Wilderness Safaris Wins 2013 Condé Nast Traveler World Savers Award for Wildlife Conservation
“As we celebrate our 30thyear as Africa’s leading ecotourism and Conservation Company, we are extremely proud to receive this remarkable achievement and endorsement from Condé Nast Traveler. We hope that, together, we can continue to inspire globally caring travellers to explore Africa’s remote wilderness areas and its wildlife, enabling us to continue to increase our positive footprint to other areas of the continent”, said CEO Keith Vincent.
The annual World Savers Awards are among the most coveted in the travel industry and it is an honour to be listed amongst other visionary companies, such as the Taj Group, Lindblad Expeditions and Marriott, who are setting the standard for affecting positive change in the world.
The Group’s reputation and operating experience has enabled Wilderness Safaris to successfully provide funding or in kind support to more than 50 significant conservation projects each year. http://www.wilderness-safaris.com/the4cs/conservation (see related projects)
The company has also partnered with 19 different rural communities, impacting positively on some 25 to 30 000 community members as a result of employment and the associated multiplier effect. In addition, about 500 rural children are hosted in its safari camps each year as part of the Children in the Wilderness programme, and thereafter participate in regular Eco Clubs in their communities that help change perceptions about wildlife, tourism and conservation.
Published online today, the Condé Nast Traveler World Savers Awards will be featured in the September issue of the magazine. Click here to link directly to Wilderness Safaris’ Wildlife Conservation Award and here to read more about the Okavango Delta, Botswana – winner of the Sustainable Destination Category (developing country) in which Wilderness Safaris is also mentioned.
Tubu Tree Camp
Weather and Landscape
The months of the winter have come and gone it seems. The days have been rather pleasant especially when out on game drive, with the cool breeze and warm sun to enjoy. The wind picked up for a couple of days during the middle of the month, with a slight change in wildlife sightings, as animals take to the thick vegetation for cover during bouts of wind.
A reminder that winter was still present during the night however is that the temperature would drop to an average low of 10° C, but soon warmed up to an average high of 29° C once the sun spread its rays over the landscape.
What an exciting month for the leopards on Hunda Island - however, not so much for the civets that have fallen prey to these spotted felines on numerous occasions. The Tubu Female's two cubs, a male and female, have taken a liking to hunting other (slightly smaller) predators too.
The cool winter night’s silence has been broken by the continuous call of a male leopard on the eastern fringe of the camp island; we are still yet to see the elusive fellow who, judging from his grunt, has scars of experience and a tale to tell. This is also proven by his disappearing acts as a vehicle approaches, one only gets a glimpse of his tail as he vanishes into the thickets.
A mean bout between two hippos did not end well for the one, he had a gorge under his eye and what looked like whip lashes all over his back. The 'river horse' had taken the beating of a lifetime and spent the last hours of his life flat down with his head resting in shallow water. The gentlemen in ‘black suits and white shirts’ also known as hooded vultures have attended the scene although still perched on the surrounding tree line as if they could not believe their eyes.
The scent of this dead hippo seems to have drawn back into the area the two nomadic male lions which we now identify as Salt and Pepper because of the clear tone differences of their manes. It appears that these two youngsters do not wander off very far, because as soon as there is a something worth visiting they are there in a flash. They are two very good-looking males between the ages of four to five years, still to earn their ‘land rights.’ With little or no competition here, this should not be painful, especially seeing as there are two of them!
With the jackalberry trees fruiting, the elephants have returned from their seasonal drinking grounds and are now a common sight within the Delta. They seem to enjoy camp and are somewhat perplexed by the camp additions along the riverine forest where the camp is to be found.
Birds and Birding
Civet flesh must be a delicacy in the wilderness as a civet was taken out by a tawny eagle and flown to a dead but still standing knobthorn tree where it was leisurely consumed by the raptor.
A hamerkop was seen cashing in when he caught a sizeable frog from the lodge deck. Unfortunately for him, we were not the only spectators as a Dickinson’s kestrel swooped in and stole the hamerkop's meal.
The early morning stillness has been broken by the deep hoot of southern ground-hornbills that roost somewhere between the workshop and first bridge, no need for a wake-up call as these giants are up at first light, welcoming us into the day.
“At the camp: The beautiful sunsets from the bar deck, eating outside, the view from our bedroom, viewing the wildlife from the raised boardwalks, relaxing! Sorry, nearly forgot to mention the demonstration of basket weaving and explanation of the dyes used. In The Bush: Sighting one leopard draped over a tree branch and then a few minutes later another one which we followed when she descended. Thank you to all staff and guides, without whom this wonderful experience would not be possible. We quite enjoyed being given an explanation of how Tubu Tree and Little Tubu are run (this was an informal chat when we went exploring our last morning here.) Perhaps other guests might also enjoy this?”
“ Issa was fantastic: Safety oriented and very knowledgeable. The tents and staff were amazing as well, excellent attention to detail”
“Game drives, wonderful food, excellent staff - everyone was so accommodating, very friendly and attentive to any of our needs. Thank you so much for making this part of our vacation so memorable. Our guide Seretse was so knowledgeable and much fun. He’s great!”
Staff in Camp
Managers: Neuman Vasco, Rauve Vermaak, Andre Erasmus and Lene Stopforth.
Guides: Phenyo Lebakeng, Seretse Xaiko, Issa Satheba and Broken Bambo.
Life on the edge of the Okavango keeps us on our toes. As the waters move towards us, wildlife wade in and out, out and in, and we tread a bit more carefully these days. It’s still the wet season and the terrain is still shifting beneath our feet.
We are certain of a few things: it’s halfway through the year and the bulk of winter is behind us. As days stretch longer now, our anticipation of spring also grows. Not that winters in the Delta are known to be especially cruel, but temperature fluctuations often catch guests off guard. This month, the average high was 28° C, with a low of 10° C. In the mornings we clutch coffee around the fire and watch our breath; come afternoon, we’ve shed our scarves and are sunning pool side.
Also shedding prolifically are the jackal berry trees. We’ve been utterly assaulted by the small, yellow oblong fruit; however we measure our complaints, as what litters our decks also draws the insatiable sweet tooth of kudu, warthog, porcupine and a myriad bird species. We’ve also been visited in steady droves by elephant, which vacuum our walkways and probe every surface for this sugary fruit, making for some spectacular armchair sightings. A seasonal delicacy for the people of the Delta as well, daily, staff members are found filling buckets and pockets full of these berries that have a taste and texture similar to a date.
