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AFRICAN SAFARI NEWS

January 2013

(Page 1 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.


GENERAL UPDATES
No report this month.


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WILDLIFE NEWS

Serpentine Battle at Banoka Bush Camp
Sighting: Another Banoka Battle
Location: Banoka Bush Camp, Khwai Concession, Botswana
Date: 4 January 2013
Photographer: Lopang Lopezio Rampeba
Observers: Lopang Rampeba

We are all familiar with snakes, and their lack of limbs - but these interesting and charismatic creatures have evolved specific methods of obtaining food and prey. While some constrict their prey, much in the same fashion as pythons, boas and the like, many serps (short for serpents) rely on a deadly injection of venom into the bloodstream of their prey to quickly subdue and in some cases, kick-start the process of digesting the prey from the inside out. Such a sight - to witness a strike and envenomation taking place and the prey expiring as the deadly concoction of chemicals courses through its veins - is rare and really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Serpentine Battle at Banoka Bush Camp    Serpentine Battle at Banoka Bush Camp

I was lucky to experience this, when I came across an olive grass snake showing an interest in a stripe-bellied sand snake. Sand snakes are known for their speed and agility and they also carry mild venom. The grass snake took its opportunity - it rapidly bit the sand snake and coiled around it to prevent it from escaping. The entwined snakes wrestled on the floor - this speeding up the process of envenomation as the prey snake's elevated heart rate would circulate the venom quicker through its body.

Serpentine Battle at Banoka Bush Camp

The tussle continued for around five minutes, until the sand snake succumbed to the venom. Once the grass snake was certain that its prey was dead, it loosened its grip and dragged the prize into the thickets - but not before I managed to snap a few photos.


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CAMP UPDATES
KENYA
We love a finely-tuned sentence here at Bushtops, but it's actually pictures that make the heart sing. Nothing can match actually being present in person, but a great photograph can suggest the wonder - and hint at the reality.

So we were thrilled when fabulous photographer Stevie Man captured some of the magic of both Mara and Serengeti Bushtops.

We'll let Stevie's images tell the story …

Mara and Serengeti Bushtops  Mara and Serengeti Bushtops
Mara and Serengeti Bushtops

Mara Moments
Daniel Lomoe is our head ranger at Mara Bushtops. Here's his update on recent news.

Migration
However well we study nature, it reminds us constantly that it will not conform to our expectations. The annual wildebeest migration is a great example. Usually, the massive herds migrate from the Serengeti in mid June/July, heading north from Tanzania into Kenya and the Masai Mara. In 2012 however, the pattern changed, with the wildebeest and attendant herds of zebra arriving late and in patches.

The first groups trickled in during late July. Why so late? The main reason why the wildebeest migration was late in both Northern Serengeti and Maasai Mara was purely as a result of the delay in rainfall (change in weather pattern). For instance at the beginning of June, in Central Serengeti, it was still raining so heavily and this slowed down the movement of wildebeests to the North. They stayed here for over a month only serging to the North at the beginning of July, when they reached Nyamalumbwa area. We then had grassland burning in the Mara triangle redirecting the herds north along the river leading them to avoid crossings near the new Mara Bridge.

Nevertheless, they reached us in the end - ensuring our guests shared in this annual marvel: then came river crossings all through October, as the world's largest migratory group of animals made their return trip to the Serengeti. The timings may have altered, but the spectacle remained as awe-inspiring as always.

Special sightings
The conservancy within which Mara Bushtops is sited acts a wildlife corridor between the eastern part of the Greater Mara and the Reserve. As such, it allows free movement for all animals, especially the larger mammals and their predators (which maintain ecosystem equilibrium).

One of the highlights is a sighting of a wild dog pack, which has established a den in the area. These globally endangered hunters are fascinating to watch - and our conservancy is one of the best places in the Greater Mara to see them. We also have a resident pride of lions, which has been spotted nearly daily since the expansion, alongside leopards and cheetahs.

In addition to these glorious predators, the conservancy's plains teem with elephant, buffalo, giraffe and the so-called lesser animals, many of which are actually the hidden gems of the African bush.

The Greater Mara Isaaten Conservancy
In past reports we have highlighted the expansion of our Mara Bushtops conservancy. Mara Bushtops began with 100 hectares. We then expanded to a 2,600 hectare conservancy, before virtually doubling our territory. This expansion reflects mutual trust between us and local Masai landowners, built up over recent years. It has given guests at Mara Bushtops access to a substantial wildlife reserve on their doorsteps.

We continue to join hands and lands with our neighbours, linking cattle and wildlife needs into an integrated strategy for long-term development. Our plans are to consolidate a further 15,000 hectares and ensure that the local community benefits from an upturn in tourism. This will also help us absorb pressure on the main Mara Reserve.

Name and logo
Our Greater Mara Isaaten Conservancy takes its name (Isaaten) from the fruit of a tree, used for medicinal purposes. The name was chosen by our local Masai elders, representing some 3,500 land owners in the area. We have worked with English artist Kim Thompson to create a suitable logo - which as you can see, hints at just some of the elephantine delights to be had within our wonderful corner of the world.

TANZANIA
Gordon Omondi is head ranger at Serengeti Bushtops. Here is his update on another successful year in the Serengeti.

Life on the migration route
The year was very rewarding for game-viewing in the northern Serengeti. Our guests at Serengeti Bushtops enjoyed spectacular sightings of cats and the mega-herbivores - the main actors in the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem.

As usual, the Kopjes (rocky outcrops) provided cover for lions and leopards - and a clue as to where they could be spotted. Our knowledge of the land and animal behaviour helped us bring guests to the heart of the action, without impinging on the space and freedom of the wildlife.

For example, regular sightings of three cheetah brothers on the Lamai plains in the extreme north led us to witness their pursuit of the numerous Thomson gazelles in the area. We were also delighted that a female black rhino with her older calf was seen more often than in recent years, often in the sand river zone.

Yet the most special event was closer to home. In fact, it took place in our camp! Serengeti Bushtops was slap-bang on the wildebeest migratory route, as millions of herbivores headed back to their breeding grounds in the south.

At first we encountered the zebras who act as trail-blazers. They invaded the camp before the wildebeest herds followed, enabling our guests to sit back on their tent verandahs, enjoying ringside views of the magnificent spectacle provided by these grassland nomads.

Another special event was when the returning migrants crossed the river near a hippo pool. The hippos were not happy to have their peace disturbed - and decided to make their feelings known, grunting, bellowing and showing off their formidable teeth. Sensibly the wildebeests decided to look for another crossing point!


BOTSWANA SAFARIS
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.

DumaTau Pool
The new pool at DumaTau is scheduled to open at the end of March 2013.

