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AFRICAN SAFARI NEWS

March 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
Wilderness Collection's Segera Retreat named Hideaways' Newcomer of the Year
March 2013 – Wilderness Collection is thrilled to announce that Segera Retreat has been named as Newcomer of the Year by exclusive travel magazine Hideaways. Segera's owner Jochen Zeitz received this accolade at an award ceremony and dinner held at the Ritz Carlton Berlin on 8th March 2013.

Hideaways, published in German and English, has a circulation of 60 000, from which a third is supplied to First Class of Lufthansa on international flights. Each year, the magazine honours "extraordinary" new hotels and resorts with its prestigious "Hotel Newcomer of the Year" award at an annual event that is a highlight of ITB Berlin. Every year, innovative and refreshingly fascinating hotels and resorts are opened, with Hideaways honouring these, which it deems point of view extraordinary, with the "Newcomer of the Year" award.

Segera Retreat, located in the heart of the Laikipia Plateau at the foot of Mount Kenya, exudes the very essence of Africa: freedom, spectacular vastness, untamed fauna and fascinating encounters with ethnic traditions and African art. Covering an area of some 20 000 hectares, the privately-owned ranch and stunning retreat, in keeping with the holistic and ecological philosophy of the Zeitz Foundation founded by ranch owner Jochen Zeitz, allows visitors to explore the culture of Africa and experience Kenya at its most inspiring.

Under the premise of "Acting today for a better tomorrow", and through the establishment of the 4Cs (Conservation, Community, Culture and Commerce), owner Jochen Zeitz has committed himself together with his team to conserve and protect the natural habitat, the traditions and the culture of this unique part of the world.

Wilderness Collection is thrilled to be part of this exciting and innovative project.


Governors Camp Collection enters the indian market
The Governors’ Camp Collection makes an entry into the Indian Market, with the appointment of Ms. Renuka Natu as Head of Marketing.

The Governors’ Camp Collection that comprises of 7 Award Winning luxury safari camps and lodges in the heart of the best wildlife viewing areas of Kenya and Rwanda have their eyes set on Market India.

With over 40 years in operation, the company also operates two aircrafts, which are exclusively used to fly their clients to and between their camps. Complimented by their own fleet of Safari vehicles driven by extremely well trained driver guides, and also operating their own Hot-air Balloon Safaris, they take the Safari experience to a completely different level. As the team at the Governors’ wishes to thank the Indian Market for the support received thus far, they also request the support from the Indian Travel Trade to Ms. Renuka Natu who assumes her position this February. Ms. Natu brings along her experience in the areas of Operations & Marketing at Senior Managerial positions with Kuoni & Switzerland Tourism, as well as her more recent know-how in the areas of Representations & Destination Trainings with Vintage Africa & the Schilthorn Cableway.

Let’s welcome the Governors’ Camp Collection to Market India.


Wilderness Collection's Segera Retreat named Hideaways' Newcomer of the Year

March 2013 – Wilderness Collection is thrilled to announce that Segera Retreat has been named as Newcomer of the Year by exclusive travel magazine Hideaways. Segera's owner Jochen Zeitz received this accolade at an award ceremony and dinner held at the Ritz Carlton Berlin on 8th March 2013.

Hideaways, published in German and English, has a circulation of 60 000, from which a third is supplied to First Class of Lufthansa on international flights. Each year, the magazine honours "extraordinary" new hotels and resorts with its prestigious "Hotel Newcomer of the Year" award at an annual event that is a highlight of ITB Berlin. Every year, innovative and refreshingly fascinating hotels and resorts are opened, with Hideaways honouring these, which it deems point of view extraordinary, with the "Newcomer of the Year" award.

Segera Retreat, located in the heart of the Laikipia Plateau at the foot of Mount Kenya, exudes the very essence of Africa: freedom, spectacular vastness, untamed fauna and fascinating encounters with ethnic traditions and African art. Covering an area of some 20 000 hectares, the privately-owned ranch and stunning retreat, in keeping with the holistic and ecological philosophy of the Zeitz Foundation founded by ranch owner Jochen Zeitz, allows visitors to explore the culture of Africa and experience Kenya at its most inspiring.

Under the premise of "Acting today for a better tomorrow", and through the establishment of the 4Cs (Conservation, Community, Culture and Commerce), owner Jochen Zeitz has committed himself together with his team to conserve and protect the natural habitat, the traditions and the culture of this unique part of the world.

Wilderness Collection is thrilled to be part of this exciting and innovative project.


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WILDLIFE NEWS

Seba Is Wild With Dogs
Sighting: Seba is wild with dogs
Location: Seba Camp, Abu Concession, Botswana
Date: 20 March 2013
Photographer: Mike Marchington and Dana Allen
Observers: Anne Marchington

On the 20th of March, Seba Camp woke up to the news that a pack of wild dogs had spent the night on their doorstep. The arrival of a pack of 16 dogs in an area that has not traditionally seen wild dogs for many years had everyone in a fluster of excitement.

With little knowledge of previous sightings in the concession, we decided to start investigating whether or not this pack had been spotted anywhere on the Abu Concession before or on any of the neighbouring concessions. Our line of enquiry started with John Sobey who has spent many years in the area and is a co-owner of African Horseback Safaris. John mentioned that they had observed two packs of dogs in the past, one pack of 14 and another of 19. John then kindly forwarded the pictures we'd taken on to the expert, Tico McNutt, from the Predator Conservation Trust, who filled in the gaps with the following amazing account of this pack of dogs:

"Very exciting news about this pack showing up at Seba. John Sobey forwarded your pictures this morning and so I thought I might fill you in on what we know about them.

Seba Camp is wild with dogs    Seba Camp is wild with dogs

"Your set of photos shows the dominant pair very nicely. Both are fairly old dogs and, in fact, the male is the probable father to all the others, and is a dog we have an interesting known history on (with a few gaps prior to your sighting). He was born in the Xakanaxa Pack, one of our focal study packs, in 2007. He dispersed with an older brother and at least one littermate brother in late 2008. The older brother was wearing a VHF radio collar at the time and, following a report from Cecil Riggs on NG29 of a sighting of a collared dog in May 2009, I tracked them down from the air. They had a den only about seven kilometres from the fence, not far from the eastern edge of the lower sand tongue only a few hundred metres from the water. Cecil reported they were seven adults at the time.

"I expect from looking at the (probable) age of the female in your pic attached, she was probably part of that original pack too. Since early in 2010, however, I was never able to pick up a signal from the collared male and I presumed he had died. There have been very few reports from that area since then (a several-year gap in information). So what a great surprise that this Xakanaxa male is still there as the dominant male in a notably successful pack in the western Delta - the first pack that I know of since the remaining three females from the small pack that denned near Horseback in 2006 disappeared and left the area altogether in mid-2008 (curiously, they turned up briefly in Santawane before we lost track of them).

"The dark faces and generally dark coats seen in the pack at Seba with a lot of black markings is a characteristic that is traceable back to the dominant male's great grandfather who was the dominant male of the Mochaba (Khwai) Pack in 1989-94 - a dog we called Midnight (because he was black almost like a labrador). Since Midnight's mate was also a charcoal dark dog (we called her Twilight) their pups for several years were unusually dark dogs, and these spawned a long lineage of successful packs in the region (including the Chitabe Pack, the Xakanaxa Pack, the Mababe Pack, the Horseback Pack (2006), the Kwara Pack, and shorter-lived packs all around Moremi) with these dark faces and generally dark colouration.

Seba Camp is wild with dogs    Seba Camp is wild with dogs

"I have been looking for a good ID picture of the male in photo to show you, but at the moment I have found only one partial shot of him as a yearling in 2008 regurgitating with a sibling to his younger siblings, the Xakanaxa Pack 2008 pups. You can see with some careful scrutiny the identical markings on his right foreleg and collar as your picture taken at Seba in the past couple days. It looks as though there might be another old male from Xakanaxa still in the pack as well but I have not been able to confirm this with photos yet.
Pretty interesting story from our perspective, and it's great to know he is still alive and doing well.

JW McNutt, PhD
Botswana Predator Conservation Trust"
In our observations during their six-day stay, the alpha male and female were seen mating several times. We have it under good authority that if the pack liked what they saw, and were able to feed in our area, there is a good chance they might be back in two to three weeks' time. This is about the time it takes to complete their extensive home range. It has also been suggested by people in the know that they will be on the hunt for a safe area in which to den. With all this good news in the pipeline we are waiting in anticipation for their next visit.


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CAMP UPDATES
ZAMBIA
Kalamu Lagoon & Star-beds No Longer Operational In 2013
Further to my previous communique, please note that Kalamu Lagoon Camp and Star-beds will in fact NOT be operational for the 2013 Zambian season as unfortunately our proposed deal with a partner has fallen through. Details have been removed from our website, Agent Portal and Rates Sheets accordingly although current hard copy material will still contain reference to Kalamu until we re-print.