Not to be overlooked this month was a notable happening in the night sky. The moon, on its elliptical path around the earth, came the closest it has to us in two decades. This Super Moon, as it is popularly known (or a perigee full moon), provided the perfect opportunity to look skyward and refresh ourselves on the workings of our solar system. Improvising with a flashlight and an orange, our general manager gave a mini fireside science lesson, explaining why we see the moon in its different phases.
But plenty of action took place right here on the ground (well, mostly). We glimpsed a four-metre-long crocodile in the floodplain within view from the dining room. Guests witnessed the young Kubu Pride of lions pursuing a variety of endeavours: sleeping clustered together on a termite mound, feasting on a buffalo kill, terrorising a leopard and (not so successfully) stalking guinea fowl.
The prize for the most unusual sighting, however, goes to a solitary wild dog who took shelter near camp for a few days, during which time he killed a baby kudu, ate it by himself and then lingered a day or two more looking for other opportunities. Who knows what the normally social, pack-bound dog was doing on his own or how he managed to take on a kudu. Any predictions?
Well, if full moon really does awaken strange behaviour, how much more so a super moon…
by Hailey Gaunt
As the seasons start to take a turn with winter mornings becoming more bearable, the action in the Linyanti continues to be hot and happening!
The area is now very dry, the pans have dried up and only main channels and lagoons still hold water. For game viewing this has been ideal though. The guides have enjoyed showing their guests large herds of elephant and buffalo along the green edges of the water. For camp it has also been an advantage. Lots of animals are making their way through camp to Osprey Lagoon. On some days there are so many elephants coming through camp that walking to your tent or to the main area becomes almost Mission Impossible.
We have had some great sightings this month. One of the most exciting is that of two male cheetah that have moved into the area. While the resident lions are making their way north, we hope that these cheetah will make themselves at home and stay in the Linyanti for a while.
One sighting that jumps to mind as a highlight this month is most certainly that of a lioness stalking a warthog. Ona and his guests had the patience to wait it out and were rewarded with a sighting that most safari-goers dream could only dream about. They witnessed the entire hunt, from the stalk to the kill and the feast thereafter. Well done on the amazing photographs to prove it!
For those of you who enjoy staying busy instead of having a traditional afternoon siesta, the midday boat cruises and catch-and-release fishing have proven to be very productive and popular. The lagoon holds about six species of bream, as well as African pike and catfish. With an option of either spinning or fly-fishing, there is definitely more than enough to keep anyone busy.
The DumaTau Team look forward to the month of July as we have no doubt it is going to be extremely exciting as far as game viewing goes!
There have been some changes in and around camp too – we have set up a volley ball court to be enjoyed by staff, however, if you are visiting us soon and up for a challenge, give us a shout! Beware though, the team has been practising!
Weather and Water Level
June started with considerably high daytime temperatures reaching up to 30 degrees Celsius and morning temperatures of 15 to 16 degrees. A few days into the month winter came crashing into the Delta with mornings as low as 11 degrees and days reaching no higher than 27 degrees.
The water level is dropping day by day but Jao is fortunately surrounded by water year-round, making boat excursions to Hunda Island and relaxing mokoro rides everyday activities.
A new king has arrived at Jao Camp – a male and two female lions have been seen in the surrounding areas. On their very first day we could hear the male growling around camp in an attempt to mark his territory. The small pride has been spotted around the airstrip and was also seen with a kill – a good sign that they will stick around. A couple of days later we went in search of the lions and caught them in the act! We hope that this continuous mating will bring some little cubs into our concession and will be the beginning of a new pride at Jao.
On one of our day trips the managers, waiters and chef were putting up the surprise brunch for our guests when an elephant came in to see what they were doing. Clearly an area of great interest, lions Salt and Pepper were also spotted in the same area.
On Hunda Island, many giraffe, zebra, buffalo, elephant, warthog and even sitatunga antelope have been sighted on all of our trips. On one occasion, we went in search of leopard and found a young one climbing a tree. We did however have to pass a herd of nervous elephant to get to it. While one of the bulls was clearly unhappy about us being there, we all managed to eventually get to the leopard who was enjoying a kill in the tree.
One night there were sounds of violence nearby. One of our visiting guides told us that these were from fighting hippos. Male hippos typically fight over territory and this time one of them was the clear winner as the next morning we found a dead hippo in the channels. The lions came in to feed off the carcass, making for a real show for our guests.
Sad news is that Moruti (which means 'Shadow'), our "camp" civet was taken by some spotted hyaenas. The hyaena clan is still around and are becoming cheekier day by day - even visiting us on boma evening.
Mongooses, monkeys and baboons are still at the heart of Jao Camp. We found some of our banded mongoose in the entertainment room, presumably having fun. They ran off, leaving a big mess once they were chased out. Monkeys have also been found in the gym jumping, bouncing and balancing on the Pilates balls – clearly they wanted a workout. The baboons love to be seen as well and make regular visits into camp.
Our beloved fruitbats keep on sleeping day by day in our Curio Shop – some free-tailed bats tried to make this their home but the fruitbats have done a good job of keeping them out!
A Verreaux’s eagle-owl has been seen relaxing in the trees of Jao. As this the biggest African owl with a very particular song it was difficult miss it. Continuing with the biggest birds in Africa, a martial eagle was seen with a young steenbok as prey – what an incredible moment. As some guests were departing Jao a female bateleur flew over our heads. It really is a spectacle seeing this beautiful eagle flying around us. A white-browed coucal has also been hanging around camp. In the Delta you can find hundreds of species of birds, and indeed, relaxing with a book on our deck while listening to their songs has no price.
It has been a very busy month at Jao and we try hard to give the best experience to all our guests. Sundowners, bush brunches in our favourite spot at Hunda Island, high teas with our loving staff teaching basket-weaving techniques and our local Bushman Kupira showing the traditional way that his people used to live in the Delta. On our traditional boma nights our staff choir and dancers wow the guests.
Some of our wine connoisseur managers have also delighted our guests with wine tastings. Do not hesitate to ask for a sample of our wine cellar when you come to visit us. You will be amazed to discover how many wines Africa has to offer.
Our little ones have enjoyed a swim in the floodplains and learning pole the mokoro like real Batswana!
A highly enjoyable time, the staff and the management have been very happy to see a full camp for the whole month and being able to receive guests from around the globe! We hope you all have Africa in your hearts!
