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UPDATES FOR WEEK ENDING SUNDAY 30TH JUNE 2002:
Gametrackers Botswana Update, June 30 2002
Gametrackers Botswana was voted Africa's leading safari operator in 2001 at the World Travel Awards. Please find their May 2002 update below:
The weather throughout the region has been typical for this time of the year. Days have been warm to hot with cloudless skies, whilst the nights have been on the cooler side. The lowest recorded temperature for the month was 8 degrees Celsius and the highest was 35 degrees Celsius. The Okavango floodwaters have arrived! Much to the joy of guests and staff alike the annual flood waters started to enter the Xaxaba lagoon at Eagle Island Camp on the 18th. With the water levels now at 90cm at the jetty, the motorboats have been put back into operation. Mike reports that the Boro Channel (main channel) just in front of Eagle Island Camp is flowing strongly with the recently burnt areas being transformed into beautiful lakes and lagoons.
Further to the northeast at Khwai River lodge it appears that the Khwai River is also starting to receive some water. It is not clear if this increased flow is merely water from the 85mm of rain received in the area late in April or if this is indeed the start of the flood. Typically the floodwaters would only arrive in the Khwai area around July or even as late as August.
As for the broader picture, the annual flood is once again proving to be unpredictable. Water levels in the panhandle of the delta seem to be dropping sharply and all indications are that the 2002 Annual flood will be nothing more than average. As for the anticipated direction the main body of water will travel, who can say. Last year the western side of the delta received a major portion of the water. Current reports indicate this not to be the case in these initial stages of the flood.
During the month fires once again plagued Eagle Island Camp. This may seem almost unbelievable considering that the entire area had 'so to say' already been burnt. Never the less on the 10th and 18th of the month Xaxaba's bravest were called to fire fighting duty. No damage to the camp occurred.
Smoke from the fires throughout the region have made for some fantastic sunsets and although no actual burning has occurred in the Savute and Khwai areas, guests have also enjoyed the orange hues as the sun goes down.
The vegetation is starting to feel the affects of the change in season with many species starting to drop their leaves. Some however, like the huge Jackal berries around Eagle Island camp, are now coming into fruit, something very typical for this time of the year. Naturally the abundance of the large berry fruits drives the baboons and monkeys wild. The other advantage of course is that it keeps these menacing creatures occupied and hence, out of the camp staffs hair.
Also at Eagle Island, the Real Fan Palm fruits are showing signs of ripening and the baboons are targeting these two. We anticipate this not to be the case for very long as very soon I am sure the elephants will move in and start there annual onslaught on the palms both in and out of camp.
Khwai River Lodge is the place to be with one spectacular wildlife sighting after the other. The variety of sightings has been amazing and has included cheetah (mother & cub), zebra, wildebeest, giraffe, honey badger, civet, genet and bat eared fox. Harold reports how on two occasions the resident lion pride has disrupted dinner, for the guests that is, whilst they hunt the red lechwe in front of the swimming pool. Reports also indicate that all is not well within the lion prides. The resident pride males also known as "Bafana Bafana" (The Boys) after the South African National soccer team, seem to be under increasing pressure by a new force on the outskirts of their territory. This is not uncommon amongst lion and may ultimately see "Bafana Bafana" become "Banana Banana" if they are ousted by the new males.
At Savute large numbers of animals are congregating around the pumped water points. These are predominantly bull elephant as all the breeding herds tend to move to the more permanent water sources in the Chobe and Moremi. The number of elephant around the pumped pools will continue to grow as Savute moves into the dry winter months and at times may exceed 100 animals.
Some great bird sightings have been recorded throughout the camps. At Eagle Island Camp an incredible one off sighting of 52 Wattled cranes was recorded near the camp. Sadly the flock has not been seen again and this can most likely be attributed to the influx of the flood. Other unusual sightings have included crows! At Khwai guests coming off their evening drives are often being welcomed by an array of owls. At least four different species have been sighted and range from the biggest (Giant Eagle owl) to the smallest (Pearl spotted owl).