SOUTH AFRICA SAFARIS
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.

EXPLORATIONS SAFARIS
No report this month.


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Seychelles
North Island Update - January 2013              Jump to North Island

No report this month.

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Botswana Camps
Kings Pool Camp update - January 2013               Jump to Kings Pool Camp

Weather and Landscape
This month we experienced some very heavy rain at the beginning of the month which gradually slowed down towards the end. The cloud cover did give us some good respite from the heat which was a welcome bonus. All in all we had a total of 220 mm of rain this month with the average temperatures ranging from 23 - 33° C.

Impala at Kings Pool Camp

Wildlife
Elephant sightings were plentiful in January which is unusual for this time of the year. This is probably due to the late rains we had this rainy season. Many breeding herds were sighted along the Linyanti River followed at distance by the massive bulls. Small bachelor herds would often feed on the vegetation surrounding the camp.

General game has been very good with fantastic sightings of kudu, waterbuck, giraffe and impala. Hippo are as prolific as ever and are always seen in and out of the water along the river. Our resident individuals around camp have kept our guests entertained day and night this month as they spent their days right by the channel in front of the camp making their lovely sounds every few minutes, while every night just before or around dinner time, we would see them leaving the water on either side of the main area heading into the woodland for grazing. They would use the same route back to the water before sunrise.

Elephant at Kings Pool Camp    Wild dogs at Kings Pool Camp

The LTC Pride of lion has been sighted on a number of occasions this month, but they seem to be operating on the far western part of the concession towards Chobe. The dominant male lion, Kings Pool Male, is still around and is as strong as ever and still protecting his territory and family very well. The two ten-month-old cubs and two five-month-old cubs are still doing very well and are getting bigger and stronger every day. There are currently eight lions now in the LTC Pride (two adult females, one subadult male, one juvenile female, three juvenile males and the Kings Pool Male). The male could be heard roaring most evenings and mornings.

The LTC Pack of wild dogs caused a number of exciting sightings this month as we found them hunting many times. The pack has managed to raise seven out of the nine pups which were born this season. These seven juveniles have now pushed the pack's numbers up to 21. The pack spent most of the month on the western side of camp.

Lion at Kings Pool Camp    Lioness and cubs  at Kings Pool Camp

Birds and Birding
Birding is at its peak this month as we experienced some outstanding sightings with all the summer migrants present. Great raptors in particular were the order of the month.

Camp News
This month we celebrated the completion of our solar power installation! We are proud to announce that Kings Pool is 100% solar powered now. Our camp has now joined Mombo, Xigera, Banoka and Kalahari Plains as a sustainable camp.

Staff in Camp
Managers: Alex and One Mazunga, Wayne and Britt Vaughan and Rikki Lotter.
Guides: Khan Gouwe, Ndebo Tongwane, Yompy-Diye Kennetseng and OD Modikwa

Newsletter by Alex Mazunga.

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DumaTau Camp update - January 2013               Jump to DumaTau Camp

Water levels along the Linyanti Marsh and Savute Channel rose during the month, submerging some of our roads. The levels are dropping now and we are anticipating a second surge to fill the banks again. 167 mm of rain fell in January, more than double the amount we received in the same month last year. The bush is beautifully thick and lush but fortunately this has not impacted our game sightings.

Sunset from new pontoon

We have been very lucky to have the return of some long lost lions in the area. The "Channel Boys", as they are known, were spotted close to Savuti Camp on two separate occasions. Other lions that have moved back into the area are two males, which we suspect are from the old Savuti Pride, last seen at Dish Pan, as well as two other males on the southern banks of the Channel. The LTC Pride continues to extend its territory further west and has recently been seen many times around Chobe. The DumaTau Male lion has been spending most of his time around DumaTau Camp and First Corner Bridge, all the way to the Chobe airstrip.

On the leopard front, the DumaTau Male has been sighted mostly along the Savute Channel and was once seen mating. He is still in good shape as he continues to feed well on warthog piglets and the odd baby elephant! The Dish Pan Male is healthy and was seen around his namesake, Dish Pan, hunting. An unknown female was spotted at the old DumaTau site with a baby impala kill. She looked like she may have been pregnant or perhaps nursing so perhaps our wish for leopard cubs will come true!

Lions around DumaTau Camp

In terms of wild dog, the LTC Pack is doing well, still maintaining their number of 21 dogs. They have been feeding mostly on impala and the puppies are growing so fast that they can barely be differentiated from the full grown members of the pack were it not for the constant energy they find to play with one another! They have been sighted a few times this month, spending the majority of their time east of Savuti Camp through the mopane woodland.

Other interesting sightings this month have included that of a secretarybird which was seen building its nest south-east of camp.

We are very excited about our new floating "pontoon fire deck" which we opened in January. It stretches out into the Osprey Lagoon in front of the main area of camp offering superb views across the lagoon... just the spot for a sundowner!

Staff in Camp
Managers: Gerard, Claire, Lindi and Anja.
Guides: Lazi, Mocks, Moses, Name and Tank.

Photos by Claire Binks

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Savuti Camp update - January 2013               Jump to Savuti Camp

No report this month.

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Zarafa Camp update - January 2013               Jump to Zarafa Camp

No report this month.

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Selinda Camp update - January 2013               Jump to Selinda Camp

No report this month.

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Kwando Safari Camps Update - January 2013

Kwando Concession
PULA! The rains arrived with a vengence in January..... read on

January forms part of the so-called rainy season in Northern Botswana. Unlike in other countries, the rainy season is not like monsoon, but simply indicates the time of year when rain is expected and hoped for, as opposed to the majority of the year when no rain at all falls. Generally, the clouds build up for a few days, and then there is a sudden and brief thunderstorm, which quickly settles the dust.

This January, about 27 out of 31 of those days followed this pattern. Four of them, however, broke all patterns. On the 16th January, it started raining. Hard. And it kept raining hard. For just over three days, it let up for only short periods, and by the end of that time, rain records that had been held for more forty years in Northern Botswana had been broken. Many camps reported over 55 mls of rain in each of the three days – figures that are rarely achieved. Just over one third of the annual expected total rainfall fell.

Although rain is a cause for celebration in Botswana, a country that is almost entirely covered by the Kalahari sands, all the staff sympathised with the guests who struggled through the rain to experience some of the safari they had travelled so far to see. For many, it was a bigger struggle than anyone anticipated, as the cloud cover remained so low, the small planes that act as the shuttle buses and supply vehicles of the safari industry were unable to fly. Some guests had to spend an extra night in a camp rather than moving on to the next, and a few missed their international connections, though with good humour – the camps are a slightly better place to spend a night rather than cramped inside a metal tube! .