Staff in Camp
Managers: William Whiteman, Angie Whiteman, Barend Vorster, Alejandra Pablo Wolf, Cindy Swart, Charl Bergh, Phill Ngisi, Marina Lunga
Weather and Landscape
The cold winter eventually arrived at Kwetsani in mid-June, the temperature dropping from the pleasant average high of 27° C in the day to 22°C, meaning that the nights have become snuggle nights, as the guests gladly hold onto their hot water bottles going to bed and on the game drives, until about 9am, when the temperature becomes warm enough to remove all the layers. Strangely enough, the cold weather arrived with a strong wind, so that the following morning, the water that was covering the roads in front of camp receded, leaving the roads dry, which is something we have not witnessed over the past two years.
Kwetsani, being situated in a place where we are privileged to be able to traverse both Hunda and Jao Islands, has excellent predator viewing opportunities, as well as all the 'usual' plains game and elephant and buffalo herd sightings. Our enthusiastic guides, MT and GT, who have been on duty for June, have done a great job of imparting their knowledge of every aspect of this awesome wilderness area that we live in to our guests.
The Jao lionesses have been hanging out to the north of Kwetsani for a while, but this month passed by the front of camp one afternoon, much to our delight, being courted by the new dominant male – a really handsome beast. All the resident females were still coy and in submissive mode, meaning that this new brute has just managed to convince them that he is the guy for them. They have subsequently moved on to Jao Island, which is comfortable territory for them, and where they made a kill at the airstrip - as we all know the best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach – and in about three months’ time we can expect a new litter of cubs. At another sighting, two young male lions were seen on Hunda Island protecting a buffalo kill from the opportunistic hyaena.
The leopard sightings continue to be magnificent. This month our guests have really enjoyed viewing these regal felines in all of their glory – either stretched out on a tree limb, or on a termite mound, or relaxing under the shade of a tree, or simply strolling from one place to another. Seeing three leopards together on one morning was an amazing sighting which the guests could just not stop talking about. However, the very shy female leopard has eluded us, just leaving her tracks as well as those of her young cub quite close around camp. We have not seen this leopard yet but she is definitely around. On one occasion she killed an impala very close to Tent 1, but was soon robbed by a clan of wily hyaena – the evidence was in the tracks and sounds which were heard under the cover of darkness – the hyaena celebrated by giggling and cackling. Ending the great run of leopard sightings in June was an encounter between a leopard and a honey badger. Eventually the formidable badger backed off and strolled away. This amazing encounter was witnessed by a number of guests.
The resident banded mongoose family has thrilled all this month as they have provided some outstanding photographic opportunities. On one occasion we had the opportunity to watch these critters confront an Anchieta’s cobra. A brief battle followed, but the nimble band quickly neutralised the snake and fed on it.
General game sightings have been very good, as many impala are venturing onto the drying floodplains while the lechwe have been concentrating in the water-logged areas. Hippo too have been seen often as they have spread out all over the area. Elephant sightings have been good, especially around the camp and some impressive herds of buffalo have been moving through the area. Finally, zebra and giraffe sightings have been abundant.
“Lovely atmosphere, mostly because of Dan and Charmaine and all the great staff. Loved the tree house, room, fabulous activities and food. We leave with wonderful memories and tears of joy.”
“Leopards! A few amazing leopard sightings were easily amongst the best sightings on the trip. The staff at camp was also very entertaining and insightful. Loved Dan’s photography.”
“Environment, lodge accommodations, staff and food exceeded our expectations. We spent about an hour watching a leopard that MT spotted from so far away in a tree. Our guide was excellent-knowledgeable.”
Winter is knocking on the door at Mombo with the steady increase of the annual inundation accompanied by brisk, chilly mornings. The temperatures usually rise to 20+ degrees Celsius during the day before slowly dropping back in the late afternoon. The clear blue, cloudless skies give way to an inimitable orange sere across the horizon which is welcomed with a sundowner back at camp. Rain has fast become a distant memory. The winter months in the Delta are beautiful, as long as you bring a jacket!
Certain animals at Mombo change their patterns at this time of year, most notably the lions. The Moporota Pride in particular are often more active during the day as the warm rays of sun help loosen their muscles for their hunting sorties. Slowly ambling into camp, they come and see which prey are stranded on the island, the only escape for impala and warthog is to run the gauntlet back across the bridge and past the waiting pride. These forays into camp always bring about excitement from guests and staff alike as it is a true privilege to witness their hunting techniques. The male lions of the pride, six in total are getting bigger and stronger by the month and buffalo seem to be a favourite meal as the extra brawn makes it easier to bring down such large prey compared to when the younger males were watching their mothers and aunts do the hunting. One such kill happened right next to camp in the late afternoon.
A sad but true reality of being an apex predator was witnessed by guests when four of the young males were seen mauling and then feeding on a lioness from another pride.
The Western Pride have been seen but not as regularly as previous months due to the amount of water that has entered their territory, making it difficult to track them across the muddy plains. Sometimes four paws are often better than a four wheel drive!
The Mathata Pride to the south have also been somewhat elusive, it is believed to be partly due to the change in terrain with the arrival of the inundation but also because of the boisterous more mature young males of the Moporota Pride laying stake to their fathers territory.
Leopard sightings have been great with Maru showing us her five month old cub for the first time on the last day of May. She has not been seen since, but judging by her size is surely following mom around and learning from her.
Legadema was seen walking near the airstrip calling in a distressed fashion and we feel that perhaps she has lost another litter as the ongoing territorial battle between Mmolai and Blue Eyes continues. It seems that the male leopards are still eliminating possible siring from each other as no single male can establish dominance. In a fascinating sighting, Blue Eyes lost a kill to the young Moporota boys as they climbed a tree to steal his meal. Even in the trees, a leopard’s dinner is not safe! Legadema was up to her old antics on the last night of June when she blessed us with her presence by strolling through camp nonchalantly, checking up on her territory.
The resident herd of elephants have been entertaining guests during mid-day breaks in drives and it seems even from camp there is always something to be seen as herds of red lechwe, troops of baboons and vervet monkeys are ever present, not to mention the hippo’s and crocs sunning themselves on the banks in front of camp; siesta time has never been busier!
Slaty egrets are a common sighting on the border of the marshy flood line as it creeps closer to camp, rubbing wings with the ever present Egyptian geese, long-toed lapwing and blacksmith lapwing. The Pel’s fishing-owl sightings have been incredible this month and seldom a day goes by without someone looking up and seeing the magnificent bird perched high in the cool mongosteen branches. A give away to the Pel’s on one occasion was half a bream fish which had been dropped on to a guest’s deck from above!
