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ODZALA WILDERNESS CAMPS: OPENING AND OPERATING SCHEDULE FOR 2013 SEASON
February 2013 - Wilderness Collection is excited to announce a 1.5 million Euro renewed investment into the plant and premises of Odzala Wilderness Camps in the Republic of Congo. The success of our debut operating season during 2012, combined with lessons learnt then as well as during the current off season, has resulted in a reinvestment programme designed to improve the quality and environmental sustainability of our two camps, Lango and Ngaga. This additional capital investment will be undertaken in two phases which are outlined below.
Delayed opening for 2013 season
This reinvestment and associated construction will unfortunately result in a delayed opening date for the 2013 season, moving from the original intended date of 2 May 2013, to 25 July 2013.
We regret the impact of this changed date on those guests travelling over May, June and July, but genuinely believe this to be in the best long term interests of both the region and our guests. Recognising this however, we would like to offer all guests who were intending to travel over this period the following options:
- The ability to change dates of travel to any time in either our 2013 or 2014 operating season (subject to availability) and pay 25% less on accommodation and activities (flight costs remain undiscounted).
- The ability to cancel the booking without incurring cancellation fees and receive a full refund.
Camp refurbishment schedule
Phase 1, February - July 2013:
- Insect proofing of the main areas of Lango and Ngaga Camps.
- Upgrading of waste water treatment from septic tanks and soak-aways to sophisticated above-ground water treatment plants in order to avoid any potential impact on a very high natural water table.
- Improvement and expansion of solar array to ensure adequate energy generation.
- Replacement of all paraffin geysers with more efficient and effective gas geysers.
- Improvement and enlargement of staff housing and facilities.
Phase 2, November 2013:
- Construction of raised wooden walkways between rooms and main area at Ngaga Camp.
- Construction of comfortable raised viewing hides at various bais in our concession areas.
We are looking forward to an exceptional 2013 season as a result of these improvements and amendments, and know that it will have a positive impact on our guest experience in Odzala.
Beautiful Masai Mara Sunrise
The Masai Mara often gives spectacular sunrises and as your safari at Governors Camp often starts early you are sure to catch one on a Governors Safari. Here are a few of our favourite from this month, courtesy of Patrick Reynolds, manager Governors Il Moran Camp.
Governors Camp Collection enters the indian market
The Governors’ Camp Collection makes an entry into the Indian Market, with the appointment of Ms. Renuka Natu as Head of Marketing.
The Governors’ Camp Collection that comprises of 7 Award Winning luxury safari camps and lodges in the heart of the best wildlife viewing areas of Kenya and Rwanda have their eyes set on Market India.
With over 40 years in operation, the company also operates two aircrafts, which are exclusively used to fly their clients to and between their camps. Complimented by their own fleet of Safari vehicles driven by extremely well trained driver guides, and also operating their own Hot-air Balloon Safaris, they take the Safari experience to a completely different level. As the team at the Governors’ wishes to thank the Indian Market for the support received thus far, they also request the support from the Indian Travel Trade to Ms. Renuka Natu who assumes her position this February. Ms. Natu brings along her experience in the areas of Operations & Marketing at Senior Managerial positions with Kuoni & Switzerland Tourism, as well as her more recent know-how in the areas of Representations & Destination Trainings with Vintage Africa & the Schilthorn Cableway.
Let’s welcome the Governors’ Camp Collection to Market India.
Wilderness Collection's Segera Retreat named Hideaways' Newcomer of the Year
March 2013 – Wilderness Collection is thrilled to announce that Segera Retreat has been named as Newcomer of the Year by exclusive travel magazine Hideaways. Segera's owner Jochen Zeitz received this accolade at an award ceremony and dinner held at the Ritz Carlton Berlin on 8th March 2013.
Hideaways, published in German and English, has a circulation of 60 000, from which a third is supplied to First Class of Lufthansa on international flights. Each year, the magazine honours "extraordinary" new hotels and resorts with its prestigious "Hotel Newcomer of the Year" award at an annual event that is a highlight of ITB Berlin. Every year, innovative and refreshingly fascinating hotels and resorts are opened, with Hideaways honouring these, which it deems point of view extraordinary, with the "Newcomer of the Year" award.
Segera Retreat, located in the heart of the Laikipia Plateau at the foot of Mount Kenya, exudes the very essence of Africa: freedom, spectacular vastness, untamed fauna and fascinating encounters with ethnic traditions and African art. Covering an area of some 20 000 hectares, the privately-owned ranch and stunning retreat, in keeping with the holistic and ecological philosophy of the Zeitz Foundation founded by ranch owner Jochen Zeitz, allows visitors to explore the culture of Africa and experience Kenya at its most inspiring.
Under the premise of "Acting today for a better tomorrow", and through the establishment of the 4Cs (Conservation, Community, Culture and Commerce), owner Jochen Zeitz has committed himself together with his team to conserve and protect the natural habitat, the traditions and the culture of this unique part of the world.
Wilderness Collection is thrilled to be part of this exciting and innovative project.
Serpent Surprise at Tubu Tree
Sighting: Serpent Surprise at Tubu Tree
Location: Tubu Tree Camp, Jao Concession, Botswana
Date: 15 February 2013
Photographer: Pamela E. Hall
Observers: Pamela E. Hall and Brooks Kamanakao
During an afternoon game drive at Tubu Tree Camp, we observed a herd of impala at the end of the Jao Concession airstrip alarm calling and all staring in the same direction. We approached the herd, but they just continued alarm calling and snorting - all the while staring into some thick vegetation.
Suddenly there was a commotion in the bushes which was followed by a loud thud and then bleating. Impala and kudu charged out of the area and ran past us. We assumed that we would see a leopard emerge from the bush so we were shocked when we saw a huge Southern African python coiling itself around an impala ewe.
