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Vundu Camp, Mana Pools, Newsletter


 

January 2016 Vundu Camp – Romara Anti-Poaching Unit


Thank you to all of you who have taken time out of your day and contributed to our anti-poaching efforts. It literally would not happen without your donations! You are the ones paying for our antipoaching efforts for the protection of our elephant in the Zambezi Valley, it always amazes me that it is people who live thousands of miles away who are helping so much. I would like to thank The Africa Adventure Company for their help in contacting past guests and for all of their support, The Tashinga Initiative and Global World Conservation for all the help in getting tax deductable funds from donors in the USA to us in the Zambezi Valley, William and Beth and The Painted Dog Conservation both here in Zimbabwe and the Netherlands.


Starting on the 1st November 2015 our efforts are being channelled into transporting and feeding the Rangers who work for National Parks while on patrol and deploying them to areas where they patrol on foot. Each patrol is on average eight days. Each patrol has four men in it. We have deployed and uplifted 248 rangers to date on anti-poaching missions. We are operating on a very limited road system which is in a pretty rough state, and it takes its toll on the vehicles. We have travelled 5500km (2800 miles) in Mana Pools, the park itself is 2200sq.km (1400sq.miles). We have designated a land rover to the operation and have today added another which is undergoing a quick service and it will be in the valley next week.


 

In November the Rangers had a contact with poachers, shots were exchanged. Two poachers were wounded. The poachers ran off but left behind seven sets of elephant tusks. This group of Rangers will receive US$1000 as an incentive. It’s not a lot of money, but equivalent to their monthly salary, which they do not always get in a timely fashion. This week a concerted effort has been made by our National Parks Rangers and our RAPU vehicle in tracking down 11 poachers in the area west of Mana Pools in the Nyakasanga. In an ambush at midnight on Monday the poachers discarded their load of 22 tusks of elephant ivory and disappeared in the thick bush. Rangers have been after them now for days.

 

Bushlife Safaris - Vundu Camp has also been working on the start of the Ranger Anti-poaching Base at Nyakasikana in the middle of the valley. There is 50T of sand being transported to the site together with 50T of stone for the foundations of the buildings. The sand and stone is coming from 300km away and takes about eight hours to get it there. It will take us 14 trips on those roads in and out to get the materials in. A very good friend of mine, Dave England, has been instrumental in providing the transport of these bulky materials. Alaska Dolomite has offered us a really good price on the stone, and another friend, Steve Swanepoel, has a team of men collecting the sand and loading it for us all free of charge. It is great to see Zimbabweans pulling together for a great cause. We still need 300 bags of cement to get started.

 

This last weekend three poachers were arrested and more ivory recovered. There are just so many holes to try to close up, but we have to keep on trying. Please spread the word that we need funds to keep the pressure on to keep the poachers out and build our Park Rangers a good base to operate out of. We are making a difference and the Area Manager tells me levels have decreased. We have saved the lives of some elephant.

 
Thanks again
Regards Nick Murray

 

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We are thrilled to introduce two new faces in the management team at Vundu Camp for the 2015 season. No strangers to the bush, both Gadyy and Aimee's passion for wildlife and the pure enjoyment of being submersed in the thick of it, has already ensured a smooth introduction to camp life. Working alongside Nick, Desiree and our fabulous team, they will be on hand to oversee the smooth running of camp and to make sure our guests are taken care of during their stay with us.

 

Gadreck Nyamhondoro: Gadreck (Gaddy) was born in the small town of Karoi in Zimbabwe before moving to Harare for schooling.

 

Soon after leaving school he moved to Kariba where he started his guiding career with Spurwing Island Safari Lodge and qualified as a learner guide in 1997. Gadreck has gained valuable management experience working in safari camps within Zimbabwe and he is also qualified to conduct walking safaris and game drives.

 


 

Aimee van der Merwe: Born in 1991 in Harare, Zimbabwe, Aimee grew up in a small farming community in Tengwe and discovered her love and passion for nature at a young age.

 

She has been keen on fishing since she was a little girl and has fished Lake Kariba, the Zambezi River and various dams and rivers within South Africa. Aimee received a certificate in Photography in 2013 from Oakfields College in Pretoria, South Africa and is currently working on a personal photographic portfolio.

 

Whilst managing the camp she is excited to be working towards pursuing her Professional Guides License.

 


 

To all our 2015 guests, we look forward to welcoming you to Mana Pools over the next few months and helping you create memories to treasure.

 

 

Despite the rains commencing very late last year, with the first decent rain falling on Christmas Day, Mother Nature seems to be more than making up for it and in the last six weeks we have had a lot of rain. As a result the grass has grown very well where the concentration of animals in the dry season have left droppings to fertilize the new growth.

 


 

 

 

Game has concentrated once again on the Mana flood plain and in particular the elephant. There are several hundred elephant feeding on the belly high grasslands, rarely reaching up to feed on a tree. Many have come in from the surrounding areas, I don't recognize them and their behavior is very different from our regular residents. There is an abundance of newly born calves, and many bulls. It is the breeding and calving season for elephant and this year they have congregated in Mana.

 

 

 

The Mucheni pride of lions are doing well, the two new big males in the area are breeding with the females, so there is a promise of cubs to come. The Nyamatusi pride has also been spotted and are a group of 17 in total.

 

We are not often in the park at this time of year, so it is great to be here, as it is looking exceptionally beautiful. The reason we have started early is because we have a BBC film crew in camp. They have chosen Mana as the place to film a Wild Dog documentary, which is exciting news as they researched possibilities for the documentary across the whole of Africa and have chosen to stay with us. Expectations are high but this is an incredible opportunity for both us at Vundu Camp but most importantly Mana Pools National Park and Zimbabwe wildlife as a whole. They will be with us for five months this year and then again in 2016. The documentary is one part of a five part series, which will include tigers in India, lions in the Mara, penguins in the Antarctic and chimps in the Congo, and is following on from the Planet Earth series.