BOTSWANA
New Adventurer Tents In Botswana
Used for the exciting Migration Routes, these tents are in keeping with the authenticity of the Explorations journey while offering more space and comfort. The 3 metre x 3 metre dome tents have been replaced with 4 metre x 4 metre Meru tents, allowing for 2 metres of height and 2 windows on each side, plus additional storage space, wooden-frame beds, a hammock and an extended shade area at the entrance with comfortable safari chairs.

Tubu Tree & Little Tubu Update
The expansion of Tubu Tree and building of Little Tubu is progressing well! Some additional snippets of information are:
• While adding the new units, and upgrading the existing rooms at Tubu Tree, walkways for the entire camp are also being built.
• The Little Tubu swimming pool is being placed between the Little Tubu main area and room 1 at Tubu Tree (which can be used as the 4th room for a group at Little Tubu). In a more private location, this pool will also be accessible to guests from Tubu Tree Camp although the bar service will be from Little Tubu.
• The main area at Little Tubu will have a deck overlooking the seasonal river bed which will be great for private dinners and relaxing.

SOUTH AFRICA 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 - March 2013              Jump to North Island

No report this month.

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

Weather and Landscape
Summer in northern Botswana is of course the rainy season. These are exciting times in the Linyanti Concession and this year the rainfall has been good - last summer's rains were very good too. This year we have had almost daily downpours which are slowing down now because we are almost at the end of the rainy season. As we are approaching winter, the temperatures have started to drop steadily and we are now experiencing a cool breeze in the mornings and during the evenings.

Winter also signals the arrival of the annual inundation in the Okavango Delta, and this is clear as the Linyanti River has already started to rise as huge volumes of water pour down the Caprivi Strip from Angola and into the Linyanti River. As the river rises, we will soon be able to offer our guests relaxing boat trips on the Queen Silvia. Fishing also becomes a very popular activity, which we operate strictly on a catch and release basis.

Sunset over Kings Pool    Impala

Wildlife
The wildlife at Kings Pool continues to delight. Generally once winter arrives, the elephant herds tend to disperse over a wider area, but this year there are still many large herds around Kings Pool. We have noticed that some of the herds will move between Botswana and Namibia on a daily basis.

Kings Pool Camp remains the exclusive preserve of warthogs and impala by day and curious hippo by night with their quintessential African grunts and honks. Perhaps the impala would be wise not to stray too far, as we have often seen the LTC Pack of wild dogs in the area. The pack currently consists of 21 individuals and Kings Pool falls in the middle of their territory. As the high volumes of water pour into the area, all large predators are forced to change their hunting strategies, but due to the dynamic of team work, the dogs are able to exploit any situation and adapt suitably. We are in constant hope that this pack will successfully raise their seven pups, which are close to a year old now. As luck was on our side, some of our guests got to witness a number of successful hunts.

Lion with cubs    Lion with cubs

On the feline side, the resident male lion is still doing well and we enjoyed numerous sightings of him with the entire LTC Pride. Five nomadic males from Chobe have been in the area and have challenged the resident male a number of times, but have not been successful in displacing this king of beasts. The large DumaTau Male has also shown an interest in the area but has not been able to displace the Kings Pool Male.
The rest of the LTC Pride is still very well and all four cubs are still strong and growing up quite well. They spent most of the month to the western side of Kings Pool for the past two months but this month they were seen a few times on the eastern side of camp.

We also had some great sightings of the resident female leopard with her cubs a couple of times this month. We saw her hunting a couple of times, and were lucky to see a handful of successful attempts.

On the night drives, we had some great sightings of the nocturnal wildlife, including encounters with bushbabies, porcupine, and African wild cat as well as a couple small-spotted genet sightings.

Snake with catch

Birds and Birding
As we approach winter, a number of species are frantically nesting before the chill sets in. A common sound heard is that of the starlings mobbing the African-harrier hawks and other opportunistic predators which are trying to get a quick meal from the nests. A pair of giant kingfishers are nesting by Tent 5, providing our guests with some great photographic opportunities.

Staff in Camp
Managers: Alex and One Mazunga, Julie Sander, Frank Maule and Kenny Lugayeni.
Guides: Ndebo Tongwane, Yompy-Diye Kennetseng, Lemme Dintwa and OD Modikwa.
Newsletter and images by Alex Mazunga.

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DumaTau Camp update - March 2013               Jump to DumaTau Camp

No report this month.

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Savuti Camp update - March 2013               Jump to Savuti Camp

Weather and Landscape
Weather conditions have been phenomenal at Savuti Camp this month, as we have enjoyed clear skies which highlighted the sunrises and sunsets. The average high for the month was a comfy 27° C and the average low was 22° C. Early mornings have become chilly as winter approaches, but a light jersey did the job, shed once the sun stretched its rays over the landscape. The afternoon temperatures were very good and really complimented the afternoon activities. As we head closer to winter, the sun sets a little further south-west, making Munchwe Deck the ideal place to enjoy a sundowner.

Munchwe Deck the ideal place to enjoy a sundowner

Wildlife
Game viewing around camp has been incredible this month, which is ideal, as the camp is a very comfortable place to relax and watch nature pass by. In particular, the resident hippo have been providing our guests with great entertainment during the night and day.

As the woodlands dry out further, the elephants have been concentrating their activity along the remaining channels of water, and many have taken a particular liking to the channel in front of camp. The water levels in this channel have dropped a little, resulting in a few changes to our favourite boating destinations. The dropping water level has however, created outstanding conditions for catch-and-release fishing right in front of camp.

Elephant    Red-billed spurfowl

General game sightings have been pretty good, with all the herbivore species following the lead of the elephants to the remaining channels of water. This has resulted in some great sightings, many including opportunistic predators such as lion, leopard and wild dog.

Birds and Birding
The birding has been rather good this month, as the drying conditions have created 'fish traps' in front of camp. Many water birds would congregate around the pools of water and cash in on the ample supply of fish which have become easy for the picking.
A family of red-billed spurfowl have settled into the camp area and were seen daily caring for their little chicks, which would oblige in adding to the dawn chorus with their parents at sunrise.

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Zarafa Camp update - March 2013               Jump to Zarafa Camp

We hear erratic splashing coming from the water in front of Tent 4....

In the cool of the early morning our guests had been watching the moon set from the main deck. When there is a full moon you can enjoy its last hanging moments reflecting off the Zibidianja Lagoon before the sunrise takes over the dominance of the sky.

Lion

Whilst enjoying a freshly ground "Zarafaspresso" and cheese on toast around the open fire, we heard some erratic splashing coming from the water in front of Tent 4. There are only few situations that could make such a frantic sound. It was not heavy enough to be a hippo and certainly not a bird like an egret fishing. Then came the grunting sounds of an impala's alarm call which gave it all away – it must be wild dogs hunting.
We scuttled along the pathway from the main deck to Tent 4, with fever-berry trees providing cover we reached the surrounds of the large tent. It was indeed a pack of wild dog and they were in the process of killing an impala right in front of our eyes. Reuben, our guide, made sure we were all safe, although wild dogs are incredibly relaxed around human beings.

It is something to behold and very difficult to describe in words, the feeling of seeing something like this is just raw nature and your emotions can be left exposed as a result. It was over very quickly though with the whole impala being devoured in a matter of minutes. This incredible sighting set the bar high for the month, and we were not disappointed by the end of March.

Although wild dogs have taken the centre stage this month we have also enjoyed quite a variation in other wildlife experiences, notably lion.

The Selinda Pride comprises 17 lion, including two nomadic males. One of the mothers is nursing some small cubs presently. To the north near Selinda Camp there are four other females, known as the Wapuka Pride. One mother has just had two tiny cubs which she continues to hide away from the other females.

Wild dog at camp    Wild dogs with kill

The Selinda Pride has been moving in and out of the Zarafa area all month. A highlight was on the 21st of March.

Just as we were enjoying our post dinner Amarula drinks on the deck of Zarafa, we heard roaring from a number of lions in the direction of the camp solar panels. Reuben fetched a vehicle and despite it being well past bedtime, we drove to the source of the roars to find 11 lions calling to the rest of the pride. They were fairly stationary, and not in the hunting mood, so we retreated to the comfort of our beds until the morning.

The next day the lions split up and were on the hunt. Three of the females came across a large female hippo we call Metsi, which means 'water' in Setswana. We often see Metsi coming in and out of the water just by the main deck of the camp. Metsi must weigh between 2500 to 3000 kg, the weight of a small car. For three lions to tackle a hippo is ambitious at best. Metsi opened her colossal mouth and this alone was enough to deter the lions back into the confines of the bush.

