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February 2013

(Page 2 of 2)

Page 1 Updates
General Safari News - General information and updates from our partners in Africa.
Wildlife News - Interesting wildlife sightings and photos.
Camp News - Camp specific news, including refurbs, rebuilds, accolades, etc.
• Monthly update from North Island in Seychelles.
• Monthly update from Kings Pool Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from DumaTau Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Savuti Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Zarafa Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Selinda Camp in Botswana.
Kwando Safaris game reports from Botswana.
• Monthly update from Mombo Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Xigera Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Chitabe Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Vumbura Plains Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Little Vumbura Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Duba Plains Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Banoka Bush Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Jacana Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Abu Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Kwetsani Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Jao Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Seba Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Tubu Tree Camp in Botswana.
• Monthly update from Kalahari Plains Camp in Botswana.

Page 2 Updates
• Monthly update from Pafuri Camp in South Africa.
• Monthly update from Pafuri Walking Trail in South Africa.
• Monthly update from Camp Jabulani in South Africa.
• Monthly update from Kings Camp in South Africa.
• Monthly update from Leopard Hills in South Africa.
• Monthly update from Rocktail Beach Camp in South Africa.
• Monthly Dive report from Rocktail Bay in South Africa.
• Monthly update from Makalolo Plains in Zimbabwe.
• Monthly update from Little Makalolo in Zimbabwe.
• Monthly update from Davison's Camp in Zimbabwe.
• Monthly update from Ruckomechi Camp in Zimbabwe.
• Monthly update from Mana Canoe Trail in Zimbabwe.
• Monthly update from Toka Leya Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Lufupa River Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Lufupa Tented Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Kalamu Lagoon Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Shumba Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Kapinga Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Busanga Bush Camp in Zambia.
• Monthly update from Mvuu Camp in Malawi.
• Monthly update from Mvuu Wilderness Lodge in Malawi.
• Monthly update from Mumbo Island Camp in Malawi.
• Monthly update from Chelinda Lodge in Malawi.
• Monthly update from Desert Rhino Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Palmwag Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Doro Nawas Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Damaraland Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Skeleton Coast Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Serra Cafema Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Ongava Tented Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Little Ongava in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Ongava Lodge in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Andersson's Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Little Kulala Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Kulala Desert Lodge in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Kulala Wilderness Camp in Namibia.
• Monthly update from Governors' Camp in Kenya's Masai Mara.
• Monthly update from Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge in Rwanda.

South Africa camps
Pafuri Camp update - February 2013               Jump to Pafuri Camp

No report this month.


Pafuri Walking Trail update - February 2013               Jump to Pafuri Walking Trail

No report this month.


Camp Jabulani update - February 2013              

No report this month.


Kings Camp update - February 2013               Jump to Kings Camp

February was a month filled with loads of excitement. Not just did the rivers flow again but indeed several times making some of the area not accessible for off-road game drives. We also had to deal with a tropical rainstorm that moved from Botswana to the Limpopo province causing havoc to our area.

Now let's look at the sightings: February was a neutral month concerning game sightings. The bush is still dense due to the abundance of rain we received. This in turn makes it difficult to track and locate leopards. The lions sighting were fairly good. The two dominant males to our area seem to have solicited most of the lioness in the area. Lionesses as far as from the east and wast moved to our area to mate with these two magnificent Kings. The two males are holding a powerful position at the moment but with this kind of power and dominance comes the responsibility to protect the boundaries of their territory. In doing so they are creating a safety zone for the resident prides in their area.

Male Lion around Kings Camp

I can already see the effect that these two males have here. The once nomadic and restless Mafikizolo Pride has simply disappeared from the area. Now this to me is a good thing and it reconfirms what I have mentioned before, the importance of a strong team of males in the area.

They create a safe zone by treating and vocally advertising their presence all the time. Young nomadic males and other prides therefore know to avoid this area or they might have to deal with the dominant males. Mating between the two males and several lionesses has taken place for a few months now. Now we have to wait and monitor the lionesses and we might just be lucky to have a new generation of lion cubs living here which we had last 2 years ago.

With grace and sleekness this beautiful spotted cat walks the ground of the bushveld knowing that there is no other predator here with nearly the same cunning and power that braces it. Leopards are without a doubt the most beautiful and graceful cats in the world and we at Kings Camp are extremely fortunate to witness these cats on nearly a daily basis. Two of these cats that live in the vicinity of the camp is Rockfig jnr and Ntombi. Both have cubs which are over one year of age. Sightings have been infrequent due to the denseness of the bush. I am hoping that next month we will be able to see them more often and be able to update you with more pictures.

Leopard with kill    Maralu the Leopard

I would also like to mention a new female leopard to our area of traversing. We named her Marula female. No one is sure about the age of the animal but I would assume that she is still a very young leopardess and possibly a young adult starting her career and a dominant female to the southern part of Kings Camp. This location is perfect as it will not be in contact with either of the other two resident female leopards. The Marula female is small with a light coloured coat. Her face bares no marks and her black and white ears bare strong contrast and show not sign of age. Her pink nose is also indicating that she is still young but not shy to show her grace, power and skill to us. In a matter of 9 days she managed to secure not less that 3 kills all up a tree much to our delight. We are hoping that she will remain in the area and we will update you on her progress in the next few months.