 

Talking of the Wild Dog, we have seen the Vundu, Nyakasanga and Long Pool packs already this year. The grass is long along the flood plain with limited visibility for the dogs and access for them is hard as there are many running channels which the dogs do not like to cross, as the crocs come out of the Zambezi into these rain filled channels. The dogs are hunting in the mopane away from the river where there aren't roads, so finding them is tough going. Despite the thick bush and limited access with the amount of rain we have had, but we have managed to film some good stuff so far.

 

The Vundu pack is now 11 dogs in total, the smallest it’s been in 20 years that I know of. Last year the pack was at 22 individuals, 10 dogs dispersed and the remaining 12 dogs denned and had seven pups. The loss of the alpha male in July last year was a huge blow to the pack, and the remaining dogs were young 1-2 years old with one 5 year old, this would have left them vulnerable to lions and hyenas. Of the seven pups four have survived which is an average survival rate. This year Tait has accepted a new alpha male into the pack, Ox. He is asserting his dominance and leads the hunts for the pack. He is distinguishable by his size and an all black tail. (see sunset photo above)

 

Janet is the alpha female of the Long Pool pack. She lost her mate last year early in the breeding season and subsequently did not have pups, her pack seemed to have fallen apart. Janet is Taits daughter from her 2009 litter. Three of the pups from the Vundu pack went missing in November last year and were presumed dead. They are however, with their big sister Janet in the Long Pool pack. She appears to have adopted them from Tait, at 4 months of age, which is quite unusual. Most of the dogs that dispersed from the Vundu pack back in April have also joined Janet, there are now nine in her pack. They have moved into the area previously occupied by the Chikwenya pack.

 

The Nyakasanga pack is 26 strong. Black tip (Taits daughter) and Amos, the alphas, have raised 10 puppies from last years litter, having started with 15 pups. These guys are doing very well and the pack is very stable. Five males dispersed from the pack in July last year, again not sure where they have gone to yet.

 

We had a report of 40 dogs, which we have seen today. It is the Nyakasanga Pack with possibly what I called the Little Vundu Pack. The Little Vundu pack split from the Nyakasanga pack a few years ago, and they seem to be back and occasionally hunting together. 40 dogs in one group is quite a sight.

 

The BBC crew will be here now in February, May, August, October and November/December staying at Vundu Camp. As you would expect the crew is very experienced, Nick (producer) and Warrick (camera man) have a combined 40 years of wildlife documentary filming and they are looking to produce something exceptional.

 

It is a very exciting time.

 

Best regards,

 

Nick Murray



Incredible Stories of 2015 - Wilderness Safaris


Special Sightings and Creatures


2015 featured many highlights for us and some of these were shared on our blog. Because of this, we thought we’d take a look back at some of the stories that stood out for us, many chosen for their drama and the incredible photographs that accompanied them.


Each of the stories featured below are personal favourites, and by no means the general choice of the greater Wilderness team. There are a number of other stories that also deserve a spot on our list. We have only featured seven, a difficult task, considering how many wonderful safari tales we have.

 

Scroll on to see just a few of the incredible wild highlights of 2015:

 


 

Wild dogs move across large areas of land and sightings are always unpredictable. When the pack returned to Seba Camp with 10 four-month old pups in tow the excitement levels between camp staff escalated. Tim was quick to get his camera and follow the pack, resulting in some incredible interactions.

Read more.


 

Two of Africa’s iconic animals come head to head with one another. This sequence captured by Mike Myers remains one of our favourites.

Read more.


 

Deon de Villiers was having a scenic game drive with his guests when they happened to encounter two African wild dogs in an explosive fight… His story was one of our most thrilling of 2015, showcasing what it takes to be the ‘top dog’.

Read more.



Every now and again something remarkable happens and sometimes we are lucky enough to be at the right place when it does. This is what happened to Busanga Bush Camp guide Sam Simunji-Simunji when he came across a leopard playing with two baby monkeys. “I doubt I will ever see such incredible behaviour again in my life.” Click here to read his exciting take on what he witnessed.


 

We were amazed to hear Deon’s story and to see his photographs of an elephant herd protecting their newest family member from an aggressive elephant bull.

Read more.


 

Leopards keep their cubs hidden away in den sites and in rocky crevices. The flick of a leopard’s tail and a soft chirping sound alerted Hailey and Tim to the hollow of a log where two tiny blue eyes stared right back at them. Read their story here.


 

A story that left us all shocked - read Tim Gaunt’s encounter with the hyaena hunter...

Written by Kate Collins, Wilderness Safaris

 

 



Botswana - Kwando Sightings Report


Sightings

 

Recent Sightings Report

 

There’s an almost incessant hum in the air – ga gona pula ga gona pula…. There’s no rain! Temperatures soared, with many records beaten, regularly reaching over 40 degrees during the day, when 35 degrees is more the norm.

 

In and around Maun, the wildlife merges with the domestic… elephants move along with cows on the river banks, breaking fences to get to the juicier vegetation (with the cows and goats following in their trail…). A leopard is found in someone’s backyard, and crocodiles that are getting too big for their own good in the shrinking river, are relocated to areas more suitable, up to the top of the delta. Everyone, is waiting for the rain.

 

Other sightings

 

Kwara Concession

 

 

Lions were seen nearly every day, and cheetahs almost as regularly. The Tsum Tsum area was very productive, for both of these predators.

 

The cheetah with her three cubs was seen often, and once we saw them in the company of a male cheetah. They were all very relaxed together, and the male was interested to see if the female was ready to mate. It appears not, as after a while the male left them and headed north.

 

The pride of eight lions (3 females and 5 young) were seen most often, and regularly hunting. They were joined by the two black maned lions, and together they killed a buffalo. They spent several days together eating this. The female lion with two subadult males was also seen regularly – one of the young males has had an unfortunate interaction with a porcupine – several quills were stuck in around his neck!

 

We were also lucky enough to see leopards mating. They had a kill waiting for them in the branches of a nearby tree.

