceptional!''
''What a beautiful place! We had a wonderful time and learnt so much! The staff here have been lovely and we appreciated their terrific service and caring hospitality so much. Thank you all.''
"A wonderful place with fantastic people! Thank you so much too everyone for making this the best wedding anniversary EVER!"
Kapinga Camp update - September 2012 Jump
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Busanga Bush Camp update - September 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
September brought with it some cool easterly winds which made the temperatures very favourable as summer can get very hot with temperatures rising to 39 degrees Celsius in the afternoons. It has been a wonderful month where the guests after an eventful game drive would sit under the fig trees and enjoy their brunch with a wonderful breeze, making it very relaxing.
It has been such an amazing month as our guests got to see lions in camp, very up-close and personal. The camp is known for its many fig trees and as we are in summer and temperatures are rising, this camp is where the lions like to come and seek some shelter, it's a great time to see some lions up a tree and some just enjoying the shelter by lying under the trees.
September has been unforgettable. The guests have enjoyed some great sightings of a leopard with cubs, very beautiful cheetah sightings and as mentioned above, some lions in camp which was very amazing.
Some of our guests were also able to see the lions wrestle with vultures over a hippo carcass which they both failed to eat at the time due to constant squabbling - the lions only managed to feast after four days. Our guests called it; the hippo funeral, and it was a great sighting.
Painted wolfs, more commonly known as African wild dogs were also spotted and the guests were over whelmed to see them. Antelope sightings in September were just wonderful, from the red lechwe and puku right in front of camp, our guests managed to see a variety of species which included the kudu, roan, wildebeest, Lichtenstein's hartebeest and oribi. Sights of large herds of buffalo were also spotted along the plains.
Birds and Birding
Kafue National Park hosts more than 450 wonderful bird species and September brought with it great numbers of yellow-billed storks, crowned cranes, malachite kingfishers and also some other beautiful sightings included pennant-winged nightjar, rosy-throated longclaw, Caspian plover, wattled crane and many more wonderful birds of the Kafue. It has indeed been a splendid month.
"What a beautiful part of the world. Great people, fantastic game viewing and wonderful food."
"After nine visits to Africa, we have found our best camp.BBC is superb, intimate and friendly. We hope to return soon"
"I love your camp! Everyone is so pleasant and knowledgeable. Thank you for your Hospitality."
Staff in Camp
Manager: Cynthia. N. Kazembe.
Guides: Isaac Kalio and Brian Shiompa.
Mvuu Camp update - September 2012 Jump
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Mvuu Wilderness Lodge update - September 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
The weather has turned and Mvuu has become hot, dusty and dry - even at night. There is minimal cloud cover, and the days are windy. Whirlwinds erupt spontaneously and chase off animals (even herds of elephant).
The landscape in turn has been transformed into a desert - there are few leaves on the trees and many of the animals are having difficulty finding shade during the heat of the day.
Despite the intensity of the heat, the game viewing has been fantastic because animals have been congregating near the river. The early morning and late afternoons allow guests incredible views of drinking elephant and various antelope on the floodplains. Elephant have visited the camp almost every night and sometimes not just to feed on the various acacias. One elephant took down the swimming pool fence and another uprooted the water taps.
It is the breeding season for bushbuck, and they can be seen during most of the drives. However, one dead baby bushbuck was spotted being scavenged by some warthogs. There have been multiple evening sightings of genet, civet, and various species of mongoose, porcupine and even Pel's fishing-owl.
Over 100 buffalo were seen on a night drive at the end of August while a herd of elephant was sighted swimming (and playing) in the Shire on a boat safari with Henry in early September.
A few weeks ago a female crocodile was seen on land during a game drive with Hillary. At first she appeared to be sleeping, but then her hind legs would sporadically send dirt flying backwards - she was digging her nest to lay her eggs. After a few moments the digging ceased, but she remained breathing in and out heavily. The crocodile then slipped back into the Shire and disappeared.
Other great sightings included a mid-morning fight which resulted in two male hippos chasing each other around the southern end of the camp. The loser sulked around Chalet 8 for a while and the winner returned triumphantly to the Shire.
After dusk one evening, several guides sat in the hide at Water Hole 2 in the Rhino Sanctuary waiting for nocturnal animals. They were visited by none other than the lone male lion, Titus. He remained at the water hole for several minutes and drank calmly. After several moments, he walked slowly around the length of the water's edge (staring at the guides crouched in the hide all the while) before disappearing into the bush. All that could be heard after that were alarm calls from various antelope species.
