UPDATES FOR WEEK ENDING SUNDAY 17TH AUGUST 2003:
Orient Express Botswana Update, August 17 2003
The winter has been very pleasant as we have had hardly any really cold days. The past summer was relentless and seems as if it has warmed up the winter slightly as well. Relatively warm temperatures have been recorded throughout the camps. Savuti saw the mercury swing to 35 Celsius in the day and a low of 6 Celsius at night.
Water levels at Eagle Island Camp (E.I.C) have not been as high as previous years at the same time. The water level has, however low in volume, retained its level and has not dropped at all to date; it is currently standing at just over a meter deep.
Game sightings seem to have been good with most sightings occurring out on the walks. Ryan reported sightings of a variety of plains game including giraffe, zebra, impala and tsessebe. Lions in particular have been very active especially at night. The constant lion calls could be due to a new pride moving into the area to establish territory. The bellows of a territorial call from a huge lion is enough to make an impression on all and everybody. Hyenas have also been seen, as have our long nosed friends "the elephants".
Visitors to Savuti are now realizing why this is the elephant camp. As the surrounding area becomes drier and drier the elephant numbers become larger and larger. The lions of the area have started to predate on the elephants. The resident pride of +/- 27 lions has specialized in pulling elephant down this time of the year. There have been sightings of hyena and leopard on various occasions to the delight of our guests.
As is the norm for this time of the year the game viewing along the Khwai River (K.R.) has been exceptional. Despite the wind blowing pretty constantly ensuring cold early morning starts guests have been treated to a feast of spectacular game viewing.
There are very few areas in Botswana that can compete with KR with regards to wildlife viewing, as this area has consistently incredible game viewing of some kind or another. There are always eles close by, hippos in and out of the water, the predators are never far off, and it really is amazing.
This has been a great month for birds at EIC, saying that one must note that there is never a bad month for birds at EIC. The highlight of any keen twitcher would be spotting a Pels fishing owl and a lesser Jacana, which where both spotted on regular occasions at EIC.
As the bush becomes drier birds spend large amounts of time around the water holes. This is particularly seen up at S.E.C where the dry conditions are greatest. Up to 18 Meyers Parrots have been counted drinking at the Savuti birdbath, their joyful chirping has really been brightening up the cold winter mornings.
This must be the year for the crocodiles as we have never seen so many crocodiles at EIC in a long time, as our old time guides have also indicated that there just seems to be crocodiles every where.
Star of Africa Update, August 17 2003
Star of Africa operate several top quality lodges and tented camps in Zambia. Here is their latest update:
Game viewing and bird watching has been superb at all our properties with some amazing sightings recorded. We had a rather cold spell during July but the early mornings and evenings are starting to warm up now with lovely blue skies and sunny days stretching ahead.
Puku Ridge is now open in South Luangwa! This very luxurious tented camp is built up on a ridge overlooking a game rich floodplain area absolutely teaming with wildlife. Leopard and lion sightings from the comfort of the camp have already been excellent. The room tents are huge - 12 meters by 7 meters with lovely big teak verandahs, outdoor showers and sunken baths with superb views overlooking the floodplains. Our first clients, the Langdale family stayed with us on the 25th and 26th July and had a wonderful stay. They left us with the following special words "To be your first guests here is a privilege beyond words. From all of us a very big thank you. As the sun rises over Puku, it is the epitome of the African bush, incensing a new dawn".
Mark and Robyn at Kulefu on the Lower Zambezi reported "We have had some amazing leopard sightings on client game drives - 7 different leopard sightings on 2 drives! Clients on one drive saw leopards mating whilst on another drive clients saw 3 leopards together - a most unusual sighting. With the undergrowth disappearing due to the buffalo grazing we're seeing a lot more of the smaller animals including a colony of dwarf mongeese, honey badgers and a number of spotted hyena. The most extraordinary sighting has been of a rock hyrax who has decided to live in the Zambezi floodplain and has taken up residence in a large winter thorn tree. We will be keeping a close eye on him as we expect to see some movement when he realizes that there are no females in the area! We are very excited to have 4 residential lion in the area at the moment and also many elephants and buffalo passing through the camp, making game viewing from the camp itself extremely up close and exciting.
At Lechwe Plains Tented Camp Petros, the lodge manager reports "Birding has become very exciting from the camp as a variety of birds are coming to the marsh areas in the front of the camp and flocks of pelicans, gulls and fulvous ducks have been seen. The addition of a 6 seater banana boat in camp has added flavor to our activities and now we can go out much further on trips to prime birding areas. We have also started cultural tours into a nearby Fishing Village called Nyimba, where clients have the opportunity to meet the fishermen coming in with their early morning catch and watch the trading take place with the Lusaka traders. Clients can also go into the local school and village and watch the antiquated grinding mill in the area working. I am delighted to advise that WWF have almost finished regrading the roads in the Park, greatly reducing the driving time from the Park Gates and the Lochinvar Airstrip to our camp - now just over half an hour.
Mark from Chichele reports "Guests have been very satisfied with the whole Presidential experience, commenting that Chichele is "without doubt a rising star" and that the "many memories will not be forgotten quickly". There have been good sightings of lion, leopard, hyena, elephant, buffalo and even an aardvark! The animals have been sighted in close proximity to the lodge this month, including a leopard by the swimming pool and elephants on the drive way. Walking safaris are wonderful this time of the year, with the cooler temperatures in the early morning and late afternoon, making for excellent walking conditions. South Luangwa National Park is much drier now and the few remaining watering holes are drying up fast with large groups of pelicans and the odd marabou stork fishing for the barbel, left stranded away from the main river. The night drives have been popular with good sightings of genet, civet, bush-baby, white tailed mongoose, scrub hare and porcupine."