Elephants sighting were on the high this month not that they are ever on the low side in Timbavati. I mentioned a year ago a sick elephant calf that had some sort of skin illness or infection. I also mentioned and reported this matter to the authorities concerned and it was reported to me by several experts in the flied that it would only be a matter of weeks before it would die.

Sick elephant calf    Elephant with calf

Saddened by this fact I decided to monitor this calf with the help of fellow rangers in my area of traversing. For month we watched the calf struggle with his inability to move at the pace of his herd, his mother always by his side protecting and comforting him. I was emotionally attached and gathered information whenever possible giving feedback to the Save the Elephant research team. Noticeably the calf got better more than a year later. Progress was slow but I am glad to report that the calf now is fine and shows no sign of the skin illness anymore. He is as fit as a fiddle and was seen on a few occasions with his herd. How remarkable are these animals with their ability to naturally heal, the interaction between the body and mind the way in which emotions and personality can have an impact on the functioning and health in bodies. The role of stress makes us more vulnerable to diseases. What is interesting to note is that when we stress our body's turns on the same physiological stress response that an animal's body does. The difference that I have learned is that we usually do not turn it off in the same way these animals do.

Elephant    Elephant

Elephant antics

This brings me to another rare and exciting interaction I witness first hand on a morning game drive. I manage to capture with my camera the very rare and super predator of Africa – the African Wild Dogs. A substantial pack was resting at a water hole after an engaging hunt which secured them breakfast. A mere 100 meters away from the dam a large herd of elephants approached. In no time the matriarch alerted in silence the rest of her group which all responded visibly aggressive. One adult charged straight towards my vehicle and I decided to not move, indicating to her that we are not a threat. My tracker Albert was watching me and the fast moving cow eagerly and wanting to move. I said, no. She clearly wanted to deal with the dogs and not with us. Elephants have a remarkable sense of smell and wild dogs caring an extremely pungent scent. More than 30 meters from the vehicle the cow turned in the direction of the wild dogs and chased the pack running for cover. The action of the elephant clearly directed to the enemy. The dust soon settled and the herd carried on with their daily routine. I guess one just has to be the size of an elephant not to stress.


That's all for this month friends.

Game report by: Patrick O'Brien Head Guide of Kings Camp.


Leopard Hills update - February 2013               Jump to Leopard Hills

This is the time of year when the bush is most alive, the insect life is audibly abuzz amidst a cacophony of bird and frog calls. Wild flowers bloom everywhere as young lambs and calves have all found their legs and gallop about in the long grass. Read on to see how the young predators are also finding their feet…

Typical February scene…the calm savanna before the storm!

The calm savanna before the storm!


Hlaba Nkunzi
Her playful female cub is now 6 months old and is being led all around her mother's vast territory to her various kill sites. She confident and a real poser just like her mother. See below.

Hlaba Nkunzi

The cub faced a bit of a scare recently as the young Nyeleti male sniffed out Hlaba Nkunzi's recent impala kill and surprised them there at the kill site. The cub managed to scurry off to a hiding place while mom growled and distracted the young male who would kill the young cub, given the chance!

Hlaba Nkunzi needs to be more careful around her kills as the scent has the potential to attract many unwelcome visitors…and we must remember this is how she has lost some of her previous cubs! Luckily for the cub, the Dayone male sniffed out Nyeleti the following day and chased him north again!

Here is the ever watchful mother on the lookout for any threat to her precious cub!

Watchful mother

Metsi and her cub have been very scarce but seem to be faring well on the few occasions that they have been found, seems like the cub is also a female which bodes well for the leopards in the area.



She was found a few more times this month, on one particular occasion she was not too happy when Dayone found her impala kill and proceeded to chase her off and take the spoils for himself. See image below.

Dayone with kill

Still residing up in the north, she surfaces very rarely in the dense environment up there but when she is found she is as playful as always!



His confident eyes, powerful frame and ever increasing dewlap suggest he is older than his youthful 5yrs & 4mths! He is entering his prime and his fighting character bodes well for the magnificent females in his territory…that is unless there is food involved! I'm sure Xikavi will willingly give up a meal for the security he provides for a new litter.

Leopard with kill

Not seen too often in the west this month, possibly due to Dayone being very active patrolling his eastern boundary since their heated meeting a month ago.


Selati Coalition
Even the above male with the smallest mane is darkening noticeably as they enter their prime! This male is the biggest of the 4 and seems to be the most dominant for much of the time!

Selati Coalition

They have been vocalising a lot this month and all 4 have been together, rather than off on their own. See video of one of the boys letting a rhino and calf know who is in charge, there are no better protectors for our Rhino's than the Selati boys.

Ximhungwe pride

Lion with cubs

With the cubs being so young the lionesses are not covering much ground at the moment and we are able to find them almost daily. Early mornings and late evenings are always a good bet to see the little ones active and playing around. There are now 7 confirmed cubs between 6 and 14 weeks old! Enjoy the video footage.

Mom taking a quiet stroll presents a perfect target to stalk and attack.

Lion antics

Soggy riverbeds are a perfect playground!

Soggy riverbeds are a perfect playground

Othawa Pride
The Othawa lionesses have again been with the Selati boys north of the river recently and seem to be trying to entice them to mate again.

Pack of Painted Dogs
The pack of 8 was seen for a few days of the usual wild dog frenzy during the month! One of the yearlings from last year was separated from the pack somehow and stayed on here for a week by himself looking for his family who had run far east. He has since disappeared so let's hope he has found them again, a young dog on his own faces many threats out there alone!