It was an incredible sighting but we did not want to disturb the snake while it was feeding and so we left the location to go and watch the sun set, all recounting this sighting again and again to each other.
Early the next morning we returned to the place, and there was no impala or snake, but there were lots of spotted hyaena tracks riddled around the area. After studying the tracks, we found a snake track going into the undergrowth and then found drag marks – it was clear that the hyaena had disturbed the snake possibly while it was still trying to swallow the impala. The snake left its prey and fled, while a hyaena dragged the carcass away.
Suddenly a hyaena popped out of the bush and began sniffing around the area and our vehicle – obviously also trying to investigate what had gone on here - and whether there were any leftovers to be had!
Gorilla News, Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge
It is now 06:30 in the morning and the last guests just left for their Gorilla treks. I enjoy seeing the anticipation and excitement on the guests' faces. Every so often you have to nudge the clients into the dining room for breakfast, away from the awesome view from the front veranda, to ensure they get to their treks on time. The cloud formations surrounding the volcanoes have been absolutely amazing.
The length of the treks have been varying quite a bit, which is normal for this time of the year. Gorillas don't take in much surface water, and are therefore more so reliant on the moisture content in the plants they feed on and in the drier months of the year the families travel quite a bit more, searching for a better food source. The most frequently visited families lately are Agashya, Hirwa, Umubano, Amahoro, Kwitonda and quite recently Sabyinyo again. Susa family has moved much higher up the slopes of Karisimbi and has not seen tourists for about 3 weeks now. Hopefully the rains in March and April will bring them lower down when the young bamboo shoots appear along the park's periphery.
Sabyinyo's 2nd in charge Silverback has really developed in size over the last 2 months and will probably take over from Guhonda (now 41 years old) in the not so distant future. The old man has not lost it yet though. I saw him mating with one of the females about 2 months ago, so hopefully in about 7 months from now Guhonda will surprise us with yet another addition to the Sabyinyo Family.
Nelis Wolmarans - Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge manager
Tubu Tree Camp Expansion and Introducing NEW Little Tubu
Scheduled to open for bookings from 1 June 2013, Tubu Tree will be increasing in size to 8 rooms, including a FAMILY unit! Along with the addition of 3 new rooms, the existing rooms at Tubu Tree will be upgraded slightly, especially in size. The family unit will have a small lounge area linking the 2 tents, each with its' own bathroom.
At the same time, a NEW smaller camp is being built adjacent to Tubu Tree called Little Tubu! It will have its' own main area and pool and the same activities as Tubu Tree will be on offer. Standard configuration will be 3 rooms/6 beds, however, it will be possible to utilise one of the rooms at Tubu Tree to accommodate a private party of 8 at Little Tubu.
The new pool at DumaTau is scheduled to open at the end of March 2013.
Botswana Committed to Conservation and Ecotourism
Fifteen Camps and Lodges Now Botswana Ecotourism Certified
ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND (February 28, 2013) – Botswana Tourism realizes that "green" is more than just a color or concept – it is a way of life. Conservation of Botswana's natural resources, rich wildlife, and cultural heritage has long been of prime importance to the government and people of this country. This commitment was formalized in 2002 with the inception of the country's National Ecotourism Strategy, the framework that positions Botswana as a leading sustainable tourism destination and has been put into play through development of the Botswana Ecotourism Certification System, a voluntary, tourism industry-wide program run by Botswana Tourism.
The Botswana Ecotourism Certification System, outlining more than 240 performance standards, is designed to encourage and support responsible environmental, social, and cultural behavior by tourism businesses, and to provide a quality, eco-friendly product to consumers. This comprehensive, three-tier system enables companies of all sizes to attain the entry level of "Green" certification. From there, companies may continue to evolve their operations to the "Green+" level and finally to the "Eco" level of certification. This highest level of certification acknowledges the full spectrum of ecotourism, including involvement with local communities in tourism development, nature conservation, environment management, and interpretation of the surrounding environment to the guest.
The private sector of Botswana's tourism industry has embraced this voluntary program. Since its inception in late 2010, the number of Botswana eco-certified camps and lodges has grown to a total of 15 properties. Thirteen of the 15 properties have attained "Eco" status, the highest certification level: Banoka Bush Camp, Chobe Game Lodge, Jao Camp, Kalahari Plains Camp, Kwetsani Camp, Little Vumbura Camp, Savuti Camp, Xigera Camp, Zafara Camp, Jacana Camp, Meno A Kwena Tented Camp, Mombo Camp; Camp Kalahari and Tubu Tree Camp have attained "Green+" certification, the mid-level certification; with Vumbura Plains Camp attaining "Green", or entry level, certification.
All of the certified properties throughout Botswana and their respective companies are committed to providing their guests a comfortable to luxurious, eco-friendly product in authentic style and in a pristine natural environment, making green not only appealing, but preferred. To learn more about these properties, visit the respective property websites.
Pafuri Camp Closed for 2013
Two weeks ago a large low pressure system moved through Botswana and northern/eastern South Africa, causing heavy rainfall and high river levels in many areas. The Limpopo and Luvuvhu rivers came down in flood and unfortunately Pafuri Camp sustained a substantial amount of damage as a result, making it inoperable. Sadly, we had no choice but to close Pafuri Camp for the rest of 2013 and until a full assessment has been done, we cannot say what the plans for the future will be either. All bookings will therefore need to be moved out of Pafuri for the remainder of this year. If they have not already done so, your Journey Specialist will be in touch with you directly regarding alternatives for any affected bookings.
No report this month.