Justice and Tendayi are delighted to report the arrival of a new boat at Sussi and Chuma. A 12 seater, 75 horsepower Mariner boat, which will be based permanently at the lodge. All clients who are being transferred into the lodge by our guides will now arrive at the lodge by boat and will be brought up onto the drinks deck where they will be welcomed with a Zambezi cocktail and our special ladies choir. The arrival of the boat adds a couple of new activities to our all inclusive activities offered out of the lodge - early morning game viewing cruises on the Zambezi with tea, coffee and biscuits being served on a surrounding island, fishing excursions and evening sunset cruises with snacks and drinks on a nearby Island. We will also be starting our own special Island Picnic Lunches and further details of this will follow along with details of the massage and beauty therapy treatments we will soon be able to offer, in-house, to clients.
UPDATES FOR WEEK ENDING SUNDAY 10TH AUGUST 2003:
Rekero Update, August 10 2003
Rekoro Tented Camp and Rekoro Cottages are located in Kenya's famed Masai Mara. Here is their latest update:
The Wildebeest Migration has finally arrived in the Mara - about three weeks late. The zebra that precede the wildebeest have been here for about a month with large herds crossing and re-crossing the Mara River. About 40,000 wildebeest are now on the western side of the Talek River and can be seen easily from Rekero Tented Camp. The main migration is still crossing the Sand River which divides the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania with the Masai Mara Reserve in Kenya. We expect large columns of wildebeest around Rekero Tented Camp over the following weeks. The large Nile crocodiles in the Mara and Talek rivers are stirring and seem to be much more active. Some ancient telepathy must tell them that the time of plenty is near.
The Migration is still about two hours away from the Rekero Cottages. The waterholes in front of Rekero cottages are also being visited daily by elephant and buffalo and we have had a couple of sightings of a very dark male leopard in the last few days.
Late yesterday evening a solitary male lion killed a Masai cow in the valley. Human/animal conflict is always a concern in the dispersal area of the Mara.
Those of you visiting us, particularly the tented camp, over the next month should have excellent viewing of the Migration.
Xigera Camp Update, August 10 2003
Xigera Camp is located in Botswana's Okavango Delta. Here is the camp's latest update:
The weather has been playing some tricks on us. A few weeks ago it was pretty cold but into the last two weeks it warmed up quite nicely. The morning temperatures were sitting at about 15 C and the day temps at 29 to 30 C. Now they have dropped to 11 and 26 respectively. The flood waters have been ebbing slowly but surely, exposing more and more land.
The inflow of elephant seems to continue and our area has basically been littered with them and lots of good lion sightings. As per usual the camp seems to be a popular spot to visit. We have witnessed the 2 lionesses crossing the camp bridge on 2 occasions. During one of these they managed to kill a baboon as soon as they got to the staff village side. It did not take long for the hyenas to catch on to this, and the guests were treated to a growl and whoop symphony whilst sitting around the fire on the front deck.
On another occasion we had a Pel's owl on the bridge, so we decided to "stalk" it. After a lot of leopard crawling we managed to get to about 3 meters from it and were in absolute awe when he started calling. We were, however yanked back to reality when we heard a lion calling nearby and without a single word having been said, we got up and walked back to the safety of the lounge - for the bridge at Xigera is lion territory!
Here are some recent guest comments:
"This is a special place cared for by special people and we loved every minute"
"Loved it here, very peaceful and so easy to forget about the rest of world"
All in all it has been a good month and we are very much looking forward to the next, which seems to be as busy, if not busier than July. Bush regards, All at Xigera
Chikwenya Camp Monthly Report, August 10 2003
Chikwenya Camp is located on the eastern border Zimbabwe's Mana Pools National Park. Here is the camp's latest update:
Wildlife viewing has been incredible this last month. This included the arrival of a new pride of lions, comprising of two lionesses and four cubs. They seem to be covering quite a bit of ground and are obviously just trying to establish themselves in the area. We are not sure if they have had any contact with the resident pride yet. What would be fantastic is if they joined up with the other girls to form a very strong pride.
The younger of the two original lionesses has been seen mating with one of the males again. The older lioness had to fend off the constant attentions of the other male while she waited the couple of days for her friend. They have all been very active in the vicinity of the camp and on a number of occasions we have had dinner disturbed to go onto the pool deck to watch them walking past in the spotlight.
There have been two different sightings of a male cheetah this month, once at night not far from the camp, then again near our eastern boundary where it had an impala kill. One wild dog was seen; it had injured its front left leg and had obviously been split up from the rest of the pack, continuously calling. The noise attracted the attention of three hyena, who we were convinced were going to kill it. The poor dog only got up and limped off at great speed when they were about three meters away. Once they had chased the dog off and sniffed around checking there was no kill to scavenge, the hyenas moved off. We haven't seen the dog since, so we just hope it joined up with the rest of the pack.
Elephants have been fantastic as always with herds drinking almost daily in front of the camp. Two new babies of less than a month old in the area, both from females we don't recognize.