Relishing the extra thick green grasses this year, the parades are spread out all over the place, crazy how the largest land mammal can disappear into the undergrowth and be so difficult to find at times.

The large obstinancy of +- 500 has made the lush green grazing down on the gabbro plains their own, there are lots of young calves around as usual in February.

Interesting sightings in February
The lush green landscape in front of the lodge has been reminiscent of the Serengeti plains at times, here are 3 different species relishing the good grazing together.


Here is a prime waterbuck bull, the biggest any of us have seen, showing off his spread and courting one of his harem of females.


It always pays off to spend time with a parade of elephants and to look closely! Here is a brave mantis, probably saying his prayers, while hitching a ride on a giant pachyderm's hairy forehead!

brave mantis

A rare spot for the birders is a european nightjar, especially during the daytime. This is the only nightjar species that roosts lengthways on a branch during the day, other species roost on the ground or on rocks!

European nightjar


Rocktail Beach Camp update - February 2013               Jump to Rocktail Beach Camp

No report this month.


Rocktail Bay Dive Report - February 2013               Jump to Rocktail Beach Camp

As is usual at this time of year, February was a very good month in terms of weather. A few days with rain and light wind helped cool things down and were nothing to complain about - instead being rather refreshing especially on the hot days. The average maximum temperature was between 32° C and 35° C, while the minimum average was between 25° C and 27° C.

Turtles on beach    Turtle in wate

Although we are near the end of the official 'turtle season' and past the peak for both nesting and hatchlings, we had a few exciting sightings during February. Two of these were of large leatherback turtles – a spectacular ocean behemoth. Adult loggerhead turtles, usually the more common of the two nesting species, were not seen at all this month.

Perhaps the most exciting sightings were of turtle hatchlings though. Towards the end of the month, leatherback hatchlings were seen emerging from their nests and making their way down to the ocean. A couple of days later, about 60 leatherback and 100 loggerhead hatchlings were found - really thrilling our guests. The following day, we found only one leatherback hatchling, although we did see tracks of other hatchlings.

The coastal forest and grassland harbours quite a few secretive mammal species, some of which are restricted to this kind of habitat type. Vervet monkey and thick-tailed bushbabies were seen on most days, as were the diminutive and handsome red duiker, while outings to Lake Sibaya and other freshwater sources usually produced hippo sightings. Tracks and signs of some more secretive species such as bushpig and genet were also seen this month.

Baby turtles on beach    Baby Turtle

A very large forest cobra which was around 1.5 metres long was seen around the kitchen area, but it lived up to its name and quickly slithered off into the undergrowth of the forest once we had seen it.

The dawn chorus at Rocktail is unbelievable! When you wake up in the morning all you hear are numerous birds calling. Livingstone turaco, yellow-rumped tinkerbird, sombre greenbul and yellow-bellied greenbul are the most common and dominant calls in the forest. Guided forest walks have also been very fruitful on the birding front, but patience is required as the forest species stick to the dense forest canopy and can be difficult to spot.

One of the exciting sightings this month was that of a rosy-throated longclaw (formerly known as pink-throated longclaw) in the grasslands near Lake Sibaya. All three South African longclaw species can be seen here! Saddle-billed stork, ruddy turnstone, curlew sandpiper and purple heron were among the more than 120 species also sighted this month.
Godfrey Baloyi


Zimbabwe Camps
Makalolo Plains update - February 2013               Jump to Makalolo Plains Camp

No report this month.


Little Makalolo update - February 2013               Jump to Little Makalolo

Weather and Landscape
Probably due to the gradual ending of the rainy season, we have noticed a significant rise in the temperatures. The maximum recorded temperature for February was 35° C. However, we had a few mornings that were very cold, which made us pull our jackets from the closets. In general, the weather pattern has been cool mornings, warm afternoons and cool evenings.

It's still green almost everywhere, but due to the decrease in rainfall some of the tall grass is beginning to turn a bit yellow and showing signs of drying out. The trees are still very green and lush. The waterholes are holding up well and most of them are covered in water lilies, which look incredibly beautiful as they sway in the gentle breeze.

Wildlife around Little Makalolo    Eland

We are really pleased to report that a couple of wild dog packs have moved into the area, providing us with some incredible sightings - we really hope that they will settle in and stay for a while.

On the feline side, we were also treated to some great sightings, with one of the highlights being a large male leopard right in front of camp. The tom cat was first seen while we were all eating dinner, after which everyone sat around the fire and observed the leopard at their leisure. Suddenly, the silence of the darkness was broken when a herd of impala spotted the predator and broke out into alarm calls. The leopard casually slunk off into the darkness and all was still once again.

The dominant male lions in the area have also been quite active and were seen a couple of times and heard calling on most evenings.

General game sightings have been incredible as the herbivores are still taking full advantage of the lush vegetation and are nursing their young which were born over the last couple of months. We have seen great numbers of buffalo as the smaller herds are joining together, forming enormous breeding herds.


Other highlights for the month included African wildcat, roan and common reedbuck.

Birds and Birding
The birdlife has been exceptional this month, especially at Ngamo – some of the highlights seen here were southern pochard, maccoa duck, red-knobbed coot, lesser moorhen and black crake.