Mangers in Camp during June: Graham, Sean, Dani, Cheri, Dittmar and Cayley at Little Mombo.
Guides: Tsile, Cisco, Doctor, Tshepo and Moss.
The first surge of the annual inundation is certainly not as large as it was last year and is occurring at amuch slower rate. I remember last year at the end of March, the water had already submerged the road in front of camp. This year however, the water is only starting to reach the road now. The arrival of the abundant waters causes a flurry of change in the environment and is interesting to observe on a daily basis.
The floodplains before us turn a dull yellow, while in the distance, the edge of the floodplain is still a brilliant green. As the water rises, when the sun catches it at the right angle, the water reflects the rays and the view glistens beautifully. Although the temperature has been comfortable, there was a time during the month when the temperature dropped quite significantly, bringing up a white haze over the plains, making it a magical and eerie place to be observing. As winter approaches, the full moon, when it rises a little later in the evening, is so beautiful to see the changing colour and size as it rises. First it is huge and red as it peeks over the horizon and then changing to orange and then yellow and then white, all the time getting smaller and smaller and turning a dark night into one that hides the stars with its light.
Of course the predators love the moonless nights so that they can hunt under the cover of darkness and this month, during the new moon phase, we have had a new male lion in the area. We have called him ‘The Intruder’. He is a handsome, well -groomed loner, who has been going through the Jao Concession as though he is the new king. Earlier on in the month, there was a sighting of the two young males, which I wrote about in December 2012, sighted on a kill on Hunda Island, some 20 minutes from camp.
We had not seen the resident pride, which reigned in this area, for all of three months now, until the very last day of the month. One of the resident females went across to join the two young males at Hunda and the larger of the males was seen mating with her - all being well, we will have cubs in about three months. Her sister, which we suspect still has a cub, has been avoiding the new males in a bid to prevent infanticide – a dark predatory trait which burns strong within adult male lions. With all of this new testosterone flowing through the area, it was only a matter of time until there was a territorial confrontation between the resident male and the nomads. Sadly for the resident male, he lost badly to The Intruder and has not been seen since.
|As always, we had many fantastic leopard encounters this month. They do tend to play ‘hide and seek’, but trying to locate and track them is part of the fun! We have been privileged to view them on the hunt, feeding on a kill, in a tree or snoozing a top termite mounds – no matter the location, it is always magical to view these elusive and regal felines.
One of the highlights for all our guests is the 45 -minute boat trip from the airstrip to camp, where the guides skillfully navigate the boats through the channels, often presenting some incredible birding opportunities - the amount of different birds seen on this ride in is really amazing.
Birds are a clear indicator for the change of season. In the beginning of the month, thousands of red-billed queleas could be seen flitting off the branches of the trees around camp – all flocking and getting ready to leave to a warmer climate – then all of a sudden one morning they were all gone.
Florence and MT have guided our guests professionally and enthusiastically for the whole month of April, and so many of the guests have taken us to one side and just complimented the standard of our guides who have made their ‘Wilderness Experience’ a fabulous one.
Usually this newsletter begins with an update on the Moporota Pride’s presence in camp, but this month we were visited by a very different cat. Early one morning, I was sitting in the main area having waved the guests off on drive. Suddenly, I heard a game viewer pull into the rotunda, and I leapt up thinking that the guests had forgotten something and were going to catch me in a rare ‘feet up’ moment as I was waiting for the day to begin. Instead, I saw Cisco waving at me and pointing at something in the bushes next to the boardwalk. He called out “inkwe” and I stopped in my tracks.
There was a leopard in the bushes.
The squirrels and francolins were going nuts, indicating the presence of a predator, and I crept towards the office to peer through the shade -cloth window and try to spot her. The game -viewer eventually pulled out as the leopard did not materialise. I sat typing out the day sheet and glancing over my shoulder every now and then as the squirrels continued chattering frantically.
Other managers arrived and I spent a lot of time shooing staff away from the area where I knew the leopard was lying, nervous that someone would be pounced on before morning meeting. Graham took a walk down the boardwalk to have a look, assuming the leopard was Legedema gracing us with her presence after a long absence from camp. Kirsty and I were sitting in the office chatting away when we heard the unmistakeable snarl of an angry spotted cat: we jumped up and saw Graham emerge from the undergrowth looking rather sheepish: “Yup, it’s Pula. Don’t go down there!”
|It was, indeed, the torn-eared daughter of our more regular visitor, and she remained in the rotunda for the rest of the day. We couldn’t greet guests returning from drive, having to meet them instead at Mombo Lounge, and although we did not see her for most of the day, we knew she was still lurking there. At dusk, one of the maintenance guys called on the radio to announce that he’d spotted her skulking towards the canteen, and the game viewers pulled in to the back -of-house on their way back from evening drive.
She outwitted us once again, however, and disappeared as enigmatically as she had arrived.
It would not be a Mombo newsletter without mention of the lions in camp as well - they did not disappoint this month, and we have even started a tally on the wall of one of the new offices to document their visits. They trooped through camp a couple of times, making unsuccessful attempts to hunt lechwe and impala, but one evening was made particularly memorable by their casual wandering through the rotunda. Sean and I were waiting to meet guests and we could hear the baboons alarm calling a little way off. We thought, stupidly, that the lions were still a fair distance away. I walked back up to the main area to check on something and was called on the radio by Sean, who was still standing in the rotunda holding a tray of face towels: “Jem, I have found the lions.”
I swung around just in time to see four of the Moporota Pride nonchalantly walking past Sean as he stood there, still as a statue. More recently, the lions killed a buffalo on the soccer pitch which provided an interesting soundtrack for those of us trying to get some sleep here in camp. Guests were treated to the sounds of a rather elongated death , as the buffalo’s moans cut through the cold night air and the grunts of the lions fighting over the giant carcass followed soon after. The next morning the hyaenas had descended and their whoops came from every direction. Soon there were ten very fat, satiated felines lying flopped under a bush on the soccer pitch while scavenging jackals crept nervously around, trying to get a nibble ortwo of what was left.
This increased predator activity has not stopped managers from trying out new methods of wowing guests as they return to camp. We have been meeting them back on the Tully Tully Bridge with great punch bowls of Mojitos or Bloody Marys, tin mugs hanging on thorn bushes ready to be handed to the guests as they drive past. The first time we tried this, the guests were very happy, although they did ask us if we were completely insane to be lurking outside camp with no obvious escape vehicle as it was getting dark.