Numerous different sightings of sun squirrels this month, normally a very elusive species which most mammal books don't even record as occurring here.
Here are several recent guest comments:
"Magical setting and impeccable service, thank you"
"Lovely 2 days, you went all the way to make it memorable. Thanx 1000x!"
"What a special place!"
UPDATES FOR WEEK ENDING SUNDAY 27TH JULY 2003:
Security Tightened in Maasai Mara, July 27 2003
Police are keeping a 24-hours security vigil at Kenya's Maasai Mara Game Reserve as the tourist high season begins. All entry points, including gates and airstrips, have been put under tight guard to ensure the visitors' safety. Narok District Commissioner Opuka Odino said that a major security operation was underway and asked those with no direct connection to tourism activities in the reserves to stay away. He said the police will also be monitoring tourists checking in and out of lodges and camps to ensure no incident mars the peak season which ends in October. Odino said regular police, the General Service Unit (GSU) and Narok County Council rangers will guard all local tourist attractions, including the Narok Mara Road.
The peak season kicked off with the crossing of hundreds of wildebeests from the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to Maasai Mara through the crocodile-infested Mara River.
Robin Pope's Weekly Zambia Update, July 27 2003
Robin and Jo Pope run several very successful safari camps in Zambia. Here is their weekly update:
Due to the cooler temperatures at this time of the year guests have been able to go out on full day trips and picnics. It is an ideal time of year for such outings as people do not get too hot and the wildlife is fairly active throughout the day.
Robin has been up at Tena Tena for a few days and did one of his 'specials'. He got up and left for the saltpan at 5 AM and had the most fantastic viewing, in true Robin style! Robin and his guests arrived at the big baobab tree, just as the sun was rising, to find a large herd of eland. It was hard to work out the numbers as it was still relatively dark but Robin estimated the herd to be 30 plus. On the way up to the saltpan they had a lovely sighting of a bat hawk. This is not a common sighting at the best of times but very seldomly seen in the morning! Bat hawks are crepuscular by nature (active at dawn and dusk in laymans terms) and are most commonly seen in the evening so it was a great sighting to catch one the early morning. On the saltpan they were greeted by another lovely herd of eland. Water supplies in the back country are obviously drying out as we are seeing more and more eland as the season progresses. Amongst other things on the saltpan were the early arrivals of carmine bee eaters. These early arrivals are often last years youngsters that have not migrated with their parents and have, instead, spent the rains in the back country. With stomachs rumbling, a big fry up was next on the agenda and Robin, with the help of the guests, proceeded to cook up a scrumptious breakfast for all. A gentle meander back to camp arriving at around 3 PM for a late lunch. Robin decided that there was little time for rest and that they would just pop out for a quick sundowner after their belated lunch and then head back to camp. How typical that these short little outings produce some of the most fantastic viewing. A leopardess was spotted on the edge of Lunga Lagoon. She posed beautifully, sharpening her claws on a nearby tree and then made use of a nearby termite mound as a great vantage point, possibly eyeing up dinner! On to sundowners south of camp and three large bull elephants crossed the river as the sun went down - Spectacular! A short trip back to camp produced yet more amazing sightings with a big male lion roaring by the vehicle and another 2 female leopards before arriving back at camp! I must add a day in the bush does not always go like this!!
Some of the other great sightings this week include a first aardvark sighting at Nkwali by Marcus, just out the back of camp. Keyala had a great view of a leopardess with her 3-4 month old cub up a tree with a puku kill. At Nsefu, Ed came across a pride of 8 lions feeding on a buffalo that had been stuck in the mud whilst he was on a walk downstream from camp.
Anyway, that is all from us - have a great week. Take Care, Simon
UPDATES FOR WEEK ENDING SUNDAY 20TH JULY 2003:
Rekero Update, July 20 2003
Rekoro is located in Kenya's famed Masai Mara. Here is the camp's latest update:
After a cold June, July is warmer with daytime temperatures in the 20's, although the nights are still cool. The red oat grass (Themedia Triandra) in some places is waist high, rippling like golden waves in the wind as it ripens.
At Rekero Cottages a young mature bull elephant has appeared in the afternoons, leaving a trail of destruction, tearing down our favorite Acacias amongst the cottages, and disturbing the guest's afternoon naps.
As the vegetation has dried off, our waterhole in front of the cottages is now starting to get good usage, particularly from elephant, buffalo, impala and our resident warthogs.
At Rekero Tented Camp everyone is gearing up for the annual migration of the wildebeest, and we are told by the boffins at the Serengeti Institute that this year's migration is going to be a super spectacle, with 1.5 million wildebeest joining the march north from the Serengeti Plains into the Masai Mara. We are looking forward to some amazing river crossings in front of the camp, placed strategically, just above the junction of the Mara and Talek Rivers, within the Masai Mara Reserve itself.
The zebra are already coming into the Reserve en masse and will shortly be followed by the wildebeest. This phenomena is undoubtedly one of the wonders of the world and for those who have not yet seen it, we would strongly suggest that you jump on a plane and get out here sometime during August and September as this could easily be the last migration of this magnitude, and Rekero Tented Camp still has some space available.
Best regards from the Rekero Team
Chitabe Tented Camp Update, July 20 2003
Chitabe Tented is located in Botswana's Okavango Delta. Here is an update:
On the 1st August it will be a year since we re-opened after last years fire and the new camp has settled comfortably and has developed a very cozy and relaxed atmosphere.