Large flocks of sacred ibis, African spoonbill and yellow-billed storks have also been seen. Vulture sightings have also been good due to the prolific predator activity in the area.

Staff in Camp
Managers: Rania Mutumhe, Charles Ndlovu, Tracy Peacocke and Vimbai Mandaza.
Guides: Dickson Dube, Honest Siyawareva and Livingstone Sana.


Davison's Camp update - February 2013

No report this month.


Ruckomechi Camp update - February 2013               Jump to Ruckomechi Camp

No report this month.


Mana Canoe Trail update - February 2013               Jump to Mana Canoe Trail

No report this month.


Zambia camps
Toka Leya Camp update - February 2013
              Jump to Toka Leya Camp

Weather and Landscape
While the first half of the month displayed typical February weather with lots of rain and thunder, this changed over the second half when we experienced very hot and dry conditions with not a single drop of rain.

Despite the lack of rain lately, there are still substantial pools of water dotted around the bush and the vegetation has burst into new growth. The wildlife is looking incredibly healthy at the moment.

Elephant herd    Ground Hornbill

The Zambezi River started rising in January and has continued to do so this month creating an even more spectacular view at the Victoria Falls – it is clear why the Falls are one of the wonders of the world! The spray created by them is just extraordinary – click here to view some incredible images of the Falls in full flow.

In the years gone by we had had a reduction of elephant sightings at this time, but this year the trend has been broken as we have seen some huge herds of elephant around the camp area and all along the river, best viewed when cruising along the Zambezi by boat.

Visits into Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park have really added value to our guests' Toka Leya experience as the game sightings have been incredible and prolific. We have been really lucky with buffalo and rhino sightings within the park with just about all of our guests having the experience of seeing these creatures in their natural habitat – there have been many big smiles after game drives.

In addition to this, there have been big congregations of zebra, giraffe and wildebeest to be seen while out on game drive which has been further enhanced by some really productive birding. The birding hotspot for the month was definitely along the river as all the migrants are still here, and along with the resident species are taking full advantage of the bountiful Zambezi River. We have noted good numbers of southern-ground hornbills in the area and see or hear them on a daily basis.

Giraffe     Naughty Vervet

Our resident hippo, Moto Moto, who has become a camp celebrity has continued to shine and show off his bulk much to the surprise of our guests. He is quite happy to graze on the lush grass during the heat of day, allowing our guests some great photographic opportunities. Quite interestingly, once Moto Moto gets too hot he takes refuge under the main deck of camp.

Staff in Camp
Managers: Petros and Gogo Guwa, Solomon Tevera and Evi Bwalya, Cynthia Kazembe and Amon Ngoma


Lufupa River Camp update - February 2013               Jump to Lufupa River Camp

No report this month.


Lufupa Tented Camp update - February 2013               Jump to Lufupa Tented Camp

No report this month.


Kalamu Lagoon Camp update - February 2013               Jump to Kalamu Lagoon Camp

No report this month.


Shumba Camp update - February 2013               Jump to Shumba Camp

No report this month.


Kapinga Camp update - February 2013               Jump to Kapinga Camp

No report this month.


Busanga Bush Camp update - February 2013               Jump to Busanga Bush Camp

No report this month.


Malawi camps
Mvuu Camp update - February 2013
               Jump to Mvuu Camp

No report this month.


Mvuu Wilderness Lodge update - February 2013               Jump to Mvuu Camp

No report this month.


Mumbo Island update - February 2013               Jump to Mumbo Island

No report this month.


Chelinda Lodge update - February 2013

No report this month.


Namibia camps
Desert Rhino Camp update - February 2013               Jump to Desert Rhino Camp

No report this month.


Palmwag Lodge update - February 2013               Jump to Palmwag Lodge

No report this month.


Doro Nawas Camp update - February 2013               Jump to Doro Nawas Camp

No report this month.


Damaraland Camp update - February 2013               Jump to Damaraland Camp

No report this month.


Skeleton Coast Camp update - February 2013               Jump to Skeleton Coast Camp

No report this month.


Serra Cafema Camp update - February 2013               Jump to Serra Cafema Camp

No report this month.


Ongava Tented Camp update - February 2013               Jump to Ongava Tented Camp

No report this month.


Little Ongava update - February 2013               Jump to Little Ongava Camp

No report this month.


Ongava Lodge update - February 2013               Jump to Ongava Lodge

No report this month.


Andersson's Camp update - February 2013               Jump to Andersson's Camp

No report this month.


Little Kulala Camp update - February 2013               Jump to Little Kulala Camp

No report this month.


Kulala Desert Lodge update - February 2013               Jump to Kulala Desert Lodge

No report this month.


Kulala Wilderness Camp update - February 2013               Jump to Kulala Wilderness Camp

No report this month.


Kenya camps
Governors' Camp update - February 2013               Jump to Governors' Camp

Weather and grasslands
Over the last month we have had cool mornings with hot days, with some heavy rainfall including hail, strong winds and heavy rain with trees and branches falling down on one day. The marsh filled up considerably the day after. Early morning temperatures are around 14°C and mid day temperatures reach 30°C. The grasslands on the open plains are drying out with the predominant red oat grass turning golden brown.    