With the flood streaming in at Eagle Island and the water level at Khwai rising, the snakes have decided to head for higher ground. At both camps snake activity has been quite amazing despite the cooler weather. Sightings have included cobra, mamba, puff adder and green water snake. Crocodiles also seem to be enjoying the influx of fresh water and are seen regularly at both camps.
Khwai River lodge it seems has taken the brunt of most of the problems this month. Harold's encounters with the restless neighbors range from squirrels, to baboons, to hippo. It seems however that it is the elephants that are really getting Harold excited, he says "Suddenly our property is the main highway for anything that remotely looks like an elephant." The elephants have enjoyed trashing the potted plants, sometimes seemingly just to spite Harold. On occasion when he tries to chase the huge grey beasts out of the camp they simply walk up to a pot and kick it over.
Mothupi, one of Gametracker's most seasoned guides at Khwai River Lodge, recently experienced a sighting that not even he, after 30 odd years in the industry, could believe. Whilst out on a drive he very unexpectedly came across two of the most aggressive and lethal snakes in the African bush mating. The two 7 foot plus black mamba's were just as surprised by the unexpected interruption of the game drive vehicle and performed some sort of a dance, lifting two thirds of their bodies off the ground. Anxious to retreat to a safer distance Mothupi started to back up. No sooner had the vehicle started to roll backwards, did an already nervous guest yell stop. Mothupi in disbelief turned to see what the problem was; only two witness a leopard stealthily moving out from behind the vehicle. The leopard was also apparently very intrigued by the amorous antics of the snakes, uncertain of the safety aspect though the spotted feline seemingly used the car as a shield. After a few minutes of absolute silence, calm was restored as both mammal and reptile went their separate ways.
All reports indicate that the first cycle of tsetse spraying in the southern section of the Delta has been very successful. We are at this very moment into the second cycle of spraying. This is timed so that the next hatch of tsetse fly pupae is destroyed. To date their have been no reports from Eagle Island Camp of any detrimental effects on other animals or insects.
UPDATES FOR WEEK ENDING SUNDAY 16TH JUNE 2002:
Robin Popes Weekly Safari Update, June 16 2002
Robin and Jo Pope are two of Zambia's most well known safari personalities. The run a safari operation in the country's South Luangwa. Here is their weekly update:
Finally winter has arrived - we think! It is a rare luxury to wear long pants and shoes during the day...I've almost forgotten what it is like! It is especially lovely to sit close to the Nkwali campfire at sunset sipping some of Shanie's rather addictive mulled wine!
Some have taken to swimming in the pool in the early mornings and in the late afternoons. The water is lovely once immersed in it...
Happily the chilly weather hasn't stopped the wildlife from going about their business, much to the delight of guests. Nkwali has seen the return of the ele's which have been wandering through the camp during the daylight hours. Two large bull elephant, one with two large tusks and the other with just one, recently walked along the edge of river feeding along the way. Twice they have stopped outside my house and have begun to tear strips off my favorite acacia tree! The other day I was trapped inside my house and unable to get back to the office until they moved on - better than being stuck in a traffic jam I guess!
Keyala was taking guests on an early morning walk in the Chichele area the other day when the group found lion spoor. They followed the spoor for a while but could not locate the cats. Later that same afternoon they drove back to the same area and were rewarded with the sighting of two male lion. Whilst the group were quietly watching they could hear a very distinctive and clear lion cub mewing noises coming from underneath a culvert. From the sounds Keyala thinks that the baby cubs are only a couple of weeks old. One of the two males would most likely be the father. How exciting!
Nsefu Camp has had an outstanding start to the season. Jason and Buffy report that wildlife viewing has been very good indeed. Paul has become known as the Cat King with every drive he has taken resulting in at least one leopard sighting! He is seeing lots of cats including a large male leopard sleeping atop a termite mound all afternoon (perfect camera moment!) and a serval cat at the salt pan. Leopard sightings have been ABSOLUTELY outstanding! On one night, between Jacob and Daudi (who had come across from Tena Tena Camp) five different leopard were seen on the same night! Of course this sighting rate cannot be guaranteed throughout the season and I don't want to press the point too often about leopard at Nsefu, but Jason was so excited I just had to share it all this week!