Luckily, in most areas on the fourth day, the rain stopped and the sun came out. Areas such as Nxai that had been particularly parched prior to the rains, sucked up the water quickly, so that there was soon little to be found on the baked dry tracks. In Kwara, on the 15th of January, a manager noted how dry the area was, with no water under the three main bridges. Three days later, it was back to using the bridges, as the rain had re-filled the channels and pans. It has not rained again since.

So what does this mean for the coming flood season? Rainfall in Botswana does not form part of the catchment area for the rivers that make up the Delta. However, the cloud cover that provided the rain also covered most of Southern Africa, and resulted in the destruction of homes in many countries due to fast rising river waters A larger than normal rainfall in Angola will lead to a big flood in the Delta in a few months, depending on how much is sucked up by the vegetation as it travels along the slow moving river - for the Delta, it's a matter of waiting and seeing!

Lagoon camp               Jump to Lagoon Camp
• Three female lions (two adults and one subadult) were found sleeping south of John's Pan at the beginning of the month, but sightings of lions were sparse for the rest of January.
• Leopard sightings were good, with relaxed females and males being seen – including one which was seen when the guide was walking guests back to room number 4 at night! A female leopard was also seen several times in the area around the BDF camp – she was very relaxed.
• The cheetahs remained absent, not having been seen since the lions chased them nearly two months ago. However, right at the end of January, the three brothers suddenly reappeared in the mopane scrub area, looking fit and healthy.
• However, other predators are making up for their absence, with the Lagoon Pack of dogs being seen almost every day with kills. They are focussing on baby impala and tsessebe, but kills have also included adult warthogs, impala and reedbuck. The pack spent three days closer to the Lebala camp, but then moved back in the direction of Lagoon.
• A very lucky night drive found an aardvark moving along the Old Lebala road, but hyenas, serval cat, porcupine and side-striped jackals were more commonly seen on the night drives.
• Although large buffalo herds are absent, there have been amazing sightings of a herd of eland numbering more than 100 individuals. Eland are notoriously shy – in spite of being the largest antelope – and often people are only able to have a fleeting glimpse as an eland departs. With such a large herd, they are slightly more relaxed.

Lebala camp               Jump to Lebala Camp
• The beginning of the year saw the Southern pack of dogs moving north west of Lebala camp. After feeding on impala one day, the pack spent the whole day along the edge of the water at Leopard road, before heavy rains arrived and they moved off to the thick Kalahari apple-leaf for cover. The next day they were found again, eating two baby impalas, and interacting with a group of hyenas. The dog pack was seen regularly throughout the month of January.
• The hyenas started the month with full stomachs, when a clan of 20 were seen feeding on a baby elephant. It could not be determined what had killed the baby, or if it had died of natural causes.
• Lots of breeding herds of elephants are back in the concession, and are seen daily feeding and having mud baths after the good rains.

Kwara & Little Kwara camps               Jump to Kwara & Little Kwara camps
•January had lion sightings almost every day, including regular sightings of the Solo pride, (two males and four females). One of the females has two young cubs. We've also seen mating lions this month, so hopefully in a couple of months time, there will be even more cubs in the area!
• Hyenas were also seen – both on drive and in camp! A pair of eyes glowing back at you as you are walked to your room, gives everyone a start, but they turn and move off with that easily-recognisable loping gait of a hyena. Out on drive, one car also came across four hyenas having an intense fight. After the fight, one of the hyenas had a broken leg, and the three other hyenas left him. It's going to be a very harsh, short life too for that hyena, as it is essential that the hyena can hunt for him/herself, in order to survive.
• Lots of general game throughout the concession, with large herds of zebra in the Splash area in particular, and many groups of giraffe dotted everywhere. One afternoon game drive found five giraffe sitting down together – an unusual sighting, and once they realised that we were watching, they clambered to their feet.
• On the 7th January, three cheetahs were found to be hunting. The guests were lucky enough to see them chase and catch a tssesebe in front of the car. The cheetahs were seen several other times during the month.
• The wild dogs were also fit and well, with the pack of eleven seen most often. They caught impala regularly, and with the odd variation in their diet of other young antelope. In addition, an adult female and two male dogs were found in the Splash area. They also had luck with their hunt, and were feasting on a young impala. Towards the end of the month, the pack numbered eight adults and five pups, so it's likely the dogs are just hunting in different areas, separating for a little while before rejoining the main group.
• Sometimes, a guest takes the time to write about what he or she has seen, rather than the guides filling out the sightings book. Here an extract from an anonymous guest, that sums up a couple of days at Kwara:
• "We stayed for two days and had brilliant sightings. Day 1 – three cheetah brothers set up a fantastic and successful kill. Saw vultures attacking a baby zebra carcass. Caught three male intruder lions marking new territory. Saw a beautiful female lioness devouring a baby warthog. Had evening tea with more than 30 hippos basking in water with a beautiful sunset on one side and the rising moon on the other."
• Other great sightings this month included guests who recorded 95 bird species in the three days they were at Kwara, and a very rare sighting of a sitatunga antelope whilst out on the boat.

Nxai Pan               Jump to Nxai Pan camp
• A phenomenal month at Nxai Pan with the zebra migration in full swing. The foals are already quite big, and all the herds look in great condition – apart from the odd one or two that show tell-tale signs of having a close shave with a lion.
• Everywhere you look on the pan, hundreds and hundreds of springbok are milling around, with their young offspring bouncing and pronking (yes that is a real word, it describes the vertical springing jump with arched back that springbok make!) . Not exactly sure of the cars, the young sometimes approach closer than the adults out of curiosity, before moving off, with their out of proportion rabbit-like ears flicking to and fro.
• With there being so many zebra around the park, the lions have dispersed, as there is no need to stay close to the waterholes, hoping that something will come down to drink. In addition, three days of heavy rain – the most rain northern Botswana has seen in 40 years! – meant that there are pans in many more spots, rather than the few isolated waterholes. Two male intruder lions were seen at the beginning of the month, but the young pride also saw them and moved out of the way quickly! Sadly, it's thought that these male lions then moved out of the park and into the surrounding areas to the west, where they spent several weeks in January catching the much easier prey of domestic cows. There was a report at the end of the month of farmers shooting these 'problem animals'.
• The cheetahs, however, are still around, and we have had some lovely sightings. One of these included a young male who was seen close to the road, only a few minutes after heading out of the camp on morning game drive. He was posing elegantly, and was very photogenic. At one point, he decided that he needed to practice his hunting skills, and instead of focusing on one of the numerous springboks that were never far away, his attention was drawn to a very suspicious looking pile of elephant dung. He leapt and pounced on it, and created his own game of football with the dried dung, much to the amusement of the on-lookers!
• The waterholes do still draw different species together, though perhaps not with as much angst as it can be during the dry season, it's still important to be cautious when drinking. That must somehow explain the interesting meeting of a zebra and a leopard tortoise at one waterhole one afternoon. The tortoise had made it to the edge of the water, and was about to drink, when an approaching zebra startled him. He quickly withdrew his head and legs into the safety of his shell, but the sudden movement in turn startled the zebra. The two animals then proceeded into a 'duet of startlement' as each one alternately relaxed, then noticed the other one, made a quick withdrawal, in turn startling the other animal. Eventually, both animals realised they were not under immediate attack, and managed to get on with the business of drinking.