The annual flood waters have arrived in front of the camp and when one looks out from the tents and the bar area you gaze upon a beautiful tranquil channel and floodplain - a meandering slice of blue waters within a sea of wheat colored grasses.
The waterhole in front of Chitabe Trails camp is full and the elephants are seen on a daily basis coming in for their afternoon drinks. Sitting on Chitabe Trails pool deck with a glass of red wine raising a toast to the elephants seemed to be the right thing to do. I was very pleased to see the variety of game in the area and when we drove out of camp one afternoon we saw zebra, wildebeest, tsessebe, ostriches, impala and kudu all within 100 meters of camp. There are lots of elephants around and even came across a baby which had just been born and was still wet from the after birth.
Predator sightings in the Chitabe area have been amazing and lions are everywhere. It's always a treat to see predators in the bush, but to see them interacting is what I enjoy and find really exciting. Africa's life cycle was very evident over the course of five days when the following was seen by the game drive vehicles: A cheetah was seen stalking and taking an impala followed by a leopard which took down an impala only to be chased off by some hyenas. Without so much as a pause the female leopard abandoned her impala and turned and ambushed a warthog - 20 meters from the vehicles. She promptly took the warthog up a tree, just to make sure the hyenas wouldn't confiscate this meal. The following morning both the leopard and hyenas where finishing off the impala carcass only to have the last remains stolen by three wild dogs. The next day we watched four male lions eagerly feeding on a giraffe. However, not to be outdone by the larger predators we also witnessed an African wild cat stalk some francolins . To top it all we have had a number of sightings of pangolin -a real treat! We've had such superb sighting of the female leopard with her two three month old cubs that I think I will issue them with Chitabe uniforms. Both the female and cubs are very relaxed with the vehicle and we spent half an our gazing at their little faces which were perfectly camouflaged. They decided to give us an added bonus by playing in the sun and jumping up, over, around, and under a fallen leadwood tree.
Both Chitabe and Chitabe Trails rooms have been refurbished and now have new double doors. This has brightened up the rooms and given them a nice little face lift. New curtains and some extra special touches have added to the ambiance of the tents. During the winter months the indoor showers are usually used at morning and at night - and during midday the outdoor showers are often used.
The Chitabe sleep-outs and walking trails are a hit with all guests of all ages and nationalities. Being able to sleep under the stars, snuggled warmly under blankets and duvets on raised platform "hides" is proving to be the perfect recipe for many guests. The staff go out of their way to ensure safety for all guests and yet bring adventure and excitement to the "sleep-out". I'm so proud of the guides at Chitabe who are all "accredited walking guides" and really enjoy being able to put their feet on the ground and share their knowledge of the smaller details such as insects, shrubs and flowers to the guests.
Take care, Helene Hamman
Jao Camp Update, July 20 2003
Jao Camp is a platinum level camp located in Botswana's Okavango Delta. Here is the camp's latest update:
A very cheery hallo from all of us here at Jao. The Maximum temperature this month was 28 with a minimum of 11.
We have had a great month with many a happy guest enjoying their stay with us. Bush dinners and brunches have been a favorite once again and the colder weather did not dampen any spirits. Boma evenings around the fire are always enjoyed with the staff's cultural participation a highlight.
Winter is truly upon us, so every bed now has an extra warm mohair blanket, and in the evenings a hot water bottle welcomes everybody. This after a sumptuous meal,and festive time around the table or fire.
The floods have not been as high as last year but we have opened the boat channel to Handa. The all day picnic trips to the island have been a huge success. Guests have been enjoying the mekoro and walking experiences - with strong emphasis on the truly wild and untouched nature of the Jao area. Quite a few sleepouts have been done this month with David and Cathy. The incredibly luxurious set up of the camp sites is always very impressive for guests when combined with the adrenaline filled nights out in the African bush.
A large numbers of honeymooners have enjoyed this wonderfully romantic location as well as private dinners, either in their rooms or around the pool. The wine cellar has also been a wonderful setting for dinners.
For those who did not want to take advantage of their siesta time, there were mekoro poling lessons, candle making, back of house tours, elephant dung paper making sessions and most notably Milly's massages to enjoy in the afternoons.
There is a lot of general game around the Jao floodplain with zebra, giraffe and a herd of about 100 wildebeest included in this. Guests have been fortunate enough to witness some lion kills this month and more recently we have been watching with fascination 2 new male lions in a takeover bid for the floodplain pride. Fortunately at this stage the cubs have survived this time of intense stress and aggression and we hope to see them prosper in the future. The female leopard has returned to camp again and is even more relaxed than ever providing guests with unparalleled photographic opportunities and some breathtaking encounters as she saunters past the vehicles.
Farewell The Jao Team
Robin Pope's Weekly Zambia Update, July 20 2003
Robin and Jo Pope run several very successful safari camps in Zambia. Here is their weekly update:
This mornings sunrise was quite spectacular with the sky a riot of pinks and purples. Of course the delicious porridge also helped! Jason Alfonsi sets off tomorrow with one of the mobile safaris and he has been very lucky of late. On his last trip to the Mupamadzi guests had the rare sighting of bush pigs. They were in view for about 40 minutes by one of the lagoons - a really special sight as they are normally extremely shy and when Simon and I saw one last year it dashed straight into the bush. I did not realize what a fabulous treat this was until Simon said that the last time he saw one was several years earlier!