Jason also tells me that there have been quite a few sightings of Pel's fishing owl this week and a large buffalo herd on Mtanda Plain. Daudi, on his way from Tena Tena, saw a bushy tailed mongoose chasing a scrub hare - quite a rare sight! So lots of action up in the Nsefu Sector along with the bush looking absolutely beautiful and the birding excellent. At this time of year everything smells so fresh, being the end of the rains and a lot of the bush is still quite green. It is the perfect time of year for early morning walks - extremely refreshing!
Kwando's Wild Dogs Are Back, June 16 2002
The Kwando Concession in northern Botswana is the largest private wildlife area in the country. For the 6th consecutive year a well known pack of wild dogs have decided to set up home about 7 kilometers from Kwando's Lagoon camp. Since 1997, the experienced Kwando Safaris trackers have managed to locate the den sites of this pack of wild dogs (averaging 16 individuals).Each year the competition amongst the guides and trackers to be the first to locate the den site is intense.
Not only is this a first in Botswana in terms of locating the den site(s) for 6 years in a row, but also there are a number of other secrets that the Kwando guides are revealing about these fascinating animals, their behavior, and unique social system. Never before has it been recorded that one female, the alpha female, can remain dominant so consistently, and give birth and raise an average of over 10 pups per year, and a total of 59 to date!
Besides viewing the interesting behavior associated with the den, hunting wild dogs have allowed Kwando guests to witness some unique experiences in the last 5 years. They have hunted and interacted with some interesting species - from leopard to the shy pangolin. The antics of the puppies around the den site leaves guests enthralled.
In terms of pure excitement and the most dramatic visual display of animal behavior, the wild dogs are by far the most interesting of the African predators.
UPDATES FOR WEEK ENDING SUNDAY 9TH JUNE 2002:
King's Pool Tented Camp May Report, June 9 2002
King's Pool Tented Camp is located in wildlife rich northern Botswana. Here is the camp's May report:
One of the highlights this month would most definitely have been the presence of a leopard in camp. He was the most relaxed leopard that we have ever come across and he hung around as if he wanted our company. When walking a guest from his or her room the leopard would come running past with baboons chasing him - all very exciting! He has been seen in the vicinity many times.
Other wildlife has also been amazing! We have had lions through camp many times, treating us to great morning wakeups. A male lion has been roaring across the river. This has attracted our two males who have been responding. The King's Pool pride has 3 cubs which are growing. They are currently busy feeding of a giraffe that they killed two days ago.
We should not forget the ever present elephants in and around the camp. Our sunken hide is proving a very popular place to be, even the hide within camp is very productive with elephants feeding off the fever berries meters from the front! The buffalo are back in the area and are regularly seen.
With regard to the weather it has been very comfortable, with chilly mornings mixed with warm to hot afternoons.
Mombo Camp May Update, June 9 2002
Mombo Camp is located within Botswana's famed Moremi Wildlife Reserve. Here is the camp's May update:
May has been a month of contrasts - rising floodwaters have painted golden floodplains an emerald green and herds of buffalo and lechwe are enjoying this new food bonanza. The weather has been remarkably warm with just the odd cold snap hinting at winter. The camp has been exceptionally busy and feedback from guests as well has been outstanding with the obvious highlight for everyone being the incredible wildlife viewing!
Big breeding herds of elephants have returned and have joined up with the smaller numbers of elephant that have been around all summer, and have provided guests with some special moments. It is quite amazing watching familiar herds returning and teaching their young the favorite feeding grounds and drinking spots.
The big cats have also been obliging. 3 of our lion prides have tiny cubs some of which were brought out of hiding by their mothers for the first time - little bundles of fur with blue eyes! The dominant Wheatfield boys still hold their own and hopefully will continue to do so giving the new cubs a good chance of surviving.
Female leopards have been hotly contesting the recently tragically vacated territory of the Bird Island female - still no clear winners as yet! The Burned Ebony male has totally recovered from his brush with death last month and remains fully in control of his kingdom!
A female cheetah was seen with 2 approximately 6 week old cubs after a fairly long absence and will hopefully remain in the area. Wild dogs were seen as well - a pack of 10 ran in, caused some panic amongst the impala and then ran out 2 days later! We were hoping they were searching for a den site in the area but alas they have not been seen since!
