(Page 2 of
South Africa camps
Pafuri Camp update - March 2013 Jump
to Pafuri Camp
Pafuri Walking Trail update - March 2013 Jump
to Pafuri Walking Trail
Camp Jabulani update - March 2013
Kings Camp update - March 2013 Jump
to Kings Camp
Another month has flown by, the mornings and evenings are getting much cooler. The sun is rising a little later and setting sooner, but the superb sightings haven't changed.
The rivers have all started to dry up with scattered pools along them so the animals are soon going to have to move larger distances to drink. Even the grass is starting to change colour ever so slightly.
The lion prides in the area were a lot more frequent with the remaining Machaton lioness and juvenile male being seen on a regular basis on the southern portion of our traversing. They also managed to share a bull giraffe along with the collared Mabande male. They successfully chased off a clan of hyenas who thought they had won the lottery. The collared Mabande male is still limping though an unknown injury and his partner has been doing more moving around protecting the territory. Towards the middle of the month the males were both seen mating with two Myanbula females, so here is hoping. We also saw the Mafikizolo pride still hanging around the north east but spending more time in the Klaserie Game Reserve.
Once again this animal has provided numerous hours of guest pleasure, this month we would like to introduce you to two newly named leopards from the north, they are the Argyle Jnr's juveniles who are starting to become independent. The young male is known as Xiviti and the young female is Tingana, both being seen on the northern part of our traversing.
The Rockfig Jnr female has been seen frequently this month and her youngster seems to be spending more and more time away from mom. The Marula female is still enjoying her new home near the airstrip. Umfana was seen pushing his luck this month as he tried to steal a few mouthfuls of a giraffe that had been killed by some lions. Nthombi has been giving us the slip and has us thinking there might be the chance of new cubs. We will keep you updated if we find anything.
Cape Buffalo & Elephant
The buffalo viewing has been really good this month as we were spoilt with a big herd spending a lot of its time moving through our traversing area. The older males have also been found around the thickly vegetated areas, as well as around the waterholes.
The elephants never disappointed this month, we even managed to view some new calves which always draw an aaaaa from the guests. One interesting sighting was a herd with a matriarch with really interesting tusks, one up and one down, she was also a collared individual so quite important to the elephant research of the area.
We were very fortunate this month with a few cheetah sightings, since this area is quite thick and not perfect hunting area for this lightning quick animal, but an adult female with five juveniles were seen on our property.
The pack of 28 wild dogs kept us entertained again this month and were even seen mating towards the end of the month so let's hope they den on our property this winter. Having guided for nealy 14 years it was only the second time I witnessed this so it was extremely exciting. We also witnessed this huge pack of wild dogs chasing both Rockfig jnr and her juvenile up into trees on Cheetah Plains and Selby my tracker was the only one quick enough with his camera.
Well that all for this month, join us again for next moths updates.
Dean & the Kings Camp guiding team
Report written by Head Ranger Dean Robinson
Photography by Dean Robinson & Selby Mgwena
Leopard Hills update - March 2013 Jump
to Leopard Hills
A chill in the air and clear sunny days herald a welcome change in season after a very wet summer! There is a stillness in the misty mornings and evenings as the woodland kingfishers have taken their booming calls far to the north!
Stability seems to be reigning supreme here in the west with both the male and female leopard dynamics fairly stable…for now.
Her playful female cub is growing bigger by the day and is still being led all around her mother's vast territory to her various kill sites. See image below and amusing video of her cub manoeuvring around a small marula tree with a male common duiker kill.
Hlaba Nkunzi is also seen a lot on her own and seems to be constantly on the move, getting around and marking her vast territory. There is a lot of marking activity and vocalising on her boundary with Metsi, lots of competition for space now that they both have growing female cubs! See video of her vocalising.
So glad to report that Metsi and her female cub were found more often this month, we had one really memorable sighting of them for a few days on an impala kill. The cub is relaxing more and more with the presence of game drive vehicles and is becoming a joy to watch. The female bloodline in the west looks very safe with both Metsi and Hlaba Nkunzi having female cubs.
She was found frequently this month, on one particular occasion we arrived just as she was dragging her impala kill up a tree. See images below.
It looks like she has lactation stains and most likely has little cubs hidden somewhere…watch this space.
Still residing up in the north, she surfaces very rarely in the dense environment up there but when she is found she is as playful as always!
Dayone & Kashane
Dayone is covering huge distances as always patrolling his rather large territory, he is always a pleasure to watch. He is pushing a little further east and he is often seen walking and marking the same areas that Kashane has been frequenting! There could still be more trouble brewing between these two.
Kashane contemplating his next move from high up a Jackalberry
He is still hanging around gaining strength and doesn't seem too fazed about the presence bigger older territorial males around! He is nearly 4 years old and may become a real threat very soon!
All 4 gaining strength and feeding on their wildebeest kill
They faced their moment of reckoning during the latter part of the month, an almighty confrontation between 3 of the huge Majingilane males! In the aftermath one had an injured lip and another one an injured eye but they look stronger and more assured than ever! See images and video below. The way they handled the wily older Majingilane boys was commendable and the future of the Ximhungwe cubs looks very bright indeed!
One of the more dominant males just after putting his body on the line and sporting an injured lip.
A few days later and almost fully healed!
All 4 looking for buffalo a few days after the battle.
With the cubs still being so young the lionesses are not covering much ground at the moment and we are able to find them almost daily. Early mornings and late evenings are always a good bet to see the little ones active and playing around. Enjoy video footage below!