We answered that it was all in the name of a good sundowner cocktail. The lone wild dog has been seen regularly, accompanied by her faithful jackal friends. Guests were a little concerned to see her looking rather bedraggled and with some mange on her coat, but we are happy to report that she is getting back to her old self, and we could even he ar her calling from camp recently. The fact that she is so active at night is intriguing, as we always assumed that her lone status would force her to lie very low when other predators are more active. Her charisma grows each day, her defiance of our assumptions being just another reason to admire her. With the slowly rising water levels, the birdlife has exploded near camp as well. We have had mind -boggling Pel’s fishing-owl sightings at Little Mombo as well as main camp: the two adults and their over -exuberant chick have been providing countless photograph opportunities as they catch and eat cat -fish overlooking the breakfast table, or swoop down to the water in front of camp to hunt during pre -dinner drinks. The two wattled cranes are still displaying regularly in the floodplain, and numbers of jacanas, saddle-billed storks, pied kingfishers and many other water birds have turned up since their feeding grounds have expanded.
One of the more extraordinary sightings this past month has been of another rare and beautiful cat. Two separate serval sightings were recorded not far from camp. The first was of a female who was hunting in open grassland and only two days later a different individual was seen behaving in an equally relaxed manner around the vehicles. This sudden emergence of a normally secretive cat has been put down to topographical changes since the water has started rising: smaller animals, insects etc. have been forced out of their regular homes and the servals themselves have mostly likely moved their dens to safer, drier ground. We can only wait in excitement to see what other unusual wildlife might pop out of the bush as the water keeps rising!
The editorial team of National Geographic Traveler worked long and hard to find 2013 ’s best authentic and most sustainable lodges for its more than 8.5 million readers. The select lodges chosen embody the National Geographic Society’s spirit of exploration and commitment to the environment and will be featured in the magazine’s June/July 2013 issue.
“We are extremely proud of DumaTau’s light footprint and commitment to our 4Cs ethos (Commerce, Conservation, Community and Culture). As one of our most popular camps, DumaTau was completely rebuilt last year to ensure minimal environmental impact, whilst at the same time delivering an extraordinary wilderness experience”, says Grant Woodrow, Managing Director, Wilderness Safaris Botswana.
DumaTau operates completely on solar energy, for hot water, lighting and other energy needs, and is built of FSC-standard timber. In addition, the camp has water -wise waste removal and uses green and thermal insulating materials.
Comprising only 10 luxury tents raised off the ground, DumaTau is located in the private 125 000 -hectare Linyanti Wildlife Reserve in northern Botswana. Its location between two elephant corridors offers an exclusive river and land safari experience in a completely sustainable manner.
This pristine area’s range of habitats creates ideal conditions for prolific wildlife populat ions – enormous elephant herds, abundant hippo and plains game, followed by excellent predator numbers. It is an integral stronghold for species like the Critically Endangered wild dog, as well as lion, leopard, cheetah and spotted hyaena.
Weather and Landscape
As many of the isolated waterholes have dried up, good concentrations of wildlife can now be found along the Savute Channel and perhaps this is why the elephant bulls have taken a liking to the camp area.
We have also enjoyed some great sightings of elephant breeding herds in front of camp - nothing beats watching a baby elephant follow its mother along, trying to mimic mother' s every move.
Predator sightings have been pretty good and just about every guest returns from their game drives thrilled with their sightings. One of the predatory highlights for the month was the sighting of a leopard crossing a deep waterway.
General game sightings have been really good, as the vegetation has thinned out a lot and most of the wildlife can be found at the bigger water sources.
Birds and Birding
A small group of African openbills have settled into the area in front of Tent 2, returning to the same spot after feeding bouts. This was a delight for birders and even for our guests which were not focused on adding another tick to their birding life list. As mentioned above, many of the isolated water sources have started to dry up, effectively creating fish traps and attracting many water birds to the dinner table.
XIGERA CAMPWeather and Landscape
With a hot start to the month having a high of 37° C, it slowly started to cool down as the month continued, resulting in an average h igh of 27° C for the month.
We did not receive any rainfall this month, but the annual inundation has started to arrive, filling up the waterways and spilling into the floodplains - it will be interesting to see just how high the water levels will be this season.
|Other animals which have been seen in and around camp have been kudu, bushbuck, small -spotted genet and one occasion, a sleeping hippo - right next to the camp. Our luck with sitatunga sightings this month has continued as we enjoyed four separate sightings.
On the predatory side of things, the resident female leopard, Mmadipala, and her daughter have been seen on a regular basis. Another highlight for April was the sighting of a pair of honey badgers just west of the airstrip.
Birds and Birding
On the subject of Pel’s, an individual has taken a liking to roosting in a tree across from the loos in the main area of camp. Another Pel’s had begun nesting by the Trails Camp, but unfortunately for the raptor, a troop of monkeys found the nest and ate all of the eggs. Other great sightings included an African harrier -hawk feeding on starling chicks as well as a Verreaux's eagle-owl.
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 fe w 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.
Where to start? Wel l, 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.
We have seen them for a few days in the open cleari ng 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 torc h, 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.
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 c ome 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 fe w 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.
'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 man y 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.
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.
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 inundati on 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.
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 the ir 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 t he 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.
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 th e day. We will give you further updates about the cubs over the coming months.
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 t hey 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.
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.
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 Zibidianj a Lagoon before the sunrise takes over the dominance of the sky.
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 l eft 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.
The Selinda Pride has been moving in and out of the Zarafa area all month. A highlight was o n 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.
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.
Little Tubu Camp - Keeping It Fresh at Wilderness Safaris
Wilderness Safaris is excited to introduce their new camp, Little Tubu. Opening for bookings on June 1st, Little Tubu is a classic safari camp located adjacent to Tubu Tree Camp on Hunda Island in the Okavango Delta. Little Tubu is made up of three tents/six beds and a delightful main area with a deck and swimming pool. Fitting in with the Wilderness Safaris' 'classic' camps, Little Tubu offers a very special option for small groups and can be expanded to accommodate private groups of eight.
Meanwhile, Tube Tree Camp has undergone some work with a light rebuild, increasing its size from five to eight tented rooms, including a family room! The three new tents are set to open in June. The tents themselves will be larger with interior upgr ades as well as increased deck space and a refurbished main area.
Banoka Bush Camp: Weather and Landscape
Just as expected, the month of February was amazing with the rains painting the mopane woodland and adjacent floodplains of the Khwai Channel green with a variety of grass species. This gave the area a carpet-like appearance that was further enhanced by dramatic sunrises and sunsets - which were just amazing!