Guests at Nkwali unfortunately finished tea too early yesterday. Just as the vehicles departed for the afternoon gamedrive, 2 lions appeared on the sandbank opposite the camp and chased a puku across it and up onto the bank opposite the bar - a nice sight for those of us "stuck" in camp.
We have had a lot of elephant activity at Nkwali of late. The elephants love the ebony fruit which are now carpeting most of the area. They regularly wander through but a few nights ago one came around the side of Ryan's house as a hippo was coming in the opposite direction. Obviously both were concentrating on food and oblivious to anything else in the area. It must have been quite a shock when they almost bumped into each other. Loud shouts from both were followed by a swift exit in opposite directions leaving Ryan wondering what was going on as he heard the retreating foot steps.
Stay well and have a great week. Cheers, Kim
UPDATES FOR WEEK ENDING SUNDAY 13TH JULY 2003:
Chiawa Camp Update, July 13 2003
Chiawa camp is a magical tented camp located on the Lower Zambezi River in Zambia. Here is the camps latest news:
Wildlife viewing has been spectacular, especially the 20+ wild dog sightings we have already enjoyed this season. Only two days ago guests watched as wild dogs kill an impala - from the comfort of their tent's veranda! The wild dogs were then seen soon afterwards taking down and devouring another two impala just behind camp.
Kellie Leigh, Old Mondoro's resident wild dog researcher, has been spending a lot of time at Chiawa Camp this year as this seems to be where this pack is most regularly spotted. We highly recommend coming on our Conservation Safari where guests get to spend a day with Kellie Leigh tracking wild dogs, and also spend a day at Conservation Lower Zambezi Headquarters to learn about and experience two very successful examples of Responsible Tourism.
Speaking of Old Mondoro, which is just about to celebrate its first birthday, our bush camp has a new loo with a view, and reopened June 5th. A safari combining Chiawa Camp & Old Mondoro (which is a little less luxurious and a little more wild than Chiawa) is surely one of Africa's truly great safaris! Guests may transfer from Chiawa Camp to Old Mondoro by canoe however transfers in our brand new specially designed motorboat are quicker and no less rewarding. Please note that boating safaris are not available at Old Mondoro.
Old Mondoro's first official guests of 2003 were from Alabama, USA and they enjoyed some great game viewing during their two nights there. These included serval, and three different leopards totalling six sightings, two of which had been watching us enjoying our sundowners on the banks of the Zambezi! Andy has just reported lionesses and a 15 minute honey badger sighting on a recent walk.
However the highlights to date of our game viewing this season have been the sensational wild dog and elephant sightings around Chiawa Camp. Over the past two months we have already had more than twenty wild dog sightings (some in the riverbed next to camp), including greeting ceremonies, kills, fights with hyenas and chasing buffalo and elephant! Interestingly both the elephant and buffalo retreated in surprise from the pack's advances. The dogs are about to den and ought to be regularly seen again, with pups, in September this year - book now for Africa's best wild dogs!
We have also had the privilege of watching a herd of some 300 elephant around Chiawa Camp for the past few weeks, with daily drinking visits to the Zambezi under our viewing hide. The spectacle of 300 elephants frolicking in the river, trumpeting, blowing dust, and chasing egrets under our noses (and driving through the same herd on a night drive!) is what unforgettable memories are made of. And if all the elephants and wild dogs get too exciting, Lynsey is still offering her increasingly popular pampering & relaxation treatments for the ladies.
A few days ago some of Chiawa's guests were up in the viewing hide watching one of the camp Kakuli's (old bull buffalo) resting in the riverbed with his bottom close to the Zambezi. Suddenly a crocodile launched itself at the buffalo and bit it on the behind - leaving behind a large bite mark and a surprised, disgruntled buffalo. Interestingly the crocodile was so small as to not have had a chance at ever dragging the unfortunate buff back into the Zambezi. Needless to say the same buffalo now rests a few steps further away from the river, and the same crocodile patrols the same stretch of river in hope - another African status quo!
We've had some great fishing too despite it not being the best time of the year to do so, and some big tiger and vundu have been caught & released - the heaviest tiger of this season to date is 14.5 lbs. On the subject of fishing we had an excellent sighting from the viewing hide of a Fish Eagle catching and devouring a squeaker catfish. Other great eagle sightings include a pair of African Hawk Eagles, and an immature Martial Eagle circling low and slow over one of our game viewing vehicles, deliberately eyeing us out.
On the administrative front, visitors to Zambia are still exempt from visa fees if they have the appropriate letter from us or other relevant Zambian camp or Tour Operator.
Chiawa & Old Mondoro's guiding (quality & quantity!) remains unrivalled in the Lower Zambezi, especially for the walking safaris but across the board. Having initiated and implemented the first safari guide examinations in the Lower Zambezi in 1996, I am proud to have helped the system grow and we are now working closely with the Luangwa Safari Association in creating a national standard.
Soon Craig will be preparing another of his fabulous full-moon dinners on a sandbar in the middle of the river - his meals are noteworthy and will be featured in various UK press during the course of the year, so keep a look out. Until next time, may your boots always be covered in Africa's dust, & may your Scotch always have a dash of Zambezi water (I just made that up!).
Grant, Lynsey & the Chiawa Team. Africa at its best ...