North Island Update - February 2013 Jump
to North Island
Kings Pool Camp update - February 2013 Jump
to Kings Pool Camp
Weather and Landscape
The rains have slowed down in February with storms only gracing the Linyanti soils once a week or so. There was still some good cloud coverage though, giving us some relief from the hot summer sun. We had total of about 168mm of rain this month with the average temperatures ranging from 23 - 36° C.
As the sun slowly sets at the close of another great African afternoon, a range of vibrant colours reflect off the great Linyanti River as it leisurely meanders downstream. Just before the colours disappear completely, the tranquil water surface explodes, and the last afternoon light sparkles off of each water drop as a hippo breaks the surface to breath. Indeed most guests to Kings Pool will agree that hippos are part of the Kings Pool package. They are often seen breaking the surface of the waters in front of camp, exiting the water after sunset just before dinner and returning to the still morning water at sunrise while we are enjoying our early morning breakfast.
Elephant sightings were plentiful in February which is unusual for this time of the year. Generally speaking, the pachyderms start to return to the Kings Pool area in April/May but this year it looks like they didn`t go far away from our camp. Many breeding herds were sighted along the Linyanti River followed at a distance by the massive bulls. Small breeding herds and sometimes single bulls often came into Kings Pool Camp to feed on the lush vegetation around camp.
A single male cheetah has been seen along the Chobe Airstrip twice this month. This male cheetah has been in the Linyanti Concession for a while now. Originally we would see this male along with what we assumed to be his brother, but unfortunately this individual perished some time ago, leaving his companion to lead a solitary life.
The LTC Pride of lions has been sighted on a number of occasions and they are still operating to the far western side of the concession like last month. The dominant male lion (The Kings Pool Male) was once again a super star this month; guests have heard his majestic roar on most mornings and evenings. These contact calls have been so close on occasion that they could be heard above the cracking and rumbling of thunder and lightning during the typical summer storms. This male lion has also attracted the attention of other lions from Namibia and we hear them roaring and advertising their territory almost every night, but they have not crossed into Botswana. We saw this pride once in Namibia whilst on a boat cruise along the Audi Lagoon a few months ago.
The Kings Pool Lioness and cubs have also been playing their part in entertaining our guests this month. The cubs always put on a good show as they pounce, run, stalk, bite, and play attack each other. All four cubs are doing well and are growing rapidly.
General game has been very good with many fantastic sightings of giraffe, impala, waterbuck, kudu and zebra. Hippo are as prolific as ever and are always seen in and out of the water along the river.
In terms of birding, all the summer migrants are still present but I think soon one by one they will be leaving this area as autumn creeps in.
So all in all, quite an exciting month here at Kings Pool and we have a good feeling that times are going to get even more interesting. We are eagerly waiting to tell more great tales and adventures of our great camp and the surrounding area next month.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Alex and One Mazunga, Julie Sander, Frank Maule and Rikki Lotter.
Guides: Khan Gouwe, Yompy-Diye Kennetseng, Lemme Dintwa and OD Modikwa
Newsletter and photos by Alex Mazunga
DumaTau Camp update - February 2013 Jump
to DumaTau Camp
Savuti Camp update - February 2013 Jump
to Savuti Camp
Zarafa Camp update - February 2013 Jump
to Zarafa Camp
Selinda Camp update - February 2013 Jump
to Selinda Camp
Camps Update - February 2013
No report this month.
Lagoon camp Jump
• It was a very quiet time for cheetahs and lions, with only lion tracks being seen until towards the end of the month when the Island pride (two adult females with four sub-adults) were finally found at grass pan, looking fit, fat and healthy. They were feeding on a young giraffe at the time - a trick catch, that not all lions will attempt.
• Leopards, however, were more prevalent than the lions and there were several sightings each week of males and females.
• The wild dogs were seen often, the Lagoon pack of 21, and also a few sightings of the Southern pack. The Lagoon pack seems to have begun hunting a lot of warthog of late, and this is the kills that they have been most frequently seen with this month – a change to the normal diet of impala.
• The breeding herds of elephants are now moving back into the area in large numbers, and this will continue to grow throughout the season. Its only for a month or two each year after the first rains have started that they move off to other areas to feed on the diverse vegetation. The attraction of plentiful water and abundant trees keeps them in our areas in large numbers during the winter months.
• Lots of general game, and good sightings of roan and sable antelopes. Like last month, there was also a very lucky sighting of an aardvark on one night drive!
Lebala camp Jump
• Some lovely sightings this month of large herds of zebra, wildebeest and giraffe with young. These animals often group together, and help each other be ware of predators. They do not compete directly for food, (although both grazers, zebra and wildebeest feed off a different length of grass) so there is not a negative side to the relationship.
• Four female lions and two young males were found feeding on wildebeest. A little later in the month, three lionesses also tried their luck stalking wildebeest, but they went hungry after an unsuccessful hunt.
• Big herds of elephants are being seen on every game drive, particularly in the area between Twin Pools and the camp. They are pretty much on every corner you look!
• A new pack of wild dogs moved briefly in from the southern part of the concession – not the so-called Southern Pack. There were four adults and nine subadults, and the were seen for two days in the middle of the month, before disappearing.
• Tsaro pan was very productive, with a male lion being seen along the Boundary road, heading west, shortly followed by a female leopard a few minutes later, seen heading east.
• A shy eland herd were found to the west of John’s Pan, but true to their nature, as soon as they were spotted, they took fright and fled!
Kwara & Little Kwara camps Jump
& Little Kwara camps
• The beginning of February brought a variety of predators, with the lions being seen every day in the first week, as well as cheetahs, jackals and hyenas being seen several times. The coalition of three male cheetahs spent the time in the area around Splash camp, alternately resting, and then trying to stalk impala, using the tall grass that has grown as result of last months rain, for cover.
