Naledi is reintroduced to the Abu Elephant Herd!
The 24th of May was a big day for the Abu Team and especially the elephant handlers. It was the day on which Naledi would be reintroduced to her family, the Abu Camp elephant herd…
It was a beautiful sunny day and the itinerary for the guests in camp was completely different to the usual activities. After a hearty breakfast the lucky guests in camp headed to a specially-selected area to witness what everybody was hoping to be a great success. The Abu management team also came along and everyone was feeling an emotional mix of nerves and excitement. Would she be accepted or would the little calf be rejected by the herd?
The game viewers were carefully positioned so that everyone could see the action and we all waited silently and with bated breath as Naledi and her handlers (with whom she had spent so much time – thus becoming very dependent on them) approached quietly from the east. Lorato and Paseka were brought across from the west. Lorato, sister to Naledi, and Paseka (Abu’s official No. 1 fan of Naledi) walked cautiously with their trunks up in the air smelling the baby, their ears wide and alert.
The youngsters were gently coaxed towards Naledi, but Paseka was the first to lose her nerve and ran back to the familiar comfort of the herd waiting ‘in the wings.’ Lorato stayed longer but also retreated. The elephant handlers knew what to do and decided to bring the rest of the herd as a group. This gave the youngsters confidence and this time their approach was completely different. It was Paseka that eventually led the way and, no longer able to contain her excitement and curiosity, rushed to greet Naledi. The others followed and the reunion was calm and beautiful. The team had anticipated lots of trumpeting and running from the herd, but it was almost as if they had never been apart. Quickly forgetting her handlers, Naledi immediately slotted back to where she belonged, with the Abu Herd. The morning was a great success!
Everyone at Abu is thrilled with the outcome and Naledi continues to be bottle-fed by her handlers. She broke her own record recently by drinking 44 litres of milk in one day.
The Delta waters have arrived in full force which makes for stunning vistas from the camp. Guests have been taking advantage of the abundance of the water and have been enjoying fishing, boating and mokoro activities. Guests on occasion are also able to mokoro alongside the elephants. They were recently delighted by little Naledi actually getting all four feet inside an empty mokoro hoping to catch a lift as she didn’t fancy swimming!
Wildlife The predator sightings have been plentiful during May and many a leopard has been frequently spotted. Lion have also been seen close to camp at nearby Marabou Pan. A pack of wild dog has been delighting guests and staff alike by running through the back-of-house area in camp! Large herds of buffalo have made an appearance and the summer migratory birds have begun their journey elsewhere for warmer climes.
Until next month, all the best from the Abu herd.
Climate and Landscape
Year after year, the Okavango Delta moves to its own seasonal rhythm. Even those of us privileged to have watched this over the years are continuously amazed by the changes that appear to happen overnight. At this time of the year, as the clouds become less and less of a feature in the sunsets, we see a contradictory situation of the water rising around us as the inundation arrives in the Delta channels. As it soaks in through the sands we are suddenly living in an aquatic paradise of birds and water-loving antelope.
There were a few chilly mornings at Jao this month – just a little pre-warning for us of the winter that is on its way. The days are still warm and we enjoyed a couple of hot days in between.
As we watch the waters arriving at Jao all the way from the highlands of Angola, we see a change in the cast of the wildlife. The main characters are still here however, and our small pride of lions is doing well, eating a regular diet of red lechwe. Sadly there is one less cub and there has been much speculation about how she was lost. There are two schools of thought, the first being that with the water rising so quickly she was taken by a crocodile in a deep crossing; or possibly a hyaena may have taken her. There is something special about watching lions crossing water, be they big males, young mothers or cubs – they all have that same look a pet cat would have painted across its face!
The leopard that was around Jao and the islands seems to have moved on ahead of the advancing water. There have been reports of vocalisation from Tsetse Fly Island and from the Jacana Camp side of the concession.
Earlier in the year, our four impala had three lambs which have now grown up and we can now see that we have two males and a female. The youngsters are very accommodating of the fame that they have acquired at Jao and take it all in their stride, often prancing around for guests when they see a camera. The small herd looks as if it needs a warm blanket early in the morning. Winter is definitely making itself felt by all the creatures of the Jao Concession.
The Jao Mafia mongoose family numbers seem to increase as the water rises – quite suddenly overnight there are a whole lot more. We were lucky enough to see them moving the babies from one den to another. They are now a constant presence around the back of house and seeing them crawl out after all the staff are in at work, puffed up and chattering to each other is a happy way to get the day started.
There have been a few sightings of Mozambique spitting cobras, both around front of house and in the termite mound, and for about a week one sunning itself in a variety of spots in the back of house area. There have also been a few sightings by guests and guides of a large black mamba out on Jao Island. On full moon we were looking for the best spot to take a picture of the orange rising ball in the sky when I came across a rather large snake track across the road. After much debate and a lesson in snake directional tracking from Reserve Manager Antony, we decided that it was a large African rock python.
A lion hunt was seen by a few lucky guests and again the reality of how nature works was brought home to all of us.
Birds and Birding
There are certain sounds around Jao that alert us to something special about to happen, and the genteel yelp of the hamerkop is one of them. As I looked up to see what was going on, the blacksmith lapwings joined in, closely followed by the squeaks of the palm swifts, and there I saw him, a slightly sinister overlord, a martial eagle, perching on the top of one of the tallest ebony trees we have on the island. Not bothered at all by the commotion he had caused he slowly surveyed his domain.
We have been really lucky this month with our summer avian visitors departing and our winter visitors arriving, with some passers by showing themselves and making for some great sightings in the process. We have had a few flocks of white-fronted, European and carmine bee-eaters passing through on their way to their winter homes. Our resident little bee-eaters have been as busy as ever.
The rollers have made a good showing of themselves this month with the lilac-breasted, purple and the broad-billed all being spotted in and around Jao.
Large flocks of water birds have been seen circling over the newly submerged floodplains: open-billed, saddle-billed, black, woolly-necked, yellow-billed and marabou storks, as well as wattled cranes, glossy ibis, hadeda ibis and sacred ibis. Massive amounts of grey, black-headed and purple herons, egrets from the great to the little and the snowy to the slaty have all been spotted taking advantage of the new source of food in the Delta.
While setting up a floodplain tea, we were lucky enough to witness a cormorant fishing team round up a school of fingerling fish and drive them to the water’s edge for an easy meal. There was also a support team from the air in the form of pied kingfishers, and from the water’s edge in the form of great and little egrets.