Tau Pan               Jump to Tau Pan camp
• Tau Pan lion pride (currently just the two females and six young lions from the litters two years ago) had a good start to January, and killed an oryx on the southern side of the pan. They were seen feeding on it, after having taken it down during the night.
By the middle of the month, they had killed another oryx, which they seem to finally be developing a skill at catching!
• A couple of days later, a cheetah was seen hunting to the west of the waterhole, and managed to catch a duiker. He was able to feed on the duiker for some time, before the jackals that had moved in on seeing him catch something, irritated him too much and he left.
• A large number of white storks arrived in Tau Pan- 105 to be exact (!)… - and spent the days feeding on insects. The jackals – several families live on the Pan – tried their luck at catching them, but were unsuccessful. Jackals have an interesting family structure – the parents normally mate for life, and one or two pups from the first litter they have stay with the parents to help raise the next litter, before moving off and finding their own mate.
• Our lovely visitors from last month – the wild dogs – also came back this month to the waterhole in front of camp. Numbering seven – two adults and five subadults – spent time running through the waterhole and playing. All look healthy, though the alpha female does have some scars on her shoulder and back, but these seem not to be bothering her. Last month there were eight in number, so we are hoping that the missing one was busy out hunting at the time they were seen.

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Mombo Camp update - January 2013               Jump to Mombo Camp

As I write this, the whole camp is reeling from a night of lion interaction. At 3am, the Maporota Pride chased a herd of buffalo through camp, sending them thundering past management houses and under guest tents. Sean, one of the managers, tried to shine his torch through his window to see what was happening and was sent swiftly back to bed by a sharp growl indicating a feline intruder lying on his deck! This morning, the lower boardwalk outside Mombo lounge is out of bounds as the pride has scattered across the floodplain area there.

As ever, Mombo has been crawling with cats. What made this month particularly interesting was the heavy rain in the first two weeks, which has sent the regular pride boundaries spinning into chaos. We endured a massive four-day storm, which transformed the landscape at Mombo from a patchy paradise of puddles to a great series of pans and lakes teeming with hippo and myriad birdlife. With territories disrupted by the water, pride boundaries have been blurred and the lions have found their domains overlapping. The Maporota Pride has moved to the north of the floodplains in front of camp, causing conflict with the Mathata Pride which has also been seen frequently. There were 45 separate lion sightings recorded in January, and one group of guests noted 39 different individuals seen in three days!

Hyaena and jackal

The Mathata Pride proved its formidable force this month, taking down a buffalo with apparent ease. The lions were found early in the morning, sleeping under a bush: at about 8am they began to walk in procession across the floodplain at Suzie's Duck Pond, moving east towards the treeline. We followed them for about an hour before they noticed a herd of buffalo moving towards them. The lions immediately shifted into hunting position, crouching in the grass in smaller groups. One ambitious young male stood up too soon, and scuppered their chances: the herd raised the alarm and chased the lions away. Then, Blue-Eyes, the striking male leopard who stalks this territory, walked casually past the guests as they were still reeling from the failed lion hunt. A quick reminder of the other beautiful felines of the Mombo area, before the lions reclaim centre stage…

The Mathata Pride, having chastised its over-boisterous male, found itself in a perfect position to ambush some straggling dagga boys (old male buffalo) lurking at the back of the main buffalo herd. The 12 lions attacked one lone male, leaping onto his back and dragging him down, his anguished moans piercing the still air around Suzie's. It took approximately 12 minutes for the buffalo to die: guests witnessed an intriguing example of cooperative asphyxiation, as one female clamped her jaws over the buffalo's mouth for ten minutes before being relieved from her task by another female who immediately took over for another ten. The teamwork required to take down an animal of this size is truly remarkable.

There was another tragedy for the Mombo team this month, which was all too reminiscent of the incident in December. We were ecstatic when guests caught a glimpse of Legadema's new cub one morning: two bright blue eyes peeking out from the long grass, while famous mum reclined nearby, proudly showing off her little infant. Sadly, this was the only sighting of the new baby, as Molai, the large male leopard, lived up to his name yet again and the cub was found dead later that day. Pula and Legadema will come into oestrus again, we know, and the cycle will be re-attempted. This type of infanticide is a natural and inevitable consequence of the concentration of leopards in this area, particularly where two females and two males live in such close proximity.

Happily, there were 25 different leopard sightings in January, including that of the elusive 'Maru,' who is rarely seen. Soon after her cub was killed, Legadema was seen regularly not far from camp, and one day she formed one half of a truly mind-blowing sighting with Molai. The large male was happily ensconced in a sausage tree on an impala kill, oblivious to the attention he was receiving from his human admirers below. A little further down the road, we found Legadema prowling back in the direction of Molai's tree. We followed her back in his direction, but instead of attempting to join him, the sleek female leapt up into a different tree and retrieved her own impala kill! There we sat, in between two trees, occupied by two leopards, each with their own kill.

Lion pride    Kudu

The lone wild dog displayed some interesting scavenging behaviour this month, arriving with the jackals at a zebra carcass to steal meat from a group of hyaena. This could be an example of her adapted survival techniques as a lone dog, if she is resorting to scavenging in order to keep herself and her adopted family alive.

The general game has not been outdone by the famous feline inhabitants at Mombo, however. Large groups of giraffe, 40 strong at times, scatter themselves around the bell bean thickets, the adults keeping a sharp eye out for prowling predators that threaten their many babies. There have been more snakes seen basking in the steamy weather recently as well: a black mamba swimming across a puddle on the airstrip, a Southern African python being dive-bombed by drongos above the office, and the ever-present spotted-bush snakes lounging along the balustrades and chasing frogs across the deck in camp.

To finish this month with a flourish, 50 flamingos were seen flying north across the sky. As irregular visitors, they are much celebrated as they pass us by, gracing us with their presence for a fleeting moment before they disappear in a swathe of pink. As I end this update for January, I can hear a report on the radio on our feline visitors' movements: they are now lying very happily in the shade outside Cayley's house at Little Mombo. Sharing our accommodation with the Mombo cats just comes with the territory here, really.