Special animal insight from Frank
One of the truly exciting activities for those with a keen interest in animal behaviour and/or photography is watching wildlife from the lofty retreat of one of our hides which are strategically placed at waterholes inside the rhino sanctuary.
Now that the surrounding bushveld and woodland is becoming increasingly parched by the intense African sun, the animals are magically drawn to these places to cool off, enjoy a mud bath, or quench their thirst.
Well hidden from view, wildlife enthusiasts will be in for an amazing and rewarding experience as you may witness the comings and goings of many of the endangered species that are kept in the enclosure: zebra gingerly approaching the waterhole in single file, buffalo engulfed in a thick cloud of dust as they keep rolling in, a herd of elephant bulls splashing around in the mud or, with a bit of luck, the elusive eland coming down to drink, bizarrely adorned by dozens of oxpeckers - never a dull moment and definitely one of the unique ways to spend a morning or afternoon at Mvuu. Bush television at its best!
With the 22 September being World Rhino Day, Mvuu offered rhino drives and walks throughout the weekend. Although none of the drives managed to spot a black rhino, Frank had a particularly successful and exciting (very early) morning walk. The scouts picked up fresh tracks at Waterhole 1. They then followed the tracks of a mother cow and calf for a good four kilometres - occasionally losing the spoor in the dense brush, though the scouts continued to find signs of the rhino. Along the way, they found two places where the rhino had settled down for a rest, and even came across a fresh dung midden and urine patch. The guests were absolutely thrilled for being exposed to the various signs and indications of rhino and dutifully recorded the entire experience.
After an hour and half, one of the scouts motioned the group to slow down; oxpeckers could be heard calling overhead and the bush became particularly thick and entangled. Edging closer to a dense stand of zebrawood, they finally caught sight of the cow standing inside the bushes with the calf lying by her side. After about five minutes of a peaceful sighting, the female emerged from the bushes to approach the group - she was obviously disturbed by the rustling of leaves underfoot. The group backed off (very quickly) to crouch behind a tree; the cow continued to sniff the air until she gave out a sharp huff, turned on her heels and crashed through the undergrowth leaving behind a cloud of dust and churned soil. The group then headed back towards the vehicle to enjoy a scenic bush breakfast. This once-in-a lifetime experience is perfect for anyone interested in rhino conservation and is a fantastic way to learn more about their ecology first-hand.
Birds and Birding
A number of rare and unusual bird sightings were recorded during September. Henry spotted a Verreaux's eagle-owl during a game drive (another one was seen on drives by both Stanford and Henry a week later). Matthews found a Pel's fishing-owl in the southern flood plains (another was seen on a game drive with Angel a few weeks later).
A pair of brown-breasted barbets were seen just outside camp on a walk with Hillary while a palm nut-vulture wandered around the floodplains just 10 metres away from Angel's Land Rover during sundowners (three palm-nut vultures were seen flying overhead on a firewood collection run the previous day). On a drive with Danger, flocks of Lilian's lovebirds followed the Land Rover for almost the entire duration of the morning game drive.
"An absolutely wonderful experience, thank you for the amazing hospitality and friendliness you showed us; thank you Mcloud for the wonderful safari."
"Thank you very much for the wonderful stay we will never forget!"
"The whole trip to Mvuu Lodge was extraordinary."
Newsletter by Frank and Henry
Mumbo Island update - September 2012 Jump
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Local School Children Visit Mumbo Island
Twenty four students and six teachers from Cape Maclear Primary School enjoyed a day trip to Mumbo Island this month.
Schools in Malawi re-opened on 3 September after the long holiday. From last semester's examination results, Cape Maclear Primary School chose the best three students from every class (1 to 8) to be rewarded for their excellent results with an excursion to Mumbo.
The students were given a tour around the island, soft drinks, lunch and the opportunity to enjoy Mumbo's beach by swimming, kayaking and snorkeling. The students were also given a special lesson on wildlife conservation from a park and wildlife assistant who accompanied them on the trip.
This is the second year that Kayak Africa has offered these excursions and so far over a hundred local children have had the opportunity to visit the islands. We hope that these visits will foster an understanding of the value of ecotourism and conservation of unspoilt natural areas near the village.