The spur-winged geese have made their yearly comeback onto Jao Island and we are awaiting the comical little goslings to amuse us all.
The vast numbers of yellow-billed kites that are a constant presence in summer have made their way up to warmer climes and have left the skies open for us to see the other great raptors we have in this area. While there is the constant call of the African fish-eagle we have been seeing a long-crested eagle around the front of camp. This year’s juvenile bateleurs’ flying lessons have provided endless entertainment and dreams of being able to fly just for the pure enjoyment of it. Our concession team briefly spotted a black-chested snake eagle as well as an African marsh harrier. We have had many sightings of the diminutive and beautiful black-shouldered kite while the African harrier hawk (gymnogene) has been harassing the palm swifts recently, only to give up after a certain loud starling got involved in the situation.
Our sub-adult giant eagle-owl has been heard around camp and spotted regularly on the island by our reserve managers. He is a curious animal and when he spots activity, he makes his way across to see what is going on. He has made an appearance at a few Boma Evenings, much to the delight of our guests. We have a pair of Pel’s fishing-owls on the island too; however no one has actually seen them. There is something weirdly eerie about their call that makes one a little more alert than usual on the walk home in the evening.
We had a pair of swamp boubous build a nest and hatch two eggs in our back of house area. What devoted parents they were, feeding two little puff balls, fending off snakes, and keeping them warm as the nights got cooler. The two little ones have now fledged.
The birdlife at Jao is a constant wonder and enjoyment, with a rainbow of colours and a plethora of shapes and sizes; it’s no wonder that many guests leave Jao with a new appreciation for our feathered creatures.
It all started with one guest mentioning at dinner that the only thing that he hadn’t seen in his first three days in Africa was a hippo out of water. He had been one of the lucky ones, having seen the leopard and cub on Hunda Island, and the lions here on Jao. A lot of general game had been spotted and he was amazed by the sheer numbers of lechwe out on the floodplains. Then one mealtime, I was returning to the downstairs kitchen when I spotted a family of three adults and a baby hippo. This was quickly communicated to the guests as they were finishing off their dessert and there was a very fast exodus from the table as they all got to enjoy some time with our expanding family of hippo.
Climate and Landscape
With the seasons changing again in the Linyanti, temperatures have started to drop. Trees are losing their leaves and the bush is thinning out as we move deeper into our winter season. Seasonal pans are drying out, forcing most of the general game and elephants to move towards the lagoons and the Savute Channel, closely followed by the predators.
Apart from huge herds of elephant moving towards the water and leopard being seen frequently, the most noticeable change this month has been the number of nomadic male lions that have moved into the Linyanti Concession.
These lions have most likely come across from Namibia, while some are believed to have moved in from the Selinda Concession, which borders the Linyanti. These males have been continuously roaring, scent marking and patrolling the area, trying to find out what competition might be around. Some of these cats have the luxury of numbers on their side, with one coalition comprising three males. The coalitions have a much better chance of survival in the future and could become a real force going forward – we will definitely keep you posted on how they are doing!
Other predators that have been seen almost on a daily basis are the wild dogs. They have been very active, covering huge areas from east to west. And as mentioned previously, there has been no shortage of leopard sightings either!
Now with summer at DumaTau Camp a thing of the past, factors such as insects are minimal and temperatures very comfortable, allowing us to host a number of bush activities. Among these have been sundowner stops, soup stops, bush brunches and bush dinners.
Guests’ favourite activity of the month was a beautiful ‘Burgers in the Bush’ brunch setup at Zib Hide. For those of you not familiar with Zib Hide, this is our sleep-out hide, and overlooks the Savute Channel – ideal for sundowners too as it faces west.
Pictured is a sundowner setup that was done for a large family group in camp. Needless to say all enjoyed it. Who wouldn’t when Mr B is whipping up his special cocktails!
We are looking forward to the game-viewing getting even better as the Linyanti dries out. Be sure to bring lots of memory cards and a few warm jackets for the cold mornings and evenings!
See you soon…
The Team at DumaTau
Climate and Landscape
Winter in the Okavango is here! Not something that you would ordinarily shout out with a smile on your face as winter is associated with cold, wet and cloudy weather in many parts of the world. However, in the Delta, winters mean brisk mornings, spectacular warm, cloudless days and pleasantly cool evenings spent sitting around a fire sipping hot chocolate, red wine or Amarula, reliving the adventures of the day.
Temperatures have dropped to 8° Celsius at night and early mornings, rising to 25° Celsius during the day. The cooler weather often means the animals are active for longer and some amazing sightings have been enjoyed during the month of May.
The wild dog pack has been sighted around Mombo Camp on numerous occasions chasing all sorts of prey, while the alpha female is looking heavily pregnant. She and the alpha male are still smitten and are seldom apart. We are fervently hoping they will den near Mombo and all goes well for their first litter. Towards the end of May, some guests were following them while they were hunting impala. Suddenly the guides realised the dogs were chasing the impala directly toward where the Western Pride of lions had been seen! As other guests were watching the lions lazily awakening from their sleep, the unfortunate impala ran straight into the pride. It was probably the easiest hunt the Western Pride had ever had! The dogs applied brakes and headed off in another direction to look for some more prey.
The Western Pride has been up to some unusual antics. Led by their maned female lion, Mmamoriri, they have wandered into Moporota Pride territory to the north of Mombo Camp on numerous occasions. The pride scent-mark, roar and, if there is no reply, continue deeper into foreign territory. There have been times when the Moporota males have been nearby and, together with the females, have reciprocated the roaring before returning to claim back their territory with ferocious displays of brute strength by the males.
A battle nearly ensued recently when the Western Pride took down a buffalo deep inside enemy territory. They managed to finish it before beating a hasty retreat! Watching the lions pursue each other is a formidable sight. Unfortunately for the Hakuna Pride, all this scent-marking and roaring has led to them ceding a bit of territory and moving further south-east, trapped between the Mathatha Pride and the Western and Moporota Prides. They were seldom seen in May as they kept their heads down, being the smaller pride.
May was also very much a leopard month at Mombo. Legedema, Maru, Pula, Blue Eyes, Phefo and an unidentified male were all seen regularly. Maru, daughter of Legedema, is currently trying to move her cub, Phefo, out of her territory – Phefo is nearing maturity and the former playfulness experienced between mother and daughter has given way to stern glances and the odd hissing. Blue Eyes has taken a liking to Limpy’s Island just to the north of camp and was seen in a beautiful jackalberry, with an unfortunate impala as his ‘resting buddy.