Kung Fu cub
The poor Othawa lionesses have been caught right in the middle of the titanic battle of the coalitions, they probably instigated all the furore by being so attractive in their oestrus condition…Tracks of one of the lionesses have been seen far west, going back and forth to the same river bed, maybe some little Othawa cubs are on the way! Watch this space…
Pack of Painted Dogs
The pack of 8 has been here a few times this month! The good news is that the one yearling from last year that was separated from the pack somehow found the rest and has rejoined them after over a week on his own.
Interesting sightings in March
A rarely spotted dwarf bittern hopped up from a roadside pan and paused briefly in this tree. Very good sighting for the birders.
A handsome young male cheetah arrived in the west and delighted us for a few days.
This young hyena was found killing a fully grown zebra! The zebra must have been sick or injured, reminding us that there is no place for the weak in Africa!
Rocktail Beach Camp update - March 2013 Jump
to Rocktail Beach Camp
Rocktail Bay Dive Report - March 2013 Jump
to Rocktail Beach Camp
We are about to head into the tail end of summer and the odd chilly evening is a reminder that winter will soon be on its way. Luckily for us we tend to escape a lot of the bad weather that moves up the coast from the Cape, as it often heads out to sea and dissipates before it reaches us. However, sometimes it does not move far enough out to sea and we still get some of the effects in the form of big swells; this in turn causes us to have surge on the dives with quite a bit of sand being stirred up, resulting in a drop in visibility. Visibility averaged at around 15-18 metres, with some days a wonderful 25-30 metres plus and due to bad weather the visibility dropped down to 8-10 metres for a couple of days. Water temperature was still a warm 27 degrees Celsius dropping to 25 degrees at the end of the month.
March marks the end of the turtle nesting and hatching season. Generally by the end of March it is quite rare to see a female turtle come ashore to lay her eggs but there were a few latecomers this year. Most of the turtle nests will have hatched out by the end of March but because some were only laid late, we might still see the occasional hatchling before the season is completely finished.
The ragged tooth shark season has also officially come to and end. The last time that we saw ragged tooth sharks at Island Rock was on the 4th of March. Guests were enjoying an Ocean Experience and were lucky to see the last two female raggies. We snorkelled at Island Rock a few days later and could not find them, and have not seen any for the remainder of the month. After spending approximately three months in our area, these sharks return home to the Eastern Cape, where they will give birth and wait until next year to start their migration all over again.
The old saying, "a dive is not over until you are back on the boat", proved to be true on a couple of occasions this month and both times it was whilst diving at Aerial Reef that divers saw something special when they thought the dive was over. The first dive was at the beginning of the month and the divers were ascending to their safety stop at five metres, when luckily they looked down and saw a manta ray swimming along below them. If they had not been observant, the manta ray would have glided past without anyone being the wiser! The second wonderful sighting was as the divers had finished their safety stop and were actually swimming slowly to the surface, when Ondyne saw three bottlenose dolphins swimming past, she shouted to everyone and they quickly turned and watched the dolphins as they swam past.
Ocean Experience trips have been great fun with lots of sightings to keep everyone entertained. One trip was really memorable as we saw big patches of splashing water - as we got closer everyone could see the small bait fish jumping out of the water, trying to escape the tuna that were chasing them. We watched for ages as they darted around and jumped clear out of the water, sometimes you could actually hear the water "swoosh" as the small bait fish moved in unison trying to outrun their predators.
Other Ocean Experience trips produced sightings of a manta ray, bottlenose dolphins, spinner dolphins, hawksbill and green turtles and many different kinds of reef fish.
Although winter is slowly approaching, April and May tend to be the months with the best diving conditions, so we can't wait to see what next month brings.
Congratulations to the following Divers:
Bobby and Janine Bullen and James and Sophie Lindsay for completing their PADI Discover Scuba Diving Course.
Freddie Cloke and Abbey Hulett for completing their PADI Bubblemaker Course.
Sarah Bloy and Kate Hulett for completing their PADI Open Water Course
Yours in diving,
Darryl, Clive, Michelle, Ondyne, Mandla and Sipho
The Rocktail Dive Team
Makalolo Plains update - March 2013 Jump
to Makalolo Plains Camp
Little Makalolo update - March 2013 Jump
to Little Makalolo
Weather and Landscape
Hwange continues to live up to its reputation of unpredictable weather. A few mornings have been a bit chilly - we assume it's a warning that winter might be a bit harsh. On the other hand, the afternoons have been also rather hot for this time of the year.
They call it "survival of the fittest" in the bush for a reason. Those plants with long roots to tap into the fast-depleting water table are still standing high and tall and green but the grass that has short roots has already wilted dry and have turned brown, save for the grasses around the waterholes.
"Wow... unbelievable!" This was a remark from one guest as he and the others got off a vehicle from their morning activity. March has been amazing as far as game viewing was concerned. On one morning game drive, just as the guests were driving out of camp, they came across a leopard taking a stroll just outside camp. They watched her for about 20 minutes and then she went into the bushes. From there they drove for a few kilometres and came across a cheetah on a termite mound. She posed for a few minutes and then took off. As if this was not enough, a pride of 14 lions was also seen on the same game drive.
Around camp the lions have been keeping us awake as they were visiting almost nightly and calling very loudly - this is the best bush sound at night. One evening as we were restocking our bar, we heard a sound from the pool, kind of like splashing and we shone our torches in the direction of the pool - to everyone's amazement, there was a leopard drinking from our pool, just 10 metres away!
Some of the highlights for the month included sightings of African wild cat and a number of sightings of a cheetah mother with her three cubs. Side-striped jackal and roan were also seen.
Birds and Birding
This month the bird sightings were great, with a special sighting of an African crowned eagle, which is very uncommon for this area. We had a few sightings of raptors feasting on frogs and insects. The Steppe eagles and lesser-spotted eagles have gone down in numbers and we suspect they have started their long flight back north.