Sunrise over Governors' Camp
Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

General game
The Warburgia Ugandensis trees are still fruiting, elephant and baboons both frequent the woodlands and grasslands. Many impala with fawns are seen in-between the camps. Good herds of zebra have been arriving from the eastern conservation areas and there have been good sightings of very young elephant calves.

On the 22nd good numbers of Abdims storks were in the Marsh particularly the day after the hail storm on the 21st Feb.

New Cubs- Marsh pride - one of the four sisters has three cubs in the riverbed south of Bila Shaka.

In the last week many common zebra have slowly been coming down from the East and moving through Topi Plains and Bila Shaka. On the morning of the 28th there were large numbers moving towards Paradise Plains. On the 28th at the mortuary crossing point 12 zebra attempted to cross the Mara River but all of a sudden many Crocodiles surfaced, the zebras retreated and later in the morning 3 of them crossed and the others went back. 

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

Giraffe herds are about throughout the woodlands between the camps. Bulls can be seen together or loose herds of females with young calves. Older males still seem to be feeding off the Warburgia leaves; there was a herd of Giraffe that spent many days within the grounds to IL Moran camp. Giraffe are not the best of mothers leaving calves to often wander quite some distance away and this in some conservation areas mortality to predation is high. In a group of females the calves of varying ages can be seen in crèches.

Eland mothers and calves will do the same. Eland herds are scattered, earlier on in the month a herd of 52 were seen in the Marsh and Lake Nakuru area, Paradise and Topi Plains are also good places to find them. Breeding Bulls showing strong sexual dimorphism can be found throughout the Mara ecosystem.

Elephant in family units go back and forth between woodlands and grasslands, in the Mara 85% of what the elephant eat is made of grasses yet they are catholic feeders with more fibrous content in their diet so a large area is required for elephant to feed. The Warburgia fruit is falling so this is drawing Elephant into the woodlands, large bulls will often rattle a tree to get the fruit down. On the 21st we had a heavy rainstorm with large hails stones and wind, this brought down much fruit and elephant were very busy. There has been much trumpeting recently and these are young males who have more than likely been pushed out of their maternal as they get of age testosterone levels flow rampant, with maternal mothers not accepting this behaviour.

Photo courtesy of Nicola Light

Defassa waterbuck will be seen in the Marsh grasslands with satellite male groups on the periphery. The Defassa Waterbuck is very water dependent. They eat a variety of grasses, both medium and short in length. Their diet is very rich in protein. When the amount of available grass is low, waterbuck eat other herbs to satisfy their needs. It has been said that lion don’t eat waterbuck because their skin is oily and distasteful, many waterbuck females and calves have been taken in the Marsh, leopard will often take new born calves. The waterproofing secretions of the waterbuck's sweat glands produce an unpleasant odor in its meat, myth has it that it is not edible, which is not quite correct and  perhaps breeding males are more pungent.

Cape buffalo can be seen near Bila Shaka and also on the western fan of Rhino Ridge, coarse grasses are common here and this is the fodder that buffalo like. There are also many calves here and guests this month saw two calves being born. Bachelor bulls can be seen within the Marsh environs and also in the Musiara grassland plains. Some of these bulls have been taken by the Marsh Pride of lions. As bulls leave a breeding herd they put on condition and become more sedentary and habitual in their movements and habits. 

Cape buffalo
Photo courtesy of Nicola Light

Topi and Cokes Hartebeest can be found in all areas of Musiara. Dominant Topi males in the Paradise area that hold Leks have been taken by lion and Spotted Hyena. Much energy is exerted in holding these leks so they tend to lose attention and doze off, lion and hyena have learnt this and work on it. On the morning of the 22nd one of the Paradise lionesses with her two cubs took a Topi in front of guests. Some topi females have been seen with very young calves and this is an unusual birthing time as topi generally give birth in September/October.

We have had good sightings of Serval cats recently, with many being seen on the grasslands flats on Paradise Plains. The serval is a typical grass cat, mice and grass rats making up their diet and they are capable of jumping high and clear to catch ground birds and doves to add to their diet.

Spotted Hyena can be seen wherever there are good concentrations of plains game and they compete aggressively with lion so their presence is also aligned with lion activity.

Martial eagles are a large savannah bird of prey, they have been feeding off banded mongooses and Thomson Gazelle fawns. On the afternoon of the 19th a fawn was taken near Topi plains, the eagle was seen circling high above an open grassland plain where there were many females Thomson gazelles, a fawn that was lying low got up and moved towards a group of females, one female more than likely the mother moved towards it rapidly but not as quick enough as the Martial, then swooped down and latched onto it. These large eagles have a very large rear talon toe which punctures rapidly on impact.  

Warthog and young piglets that vary between 2 and 6 months can be seen in all areas where there is open ground. Lion have fed off them heavily within the Bila Shaka, Topi Plains and Musiara Plains areas. Warthogs leave their holes early in the morning to commence their daily foraging, warthog have a memory of all bolt holes in their home range, when frightened they run to these bolt holes and occasionally they will encounter another squatter!! Sometimes they use holes that are not deep enough; when this happens lion will often then dig them out. Many sows average 2 or 3 piglets, mortality is 45% before they reach 5 months old, predation and temperature is the main cause of loss. Interestingly warthogs in the Maasai conservation areas hold onto their piglet numbers more so as there is not the pressure from larger predators such as lion there.  Some sows have given birth early this month and again this is early for warthog.