One of the highlights of a recent leopard sighting was when hyaenas led the vehicles to Legedema who was feasting on an impala on the ground. She gave way, letting them eat for a bit before dashing in and grabbing a large chunk of meat and retreating to the safety of a tree, something I’m sure she wished she had done earlier! Legedema was also seen with a spur-winged goose near Triple Baobab. Guests were surprised when the goose at first managed to escape from Legedema, but it didn’t get very far before she had caught it with one bound, bringing it back under control.
General game has been plentiful with an abundance of zebra, red lechwe, impala and giraffe sighted daily. Elephant are seen often too, but not as often as in the summer months as they have moved into the sometimes inaccessible floodplains to feed.
Birds and Birding
Winter in the Okavango is here! Not something that you would ordinarily shout out with a smile on your face as winter is associated with cold, wet and cloudy weather in many parts of the world. However, in the Delta, winters mean brisk mornings, spectacular warm, cloudless days and pleasantly cool evenings spent sitting around a fire sipping hot chocolate, red wine or Amarula, reliving the adventures of the day.
We had a lovely ‘renewal of vows’ ceremony complete with friends of the couple, staff and the Mombo Choir. The sunset, singing and the speeches made it an unforgettable day for the happy couple.
We are also looking forward to tasting a new wine selection, carefully chosen and imported from South Africa’s Western Cape winelands for the start of winter!
The chorus of hippos at night as they happily grunt away whilst swishing past the rooms and dinner tables always brings excitement for the guests. All in all a wonderful way to start a winter safari!
Climate and Landscape
Winter has kicked in and our wake-up calls are now set for 30 minutes later, plus we have started using ponchos on game drives. Beds are cosy and warm in the evenings with the addition of hot water bottles. We have also started using winter gowns, which are very warm and we provide hot water flasks at wake-up on request. We have been advising our guests to hug them as their “bush babies”!
Although some people would prefer to have their tent flaps open at night, the temperature has dropped tremendously, and we expect it to drop even lower at night for a couple of weeks to come. In general the temperature ranges between 16° and 34° Celsius. The landscape is still green and looking very lovely while our beloved frogs sing lullabies every evening as they enjoy the cool temperatures. We have however not received a lot of rain during the month of April, with just 27 mm recorded; that said we still expect winter showers to make the temperatures drop even more.
It is always rewarding to receive smiling guests back from a game drive because they’ve seen elephant or wild dogs. Some guest were lucky enough to watch a pack of 12 wild dogs take down an impala right before their eyes, in camp behind their tent on their way to the vehicle for their morning drive!
Another delight was seeing how happy some guests were after being woken up from their siesta by elephants crossing the channel right outside their tent. Some guests felt like they were in paradise when just before their guide came to wake them in the morning, a lion had already awoken them with a beautiful roar… wonderful sounds of African nature!
Birds and Birding
We spotted kingfishers at the bar, not unexpectedly, as it overlooks the water. Our neighbours, the open-billed storks, are back in the tree close to Tent 2. Southern ground-hornbills and kori bustards have also been spotted frequently on drives – very impressive! Vultures are greatly endangered and it is always exciting to see them gathered around a kill. Management were thrilled to watch a guest’s video from one keen birder who was very excited to have seen them.
The kitchen project has come along very well and everyone is very excited and looking forward to the day we move in to our spacious new kitchen. Thanks to all our staff who have been remarkable in helping with the rebuild. Having so much good feedback on our food coming from a small and temporary kitchen, we are sure that we will do wonders with our new one!
Climate and Landscape
Towards the close of the month one could feel the chill of winter sending its warning. Although the evenings have remained pleasant, there is a noticeable drop in temperature, with this month’s low averaging 21° Celsius and highs of 30° at midday. The lovely mangosteen canopy provides ample shade and the slow breeze over the water adds to the relaxed and cool environment. A distant rumble of the rainy season was evident on some afternoons and we are reminded that the thunderstorms will return!
With the rains subsiding the elephant have returned and we have seen more and more breeding herds in and around camp. During siesta time, these giants keep our guests active and intrigued as they watch them feed and interact with each other – which all makes for good conversation at afternoon tea.
The vervet monkeys are more visible now as fruits and forage are contained in the canopy that overshadows Xigera. These fellows are such a pleasure to watch and have become part of the camp family. We witnessed the dominant male, which we named ‘Blue,’ in a fight with a younger one which left scars that tell quite a tale.
Birds and Birding
Without a doubt, April should be called “the Month of the Owls,” with classic sightings of a juvenile and an adult Pel’s fishing-owl hunting from the comfort of the camp – a bird at the top of any birder’s list. Early morning and in the late afternoon, the two owls were to be seen from the walkway that is between the tents. Although not always easy to photograph, these rare specimens have now happily been ticked off on many bird lovers’ lists.
Perhaps the early winter chill has somewhat stunned the migrant woodlands kingfishers, as one of these typically very shy birds has allowed us admire its unique colouration from just a metre away in and around camp. Our resident long-crested eagle has shown off his unique ‘hairdo’ on several occasions, yet another rare specimen ticked off.
On the slow boat cruises guests come across cisticolas, widowbirds with their bright red shoulders, malachite kingfishers, goliath herons, weavers… and the list goes on.
We have been able to take our boats further as the water levels rise steadily, joining the Jao/Boro channel while cruising towards Chief’s Island has to be the best boat cruise in the Okavango Delta. Seeing giraffe, some buffalo and even lion whilst on a boat cruise is a special and rare experience.
The tranquil mokoro excursions have been truly exquisite, with all the reed frogs, malachite kingfishers and even elephant crossing the channels.
Climate and Landscape
The first half of April was filled with stormy weather as the rainy season seemed to prolong the lightning shows and relief of short afternoon showers. By the end of April however, the skies are blue with not a cloud in sight as the sun warms the Delta before the first real signs of the cold arrive. Temperatures reached 28° Celsius during the day before dropping to 15° at night for a comfortable night’s rest.