Robin Pope's Weekly Zambia Update, July 13 2003
Robin and Jo Pope run several very successful safari camps in Zambia. Here is their weekly update:
I am sitting at my desk shoeless today - this is my choice as I sometimes like to feel the earth between my toes. However, the other day Jason had a bit of a boot crisis. His clients were due to arrive at the airport and so he when to his room to change - no sign of his boots anywhere. On investigation he found that Aliale our bedroom attendant had taken them to be washed as he felt that they were looking a bit shabby. He was unrepentant when Jason said that they were his only pair and what was he going to wear to collect his guests. Aliale promptly said that a guide of Jason's standing should have at least 2 pairs of boots and he should therefore stop on the way to the airport to buy another pair! Jason in fact borrowed a pair of Simons boots - a little too big for him but he managed not to trip over them as he walked out to meet the guests from the plane.
Ross was guiding guests at Tena Tena last week when he had to make an unscheduled "comfort" stop. Ross ducked behind a bush and spotting a crack in the ground took aim. Seconds later a snake sprung out of the crack and looked around bemused - no doubt trying to work out why the rains had started so early this year!
Tony Green has been guiding for us this week at Nkwali to help out during this extremely busy week. He had stopped the vehicle to look at some impala when a porcupine appeared on the road in front of them. Obviously having his mind on other things he just walked along the road towards the vehicle and bumped straight into it, shook himself and trotted off into the bush - a Kamakazi porcupine!
Phenomenal leopard viewing with Paul at Nsefu. Guests came across a leopard on an impala kill at the stork colony. Lions appeared and stole the impala from the leopard who must have been hungry as he then killed another one right in front of the guests. Fabulous - what more could you ask for on a night drive - well actually 4 more individual leopard sightings on the way back to camp! (Warning - this is not normal - please do not demand a refund if you do not see 6 leopards on each gamedrive at Nsefu - but feel free to mention to your guides that Paul did it and so can they - the pressure's on guys!!)
Stay well and have a great week, Cheers, Kim
UPDATES FOR WEEK ENDING SUNDAY 6TH JULY 2003:
Star of Africa Zambia Update, July 6 2003
Star of Africa is Zambia's premier tour operator. Here is an update from them:
Lorraine and I drove to Lechwe Plains in the Lochinvar National Park with our Touring Team - Jono, Liz and Courtney. On arrival we could not believe the size of the Chunga Lagoon located in front of the camp and the sheer mass of birds in the surrounding area. We received a very warm welcome from Petros and his team and had a very comfortable and enjoyable stay at the camp. We went out on a wonderfully relaxing afternoon trip in the mokoros and saw more birds than we could count as well as very large water monitors and lots of lechwe. The sunset that evening was one of the most amazing sunsets I have seen in all my years living in Africa with the most incredible medley of colors. The following morning we went out on an early walk in the Park with Petros, discovering many interesting trees, insects, birds and smaller game species along the way. Kenneth, our chef at Lechwe treated us to some wonderful food…stuffed roast beef, assorted vegetables and mashed potatoes followed by steamed pudding with chocolate sauce for dinner and fresh muffins, eggs, bacon and sausages for breakfast…all cooked in a traditional bush oven - a hole in the ground!
Last week Petros has reported a sighting of 180 wattled cranes and 200 crowned cranes in one group - an absolutely amazing site and a new record for us at Lechwe. The wattled crane is an endangered species with only 200 in the whole of Southern Africa so it was something really special.
Lorraine and I had a wonderful stay at Kulefu Tented Camp where we were well looked after by Mark, Robyn and Morad - one of our guides who has been with Kulefu for a number of years. Once again we were treated to wonderful meals and activities, the highlight being an early morning canoe trip with Morad finishing up with a delicious bush breakfast a couple of hours downstream. Lorraine and I also went out for a sunset cruise on the river and had an exciting night drive with Morad, discovering various nocturnal animals as well as learning a lot about the moon and the stars.
Recently a group of clients at Kulefu saw 3 different leopards - the highlight of their trip - on ONE drive! Another group at Kulefu tracked a group of wild dog on their drive yesterday and much to their delight watched them take on a pride of lions! Not something one would see every day.
Mark Rowe-Roberts reports that there are a lot of buffalo and elephants in the area and fishing is still quite good… The Camp is looking really great at the moment with new soft furnishings in the lounge and dining room area. Over the next couple of months we will be bringing in more soft furnishings and upgrading other areas of the camp. Our new boat has just arrived…
Lorraine and I spent a wonderfully relaxing 3 nights with Mark at Chichele and were treated like royalty from the moment we arrived! Champagne and snacks were delivered to our room on arrival, followed by a sumptuous dinner on the verandah. During our game drives we had some wonderful encounters with 2 different prides of lionesses and cubs, both prides within 100 meters of the lodge! Botha, our guide during our stay, took us out on a very interesting walk in the area with a National Parks scout….we saw lots of puku, giraffe, elephants and hippo on this walk as well as discovering some wonderful facts about the birds, trees and insects we came across.
Some feedback from clients who stayed at Chichele in May - "a world class safari lodge in one the richest game viewing areas in Southern Africa."
During our stay in South Luangwa, Mark took us on a site visit to Puku Ridge Tented Camp (which is being built). The camp is progressing along nicely and is going to be superb when it opens. The rooms are absolutely enormous - 12 meters by 6 meters with huge teak verandahs. The view from the rooms is truly breathtaking looking out over green floodplains absolutely teaming with zebra, puku and numerous other antelope. On numerous occasions lion and leopard have been spotted out on the plains.