 

A hippo died - probably of natural causes – at Pelican Pan, so it became a feeding frenzy for the local carnivores. Three males lions and a lioness spent time feeding there, and several groups of hyenas joined in as well.

 

An unusual sighting of a large number of hyenas (over 10) feeding on a red lechwe as well as a female leopard!

 

Some of the summer migratory birds were a little slow to arrive this year, with the late rains. The call of the woodland kingfisher is so distinct, the first day you hear it, you realise how many months it has been since it was last here… Normally arriving in early November, they didn’t arrive in force until the end of the month. How they know the rain in Botswana is delayed, before they set off to travel here, is a mystery. It must be something like Heathrow airport grounding all flights on the first day of school holidays. Every kingfisher waiting at the departure point, fluttering their wings, frustrated, looking at the “departures board” (the sun? the moon? The stars?), and then a mad rush with everyone taking off when the all clear is announced. Well, at least they made it this year, if somewhat tardy.

 

Lagoon

 

 

The Northern pack of dogs seen regularly, with good sighting of hunts and feeding. One of their kills was a baby roan antelope – a rare kill for them.

 

Several male lions sighted in the area. This is creating problems for the females with cubs, as they face the danger of these intruder males killing their cubs if they get hold of them. On the 12th of the month, we found a female with four cubs, but within 10 days she had lost them all. On the 26th, she was seen mating again with one of the Chobe males. The resident males are still hanging around, and battling with the Chobe boys often.

 

Male lions, as big and impressive as they appear most of the time, can sometimes look a bit insecure and as if they are feeling sorry for themselves: following the sound of roaring, a male was found lying down, and calling to his colleagues (who weren’t answering…).

 

Again, good sightings of female leopards, including one that had killed a young tsessebe and was feeding on it, and another with an impala kill up a sausage tree. Male leopards are very shy and we seem to only be able to see them at a distance, or in the quiet of night.

 

The two male cheetahs made a quick visit to the area, staying for a day or so, before moving off again to the north west section of the concession, and then returned a week or so later to hunt. By the end of the month, they had disappeared again.

 

The big herds of buffalos have split up, and we currently remain with the bachelor herds and solitary males. The bulk of the numbers of buffalo have moved off in search, literally, of greener pastures: any where that there has been the possibility of rain, and new grass growth. There are, however, still lots of elephants in the area, including lots of breeding herds.

 

Good birding with the carmine bee eaters still at their breeding sites in the banks of Kwena Lagoon, and the other summer migratories having arrived.

 

Lebala

 

 

We came across the pack of 23 wild dogs at Half Way Pan, and followed the dogs for about half and hour as they moved quickly through the bush. All the dogs were on the hunt for prey, and senses were at their peak. Sadly for them, they did not manage to flush out any game, and they moved off still searching. A few days later we found them again hunting, this time managing to catch two impalas at the same time one morning. The very same day, the dogs arrived in camp in the afternoon, and killed a kudu, quickly demolishing it.

 

The pride of ten lions is very productive at the moment and has had great success with their hunts. One day we found them eating both a wildebeest, and a warthog as a side dish!

 

Even more lions are on the way, as we came across two couples mating for several days in the middle of the month. Hopefully, in another 90 days, there were more little cubs to add to the pride.

Little warthogs were not so lucky - a very newly born baby was being fed on by a female leopard and her cub. A few days later, we watched the whole hunt of another warthog by five lions – starting with the stalking process, the kill itself, and then the crunching of bones as everyone digs in..

 

Nxai Pan

 

 

It’s the right time of year for many to have their young – the springbok are grouping together, nearly ready to all give birth within days of each other. Ostriches already have lots of tiny fluffy chicks, following their parents around as fast as their little legs can carry them.

 

It was also a predator filled month: almost every day lions were seen, and often with the addition of either cheetah, or wild dogs – sometimes both, as well as hyenas! You would think with up to 19 lions roaming around, other predators would be in scarce supply, but there is plenty of space (and food) for everyone.

 

The normal pride of 16 lions (10 sub-adults and with six adults, was joined by the one female with her two young cubs. The main waterhole was their choice resting place. A giraffe carcass was particularly enticing for all of them, which made them move between the waterhole and the wildlife camp. With 19 lions feeding on a large, old giraffe, there was something for everyone! (including a few good photos for the guests!). Whenever they moved from the main waterhole, other animals would sneak in, including the cheetah mother and her two sub-adult cubs, finally able to quench their thirst.

 

The small pack of dogs – two males and three females - was also seen at the wildlife camp. They also came to the Nxai Pan camp waterhole several times to drink. They appeared for several days, just at sunrise, a perfect time for them to be able to get to the waterhole and get a drink without so many elephants.

 

The camp waterhole has also been attracting spotted hyenas, coming individually, and in groups of up to five at a time. It’s difficult to negotiate the way around the elephants to get a drink, so this required a lot of patience, and a long time of waiting for the right chance.

 

Following on from last month, the elephants continued to congregate. The pump for the park main waterhole failed for a short time, making the situation tougher still. With the camp pumping water as fast as it could, any overflow was quickly turned into a mudbath by the elephants. Still not happy with that, nor happy with the queuing system, their attention turned again to the camp. What an elephant wants, an elephant gets, and for this reason, we sadly had to close the camp to re-lay almost an entire camps-worth of water pipe, sewerage systems, and elephant-prevention systems. On the second day of closure, the rain arrived. Perhaps only a start, but it is enough of a signal that there will be water pools somewhere else, and the next morning, not an elephant was seen! They returned, of course, but not in the numbers that required a “damage to property” insurance form to be filled out.

 

Tau Pan

 

 

A very relaxed male leopard opened the month for us at Tau Pan waterhole, quenching his thirst.

 

The saga that began last month continued on, with the three young intruder male lions chasing the territorial male again. They were also seen along the eastern firebreak, marking territory in an attempt to claim it as their own. The two females with five cubs still venture down to the waterhole, but are very cautious – one was injured when they were harassed at the end of the last month by the same intruders.