The waters have started to flow onto the open floodplains and the water level is rising slowly in front of camp. This usually brings with it animal behaviour changes seen from the main deck; as the water arrives, it rejuvenates growth of the grasses and so the hippo are often seen at dinner time, slowly mowing their way past the dinner tables as if almost on cue with the starters! The general game from camp has been at its best, with warthog, elephant, red lechwe and impala abundant – as has been the birdlife.
Little Mombo had a large herd of buffalo (estimated 500) wading through the shallow waters during brunch one morning. It was a lovely sighting with many young following closely behind their mothers. The swishing of water and the random bellows were a change from the usual tranquillity and soothing call of the pair of resident African fish-eagles.
Easter was celebrated in true Mombo style with guests ‘happening’ upon a surprise bush brunch set up at Kubu Kaya. There were hot cross buns and Easter eggs galore as everyone enjoyed the beautiful view of the channel and the animals that call it home.
Major predator sightings have been excellent again this month with the Moporota, Western, Hakuna and Mathata lion prides all being seen on a regular basis. The Western Pride was seen on a fresh hippo kill at Suzie’s Duck Pond. They gorged themselves for a few days before heading west again, Mmamoriri (the female with the mane) leading the way.
Camp Managers Graham and Phenyot were heading home after closing camp down one night when they came across one of the Moporota males feasting on a young red lechwe in the floodplains a few feet from their houses. He was soon joined by two of his brothers and a lioness and the peaceful night sounds were shattered with snarls and growls as each jostled for the best feeding spot.
Guests have been treated to great sightings of leopard this month, with Pula on a fresh impala kill, Sergeant hoisting an impala into a tree, Blue Eyes lazily resting in the warm afternoon sun as well as Legedema and Blue Eyes mating. This does not bode well for Legedema’s cubs as it may mean she has lost yet another litter.
One drive to mention was when guests stopped by a pan to have some champagne. As they were admiring the sunset and sipping on their bubbly, Blue Eyes the leopard could be heard calling in his deep throaty growls. The guests jumped into the nearby vehicle and within seconds spotted him climbing an acacia. Now they had bubbly, a sunset and a male leopard to enjoy!
The pack of five male wild dogs has been joined by a female and they have been seen mating regularly. As long as the mating is successful (the female is still rather young), there could be a new dawn of wild dogs in the Mombo area. Exciting times lie ahead as dogs have not denned in the area for many years now!
Birds and Birding
The Pel’s fishing-owls have been sighted almost every day, either at Little Mombo or Main Camp, with Little Mombo’s deck as well as Tents 7 and 8 being their favourite places to perch. Their haunting calls at night are heard before they swoop down on an unsuspecting catfish and carry it away for their dinner.
It must be noted that April was a month of welcoming back many friends as well as making new ones. Some guests celebrated their 100th night at Mombo whilst others were spending their first! Boma evenings were always a delight with the choir’s voices and rhythm sounding across the island.
We bid a sad farewell to Callum and Sean from our guiding and management team respectively and wish them well on their way.
Kings Pool Camp
Climate and Landscape
April was a very interesting month weather-wise, and signs of winter are fast approaching with a definite chill in the early morning. Our minimum temperature for April was 11° Celsius with a high of 34°, and we may well have seen the last of our rains, having only received 22 mm – mind you, most of that came in a rather unexpected storm, and here is the photo to prove it!
Kings Pool had a very good month of game viewing, with wild dogs coming right into camp and the discovery of two new male lions in the area that we think have come over from Namibia. I’m not sure if they have been asked for their passports, but they have certainly let our guides know they are not used to seeing vehicles. The good news about these new boys is that they have already found some love in the Linyanti, so hopefully in the next few months we will see their babies!
Slender, our most photogenic leopard, has also been seen a few times this month along with her youngster.
Our much-loved great grey giants are coming back into the Linyanti, with herds seen by guests while they were enjoying a boat cruise on the Queen Sylvia; the elephant seem to be moving from Namibia to Botswana and vice versa.
Reptiles and amphibians have been the flavour of the month, with sightings of swamp snakes, tiger snakes, and spitting cobras as well as the resident spotted bush snake (who is rather fond of very good whiskey)! We have also seen our resident crocodile, fondly known as Submarine, a number of times in front of camp. The curio shop has become a popular spot for Muller’s platanna and I shared my shower with a bubbling kassina, so rather a slippery month was had by all!
Birds and Birding
Birding has also being very good lately, with the odd sighting of a woodland kingfisher in camp still. We have also seen saddle-billed storks flying over camp, and many Egyptian geese around the pans in the area. Our guests saw a large lock of pelicans during the month as well.
All in all, another wonderful month at Kings Pool!
Weather and Landscape
The lush green bush abuzz with birdlife… water pans filled to the brim attracting herds of zebra, kudu, giraffe and impala… muddy patches on the roads deepened by elephants as they spurt mud over themselves… this sums up our weather for the month! Heavy afternoon thunderstorms passing through, breaking to reveal spectacular sunsets, letting the animals dry themselves before nightfall. The rainy season as predicted has lasted a bit longer this time round due to its late arrival. We can already see it slowing down but in the meantime the elephants will play! Temperatures varied from 25 to 35° Celsius during the day, dropping to a cool 20° at night, perfect for sleeping.
February being the month of Valentine’s did not go unnoticed by the animals and in particular Blue Eyes and Pula, resident male and female leopards who were seen cavorting near camp, intent on strengthening the Mombo leopard population! It is a sad thought as well though, as it undoubtedly means Pula has lost her previous litter… such are the hardships of the animal kingdom. Mmolai, Legedema and a new male leopard have also been seen regularly in the area as they slink through the thick bush patrolling their territory. Legedema created great excitement as she was seen carrying a furry spotted bundle to a new den. This number subsequently grew to two cubs – though they have not been seen for the last week so we are hoping she has simply moved dens and they have not been lost to predators.
The lion prides have been roaring across camp as they try and intimidate each other into ceding territory. On one particular night we could recognise the calls (due to geographic location) of the Western Pride, Moporota Pride and the Mathata Pride, all roaring deep into the night. The Hakuna Pride has been the most sought-after by guests as their two cubs go from strength to strength. The Mombo Boy is still seen by the females’ side, keeping a watchful eye over his brood. They have mostly been sighted just west of Suzie’s Duck Pond and were sleeping some 100 metres away from the pack of five male wild dogs, themselves a mere 50 metres from a young leopardess that has been seen along Roller Highway!