• Towards the end of the month, the cheetahs were seen moving back and forth in the Splash area, looking as though they wanted to move towards Tsum Tsum. This area is flooded however, and not a good environment for animals that depend largely on open grassy plains to hunt. There was an amazing sighting of them fighting with a leopard, three against one, forcing the leopard to retreat up a tree, inspite of being the heavier cat.
• Plenty of elephants were seen throughout the concession, feeding on a variety of vegetation, and having mud baths to relieve the heat from the hot sun and clear blue skies.
• The four male lions – named ‘The Intruders’ – appear to have settled well into the territory previously occupied by the ‘Magnificent Seven’ male lions. Former members of the seven have been seen far into the eastern side of the concession.. However, the single nomadic female seen often near Splash has been spending a lot of time in the same area, so she will possibly be having a litter of cubs later in the year. She will need to defend these cubs well, if they are not fathered by one of the Intruders. The four males , make their presence felt, regularly being seen in and around the airstrip, and camp areas
• General game is looking in good condition, with water and abundant vegetation for everyone to browse on. Zebras and giraffes are found on many of the open plains, and red lechwes bound across the shallow waters, using it to their advantage to escape potential threats.
Nxai Pan Jump
to Nxai Pan camp
• The zebras are still grazing around Nxai Pan, in their hundreds, with their young growing fast. Light rains early in the month will help encourage new growth of grass, and coax the animals to stay a little longer, before they move off to greener pastures.
• Unlike the zebra, giraffes don’t migrate and stay in the park throughout the year. There was a lovely sighting of 17 adults and 10 young congregating together, and feeding on the leaves of the shrubs.
• A shy, large male leopard was briefly seen on the Western Road – he quickly moved off as the car approached. Lions were seen several times, with two unknown males moving away quickly when the car approached, and another much more relaxed male with a female who were mating. The lioness made an attempt at hunting afterwards, but she was unsuccessful. The male looked on, exhausted!
• Although there are plenty of places to drink at the moment, with the heavy rain that fell in January still collecting in larger pans, there is nothing elephants enjoy more than a good deep drink, with plenty
of space for everyone to drink at once... Hence, the waterhole in front of camp is still popular with elephants, including a herd of 12 adults with a youngster that water levels were sufficient for a bath, as well as a drink!
• Another day, it was thirsty work for everyone, as the two male cheetahs arrived at the camp waterhole to drink, whilst a group of elephants were also drinking. The bull elelphants, in spite of never being in danger from a cheetah, decided that they did not want anyone else to drink at the same time, so began trumpeting and chasing the cheetahs around, in a bizarre twist to the ‘cat and mouse’ game.
• A few days later, it was a female cheetah that had to suffer the same fate as a bull elephant took a dislike to sharing ‘his’ waterhole with such an animal! Two sub-adult cheetahs however, had more luck with their hunting skills, and managed to bring down an impala in a cloud of dust after some concentrated stalking.
Tau Pan Jump
to Tau Pan camp
• Ten snoozing lions started the month – with a little nap by the waterhole. Lions are one of the few animals that can sleep with complete ease, as nothing (other than another lion, or an upset elephant)
is a potential threat to them. It’s also a great way to conserve energy – important when you have to expend a lot of energy to catch your food. So, lions have a tendency to do just that: sleep. And then sleep a bit more. And then perhaps a short nap before the afternoon siesta? This, however, doesn’t impress
a lot of people who have spent a lot of money and travelled many thousands of kilometres to see the Majestic King of the Jungle. Thankfully, they do tend to get up in the cooler part of the day, and move around, coming into their element as night falls, the acoustics are perfect for a roar to carry over 6km (particularly impressive if the lion happens to be standing next to your room) and the guests, safely tucked up in bed, then wonder how they dared scoff at the ‘lazy sleeping kitties’ earlier in the day...
• Mid-February, the pack of eight wild dogs (five adults and three subadults) spent a day relaxing in camp, behind the staff accommodation. Although wild dogs have a fierce reputation, due to them being the most successful hunter of any of the large predators in Africa, there is no record of them in the wild ever attacking a person. This is inspite of them being able to hunt as a pack much larger species. It’s still a little unnerving having them close, so everyone, including the dogs, was watchful! Interestingly, another wild dog couple (alpha male and female) were seen at Passarge water hole this month, so the wild dog sightings are doing remarkably well for an area that its normally highly unusual to see them!
• The 22nd February was a lovely day for the cats, with three separate sightings of lions (including one female with three six-month old cubs) and two sightings of cheetah. All were found close to different pans, on a day trip through the Kalahari.
• Although January had those three days of heavy, record-breaking rainfall, February has had hardly
any days with anything but clear blue skies. This means many natural pools have already dried up, and more animals are coming to drink at the man-made pan in front of camp. One day had a parade of lions coming in one at a time, with cheetah sneaking in to drink as well.
• Obviously, it’s not just the animals that need to drink in the Kalahari: birds do too. One can imagine a pleasant little birdbath in a nice garden setting, but the reality is somewhat different. Queleas come in flocks of thousands – probably even hundreds of thousands. These small birds – about the same size as sparrows – can decimate crops when they descend on a farm after the rains. In the Kalahari, they feed on what vegetation they can get that sprouts after the rains, but they still need to drink. Seeing a flock in flight is a truly beautiful sight, as they swarm and turn in waves, like a huge group of fish in the sea.