Past Guests Make Wonderful Donation to Vision's Orphans
The Chalker family, who recently stayed on Mumbo Island, put together a massive load of toys, clothes and gear to donate to Vision's orphanage in Cape Maclear, which they had read about in our Guide to Mumbo booklet.
Simon Chalker works in the courier business and organised to get the boxes flown to Lilongwe Airport. Kayak Africa then delivered the boxes to Vision in Cape Maclear. Vision runs an informal feeding scheme for vulnerable children in the village. His only sponsor is Kayak Africa which supports him with monthly donations and buying the vegetables which he and the children grow in their garden. The Chalker family's donation of toys and clothes is a rare and wonderful opportunity for these children to receive new clothes and, for some of them, their first toy.
Chelinda Lodge update - September 2012
Weather and Landscape
The temperature has soared, indicating that we are approaching the hottest month in Malawi - October. Guests and guides are now able to walk in the mornings without heavy coats, but the evenings are still quite chilly. The animals have reacted as well, with most of them retreating onto the plateau from the low lying areas in the woodlands. The roan and eland antelopes in particular prefer to conceal themselves in these areas to give birth. Fortunately a mid-September rain shower brought some relief to the intensity of the dust.
On the plateau, there have been an increased number of sightings of eland and roan, along with their calves. A herd of 80 eland was seen accompanied by an astounding number of young. Towards the end of the month, a herd of over 250 was seen! Servals have been spotted multiple times this month, dashing in and out of the ferns to avoid the strong gusts of wind. A side-striped jackal was also found running around the ferns, and three bush pigs were found foraging around Chosi Loop.
Spotted hyaena have been active on the plateau and found playing with young ones. Apollo and Watson viewed two hyaena chasing after a dazzle of zebra. Later on in the month, a couple of hyaena meandered in front of the vehicle and lay down for a rest, blocking the road.
In mid-September, Sam spotted a leopard lounging on the road at Dam 1. The leopard then got up and wandered along the dam's wall into the hagenias On a night drive later in the month Apollo and Watson spotted a leopard squatting just 5 meters from the road. He then moved further away, stopped and then just stared at the spot light. A few weeks earlier a serval was spotted in the bracken ferns as well as two porcupines running on the road. Later on that same day Whyte found a honey badger wandering around the grass near the airstrip! .
Birds and Birding
The spotted eagle-owl has returned with the onset of the warming weather. Birding in the forest also has proved quite successful - Whyte and Abasi managed to see the bar-tailed trogon, Malawi batis and Fullebome boubou as well as many others this month. Closer to camp, one often spots black kites throughout the day. The black-headed heron continues to remain around Dam 1 and has been seen catching trout.
"Nyika is the start of our trip and we look forward to Chintheche and the rest; Chelinda camp is lovely"
Newsletter by Sam, Apollo, Whyte, Stanford
Desert Rhino Camp update - September 2012 Jump
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Palmwag Lodge update - September 2012 Jump
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Doro Nawas Camp update - September 2012 Jump
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Damaraland Camp update - September 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
As we are slowly moving closer to the heart of summer we are starting to feel the heat. Fortunately we have a friend called the south-westerly wind that cools down the afternoons as it blows over the landscape. The mornings continue to contain a thick cloak of mist over the landscape.
October was filled with many great desert elephant sightings. The highlight for the month was however the sightings of the 'Tuskless Herd', which is one of the shyest and elusive elephant herds in the area. This herd usually does not drink at the man-made waterholes and frequent very isolated and inaccessible areas in thick vegetation. This herd currently has four small calf's which are very weary of the vehicles but allowed us some god sightings.
The Huab Pride of lions has also returned to the area and we are pleased to see that all eight cubs are doing great and are growing fast. Dr Flip Stander also visited our area this month and set out on an expedition to collar some lions. This was done in collaboration with the Torra Conservancy in a bid to monitor the lions in order to prevent or minimise any conflict between these predators and the local communities which live within the wilderness areas where the lions frequent. The collaring was successful, as Dr Stander was able to collar two lioness near the Tweespruit area.
General game sightings have been pretty good, as big concentrations of general game have been congregating in the valleys due to the new growth which is starting to sprout.
Camp and Community
This month we were extremely happy to hand over blankets to the Bergsig School. The blankets were generously donated by the Round Table. Wilderness Safaris Namibia have also devoted a lot of time in the upgrade of the Bergsig crèche. The upgraded crèche will ultimately host an eye clinic that will provide the local people with free treatment for the removal of cataracts.