A nomadic male lion seen quite frequently around camp provided some action in camp by hunting a herd of buffalo who had bedded down for the night in camp. He managed to get right amongst the herd and dash in to grab a small calf before the panicked buffalo regrouped and started chasing him around the tents! Eventually the buffalo retreated and the lion was able to claim his meal and drag it to a palm island to eat in peace. All of this was observed by 15 very excited guests crammed into room 8!
The rhinos have settled in and apart from a couple who appear to enjoy extensive wanderings - they are all still around Chief's Island. There have been frequent sightings of them on wildlife viewing drives and we suspect that 2 have possibly even starting mating!
Chikwenya Camp May Report, June 9 2002
Chikwenya Camp is located along the border of northern Zimbabwe's remote Mana Pools National Park. Here is the camp's May report.
Zimbabwe is still alive and well and the wildlife is flourishing! 2002 is the 20th year of Chikwenya´s operation, built in 1982 by John Stevens. The camp has seen a lot of change during this time but it is still the same amazing piece of paradise that so many have fallen in love with. Many people have passed through here and have participated in a fantastic experience, some as staff and most as guests - a lot of these people returning time after time.
The same group of elephants that have been around the camp for at least thirteen years have moved back in and are being seen almost daily in or around the camp. The old matriarch, a large and very placid tusk-less cow, appears to have found the mythical elephant graveyard and moved on to other grazing grounds. It will be very interesting to spend some time following the herd and observe who has taken over as matriarch and what the herd structure is now. The herd has certainly grown and has also split into sub-herds; what look to be like approximately 6 month old twins being the latest addition.
The leopard sightings are getting progressively better but unfortunately the large baboon population in the open woodland is hindering daytime viewing, as the baboons react aggressively to any leopards seen. Two sub-adult leopards are very relaxed and are often seen near the camp.
A small group of young and wary eland wandered into the concession and were seen on a number of days, a very early sighting for us. Normally these large and beautiful antelope are only seen from about August onwards. At the moment the herds are away from the river, being a browser they can normally extract all their moisture requirements from their food and only when the Acacia albidas start dropping their highly nutritious pods do they make their way down into the open woodlands.
Porcupine are very active throughout the concession and are being seen frequently on the night drives, their spoor also being found in the camp and along the roads every morning.
Temperatures have been surprisingly warm for this time of the year and probably this, plus the late rain we had in April, has led to numerous plant species still flowering and fruiting totally out of season. The attractive and delicate flowers of the Zambezi tail-flower are blooming, their long petals fluttering in the breeze deceive one of the deadly nature of this plant, a common source of poison by the San people for their arrows for hunting.
Bird sightings have included Narina Trogon, purple banded and coppery sunbirds, large numbers of white breasted and black cuckooshrikes, yellow-spotted nicators, Livingstone's and paradise flycatchers, red- throated twinspots, rednecked falcons, a bathawk, osprey, cape teal, black stork, openbill storks and collared palm thrushes being some of the best sightings.
UPDATES FOR WEEK ENDING SUNDAY 2ND JUNE 2002:
Cheli and Peacock's Mara Camp Update, June 2 2002
The plentiful rain in the Mara during the last few weeks has greened up the plains and filled all the dry water courses and holes and the animals have dispersed over a wide area. The Musiara Marsh is still popular with the elephant with over 250 counted recently by visitors to Mara Camp. The Acacia Pride of lion (2 males & 6 females) has three new junior members and 2 more cubs have been sighted with the Marsh Pride. Leopard have been regularly sighted around camp although the cheetah family have moved off to a new hunting ground.
Cheli and Peacock's Mara Camp is now closed for the season, the whole camp packed into lorries and stored until it is put up again in June, to allow the grass and bush to regenerate, in line with Cheli & Peacock's environmental policy to leave no traces of habitation in this beautiful wilderness area. When the camp goes up again it's with a whole new look, new managers and even new toilets! Flush toilets (formerly used at the Laikipia Camp) will go into each en-suite bathroom. Also hand carved wooden beds and other decorative furnishings in the tents and a bigger mess tent with sofas and scatter cushions to enhance the comfort and welcome of this traditional seasonal bush camp.