There were three very exciting nights in particular this month when the Western Pride came into camp in the early morning roaring in unison. Early morning wake-up calls were not necessary, but what was needed was a vehicle to fetch the Manager on duty as his boardwalk was blocked by the lions! The next day camp awoke to 250+ buffalo sleeping in the floodplains in front of Tent 1 and that night a male leopard came through camp, making his deep guttural call every few minutes. It was difficult to identify in the impenetrable dark but the glimpses we got seem to indicate it was the new male trying to stake his claim to Blue Eyes’ territory!
The large herds of general game are still about as usual: the 10-minute trip from the airstrip will inevitably produce impala, zebra, elephant, giraffe, warthog and red lechwe with the occasional wildebeest and kudu mixing with the other browsers.
Birds and Birding
On the birding front the vibrant colours of the ever-present lilac-breasted roller and crimson- breasted shrike have been seen on every drive, rivalled by the aerobatics of the southern carmine bee-eaters who fly hair-raisingly close to the vehicles, hoping that some unsuspecting insect will fly up from the long grasses nearby. A definite highlight has been the Pel’s fishing-owls in camp! Some great pictures have been taken by well-travelled guides and photographers alike, this being their exciting first sighting of the Pel’s.
We look forward to a slightly drier month ahead as well as whatever adventures and marvels from the ‘place of plenty’ await us in March!
Staff in Camp
Guides in camp: OB, Yompy-Diye, Tsilie, Dr. Malinga, Cisco, Callum and Moss.
Managers in camp: Graham, Phenyo, Dittmar, Cheri, Ryan, Anja plus we welcome Nick and Selena to our Mombo family!
Kalahari Plains Camp
Weather and Landscape
The desert has come to life in the rainy season – and it is still ongoing! We recorded an average of 20 mm of rainfall, and the amazing thing is that we are still receiving more. The temperatures have been very comfortable, with highs of 34° and lows of 23° Celsius. The Kalahari, one quickly notices, is a land of extremes, both in temperature and in appearance, as the area responds very quickly to rain, even after a long period of drought.
Weather conditions have a significant effect on the feeding behaviour of the desert-adapted antelope and the many other creatures found in the semi-arid desert of the Kalahari. Springbok and blue wildebeest appear to avoid competition by niche separation, giving everyone a brilliant opportunity to view these plains game species at the same locations – mostly near the pans. An unusual and rare antelope, the skittish red hartebeest has been frequenting our big pan near the camp as well as many other pans in the concession. Many other large mixed and breeding herds as well as small family units of gemsbok (oryx) and springbok were seen frequently on the pans, from the ones nearby to further away from camp.
The local predators have many choices as their prey is mostly these antelope and their young, which populate the open areas in big numbers. The Plains Pride is still doing well and our current treat is viewing these felids coming to the areas near camp with their seven cubs. We are fascinated by the light brown cub; even though it’s the same age as the other cubs one might think it’s the youngest because of its small size. This little cub puts on a show whenever encountered and has proved to be the most energetic and sociable. It is always the most fascinating to watch – being the best walker it does not struggle to keep pace with the pride. The fact that it is so much lighter than the other cubs has left everyone, staff and guests, curious as to whether it will become darker as it ages or if it will remain light in colour. This pride has been doing particularly well taking down both adult and young gemsbok.
We’ve had only a few leopard and cheetah sightings, mostly the female leopard being seen once in a while in the nearby areas.
The black-backed jackals are back frequenting the camp's big pan, with these lively dogs spotted almost every day, trotting around looking for insects, lizards and even following the local prides to kills. We recently found a few of them at the lions’ baby gemsbok kill. Long after the lions were done these small canines carried on consuming the remains. Of all the jackal sightings, the most often seen were three juveniles in the south-western part of the concession. These three pups were very comfortable around the vehicles, giving guests some brilliant opportunities to view and photograph them.
One morning after all the guides went out for their morning drive, staff members saw a lone jackal approaching one of the smaller antelope. On closer observation through binoculars they saw a weak-looking adult steenbok trying to defend herself against a black-backed jackal. The little predator had noticed that she was helpless and was determined to take her down quickly before the big predators come to steal it away. It took a few minutes for the jackal to take down the steenbok and we watched him for about half an hour reaping a filling reward for his hard work!
Birds and Birding
February was the most brilliant month for these magnificent creatures – the most exciting sightings being the larks’ courtship displays, especially the eastern clapper lark, seen quite often on the grasslands and near the pans around all corners of the concession. The chestnut-backed sparrowlark was mostly seen on the game drive roads, with beautiful breeding plumage seen on the males. Other than that, many other great bird sightings for the month included capped wheatear, red-backed shrike, double-banded courser, ant-eating chat and of course the stately kori bustard.
"Thanks to all the staff. An excellent adventure. I appreciate all your kindness - the food was delicious. Kudos to all chefs! "
Weather and Landscape
February saw the Delta receive a large amount of rain – on one day we recorded 30 mm within 30 minutes! The temperature has been stable and pleasant, with lows of 19° Celsius and highs of 31°. That said, we experienced tremendous humidity prior to each storm, a very good indicator to batten down the hatches in anticipation of the rain.
We also noticed a large fluctuation in the water levels around Xigera. After a few days of solid rain, the channel running in front of the camp would fill up considerably, very close to the level of our seasonal inundation. The water is also quite stained at this stage, as water and tannins recede off the floodplains and into the main channels.
Game drives have proved very productive; indeed, the game viewing within camp has been absolutely superb. With regular sightings of hippo pods, genets and a medley of general game seen from all of the tents, it is no surprise that many of our guests opted to sleep in and enjoy a 'safari from their decks'.
One notable boma night had all our guests tiptoeing towards the bar area. One of our housekeepers had spotted Mmadipala – a lovely relaxed leopard – on our boardwalk. Having witnessed her behaviour before, we knew that she would be heading to our bridge. After about 10 minutes of patient waiting, she was lit up as she walked into the pathway light. We watched in silent awe as she casually strolled across!
Birds and Birding
Birding, as always, has been good. With all the migratory species still around, the noises that fill the dawn lift everybody’s spirits. Bright flashes of colour steal the eyes’ attention as birds flutter about our boardwalks. A long-crested eagle has been sighted a few times – always a thrill to see this proud and majestic bird.