The Riemvasmakers Community had their traditional festival this month. People from all over the concession attended the festival and all the camp mangers attended too.
"A very courteous, friendly and helpful staff team. Our guide Anthony was first class! Thank you for the great stay!"
"The people who work here are the biggest asset to the camp and the fact that the local communities are involved is great. We also really enjoyed observing the desert elephant."
"The game drives, choir singing, hot water bottles in the beds, boma dinner, bush breakfasts and morning excursion were all fantastic experiences."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Elfrieda, Maggie, Erica and Wayne.
Guides: Anthony, Albert, Willem and Johann.
Skeleton Coast Camp update - September 2012 Jump
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Serra Cafema Camp update - September 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
The only constant about the weather is that it will change! A word to describe the daily weather at Serra Cafema is unpredictable. The mornings would start of cool and tranquil with mirror like reflections on the Kunene, warming up gradually with a pleasant breeze coming in from the west to cool the guest down at lunch on the front deck. By the afternoon all the tranquillity is long forgotten as the breeze has changed to strong gusts that give the illusion that the river is flowing from west to east, rather than east to west - A wind surfer's dream, except for all the crocodiles.
Lions River Exploration
Denzel and PG undertook a four hour hike to explore the area east from the camp where the Lions River flows. The Lions River flows from a south easterly direction and meets up with the Kunene River some 10 kilometres upstream from the camp. The exposed metamorphic rocks make for breath taking scenery along the course of the river. An added surprise was the mopane trees that flourish along the banks of the Lions River. This is interesting, as mopane trees are not found along the Kunene. It was an incredible scenic hike, but not for the faint hearted as the terrain is very sandy and it gets hot out there.
In the previous newsletter, we reported the sighting of a puff adder by staff around the camp. We have been finding the serpes tracks on a daily basis and they were getting quite close to the camp buildings. After one of the staff members almost stood on the snake, we decided it was best for all if the adder was trans-located to a more fitting location, away from people. The following day, camp guides carefully caught the snake and moved it to an area five kilometres away, so that both the snake and the staff could live in peace.
The Butcher Bird Strikes Again!
An unsuspecting gecko dared to venture out in broad day light and became a meal for an ever vigilant common fiscal shrike. The shrike seemed undeterred by the staff going about the morning duties as it attacked the gecko on the walkway between the kitchen and the main area.
Mathew Shanyenge joined the Serra Cafema team after serving faithfully for five years at Palmwag Lodge. He has been putting his hard earn skills to good use in the premier environment which goes to show that patience is a virtue. Welcome and well done Mathew!
PG has been given the amazing opportunity to be a relief manager at a Wilderness Collection camp in Congo. We wish him the best of luck on his adventure.
Ongava Tented Camp update - September 2012 Jump
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Little Ongava update - September 2012 Jump
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Ongava Lodge update - September 2012 Jump
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Andersson's Camp update - September 2012 Jump
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Little Kulala Camp update - September 2012 Jump
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Weather and Landscape
Generally speaking, the month was characterized by a cool westerly wind, which blew inland off of the Atlantic. On occasion we did experience a hot and dry wind, which blew in from the east. A sure sign that summer is on its way.
We had quite an unusual experience this month, when early one morning, when the morning shift staff arrived at camp - they found the entire camp and surrounding area covered in a thick blanket of mist! It was quite a sight to see. The mist soon dissipated as the sun warmed the environment up.
The mornings and evenings still carry a slight winter chill, but once the sun comes up, it warms up to a very comfy temperature.
This month has been very exciting. We have set up two camera traps at the different waterholes around the reserve. The pictures prove there is more than meets the eye. Not only have the traps revealed good concentrations of springbok and oryx, but some very rare and elusive species have been recorded too. These include brown hyaena, black-backed jackal, Cape fox, scrub hares, a striped polecat and aardwolf.
The cameras also captured some great avian images, with pictures of lappet-faced vulture, barn owl, black-chested snake-eagle and a pair of secretary birds.
A family of ostrich has been visiting the waterhole in front of camp recently on a daily basis. The parental couple had a brood of 21 chicks when they first arrived, but unfortunately it seem as two of the chicks have perhaps fallen prey to some predators as there are only 19 left.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Ivan, Ilze, Heinrich, Elizabeth and Lona.
Guides: Teek, Abner, Willy, Willem, Petrus and Nicky.
A special thanks to Vitoria Olfusen for the amazing cheetah photo.