• However, a call came from the Tau Pan camp manager one day to alert head office that he was going
to have to empty the swimming pool – an irregular request when it’s a hot time of year and the camp
is busy, with guests wanting a swim. However, it was a humane reason: the queleas were drowning en masse. They had been drinking at the camp waterhole, which is a flat pan, easy for birds to stand and drink at, but the large number of raptors were swooping down on them and hunting them. A few smart individuals – obviously followed by a huge flock of not-so clued-up hangers on – began drinking at the swimming pool at the camp, where the raptors were too wary of humans to follow. The flocks swarmed in and around the camp, but the sheer number combined with the high sides of the pool meant that many drowned when trying to drink. Having people in or around the pool made no difference. A form of net was laid over the pool, but this also didn’t help. And who really wants to swim when 10, 000 birds are whizzing round your head? Eventually a type of mesh was found that helped the situation somewhat, but nothing could really be done until the queleas themselves decide to move off in search of better feeding grounds.
Mombo Camp update
- February 2013 Jump
to Mombo Camp
Mombo has become synonymous with lions - and it is true that these great cats patrol the Place of Plenty. Nightly their roars are heard, sending shivers down the spines of those who bear witness to their auditory power. Prides compete for the land, territories are constantly changing, prior evidence of their presence washed away by colossal African thunderstorms that have rolled through. Battles, break-ups and mergers plague the mighty lions of Chiefs Island.
Their prey, the great Cape buffalo, huddle close to camp with the imminent coming of the night, hoping to find safety under the boardwalks of Mombo Camp. Some nights, they find peace, but on most the lions follow their strong bovine scent and find them grouped close together and asleep - therefore vulnerable.
As it happens, buffalo are no easy target. They are huge and formidable animals that wield heavy and lethal weapons on their heads. And as a group, we often find that they escape the clutch of the lions, sometimes with great injury to the predators themselves. However, one night the lions outsmarted and overpowered the buffalo - 11 against one. Cornered between boardwalks and management houses the buffalo's groans were heard for what seemed like hours, before the lions completely conquered him.
As daylight came, it brought calm and the exhausted lions rested and fed within view of the tents and walkways, fat, lazy and seemingly unthreatening. But the sunlight hours were only the calm before the storm and as the sun set on the second day, the sounds of a third contender came whooping through the camp – hyaena. The smell of carrion had attracted them and now at least 10 where moving in, taunting the lions, trying to get closer to what was left of the meal. Within minutes the hyaena numbers had tripled! Whooping and giggling they advanced on the lions and by sheer force of volume chased the lions off their kill.
On the solitary predator side, Pula, Legadema, Blue Eyes and Molai (just some of the many leopards in the area) avoid such battles by pulling their precious morsels high into the trees, far away from the brute strength of the lions and the consuming clans of hyaena. They live a quieter life. Alone and stealthy they have at times been hard to find this month amongst all the other action.
February is the month of love, and quite fittingly two Pel's fishing-owls made their home at Little Mombo, cooing and snuggling up with each other in the branches above the main deck. Pel's fishing-owls are monogamous and very often the male will fish for his female counterpart and their young. Every day, her distinctive high-pitched Peeeeeeeew song could be heard, as she called to him, waiting for dinner. His efforts to impress her went even so far as to catch a fish in broad daylight!
Amongst all the predators (mammals and birds) we cannot forget the many herbivores that make each picturesque moment at Mombo. Elegant giraffe, dazzling zebra, pronking impala and huge herds of wise elephants decorate the plains.
We can hardly wait for the month ahead!
Xigera Camp update
- February 2013 Jump
to Xigera Camp
Chitabe Camp update
- February 2013 Jump
to Chitabe Camp
Vumbura Plains Camp update
- February 2013 Jump
to Vumbura Plains Camp
Little Vumbura Camp update
- February 2013 Jump
to Little Vumbura Camp
Weather and Landscape
The rain seems to have subsided this month, and with just a few light showers, temperatures have been soaring with highs of 45° C and lows of 26° C…it feels like October all over again. The rain from January which left us thinking the yearly inundation had already arrived has all evaporated and water levels are all back to normal as per the annual records. The long thick grasses are beginning to thin out and the vegetation is not as dense as last month. This has been fantastic for game viewing as tracking animals in the long grass has not been as difficult. The area is still beautiful and green and the humid days have made some amazing cloud formations making for stunning views of the landscape.
Out in the concession the game viewing has been phenomenal. Amazing sightings and interactions between the animals have been witnessed by our guests. The lion population in the area is growing and coalitions are being re-formed. The resident Kubu Pride, which split two years ago, have got back together and formed a pride of eight lions. We also have a coalition of three big male lions, known as the Kubu Boys, which disappeared off the concession a few months ago, and are now back in the area roaming the plains and following the huge herd of buffalo. Another pride of four lions have also settled in the area. The guides believe this to be the Eastern Pride which used to be a larger pride but have split as well.
Leopard sightings have also been really good, with the four resident leopards in the concession being spotted almost daily: Selonyana (Pretty Little Thing), Mma Lebala (Madam Airstrip), Big Monna (Big Man) and Lesego, the offspring of Selonyana. These majestic cats have been hunting successfully and keeping our guests entertained with incredible sightings. We do know that one of the abovementioned females is rearing cubs as we had one rare sighting of a lone cub, but the mother was nowhere around to be seen so we have no idea which one.
Wild dogs! The sightings have been plentiful and as usual, these skilled hunters have been showing off their strategic hunting skills. They have been seen hunting prey much larger than expected, such as buffalo, sable and wildebeest, proving that there is strength in numbers. There are currently two packs in the area: the Golden Pack which is 27 strong, and another pack of 15, named 97. The 97 Pack has recently been spotted spending a lot of time at the Little Vumbura boat station which has been fantastic as it has often been the first sighting for guests in the morning.