Managers in camp: Graham, Liz, Graeme, Jemima, Dittmar, Cayley, Sean and Glen.
Guides in camp: Callum, Moss, Tsile, Cisco and Doc.

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Xigera Camp update - January 2013               Jump to Xigera Camp

No report his month.


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Chitabe Camp update - January 2013               Jump to Chitabe Camp

No report this month.


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Vumbura Plains Camp update - January 2013               Jump to Vumbura Plains Camp

We have had a fabulous month, as January was filled with great events. We experienced a lot of rain at the beginning of the month, with a total of 90 mm being received on one day. These bouts of rain have caused all of the pans to fill up, substantially increasing the surface water in the area.

The concession has many beautiful floodplains which are filled with a variety of plains game. This month was a testament to the above as we encountered large herds and numbers of giraffe, buffalo, tsessebe, kudu and elephant. Generally speaking, once we receive large amounts of rain, the buffalo and elephant move into the mopane woodlands, but this has not been the case this year, as both these large herbivore species are sticking to the open plains. Another species that we are delighted to find regularly is sable, which have also remained on the woodland fringes.

Wilddog seen around Vumbura Plains Camp    Elephant seen around Vumbura Plains Camp

We have also had some amazing predator sightings, seeing new lions in the area. One day, close to Kaporota, we came across a lioness with three subadult cubs. The cubs were very shy and not used to the presence of a vehicle. The other lioness with her three subadult cubs that we normally see to the north of the concession has been very successful on hunts and they are all looking well fed and healthy. This small family was recently joined by another lioness with two cubs. This new group has been hanging around the airstrip area for most of the month. The three large dominant males of the area have also been seen this month and have been actively patrolling their territory.

Leopards have also been around - and we have come across quite a few different individuals. Selonyana's subadult cub has been moving around the camp area and for two days in the month she was seen feeding on a kill in the camp area.

The guides have seen Selonyana around at the beginning of the month and she looked heavily pregnant; now they think that she is lactating, which means that we would have an increase in the leopard population. We have also been seeing the male leopard that was mating with Selonyana.

Cheetah at Vumbura Plains Camp    Leopard at Vumbura Plains Camp

The famous Golden Pack of wild dogs has been seen in the northern boundary of the concession and have been hunting extensively as they take full advantage of the bounty of baby animals. Our guests have had the opportunity to observe a number of successful hunts. We have also enjoyed a number of great cheetah sightings, especially around the airstrip area.

The managers in camp for the month were Kago"KG", Tumoh and Kci and the guiding team were Emang, Ban, Onx, Barobi and ST.

All images courtesy of Kago "KG" Tlhalerwa

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Little Vumbura Camp update - January 2013               Jump to Little Vumbura Camp

It has been a great start to the New Year here at Little Vumbura with a lot of very welcome rain. In this month we have experienced an amazing 451 mm of rain: 200 mm of which came in two days, with one evening bringing 120 mm in eight hours! Unfortunately, that was not a great thing as all five of our boats on the island were sunk by this massive deluge. Although we have had so much rain the temperatures have still soared and humidity has been high. Temperatures have been as high as 40° C with the lowest being 28° C.

Boat excursions    Water Lillies at Little Vumbura Camp

The rain has caused huge confusion with the water levels in the Delta. The water rose 300 mm in three days and absolutely swamped our roads and made the island almost inaccessible via our boat station near camp. The solution was simple though as we began boating to camp via our floodplain channel directly from the airstrip - three months earlier than we should have though. The water level is at present 10 mm lower than last year's annual inundation peak but two weeks ago was actually higher. Things are however returning to normal, but we fear if the remaining rain water does not begin to evaporate at a faster rate we are in for a substantial inundation this season.

Luckily with all the rain, water and muddy roads it has not put a dampener our activities in camp. It has been a beautifully diverse month with the weather change, but being based on an island and surrounded by water we have adapted easily. The grass may be tall and green, as is usual this time of year but sightings have been phenomenal. Guests have had the privilege of watching the resident wild dogs, known as the Golden Pack, attack and kill a buffalo. While seeing these rare dogs is awesome, witnessing a kill is amazing - but seeing them successfully bring down a buffalo is basically unheard of.

Lion in the area have also been incredibly active. The resident pride, known as the Kubu Pride, which consists of a large lioness with two subadult females and two subadult males, have settled into the airstrip area - often a great welcome for our arriving guests.

Long reed frogs seen around Camp

Herds of elephant, buffalo, sable and a variety of plains game are always usual sightings in the area at the moment and the birdlife is as usual fantastic. The highlight has been using the boats to transfer to and from the airstrip; we constantly get to see malachite kingfishers and lesser jacana which are not often otherwise seen.

The water may be high, but that is why we have boats and mekoro. Boating through the gorgeous channels has been highly popular with guests. Sightings are not usually prolific from the boat but guests have been lucky enough to view the rare sitatunga from the water. On the very tranquil mokoro, guests have seen hundreds of painted reed frogs, Angolan reed frogs and long reed frogs, which considering their size aren't the easiest to spot.

Managers: Hamish, Millie, Mamma Kay and KB.
Guides: Sam, Sevara and Madala Kay.
Newsletter by Hamish Henderson.

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Duba Plains Camp update - January 2013               Jump to Duba Plains Camp

No report this month.

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Banoka Bush Camp update - January 2013

Weather and Landscape
The weather has been really pleasant this month as it has not been too hot and we have received some rain. It rained for an entire week in fact, which really helped to rejuvenate the landscape and fill up all of the pans.

Wildlife
This month we have experienced some great wildlife sightings all over the concession - proving that December can produce some of the best game viewing in the Delta. Babies bounded everywhere and general game was prolific.

Around Banoka Bush Camp

The resident pack of wild dogs really wowed our guests. It is always amazing to watch the interaction between these predators as they are highly social animals with an interesting social dynamic. On one occasion, one of the guides picked up fresh tracks while out on morning drive. After following these tracks for a little while - which was quite challenging as the dogs were traversing over thick grass and brush - suddenly an alarm call was heard, which pointed the game viewers in the right direction. Shortly after this, the pack was found running down an impala fawn. Impact was made in an open area and the dogs wasted no time in killing the young impala in clear view of the guests. Albeit a tragic and traumatic experience to witness, it is also part of nature and a very special sight to witness. When the guests arrived back to camp they could not contain themselves and immediately shared their adventure with camp staff. The dogs definitely topped the predator sightings in the concession this month.