 

Mid way through the month, things got even more confusing, when the three males were seen near the old borehole, with two lionesses. The males were mating with one of the lionesses. In the mean time, two “resident” male lions were resting not too far away at the waterhole – not looking very comfortable about the whole situation.

 

Several cheetah sightings, including two shy males in the Deception Valley Area, one relaxed male close to the old borehole near the camp, who was seen for several days.

 

A very unusual and lovely sighting of a family of spotted eagle owls… a mother owl with her two youngsters in the branch of a tree, and another adult – perhaps the father – high up in the top branches.

 

Lots of general game in the area, including the oryx – several of which look heavily pregnant – springboks, hartebeest and wildebeest. Green patches of land are starting to show, in spite of having hardly any rain at all. And for the first time in over five years, there has not been a fire in the area!

 

 



Photographic Exploration Safari to Botswana guided by Ona Basimane November 2015


Trip overview of our AAC Group Photographic Exploration Safari to Botswana 


In the words of Ona Basimane....

"Being the first for me photographic guiding, the trip was a major success. All AAC clients had been to East Africa, and Jim Kubalik had also been to Botswana before. They were all interested in photography and were willing to absorb and apply a few tricks and tips I shared as we went along. The camps complimented each other well in terms of game offering at each unique location.

 


 

Toka Leya Camp/Victoria Falls sightseeing

I met Mr. Edward Novotny Jr and Mrs. Cheryl White at Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula International Airport and we proceeded to cross the border to view the Falls from the more picturesque Zimbabwe side. Once on Zimbabwe side, our guide took us on a walking stroll along the Falls and both Edward and Cheryl were impressed and took a lot of pictures. We spent about two hours and then headed back to the Zambia side and back to Toka Leya Camp. We got to camp late in the afternoon and the guests were enthusiastic to head out straight away to track the resident herd of white rhinos. This worked out well, as it was possibly the only camp on the itinerary where we stood a chance to see these magnificent animals. The guests thoroughly enjoyed the experience of approaching the rhinos to about 150 meters on foot and took a lot of pictures. We were the only guests back at camp that night and the atmosphere was great. We flew to Kasane the following morning to do a boat cruise in the Chobe River.

 


A trio of white rhino at Mosi-oa-Thunya National Park, not far from Toka Leya Camp

  

Chobe River boat cruise

We arrived mid-morning in Chobe and we were picked up on time to do a boat excursion. Sightings included elephants, buffalo, hippo and numerous crocodiles along the river. We also had lunch in the boat; which was great as we were going to fly to Linyanti after the boat activity.

 


A Nile crocodile along the Chobe River


 

Kasane International airport to Linyanti

We arrived on time to pick up Jim from his international flight to join us from this leg of the trip and onwards. I quickly introduced him to the other guests who were looking forward to meeting him, and they got along well from this point onwards. We left the airport around noon and arrived at Chobe airstrip almost an hour later. The flight took us over a long stretch of the Linyanti fault line as well as the Linyanti River. This helped the guests to visualize the geography of the area before we landed.

 

Linyanti Tented Camp

As to be expected at this time of the year, the area boasted big herds of elephants. We were treated to spectacular numbers of elephants not only during the game drives, but around the camps as well. The three nights here certainly were one of the most intense wildlife viewing experience I have ever had as a guide. Besides the big herds of elephants, we had a leopard on an impala kill on the first morning. When we arrived at the leopard sighting, she was high up the tree and photography was a challenge. We watched her for a short while and then went off to have a coffee break. On coming back about half an hour later, we found her on a different branch, with a better view. Things improved even more when she decided to come down and lie on the shade, next to a termite mount. Our patience paid off as the leopard now provided us with ample opportunities for photography. This also provided me with the opportunity to interpret behavior and help guests anticipate and be ready to photograph her every move.




A female leopard watching a kite circling above his stashed impala kill at Linyanti Tented Camp

 

On our way back to camp, we had a big herd of Sable antelopes. We had numerous sightings of Roan antelopes here as well. The following day, we picked up two female wild dogs which appeared to have just dispersed from their natal pack and were searching for males to establish a pack. We picked them up again the following and they provided great photographic opportunities. On the last morning, we went out in search of a newly discovered brown hyena denning site. This mission was side swept when we found a small bachelor herd of buffaloes at the spot and then four young male lions also appeared out of the bushes and started stalking the buffalo. The small herd of buffaloes saw the lions and ran away. This ended the somehow full-bellied lions’ half-hearted attempt at hunting. This summed up a great stay at the camp. However the game viewing did not end here as we had a great Sable bull sighting on the way to the airstrip as well a newly born elephant calf with the mother as some of the highlights.

 



A very relaxed Sable antelope on the way to the airstrip in Linyanti

  

Gomoti Camp

The Acacia savanna that makes up the Gomoti area is usually dry at this time of the year, with the acacia woodlands providing great browse for the antelopes. Such conditions delivered unique sightings such as honey badgers, bat-eared foxes and black-backed jackals. We also had a few raptors as we went along. The resident wild dog pack came to camp’s waterhole everyday and guests had a treat of photographing young pups. On the last night, I offered guests a short night drive as a surprise and the one hour excursion was worthwhile as we spotted three different African civet cats, numerous Springhares, a white-faced owl as well as a young male lion. On the last morning, we tracked down a big male leopard, which had been sighted at the waterhole by staff members while they were setting up morning tea and coffee. We followed him for half an hour before he proceeded to lie down. Save for a few glowing eyes at night by the waterhole, we had not had a good sighting of hyena on the trip. However we were treated to a big female who we found lying by a pan next to the road. She was very relaxed and allowed close approach, which was good for photography.