"Friendly, courteous staff. Every detail was thought of. Wonderful food served with an eye for detail and the client experience. Our guide was knowledgeable and helpful and fun as well. I thank you Dickson! Thank you all so much."
"The little notes left in the room are a great addition and makes you feel loved."
"Great family atmosphere. The staff make you feel so at home. Great setting, great tents, keep up the good work. The quality of the staff and the service and especially the thought that went into our last night meal, it was fantastic!"
Staff in Camp
Managers: Rania Mutumhe, Charles Ndlovu and Vimbai Mandaza.
Guides: Dickson Dube, Honest Siyawareva and Livingstone Sana.
Davison's Camp update - March 2013
Ruckomechi Camp update - March 2013 Jump
to Ruckomechi Camp
Weather and Landscape
March weather has been unpredictable - hot, cloudy and humid with temperatures ranging between 20° C in the early morning and rising to around 38° C during the day but with no rain.
The Zambezi River is at its highest with the Kariba floodgate having being open since the 19th of March. This without doubt allowed us to traverse through channels by boat that we can't use when the river is low. The good news is that the channels are all being flushed out so we look forward to seeing some waterholes this year instead of dry pans – this will be great for waterbird and wildlife sightings.
Sightings have been exceptional around the concession this month. The young lioness, which is part of the resident pride, walked through the camp with three young cubs - we saw that one of the cubs is slightly older than the other two. It's suspected the older cub has been adopted from one of the older females in the pride. This is interesting as last year this particular female's mother adopted her cubs and this year, the tables seem to have turned with the daughter adopting her mother's cub. We have been lucky to see the lioness nursing the cubs on a number of occasions.
A breeding herd of elephant has been regularly viewed feeding and quenching their thirst from the river in front of the camp. The nocturnal animals have also done their part with lovely sightings of leopard hunting, mating hyaena, serval, porcupine, large-spotted genet and a large-grey mongoose.
Other great sightings have been several huge herds of buffalo and large rafts of hippo basking in the sun along the river banks along with many crocodiles. We also had great sightings of kudu, waterbuck and impala.
Birds and Birding
The high water levels brought with them a huge array of birdlife such as gargantuan flocks of Abdim's storks, white-faced ducks, comb ducks, sacred ibis, hadeda ibis, African openbills, red-billed queleas "swarming" overhead, European bee-eaters and many others.
This month Ruckomechi also hosted a Children in the Wilderness camp, where the kids come and stay and learn a variety of things including bush skills, environmental issues and conservation in a fun and outdoor environment. We saw a variety of staff and volunteers from the USA coming to help with the camp.
Mana Canoe Trail update - March 2013 Jump
to Mana Canoe Trail
Toka Leya Camp update - March 2013 Jump
to Toka Leya Camp
After such a wet February, it turned out that March was a very dry month – we experienced an abrupt stop to the rains with a dramatic increase in temperatures which we did not expect. This increase was easily remedied with a visit to the Vic Falls, as the spray was quite spectacular this month.
The vegetation is still quite green and lush, but many of the waterholes have started to dry up and we are sure that the vegetation will start thinning out shortly.
Despite the fact that we didn't experience much rain this month, further upstream seems to have received quite a bit, so the Zambezi River is still flowing strongly and the water level is high.
March was also the month for Earth Hour, which we celebrated with the rest of the world. Although we always enjoy great sundowners along the river, we extended it into dinner under the stars, which went down really well with our guests who were all blown away by the experience. We also used this opportunity to give our guests a star-gazing session and talk. We initially thought that we would return to camp after dinner, but we were having such a good time that we only returned after midnight!
With the surface water starting to dry out in the bush, we have experienced great wildlife experiences right in camp as the wildlife makes their way to the river to slake their thirst. Moto Moto, the resident hippo, has continued to entertain our guests as he spends quite a lot of time out of the water during the day, calmly grazing on the lush grass in front of camp.
Elephant herds have also come back into the area, and we had a herd of about 60 elephants frequenting the area. Whilst we have hoped to see them cross the river again, they have been quite sensible in avoiding the strong currents, a good call due to the small members of the herd. There is an abundance of food on our side at the moment, so there was no need for this huge herd to move off.
Rhino sightings have been really good this month and our guides are always proud when they find these special animals – a great testament to the conservation efforts for this species in the area. Many camp staff got the opportunity to see the dominant male rhino as he passed close to the camp on one occasion.
Downriver, the white-fronted bee-eater colony is probably one of the most photographed scenes as these little colourful birds come in to roost and all pose by their nests, taking in the last light of the day. The colours on the bank are so stunning and it's been noted that guests have been asking to go back to this site if they are staying another night.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Petros and Gogo Guwa, and Cynthia Kazembe
Guides: Sandy Sakala
Lufupa River Camp update - March 2013 Jump
to Lufupa River Camp
Lufupa Tented Camp update - March 2013 Jump
to Lufupa Tented Camp
Kalamu Lagoon Camp update - March 2013 Jump
to Kalamu Lagoon Camp
Shumba Camp update - March 2013 Jump
to Shumba Camp
Kapinga Camp update - March 2013 Jump
to Kapinga Camp
Busanga Bush Camp update - March 2013 Jump
to Busanga Bush Camp
Mvuu Camp update - March 2013 Jump
to Mvuu Camp
Mvuu Wilderness Lodge update - March 2013 Jump
to Mvuu Camp
Mumbo Island update - March 2013 Jump
to Mumbo Island
Chelinda Lodge update - March 2013
Desert Rhino Camp update - March 2013 Jump
to Desert Rhino Camp
Weather and Landscape
In March, there was no rain to speak of until the end of the month. The landscape is very dry due to lack of rain and thus no greenery is visible. Daytime temperatures ranged from 15° C to the lower 40° C mark. On the 30th of March we had isolated showers and the next morning thick mist clouds covered the whole area and only cleared out at 2pm that afternoon. Since then it has started to get bit colder in the mornings and at night time. Winter is on its way!