As nature dictates, dogs do not like cats, and this played out clearly during an afternoon drive. I was lucky to join some guests on a drive and witness this exciting encounter. The Banoka Female, a leopard that is well known to camp guides, encountered the resident pack of wild dogs while they were searching for prey. The canine pack immediately shifted their attention to the feline, who was staring at them intently. The dogs rushed at the leopard, which sprinted to the nearest tree and straight up. The dogs soon reached the base of the tree and could do nothing but glare at the leopard with chagrin. The dogs soon left the area to continue with their hunting foray. Once the leopard felt it was safe to come down, she slunk into a thicket and disappeared.

Other leopard sightings for the month include the Machaba Female and an unknown male that was seen in the western areas and was very relaxed in our presence. This feline was seen a few days later walking close to the airstrip.

Wild dogs at Banoka Bush Camp    Leopard seen around Banoka Bush Camp

The Kings of the Jungle, the lions, did not disappoint this month either, as we had some great sightings of the Discovery Males, the Maleitho Pride as well as the two nomadic males that were seen last month.

On the smaller side of the scale, we had a really exciting snake encounter in camp when we found an olive grass snake feeding on a stripe-bellied sand snake. It was very interesting to watch the entire process.

Birds and Birding
Birding was exceptionally good this month. Quite often we had solid birding right in front of camp in the lagoon, which attracted myriad water species and waders. The variety of habitats in the concession means there's an equally great variety of birds that can be seen in the concession.

The birding highlight for the month was the sighting of a martial eagle killing a helmeted guineafowl. The guests were blown away by the size and strength of the raptor which dispatched the fowl quickly. Despite the eagle being skittish, our guests managed to get some good photographs of the entire episode.

Staff in Camp
Managers: Lops, Lebo and Mish.
Guides: Willie, Chris, Reuben, Moses and Lucas.

Newsletter by Lops.

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Jacana Camp update - January 2013               Jump to Jacana Camp

Weather and Landscape
January was blessed with two really good bouts of rain, raising the total rainfall to 267 mm for the month. This localised rainfall pushed the water levels in the Delta up quite substantially, which has allowed us to do mokoro trips from the front of camp instead of starting further away.

The last ten days of the month, however, were very dry, and this coupled with high temperatures in excess of 30° C, the water levels began to drop rapidly.

Boomslang    Lightning over Jacana Camp

Wildlife
We did not get out on drive that much this month as we spent half of the month on annual maintenance at camp. This was a time for all of our staff to don old clothes and roll up our sleeves! We have been busy scrubbing down our decks, cleaning the woodwork, sanding and varnishing, repainting and generally giving our camp a really good deep clean ready for our guests to arrive in the latter part of the month.

However, during this maintenance time, we have been treated to the regular nightly visits of our resident male hippo that has been coming onto the island for a good graze on our grasses before returning to the water.

A wonderful treat for Phil and myself one night was the delightful spectacle of three young large-spotted genets playing on the deck of the Family Tent. On being caught in our torchlight, the little ones scurried off and try as we might, we have not been able to pick them up on the motion sensor cameras that we have placed in strategic areas. We have, however, managed to get some photographs of one of the adult large-spotted genets investigating the bushes opposite our kitchen.

This month has been very quiet for our usual visitors, the bull elephants, although three bulls were seen crossing from one island to another in front of camp, but as yet have not chosen to visit Jacana itself. We are hoping that the ripening lala palm nuts will draw them back to our island.

Evening Activities at the Boma    Stork at Jacana Camp

When guests have been in camp, all of our mokoro trips have been very successful with clear sightings of the resident pair of Pel's fishing-owls. One of the highlights for the month was the sighting of a Southern African python consuming a sizeable fish on the edge of a waterway - definitely not something we get to see every day.

Staff in Camp
Managers: Phil and Jo Oliver
Guides: Timothy Samuel and Moruti Maipelo.

Newsletter by Jo Oliver.

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Abu Camp update - January 2013               Jump to Abu Camp

Abu Camp braced itself for the late rains of January as we watched the pregnant clouds roll in from the east and without haste they spilled their bounty all over the Abu Concession. Three days passed and the camp area was inundated, mekoro and weather-proof jackets readied and "operation save Abu" was launched.

Sunset over Abu Camp

The camp came to life as the giant Mozambican weather monster moved off into the distance; every seed that had been lying in wait germinated and the Okavango sprang awake creating our very own nursery of life. We sustained some camp damage following 180 mm of rain but our spirits were rejuvenated as sunshine filled the camp once again. The rain is somewhat a love-hate relationship, it creates weeks of "raintenance" but after any heavy rain, the general game seems to pop out of every corner of the earth and enjoy the fresh shoots of now abundant grass.

The resident pride of four lion made their presence at the airstrip known as they attempted to catch but missed a zebra, leaving it horribly injured, but they regrouped and successfully acquired themselves a wildebeest for dinner. The Seba hyaena clan, as always, made their whooping enthusiasm clear to the world as they tend to do every evening whilst patrolling the airstrip.

Kudu at Abu Camp    Lion around Abu Camp

Abu Camp itself has three new celebrities. The first two are Tom and Jerry - the two confident hyaena. They are becoming rather comfortable visiting during the screening of the Paseka movie at our sundowner spot and have graced us with their presence on many an evening.

The other is Limpy the baboon. Limpy, aptly named because of his distinctive limp, thinks that he is a feline. A true cat burglar, he now knows how to open the kitchen door and helps himself to our five-star foods, the cheek of it!

Other amazing sightings in the concession over the past month include a beautiful female leopard with her one remaining cub, a cheetah on the airstrip, roan antelope and a number of venomous and non-venomous snakes. The cheetah seem to be settling into the area and the Seba guides are great at getting a number of sightings of them. We hope they continue to dazzle guests in our concession.

Guests have also been lucky to observe a number of Southern African pythons which are out to try and get their stake of small springhares or baby antelope which are plentiful in the concession at the moment. We have also had buffalo return to Maribou Pan for their own personal sundowners. Our favourite sighting this month was a bateleur feeding on a baboon carcass! All in all, the game in the concession is alive and magnificent.

Leopard around Abu Camp    Oryx around Abu Camp

Abu has also launched two new bush activities. Our new bush breakfast site is only accessible by mokoro or elephant - have you ever had breakfast with elephants? African star-gazing tapas is our second new spectacle. 45 minutes away from camp and completely cut out from the world, it is an experience of a lifetime. Finger foods including sticky African riblets and bite-size caramelised mustard pork medallions are only the tip of the ice berg with the executive chef preparing all dishes to perfection! Find a planet through the telescope whilst sipping on your favourite single malt whisky and enjoy the orchestra of the African night.

The new research camp has come to life, with Dr. Mike Chase having almost completed his African explorer-styled design. The location is nestled in and amongst a number of jackalberry trees.