Kulala Desert Lodge update - September 2012 Jump
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Kulala Wilderness Camp update - September 2012 Jump
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Governors' Camp update - September 2012 Jump
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Weather and grasslands
This past month we have experienced cool mornings with warm days. Early morning temperatures have averaged around 16°C with some mornings being as low as 12°C, midday is 28-30°C and evening temperatures are a warm 24°C. Grasses are shorter in most areas where hoofed movement has been prevalent. Wildebeest and zebra have passed through on their way to the crossing points. In the Masai conservation areas adjacent to the reserve wildebeest have stayed a little longer with grasses being more palatable here. There have been scattered showers of rain this month which has induced grass growth in the conservation areas. The Mara River has been a steady flow due to more rain in the eastern foothills. There have been some scattered showers during the month with a total of 68.5mm at Governors camp.
Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds
Some large herds of wildebeest and a few zebra came through from the conservation areas within the 1st week of the month. More zebra have been seen in and around the Musiara Marsh and Plains areas. Good numbers of elephant and more leopards are also being seen.
More river crossings early on this month!!!
There was a large crossing at the main crossing point at Paradise on the afternoon of the 1st with an estimated 5,000 animals crossing the Mara River. This was the group that were doubtful to cross in the last few days of August, interesting in that there were many Wildebeest that early afternoon in the Marsh that were moving and filing fast towards Paradise, this group must have joined up with the others a little later at Paradise for a final lunge. During this crossing there was an amusing saga with these Wildebeest and Zebra in that the path they chose was in the direct line of some Hippo, in the frenzied surge while crossing many wildebeest swam into the hippo who were not impressed by this disturbance, numerous wildebeest then tried to climb over the hippo and some even tried to vault it, one guest managed to photographed the Hippo raising his head and lifting a wildebeest almost out of the water, after a while the Hippo moved out to the other side of the river.
Photo courtesy of Emma Smith
The majority that crossed were wildebeest and a few zebra, two were taken by crocodile as well as one young zebra foal. One other wildebeest was snatched as it tried to climb up out of the bank, it fought and kicked with much effort, but luck was on its side and the crocodile let go. On the 2nd in the morning and afternoon there must have been over 10,000 wildebeest and a few hundred zebra that crossed at the main crossing point at paradise, This was the last of the large crossings, it was a phenomenal day with guests staying out from 6,30am until 6,30pm. There was much crocodile activity and over 300 died or were trampled in the surge to get out from a precarious exit point.
Photo courtesy of Allison Hunt
On the 4th a good crossing at 4.30pm at the Mortuary crossing point. To begin with, in the morning these wildebeest crossed half way and then went back so it was a final rush later in the afternoon.
On the 8th a small crossing at the Mortuary crossing point in the morning and afternoon. On the 20th there was a crossing in the morning at 10.30am of an estimated 2,000 Wildebeest that crossed at the Main crossing point at Paradise. On the 21st at 10.30 am an estimated 150 Zebra crossed at the main crossing point with one being taken by crocodile. Mid month saw many wildebeest cross towards the east at the Kichwa tembo crossing point with these wildebeest staying longer on the short green grass.
Photo courtesy of David Roberts
On the 28th an estimated 2,000 animals eventually crossed at the main crossing point at paradise although early on in the morning there were only a few zebra that seemed to crossed back and forth, sadly this must have stimulated or stirred the crocodile into a feeding frenzy, two of them were taken very quickly on their return trip. On the 29th at the main crossing point an estimated 5,000 animals crossed of which mainly where Wildebeest and one was taken, there were a few zebra as well that crossed.
In the evening of the 29th there were large numbers of wildebeest running at full gallop from Musiara and Bila Shaka towards paradise plains. On the 30th at 1.00pm an estimated 2,000 animals crossed at Paradise.
Photo courtesy of Steve Hixon
During the 1st two weeks there were some good crossings on the Mara River again moving towards the Mara triangle in the west. Mid month there were a few good crossing at the Kichwa Tembo with many of these wildebeest crossing from west to east and staying for a longer period of time here in the Maasai conservation areas. Later on the in the month many were seen filing past Musiara and onto the Paradise Plains they then later crossed over. There were others that continued east towards the Mara North Conservancy. At present the wildebeest and zebra are not in large herds, Bila Shaka, Musiara and Topi Plains have a few scattered herds. More can be seen on the short grass plains in the Masai conservation areas, when the prominent grasses start to dry out the wildebeest do not like it when it is dry and with long stems.