The rains have also resulted in an explosion of insect activity which has led to some phenomenal birding!
Despite the very thick vegetation and long grass, we had some incredible wildlife sightings this month. The elusive leopards were seen stalking large herds of impala during the cool hours of the mornings, while the opportunistic hyaena would follow close by in the hope of stealing an easy meal.
On the lion front, a coalition of two visiting males was seen mating with a female on the western side of the concession. This was observed for a week, whereby both males would have their chance with the female - ensuring that the copulation is successful and the strongest genes are carried through into the next generation of lions in the Banoka area.
As mentioned above, there are huge herds of impala dotted all over the area, with many nursery herds as a result of the recent calving at the beginning of the rainy season.
Generally speaking, only 20% of the calves will reach adulthood due to the high predation and mortality rate. We have witnessed this heavy predation this month at the teeth of the wild dogs in the area which are feedin g frenetically on the abundant food source.
The recent bouts of rain have also caused an expansion of surface water as the channels fill up once again - this has resulted in some really good hippo sightings as these bulk grazers move into the new grounds t o feed on the bounty of fresh grass.
Birds and Birding
The birding at Banoka this month was incredible due to the explosion of insect populations in the area. All the summer migrant species are currently around, which has allowed us some great sightings of species such as Levaillant's cuckoo, woodland kingfisher, broad -billed roller and the southern -carmine bee-eater.
Water birds have also been prolific, with the African jacana providing some great photographic opportunities as they walk on the lilypads, wh ile malachite kingfishers perch on the fringes of the waterways. We were quite exci ted to see a lesser jacana during an afternoon boat cr uise.
'Dear Banoka Friends
Thanks again for my most memorable vacation.'
Botswana Camps News
Abu Camp braced itself for the late rains of January as we watched the pregnant clouds roll in from the east and without haste they spilled their bounty all over the Abu Concession. Three days passed and the camp area was inundated, mekoro and weather -proof jackets readied and "operation save Abu" was launched.
The camp came to life as the giant Mozambican weather monster moved off into the distance; every seed that had been lying in wait germinated and the Okavango sprang awake creating our very own nursery of life. We sustained some camp damage following 180 mm of rain but our spirits were rejuvenated as sunshine filled the camp once again. The rain is somewhat a love -hate relationship, it creates weeks of "raintenance" but after any heavy rain, the general game seems to pop out of every corner of the earth and enjoy the fresh shoots of now abundant grass.
The resident pride of four lion made their presence at the airstrip known as they attempted to catch but missed a zebra, leaving it horribly injured, but they regrouped and successfully acquired themselves a wildebeest for dinner. The Seba hyaena clan, as always, made their whooping enthusiasm clear to the world as they tend to do every evening whilst patrolling the airstrip.
Abu Camp itself has t hree new celebrities. The first two are Tom and Jerry - the two confident hyaena. They are becoming rather comfortable visiting during the screening of the Paseka movie at our sundowner spot and have graced us with their presence on many an evening.
The other is Limpy the baboon. Limpy, aptly named because of his distinctive limp, thinks that he is a feline. A true cat burglar, he now knows how to open the kitchen door and helps himself to our five -star foods, the cheek of it!
Other amazing sightings in the concession over the past month include a beautiful female leopard with her one remaining cub, a cheetah on the airstrip, roan antelope and a number of venomous and non -venomous snakes. The cheetah seem to be settling into the area and the Seba guides are great at getting a number of sightings of them. We hope they continue to dazzle guests in our concession.
Guests have also been lucky to observe a number of Southern African pythons which are out to try and get their stake of small springhares or baby antelope which are plentiful in the concession at the moment. We have also had buffalo return to Maribou Pan for their own personal sundowners. Our favourite sighting this month was a bateleur feeding on a baboon carcass! All in all, the game in the concession is alive and magnificent.
Abu has also launched two new bush activities. Our new bush breakfast site is only accessible by mokoro or elephant - have you ever had breakfast with elephants? African star -gazing tapas is our second new spectacle. 45 minutes away from camp and completely cut out from the world, it is an experience of a lifetime. Finger foods including sticky African riblets and bite -size caramelised mustard pork medallions are only the tip of the ice berg with the executive chef preparing all dishes to perfection! Find a planet through the telescope whilst sipping on your favourite single malt whisky and enjoy the orchestra of the African night.
The new research camp has come to life, with Dr. Mike Chase having almost completed his A frican explorer-styled design. The location is nestled in and among st a number of jackalberry trees.
Water levels along the Linyanti Marsh and Savute Channel rose during the month, submerging some of our roads. The levels are dropping now and we are anticipating a second surge to fill the banks again. 167 mm of rain fell in January, more than double the a mount we received in the same month last year. The bush is beautifully thick and lush but fortunately this has not impacted our game sightings.
We have been very lucky to have the return of some long lost lions in the area. The "Channel Boys", as they are known, were spotted close to Savuti Camp on two separate occasions. Other lions that have moved back into the area are two males, which we suspect are from the old Savuti Pride, last seen at Dish Pan, as well as two other males on the southern banks of t he Channel. The LTC Pride continues to extend its territory further west and has recently been seen many times around Chobe. The DumaTau Male lion has been spending most of his time around DumaTau Camp and First Corner Bridge, all the way to the Chobe airstrip.
On the leopard front, the DumaTau Male has been sighted mostly along the Savute Channel and was once seen mating. He is still in good shape as he continues to feed well on warthog piglets and the odd baby elephant! The Dish Pan Male is healthy and was seen around his namesake, Dish Pan, hunting. An unknown female was spotted at the old DumaTau site with a baby impala kill. She looked like she may have been pregnant or perhaps nursing so perhaps our wish for leopard cubs will come true!
In terms of wild dog, the LTC Pack is doing well, still maintaining their number of 21 dogs. They have been feeding mostly on impala and the puppies are growing so fast that they can barely be differentiated from the full grown members of the pack were it not for th e constant energy they find to play with one another! They have been sighted a few times this month, spending the majority of their time east of Savuti Camp through the mopane woodland.
Other interesting sightings this month have included that of a secretarybird which was seen building its nest south-east of camp.
We are very excited about our new floating "pontoon fire deck" which we opened in January. It stretches out into the Osprey Lagoon in front of the main area of camp offering superb views acros s the lagoon... just the spot for a sundowner!
Staff in Camp Managers: Gerard, Claire, Lindi and Anja. Guides: Lazi, Mocks, Moses, Name and Tank.