Banded and Dwarf mongooses are seen within the camps and these social mongooses are very active during daylight hours whereas the larger mongooses tend to be solitary and very nocturnal in their habits. These mongooses are insectivorous in their diets with some invertebrates included. Each group or family sleeps together each night in a communal underground den or drainage pipe, often changing between den sites every 5-10 days. They emerge at sunrise and forage together in the morning and afternoon before returning to the den at sunset. Banded mongooses are very unusual among mammals because there are multiple female breeders in each group. All the adult females in a group enter heat or ‘oestrus’ together at the same time, approximately 80% of adult females become pregnant in any one breeding attempt. Generally  these females synchronise birth to the same day, and raise their offspring together in one large communal litter. This level of birth synchrony is unique among mammals. In contrast to females, males form a strict dominance hierarchy in which the top one or two alpha males monopolise matting’s and can father over 80% of the offspring in the group.      

Photo courtesy of Samantha McLellan 

Grants Gazelles are also abundant where the grasses are a little longer than the Thompsons prefer. Grants also occur in semi-arid areas as well, and are relatively arid-adapted. They are primarily browsers than grazers. Rainfalls in their habitats seem to be the determinant of their diets. Olive Baboons are common roadside visitors with still more black infants being seen, the large solitary males that are often seen wandering in between the camps and these are the males that have been ousted from a troop. Baboons can be found in a variety of habitat types, including grasslands, woodlands, semi-arid and arid savannas and rainforests. The Males are the meat eaters of the troop and will share their spoils with favorite females.

Bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus) meaning harnessed antelope will be seen in early mornings and evening, males are solitary and stay within a home range.  Females are more gregarious often with another female of a fawn. Bushbucks are mainly browsers but will supplement their diet with any other plant matter they can reach. Bushbucks are active around 24 hours a day but tend to be nocturnal near human habitations.

Large flocks of Abdims storks were seen arriving in the Marsh on the 22nd and this may have occurred after the heavy storm we had on the 21st. The scientific name for the Abdims stork is (Ciconia abdimii) Ciconia from the Latin for a stork and abdimii being derived from the name of the governor of Wadi Halfa in the Sudan, Bey El-Arnaut Abdim (1780-1827). Abdims storks breed in the Sud in Sudan between May and August and are intra Africa Migrants who migrate south during the southern sub Saharan wet season of October/ November, when the supposed rains ease off in the southern sub continent they then move north via East Africa in March and April. They are a gregarious species being seen in groups of 20 or 30 birds.

Abdims storks on a mound
Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds


Marsh pride – There are 15 cubs of varying ages in the marsh pride that reside within Bila Shaka and Musiara. Siena, Charm and Bibi with their 12 cubs have been seen at Bila Shaka, the airstrip, the Marsh and the Musiara plains. Bibi’s 3 cubs are three months old, Charms three cubs are five months old and Siena’s cubs are now 9 months old although one of them is a little younger which was abandoned by Bibi. There is a young lioness (one of the four sisters) who has three cubs who are now two months old, there is river bed off from Bila Shaka called Silanga and this is where these cubs were born, and it is suspected that Scar is the sire, they are near the Boscia tree as of 9.am this morning along with Siena, charm and Bibi plus 9 of the cubs. 

Lion cubs on tree
Photo courtesy of Sue Lawless

They have been feeding off Defassa Waterbuck calves, buffalo and warthog. There was a lead dominant cow buffalo that all the guides recognised in the main herd at Bila Shaka and she was taken earlier on the month, by Hunter, Sikio and Morani. Early on in January on the 4th Sikio damaged his left front paw, it has healed very well and we presume that he was bitten during a fracas with Hunter over an Oestrus lioness. Scar’s wound on his penis sheath had healed well as indicated by his continued efforts within Musiara. As of yesterday evening Scar, Morani and Hunter were seen beyond the airstrip and near the boundary of the reserve. 

Elephant and lion
Photo courtesy of Sue Lawless

Modomo – and two lionesses with their four cubs that are eight months old can be seen on Rhino Ridge or in the valley that runs east from Rhino Ridge. On the 7th February on Rhino Ridge at about 9.30am Modomo and her 4 cubs who are approximately 8 months old were seen just after they had killed a female buffalo, within minutes of them eating the buffalo they were set upon by three young nomadic male lion. There was a strong fracas with Modomo and two other lionesses that put up a huge front and then ran the three male lion off although there was much noise and scratching and sadly one of the cubs was bitten by one of the males and we are not sure if it will survive. Modomo, the two lionesses and only two cubs left after eating what was left of the cow buffalo. We understand that the cub has improved and was seen on the 25th and 28th near Kreys Lugga.

Lion with cubs
Photo courtesy of Alan Marantz

Nyota and Moja have been seen near Rhino Ridge and the Talek River. Moja is over a year old now; he was seen on the 23rd in the croton thicket near Emarti hill.

Notch and the four brothers are still within the Talek River, the Ntiaktiak River and the double crossing areas. They have been feeding off a large male hippo again and earlier on in the month they had killed another hippo near the Olkiombo airstrip. Many of the Olkiombo Pride were also feeding off this hippo.  

Paradise Pride: comprises 4 females and two eight month old cubs, the two ‘4km’ male Lion have been seen again near paradise. One of the four females who were seen mating in January by the dark manned male is now pregnant.