 


An African wild dog pup watching his littermates playing at Gomoti Camp waterhole



Jacana Camp

We took a short flight from Gomoti Camp to the Jao concession to start the last leg of the safari. Besides the beautiful, classic Okavango delta landscape, Jacana offers great sightings of birds such as the Wattled cranes. At this time of the year, the Jao floodplains are dry which allows for extensive game drive routes. On our first morning drive, we encountered a pride of five lions that had been seen by other vehicles the previous evening. The lions must have been on a rampage the previous night, as they had four Red lechwe carcasses with them. In display of power and strength, we witnessed two lionesses dragging different carcasses to the shade.

 



A lioness dragging a lechwe carcass to the shade across the floodplain at Jacana

 

We watched them for about two hours and the guests came away with great photographs. The following morning, the scenario was a different one as we found three new males with the pride. To top it all up, one of the males had isolated a young female and was mating with her while the other two males kept a short distance away. This provided great photographic opportunities and we spend a great morning with them. The pair eventually disappeared into an Ivory palm thicket and we headed back to camp, loaded with great photographs.

 

We met for high tea that afternoon and the camp had organized for staff members who weave and sell baskets to come and demonstrate the art to guests. Cheryl particularly enjoyed this as she loved baskets and had been buying some at the previous camps. We then had a boat cruise and encountered some hippos in a lagoon. The ride back towards camp allowed for some great sunset images. 

 

On the last morning, we wrapped the trip up with a mokoro excursion. I had heard a Pel’s fishing owl calling through the night from an island opposite the camp. I asked the mokoro polers to take us there and see if we could find this Okavango special. We were lucky and found the bird roosting in a big Jackalberry tree. While photography was a challenge because of thick foliage, we had a great view and guests managed to squeeze a few shots. Besides the lion experience, it was another highlight of the trip to walk into the island with the guests and watch the Pel’s fishing owl, a rarity mainly found in the Okavango delta.

 



A mating pair along the Jao floodplains



Conclusion 

This trip was a major success and the guests enjoyed not only the comfort of the camps, the food offering, the warmth of the staff at each camp, but also the fact that they had a photography guide with them. They noted the difference such a set up made to their overall experience. I set up PowerPoint lectures on photographing various subjects on possible offer at each camp and this certainly helped improve their photography skills. While I carried a portable screen projector with me throughout the trip, I decided to use a laptop for such presentations, as we were a small group. This way, the presentations were more personalized, intimate and allowed for easier discussions back and forth. For a bigger group in the future, we will certainly use a projector. We also had monopods on offer and Jim used one throughout the trip to support his Canon 500mm lens. This helped for stability when taking pictures. While Edward and Cheryl had small compact cameras, compared to Jim who carried quite a big camera gear, they were not intimidated at all and I also ensured they also utilized their cameras maximally.


Going forward, it was great to see the appreciation of the guests about the trip. Like me, they felt it was a definite success and would do it again. Since all the guests had been to Africa before, they all felt there was something different about this kind of trip and that they would recommend it to others. There is nothing I would change about this trip. The camera gear the guests bring, their previous Africa experiences, and their knowledge on wildlife photography will always dictate any changes if need be. 

 


Sundowner tonic; An African Wild dog contemplates crossing the Linyanti river during our stay at Linyanti Tented Camp



 


MalaMala - It's all about the wildlife


A recap of October 2015

 

 

Getting to know the Gowrie males - A story by ranger Greg Baldwin


While I was expecting to see the morose bodies of two lionesses lying next to the carcass, I wasn’t surprised to see a male lion next to the carcass. Grabbing my binoculars I was stunned to be met by another four male lions fighting… Read more

 

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Wild Dog extravaganza! - A story from our guest Douglas Croft

 

  


Watching puppies play never gets old! Many growing mouths to feed means that the adults in the pack need to hunt pretty much non-stop and our afternoon game drive was suddenly interrupted by a call... Read more


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Kikilezi Female vs Bateleur - A story from ranger James Moodie




We all looped around to the other side of the thicket to see what had grabbed her attention and noticed a juvenile Bateleur in the grass. Without hesitation she ran at the eagle and pounced... Read more

 


VIDEO: Hyena vs leopard over a kill, who do you think won?

 

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BLOG STORY: Interaction!




What the Treehouse male was unaware of at this stage, was that he was not the only big cat in the area on this overcast winters morning. The Marthly pride of lions were laying beneath a large brown ivory tree, 300 meters directly south of Main Camp, sound asleep. It was unbeknownst to him that he was beelining straight for seven lions... Read more


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BLOG STORY: A day with the Marthly pride



 

As we approached we could see six lions lying down in the river with their collective gaze staring north towards a herd of kudus some three two hundred meters away. The seventh lion, the tailless lioness, had started flanking the kudu but the game was up when a series of barks from the kudus sounded the alarm... Read more



Gorongosa National Park 6 Hour TV Series, Mozambique


6-hour TV Series begins airing on PBS Sept 22nd

 


  

Over the past two years, a team of filmmakers has been documenting the restoration effort in Gorongosa Park for a 6-hour series that provides an unprecedented, in-depth look at the inspiring work of saving this park.

 

This landmark series is called "Gorongosa Park: Rebirth of Paradise" and begins airing on PBS, the largest television network in the United States. Airdates are:

Tues Sept 22nd, 8pm ET

Tues Sept 29th, 8pm ET

Tues Oct 6th, 8pm ET

 

In October, it will begin airing internationally on the National Geographic Channel.

 


 

The series is hosted by Bob Poole, an award-winning cameraman who has spent his decades-long career filming wildlife all over the world, with a special emphasis on Africa, where he grew up.

 

Starting Sept 22nd, viewers in the United States can follow Bob as he joins the scientists and conservationists who are working to restore the park, including lion researchers Paola Bouley, Celina Dias and Domingas Aleixo, Park Vet Rui Branco, Park Warden Mateus Mutemba, elephant researcher Joyce Poole (Bob's sister) and the renowned biologist Edward O. Wilson, who serves as a scientific advisor to the park.