Camp News and Upgrades
This month the camp was closed and underwent a small revamp.
A team of dedicated workers build a brand-new swimming pool, a brand-new kitchen and laundry facilities with their respective storerooms inquite a short space of time despite some delays with the delivery of materials.
In short it was hectic but the results were very rewarding and everyone is certainly looking forward to make use of the new facilities in the best possible manner.
As the camp was due to open at the end of the month, everyone was very excited to entertain the guests and share our new camp with them as well as get out into the bush. The camp opening went off perfectly, and our guests were very impressed by the new upgrades.
This month we also welcomed Rudolf, Erika and Thereza as managers and Nestor as a guide. We hope they have a great time at Desert Rhino Camp and look forward to working with them.
"The staff were incredible – very friendly. The food was awesome and we would change nothing at all!"
"The camp staff made our stay – they are super knowledgeable, passionate and personable."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Elfrieda, Rudolf, Erika and Thereza.
Guides: Aloysius, Nestor, Raymond and Johann.
Palmwag Lodge update - March 2013 Jump
to Palmwag Lodge
Doro Nawas Camp update - March 2013 Jump
to Doro Nawas Camp
Weather and Landscape
March was a hot and humid month. We had temperatures of 30°C coupled with 25% humidity, sometimes rising to a blistering 47°C with 63% humidity!
Despite the high humidity, we did not receive any rainfall and the landscape is as dry and parched as ever. We remain positive that we will receive a little rain before winter arrives.
This month we enjoyed some really great game viewing both out on game drive and at camp. As the vegetation has become even sparser, the visibility is fantastic, and wherever there is water or good grazing and browsing opportunities, one can find good numbers of wildlife.
While out on drive, our guest often enjoyed sightings of red hartebeest, oryx, giraffe, black rhino, kudu, zebra, springbok and ostrich.
Sightings of desert-adapted elephants were very good this month, as both the Oscar and Rosie herds were seen.
And the elephants took a liking to the area surrounding Doro Nawas Camp which was fantastic.
Birding was pretty good this month, as we approach winter, all of the summer migrants have left, but winter is the breeding time for raptors. We had some incredible sightings of black-chested snake-eagle.
Most of our guests took the opportunity to sleep outside under the stars on their room decks, all of them commenting what a great experience it was.
Bush breakfasts were also a firm favourite this month and we will continue to wow our guests with this.
"We loved the views from the lodge, especially the elephants passing by the lodge. The staff were very helpful."
"Very friendly staff and management and we enjoyed the game drives."
"Everything was a highlight, you are doing this so well - we had a great time."
"A very friendly welcome, attention to detail has been fantastic. The meal by the pool was a wonderful touch."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Luan, Agnes, Bes, William and Rosalia.
Guides: Richard, Michael and Wilhelm
Newsletter by Luan and Wilhelm.
Damaraland Camp update - March 2013 Jump
to Damaraland Camp
Weather and Landscape
February left us with high expectations for rain in March, but unfortunately we only received a few small drizzles and cloudy days, but no serious rain. Generally speaking, the temperatures were quite high, but things would cool down a bit in the afternoon as the cool breeze rolled in from the Atlantic Ocean. The mornings have been a little chilly, a reminder that winter is knocking on the door. The landscape was cloaked in mist on a few mornings, which was burnt off as the sun heated the landscape. The afternoon winds coupled with the dry conditions did create some dusty situations here and there.
As the landscape becomes drier and drier, the herds and congregations of wildlife have split up and spread out in a quest to search for moisture and palatable food. Game sightings along the Huab River have been rather good, as we often encountered kudu, oryx, steenbok, baboon, ostrich, springbok and elephant along this ephemeral river.
On the subject of desert-adapted elephant, we are pleased to report that both the Oscar and Rosie Herds have returned to the area. We have often seen the two herds together, creating a large group of 26 individuals. A bachelor herd of five bulls has been following these breeding herds throughout the month.
Along the Springbok River we have seen giraffe, Hartmann's mountain zebra and rock hyrax – species that are not too common along the Huab River and so round off the experience nicely.
Birding has also been productive this month, as many raptor species are preparing to nest. We have enjoyed some outstanding mammal sightings when out birding. On one occasion, we came across a black rhino which was a huge bonus.
Jacob Basson Combined School at Bergsig received a generous donation from camp guest, Mr Monko. The donation was then used to purchase two washing machines. The entire school and hostel staff would like to thank Mr Monko for his donation and care for the community.
"We have been here before, loved our stay here again and will definitely see you in the future."
"Charles was a spectacular guide who went out of his way to accommodate our interests."
"The visit to the local school was very interesting; also meeting local people gave us some insight to how people and animals survive in the desert area."
"Our highlights were the warm welcome, the beautiful singing, the breath-taking bush breakfast, the desert elephants, the romantic bush dinner, Maggie's bubbly personality and Willem's calm and knowledgeable company."
"We love the kindness shown by everyone, the dinner when there was singing and our own guide Usko was amazing. He really knows a lot about everything and how to explain it."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Maggie Vries and Helen Awa.
Guides: Willem Retief, Pascalis Kazimbu, Usko and Charles Gaingob.