The Olkiombo lion pride of 12 including one sub adult cub which is estimated at 17 months old, 9 females, and one lioness has three cubs that are estimated at five months old. They are often seen near the Olkiombo airstrip, they were feeding off the remains of a hippo that the four males had killed.   

Malaika and her one male cub that is 10 months old are being seen near Emarti southern end of Rhino Ridge and the double crossing area and also on the white rocky plains of Naibor soit. Malaika like many cheetah have learnt to get on top of cars and this acts as a good vantage point and also to some cubs it a point of intrigue as can be seen of those chewing on spare tyres, wind screen wipers and padded roof hatch bars.

Cheetah and Vultures
Photo courtesy of Samantha McLellan

The female with the two cubs that are estimated at 10 months old are also being seen near the double crossing and also Naibor soit. This family of Cheetah were from the conservation areas near the double crossing.  These cubs also like jumping up on cars and will then relax and chill out on the canvas roof. Otherwise they like to clamber up the spare tyre and then onto the roof. On the 22nd it was seen on the roof of one of the game drive cars playing on the roof hatch with the left back leg occasionally slipping into the cab!!

This female has been very active on feeding off Thomson Gazelles and also she has captured young Thomson fawns and given them to the cubs to learn the art of fending and killing for themselves.    

Cheetah Family
Photo courtesy of Nicola Light

The MNC female cheetah with one male cub that is 18 months old is being seen near the fly over plains in the conservancy and also as far as Musiara gate in the reserve, there are good numbers of Thomson Gazelle here; he is very active so he should be on his own in a very short time.

There is a male that is being seen between Musiara gate and Bila Shaka, he is known as Mange as he has suffered mange off and on. He has a spot of mange at the moment on his shoulder. Sarcoptic mange is quite common in cheetah and also jackals. He has been feeding off impala and Thomson Gazelles.

The female leopard with the male cub that is perhaps over 18 months old as he is being seen more often on his own yet still in his mother’s home range. They are both being seen near the Hill at the crossing point and the Serena pump house. He is feeding off impala and Thomson Gazelles.

The male leopard at the mortuary crossing point has been seen more often this month, on the 22nd it was seen mating near the croton thickets, The female he was seen mating with is suspected to being that of the Serena pump house and Kifuko ya Nyoka leopard. The male has been seen often and has a gash on the top right of his nose, perhaps this been from a fracas with another male leopard that frequents as far as the copse of trees at paradise.

Photo courtesy of Deborah Price

The BBC female Leopard with her two cubs estimated at four months old, the male cub earlier on in January has since been suffering from a prolapsed rectum and at that time looked in pain; he was first seen on the 3rd January near Lake Nakuru, it was on the 4th that we suspected this diagnosis. We have called the vet again and Dr Migele turned up at Sekanani gate on the 26th and soon after we got a reply that he had got in it had disappeared from sight and no one has seen it for a few days. She has been feeding off Bush buck and impala.

Leopard cubs
Photo courtesy of Maina Wachira

The male that also frequents the same area as the BBC female, has been seen more often near the Lake Nakuru area.

Olive and her one female cub that is over a year old now has been seen again in her home range near the Talek River on Burrangat plains side, she was seen on the 22nd on the Burrangat side of the Talek River.

Walking in the Mara North Conservancy.
Good weather has made the walks more enjoyable although cool mornings and hot days pursued.

The grasslands in the surrounding areas are drying out rapidly. Earlier on in the month they had a little rainfall in some pockets of Mara North.

In some pockets the Acacia Gerrardii are flowering and this has drawn in many of the terrestrial primates including Olive Baboons and black faced vervet monkeys. Also more sightings of the bare faced Go-away birds can be seen.

A few Wildebeest have started arriving in from the east as well as many zebra. Those female Wildebeest that are pregnant will be giving birth very soon; we have since heard that a few females have calves. Topi are in good numbers throughout the open grassland plains, those areas that are low lying have better grass coverage than the higher ground and Topi like the low lying areas, here one can see males lekking and grunting as they strut within their lek boundaries. Some of these lek males are often taken by hyena and lion who see that the lethargic attitude of these males. The Cokes Hartebeest will be seen on old Masai Manyatta plinths where grasses are often still quite green. Giraffe herds are well scattered with the Acacia woodlands being good places to see them, they move from woodland to woodland as tannin levels increase in the leaf rachis of the Acacia Gerrardii. This is typical chemical defence from a species of flora, other Acacias will often increase thorn or spike growth or in other specific and common galled acacia known as the whistling thorn they host an insect in fact an ant of the crematagaster sp familywhich releases a formic acid from their abdomen which has a pungent smell.

Elephant like these acacias which are rich in tannins with a number of trees being knocked over and stripped, there is good growth of young Gerrardii being evident and this is a good sign of conservation ethics. Many elephant are also being seen throughout the conservancy, a few large bulls some of which are in Musth move though sourcing females in oestrus.

Photo courtesy of Sue Lawless

Eland herds can also be seen all over, although they do move about within the conservancies, there some good sized sexually dimorphic males with two good specimens that have large and dense spiralled horns. Average size of a breeding herd is 12 -24 animals. As males age, their coat becomes more grey. Breeding Bulls also have a dense fur mat on their foreheads and accompanied by a large dewlap on their throats. The word “eland” is derived from the Dutch word for moose. The early Dutch settlers named this large antelope of the southern subcontinent region with the name of the large northern herbivore. Eland are depicted in the early rock art of East and southern African tribes.