The lions did not go hungry for too long as they came across a warthog later in the morning. They had decided to have a rest and in the midst of yawning and cleaning their paws, just as you would see in a domestic cat, a warthog trotted towards them. The lions spread out and, using the waters of the Zibadianja Lagoon, cornered the warthog and sealed its fate. You may think a relatively small warthog would not be able to put up a fight but in its last moments it inflicted a severe wound on the underside of one of the females. Warthog have sharp tusks (tushes) and this lioness will not forget that warthog for some weeks! She will heal in time, as lions repair surprisingly well.

Leopard    Elephant at camp

Fred is back. Last year we had an elephant, who was named Fred by Willem and Nienke, the camp managers. Fred would spend hours devouring the lush leaves of our trees and eating the fruits of the sour plums from the deck. He disappeared around November as that is when the rain arrived but returned this month. Wild animals are wild and Fred is by no means a petting elephant. Despite that he is quite happy spending time next to our decks flapping his ears to keep himself cool and just idling his days away. We all love Fred and he really signifies our mission to conserve and expand natural habitats.

In 2012 we installed a bio-gas plant in Duba Plains, Selinda Camp and Zarafa Camp. By adding all our vegetable waste to the plant , we reduce our carbon foot print even further. Once the organic materials start to ferment it puts out quite an odour, something we have found hyaena and now honey badgers really love. The entrance to the unit is at ground level so we found one little guy trying to stick his head into it and start chomping on the decaying matter. The smell is horrific so how he can find this to be a delicacy who knows. It does provide some pretty good sightings of this animal which some say is the most ferocious animal in Africa! Maybe that is because he has such bad breath....

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Selinda Camp update - March 2013               Jump to Selinda Camp

In life there are so many situations that may be defined as mundane, they happen once, twice, one hundred times. Even some beautiful sights like a picture can be viewed over and over. A discovery is a moment that will never happen again. You are the privileged individuals to see that once in an eternity event. Selinda Camp is a place of discoveries - you don't even have to open your mind to it as it will develop in front of you. You may think the days of discovery are over, Livingstone, Stanley and Baines had the day – not true, we truly discover new sights every day!

Camp guide Mots was driving with four lucky guests in the southern part of the concession one early morning. Quite close to the airstrip they heard a mellow calling from a lion. It is hard to describe such a call but it is almost an anguished resonance. The mother as it turns out was calling for her two newly-born cubs. We estimated that they were maybe one week old as one of the cubs' eyes were just opening. The lioness had placed them in an acacia bush to keep them hidden and protected as they are extremely vulnerable. Mots gave the guests a few minutes with the cubs before retreating. Such a sighting is so sensitive because our presence can attract the danger of other predators particularly hyaena. Mots reported the sighting immediately so the concession manager could put in place our sensitive sighting policy. This would mean only one vehicle could visit the cubs at any one time and only two throughout the day. We will give you further updates about the cubs over the coming months.

Lion    Lion cubs

Elephant sightings have been really good this month, as large numbers have been visiting the channel in front of camp – quite often their timing would be impeccable as they would arrive around 15.30, coincidently the same time our guests would arrive for high tea.

Towards the end of the month, we found a female leopard that often hangs around the camp area. She was sitting in a tree with an impala carcass which she had scavenged from a lone hyaena. Once the leopard had secured the carcass in the tree, she spent a few moments observing her surroundings. Suddenly a smaller leopard emerged from the densest part of the tree canopy. It was the adult leopard's daughter. We were very pleased to see the sub-adult is still doing well as we had not seen her for a couple weeks and we starting to think the worst. The duo has been seen a number of times close to camp and are very relaxed in the presence of the vehicles, so hopefully they will stick around and continue to provide us with outstanding sightings.

Hyaena have been spotted regularly. On one occasion we found nine hyaena feeding on a baby giraffe carcass. We have also been lucky to witness hyaena hunting – proving that they are not solely scavengers.

Leopard in tree

The resident wild dogs have been doing well and are frequently seen relaxing around the Mara Pools area in between hunts.
Guests have been lucky enough to see them hunting and playing almost every day while they stay in the region. More hunts which haven't been particularly successful include the lions that have tried their luck at digging out warthogs from their burrows but it has just left them all hot and frustrated from what we saw. In relation, lions have a hunting success rate of 30% as opposed to the 90% of wild dog, which are clearly effective hunters. The denning season for the wild dog will start soon. This month we have seen both the Explorer Pack and Selinda Pack as they haven't started to den yet.

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Kwando Safari Camps Update - March 2013

Kwando Concession
No report this month.

Lagoon camp               Jump to Lagoon Camp
• Leopards certainly seem to be doing well in this area of late, since the lions are spending more time in the south of the area. There were two sub-adults aged just under one year, found on an island about ten minutes drive from camp. They were both relaxing in their own individual trees, and provided one of the best sightings of the month. A female was also seen drinking from the lagoon in front of camp during siesta time!
• One dog from the Lagoon pack appears to be missing, so there are now 12 adults and 8 sub-adults, down from 21. The pack in itself is still doing well, and warthog continues to be the current prey of choice, with several meeting their end this month.
• Perhaps following on from the wild dogs' experience, (or is it a plague of warthogs?) a female leopard also caught a nice piece of pork for her dinner early in the month.
• Having not seen the three cheetah brothers in several months, we were surprised to find tracks of a solitary cheetah moving close to the camp. A few days later, the cheetah was found, and it turns out to be one of the brothers who had previously separated from the coalition for a month. We wonder if this is it for him, and he won't return to his brothers - or will his brothers follow him too?
• A lovely herd of around 100 eland were found along the cutline, but these animals are always very shy, so we were not able to watch them for long before they moved off.
• Elephants are also in large numbers, with the breeding herds back in the area. These herds are normally too shy to come through the camp, but cross the channel just to the west of the camp on most days. Bull elephants, however, are much more confident around human habitations, (the elephants were obviously here before we were!) and two males are found 'hanging out' between the kitchen and the dining room on most days. This makes for some long detours for the plates and food if they are too close to the pathway….
•Night drives have been a little quiet, as the grass is so tall in most areas. It should only be a few weeks, and the long grass will fall flat, enabling great visibility.

Lebala camp               Jump to Lebala Camp
• At the beginning of the month, a very relaxed male and female lion pair were seen along boundary road mating – a good chance that we may get some cubs in around three months if the pride's structure remains stable and is not threatened by intruding males.
• A pack of thirteen wild dogs were seen three days in a row, mostly resting when we found them, but on one day they did attempt to hunt but were unsuccessful. The Lagoon pack of 20 dogs also paid us a visit at the end of the month, and were successful in their impala hunt.
• Towards the end of the month, we had an unusual sighting: a male cheetah. Since the coalition of male cheetahs moved out of the concession past Lagoon some months ago, cheetah sightings have been very rare. This male was found after an hour of intensive tracking, moving through the Kalahari apple leaf. A hyena was also following him, keeping a slight distance, perhaps in the hope of stealing any kill the cheetah makes. A day or two later, the same cheetah was found resting close to the airstrip.
• We were lucky enough to have a sighting of three sub-adult Roan antelope – all very relaxed, as well as a herd of 7 male sable antelope. Eland herds as well were often seen in the vicinity of Steve's Pan, as it seems they favour this site for their nightly rest.
• Breeding herds of elephant abound on every game drive, feeding, drinking, moving through the floodplains and sometimes having mudbaths, which looks like a lot of fun, but potentially smelly.

Kwara & Little Kwara camps               Jump to Kwara & Little Kwara camps
• A young male leopard has appeared recently and we think he has chased out our resident male who was getting very old. This young male is often seen between Kwara Island and the Splash area, but is very shy with cars. Recently he has begun calling around the camp – the deep throaty cough of an adult male leopard – an indication that he feels unthreatened and has therefore ousted any potential competition. It is hoped he will become more relaxed as he frequents the area and perceives no threat from the vehicles.
• The three adult cheetahs were seen often in the areas around Splash, attempting hunts regularly. They were very photogenic too, conveniently lying on top of a termite mound, basking in the sun.
• The pack of eight dogs was seen regularly this month, on kills, resting and playing. On the 19th of March, two dogs were seen mating, so lets hope in early June they decide to den in the Kwara area where they have spent more than a year now.
• The two sub-adult male lions have broken off from the Solo Pride for the time being and were seen on many occasions fighting some of the members of the "seven brothers", who are probably their fathers and uncles. They moved around, dominating some of the kills which were made by their sisters. Three of the lionesses managed to kill a giraffe, which provided food for them and their brothers for several days. Taking a break from the exhausting business of stuffing as much meat in as possible, the lionesses took a drink at one of the nearby pans, and then played around the water.
• Lots of general game in the area, including zebras, large journeys (groups) of giraffes, tsessebes and the ubiquitous impala. Elephants move through the groupings of animals, from tree island to tree island, feeding on the large variety of plant life available. This will probably be the last month of such a variety, as many of the grasses are drying up as the rains have all but stopped. A different type of lushness will arrive as the flood waters arrive from Angola – the increasing waters will be here soon.
• Rarest sighting this month: a Pel's fishing owl whilst out on the boat.