Skeleton Coast Camp update - March 2013 Jump
to Skeleton Coast Camp
Serra Cafema Camp update - March 2013 Jump
to Serra Cafema Camp
Weather and Landscape
The rainy season in the far north of Namibia usually starts later than for the rest of the country. March began rather positively, with rain falling either late at night or early in the mornings. On the 12th it stayed overcast the whole day with a light drizzle throughout the day.
As Serra Cafema is only 50 km away from the Atlantic Ocean, this area is heavily affected by the westerly wind that is a daily occurrence. As the clouds appear in the east, the wind from the coast blows them right back. The Kunene River has been turning brown with sediments that are washed in by tributary rivers further to the east, meaning that rains are falling somewhere out there.
The Kunene apex predators are the Nile crocodiles and sightings of these have been good close to camp. From early in the mornings till late at night when guests were enjoying dinner on the main deck, crocodiles have been active right in front of camp.
A young croc of less than 60 cm in length has taken a liking to basking in the sun at the boat station, so we have seen this little one there often. The local Himba people are not so keen on crocodile sightings, as they lose lots of livestock to these prehistoric predators when their cattle venture to the river to drink. In less than one week, guides have spotted four livestock carcasses floating down the river and being fed on.
On the birding front, the olive bee-eaters have returned to the lower stretches of the Kunene River in large numbers. Throughout the entire day these acrobatic olive-coloured birds can be seen and heard in the skies above camp as they hunt their quarry. The individual in the adjoining photos is a juvenile, identified by the lack of tail streamers which are found in adult birds.
This month we had four days with no guests in camp, so we took this opportunity to give the camp boardwalks and decks a little 'TLC' and they now look as good as new.
Jenn, Allistair and Nick from Lobster Inc. paid camp a visit this month with the aim of providing an in-depth training for all of our staff. The training was a huge success as everyone had lots of fun and showed enthusiasm and a passion for their line of work.
"After visiting four other Wilderness Safaris camps on our trip, this was by far the best camp for us. The views from camp and the level of service was incredible. This was the best way to end our trip in Namibia. The food was also outstanding."
Ongava Tented Camp update - March 2013 Jump
to Ongava Tented Camp
Weather and Landscape
It's the end of February and still no rain! It has definitely been a very dry summer for Namibia, but hopefully we will receive a little more rain before the 'dry' season starts. Average temperatures have been quite high this month, with most of our guests spending their afternoons in the pool.
As the camp was fairly quiet this month, camp staff had the opportunity to explore the surrounding areas a little more for themselves. This allowed some of our staff to enjoy their first black rhino sightings, with one sighting being of three relaxed individuals.
An unusual sighting for the month was when we found a black-faced impala which had a large white spot on its face. We came to the conclusion that it could either be a birthmark of sorts, or possibly, the impala was a hybrid - the result of a black-faced impala breeding with a springbok?
As the area is very dry, the camp waterhole has attracted good numbers of wildlife, ensuring some outstanding game viewing from the comfort of the camp and tents!
Herds of black-faced impala, kudu, eland, giraffe and springbok were the order of the day, as each species seemed to arrive at the same time to spend the heat of the day at the cool water.
This month our guests enjoyed a couple of bush dinners, which was an exciting experience for all, including camp staff who enjoyed getting out of camp.
During the month, we had an Explorations group visit camp. Regan was their guide and made sure that his guests had no idea of the bush dinner. It was indeed a very pleasant surprise for them!
To add to the experience, our staff took pride and enthusiasm in performing traditional singing and dancing for our guests at dinner time. This was enjoyed by our guests, many of whom said that the camp must offer this more often.
Little Ongava update - March 2013 Jump
to Little Ongava Camp
Weather and Landscape
This month we still experienced some extremely warm weather conditions as we reach the end of summer. Despite the sweltering heat, the vegetation is still green, with exception of the mopane trees which have started turning to autumn hues and drop their leaves. Many sources of surface water have started to dry up, so the game viewing around the winter waterholes has been fantastic!
"Extraordinary" sums up the game viewing this month! As mentioned above, the winter waterholes are teeming with life, and the predators are taking full advantage of this bounty. We have enjoyed many great cheetah sightings this month at the waterhole in front of camp. Even a Southern African python has taken a liking to this busy source of water.
Just spending the day at a waterhole can often produce sightings of zebra, eland, oryx, impala, springbok, red hartebeest, giraffe and wildebeest, all arriving at the waterhole at different times of the day.
The rhino tracking experience has been very fruitful as our guides are really good at tracking these magnificent creatures and know their behaviour and habits really well. Apart from viewing rhino on foot, the whole experience from finding the tracks, to finding fresh dung is very exciting and definitely worthwhile!
Exciting news for this month is that the Ongava camps will now offer therapeutic massages to our guests. Esther who is well known from Little Kulala and Serra Cafema has been training some of our staff in this art. So please feel free to book a session when in camp.
"Magnificent environment - I was utterly spoiled. Friendly staff and very knowledgeable guides made my trip!"
"Everybody from your team is so friendly and professional at the same time! The setting and the rooms are just spectacular!"
Staff in Camp
Managers: George and Michael.
Guides: Franco and Willem.
Ongava Lodge update - March 2013 Jump
to Ongava Lodge
Andersson's Camp update - March 2013 Jump
to Andersson's Camp
Weather and Landscape
With very little precipitation during the 'rainy' season, the area around Andersson's Camp has changed dramatically. White calcrete rocks reflecting sunlight creates a stark and rugged landscape.
Temperatures have reached soaring heights of 39° C during the day and cooling to a balmy 25° C later in the evening - the perfect temperature for relaxing and watching the waterhole after dinner.