 


 

"My childhood in the wilds of Africa inspired my career, but Gorongosa is special for me; this time I will be in front of the camera as well as behind it, capturing the incredible biodiversity and herculean conservation efforts taking place," says Poole. "The two years I spent filming the parks transformation fulfills a life-long dream of mine. I was able to combine my passion for animal conservation with my love of documentary filmmaking."

 

"Our deep dive into the return of GORONGOSA PARK is important because of how crucial its conservation effort is to the ecosystem of Africa - and to the world," said Bill Gardner, VP, Programming and Development, PBS. "It's also an epic adventure and an inspiring story of how dedicated people, working together, can make a difference in rehabilitating ecosystems thought to be lost."

 

Episodes 1 & 2 (Tues Sept 22nd, 8pm ET)



 

Episodes 1 & 2, "Lion Mystery" and "Elephant Whisperer"

In the premiere episodes, Bob Poole joins Gorongosa scientist Paola Bouley as she tries to solve a baffling mystery: why isn't Gorongosa's lion population growing as fast as people think it should? Poole films five cheeky lion cubs on their journey to adulthood. Then, he and his sister Joyce, a renowned elephant expert, face charging elephants to gain insights into their behavior.

September 22, 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm ET, USA

 

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Episodes 3 & 4 (Tues Sept 29th, 8pm ET)





Episodes 3 & 4, "New Blood" and "Hidden Worlds"

In these next two hours, Bob Poole and the lion team find one of the cubs with a grave wound and race to save her. A massive relocation mission is launched to bring back zebra and eland, Africa's largest antelope. Then, Poole and a team of scientists estimate that the park may hold Africa's largest crocodile population. Rappelling into deep gorges, they discover forests full of new species and unexplored caves.

September 29, 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm ET, USA

 

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Episodes 5 & 6 (Tues Oct 6th, 8pm ET)





Episodes 5 & 6,"Battle Lines" and "Roaring Back"

In the final episodes, Joyce Poole makes a breakthrough with the elephants in Gorongosa, while Bob spends a night investigating a group of crop-raiding elephants. A new lion arrives, sparking conflict in Gorongosa's lion kingdom. Bob explores Gorongosa in the wet season, and films one of the largest nesting colonies of waterbirds in Africa.

October 6, 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm ET, USA

 

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Thank You!

 


 

The restoration of this beloved park would not be possible without you, our steadfast supporters. All of you who visited Gorongosa, those who have donated to the project, and those who have spread the word about the importance of the Park can feel proud that all our efforts are being acknowledged, and that Gorongosa National Park is going from strength to strength. Many thanks!

 

A special thanks is due to the Gorongosa Business Club (GBC) whose long term commitment is making our mission possible.

 

- Anadarko

- BCI

- CDM

- Clinicare

- CPMZ

- Embassy of Portugal - Portuguese Cooperation

- Fernando Couto Foundation

- Entreposto Group

- InterRent

- Rizwan Adatia Foundation

- Kudumba

- Socimpex

- Soico/STV

- Southern Refineries

- Standard Bank

- Tecnel Service

- Transcrane

- Tovisi



The Gorongosa Family is growing stronger day by day, and we are grateful for the vision and generosity shown by Zoo Boise, Coimbra University, Boise State University, Princeton University, HHMI, Irish Aid, USAID and the Government of Mozambique among our many partners.

 

We would also like to thank our partners Girassol Hotels (Visabeira Group) for creating a world-class safari destination and making our guests in Chitengo feel welcome.

 

Enjoy the series!




Six Countries Special with Wilderness Safaris


Unbeatable prices at 29 Wilderness Safaris camps and a diverse range of experiences to mix and match. 3 Botswana camps added (Little Mombo, Chitabe and Chitabe Lediba). Click on the following program to enjoy our specials from November through March.

12-Day Botswana Wilderness Wing (Classic Camps Nov-Mar).  

 

 



Kwando Camps in Botswana


Kwara Concession

 

It’s hard not to get tied up in the events that surround the animals that we see every day. It’s human nature to ‘reflect’ our emotions and interpretations of behaviour onto the animals. Some days, it just feels like you are in the middle of a soap opera. Take the afternoon where the mother cheetah was found with only one of her three cubs. She spent the late afternoon calling and calling, for her other cubs to join... but there was no response. Even as darkness fell, as the cars moved off, she could still be heard calling. So, talk that night at the dinner table was concern – guides, guests, managers, all wondering what had happened to her other cubs? Would they find each other? Had they been attacked and killed by another predator? Will the single cub disappear as well, or stay on with the mother.

 


 

The next day, everyone was looking for the cheetah, to continue the story. And although it doesn’t happen often in the bush, there was a happy ending. When mother cheetah was found, all three cubs were with her, looking no worse for wear! Relief all round for the guests and staff alike… until the next episode of “Days of our Lives”.

 

In actual fact, the cheetah mother appears to be doing well at teaching her offspring good hunting techniques, and the four of them are regularly pulling down impala and other game. It’s possible that during an attempted hunt in the middle of the day, they got separated.

 

Other than that stressful time, we had other days of good sightings of the cheetah family, including where we watched them all attempt (unsuccessfully) to hunt. The same day, we came upon a male cheetah, and he stalked and killed a baby reedbuck right in front of us.

 

The pride of seven lions with three young was seen several times at the beginning of the month, looking for something to hunt. They had no luck whilst we were watching… a little later, a male and female lioness took a chance to try and hunt some warthogs, which they did manage to catch.

 

Male lions – the epitome of strength, bravery, fierceness. We came across four big males – the Marsh boys, calling and sounding off, roaring for dominance of their territory. Talking to other cars out, some distance away, they had located the four new males known as the Zulu boys, also roaring and sounding off, vying for dominance of this area. The two ‘teams’ slowly moved towards each other, calls getting louder and stronger. Everyone pictured the battle that was about to ensue – 8 fully grown male lions, evenly matched… what a scene! Until they reached about 1km away from each other, and both “sides” carefully turned round and walked in the opposite direction….