Lorraine and I finished up our trip with an evening at Sussi and Chuma where we were well looked after by Justice, Tendai and their team. Amon, our guide took us out on an interesting afternoon game drive in the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park where we saw wildebeest, buffalo, impala, waterbuck, zebra and more giraffe than I have seen in my life time! We finished up our drive with sundowners on the edge or the Zambezi River, watching the sun set over the river. We had a wonderful dinner of roast beef and fresh vegetables followed by a delicious marshmallow dessert. The following day Lorraine and I did some shopping in Livingstone town before heading off to the airport for Lorraine's departing flight on Nationwide.
Robin Pope's Weekly Zambia Update, July 6 2003
Robin and Jo Pope run several very successful safari camps in Zambia. Here is their weekly update:
Up at Tena Tena Camp this week I was surprised by Jacob, one of the waiters with breakfast on my veranda which was a real treat. As I breakfasted on scrambled eggs and coffee I sat watching a yellow billed stork trying to manage his first meal of the day. The stork had caught a large fish in the lagoon behind the camp which measured longer than his bill. Mission accomplished you would think - but no - the business of actually killing the fish proved somewhat difficult. The stork proceeded to flap around trying to kill the fish and kept dropping it into the lagoon and then quickly managing to grab it again - this happened about 5 times until finally the stork swallowed the fish whole after a 20 minute fight.
Later in the day I took a drive around the area and came across lots of game including giraffe, buffalo, elephants and various different antelope. Cats were elusive but probably sleeping in the shade as anyone other than a mad Englishwoman should have been doing. However, the next day Ross had to drop a guest at another camp and as he passed by the salt pan came across a pride of 15 lion on a fresh buffalo kill - of course I had decided to be lazy and stay in bed and therefore missed the spectacle. I went out for sundowners that evening and on the way back to camp saw a pair of hyenas munching on a bone and a white tailed mongoose. There is always something to see.
Stay well and have a great week, Cheers - Kim
Duba Plains Tented Camp June Update, July 6 2003
Duba Plains Tented Camp is located in Botswana's famed Okavango Delta and is reputed to have the highest density of lion in Africa. Here is the camp's June update:
The average minimum temperature was 11°C and the maximum 28°C. June saw several overcast days result in a very unseasonal 2mm of rain. The Okavango flood waters stabilized way below levels of the previous few years allowing us access to many more areas we do not normally reach during the flood season. The best news is we are able to reach the Paradise area again. Our first two crossing to Paradise proved extremely productive with a cheetah on a bushbuck kill, a big male leopard, the four Skimmer Male lions, a Cape clawless otter and pangolin being sighted. Other highlights of the Paradise area included a big herd of waterbuck (only area to see them at Duba), many huge crocodiles and large pods of hippo.
The cheetah seen at Paradise has surprisingly remained in the Duba area, successfully managing to out maneuver the lions and hyenas. A total of six sightings were enjoyed with the cheetah relaxing down more and more during each encounter. Lets hope she sticks around.
The hyena pups are growing up fast with the older individuals joining the adults on their nightly foraging. Their inexperience and lack of confidence shows as soon as a lion is spotted far off in the distance, they choose to take off at high speed in the opposite direction.
Elephant numbers are on the increase resulting in many wonderful hours being spent watching the amusing antics of the calves attempting to imitate the adults.
The usual host of nocturnal creatures was encountered, with one highlight being the Pantry Pride cubs at play with a pangolin rolled up into its defensive ball. This frustrated the cubs far too much to continue with the game, eventually getting bored and leaving it alone.
As usual the lions have provided us with many hours of fantastic game viewing. The lions were encountered on everyday of the month including 79 different pride sightings. We averaged 17 lions per day, tracking down 44 of the 53 lions during June. One may notice our total has risen from 49 to 53 individuals, this due to a Skimmer female finally bringing out some cubs. They were seen on the last day of the month, across the Paradise lagoon. Unfortunately they were some ways off, so we could not be sure if there were any more cubs or not. We presume these four cubs belong to one lioness, so here's hoping more will appear during July. Only four of the six Skimmer lionesses have been accounted for, perhaps the remaining two will appear with little ones in tow. Surprisingly one of the three-year-old lionesses was seen mating with the Paradise Males, whether she will actually conceive at such an early age, remains to be seen.
The Skimmer Males have provided us with some fine viewing. For the first time in many months they were actually located with three of the lionesses from their natal pride. This was short lived as the Paradise Males saw them the very same day. The Skimmer Males appear to be gaining in confidence, resulting in many more sightings of them, always looking well fed and in perfect shape. One fantastic sighting saw the Skimmer Males attack the younger Tsaro Males, managing to isolate one of them and giving him a hiding he would not forget in a hurry. The Skimmer Males have certainly made inroads with the Tsaro lionesses and were once again seen mating with one of the older lionesses. We're expecting many more of the Tsaro lionesses to come into season, hopefully this time most of them will conceive within a few months of each other. The Tsaro Males were not encountered for the last two weeks of June, ever since the Skimmer Males attacked them. This comes as no surprise. At four years of age they should be well on their way to a nomadic life style, until they are big and strong enough to challenge for their own territory. The five males have a very strong bond so should remain together to form an awesome coalition in a couple of years time. With the males away, the demand for food has significantly been reduced, allowing the Tsaro lionesses to focus their attention on hunting warthog.