Nxai Pan               Jump to Nxai Pan camp
• The first of the March morning game drives began with three males lions resting by the Main waterhole on Kgama Kgama road. A lovely way to start, though one of the lions looked a little morose for some reason! Other days saw them returning to that waterhole to lie in wait for prey to approach, and we also had six lions visiting the camp waterhole early one morning, just in time for the morning coffee and muffins.
• The next day we were able to witness two cheetah socialising in such away that you could almost understand what they were saying.
• Queues at the waterholes continue, as the smaller animals wait for the elephants to move off before approaching. The camp waterhole often has 12-15 elephants at a time drinking there – which can create a bit of a bar brawl amongst themselves as they all crowd around looking for the purest section of water.
• One morning game drive provided lovely views of the less famous predators: spotted hyena, four bat-eared foxes and a honey badger.

Tau Pan               Jump to Tau Pan camp
•March has been an active month for predators at Tau Pan. A takeover in territory could happen any time. The Tau Pan pride is currently restricted to a quick sweep to drink then straight out north of the airstrip.
• Sightings of lion, cheetah and leopard were frequent at the beginning of the month. With the rains abating, and the season changing Botswana experienced some heat waves which forced thirsty predators to venture to the Tau Pan waterhole.
• The camp was visited by a sub-adult young male leopard who resided around the camp for a week. It is possible that this young leopard, aged between 18- 24 months, had been to camp before as he was relaxed when spotted.
• Two new male lions have moved into the Tau Pan from the Letiahau area where the waterhole is closed and their territory is overlapping with that of the resident Tau Pan pride. The area of overlap includes the camp water hole, so we have heard and seen a lot of lion activity.
• In case you missed it last month we felt we had to re-share this spectacular sight of quelia taking a dip in our pool. They had been drinking at the camp waterhole, which is a flat pan, easy for birds to stand and drink at, but the large number of raptors were swooping down on them and hunting them.
• A few smart individuals – obviously followed by a huge flock of not-so clued-up hangers on – began drinking at the swimming pool at the camp, where the raptors were too wary of humans to follow. The flocks swarmed in and around the camp, but the sheer number combined with the high sides of the pool meant that many drowned when trying to drink. Having people in or around the pool made no difference. A form of net was laid over the pool, but this also didn't help. And who really wants to swim when 10, 000 birds are whizzing round your head? Eventually a type of mesh was found that helped the situation somewhat, but nothing could really be done until the queleas themselves decide to move off in search of better feeding grounds.

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Mombo Camp update - March 2013               Jump to Mombo Camp

We are living in a state of contrasts at this time of year, one that defines the Okavango and that at this seasonal apex is at its most intriguing. The annual inundation is coming: there is no doubt about it, each day the slushy puddles in front of camp are growing and spreading from their previously neat lines. But while that occurs around us, Mombo is shrouded in a smokey haze emanating from a fire that has been blazing for almost two weeks, towards Chief's Camp.

The mornings are growing chillier, and the Delta's famous cold wind is starting to creep across the floodplains in the early hours. This is only fanning the fire and reminding us that whilst the water is coming, it is coming at the climax of a rather pathetic rainy season, which has left the bush parched and prone to catching alight. As little specks of ash flick across our decks, we are keeping an eye on the distant columns of smoke and hoping there is just enough water to keep it at bay. Meanwhile, the boisterous and testosterone-boosted lechwe chase each other around in front of Little Mombo: the young males have congregated in a charming bachelor herd, and unperturbed by distant fires they are flexing their muscles and watching one another locking horns and strutting (not very daintily) through the expanding marshy pools.

Conversely (I did say this newsletter would be a series of contrasts), the pans out in the bush are shrinking, leaving a myriad fish-traps which are pulling in birds of all shapes and sizes to gorge themselves on the very welcome buffet. Marabou storks, pelicans, egrets and herons fight for space in the muddy remains of what the rains brought us, vying for the fish that are stranded there. There are still flashes of colour that remind us of the not-so-distant summer: the woodland kingfishers are still here, sunning themselves by the pool or along the balustrades, but their whistling calls are no longer heard, their voices grown hoarse from the incessant songs of summer. The resident Pel's fishing-owls, Mombo's ginger teddies, are still gracing us with their presence: they seem to flit between Little Mombo, Tent 8 and the pool at main camp. Many a manager, guide and guest has trooped down the boardwalk to take in the sightings of these piscivorous (fish-eating) giants, which we are so grateful to host from time to time.

Lion around Mombo Camp    Leopard resting in tree

Away from the trees (or at least, from the feathered inhabitants of the trees), life has been as exciting as ever. The Maporota Pride parked itself right in the centre of camp recently, choosing to lie in the shade near the old curio shop, providing excellent viewing for guests but a logistical nightmare for the housekeepers and other staff. The lions, which had been seen making several doomed attempts to hunt during the previous couple of days, were clearly hungry and eyeing a bachelor herd of lechwe near Little Mombo. At one point, Liz was heard on the radio declaring that the lions were now "in Mombo lounge," which conjured an interesting image of the felines reclining on the pool loungers and helping themselves to a few beers. They did not linger, however, and a few managers and guests piled into Little Mombo's Tent 1 to see one lioness crouched near the outdoor shower and salivating at the sight of the nearby lechwe. Unfortunately, a typically over-exuberant young male from the pride popped his head up too soon and the antelope scattered. The lioness was seen giving the male a despairing nudge, while her lunch ran to safety.

The Western Pride, meanwhile, is still going strong: the two cubs are doing well and flourishing under the watchful eyes of their formidable elders. The pride killed a giraffe recently and could be seen gorging themselves for days. There have been other intriguing developments in the Mombo lion populations: there is a large male breaking up multiple prides and causing trouble (although he was seen last week nursing some vicious-looking wounds and looking very sorry for himself). A pair of lions was seen mating for a few days, whilst a lioness is visibly lactating, but no cubs have been spotted yet. We await their debut on the Mombo feline scene with anticipation!

On that note, the female leopard known as "Bird Island Female" was seen this month as well: a rare sighting, and all the more rewarding as she was also apparently lactating. "Blue-eyes," the handsome male, is referred to affectionately as the leopard that thinks he is a cheetah. He doesn't seem to care who sees him, as he marches through open floodplains nonchalantly, ignoring the alarm calls that follow him and refusing to seek cover in the islands or trees.

In general, it is getting harder for the leopards as the bush dries out and their shrouds of greenery disappear. The snorts of impala and the shouts of the baboons echo around the floodplains and forests now, as the predators have fewer and fewer places to hide. They are harassed increasingly by hyaena as well, and it is evermore crucial for them to secure their kills as high off the ground as possible.

Mmolai, Pula and Legadema stalked the concession as usual this month. Legadema teased us a few times, venturing near Tent 1 and glancing in the direction of the management houses nearby, but she has kept out of camp otherwise, sticking to her favoured perches in the trees above us. Guests are just as enamoured as ever with our celebrated spotted cat, particularly when they can leave her at the end of the day, the sun going down behind her, and return to camp to enjoy a screening of Eye of the Leopard with a bag of popcorn and a gin and tonic in hand. It is all the more poignant, having 'met' the star of the documentary.

Leopard in tree    Hyaena

Huge herds of elephant, buffalo and zebra have also been seen this month: the general game has not failed to impress. The elephants parade through camp regularly and one particularly naughty youngster has earned himself quite a reputation amongst guests and staff alike. He tends to hide behind a bush (unsuccessfully) before chasing unsuspecting housekeepers or managers along the boardwalks, and seems particularly to enjoy disturbing people whilst they are laden with trays of glasses, or piles of bed linen, so as to cause as much havoc as possible. One group of guests was given a proper Mombo welcome recently, arriving in the rotunda to see the managers bearing face towels but hiding behind a tree as the elephant in question had decided he would be a far more suitable welcoming committee, and was staking his claim at the camp's entrance.

The top unusual sighting of the month has to go to Sefo, who found the animal in question during a morning drive. His guests arrived at a surprise bush brunch and when asked how their morning was, they replied with expected enthusiasm about sightings of elephants, the Maporota Pride, good general game ... and then referred casually to a lovely viewing of a bat-eared fox. Cue a big double-take and a loud "WHAAAT?" from their host, and it was confirmed: the secretive animals were spied in the long grass, their famous ears giving the game away, albeit for a brief few moments.