 

On the 20th August we came across the four Zulu boys, who had killed a 6-7 year old elephant. They had scars that were not there the day prior, and one of the four was limping badly, so we suspect they had finally had the fight with the Marsh boys that they put off earlier in the month… They rested up next to the elephant carcass for four days, before moving off – but not before striking dead a hyena who got too close to their meal…

 

A leopard was found dining on a baboon – but was very shy, so we moved off so that he could settle down properly. A few days later, we saw what was possibly the same shy male, mating with a female.

 

An interesting sighting of five wild dogs that were seen feeding on an impala. What was interesting about them was that they were not from a pack that we recognised! Perhaps we have a new group trying to edge their way into the old territory of the big pack…. Thirteen of the big pack of dogs were seen in the several times, on one occasion, they hunted and caught a big warthog… finishing all the meat in a matter of minutes. The pack were seen regularly through the month, and we also saw one pack of six dogs having an aggressive interaction with the big pack, before they ran away and crossed the channel by the boat station.

 

A slightly smaller kill was made by a honey badger – some frantic digging paid off, with a yummy rat to eat.

 

Lagoon




The whole Lagoon pride – four adult females and four sub adults cubs were around and about at the start of the month. We also came across a solitary male. The following week, near John pan, we came across three lionesses, with two cubs about 2 months old. During the month, we saw both prides hunting and killing buffalos – the large herds that have built up over the last months are providing a good food resource for the cats.

 

Two very well fed male lions were located between Lagoon camp and the immigration post, resting next to the river. The animals were very lazy, dragging their full belly. A beautiful caracal was also located along the same road and a hyena was edging along the tree line.

 

A female leopard was found to the west of the airstrip, and then the next day resting up on a termite mound. A male leopard new to the area has been seen twice now, appearing quite relaxed. We are hoping this gentleman stays around! We have also had several sightings of the female leopard that we saw last month with two cubs. Unfortunately she appears to have lost one of the cubs, and has only been seen with the remaining female cub.

 

Fourteen member of the pack of 17 wild dogs paid us a visit on the morning of the 4th August, but then sped back to Lebala area for the afternoon! Also, a new grouping of dogs – 4 males and 1 female – that we don’t recognise were seen hunting. We came across them when we were watching a lovely relaxed group of sable – suddenly the five dogs came dashing out of the bush nearby, trying to drive the huge antelope away. The sable did not budge, and stood their ground, with the dogs eventually giving up and walking away.

 

A little later in the month, with the big pack having abandoned the den at Lebala, the pack of 17 and 8 puppies spent some time around Lagoon. Whilst up there, they also bumped into a pack of 13 that they found in the area, and there were some clashes!

 

An unusual sighting of a pelican this month! Also lots of sightings of a big herd (about 35) of sable, as well as a herds of around 25 roan.

 

Lebala




Lots of lions in the area, including a female with three small cubs, a pride of five lionesses, and three different males. Unfortunately one of the small cubs was lost mid way through the month, and lioness was seen with only two for the rest of the month.

 

For July, the wild dogs did well with their 8 puppies. Early on in August, they decided that their puppies were old enough to leave the den, and begin to move with the pack. Although the puppies are still little, and can’t run the distance and speed that the adults can, the pack will move them from spot to spot, with a caretaker, and do their hunts from there. Around the 14th of the month, they moved into an area where the large buffalo herds hang out, and lions are commonly seen. It’s unlikely that would choose to stay in that area for very long.

 

By the end of the month, the puppies were growing up nicely, and all eight of them were trying to keep up with the 17 adults as much as possible.

 

One of the leopardesses that we haven’t seen for a while has moved back into the area again. She looks in good condition, and she had caught a jackal when we found her.

 

In order to differentiate between animals, regularly seen individuals are often given names. So then it comes down to the challenge of what to name them? Typically, if there is a pack or a pride, you try and have names with the group that are associated (eg members of a well-known football team, chiefs or kings and queens, even varieties of wines!) For solitary individuals, such as territorial male lions, it’s less necessary to have a name that is associated with a group, and one can select a more individual name, perhaps from a characteristic or story about that individual. Guests at Lebala were slightly alarmed to hear one very large male lion being referred to as “Drop the Pilot”. Sounding rather like an incident of lion training gone horribly wrong, an inquiry was made… Was a pilot perhaps taken to the wrong end of the airstrip and left there to meet this lion? Apparently not. This lion has a very tall mane, one side of which stands straight up, then flops down over his eye. This particular hairstyle is currently very popular with the ladies of Botswana, and is called “Drop the Pilot” (for some completely unknown reason….). And this is how the lion acquired the name…

 

Drop the Pilot and his buddy, Sebastian (not sure about that one either…), were seen often through the month, but were not involved in a great buffalo hunt which occurred on the 26th. Four lionesses, with two 2 month old cubs safely stashed away, spent the day hovering around a herd of buffalo – over 1000 of them. By late afternoon, the herd was very antsy, and the lionesses tried to fragment them. Initially facing five big male buffalos, the males turned and ran. One lioness pulled away from the three, and began harassing a mother and calf. She grabbed the calf and pulled it down, with the mother buffalo continuing to try and attack her. Realising that she was in jeopardy from the attacking buffalo, the lioness grabbed the calf in her mouth, lifted all four of its feet in the air, and ran off.

 

Soon after that, the lionesses regrouped and spooked the herd enough that it again fragmented, this time pulling down a larger sub-adult buffalo that had no chance of defending itself from the combined attack. The next day, having feasted on the buffalo during the night, they were found together with their cubs, resting up from the busy night.



Tau Pan




Now the camp is open again after a few weeks closed for standard maintenance, its time for everyone – and every animal – to get used to the way of life here. The temperature – although absolute freezing at the beginning of the month - soared to 34 degrees by the middle of August. Spring, if it was there, lasted about two days. The winds have started to pick up too, throwing dust into the sky, and creating that hazy look that we have to contend with for several months until the rain arrives.