Having said that, the viewing highlight of the Tsaro lionesses had to be them chasing the buffalo herd through a shallow flood plain. With all the confusion, eight lionesses jumped on six buffalo of varying sizes. The buffalo herd returned to help the captured individuals, successfully rescuing three adult buffalo. This left the lions with two calves and a sub adult buffalo to feast upon.
The Duba Boys were seen regularly, mostly trailing the Pantry pride or buffalo herd. They no longer get involved in any form of hunting, but prefer to scavenge from their lionesses. They continue to patrol their territory frequently, but only challenged their young sons, the Tsaro Males. One occasion saw the Tsaro Males successfully kill a female buffalo and her calf. The Pantry pride soon arrived, but nervously paced up and down in the distance. The Duba Boys came rushing in from nowhere, scattering the young males. One Tsaro Male attempted to stand up to Dad and received a severe beating for his efforts. Much to the satisfaction of the Pantry pride, they gained a free meal.
Most hunting sequences witnessed during June involved more than one pride of lionesses or coalition of male lions. Early June saw the Pantry pride following the buffalo near our staff village. They successfully brought down a buffalo calf and then a young bull buffalo, only for the Tsaro Males to arrive and distract the Pantry pride from finishing off the bull. The buffalo herd saw their opportunity and returned to bravely rescue the bull. The Pantry lionesses showed lots of confidence as soon as the Duba Boys turned up, successfully chasing the Tsaro Males off into the distance. The Pantry pride do know their limits however and were seen jumping on a buffalo close to the edge of their territory. The buffalo managed to fend them off and rejoin the herd, now in the Tsaro prides territory. The adult lionesses immediately retreated, leaving the inexperienced cubs to continue the hunt. The cubs soon realized they had no adult support and ran back yelping their frustrations at their mothers. A very wise decision as within minutes the nine Tsaro lionesses arrived, successfully killing a buffalo calf in the shallow water.
Still no sign of the Old Vumbura pride who must be experiencing successful hunting further to the north. With the lower flood levels, hopefully we will be able to reach their territory towards the latter part of the year. Hollywood (male lion) is wisely laying low and was not encountered this month.
The coming months are going to be extremely exciting with the potential arrival of many little cubs, even more territorial clashes between all the males and then between the various prides hunting the same herd of buffalo. Not to mention the cheetah, hyena den, increasing elephant numbers and the return of the migratory birds later in the season.
Vumbura Tented Camp Update, July 6 2003
Vumbura Tented Camp is located in Botswana's famed Okavango Delta and offers great water and land wildlife and activities. Here is the camp's June update:
Dr John Scollard ,a Vumbura guest, noted (sitting around the early winters' morning fire) "being in this place is like having a dialysis of the soul". Dr Scollard and his wife Diane, also a PhD., are preparing to write a book and it seems that Vumbura has been the catalyst that has enabled them to start the work which makes us here at Vumbura very proud indeed.
June has been, for us the staff, a memorable month. Guests have experienced magnificent sightings each day in this corner of the wilderness. How to choose certain highlights when each day has been spectacular! Perhaps to mention a few.
In all the safety briefings we have given we not only talk about safety in walking to and from the tents in the evening with the guide, but also what to do in the event of meeting dangerous animals during the day. In all my time in he camps, guests have only ever encountered ele's during the day. June was different, as the Vumbura pride often visited the camp (on six occasions coming into the lodge surrounds during breakfast and moving through the camp). On two occasions we abandoned breakfast and followed them on vehicles to witness the stalk and the kill of a buffalo. On another occasion, guests on a three day stay here saw the pride kill two buffaloes at one hunt, followed by a leopard killing a tsetsebe and sorry for this, the two Vumbura brothers (the big males), killing a zebra. Along side this action was the sighting of a relaxed caracal, two honey badgers, and a sighting of two other leopards not to mention the large grazing herds that are occupying the plains at the moment. I nearly forgot the aardvark!
Fortunate guests from England, whilst preparing tea on "Same Day" Island, during a break on morning's the mokoro safari, were surrounded by the ten lions who were busy hunting in the channels for lechwe. The guides, gathered the guests at an anthill and the two parties observed each other in silence, the lions with apparent curiosity and the guests with anticipation of the others' private thoughts. The lions ran off to carry on with their hunt for an appetizing meal. The guides explained that at no time did they feel threatened. Our pack of wild dogs are in the area, the female happily and thankfully for us, very pregnant. This bodes well for good wild dog sightings in the months to come.
Seven wattled cranes were sited together in the vicinity of the mopani bridge. Our cheetah made themselves visible with regularity as did another small pride of lions with three month old cubs, occupying the area near our hippo pools.
South African guests sited a pangolin on one of their trips and two purple galinules on the river, apparently, these birds are really common in India, but here it was a choice sighting. Guests coming in from the airstrip are treated to huge herds of zebra, wildebeest and tsessebe, on the open flood plains. The flood has started to arrive with the flood plains starting to deepen under water. It does not appear that it will be a huge flood but at least the flora and fauna relying on the water will now be content. Temperatures are at 10 degrees minimum and 25 degrees maximum.
Vumbura is a happy place, as I write this our waitresses and barladys at the lodge are busy singing away and laughing amongst each other. Yes its great to be here. Kind regards - Roger