As I end this month's update, attention must be paid to the Stalwart Team that is currently complementing our already massive Mombo family: the guys who are making our camp even more beautiful. The Mombo back-of-house is undergoing serious transformation at the moment, and there are shiny new boardwalks, laundry, kitchen, storage containers and offices taking shape each day. It's a hugely exciting time for us and we're very proud of what they are putting together for us (GM and exec chef have already tested one of the new boardwalks out and yes, you can make it down the whole thing on an office chair without using your feet).

Staff in Camp
Managers: Graham, Liz, Dittmar, Dani, Sean, Cheri and Jemima.
Guides: Tsile, Sefo, Tsepho, Moss, Callum and Cisco.

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Xigera Camp update - March 2013               Jump to Xigera Camp

Weather and Landscape
The rains have stopped as we head into the winter months, but the annual inundation has started to pour in, rising the water levels. It is always so interesting to see how the waterways rise during the 'dry' season – it just shows how long the water takes to arrive to the Delta from the Angolan highlands. In terms of temperature, we have experienced stable conditions, with a monthly high of 35° C and a low of 18° C. The cloudless conditions have been perfect for star gazing.

Leopard at Xigera Camp

Wildlife
As the camp has been closed for the past two months, we have started the season off on a good note, Mmadiphala the resident leopard was seen on the first game drive – she was stalking a herd of zebra as she was teaching her 12 month old cub how to hunt. She was seen again the following morning relaxing in a tree near the airstrip and again with her cub the following morning after she had killed a red lechwe. Returning to the sighting that afternoon we found that Mmadiphala had left her kill as she had been chased off by three hyaena.

Most people go their whole lives and never get to see a sitatunga but of late most Xigera guests have had the pleasure of seeing this rare and elusive creature. On one occasion a small herd of four were seen in the reeds, the three males and one female were fairly relaxed and allowed a few photographs to be taken of them. The zebra which are often found by the airstrip have had two foals. Other general game has been good with giraffe, elephant, lechwe and impala being seen daily while on drive.

Sitatunga    Wattled cranes

Birds and Birding
The birding as per usual has been outstanding! The resident Pel's fishing-owl has not been in camp but they have been seen near the mokoro trails camp as well as by the boat station near the airstrip.

A Verreaux's eagle-owl has been seen in camp perching in the large jackelberry near Tent 6 and 7. The woodland kingfishers have started to leave and migrate back to warmer climes, but we enjoy common sightings of striped kingfisher. Giant kingfishers have been busy and we often saw them plunging into the water in front of camp.

The birding highlights for the month were a long-crested eagle and a pair of western banded snake-eagles feeding on a snake. A pair of wattled cranes were seen flying overhead while on a mokoro trip.


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Chitabe Camp update - March 2013               Jump to Chitabe Camp

Weather and Landscape
Despite the fact that the rainfall in the month of March has been almost non-existent, which is rather unusual, the bush is still looking incredibly green. The temperatures have been fairly low with the maximums ranging between 35 and 38° C and the minimum for the month being around 18° C. Most of the natural waterholes are still filled with the remains of water from the heavy rains in January and our ecosystem still looks healthy and rejuvenated since the last rains.

Leopard    Wilddogs

Wildlife
It seems that the extensive herds of elephant that had moved deep into the thick mopane woodlands far north of our concession, after the heavy rains in January, have returned to the Chitabe Concession. It is great to see the elephants thriving and looking healthy once again especially after watching them struggling through the drier times when palatable vegetation was sparse.

We have enjoyed some great sightings of lion with their respective cubs - as well as wild dogs. The predatory highlight for the month was when two wild dogs, members of the Chitabe Pack, killed an impala ram, which proved to be too much food for the two dogs to consume. Immediately after they fed, the dogs left the carcass and a female leopard approached, taking the remains and dragging them under the bush so she could feed. While all the guests were watching the leopard feed, another pack of nine wild dogs arrived at the scene and proceeded to take the carcass from the helpless and outnumbered leopard. The pack of nine wild dogs are new to the area, and have been sighted several times over the past two months and we certainly hope to see a lot more of them.

The lion hotspot viewing area this month seems to be around the airstrip as that is where the Chitabe Pride has been concentrating its movements. They have moved here due to pressure from another group, the Tsame Pride, which currently occupies most of the prime territory that the Chitabe Pride used to roam. The two prides seem to share the territory, yet carefully move around each other seeming to avoid direct contact. The Chitabe Pride is successfully raising a three-month-old cub at this stage and it is common behaviour for lions to avoid any territorial disputes in favour of their young and vulnerable cubs.

Leopard encounters, as usual, have continued to be regular on game drives, with the Acacia Male and several of the females in his territory providing some great sightings. This male is the dominant leopard that occupies our prime game drive area and so far there are at least five to six different females that are within his territory. His territory is vast and covers most of the concession and at the beginning of the month we were privileged to observe and photograph him proudly defending his territory and fiercely driving out another male that happened to intrude. As beautiful as it is to photograph a leopard in a tree, watching active behaviour is first prize! Currently we have also been observing a female leopard successfully raising her young cub.

Big towers of giraffe have been seen browsing on the wooded islands and impressive dazzles of zebra have congregated on the floodplains – adding a beautiful colour and texture to the bush.

Wattled Crane

Birds and Birding
Birding has been amazing with woodland kingfishers and southern-carmine bee-eaters dominating the sightings on the migrant side. It has also been disheartening to watch many waterholes and lagoons drying up at a dramatic pace leaving the fish to suffer intensively from less oxygen and exposure to the intense heat from the sun. However, this annual occurrence does lead to fascinating sightings of the avian feeding frenzy by species such as storks, pelicans, and herons. Commonly known as a "fish trap", at one stage we were able to witness at least 40 pelicans and many black herons in one small shrinking pond, all gorging themselves.

Chitabe seems to be one of the few strongholds of an endangered and highly protected bird species - the wattled crane. These birds prefer isolated wetland areas hence the Okavango Delta having a high population. Here at Chitabe we have a large flock of over 40 which is frequently sighted on the shallow floodplains in the concession.

Guest Comments
"Can't think of anything to improve on your fine effort, the staff and guide gave us a delightful experience here. Mo's expert guiding was spectacular and the food and service was outstanding."
"The camp was superb, the cooking was outstanding and game drives were wonderful, but what set Chitabe Lediba apart from others is the people! Your staff set a standard that all other camps can only hope to approach, it is the best of the best."

Staff in Camp
Our professional and enthusiastic team of guides for the month of March, Phinley, Molemi, EBS, Gordon and Luke, kept guests intrigued during early morning and late afternoon game drives, exploring the various habitats of the area and their many inhabitants. With great support from all the staff and the following managers: Moalosi and Kay at Chitabe Lediba and Masedi, Six, Tiny ad Alex at Chitabe Camp.
Newsletter by T.L. Moalosi


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

Weather and Landscape
The month of March has been a month of transformation and has seen Vumbura change from a lush green environment to a dryer landscape as the first winter winds started kicking in when the rains stopped.

Wildlife
Things became extremely exciting, when more lions moved into the area, pushing the number of resident prides up to four. This has certainly resulted in action, quite often very close to camp, with all of us witnessing the sounds in the darkness.

Lion

Vumbura has for a long time been a place dominated by the Kubu Pride, which is led by four massive males and the Eastern Pride - of which this month, we only saw one lioness with her two cubs. The interesting thing is that this particular family has adapted to climbing trees and has often been seen surveying the area from a branch. During the second week of March, we encountered a new pride of six lions as well as another one of four individuals. Throughout the month, these two new prides were seen throughout the concession, often on successful hunts.

They are obviously in the process of scouting out a new territory.

Elephant    Male lion

On the wild dog front, the Golden Pack has not been seen for some time now, but another nomadic pack has been seen now and then.
On the herbivore side, game viewing has also been fantastic as we have enjoyed some incredible sightings of zebra, giraffe, elephant and buffalo.

Another highlight for the month was the sightings of sable – sometimes these regal antelope were seen very close to camp.
As the annual inundation starts to spill into the area, we expect a very productive winter season in the Kwedi Concession.

Staff in Camp
Managers: Lorato, Connie, Kci, Roger and Annabel
Guides: Zee, Lazarus, Obonye, Emang, Ban and Ron

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

While we wait for the arrival of the annual inundation, the water levels seem to be still dropping and the weather has been very pleasant here in the Delta. Temperatures have been ranging between 40° C and 20° C with only 3.5 mm of rainfall. We have had lovely breezes during the day and in the early mornings it is becoming notably chillier as we begin the winter season.