Photo courtesy of Steve Hixon
Topi in good numbers can be seen on Topi plains, Musiara Marsh, Paradise and in the conservation areas to the East of the reserve. There are many young calves still being born this month. Topi have a extraordinary coat with reddish brown bodies and with dark purple patching on their upper legs, in fact their coats are made of short, shiny hairs and that it is two toned and ‘shiny’ this shiny reflective glare is in fact a way of dissipating heat on hot sunny days, it is known as a reflective coat. Topi can be found in very harsh and arid country where water sources are not close by. As they are nearly exclusively grazers, they can go for months without drinking in the dry seasons if they are feeding on growing grass.
Photo courtesy of Steve Hixon
Elephant in family units can be seen more often in the Marsh and Bila Shaka plains. There are some very young calves being seen. Now that the larger herds of Wildebeest and Zebra have moved out the elephant have seemed to have moved back in.
Photo courtesy of Mark Smeltz
Warthog and their piglets are being seen all over most grassland plains. Warthog groups are known as sounders and can comprise of two or three sows two of which are older daughters, last yeas offspring and recent piglets. There were four piglets, two adult sows and thee younger sows near the causeway, there is now one piglet the other three were taken by lion. Boars tend to be solitary or move around sounders and sub-adult males associate in bachelor groups but leave alone when they become adults. It has been observed that sows will nurse foster piglets if they lose their own litter often to predation, making them cooperative breeders. This observable fact is known as ‘Allosucking’ which does not seem to be a case of mistaken identity or milk theft and may be a sign of altruistic behavior. Piglets begin grazing at about two to three weeks and are weaned by six months. Warthogs are considered a "follower" species as the young are kept nearby at all times and do not hide.
The breeding herds of buffalo have been for a long time within the Marsh and Bila Shaka and seem to get move around in the presence of lion, latterly they are being seen in the East side of the Marsh. A few cows have been taken by the Marsh lionesses with help from the Musketeers.
Large troops of Olive Baboons are seen daily on the roadside verges also in the woodland fringes. During mid day they can spread quite far out across the plains with individuals on sentry duty often propped up on a termite mound.
Thomson Gazelles with young fawns are being seen frequently, with cheetah and Black Backed Jackals feeding of them. Grants Gazelles can be seen in Marsh grasslands as well as in all open grassland plains even where there are young shrubs, Grants Gazelles will also browse readily. Defassa waterbuck and impala are still regulars within the woodlands and grassland areas between the camps, some more impala fawns are being seen, there is no breeding season as such.
Giraffe are seen fairly spread out within the Woodlands and on the open plains. A herd of Giraffe on the skyline often termed as a journey of Giraffe that is crossing a grassland plain is still a true African scene. It is amazing what distances they can travel.
Photo courtesy of Will Carpmael
Hippos can be seen in all bends of the River and also in the quarry near the airstrip. They come out a night to graze and can be heard next to ones tent as they munch away at the grass. They defecate by flicking their tail back and forth which spreads the scat not much different to that of a muck spreader; a tent at IL Moran got caught up one night and half of one side had to be cleaned when it dried.
Serval cats, a medium sized cat have been seen more frequently, they are very much a grass cat, feeding off mice and birds. This species has very large erect ears that are one of the most prominent traits of this cat. They can also be found in high altitude moorlands and many Melanistic varieties have been seen this is the condition in which an unusually high concentration of melanin occurs in the skin, plumage, or pelage of an animal.
Photo courtesy of Mark Holzaph
One Aardwolf has been seen near Rhino Ridge on the 19th in the early morning; this hyenid is a specialist feeder of harvester termites, the cheek teeth are specialized for eating insects and are mere pegs, and its large and sticky tongue for licking them up.
There are better sightings of the greater Galago in the camps at night or the evenings being good times, the main diet of the greater Galago is gums and/or fruit; it also eats seeds, nectar, millipedes and insects. The Elaeodendron buchananii tree is fruiting at the moment and this draws Elephant and Galagos into the camps, the fruit is yellow when ripe. The species we have here in the Mara is a dark brown western variety that is almost black. The Galago is a nocturnal and an arboreal species. They produce a loud raucous call and this call is uttered most often during the mating season. Occasionally there can be up to three being seen of which one is obviously larger than the other two and this can be observed as ‘Alloparenting’ which has been found to occur in some species of primates with adult females and sub adult males and females providing the care. Sub adults will play with or groom juveniles while the mother spends time foraging.