As the environment continues to be parched by the hot sun, the remaining waterholes draw lots of activity throughout the whole day, with some interesting visitors at night too.
The biggest highlight this month was a female cheetah with her three cubs that visited the camp waterhole in broad daylight. The feline family stuck around for some time and allowed all in camp a good view. Shortly after the family left, a large male cheetah arrived at the waterhole for a drink and sniff around.
Rhino sightings in March have been fantastic as we enjoyed quality sightings of both black and white rhino throughout the reserve.
Sightings of antelope species have been really good, and up to five species could be seen congregated together around the waterholes. This opportunity could not be missed by the resident lions, which have presented our guests with many good sightings this month, as they too focus their attention on the waterholes, where their prey gathers....
"The location of the camp is fantastic and we loved the wildlife interactions at the camp waterhole. The great hospitality of the staff was great and they offered us excellent service!"
"The highlight for us was viewing both black and white rhino in the reserve."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Madri Speelman, Cornelia Adams, Sakkie Hoeseb and Louis Carstens.
Guides: Shilongo Sakeus and Franz Nuuyoma.
Little Kulala Camp update - March 2013 Jump
to Little Kulala Camp
Weather and Landscape
At the beginning of the month we experienced some extreme conditions as almost every day the mercury would be pushed up to a toasty 42° C. Luckily the conditions cooled down during the second half of the month as we edge closer to winter. By the end of the month, we were experiencing cool mornings at an average temperature of 18° C. We also had one day of rain which was most welcome. The clouds have continued to build up, so hopefully we will receive one more burst of rain before winter.
Sightings this month were incredible! An African wild cat was spotted in front of the guest rooms early one morning. It seems this feline has settled around the camp as it is seen regularly and is very relaxed in the presence of people. A Cape cobra was also seen in the camp parking lot. When one takes the time to view this snake, it is a very attractive snake, as far as serpents are concerned.
On the larger side of the predatory scale, we have enjoyed some great sightings of cheetah and brown hyaena. On the 9th of March, six cheetah were seen not far from camp. There are currently lots of springbok in the area, no doubt the reason for attracting the cheetah to the area. A little later in the month, all in camp were elated when a brown hyaena came for a drink at the waterhole in front of camp – what an incredible sighting!
At the end of the month, some guests got the opportunity to witness a springbok giving birth – a truly amazing occurrence to witness.
Camp staff have been very busy this month with training programmes. Two of our chefs have visited other Wilderness camps in Botswana. Back at camp, a number of staff renewed their First Aid qualifications, while some new staff received training for the first time.
Kulala Desert Lodge update - March 2013 Jump
to Kulala Desert Lodge
Kulala Wilderness Camp update - March 2013 Jump
to Kulala Wilderness Camp
Governors' Camp update - March 2013 Jump
to Governors' Camp
Weather and grasslands
Over the past month we have had generally warm days and humid nights. Rainfall has been sporadic and localised although there has been some strong winds bringing in short and heavy rain in the afternoons. Early morning temperatures are 20°C and midday temperatures are 28°C. Rainfall for the month taken at Governors Workshop is 166.5 mm with 16mm falling on the 6th much of this rainfall contained hail, 37.5 mm falling on the 27th and finally on the 28th we had 54 mm of rain which rained all night.
Photo courtesy of Michael Vermaak
All the open grasslands are getting coarse and dry with many Cape Buffalo and the zebra that have passed through having grazed them down. The marsh is filling up slowly with this late rain and the camp grounds are looking green and lush with the recent rain.
Warburgia trees are still fruiting which is bringing in many elephant to the camps. There are two bull elephants Blossom and George that are well known and have a habit of knocking down fences. Many wildebeest are now on the short grass plains in the conservation areas, some of them are moving down onto Topi Plains and Naibor Soit.
Game viewing is still good within reaches of the Musiara area.
Gradually more common zebra have been arriving in from the conservation areas in the east. Large numbers can be seen on the Bila Shaka Plains, Musiara Plains and marsh grasslands, Topi Plains and Rhino Ridge. Also large numbers of resident wildebeest can be seen spread out across the reserve and conservation areas. Many of the females have had calves and the majority of these calvings took place during mid month. Spotted Hyenas have been the major predators on the open plains. Cheetah and lion will also predate on these calves.
Photo courtesy of Michael Vermaak
Defassa Waterbuck and Impala can be seen on the grasslands between the camps and with many zebra as they pass through. Giraffe are well spread out favouring wooded areas due to their browsing habits. Another female has been seen giving birth near Paradise Plains, the mother stands when the calf is born so there is a long drop to the ground. Giraffe gestation lasts approximately 15-15½ months, a single calf is normally born, although twins have been known to occur on rare occasions. The calf emerges head and front legs first, having broken through the fetal membranes, and falls to the ground sometimes with a thump, severing the umbilical cord. The mother then helps it to stand up. A newborn giraffe gets up and is standing within a very short time and is about 5-6ft tall. The first 1–3 weeks, it spends most of its time hiding; its coat pattern providing camouflage. The ossicones which start off as cartilaginous growths have lain flat while it was in the womb, become erect within a few days and ossification slowly takes place until the protuberances are well erect and solid, they are then known as 'ossicones'.
Photo courtesy of Geoff Hughes
Warthog with young piglets of varying ages will be seen on the open plains, clearly seen on their calloused knees as they graze. The resident lion have taken many warthog as prey species get more difficult, warthog are a sustained prey preference. There are a few sows mainly on the shorter grass areas that have got young piglets and these are earlier birthing than normal and perhaps predation pressure or weather conditions have brought this on. Male warthog who have an extra pair of warts, these warts are not ossified to the facial disc so are purely cartilaginous growths which support their faces when they are sparing and act as cushions. Warthogs love to wallow in mud. The mud covers their hairless skin; helps keep them cool and also protects them from biting flies and other insects. Common warthogs do not have subcutaneous fat and the coat is sparse, making them susceptible to extreme environmental changes, piglets are very susceptible to temperature change.