Valentine’s Day in the bush is amazing. There is always a sense of romance whilst travelling in true nature anyway, but when Valentine’s comes around everyone seems to wholeheartedly embrace the spirit of it. Romantic private tables were set up under a blanket of stars, serenaded by our staff choir. Our guests described it as a true once-in-a-lifetime experience, one that will be forever etched in their memories.
It is with much anticipation that we await March. It is usually around this month that we start to finally receive most of the seasonal Okavango water, and so many water-based activities take off. We look forward to offering more boat day trips and picnics on various small islands. Hopefully we will see you here!
Weather and Landscape
A brand new year and already more great sightings! 2014 has started off with some amazing sightings at Mombo and it promises to be another memorable year in the heart of the Okavango Delta. After a prolonged period of rain at the very beginning of January, the weather returned to its usual ways with spectacular bursts of rain in the late afternoon, lasting 30-45 minutes before settling down. The rain gods were kind, and the storms would usually happen just prior to game drives, reducing the heat and stirring the animals from their torpor. The occasional thunderstorm at night in the distance brought with it stunning lightning displays as guests ate their dinner under the stars admiring Mother Nature as she outdid any New Year’s fireworks display that humans could muster. Temperatures have been hot, usually around the 30-degree Celsius mark during the day, dropping to a comfortable 22 degrees at night.
The zebra, warthog, impala and jackal ‘December babies’ are all getting larger by the day, but still have the playfulness of youth about them – always a joy to sit and watch as they explore their world and become slightly more confident with each sunset.
After discovering two shy, unsteady lion cubs on the 19th of December, we have been witnessing their growth into confident and proud cubs. Early morning and late afternoon they have been getting up to all sorts of mischief that usually involves their mother’s tail or their father’s mane, when he is with the pride. They like to stay near the airstrip and have really been a highlight this month.
The hyaena mothers have moved their den yet again, this time back to the open area at Drift Malapo. The arrival of a vehicle is usually met with a few raised heads as they sleep before nightfall. Once they realise the car has stopped it’s a game to see who can get closest to the car and chew on the tyres! The guides are ever-vigilant not to let the cubs get too confident around humans and their turning of the steering wheel usually keeps them at distance from the easily removable wheel nut caps!
The pack of five male wild dogs is still visiting the area, chasing after impala, red lechwe and kudu. We are hoping they make Mombo their permanent home, but their free-spirited ways mean they are traversing a lot of Chief’s Island!
We were surprised to see an impala had given birth on the 24th of January. Usually impala, as the books will tell you, do so much earlier – around November or early December. We were amazed that she had given birth so late but the little one was full of spring and had enough vegetation behind which to conceal itself from predators. The lambs born during the first rains are hanging around in crèches watched over by their mothers. Herds of up to 150 impala can be seen grazing on the beautiful green shoots.
Leopard sightings have been phenomenal with three adults sighted in one tree! There were two males vying for Pula’s attention when lions came and spoiled the duel, sending all three into the rain tree.
The general game has been magnificent as usual, herds of buffalo in their hundreds, loping through the area and towers of giraffe reaching numbers of 25 as they graze off the bell bean, surrounded by herds of zebra, impala and always that one wildebeest who seems to think he is a zebra, or does he think he is a giraffe?! There have been elephant through camp, herds of red lechwe in the floodplains and hippo that come out at tea time to graze, even though they should be cooling themselves in the waters. The view from camp with the lush greenery and the abundance of animals is only equalled by the remarkable African sunset! We look forward to an amazing year ahead of meeting new friends, welcoming back old ones and witnessing the magic of Mombo!
On a more solemn note, Mombo bid farewell to three of its managers as they moved on to further their careers and education. Jemima, Cayley and Dani, we wish you the best of luck in your new adventures and thank you for everything you did in your time at The Place of Plenty! After 21 years of continued service at Mombo, Tumelo Modupe, affectionately known as Mma Ola of Housekeeping, has moved into an office job in Maun. She tutored numerous housekeepers and leaves a long-standing legacy at Mombo and we wish her the best of luck in her new role.
Staff in Camp
Managers and guides for the month of January for Main Camp and Little Mombo: Graham, Jemima, Cayley, Dani, Cheri, Sean and Britt with Ryan and Wayne in the kitchens.
Out and about in the vehicles were Tsilie, Doctor, Cisco, Sefo and Callum while we welcomed OB from Vumbura and Diye from Kings Pool to add to our talented and close-knit guiding team!
On the 27th November, the Abu Team celebrated the much-anticipated arrival of a female calf born to Kitimetse. She was named Naledi, which means “star” in Setswana as she was born on a beautiful starry night. Naledi was doing well until a tragic event occurred. It is with heavy hearts that we are informing you that on the 11th of January 2014, our beloved Kitimetse sadly died.
Dr. Mike Chase, who oversees the Abu Elephant Programme, explains: “Kiti, as she was affectionately known, whilst grazing with the Abu herd, suddenly started showing signs of discomfort, and a pronounced swelling was noticeable under her tail. A helicopter was immediately chartered and our veterinarian was flown into camp.
“It was initially believed that this might be a possible prolapse of the uterus and or bladder, a rare condition seldom recorded in elephants. It was later determined that the swelling and subsequent organ prolapse was a portion of large intestine that had herniated into the reproductive tract. This is a very rare condition and has a very poor prognosis. Kitimetse was euthanized to prevent further pain and distress.
“Kiti was a caring and affectionate elephant. She was adopted by the Abu Family in 2000, after being mauled by crocodiles and hyaenas. Famous for her blowing kisses and gentle demeanour, she was the first elephant our handlers trained with. She was special. We are all grateful for her patience and allowing our research team and guests to spend many hours watching her in the field. She provided our researchers and guests with important data and appreciation of the animal kingdom as a whole.
“If there were a million elephants left on the continent of Africa today, Kiti was certainly one in a million.”
Kiti, we will miss you. Your legacy lives on at Abu Camp in Lorato and Naledi.
Such a young calf being suddenly orphaned meant that immediate action had to be taken. Initially, it was thought that Naledi could be nursed by either Shirini or Cathy, who were both lactating. However, neither of them was able to provide enough milk for Naledi; despite their robust appearance, young elephants are extremely fragile and their health can waver from day to day. The decision was made to move Naledi to a safe and comfortable space away from the herd where her elephant handlers could provide love, care and attention around the clock. Since then, the elephant handlers have never left her side and they have successfully managed to start bottle feeding her.