Cape Buffalo    Wild dogs

The game viewing in the concession once again this month has been fantastic. We have seen a herd of buffalo upwards of 800 which has also brought with it great lion sightings as they follow this massive number of prey. In one encounter guests witnessed a kill - they could not have been any closer to as it took place right next to the vehicle. While watching the mega-herd move through an open plain, a ruckus broke out to the left of the vehicle as a buffalo came charging out of the long grass followed by three lioness - all were heading directly for the vehicle. The ambitious lioness managed to successfully bring the beast down about two metres away from us. Our guide reacted quickly and managed to position the vehicle a bit further away and allowed the guests to safely watch and photograph this phenomenal sight.

The lions were not the only successful apex predators in the area – the resident pack of wild dog have put on a great show for our guests this month. Once again the Little Vumbura boat station has been a favourite spot for the dogs. On one occasion when camp staff were offloading the weekly supply delivery, we heard the characteristic yapping sound of the dogs and immediately noticed them in hot pursuit of a young reedbuck. We all watched in awe as the pack cornered the antelope and took it down a mere five metres away from us!

Owl around camp

Leopard sightings have been really good too and the highlight for the month was the news of Selonyana, the resident female leopard, giving birth this month. We have not been able to see the cubs yet, but Selonyana is heavily lactating.

General game sightings have been equally as impressive as the predator sightings, as we just experienced abundance this month. Kudu, zebra, impala and lechwe provided non-stop excitement and we enjoyed a couple of sable sightings too.

Birding was pretty good this month, and filled in the gaps nicely between mammal sightings. Lesser-striped swallows have been very busy building nests around the camp area.

Staff in Camp
Managers: Hamish and Millie
Guides: Sevara, Sam and Rain.
Newsletter by Hamish Hendersona

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

If you are asked to sum up Duba Plains in a matter of words then more often than not lion, buffalo, exceptional photography, Dereck and Beverley Joubert and National Geographic's 'The Last Lions' come to mind.

The lion and buffalo interaction is world-famous and we are one of the top places in Africa to see the "kings of the jungle" hunt. Contrasting to this, our guide Spike and his lucky guests came a cross another battle amongst the titans - this time involving a honey badger and a southern African python.

One evening Spike was returning to the camp and using a red filtered spotlight they spotted two animals tussling in the short grass. After a closer inspection it turned out to be a python fending off a badger. The python would be a real prize of a meal, especially as it was about three metres long. The python was lucky as behind it was an acacia tree allowing it to retreat to some height, beyond the badger's reach. A lucky day for the python and a great sighting for our guests.

Honey badger and a southern African python.    Hippo

There are so many urban myths and stories told around the fire about honey badgers. They are often referred to, pound for pound, as the most ferocious mammal in Africa. Famed for fending off lions, and even killing buffalo, we have also heard of many stories about snakes and badgers fighting. One recent incident was when a badger killed a puff adder, but not before getting bitten. After being knocked unconscious by the venom, the badger was revived - some say their lymph system is so developed that it can process and metabolise the venom.

When the annual inundation arrives, it is always an exciting time for us as it brings with it so many changes to the environment. For most of the month, we noticed that the water levels were dropping, but towards the end of the March the water levels began to rise again. We look forward to doing boat trips once the water levels rise a little more.

Lion on the hunt    Bat-eared fox

Going back to the lion and buffalo saga, the resident lions had a challenging month, as the buffalo are all in peak condition following the green season. This led the lions to focus their efforts on catching buffalo calves. This however, was not a fool-proof plan, as the rest of the herd would often fend off the lions successfully. This resulted with the lions supplementing their bovine diet with red lechwe which are around in abundance.

Due to the high lion densities in the area, leopards are very elusive around Duba, but this month we had some incredible sightings of these secretive cats. The highlight was finding a leopard feeding on a baby monkey. Our guides used the alarm calls of the baboons and monkeys to locate the leopards this month. As the large sycamore figs are fruiting, they attract large numbers of primates to the highest branches – making them effective sentinels.

Other highlights for the month included sightings of bat-eared fox and serval.

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Banoka Bush Camp update - March 2013

March was yet another successful month at Banoka Bush Camp. We have seen the tell-tale signs of the approaching winter months as we received very little rainfall and most of the grass species have now turned a golden yellow colour. We still experienced high temperatures and this, coupled with the drying of surface water, resulted in lots of wildlife congregating along the larger water channels.

Slaty egret    Hammerkop

Fairly large herds of buffalo were seen wallowing in the drying waterholes as well as feeding on the lush grasses along the permanent water sources. The month was also characterised by the sound of rutting impala rams, as all of the adult males as they begin battling for mating rights. The impala rutting season is always exciting to watch, as the rams do not stop fighting, running, herding and vocalising. This is a great time for predators as the rams are preoccupied with reproduction, thus becoming easy prey.

The highlight for the month was the return of cheetah to the area. Cheetah have been absent from our area of operation for the last eight months as last year's annual inundation displaced them. These incredible felines have been seen hunting on the eastern side of the concession now.
On the feathered side of the scale, the birding has been rather good too. Most of the summer migrants have already left for warmer climes and it seems that Levaillant's cuckoo may be the last to leave, as we saw them daily in March.

Cape Buffalo

The drying waterholes attracted huge numbers and varieties of birds, as the low levels of water have trapped and exposed a myriad fish and aquatic organisms to an avian onslaught. On would often find marabou storks, black egrets and slaty egrets feeding energetically at the fish traps.

A highlight for the month included a sighting of western-banded snake-eagle, which is quite rare for the area.

Newsletter by Chris Nyame

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Jacana Camp update - March 2013               Jump to Jacana Camp

Weather and Landscape
Overall the water level has stayed constant for most of the month, but towards the end of the month, the temperature has risen and the water has dropped a little. We have had 3.3 mm of rain the whole month. It has definitely been the sunniest month by far. The evenings are starting to get cooler, maybe a sign that the seasons are changing.

Wildlife
Wildlife has been prolific by Jacana standards, with regular visits by elephants during the evening as well as in the late afternoon. The pachyderms tend to move around the island, and would often come right up to the rooms to feed on the palms and other vegetation found around the rooms.

Butterfly    Evening at the Boma

One morning, an elephant bull did not want to be left out of breakfast and joined our guests by feeding on the sycamore figs while the guests enjoyed their breakfast. We have seen a lone hippo in the channel at the Jacana jetty as well as on the two islands that are in the front of camp. It has been sighted a few times out of the water grazing during the day. There have been good sightings of hippo pods near and at Kubu Lagoon. Crocodiles have also been sighted in the channels.
We have had good sightings of sitatunga, especially one young male who is very relaxed and presents good photo opportunity for our guests. General game has been seen on Jao Island as well as the occasional bachelor herd of buffalo.

Birds and Birding
The birdlife at Jacana has been spectacular as usual. Pel's fishing-owl has done us proud and a large number of our guests have been lucky enough to see a pair on the island to the north east of Jacana. We had a great sighting of a western banded snake-eagle in camp one afternoon and it posed for its photo and was around the whole afternoon. The fish-eagles have been calling every morning and have taken up residence above Room 7 where they seem to perch each night. The African scops-owl can be heard each evening calling for a mate and every so often, one is lucky enough to catch a glimpse of him. There have been several sightings of a lesser jacana with its chicks near Kubu Lagoon and she normally is quite relaxed around the boats.

Hippo    Sitatunga

Guest Comments
"This is our first trip to Botswana and to Africa; and we have loved our stay at Jacana Camp. From the minute we arrived and the camp blended perfectly into the beautiful landscape, we knew we were at the most wonderful and peaceful place! What we perhaps did not expect was such luxurious accommodations, delicious food and excellent company but the best was the fellow guests."

"Fantastic welcome to a superb three night stay. Position of the camp is unbeatable, food was excellent and never-ending, top marks for attention and warmth of the staff. There were lots of highlights but the main one for us was the mokoro adventure - we must mention here that Alberto, our guide, is extremely helpful with a wealth of knowledge of the Okavango Delta. The whole camp is a well-run ship with Ian and Michélle at the helm. SUPERB!"

"An experience of a lifetime! A small camp with a large heart!"

"A Wonderful stay in a very relaxing environment. Amazing elephant encounters too!"

Dragonfly on Lilly

Staff in Camp
Managers: Ian and Michélle Burger.
Guides: Gibson Kehemetswe, Timothy Samuel and Alfonso.

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Abu Camp update - March 2013               Jump to Abu Camp

Water filtering down a well-worn vehicle track heralds the beginning of an annual event so grand in its nature that it changes the very landscape around us. Rains that have fallen in the Angolan highlands in December have flowed and gathered momentum, converging around the Abu Concession four months later.

The excitement in camp is palpable as we all wait with bated breath for the annual inundation to reclaim the sand and grass and allow us to begin all sorts of water activities, ranging from explorations by boat and mokoro into channels and areas once only accessible by vehicles, to catch-and-release fishing outings aimed at local fish species including various bream species and the predatory African pike.