Elephant are well spread out with good numbers being seen in the Marsh and throughout the grasslands plains, the woodland areas are still good places to see them with the Warburgia still fruiting this will keep elephant employed, although in the camps where there are fences on the river banks the elephant will often knock these so called barriers down to get at grass growth on the river bank or foliage the other side of the fence. There are also young calves of varying ages.
Photo courtesy of Michael Vermaak
Eland come and go with Paradise Plains and Topi Plains being good places to see them. Eland are catholic grazer browsers in other words they can sustain themselves in multiple habitats. Large breeding males will be seen in pairs or in a solitary state.
The Cape buffalo breeding herd can be seen near Bila Shaka and also on the East Musiara plains. There are also good numbers of calves in these herds, the resident lion have taken many out of this herd. There are numerous large non breeding bulls on the periphery of this herd and these old boys become sedentary and habitual. They also fall prey to the Marsh lions and will sustain them for a number of days. These bull buffalo increase in size body weight as they become sedentary.
Photo courtesy of Geoff Hughes
Grants and Thomson Gazelles are all through the short grass plains. A few of the Thomson females have young fawns with a short gestation of 5½ months they have up to two fawns a year. Males can be seen on short term territories and often standing out like as if they have been sent on detention. They will mark grass stems with their pre-orbital gland that leave a black secretion which is melanin, this action is known as olfactory communication or pheromone messaging.
Baboon troops are common roadside residents. There are many infants, for the first few weeks they are black in colour and after 6 weeks they start riding 'jockey style' with some being quite sturdy riders.
The two social mongoose species the dwarf and banded mongooses are evident within the camp grounds and both species are insectivorous with some invertebrate species being eaten. When elephant and buffalo have passed through the camp these mongooses can be seen scratching for insects in their dung. The resident small spotted genets have young kittens and one kitten spends much time in the bar tent at IL Moran and sleeps in the soda crates. These are also insectivorous carnivores and are vivirids so are more closely related to mongooses rather than cats. They have semi-retractable claws so are adept at climbing.
There are many Spotted Hyenas between Paradise Plains and Rhino Ridge, when clans are in large numbers they will play a strong competitive roll against the resident lion. On the 30th at approximately 7.00am a large clan of Spotted Hyena had killed and eaten a fully grown wildebeest at Bila Shaka.
Photo courtesy of Will Fortesque
We have had more good sightings of Serval cats and also some good viewing of Serval kittens near Bila Shaka. The gestations for a Serval cat is 3 months and generally mothers have two or three kittens at a time commonly in an abandoned aardvark hole. One female near the Marsh is becoming quite habituated towards vehicles.
Photo courtesy of Will Fortesque
A Hippo calf that is days old is opposite the bar at Il Moran camp. This cow hippo has lost many calves to crocodile, we hope that this one will survive. There are many young calves down the river and on some of the bends there are some large pods of hippo. On the 29th a dead hippo was seen being fed on by the Marsh lionesses near the Causeway; this young hippo may have been killed by male infanticidal activity.
Marsh pride – 4 males, 7 lionesses and 15 cubs of varying ages are in the marsh pride that resides within Bila Shaka and Musiara.
Siena, Charm and Bibi with their 12 cubs have been seen at Bila Shaka, the airstrip, the Marsh and the Musiara plains. Bibi's 3 cubs are four months old, Charms three cubs are six months old and Siena's cubs are now 10 months old although one of them is a little younger was abandoned by Bibi. The young lioness, one of the four sisters, has three cubs that are now three months old.
Earlier on in the month they have all been seen at Bila Shaka or on the East Marsh Plains. The four males were either at the main crossing point at Bila Shaka or near the airstrip. Scar's right eye has really healed up for the better although there is still is a slight infection and this can easily flare up when lionesses come into oestrus. Scar, Morani, Sikio and Hunter have for the last few days been seen between the airstrip and Bila Shaka. On the 10th the marsh lionesses took on a large bull eland near Silanga and one lioness who jumped on the back was shook off and kicked in the stomach, she went down quickly and stayed in an uncomfortable condition for a few days; she has since pulled through and is now looking well. The Marsh Pride have fed off the resident buffalo, waterbuck and warthog. It is interesting to note that in other areas of Africa lion will seldom take waterbuck but here in the Mara the Marsh Lioness often take them down. They seem to take the waterbuck within the marsh and perhaps this has an influence on the smell from their skin. A few zebra have also been taken on the Musiara Plains and East of Bila Shaka.
There was a real showdown on the 23rd when a group of Paradise Pride females started hunting. As this was happening, charging over the hill came a lone buffalo being chased by a pack of hyenas. As they took it down the lions turned their attention to the buffalo, and the struggle to kill it went on for over an hour. Eventually the buffalo was killed, but neither party of animals wanted to leave the kill, nor did the 4 lions want to take on the hyenas and likewise the hyenas take on the lions. Intead the 4 female lions took to one side of the buffalo, while some 20 hyenas to the other. Both groups made enough noise to be heard all over the reserve, and as a result more hyenas came. Still the Lions would not move, and frequently swiped at the Hyenas to keep them at bay.It was a dramatic showdown!
Photos courtesy of Will Fortesque
Since last week all members of the Marsh prides have been at Silanga which is a shallow river bed that flows from Topi plains into Bila Shaka, here there are good numbers of zebra, wildebeest and topi.