Defassa waterbuck and impala will be seen within the Acacia and also in riverbed grasslands, Thomson and Grants Gazelles will be seen more on the shorter grass plains. Some Bohors reedbucks have also been seen in the coarse grass areas in old non flowing river beds.

There are two breeding herds of Cape buffalo one large herd is seen from the Mara River as far as the White Highland ridge, there smaller herd is often seen close to the saltlick and as far as the northern grassland plains. With a little rain they have had here some areas have become quite dense, particularly the orange leafed croton and these thickest green up and look very pretty now, it also is a good home for resting old bull buffalo!! So we tread carefully around these thickets. There are two buffalo bulls that are much habituated to certain areas within the acacia thickets and they are always together and look very similar, as non breeding bull buffalo go they put on a lot more condition, both of these two have very polished bosses which indicate they have been about for some time, and I am sure have many stories!! Generally speaking buffalo have relatively weak hips compared with other bovine species, as the older bull buffalo age their hips can cause them problems to support this weight, which is when they can be a little unpredictable.   

Lion have been seen on two occasions mainly in the croton thickets below the saltlick and also in the sage brush thickets above the saltlick. These sage thickets known as Tarchonanthus camphoratus can reproduce vegetatively and have small wind dispersed seeds, they are progressively becoming denser with the lack of fires they have a great chance to pick up. These thickets are very cool so host many animals including buffalo and lion.

Photo courtesy of Nicola Light

On the 7th a large male lion was seen walking across the western plain in the long grass at 7.30am it was a majestic sight with the wind in his mane enlarged his size somewhat.

Three lioness and two sub adults were seen walking across the Eastern corridor plains on the 7th at 10.00am, all had blood on their mouths and necks so there had been a fresh kill not far away.

The female cheetah with the two seven month old cubs has been seen more frequently, as far out as the White highland ridge to the west to the eastern corridor plains, she has fed off Thomson Gazelles and impala fawns. On the 5th at 8.30am there was an excellent sighting of all three of them on a termite mound on the White highland ridge. On the 25th she was seen again in the Acadia Gerrardii woodlands close to the old Governors Camp Bush Camp site, she looked thin and tired and was hunting at 12.30pm which is a sign that they have been harassed at some stage to cause her to hunt during midday. Spotted hyena and lion can pressure cheetah on their daily hunting activity. She was again seen on the 27th and actually looked a lot more rested and relaxed.

There is a male that covers the fly over plains and the north eastern corridor; he was seen walking past unperturbed on the 14th at 7.25am. He is in good condition and is apparently a young male.

 A male leopard has been seen near the Olare Orok river and this is the same male that we had seen last month with the impala in an Acadia tree close to the Olive tree plain.

Rwanda camps
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge update - February 2013

This last week has brought us the most amazing weather, slightly cool but dry. The Gorilla treks have been quite varied, some long tough treks and some short ones, with treks to the same gorilla families varying day by day. On some days guests have returned as early as 11:30am and others as late as 15:30. Nevertheless, everyone returned to Sabyinyo in absolute disbelief of what they have experienced up in the forest with the Gorillas. "Life changing experience" still the phrase of the day! Most visited families of late, Sabyinyo, Hirwa, Agashya, Kwitonda and Umubano.

Sunset over Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge

Equally fascinating and exciting are their much smaller neighbours, the Golden Monkeys! Same as with the Mountain Gorillas, the Golden Monkeys are also unique to this region and found nowhere else. I went to go see them with two of our very recent guests, and boy were these little guys active!!! Not the easiest to photograph, though I managed to get in a few lucky shots.

Sunset over Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge    Sunset over Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge

At present, we have only two habituated families in the Volcanoes National Park here in Rwanda. The first is a family close to the Susa Gorilla family, quite a distance from the park office and therefore very seldom visited by guests. The second and biggest family, almost 140 strong, is situated in the National Park, right behind Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge and therefore a much shorter trek. hopefully within the next few months, a third family will be introduced for tourism. The National Park staff are very hard at work, habituating the third family. From the point where we left the vehicles, we walked for approximately 25 minutes to the Park boundary and then only 10 minutes from the boundary wall to the Monkeys. I don't think these guys sit still for more than 2 seconds at a time which made photographing them quite challenging, but a lot of fun non the less! Little caffeine junkies would be a pretty accurate description. They are very well habituated though and often come within 3 to 4 feet from the guests. 

Goldon Monkey around Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge    Goldon Monkey around Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge

With an average body mass of only 6 to 7 kilograms, they move through the thick bamboo canopy at lightening speed. The forest canopy also protects them to their only natural predator, the Crowned Eagle. The young are born after a short gestation period of only 5 months, little over half that of the Mountain Gorillas at 9 months, and are born with a thick coat and with their eyes open. The mothers are very caring and protective of their young. Nursing will last for up to 2 years and stopped when a new baby is born. Another must see here in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda.

Goldon Monkey around Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge

The good weather mentioned earlier has also provided us with even more dramatic sunsets and sunrises. Here are a few taken from the Lodge verandah and close-by.

Photos and text courtesy of Nelis Wolmarans - Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge Manager.


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