This sudden change has affected the dynamics of the herd, but they are adapting and coping very well. It does mean however that there is now a maximum of four riders and six walkers. We ensure that all guests experience walking and riding during their stay and special visits can be arranged with prior permission from the Elephant Manager to see Naledi between 08.00 and 09.00 in the morning and between 18.00 and 19.00 in the evening.
On a lighter note, the fishing season is over so the fish can rest easy for a while! The lagoon in front of the camp is still filled with hippo, while the odd crocodile can be seen in the distance. Having experienced a significant amount of rain in January, opportunities to mokoro have improved and guests have been enjoying the tranquillity and serenity of the channels. The water levels are still fairly low – at about one metre – but our polers, Tops and Mothusi, are always a hit with our guests. They are meticulous at pointing out wildlife, birdlife and plant life as they pole through the Delta. Guests have enjoyed learning from them about reed and long reed frogs, African jacanas, squacco herons and reed cormorants. Other sightings include day and night lilies, shining water buttercups, double-banded dragonflies and water skaters.
January brings great bird viewing and the pratincoles are nesting next to Maribu Pan. The foliage is plentiful and beautiful flowers have appeared. Listening to the sound of birds and insects is soothing as ever and the sunrises at breakfast have been stunning. January has also brought with it a certain degree of humidity, rain showers and spectacular thunder and lightning displays.
Tall grass has made it more of a challenge to see our predators but everyone at Abu was thrilled to see the return of wild dogs to the area. A pack of 17 has been seen in and around camp. Lion and leopard have also been featuring, with regular sighting of a coalition of five male lions. Then there was the amazing spectacle of a male leopard killing a kudu right next to the airstrip. A female leopard has also featured with her two sub-adult cubs much to the delight of everyone. Other sightings have included large herds of buffalo, plentiful wild elephants, tsessebe, giraffe and zebra.
Until next month, all the best from the Abu herd.
Managers in Camp: Liz, Nathan and Claire
Guides: Thaps, BT and KG
Weather and Landscape
Being the rainy season we have seen plenty of it, with six or seven days of constant heavy rain at the beginning of the month, the most being 55 mm in one night. For the rest of the month it’s mostly been late afternoon thunder showers, bringing the monthly total to a decent 184 mm. In between the rain, it was still hot, pushing the mercury over 30° Celsius every time the sun came out, the hottest day being a whopping 38°. With the heavy rain we saw the delta rise impressively and then drop again when the rain subsided, allowing us to bring our vehicles back on to the island. It has been four years since a vehicle resided at Jacana. It has been remarkable to watch Mother Nature, in all her glory, fill the sky with impressive double rainbows, stunning sunshine and even the occasional, nerve-wracking tropical storm.
We have spotted sitatunga regularly between Jacana and Jao Camp on our boat rides as well as plenty of crocodile and hippo; one big bull seems to camp on one of our regular boat channels. We have a resident male hippo, Harry as we call him, who also plays on the island. At first we only saw his tracks in the morning, but as the rain has come, we bumped into him regularly in the mornings on our way to the office. Luckily, he seems quite calm around us and hasn’t shown any aggression, probably due to the fact that he has the entire island for grazing entirely to himself. Our chests rumble as the lions thunder during the night and in the early morning. By the sounds of it, they’re closer to Kwetsani than Jacana, but their calls are still exceptional. Although it seemed the elephants had moved on since the rain, one lonely bull reports to camp for a graze. Recently he’s been coming right up to the room balconies.
Birds and Birding
Sightings are always impressive here at Jacana and this month was no exception. Saddle-billed storks that nest near the island have shown us their new chick for the first time – it has been seen every day right outside the front of house, feeding and learning how to hunt from its attentive mother. Woodland kingfishers can be heard all day with their very distinctive call. Thumping on the trees, various woodpeckers make it known that they are nearby and the constant cry of the African fish-eagle reminds us that we are in the Okavango Delta. Our guests love the tranquillity and peacefulness of the mokoro activities, with guides sharing insights about the local environment. We have been lucky enough to catch some great sightings of the rare, yet well-known, Pel’s fishing-owl. A mating pair resides on an island just to the north of us. Little bee-eaters are a daily treat for Laura and I and we have seen several chicks near our office still coming to grips with flying for the first time. Also large flocks of our camp’s namesake, the African jacana, up to 40 strong – a first for us as we are used to seeing them only singly or in pairs.
Laura and I are proud to be a part of the Jao Concession and the running of this spectacular, water-based safari camp. We started just before the New Year after a big career change, from working mostly in Europe to here in the beautiful Okavango Delta. We started with only a few guests in camp as we were winding down to the annual maintenance period which started on 7 January. We are both very excited and have quickly fallen in love with Jacana whilst making it ‘our’ home. The maintenance period was a great way to get to know the ins and outs of the camp as well as becoming accustomed to the local culture and making a bond with our staff by getting stuck in to every small task. The transition has been warm and welcoming and we have already begun to build our relationships with our new family. The first guests that arrived were also very impressed with the state of the camp as well as the staff, which made us even more delighted to be involved here.
So much fun and so much rain! Thank you for everything.
Thank you for taking such good care of us in this fascinating wilderness. We also learned so much from Moruti, our guide.
Thanks for the amazing hospitality and all the great adventures!
Staff in Camp
Travis Aherin and Laura Provost, Tshenelo Mahongo (AKA, TH), Mokgosi Dichaba (AKA, Johnson) and Moruti Maipelo
Banoka Bush Camp
Weather and Landscape
The month of January at Banoka Bush Camp has been positively splendid! With plenty of soaking rain to see in the new year, a fresh fragrance has penetrated every corner of the camp and Banoka is nestled in a vibrant green landscape.
Heading towards the end of the month, the earth has been cooled off with heavy showers and some serious displays of thunder and lightning. The calm after the storm always results in a welcome and refreshing atmosphere, intoxicating the senses and invigorating energy levels.
The lagoon has had its 10 resident hippo entertaining guests and staff with their grunting and ‘yawning’, as they lie in the water trying to keep cool in the heat of mid-summer.
A fantastic sighting for Banoka was a giraffe and her foal, along with another exquisite dark-patched male, meandering through the "front yard" of the camp.
Exciting too was Banoka's very own crocodile, seen swimming in the middle of the lagoon and coming out for a bit of sunbathing, keeping us all very curious as to what it would do next.
Evidence of two female lions along with a young male was found around the camp and the same lions were seen roaming around in the bush, seeking shade and looking for something tasty for breakfast.