Modomo – and two lionesses with their four cubs that are nine months old remain on Rhino ridge. They have been feeding off the many resident zebra and wildebeest that are between Bila Shaka and Topi Plains. The one cub that was bitten by a lion last month on Rhino Ridge has recovered well.
Nyota and Moja (her only cub) were last seen near Rhino Ridge last month. We hear that she has been seen near the double crossing area and a few days ago she had killed a zebra but lost most of it to hyena.
Paradise Pride: There are 4 females and six cubs of varying ages, two that are nine months old and one lioness has three cubs estimated at three months old. There are many Topi in this area with one of the lionesses being very active at taking on lying down and sleeping Topi which is similar activity to what Spotted Hyena do.
Photo courtesy of Dave Roberts
Malaika with her one male cub that is 11 months old are being seen near the Musiara Marsh and Musiara plains earlier on in the month she was seen near Bila Shaka. On the 28th she was seen near the IL Moran and BBC camps site.
The female with the two 11 month old cubs are also being seen near the double crossing and Naibor soit.
The Female with the three cubs that are 10 months old were on the Burrangat plains. Recently she has been seen on Paradise Plains, there are many Thomson Gazelles here which will supplement their diet. On the 27th and 28th there were good sightings of all three of them.
Photo courtesy of Dave Roberts
The MNC female cheetah with one male cub that is 19 months old is being seen in the Mara north conservancy, she also will come down as far as the park gate and onto the Musiara plains.
The solitary male has been seen near the conservancy on the short grass plains, on the 19th and 20th he was seen hunting grants gazelle near the Musiara gate.
The Serena pump house female with the one male cub that over 20 months old is being seen more often on his own, the mother is also being seen in separate locations to him. He has been feeding Impala and bush Buck. He has been seen frequently near the Mara river at Paradise.
The BBC female leopard with her two cubs estimated at five months old, the female cub earlier on in January has been suffering from a prolapsed rectum this female is still very stunted and not doing too well, she was seen again on the 29th with her brother who is very much larger. On the 29th she had a waterbuck calf kill up a Diospyros tree near the BBC camp. We have been in communication with the KWS wildlife vet to monitor her.
Photo courtesy of Deborah Price
The male that frequents these woodlands has also been seen near Lake Nakuru of the Marsh area. He is likely to be the sire of the BBC female's cubs.
The large male from the mortuary crossing point at Paradise Plains is being seen often, he was seen every day in the last week of the month. This is the male Leopard that during the migration last year took down may stray wildebeest that used this crossing point.
There is a another male that is resident near the Bila Shaka crossing and Diospyros copse on paradise plains, he was seen on the 30th at midday with a young warthog kill up an Olive tree and the mother was still in a hole beneath the tree.
Walking in the Mara North Conservancy
Large numbers of wildebeest have passed down from the East into the Mara north conservancy during the month; there are also many calves now with the majority of these calvings being in mid month.
Zebra are also in good numbers and can be seen spread out across the eastern plains. There has been some interesting Spotted Hyena activity on the Eastern plains.
Good numbers of elephant can be seen spread out and also within the Acacia woodlands. A Cape Buffalo herd is between the flyover and the Mara River, there are also a few solitary lone bull buffalo that frequent the acacia Gerrardii woodlands.
Topi females are spread into glades of palatable grasses with males holding onto territorial leks and standing out like sentries.
The female cheetah with the two 8 month old cubs has been seen near the Fly over and also towards the white highland rocky ridge. They have been feeding off Thomson Gazelles and impala, earlier in the month she had two meals taken from her by Spotted Hyena and this is a constant problem for cheetah.
Photo courtesy of Dave Roberts
On the Olare Orok River where we have our breakfast there two large carton nests made from the cocktail ant, one nest fell down as the branch that it was adhered to broke away, these carton nests which have a texture to that of paper Mache are built by the cocktail ant its name derives from their habit of raising or cocking their tails or gaster, the nest is made of chewed vegetable matter and mixed with a sticky secretion form the jaw glands of the worker caste. The nest walls which look black in colour have been blackened by this secretion. These spherical carton nests can be found hanging from the branches of the Teclea tree.
The Whistling thorn tree which is also an acacia (acacia Drepanalobium) host other cocktail ants (Crematagaster nigriceps, mimosae, sjostedti) these are all social ants and with the slightest movement from a browsing herbivore such as the Giraffe they swarm out and deliver a sting or release a pungent smell. The C mimosae is the more aggressive against herbivore attack. To defend their trees against invasion, nigriceps ant colonies actively prune their trees. They chew off all horizontal shoots, which causes the tree to grow taller. In this way the ants can avoid contact with other trees which may hold other enemy and competition colonies. Pruning also causes the tree to allocate more energy to new shoots, healthier leaves and larger nectaries, which is what the nigriceps ants. The Whistling thorn acacia's have special glands called "nectaries" at the tips of their leaves that produce a sweet secretion and this is what these ants like.
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge update - March 2013
We are well into our wet season and have measured an amazing 415mm (16.5 inches) of rain for March and still have April and May ahead of us. Very exciting news is the birth of 2 new babies, one from Isabukuru (research family) and the other from our very own Sabyinyo family bringing their family to 16 individuals. Herewith a few photos of Sabyinyo's newcomer kindly given to us by one of our guests, Kim Williams, who saw this little one the morning after it's birth. These little ones are born after a gestation period of 9 months and are fully dependent on their mother's care and will seldom leave her sight for the first two and a half years of their lives. They are born at roughly half the weight of a human baby at only one and a half kilograms.
Wishing all our followers a very Happy Easter.
to Page 1