Little Vumbura Camp
It has been a great start to the New Year here at Little Vumbura with a lot of very welcome rain. In this month we have experienced an amazing 451 mm of rain: 200 mm of which came in two days, with one evening bringing 120 mm in eight hours! Unfortunately, that was not a great thing as all five of our boats on the island were sunk by this massive deluge. Although we have had so much rain the temperatures have still soared and humidity has been high. Temperatures have been as high as 40° C with the lowest being 28° C.
The rain has caused huge confusion with the water levels in the Delta. The water rose 300 mm in three days and absolutely swamped our roads and made the island almost inaccessible via our boat station near camp. The solution was simple though as we began boating to camp via our floodplain channel directly from the airstrip - three months earlier than we should have though. The water level is at present 10 mm lower than last year's annual inundation peak but two weeks ago was actually higher. Things are however returning to normal, but we fear if the remaining rain water does not begin to evaporate at a faster rate we are in for a substantial inundation this season.
Luckily with all the rain, water and muddy roads it has not put a dampener our activities in camp. It has been a beautifully diverse month with the weather change, but being based on an island and surrounded by water we have adapted easily. The grass may be tall and green, as is usual this time of year but sightings have been phenomenal. Guests have had the privilege of watching the resident wild dogs, known as the Golden Pack, attack and kill a buffalo. While seeing these rare dogs is awesome, witnessing a kill is amazing - but seeing them successfully bring down a buffalo is basically unheard of.
Lion in the area have also been incredibly active. The resident pride, known as the Kubu Pride, which consists of a large lioness with two subadult females and two subadult males, have settled into the airstrip area - often a great welcome for our arriving guests.
Herds of elephant, buffalo, sable and a variety of plains game are always usual sightings in the area at the moment and the birdlife is as usual fantastic. The highlight has been using the boats to tr ansfer to and from the airstrip; we constantly get to see malachite kingfishers and lesser jacana which are not often otherwise seen.
The water may be high, but that is why we have boats and mekoro. Boating through the gorgeous channels has been highly popular with guests. Sightings are not usually prolific from the boat but guests have been lucky enough to view the rare sitatunga from the water. On the very tranquil mokoro, guests have seen hundreds of painted reed frogs, Angolan reed frogs and long ree d frogs, which considering their size aren't the easiest to spot.
Managers: Hamish, Mill ie, Mamma Kay and KB. Guides: Sam, Sevara and Madala Kay.
Tubu Tree Camp
Weather and Landscape
Warm and humid days are being cooled down by the approach of thunderstorms in the late afternoons.
The rumbles can he heard from a distance, as we get excited about the incoming rain, we start closing up and moving all the furniture that can get wet.
And then the rain comes: The drops fall as the lightning hits the ground not far from camp - and then the drops stop! The soil is not even wet as the heated sand causes the drops to evaporate so quickly. This is what the weather has been doing to us for days on end. Every day we have thought: "ah, the big one is coming today" but to no avail.
Close to the end of the month however, we received that big one... on the one afternoon when we least expected it. The wind suddenly picked up and then the rain came. The wind was blowing so hard that the rain was falling sideways! For about 30 minutes we were being blessed with rain and then as quickly as it came down it was gone. The wind was blowing so hard that it completely uprooted three big knob thorn trees in the staff village.
The bush is lush green with the rain that we have received in the last month.
This has been a month of leopards.
The Impala Ridge Female has taken over more territory towards the north (airstrip area) and we have seen her there on a few occasions during the month. With the Lebala Female being displaced by the Impala Ridge Female, we have seen Lebala all over the island, as she is now looking for an area w hich she can call hers.
After two years of not being seen, we saw Keledi again in the northern parts of the island, and she was not alone, she brought a cub with her! We estimate the cub to be about five or six months old. She has made herself at home in the northern parts.
As for the Tubu Female and her two cubs, they have been seen as well. The two cubs are spending more and more time away from their mother as they are starting to become independent. The one cub was spotted one night sitting on t he roof of the manager's tent, and when the vehicle came closer he jumped up into the tree beside the management tent and proceeded to relax there, his bulging belly showing he'd fed recently. The managers couldn't get into their room for a few hours. He has become very relaxed - just like his mother.
There have also been lots of hyaena sightings this month around camp. Five adults were spotted in the floodplain lying in the early morning sunlight while on other occasions we have seen them at night from the deck as they chase impala or zebra past the camp; by the look of things, this is more for the fun of chase than for the kill. On New Year's Eve (make that New Year's morning) the hyaenas killed an impala in front of Tent 3.
The cheetah that were here last month had left by the first week of the month. We had hoped that they would stay for longer, but we were not so lucky.
General game sightings around the island have been great as well. Large herds of zebra, blue wildebeest, kudu, giraffe as well as ele phants are seen regularly. On a partly overcast evening, despite the ominous clouds, we decided to set up for a bush dinner, but it all worked out great, weather -wise. During dinner we kept a lookout for the hyaena that normally come to join us, but they did not arrive. While we were casually talking during dinner, we heard the loud rumble behind us. As we lifted our torches, we saw a herd of elephants not 20 metres away from us, some drinking water while others were looking at us. As quietly as they arrive d they disappeared into the darkness, with the only sound being the breaking of branches as they fed.
One night while we were having pre -dinner drinks at the beautiful Tubu Bar, a tree mouse climbed down the marula tree and came to sniff at the bar snacks before casually turning around and climbing back up the tree. We were all speechless at the little guy, since he was so relaxed. While standing at the bar that same night the guests asked about genets. We told them all about genets and showed them pictures and not long afterwards we went through for dinner. We were busy with the main course when Eloise heard soft running steps on the deck behind her as she sat at the end of the table, she turned her head to the door and there came a genet running at full speed into the dining room! Realising that he was not alone, he tried to reverse, braking before jumping onto the pathway going to the bar, where he disappeared - what an exciting dinner!
Birds and Birding
We have seen a few red -necked falcons around camp as well as close to the airstrip. There are also large flocks of collard pratincoles that were spotted on the northern parts of the island close to Harry's Baobab it seems that they may breeding there.
"We had incredible bird and animal sightings, in particular the fantastic leopard sightings! The very good knowledge of management and staff was the cherry on top. Special touches - the welcome on our return from drives and the printed info scrolls. The beautiful location and vista that gr eeted us every morning!
Staff in Camp Managers: Eloise and Hein Holton.