At the resident hyaena den, the cubs have been growing well and the mother, Mosadi Mogolo (Old Lady), is doing a great job protecting her young. Guests have also had the pleasure of watching these young hyaena play and have witnessed some hilarious interaction between the youngsters as they have a very inquisitive nature, showing an interest in the game drive vehicles.
With all these apex predators animals moving in the area you would think an interaction between these beasts was inevitable. You would be correct in assuming this. A few nights ago an amazing sight kept the guests enthralled for hours as they saw the Golden Pack get up from their daily slumber and give chase to a herd of wildebeest, successfully flushing out an individual. They then proceeded to chase the wildebeest into a waterhole and take it down. As they started to feed, two of the three Kubu Boys arrived, forcing the dogs off their kill. All the commotion didn't go unnoticed as a number of opportunistic hyaena arrived on the scene soon afterwards. This incredible trio interaction lasted for a couple of hours, with all three predators growling and hissing, hoping to get their share of the carcass. Eventually the persistence and number of hyaena was too much for the lion and the hyaena took over the carcass.
Other outstanding interactions included the Golden Pack chasing Lesego off her kill as well as the Kubu Pride chasing the Eastern Pride off of their kill – all in all, just outstanding predator interactions and confrontations!
Staff in Camp
Managers: Hamish, Millie and KB.
Guides: Madala Kay, Sam and Rain.
Duba Plains Camp update
- February 2013 Jump
to Duba Plains Camp
Banoka Bush Camp update
- February 2013
Jacana Camp update
- February 2013 Jump
to Jacana Camp
Weather and Landscape
February has brought a rise in the Delta water levels. From the 10th of the month, the water level at our jetty rose steadily by 34 cm, levelling out towards the end of the month as the annual inundation has now started to spill over onto the Jao Floodplains, so slowing down the rise in the channels.
As we look out from our viewing deck, fewer grasses are now visible and we now see a lovely pinkish blush to the water from the colour of floating lily-pads on the surface.
Unusually, February has not yielded the amount of rain when compared with previous years which has allowed our guests to enjoy hot sunny and dry days averaging in the mid 30° C mark. The evenings were very comfy as the temperature dropped to a comfy average of 20° C.
Having said this, we did have a couple dramatic thunder storms during the month, the most notable of which was in the third week of the month when we caught the edge of a cyclone which was passing over Mozambique. Just as the final wine glass had been laid on our dining table in the boma in readiness for that evening's barbeque, gale force winds swept through the camp forcing all of us to hurriedly move everything to our inside dining room, and rush around the camp lowering our canvas screens and closing down the sides of our guest tents. Once everything had been battened down, we looked out over the water and saw the effect of the wind on the Delta itself. No longer still and resembling a mirror, we saw waves topped with white water more akin to the oceans! As the storm had come in with such force and no warning, our guests were still out on their afternoon boat cruise and on witnessing our guide, Moruti, struggling against the wind on his approach to our jetty, we were full of admiration of his skill at being able to return our guests safely to camp, albeit a little "wind-blown"! Our dinner conversation that evening was punctuated by various recounts of the unexpected adventure which Nature had blown our way.
We are delighted to report that towards the end of February, the familiar bull elephants have now returned to our little island. We are accustomed, once again, of checking for their presence before leaving our tents and embarking along our pathways.
One early morning whilst still dark, I dressed to the accompaniment of two bull elephants snoring behind our tent, their proximity to our pathway preventing me being able to pass them (one of them was sleeping with his back legs on the path itself) and therefore making me late in helping our waitress preparing breakfast for our guests.
Another early morning, just as the sky was beginning to lighten, we had the delight of watching a young male hippo fast asleep in the water behind our two boats. Our comings and goings in setting up breakfast failed to disturb him...that was until our guide, Gibson, put his tea basket down on the end of the jetty and woke the hippo with quite a start! On realising that he had nothing to fear, the hippo moved a few metres and settled back down again to sleep.
Our guests were able to watch the same hippo a few evenings later when enjoying a post-dinner drink around the boma fire. We saw him highlighted in the pathway lights walking towards Room 2. He pushed through the bushes and out onto the shrinking patch of grass in front of the camp for a quick snack before once again settling down in the water behind our boats.
Having chosen to face east in the same spot on both occasions, we have all taken the humorous conclusion that this young male hippo enjoys sharing Nature's spectacles with humans, as whilst watching him, we were able to witness first a glorious sunrise, and secondly a fabulous moonrise.
"Jacana is so relaxing – it's like a spa without the treatments!"
"The design and style of the camp blends in so well and harmonises with the natural bush surrounding it."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Phil and Jo Oliver.
Guides: Timothy Samuel, Moruti Maipelo and Gibson Kehemetswe.
Newsletter by Jo
Abu Camp update
- February 2013 Jump
to Abu Camp
update - February 2013 Jump
to Kwetsani Camp
February is a wonderful month to be in the Delta, and to experience the first trickle of water creeping onto the floodplains due to the annual inundation. Although, I have never read the book 'Okavango, Floods of Life', the title in itself tells a wonderful story. Taking a trip out onto the dry floodplains of Kwetsani, we went to try and get a feel for how quickly the water was starting to come in. The sight that was before us is really hard to describe, as we literally watched this awesome phenomenon of the Okavango Delta starting to fill with water. From the side of the road, we watched as water spilled constantly over the edge at a certain point. From this point the water began to collect and, when it had enough strength, to start pushing down the road. Drawing a line in the sand about two metres away from the head of the stream we watched as it snaked towards the line, reaching it within 30 seconds! An hour later, a large stretch of the road was covered in water, and in places, the water ventured into roadside grooves to fill that up too. As the water pushes on, all sorts of life begin to unfold.