Two species of monitor lizard can be found here – the Nile monitor (Varanus niloticus) and the savannah Monitor (Varanus exanthematicus). The Nile monitor is the more common one seen often near to water courses being marsh or rivers. It is not unusual to see a Nile Monitor digging frantically into a termite mound and this action if often from that of a female monitor digging a hole to lay her eggs, the termites think this is an invasion and quickly seal up the damage and in the meantime encasing the egg cache of 20-60 soft shelled eggs. The temperature in the mound is correct incubation temperatures of about 86°f/30°c to 88°f/31.1°c usually takes approximately 95-100 days give or take a week either way, if the ground is soft after a bit of rain etc they then hatch and dig themselves out quite quickly. Generally speaking monitor lizards produce by sexual reproduction; however, it is observed that some monitor lizards are apparently capable of parthenogenesis. Parthenogenesis - is a form of asexual reproduction in which offspring develop from unfertilized eggs.
Ostriches are now sitting on eggs with three clutches that have been seen, Ostriches hens can lay 40 to 100 eggs in a year with an average of 60. Although 20 eggs at a time, the average weight is 1.5 kg and incubation period lasts a little over 40 days with the males and females both incubating them; often it is the female during the day and the Male at night.
Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds
The Marsh Pride – Siena and another younger lioness have six cubs that are a little over three months old. They are between the Marsh and Bila Shaka and have been feeding off Buffalo, Wildebeest and Zebra. Siena often does the hunting while the other lioness looks after the cubs. Modomo and another lioness have 5 cubs which are about 2 months old; two belong to Modomo and the other three to the lioness. Modomo had her cubs on Rhino Ridge and then ventured down to Kries lugga. At present there are only four cubs and it is now three days that the fifth cub has been missing and this is long time for a young cub to be missing from its maternal mother.
Photos courtesy of Mark Holzaph
Bibi has not been seen recently although early on in the month she was near topi plains with charm and two younger lionesses. She was being mated with Hunter one of the Musketeers on August 16th.
The four males are still being seen throughout the Musiara Marsh and Bila Shaka. Scars eye has improved although he still rubs it; this wound has been there a very long time despite the Kenya wildlife Services vet who has treated scar on two occasions. Hunter, Moran and Sikio have all been active by feeding off buffalo, wildebeest and zebra.
Photo courtesy of Rene Faes
Joy and her 4 male sub adult cubs that are 17 months old are in the Bila Shaka and Topi Plains area. Most of the time Joy is with three of them, one of them after being scratched by the Musketeers tends to hang back and he is looking quite thin now, latterly the three males are on the short grass plains of the conservation area. These sub adult males are the progeny of Claude and Romeo and now with a new male take over in the Marsh pride Joys sub adults will have to tread carefully in their environment. At the age of 17 months they are still reliant on Joy for at least another few months. At the end of last month Joy was being mated with Sikio. They have been feeding off wildebeest and warthog.
Notch and the four males are being seen near the double crossing area, these four males are a considerable coalition they traverse a large area and have killed or pushed out many young males and cubs in the Burrangat plains and Ol Keju Ronkai area and almost as far as look out hill.
Photo courtesy of Katie Krivan
The Lioness Nyota and her male cub Moja who is 9 months old has been seen between Rhino Ridge and the Talek River. There are a few wildebeest and zebra here and with warthog being plentiful on Rhino ridge, they will often subsist on warthog.
The Paradise Pride: 4 females and two 3 month old cubs, two male lion of which one has a nice dark mane almost black, he is the father of the two cubs. They have fed on many wildebeest that have passed through here. Guides here in the Mara have named these two male lion the ‘4km’ males who are from the other side of the Mara river.
Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds
The Olkiombo lion pride of 12 including their 2 cubs which are 11 months old, 8 females and 2 males which are 2-3 years old, are in the open plains area near the riverine woodlands at the Bottom end of the Ntiaktiak River and the Olkiombo airstrip. They have been feeding off wildebeest and zebra.
Malaika and her one cub that is approximately five months old are being seen on the others side of the Talek River; latterly they are being seen on the Burrangat plains. Earlier on in the month she spent a good time near on Topi plains and Bila Shaka, she them moved over Rhino ridge and down to the Talek River. She has been feeding off Thomson Gazelle and impala.