The summer temperatures have started to dry the once-green grass and ensured that it is not only the staff and guests in camp looking forward to the high water levels but also the Abu Herd! In a few short weeks the herd will be swimming and cavorting through the cool Okavango waters delighting guests whilst exploring the wetland wonderland.

Wild Dogs    Elephant back Safari

Sightings in the Abu Concession this month have been particularly noteworthy, with specials including two pangolin sightings and an incredible scene where a massive southern African python caught and ate a young impala ewe in the late afternoon.

The resident lion pride has also been active in and around the airstrip, often seen hunting the plains game attracted by all the lush grasslands. Two large male lions have also been seen in the area a few times, possibly moving in from the Jao Concession, causing quite a stir as they go; they have been seen scent marking and heard roaring as they move about this new territory. We all hope these majestic males are here to stay.

We have also had a pack of 16 wild dogs move into the concession amid massive excitement from the guides and senior staff who have not seen any in many years. Birding too has been phenomenal with Dickinson's kestrel being in abundance as well as regular appearances from the local southern ground hornbills and a plethora of waterbirds that will no doubt only get better as the waters slowly begin to rise.

The Abu Herd is mostly unchanged, with little Warona becoming more and more daring as she ventures further from the herd under the careful and wise eyes of Cathy and Shireni her mother. Kitty, under the watchful eyes of the experienced elephant handlers, is now roughly 14 months pregnant and the prediction is for her new calf to be joining the herd around the end of November/December.

Our ever-popular stargazing-come-tappas bush dining evening is still in full swing with the remarkable Botswana skies shining down on our guests while tucking into delectable African-inspired finger foods, and reclining on cushions sipping various varieties of indulgent wines.

Until next month,
Warmest regards from the Abu Herd.

Newsletter by Ian Mey

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Kwetsani Camp update - March 2013               Jump to Kwetsani Camp

The first push of the annual inundation started to come in during February, and but the water was not noticeably any closer to camp throughout the month of March. We are wondering then if the mass of water is going to be as high as it has been over the past two years. No matter what, the water cycle and pattern is very interesting to observe. With the different patterns, the wildlife is affected differently – so the question is what does 2013 holds in store for us?

When one lives out here, you are very aware just how delicate the balance of life really is.

Lechwe

Everything is dependent on one other, from the smallest to the biggest organisms. This month, so many of our guests wanted to be just as aware – to stop, observe, smell and listen. When they did this, a whole exciting new world opened to them, in their immediate natural surroundings. Under the excellent guidance of our guides, MT and Florence, the guests learnt that when they stop and observe certain animal behaviour they would be led to a predator in the area.

Often our best sentinals to alert us to the presence of lion and leopard are the monkeys and baboons. The birds chatter incessantly warning each other of a snake or bird of prey in the area. On the several occasions that we have responded to baboon alarm calls, we have been brought right onto the trail of a leopard.

We had the oppurtunity to watch a mob of birds dive-bomb a black mamba and chase it off. On one afternoon, our attention was caught by the warning chatter of the birds dive-bombing an African harrier-hawk that was raiding the nests for eggs and chicks – he was however, not deterred by the dive-bombers at all.

The lionesses have stayed north of Kwetsani for the whole month, while the male has made his territorial rounds, to ensure that any would-be competitor understands that he is still the boss in this concession. He has had his son following in his wake on his territorial rounds – he is being taught well to be the future king of this territory. Our sense of hearing was put to the test to try and listen to who was roaring and when – the king or the prince?

Insects    Bird around Kwetsani Camp

This being said, the Intruder Male, who has come roaring onto the island, kept us all up one night when he roared until the ground trembled every hour or so. The next day of course we were tired and he slept. We never heard him the next night but we did see him walk across the floodplains early one afternoon and disappear on a small island. A little later a herd of elephant walking close to where the lion was lying, all of a sudden smelt him and the matriarch signalled to the rest of the herd to surround the babies and run - this resulted in a spectacular view with the water splashing high before them as they ran. We took our guests to go see the lion and found him with a lechwe kill – after he fed on it for a while, he proceeded to hide the carcass away from the hyaena in the area, which no doubt would come out looking for food a little later.

Being at Kwetsani, we have the opportunity to do both game drives and water activities, as all our game drives are done either at Hunda Island or Jao Island. At this time of the year we boat to either of the islands for the game drive. We therefore get the best of both worlds – with the lion that are often on and around our camp island and then more often than not, we find the leopard when we drive on Hunda.

Dan, who is a really good photographer, spends a lot of time with the guests helping them get to know their camera, highlighting what they should be doing to take wildlife pictures and then he helps them with a bit with the photo processing. So many of the guests leave here really grateful for the hints and tips – being photographically enriched, knowing that they can go home with some really awesome shots that they have taken.

Night at the Boma    Wildlife around Kwetsani Camp

Florence Kagiso and Moengotsile Maleboga (MT) were the guides on duty for the month of March. MT's knowledge of the stars is really good and he takes the time on a clear night to show the guests the different constellations with his personal telescope – this has proved to be a highlight for so many people.

Managers in camp were Dan and Charmaine Myburg.

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Jao Camp update - March 2013               Jump to Jao Camp

Weather and Landscape
March passed by and there was no rain, only hot days. We did receive some solace from the heat as there was a constant cool breeze for a couple of days during the middle of the month. We have yet to feel the onset of winter, but we are sure the cold will arrive in the mornings very soon.

The water level has dropped a little this month, but it will rise substantially as soon as the annual inundation arrives in the Okavango Delta.

Bush Dining

Wildlife
We have had many rare and beautiful sightings this month at Jao. The local band of 'mafia' mongoose decided it was time to move their den right next to the camp office. They have become very habituated and will often sit relaxed in the presence of people less than 30cm away. A genet has also taken a liking to the camp and was even seen in broad daylight next to the boardwalk having a snooze.

The resident hyaena clan have continued to visit the camp on most nights. During the still of night, these inquisitive animals come into camp and sample some of the camp décor, giving it a little chew. We have now installed a "hyaena gate" on the bridge in order to prevent these late night visits. However, the clan has returned regardless, and has taken a liking to chewing the pool pump and boma equipment.

Hippo have also been joining the hyaena with their nightly camp visits, as these bulk grazers seem to find the lush grass under and in between the tents tasty.

Other exciting sightings for the month included that of a sitatunga, which was a huge highlight for all of us. We also had sightings of civet, southern African python and Cape clawless otter at Kubu Island. We found a number of fresh leopard tracks on Jao Island, but unfortunately no sightings of the feline.

Birds and Birding
Bird sightings have included the rare and the wonderful this month. Some of the staff had the opportunity to have some birding lessons from our concession manager, Anthony. The camp twitchers would take birding walks along the camp boardwalk and try to identify as many species as possible. These walks revealed some specials for the area! Some of the camp species recorded were: Verreaux's eagle-owl, African paradise- flycatcher, African dusky flycatcher, southern black flycatcher, emerald-spotted wood-dove, pied kingfisher, woodland kingfisher, crested barbet, black-collared barbet, marabou stork, blue-cheeked bee-eater, green pigeon, fork-tailed drongo and brown-hooded kingfisher.

Civet    Mongoose

A martial eagle has been spending lots of time around camp, scaring the living daylights out of the mongoose mafia. The birding highlights for the month included sightings of purple gallinule, Pel's fishing-owl, Ayers's hawk-eagle and lappet-faced vulture.

Camp Activities
As the Jao floodplain is now submerged in ankle-deep water, it has provided the perfect spot to have a relaxing bush brunch, high tea orsundowner – a great way to enjoy the Delta while cooling off your feet.

Camp staff have been very enthusiastic when it comes to traditional nights in the boma, and have wowed many a guest with their tuneful singing and energetic dancing.

The Jao wine cellar has fascinated quite a few of our guests with its eco-friendly status and workings, as well as our wide quality and variety of South African wines. We completed a photo shoot for our wine cellar this month with Geir and Gunnhild from Tara Magazine along with some fun wine tastings and wine tours.

Malachite Kingfisher     Crane

Sala sleep-outs have been done by a number of Jao guests, and was thoroughly enjoyed by all. Our local ladies have also fascinated guests at high teas with their basket-weaving skills.

Hunda Island trips and mokoro trips have also been a highlight for guests at Jao.

Staff in Camp
Managers: Bryan Webbstock, Theresa Fourie, Nadia Fourie, Retha Prinsloo, Cindy Swart, Phill Ngisi, Neuman Vasco and Charl Bergh.
Guides: Bolatatswe Makgheto, Ipeleng Mollowakgotta, Albert Munduu, Johnny Mowanji and Solomon Kanyeto.