As the water seeps into the ground, the catfish of all different sizes make their way up to the life-giving water. These fish buried themselves deep into the earth when the waters receded, and lay entombed in the ground until they could feel the rejuvenating touch of the damp earth around them. When they reach the water, they swim with verve and vigour, attracting an array of birds, insects and reptiles - there is this whole cycle of life being played right before your very eyes.
With the insects and fish in abundance, the floodplains are dominated by hundreds of birds. In one place we counted at least 60 marabou storks, commonly known as the 'undertakers of the bush'. African fish-eagles gather in flocks, which is unusual as they are normally only in pairs. The ground is umbrella'd (for lack of a better word) with black egrets, who bury their heads under their black wings, attracting the fish to the shade that their wings have made, and ultimately into their bellies. The pied kingfishers hover in front of the vehicles knowing that the fish are swimming away from the noise, and then with lightning speed dive and catch their prey. The hamerkop, goes about his fishing ever so relaxed, but catches his dinner every time. The saddle-billed storks, with their colourful beaks are experienced "fisherbirds" and so are the great egrets. Dotted across the plains you can see the wattled cranes prancing light-footed in front of each other, spreading their wings. African openbills use their bills like nutcrackers to crack the shells of the water snails.
In the background red lechwe are gathered by the hundreds, to graze on the wet grass. Every now and then we catch a glimpse of a hyaena tentatively making its way through the water. The resident pride of lion is just north of Kwetsani and we have heard them roar nearly every morning. Cape buffalo hide themselves in the thick bush and the hippo are just delighted to have so much water around them. February is an exuberant month – a month where we all feel so alive.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Dan and Charmaine Myburg.
Guides: MT Malebogo and Ronald Ronald.
The Kwetsani Team
update - February 2013 Jump
to Jao Camp
Weather and Landscape
February has been a hot month with little rain. The month passed with cool mornings and blistering hot afternoons, of which a few cooled down with the odd thunderstorm, with only 27mm of rain for the month. The first push of the annual inundation arrived in mid-February, making most channels accessible. The water level has risen to a mere 44cm below our high water jetty and the lodge boats have been moved to the Jao Camp jetty.
With February being our maintenance month for the year, Jao was closed for most of the month. Although we have not had guests on activities, when the opportunity arose we took the chance to get out on the concession. We have also had quite a lot of animal activity around camp on Jao Island, especially with our local 'Jao Mafia' mongoose family. One morning, in the middle of maintenance the entire 'Jao Mafia' decided to visit the curio shop…the family appeared with 11 new youngsters! Needless to say they have brought much entertainment to the staff in camp since that morning, including stealing toilet paper from our laundry…that might have been the fastest Jao has ever seen a housekeeper run! The resident spotted hyena has also gone through many personality changes in the month, from inquisitive and daring to shy, elusive and naughty, he makes his nightly visitation to each part of Jao, chewing most of Jao's swimming pool pumps and plumbing to leather couches! A stealthy tortoise came to visit our offices during the month, much to the amusement of the 'Jao Mafia' mongoose family!
A couple of hippo and calves have also decided to visit Jao this past month, as we found their tracks close to camp every morning. Further excursions on the concession provided us the chance to witness a lion kill on the Jao floodplains, as well as a sighting of a new male by the eastern floodplain road just north of Riley's Island, who to say the least was not interested in our presence! There was a sighting of the rare sitatunga at Jao Bridge and on the channel making our way to Jacana. More sightings include buffalo south of the Jao Airstrip, a Southern African python, a black mamba, a night adder as well as witnessing a crocodile catch and eat a white-faced duck.
Birds and Birding
The water birds on the concession have been seen in abundance, with Jao also doing an annual water bird count in the beginning of February. In camp we have seen our three resident spur-winged geese and a pair of saddle-billed storks with a juvenile waddling around the pools created by the abundance of rain in January. With the presence of the lion kill found at Jao floodplains and our water bird count shortly thereafter, we were lucky enough to see a group of white-backed vultures and four lappet-faced vultures…a magnificent viewing to say the least!
The elusive and rare sightings include greater painted-snipe, long-crested eagle and white-backed night-heron. On the occasion we were able to get out on the channel and visit our neighbourly camp, Jacana, or just to get out on the water, we were able to do some magnificent birding, with sightings of malachite kingfisher, pied kingfisher, African jacana, African darter, little bee-eater, African fish-eagle and common moorhen.
On the 22 February, Jao opened its doors to guests and to start off the season with freshly motivated and encouraged staff waiting eagerly for the guests return! On our first night with guests in camp, Jao planned a wonderful traditional evening in our boma, but unfortunately we had to adapt as a surprise thunderstorm came through the concession minutes before guests were to arrive back from drive…the power of nature never ceases to amaze us! We have also done a full day trip to Hunda Island, for our guests which went really well.
Staff in Camp
Managers: William and Angie Whiteman, Bryan Webstock, Theresa Fourie, Nadia Fourie, Phil Ngisi and Charl Bergh.
Guides: Cruise Mollowakgotla, Solly Kanyeto, Alberto Mundo and Bee Makgetho.
update - February 2013 Jump
to Seba Camp
Weather and Landscape
We had a spectacular and exciting month at Seba Camp. The mornings at times were a bit chilly and were often coupled with brief thunder showers. The monthly minimum temperature was a comfy 21° C with the maximum being 28° C. The early morning showers resulted in a total of 35 mm of rain being recorded for the month, so the vegetation is still lush and green.
The floodplain areas are still covered in a dense carpet of green, making for some incredible scenery.
There was lots of excitement this month as we had fantastic sightings of a pangolin. On two separate game drives within two consecutive days, our guides found the elusive pangolin, which obliged for photographs.