Our resident female leopard Machaba has been a sight for sore and tired eyes, rewarding guests who were very keen to see leopard. She revealed herself with grace and poise, a brilliant sighting for Banoka.
Small herds of elephant have been seen cooling off around the waterholes on the hot summer afternoons, keeping a close watch over their young calves.
The wild dog in the area have certainly not been shy, providing us with breathtaking kills right before our eyes. Thanks to the 'painted dogs' for such entertainment already in January 2014!
And to top it all off, a pride of nine lions not seen for months gave our last group of guests a most exciting end to their journey. What a sight they were, beautiful females heading the pride, one older female lurking close behind, stalking their prey.
Birds and Birding
Our summer visitors are keeping us enthralled with many more resident species chirping and tweeting away, providing guests with a symphonic avian serenade.
It's been an exciting January and we are looking forward to next month; hope we see you in it!
Staff in Camp
Gideon, Kay, Sarita, Priscillah & Onnie
Newsletter by Sarita Chohan
Weather and Landscape
The year started off on a good note, with the peak rainy season living up to its name. On one occasion we had about a third of the average rainfall countrywide. This resulted in water levels rising and, with our camp being water-based we took full advantage of the tributaries that overflowed and filled the nearby floodplains, attracting species of every imaginable shape and size. Minimum temperatures averaged 22° Celsius with highs of 32° Celsius, making the morning and evening game drives most pleasant.
The bridge onto our island, informally known as the Catwalk, has lived up to its name, with two different leopards using it to cross from one side to the other, whilst guests were enjoying a cocktail at the open-air bar, having dinner or enjoying a first fresh cup of coffee at the crack of dawn. If you miss the actual show, the ‘Xigera Times’, a patch of sand on the walkway, offers you an opportunity to catch up on the previous night’s activities.
On one special evening after a late afternoon storm, termites in their numbers were attracted to the lights on the bridge. A male genet found this the perfect opportunity, somersaulting as it tried to catch the termites in flight, entertaining us for quite a while. Once the genet had its share he moved off and a Pel’s fishing-owl perched on the bridge, targeting the unsuspecting fish moving below. A rare sighting indeed, especially when he swooped down, unfortunately coming up empty-handed… better luck next time!
We’re happy to report that our local male hippo is still alive, not deceased as we had suspected last month. He has been hanging around camp a lot over the past month; perhaps he was missing the safety and nutrition that the mangosteen canopy harbours?
The pack of three wild dog was seen early in the month, but has since headed south – with all the water we did not really expect them to stay.
Another rare sighting was of a bachelor herd of 19 elephant bulls, all within the space of less than a hectare! Yes, you read that right, 19! And the majority of them were fully mature bulls that have wandered these parts for years. With the rains, obviously they had moved out of the Delta to drink rainwater captured in the ponds and feed on fresh leaves and trees.
Birds and Birding
As the floodplains filled up with water after the season’s rains, they attracted flocks of great white pelicans and plenty of other wading birds that took full advantage of the fresh shallow waters. We saw a lot of acrobats in the sky too, in the form of swallows, lilac-breasted and broad-billed rollers and the beautiful southern-carmine bee-eaters.
The eerie hooting of a Pel’s fishing-owl added a dark beauty to the still nights and the orchestral backdrop of tiny reed frogs.
A rise in the water levels meant we could take our boating a little bit further, allowing us to visit one of the Delta’s important geographical sites, known as Xigera Lagoon. These exposed and shallow sandbanks offer our guests the opportunity to soak in the fresh Okavango Delta water.
Cocktail hour at the open-air bar added to the relaxed feel of the camp, while we chatted softly and appreciated the coucals that seemed to hoot at the sun as it disappeared below the horizon.
Tranquil mokoro rides and a boat cruise past ancient-looking sandbanks where languid crocodiles bask in the sun have been particularly worthwhile this month, and the game drives offered spectacular sunrises painted with orange to purple nimbus clouds.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Neuman, Rauve, Alex and Gladys
Guides: Des, Dips, Paul and Goms
Kings Pool Camp
Weather and Landscape
Kings Pool received approximately 180mm of rain during January 2014 and on many occasions if you closed your eyes you might be forgiven for thinking that you were in the British Isles somewhere!
The Linyanti is lusciously green due to all the rain we’ve been having, making wildlife spotting fairly challenging. But having said that, we’ve had some amazing sightings of leopard and wild dog. But surely first prize must go to our hyaena and cubs, which we found at their den… really, to say they are adorable is an understatement!
The lions of the Linyanti have been rather quiet this month, but we have been compensated well with the return of the majestic grey giant, the elephant. We have been lucky to see them cross right in front of camp from Namibia , and while it’s not every day we see them, it’s good to know that they are coming back to the area.
We also saw what has to be one of the Linyanti’s most beautiful and rare antelopes, the roan. Rikki – Kings Pool Camp’s Food and Beverage Manager – also had the pleasure of seeing the rare sable antelope on the airstrip while picking up freight. So indeed, while all these beautiful antelope species are rarely seen, they do exist.
Our leopard sightings, while not frequent, have proven to be the ‘cat of the month’ at Kings Pool, and our guides and guests were lucky enough to see our female Slender and her cub on an impala kill.
With our new state-of-the-art Land Rover game viewers, the guides have even managed to finally see the elusive male leopard of our area – usually to his surprise, as the engines are so quiet he doesn’t even hear them coming!
The always energetic wild dog have been offering guests amazing displays of their behaviour. We were lucky again this month to see the LTC pack of 18 doing, I guess you could call it, water aerobics, while the red lechwe looked on in fear. We have also seen some of the Kings Pool pack of eight, but not all together, and while we did see four of the eight and get some photos of them, it would have been nice to confirm that they were all still together, so fingers crossed for next month that we will see all eight of them.
Now for my favourite mammal of all, the hippo – they have been having lots of fun in the oxbow lake in front of camp and have been using our hippo highways in the evenings and early mornings to come onto land and then to return back to the safety of the water.
Birds and Birding
For all the birders visiting Kings Pool, it’s certainly been a splendid month. We have seen a wide variety of birds, including the black cuckoo, woodland kingfisher, crested barbet and wood owl, while the riverside area has offered wonderful sightings of goliath heron, comb duck, pied kingfisher, open-billed stork, and the beautiful African jacana, as well as many, many more.
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.