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Seba Camp update - March 2013               Jump to Seba Camp

We are nearing the end of the summer and the long hot days are getting a little bit shorter and a little bit cooler. The grass is transforming from bright green to the pale yellow that dominates the colour spectrum of the bush during the winter months. Make no mistake though, it is still very hot during the day and animals and humans alike still seek refuge in the shade and cool waters of the Delta.

The annual inundation has also started coming in and the pan in front of Seba has filled up nicely. We now must start getting ready for driving through some deeper water crossings and expect some to be too deep to drive through at all. But hippos and crocodiles frequent the water in front of the camp more often now and there are some signs of fish lurking too.

Wilddogs    Wilddogs

The game viewing has been really good. Not only out in the bush, but also in and around camp. We had elephants in camp almost daily, the two resident buffalo have also been around, and the hyaena were running around the camp area every night this month – more than likely attracted to the amazing smells coming from the dinner table. We have also seen large-spotted genet, baboon, vervet monkey, tortoise, bushbuck, impala and a variety of mongoose species in camp.

On game drives, we have been really lucky as an unknown pack of wild dogs has moved into the concession and were seen for a week. 16 wild dogs were seen by many of our guests as they were "testing out" the Abu Airstrip and our old airstrip, looking for suitable living courters. We have also had some unknown lions on the concession - two males were spotted relaxing under a tree earlier this month.

Vervet monkey    Wilddogs

Seba Camp has been busier this month and we have had lots of little kiddies running around camp. As we are one of the camps that accommodates children of all ages, we have had some great fun with Easter egg hunts, face painting and animal footprint casting.
With autumn just around the corner, all of us here at Seba are excited to see what the colder months have in store for us here in our little slice of paradise.

Guest Comments
"We know it is your job, but here we felt personally welcomed. I have travelled in more than 80 countries as I travel for six months at a time, and this was honestly the best ever! Thank you for that and keep up the great work."

Staff in Camp
Managers: Beatrice, Aaron and Ipileng.
Guides: Jacko, Joe and Speedy.
Newsletter by Beatrice Coetser.


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

Weather and Landscape
March was characterised by lovely warm days with even better evening temperatures. The cooler weather of autumn has crept up on us as the month neared its end, with crisp cool mornings. A few drops of rain have fallen during the month, but not even enough to wet the soil. For the last few days of the month, we were blessed with beautiful thunder clouds and even better lightning, but still no relief from the dust.

Wildlife
Where to start? Well, the leopards have been keeping us thoroughly entertained with all their escapades.
Tubu Female and her two youngsters have been "patrolling" around Tubu Tree Camp and Little Tubu - it seems that they are quite happy with what has been happening, as they have been here almost daily, and of course not disappointing us in their performance. They have been seen crossing the floodplains during the day, stalking red lechwe in the setting sun and walking through the camp in the late afternoon or in the early mornings. One evening we saw the young male walking on the edge of the camp, marking his territory as he went; he also decided that marking the door of the manager's tent was also part of his duties.

Male lions close the Tubu Tree Camp    Male lions close the Tubu Tree Camp

We have seen them for a few days in the open clearing in front of camp, but on a lovely afternoon, we found the Tubu Female relaxing in the afternoon sun, not too far from a red lechwe carcass she had been feeding on from the evening before. She was calling her cubs, and when they arrived they could smell that their mother had fed, but mom was not giving any hints as to where the carcass was - the young male was trying his best to get the location out of his mom. Eventually he started walking circles around the area and found the carcass not too far from his mother. Both sub-adults dug in very eagerly.

Upon returning to camp, the guides mentioned that they had this great sighting of all three leopards, so Eloise decided, with another manager, Steve and training manager Henco, to see what was happening at the sighting. When we got there we had a glimpse of a leopard, as he/she disappeared into the undergrowth, but there was no leopard feeding on the carcass. There was a very large hyaena enjoying the meal. We sat there with only parking lights on and a torch, and while watching the hyaena ripping the carcass to shreds, we saw something move behind the hyaena. Less than one metre behind the hyaena was a leopard, inching closer, barely moving a blade of grass. She moved so close to the hyaena, that every time the hyaena stepped back to pull on a piece of meat, the leopard had to lean back to make sure that the hyaena didn't know it was there. Eventually the leopard was caught unaware when the hyaena quickly stepped back and realised that she bumped something, when she turned around to look at what was behind her, she saw that there was a leopard behind her and immediately charged at the feline – it was a brief lunge, as the hyaena quickly returned to the carcass.

Red lechwe in the setting sun     Red lechwe in the setting sun

A few minutes later we spotted some more movement: this time to the side of the hyaena and a little further away, there was a leopard lying down in the grass relaxing. Not long after another leopard brushed past and went to lie down in the same area. The hyaena was clearly unsettled by the presence of another leopard and gave chase again. Suddenly a third leopard (which had been crouching in front of the vehicle) took this opportunity to try and seize the carcass. Unfortunately for the leopard trio, the enraged hyaena spotted this and reclaimed her meal. Soon after this, the leopards decided that it was a losing battle and proceeded to nap under some vegetation – leaving the hyaena to gorge in peace.

This month we have also been blessed with many great elephant sightings within the camp, as the marula trees in camp are all in fruit, attracting the big pachyderms to come and enjoy their favourite food, while the guests are sitting on the decks of their rooms or on the main area deck - even when we are having our meals, they will join for theirs.

One afternoon, with only one vehicle out on drive, the guests came back smiling from ear to ear. Upon asking them what they saw, they had a naughty grin and replied, "Two male lions." Enough said - we haven't seen lions on the island since December last year and all of a sudden right under our noses and a mere 30-minute drive from camp, two male lions had killed a blue wildebeest. They had fed on the carcass and not much was left. The next day we went looking but couldn't find them, only their tracks. Over the following two weeks we would find their tracks and even had a couple brief sightings. Hopefully the two young animals will settle into the area.

General game sightings have also been incredible, as we have enjoyed large numbers of lechwe and giraffe around the concession.

Birds and Birding
We were lucky enough this month to have a wonderful sighting of a pied avocet at Kalahari Pans, brief as it was, it was lovely to see nonetheless.

This month, we participated in a Botswana bird count (along with many other camps and lodges in the country) and managed to tick quite a few great species off, including large flocks of wattled starlings, European swallows, and broad-billed rollers in addition to the resident species.

Big flocks of wattled cranes have moved into the floodplain area in front of camp, which is a highlight for any birder that visits us.

Chameleon

Guest Comments
"Game drives were always interesting, no matter what we saw and we especially enjoyed the variety of animals and birds. The camp staff were very accommodating and friendly."

"Game drives with GT were spectacular – he is an amazing guide and worked very hard to find the best game viewing opportunities. The traditional evening in the boma with the staff was outstanding."

"Our highlight was having Petros as our guide. He went above and beyond to make sure we saw many animals, trees and varying landscapes. His knowledge and expertise were excellent. The Monday night cultural even was a favourite in camp. Eloise was a most wonderful hostess and her film presentation was very, very good. We were made to feel special and welcome. We would recommend Tubu Tree to everyone for a true African experience. Loved the outdoor shower under the stars while hearing animals!"

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


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

Weather and Landscape
The 'dry' season has arrived early in the Kalahari this year. The vegetation is already brown and has thinned out considerably. Over the last few months we received very little rain and since we have reached the end of the rainy season this seems to have been the total for us. In terms of the temperature, we experienced some hot conditions this month, with the 47° C being the highest temperature recorded for the month.

Wildlife
General game sightings have been pretty good as we have enjoyed viewing large congregations of gemsbok and springbok. Towards the end of the month, these large groups of wildlife got smaller as the animals have started to disperse in search for suitable graze and water. These smaller herds tend to move into the ridges and adjoining woodlands in their search for 'greener pastures'.

Predator sightings have been consistent throughout the month with lots of activity around the waterholes. The Plains Pride of lion spent most of the month hanging around the camp area and were seen a number of times around the camp waterhole, which has been attracting a lot of activity from prey species, as they try to slake their thirst.

Martial eagle catching a monitor lizard

he Lekhubu Male, which is one of the dominant males from Deception Valley, has been seen in the camp area too. Last month this male was seen mating with one of the females from the Plains Pride close to Big Pan. As the Plains Male has been away for a while, this has perhaps presented the Lekhubu Male with an opportunity to take over the area? We will soon find out.

Cheetah sightings have also been on a high note with more than 10 sightings this month. A mother with three sub-adult cubs has stolen the centre stage as far as cheetah are concerned. We assume her offspring to be around a year old. Our guests were thoroughly treated on one morning when this small family attempted to catch a springbok. The chase was spectacular, but unfortunately it was not successful for the cheetah.

Birding was good this month, with the highlight being a martial eagle catching a monitor lizard.

We are sure the next few months will present interesting sightings as the landscape dries out further.


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