The Mmabana Pride of lions has taken up residence in the area over the last couple of months and was found feeding on a zebra carcass on the side of the airstrip. This provided a great sighting as the lions fed on the carcass for a number of days. On one occasion, while our guests were enjoying their surprise bush dinner and some stargazing, they were visited by two curious hyaena. This was a real highlight for our guests. Other predatory highlights for February were sightings of cheetah and leopard.
Elephant sightings have been really good, as the giant pachyderms have been flocking to the camp to feed on the surrounding marula trees which are fruiting. Even the hippo that frequent the Seba Lagoon have been seen feeding on this fruitful bounty.
General game sightings have been fantastic, as the lush vegetation and fruiting trees have attracted many herbivore species into the area, many of which are nursing young. A small family of Cape clawless otters have taken up residence in the Seba Lagoon, another sighting that we are quite excited about.
Birds and Birding
The Abu Concession is a phenomenal area when it comes to birding, especially around Seba Camp. The water birds have taken centre stage and often congregate right in front of camp along the Seba Lagoon. On any regular day one can see malachite kingfisher, pied kingfisher, green-backed heron, African jacana and black crakes.
The woodland kingfishers are still around, although they have started to slowly leave the Delta as winter approaches. On this note, Joseph and his guests spotted a striped kingfisher – these are not too common in the area and are often overlooked and assumed to be brown-hooded kingfishers.
"We had a wonderful time and we will highly recommend the whole Seba experience to everyone. The food and the guiding was excellent."
Tubu Tree Camp
update - February 2013 Jump
to Tubu Tree Camp
Weather and Landscape
The weather over the last month has been fairly consistent, with the days hot and sunny and the nights being cool with a breeze. We have had a minimum of rainy and cool days. We have had one big wind storm which looked like it would bring a large amount of rain but it fell on Jao Camp and not on Tubu. We had three days during the month with rain during the late evening and early morning. The humidity has been high most days but has not produced the rain we normally expect for this time of the year. We had a spectacular storm early one morning and all the guests and staff were woken up with thunder and lightning all around camp.
After a month of annual maintenance, we re-opened for guests in the first week of February and the leopard sightings were few and far between. The resident leopards seem to have been moving further afield before the water comes in. The guides were seeing lots of tracks and there was definitely movement but no real good sightings, except a few fleeting glimpses. Towards the end of the month, the sightings have improved and it seems like we are now seeing leopards more regularly. We were fortunate enough to see two leopards out in the open in front of camp from the main area deck one morning. They did not hang around very long and were gone before we had the opportunity to take some photos.
The elephant herds have been all around the camp and not a day goes by without elephants being seen or heard around camp. It is really great to see the elephants in and around camp. They can keep you amused for hours with their human-like behaviour. Most herds have been seen with young calves which always add excitement to any sighting.
The herds of wildebeest and zebra have been in constant attendance each night in front of camp and they obviously find safety from being close to camp. A large number of impala have also taken residence in the camp area, with things becoming exciting as the rut begins and the males become very vocal and territorial.
The resident hyaena clan has been seen on a regular basis, and become particularly active once everyone has gone to sleep in camp. On two occasions, the clan was seen from the bar before dinner.
One of the highlights for the month was when Michelle found two honey badgers near the back-of-house one evening.
A pod of hippo has taken up residence in one of the open pools between the airstrip and camp and is seen on most drives.
Birds and Birding
The water from the annual inundation has finally arrived at Tubu Tree and as I write this newsletter, one can hear the African fish-eagles calling and I can count at least a dozen fish-eagles from the pool deck circling overhead and sitting in the sycamore fig near Tent 3.
There has been a pair of wattled cranes during most days in front of camp and we have seen African openbills and saddle-billed storks in the floodplain as well.
The southern carmine and little bee-eaters are in abundance and they are a joy to watch and are so beautiful.
"Kambango was excellent at explaining everything. Elephants on and near the airstrip – the calves playing together. The baboon jumping up and catching flying termites was really fun to watch. Also the room and the open air showers and the main room loo were quite an experience! A big thanks to Eloise and Hein, both very knowledgeable and helpful. Make sure not to lose Kambango – he's the best guide we've met – very helpful and gentle and he knows everything in the bush but is very humble."
"A wonderful camp with superb wildlife, leopard on all six drives…7 in total!"
Staff in Camp
Managers: Ian and Michelle Burger.
Guides: GT Sarepito, Kambango Sinimbo and Gibson Kehemetswe.
Newsletter by Michelle
Kalahari Plains Camp
update - February 2013 Jump
to Kalahari Plains Camp
Weather and landscape
The scorching heat of the Kalahari has been back with temperatures reaching 45° C. This is due to the fact that we received no rain for the whole month. The dryness coupled with the heat changed the Kalahari from green pastures to dry season scenes.
Even though it has been hot, the predator sightings have been exceptional. The Kalahari Plains Pride have been sighted a couple of times around camp especially around the waterhole quenching their thirst from the scorching heat of the Kalahari. We also recorded a good number of nomadic lions coming to the waterhole.
On one morning, guests were treated to an exceptional experience when a cheetah killed three ostrich chicks at Leopard Pan. They witnessed as the cheetah chased, caught and ate the chicks while the parents tried to chase the felines off...unsuccessfully.
Leopard sightings have also been on a high note with more than five sightings for the whole month. These include three sightings of the resident female who was seen mostly around the camp. We were also blessed by a pack of 15 wild dogs that appeared at Letiahao Waterhole. This was incredible as wild dog sightings are very rare in the Kalahari with the last recorded sighting for us being two years ago.
On the herbivore side, we had some amazing sightings of big herds of oryx, springbok and wildebeest.
Other highlights for the month included sightings of honey badger, bat-eared fox, Cape fox and aardwolf.
Newsletter by Fanie.
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