Regards
The Abu Herd
Newsletter by Nathan Keegan

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Kwetsani Camp update - January 2013               Jump to Kwetsani Camp

The first month of 2013 proved to be a good one, with great guests, wonderful sightings and enjoyable company. Kwetsani was busy for the first half of the month and then we closed down for our annual maintenance, where we refresh the camp for a new year, so by the end of it, Kwetsani will also have a new and clean feel.

Weather and Landscape
The month of January was really a wet month, with two big rain storms where we had over 100 mm for each storm. The storms were accompanied by strong winds which had the rain falling horizontally. A few trees around the camp were felled by the storms, but not much damage to infrastructure was done. Towards the end of the month, we started getting high temperatures during the day, but due to all the rain, the evenings have still been cool and comfortable.

Sunset over Kwetsani Camp    Lion at Kwetsani Camp

Wildlife
For about half of the month, during the night and early mornings, we were greeted by the roars of lions. These have either come from the Jao Pride or the intruder. The Jao Pride was on the northern Kwetsani floodplain in the beginning of the month, where they killed a lechwe and our guests got some great photographs of the juvenile male playing with his food. The pride then crossed the northern river and we have not seen them again. The young male or 'intruder' has been around Kwetsani Island for the last 10 days and he has been roaring each and every night, looking for other lions. He is often sighted by the water pump.

Leopard sightings have been scarce on Hunda Island but our guides have worked hard and most of our guests have seen this elusive feline. Hyaena have also been sighted in and around Kwetsani as well as on Hunda Island. The young male hyaena has been seen under Tent 4 and around the kitchen where he has been hoping to scavenge a tasty morsel or two.

The resident bushbuck have been seen each day and even the males are becoming more relaxed when they are sighted from the walkways.

A group of four buffalo were seen near the airstrip and on the Jao floodplains, great herds of lechwe are always around. A couple of reedbuck are often seen in front of Kwetsani and impala are never far away.

Woodpecker at Kwetsani Camp    Rhino Beetle

Birds and Birding
The birdlife around the Jao Concession never fails to amaze and for birders, this is a great time. With all the rain, a small surge of water occurred in the waterways, which brought out all the newly-hatched fry and the catfish also came out of the mud. This caused the African fish-eagles to have a feast and enjoy the extra helpings. Woodland kingfishers are also seen and the sheer numbers of wattled cranes and saddle-billed storks are amazing.

A black-breasted snake-eagle has been seen between Kwetsani and Jao Camp as well as black-shouldered kites. The bulbuls, golden weavers and robins are seen every day bathing in the bird bath on the main deck.

Staff in Camp
Managers: Ian and Michélle Burger.
Guides: Florence Kagiso and Ronald Ronald.

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Jao Camp update - January 2013               Jump to Jao Camp

Weather and Landscape
The wake of the month came with hot open skies in the morning and mid-afternoon thunderstorms that passed through. The new moon brought about an interesting but expected change in rainfall pattern. We have had a good month of rain and in total, we received 222 mm of rain for January, not bad at all.

All this rain has been caught on the floodplains and on the roads where it lies in pools, which just goes to show the sensitivity of our ecosystem and how high the water table is. As rainwater fills the floodplains, many birds have congregated, enhancing the panoramic views of the plains.

Lion at Jao Camp    Hayena

Wildlife
After spending some time around the boundaries of their territory, early this month, the Jao Pride moved over to the Kwetsani floodplains. With one of the young females showing signs of readiness to mate in late December, the dominant male followed at their heels. An intruder male that was first seen in September and still shy at that time has resurfaced and this time with slightly more confidence and we were able to photograph this handsome young male. He followed the Jao Pride to northern Kwetsani probably behind the young female's strong trail of pheromones, but no encounter seems to have taken place yet with the dominant male.

Other swift predator tracks have been seen on Jao Island: a young male leopard, it seems, moves with the shadows, leaving only tracks to see or the alarm call of vervet monkeys as he vanishes. We were able to get a good visual of the cat, but as in most cases a camera was not handy! The young female on Hunda Island on the other hand was not shy to show her spots, and on one occasion she was seen with a warthog kill that was a bit too much for her to move up a tree to safety, so she enjoyed her meal at the foot of an acacia.

Wildlife aroud Jao Camp

We have had quite a bit of snake activity this month and seen a lot more than we are used to. A snouted cobra was given away by pestering starlings as it slithered along the walkways to safety! A Cape wolf snake, rhombic night-adder and quite a few variegated bush snakes were seen, as well as a few who were a bit too quick for us to identify!

The 'Jao Mafia', our banded mongoose troop, is getting its numbers up; we have seen some heavily pregnant females forage around mid-month.

Birds and Birding
The rains this month have resulted in birds flocking on the floodplains as they wade, skim and search for small fish that the swollen main tributaries have washed away onto the flat open plains - what a spectacle at sunset! A flock of about 40 wattled cranes, marabou storks, yellow-billed storks, African fish-eagles, hamerkop, pied kingfishers, saddle-billed storks, egrets and pratincoles, just to mention a few, have been gracing the floodplains.

In camp we have seen a few visitors chirping or doing acrobatics above our heads: broad-billed rollers above the main area, black-headed orioles hidden in the mangosteen canopy and blue-cheeked bee-eaters diving for insects in the evening light. On one spectacular sunset over the Jao floodplain, we had a scoop of pelicans stop over, perhaps to enjoy the view and just say 'Howzit!'

Pied kingfishers    Osprey seen at Jao Camp

We have also had a heated debate among managers about an osprey that was mistaken for an immature martial eagle! With a blurry image to argue over, please check our picture and help Angie out.

Staff in Camp
Managers: Neuman Vasco, William and Angie Whiteman and Phillistus Ngisi.
Guides: Bee Makgetho, Alberto Mundu, Solomon Kanyeto, Johnny Mowanji and Cruise Mollowakgotla.

We welcomed new members to the team this month - Pierre Joubert, Charl Bergh and Nadia Fourie.


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Seba Camp update - January 2013               Jump to Seba Camp

A new year has dawned on the Abu Concession, bringing new faces and new and exciting prospects for what looks like an incredible year ahead of us.

The weather has been all over the show this month. At the beginning of January we had some massive electrical storms, huge winds sweeping through the floodplains and an incredible amount of rain that seemed endless but was welcomed by humans and animals alike. Through the latter part of the month the long, hot summer days returned, baking the earth dry again and making the swimming pools look more and more enticing.

Yet the weather changes brought some spectacular changes to the bush as well. The Delta is greener than we have ever seen it. Summer brings this amazing colour spectrum into the bush that makes you surrender to its beauty. From the mangosteens to the jackal berries and the sycamore figs to the sausage trees, the bush is covered in a sea of green that's nourishing every creature that resides within it.