Photo courtesy of Rene Faes
The female cheetah with one male cub that is estimated at 13 months old has moved out from the Mara North conservancy; they are being seen on Paradise plains and rhino ridge. On the 21st the male cub made a kill of a Thompson Gazelle fawn he struggled to begin with the mother then helped out; later he attempted another Thomson fawn and this time was more successful. They are both being presently being seen between Rhino ridge and Paradise Plains.
Photo courtesy of Ken Straetman
The female Cheetah with two cubs that are estimated at three months old frequent the Bila Shaka and Rhino ridge grasslands. She is feeding off Impala, young warthog piglets and again Thomson Gazelle.
There is a female cheetah near look out hill that has four cubs estimated at 4-5 months old, she was seen on the 19th with a young impala female, and on the 26th she had killed a Thomson Gazelle.
Olive and her one cub that is a little over 3 months old has been seen near the Ntiaktiak and Talek river area and also recently in the croton thickets above Rekero camp.
The male Leopard of Paradise Plains near the mortuary crossing point on the Mara River has been seen a few times this month.
The young female leopard on the rocky hill close to the Serena pump house on the Mara River with her one male cub that is approximately 11 months old is still being seen regularly. There is a croton thicket with a large Warburgia tree and on the east side of the hillock and she is often being looked for here.
Olives’ older daughter called Binti has been seen frequently on the Talek River in Olive’s home range, there have been some lovely sightings of her recently with the 28th in the afternoon being memorable.
Photo courtesy of Rene Faes
The male leopard of the Marsh has been seen frequently in the woodlands quite close to Il Moran camp, he is also being seen in the Lake Nakuru area of the Marsh. On the 28th at 11.00 am he was seen walking from the Marsh to the woodlands where he later killed a young Bushbuck female.
The female leopard on the rocky hill close to the Serena pump house with her one male cub that is approximately 11 months old is still being seen regularly. A good sighting of them both recently was on the 28th and 30th.
The large male that frequents the bottom end of Bila Shaka river bed has been seen near the managers crossing point, on the 23rd in the later afternoon he was seen stalking some Impala, he disappeared into the woodlands and with what noise was being heard presumed was successful.
Walking in the Mara North Conservancy.
Pastel hues of the early dawn bring light to a new day. Many more wildebeest and zebra have been through this area particularly during mid month and grass levels have now thinned out. On the 8th at 10.15am a large herd of an estimated 2,000 animals crossed the Olare Orok River in the acacia Valley, walkers stopped and sat silent under dead acacia tree, within minutes there were was a thundering of hooves as they passed in a cloud of dust and moved up the between the gap in on the croton. Large numbers of wildebeest and a few zebra have come back into the conservancy in the last two days of this month.
Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds
Spotted Hyenas have been very active on the wildebeest with two to three animals per night being taken. Grasslands were still quite long in some areas although showing signs of drying out.
The majority of these Gnus moved on down in a southern direction towards the Musiara and Bila Shaka areas and then onto the main crossing points on the Mara River. On the 31st there were still some good sized herds in the North and East of the conservancy.
There are still good numbers of Zebra on the plains above the fly over and also above rocky ridge. Good numbers of Giraffe can be seen throughout the acacia woodlands; recently they have been spending longer in the Euclea Divinorum thickest and browsing on the leaves.
Photo courtesy of Steve Hixon
Many Topi can be seen congregating in pockets of the open grasslands plains with even dominant females on termite mounds. Males have been fighting; it is not too uncommon with two of them that are of similar stamina for one to kill the other. Female Topi with calves are well scattered. Eland are being seen in the East part of the conservation area with them more frequently being seen in the croton thickets at the end of the rocky ridge.
Many Elephant in small family units have been seen in this area as well as in the Acacia woodlands.
The lioness with the three cubs that are three months old now have been seen in the croton thickets at the western end of the fly over. A male and three females have also been seen here with five sub adult cubs. These lion have been feeding off Wildebeest and Zebra.
Two black backed Jackal pups are now at the southern end of the Olare Orok, the male and female parents killed a Thomson gazelle fawn on the 21st which is a monogamous effort. There seems to be a reasonable presence of Aardwolf here as can be seen by a latrine on a disused termite mound that is used by a territorial male and female.
Two ostriches were sitting on eggs: one nest had 16 eggs and the other had 19 eggs both nests all eggs within a week of being laid were taken by Hyena, which is very sad.
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge update - September 2012
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