 

The lions, naturally, could not care less whether we come or go. As far as they are concerned, Tau Pan (and often the camp itself) is their home. To welcome everyone back, two females set up just to the north of the camp with five cubs, feeding on an oryx. Two males sauntered in and out, grabbing a bit to eat, and the moving off to the waterhole.

 

The following week, the pride had caught another oryx, and all were sleeping and relaxing near by. The five cubs were hiding in the grass. One of the male lions was also seen mating with one of the pride females…. Another generation of cubs on the way?

 

Also adjusting to movement of humans back in the area, a male cheetah caught a young kudu on the edges of Tau Pan camp. Since kudus are often in the camp because of the thicker vegetation that is by and large, less browsed, it seems the cheetah has adapted his hunting skills accordingly!

 

An interesting thing this month is that it seems that the acacias and other flowering trees may bloom early. The Kalahari received a much higher than normal rainfall in April (certainly more than Maun or the Delta received at the same time) so there is still some moisture deep in the ground in some areas. It should be an interesting few months!

 

One of the guides, who had just spent a few weeks in our sister camp, Nxai Pan, commented on how different the behaviour of black backed jackals was in that area… Here in Tau Pan, the jackal spend their days hunting for their own food, and if there is a predator that has made a kill, waiting for a chance to dive in and grab a mouthful. In Nxai Pan, the guide noticed that every time there was a cheetah, there was a jackal a short distance away. “Jackals follow the cheetah for the whole day, asking for food!”. Perhaps Tau Pan jackals have a stronger sense of independence.

 

Odd sighting – tracks of elephants along the western firebreak, heading north. Interestingly, not far outside the CKGR, a herd of elephants was seen crossing the main road at Rakops! We also saw tracks of wild dogs, heading to the Passarge water hole. And the elusive brown hyena returns to the camp for more regular sightings!

 

A honey badger was having a rough day, being followed by a couple of goshawks. Eventually with a mouse in sight for the honey badger’s meal, the goshawks moved in in an attempt to flush the mouse out of the way and into their grasp… Lucky for the honey badger, he was quick enough to catch it!






Hwange's Lion


 

We are all saddened to hear about the death of Cecil, a regal 13-year-old lion who lived in Hwange National Park in northern Zimbabwe and who was part of a large conservation-minded study of lions in the area.

 

This is a very unfortunate situation and underscores the importance of the great work being done in the safari industry to promote responsible tourism to these remote and protected areas.

 

Safari camps and lodges and companies like ourselves have already made a significant impact on reducing poaching and increasing protected game reserve lands. Traveling to Zimbabwe and visiting Hwange National Park and Mana Pools is an immeasurable step to helping.

 

 

Visiting Africa along with making donations to reputable wildlife organizations such as African Wildlife Foundation https://www.awf.org/ is the best way to help protect and preserve Africa’s treasures.

 

As of August 2015, The Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Authority has ceased all lion, leopard, and elephant hunts around Hwange.

 

We encourage you to continue to support eco-tourism to Hwange and travel on a photographic safari to the other parks of Zimbabwe where the tourism community is working diligently on the ground to conserve the wildlife. 



Chiawa and Old Mondoro Camp News from Zambia!


Dear Friends,

 

First things first - Conde Nast Traveler has just acknowledged Chiawa Camp as one of Africa's Top Twenty Safari Camps & Lodges, and one of only two from Zambia that made the esteemed list.

 


 

I am breaking with tradition...and sharing some recent photos from a client....."A much-travelled Morag was back at Old Mondoro & Chiawa for the 7th time in 10 years, claiming the camps are a magnet for wildlife enthusiasts, thus her stay of 9 nights at Old Mondoro and 6 nights at Chiawa in 2015, which proved to be stunningly productive.


Grant Cumings

 

OLD MONDORO:

 

- On the 1st full game drive had a rare sighting of a big rock python who initially disappeared into a hole in a tree just allowing for a small photo of its mid-section. The tree squirrels and small birds had given away its presence.

  

 

 


 

- As though that were not enough, that same evening 3 leopards (a mother with a son and daughter of about 2 years) killed a big female impala in the darkness.

 


 

- Continuing the daily dose of awesome sightings, the next day prodiced 2 well-known big male lions (“Greedy” & “Snare”) on a male waterbuck kill. These 2 lions were first seen by Morag in 2010 and, though no longer pretty faces, were magnificent powerful beasts.

 


 

- 3 days later, 4 new male lions (estimated to be around 3 ½ years old) surprised everyone by strolling through open area just beyond the camp sitenje after breakfast. Much delight at more lions in the area even if they were trying to maintain a low profile!

 


 

- The very same day another rare occurrence – one of the big bull elephants decided to select his lunch (in precisely the same area where we earlier saw the lions) from a topmost branch and obliged everyone by standing on his hind legs to reach.

 


 

- Although there were countless other wonderful sightings including small mammals and birds ranging from Martial eagle to a Malachite kingfisher, the next major events were at Chiawa Camp.

 


 

CHIAWA CAMP:

- a night drive produced a pride of 8 lions feasting very noisily on a buffalo. There were there, still eating, arguing and playing the following morning. They were led by an aggressive and very dominant female, but at least 4 of their number were full of boisterous play.

 

 

 

Once again, there were beautiful and impressive sightings but a fantastic scenario played out on the last full day.

 


 

- A big crocodile was spotted lurking near a tree, well away from the nearest water hole. Moving around in the vehicle to get shots of him produced a male leopard descending from the tree (and his well-camouflaged impala kill) and running away in thick bush.

 


 

- Just as the vehicle was moving off a female leopard strolled into the scene, climbed up the tree, and started to feed off the impala! Many photos were taken, despite the searing midday heat!

 


 

- A return was made to the tree in the late afternoon, and the now-sated leopardess stood up and made soft calls into the bush. She climbed down and was met by two tiny cubs, who she moved, before she climbed back up the tree.

 


 

- Finally the 2 cubs managed to struggle up the tree (after a few attempts) to join her.

 


 

What a fantastic way to end a trip, and what a fantastic trip as well!"

 

 



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