The resident hyaena has been frequently seen lurking around Seba Camp in January. He especially likes the one management tent and seems to visit it every night. We have a massive bull elephant that stomps through camp every night as well - heading straight for the fruiting sycamore fig trees we have growing in the front of the camp.

Speaking of figs, the monkeys and the baboons have been at war over these - lots of screaming and grabbing and big commotions in the trees have caused for a few good hours of entertainment.

Lion seen around Seba Camp

We also had a lion pride in the concession in mid-January - two females and two incredibly beautiful light-maned males. They spend most of their time - like all lions do - relaxing under a tree waiting for the blistering heat to pass. We have had a leopard cross through camp a couple of times as well. But the sneaky feline only left clues like tracks in the sand and growls in the air - toying with us whilst moving in the shadows.

Seba Camp has been busy with some much-needed sprucing up as well. We have sanded all our decks and they look brand new! We have also extended our dining room by a couple of feet and it is looking amazing.

The smells that came out of the Seba kitchen in January were out of this world. Abigail the chef trainer was here cooking up a storm. The food was incredible and we have all gained a couple of pounds. The chefs also improved their skills and are now producing dishes of impeccable quality.

January was an amazing start to 2013 and a sign of more incredible things to come. The weather was spectacular, the vegetation extraordinary and the wildlife as jaw-dropping as always. The Delta is a sensational place to be in this year and we are all looking forward to the excitements this year will bring.

Staff in Camp
Managers: Beatrice, Alex and Aaron.
Guides: Matamo, Jacko and Speedy.

Newsletter by Beatrice Coetser


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Tubu Tree Camp update - January 2013               Jump to Tubu Tree Camp

Weather and Landscape
The days have been warm and sunny, but at the start of the month we had a fair amount of rain on a daily basis, after which we were blessed with warm days and wet soil. A few days after the middle of the month, we had a late evening thunderstorm with lots of rain. The next morning when we went to look at the rain gauge it had overflowed and it was still raining - we estimated it at about 120 mm that night. That day was then cool and overcast with some drizzle. That evening the rain came again and we received another 115 mm making our total for a period of 36 hours almost 240 mm! The bush burst into life, the water channels started rising and we could see the glistening of water in the floodplain in front of camp, but this did not last for very long. The days that followed quickly burnt off all moisture in the soil.

Leopard with wardhog kill    Baby Cameleon

As we were closed for maintenance this month, we did not get many opportunities to go out on game drive, but the drives that we did go on were not a disappointment. On the day that we closed for maintenance, one of our guides radioed me to tell me that he had found a female leopard (Impala Ridge Female) at Kalahari Pans, and she had just killed a warthog. By the time I got there she was in the open dragging the carcass towards the edge of the water into a large clump of reeds. A few days later we went out on a game drive towards Elephant Bones and Impala Ridge, where we know there is a resident female leopard (Impala Ridge Female). We found her not too long into the search with a baby warthog that she had killed and dragged up into a sausage tree. When we found her she was overlooking the floodplain and the general game that was walking in the plain. She relaxed and started feeding on the warthog carcass. She did it so elegantly, sucking on the intestines and then pulling it through her incisor teeth, to push out all the digested food, after which she would swallow the intestines. Gruesome I know, but great to witness nonetheless. We left her to enjoy her prize, and had sundowners while watching a troop of baboons settle in for the night in some large knob thorns. After sundowners, we made a quick turn past the tree and the leopard wasn't there, so we decided to come back to camp.

On the way back to camp, the manager that stayed behind in camp (Hein) radioed us to tell us that there was a male leopard in a tree not far from camp, so we decided to have a quick look since it was on our way home. We saw the young male enjoying a power nap in a large marula tree on the outskirts of camp. We then decided to see if we could find the resident honey badgers, so we drove towards our staff village and there, walking behind one of the staff tents, was our third leopard for the drive... Another hat-trick drive in true Hunda Island style!

Elephant    Flame Lilly

The rest of the month was a bit quiet, with daily visits in camp from a few herds of elephant, as well as zebra, blue wildebeest and impala. We also had the regular night visits from the clan of hyaena (thinking that anything that lies on the ground, accidentally forgotten is a chew toy for them) and the Tubu Female and her two cubs left their tracks for us to find.

Birds and Birding
Large flocks of southern carmine bee-eaters have been seen around the central parts of the island, feeding on termites, while red-footed falcons have been seen feeding on small insects in the floodplain in front of camp during dusk.

We have also regularly seen wattled cranes as well as southern ground-hornbills in camp.

Camp News
Tubu Tree has been closed for maintenance from the first week of January to the second week of February, as we are in the process of building Little Tubu - a brand new sister camp on the side of Tubu Tree Camp. We have also been busy building three additional rooms for Tubu Tree Camp as well as walkways to and from the rooms and main area on decks. Keep your eyes posted for the opening of Little Tubu.

Swainsons Spurfowl

Guest Comments
"Kambango was excellent at explaining everything. Elephants on and near the airstrip - the calves playing together. The baboon jumping up and catching flying termites. Also the room and the open air showers and the main room loo! Our hosts were also great - 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! Seven in total."

Staff in Camp
Managers: Hein and Eloise Holton.
Guides: GT Sarepito, Kambango Sinimbo and Gibson Kehemetswe.


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Kalahari Plains Camp update - January 2013               Jump to Kalahari Plains Camp

January started off with some really comfortable weather conditions as we experienced overcast conditions most of the time - effectively removing the sting from the summer sun. We experienced some much-needed rain too, which further cooled things down and more importantly, rejuvenated the Kalahari landscape.

The excessive vegetation bloom was however limited, as by mid-month there was an outbreak of African armyworms which fed excessively off the new grasses that had just sprouted. These armyworms were seen all over the reserve and around the camp area. This caused the grazing species of antelope to move into areas that were not affected so extensively by the little critters. However, as nature has a way of balancing things out, huge flocks of Abdim's storks arrived and were feeding furiously on these worms and within a week they were all gone.

Kalahari Plains pride of lions     Springbok around Kalahari Plains Camp

On the mammalian side, we had good sightings of springbok, blue wildebeest and oryx - often in big congregations along the plains. An amazing record for the month was the small bachelor herds of elephant which were seen on occasion.

On the predatory front, four male cheetah graced us with their presence for a week before disappearing into the vast Kalahari. The Kalahari Plains pride of lions also hung around the camp area for a couple of days. We were lucky to observe a pair mating over a five day period at Big Pan.

The good amounts of rain also attracted some water birds to the area towards the end of the month, with the likes of African jacanas and red-billed teals settling in.

Compiled by Rogers.


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