Guides: Kambango Sinimbo, Gibson Kehemetswe and GT Sarepito.
Little Vumbura Camp
Happy New Year! A full house at Little Vumbura on Christmas Day enjoyed a festive fare accompanied by singing and dancing with the staff choir. Guests travelling during Christmas expressed their appreciation of the attention to detail of the menu, the decorations and the Christmas gifts which made it feel just 'like home'.
|Everything has sprung to life with over 150 mm of rain for December at Little Vumbura. Birds, bugs and frogs of all colours are in full chorus and enjoying the wet conditions. We have had pleasant daytime temperatures averaging around 29° C and although conditions have been a little damp underfoot it has not put a stop to Little Vumbura's driving, boating and mokoro activities accompanied by amazing animal sightings. Some roads have turned into small rivers, making driving full of fun and excitement for the guests. The savannah grassland is becoming greener and taller by the day with a host of new life emerging. There have being magical sunrises and sunsets with spectacular cumulus clouds towering above Little Vumbura most afternoons, followed by amazing thunderstorms that have rumbled on th rough the night.|
Our guests have been blown away by the huge variety of species, from small to large, seen out on activity including African wild dog, sable antelope, leopard, cheetah, lion, buffalo, elephant and of course our resident pods of hippo . One of our many honeymoon couples was very fortunate to get a brief glimpse of a sitatunga from the helicopter on their way to Little Vumbura from Mombo! Our guests have also equally enjoyed experiencing the smaller species including porcupine, fishing piders, monitor lizards and an exquisite newly-hatched chameleon was spotted making its way up a tree in camp.
Some smaller species of fish have moved to the channels - which were once roads - and have attracted a number of bird species.
Game drives are a bird-lover's delight with regular sightings of saddle -billed stork, wattled crane, rufous - bellied heron, squacco heron, hamerkop, little egret and a variety of sandpipers all vying for their share of fish in the shallows. Some of our guests have also enjoyed trying their hand at catch -and-release fishing and what better place than the Okavango Delta to do this in!
All the best for an inspiring year ahead! The Little Vumbura Team
Christmas and New Year at Mombo: There can't be a more spectacular venue for the festivities that heralded the end of 2012! Amongst swathes of luscious green where the lechwe roam and the lions roar, we saluted our thanks to a truly magical year in the place of plenty. As we waved goodbye to a couple of Mombo legends, I stepped into some very large green shoes and approached my first newsletter for this beautiful camp with just a bit of apprehension.
After a predictably stunning Christmas in camp, we saw in the new year with a very special and rare 'bush dinner' not far from camp. We explained to the guests that this was a particularly infrequent occasion and they jumped on board with enthusiasm. The resident hyaenas, lions and elephants graciously kept their distance and allowed us to enjoy a beautiful dinner aroun d a roaring camp fire, followed by much singing and dancing from a full -voiced Mombo choir. It was memorable for guests and staff alike, as we all felt the distinct privilege of celebrating at Mombo under such unusual circumstances.
Back in camp, it has been business as usual. The epic thunderstorms that are drenching the bush provoke equally epic sightings as both predator and prey emerge from their soaked shelters to mark territories again and revel in their new watery Eden.
The Maporota Pride has made its presence known in and around the camp quite a few times this month. The most notable was during dinner one moonlit night recently. Guests were about to begin dessert when a call came through on the radio to warn the managers that their houses were being surrounded by lions. This caused some amusement and we all answered, requesting regular updates on their next movements. For a while, only seven out of the 12 were visible, lounging in front of main camp while the guests finished their dinner. A ew began to inch towards some grazing lechwe, and Little Mombo was notified that they might have some visitors coming their way. The guests on that side were joined at their dinner by the old and toothless male, 'Mr Gummy,' who entered stage right near the guest loo and positioned himself in front of the Little Mombo pool. By now the guests were riveted, and we escorted them along the boardwalk towards main camp to see the main body of the pride. As a call came through announcing the arrival of a few rather disgruntled hippo, we quickened our pace and arrived to find an intriguing clash of titans ensuing directly in front of camp. Dessert abandoned, guests were lined up along the balustrade watching as the hippos charged the lions, mouths wide open, roaring in disgust that their quiet evening had been interrupted by the notorious band of felines.
The leopards have not been upstaged, however. Pula, the gorgeous torn -eared female, has been seen in the throes of courtship with the male nicknamed Blue -Eyes. Whilst this has provided mind -boggling sightings for several guests, this coupling is bitter-sweet. The fact that Pula is mating again signifies poignantly the likely death of her cubs, which have not been seen since they poked their squashed little faces out of a hole in a tree two months ago. We hope that we will see the results of her liaisons with Blue-Eyes sometime in the future.
This is not the sole tug -of-the-heartstrings that we have had this month. The extraordinary scenes between the mother giraffe and her stillborn baby will not easily be forgotten: it was a staunch reminder of the harsh cycles by which nature operates in the bush. Guests watched as the clan of hyaena advanced and retreated for hours, unwilling to let the opportunity for a me al pass them so easily. The mother giraffe was equally reluctant to abandon her dead offspring and so the anguished guests could only look on as this exchange continued for hours. Finally, the mother had to acquiesce to the hyaenas' advances and she stood nearby as they claimed their prize.
One more goose -bumps story and then I'll stop: there have been quite a few sightings this month of a particularly fascinating type of elephant behaviour. I had heard many times that elephants will muse over the bones of their fallen comrades, or pause to examine and smell an area where another has died, but I had never witnessed it first hand.
A few guests were lucky enough to see such a demonstration and it was not long afterwards that I too experienced it. We came a cross a young bull elephant and stopped as we noticed a few old and sun - bleached pachyderm bones lying in the grass. Sure enough, the young bull hovered over a particularly large bone and ran his trunk along its length, apparently smelling it. He then made as if to leave, but stopped dead in his tracks and swung around to examine another bone a little way off. There was no obvious explanation for this behaviour, but one cannot help but feel moved to witness it. Whether you put it down to curiosity, playfulness, coincidence, or something akin to mourning, it is an incredible example of the way we are always learning from nature, on a daily basis.
As always, the smaller details must not be overlooked. The bush is teeming with birds, snakes, butterflies and frogs: just driving through the soggy plains sends all manner of flying creatures twirling through the air, turning an existing paradise into a true wonderland.
As I wrap up this whistle -stop tour through December, it is pouring with rain and the lions can be heard calling from camp. The highlights of January alone are already blazing the trail for another fabulous year: Mombo 2013 - here we come.