UPDATES FOR WEEK ENDING SUNDAY 26TH MAY 2002:
Chitabe Camp Fire, May 26 2002
Chitabe Camp, located in Botswana's Okavango Delta, experienced a fire which burned one of the rooms and the main area. Apparently the fire was started by grass collectors, collecting grass in the Okavango to the north east of the camp. They started a veld fire somehow and this fire spread rapidly across a huge area many, many miles and towards the camp. The fire jumped the massive firebreak.
Wilderness Safaris are not sure when they can get Chitabe back up and fully operational. They have a full building team in the Okavango finishing off a other work and will move them into Chitabe immediately to start repairing the damage.
Robin Pope's Zambia Update, May 26 2002
Robin Pope is one of Zambia's leading safari operators. Here is their weekly update:
Nsefu Camp has recently reopened. We have had two leopard sighting in three days - not a bad start! On one night drive guests saw a spotted eagle owl, a Pel's fishing owl and a leopard in the Nsefu sector. As if to herald the new season and acknowledge the return of all camp staff, a rather large male lion walked past the bar on pre-opening night whilst all the staff were assembled! He was about 50 meters away - and he walked very casually by in the dark. So far Nsefu is upholding its name for close encounters!!!
With regards to the guides Jason will be backed up by one of our most enthusiastic and spirited guides, Mr. Jacob Shawa. This will be Jacob's fourth season with us. He is famous for the huge amount of knowledge he has stored away and is only too happy to be bouncing around the Park sharing it all with his guests. Paul Ngoma, who guided at Nkwali last year, will be based at Nsefu this year. Paul also has many years behind him as a guide in the Valley.
The Nsefu sector is just lovely at the moment - the bush is still green, the lagoons are full and teeming with life. Wildlife is starting to concentrate already - Simon saw a few buffalo herds over the past couple of days. Nkwali has had excellent lion sightings this week with the Chichele pride very active. Over the past two days they killed two zebra and on both occasions were seen feeding on the carcass. Some guests had a truly bone-chilling but TOTALLY exciting experience recently when they came across a pride of 5 lion. They all gave out a territorial pride call in unison! The sound filled the air - you could simply feel it - and made the wildlife viewing vehicle vibrate! How brilliant!
UPDATES FOR WEEK ENDING SUNDAY 12TH MAY 2002:
Chikwenya Camp April Update, May 12 2002
Chikwenya Camp is located on the eastern boundary of Mana Pools National Park in remote northern Zimbabwe. It was one of the highest quality wildlife viewing destinations in all of Africa. Here is the camps report for April 2002:
For those familiar with Zimbabwe, April brings clear skies, fantastic visibility, awesome night skies and a slight crisp in the air heralding the beginning of the cool dry season. This year - somebody, somewhere got it all wrong!
April turned out to be a typical February with gray skies, low cloud, rain and more rain! Nature responded with trees coming into flower, new grass shoots, active insects and the migratory birds which were scheduled to leave, changed their flight plans and extended their departures times. Overnight, the dry riverbed of the Sapi turned into a brown torrent, extending +/-200 meters from bank to bank with standing waves. Staff of 20 years in this camp confirmed that they had never in their time seen such a spectacular scene and we considered ourselves highly privileged.
Slowly the sun came out, the rain stopped, the Sapi River stopped it's torrential five day flow and the Zambezi changed color from chocolate brown to blue/green. As the land started to dry up once more, the animals came out of their hiding places, away from the river, and made their way towards it. Things started looking a lot better during the last half of the month. As this year's rainfall has been unusually low, the animal sightings, have been good. Soon after the deluge, the presence of lions increased, to where on a daily basis, they have been heard calling around the camp and on a couple of occasions seen. Leopards have also been seen, once with cubs and on another occasion crossing the now dry Sapi river bed. One cool early morning, whilst the guests were busy "kick-starting" their busy safari day which could include any one of the six activities on offer, a cheetah crossed the Sapi river in full view of everybody. The hot coffee and rusks were quickly exchanged for the bino's and we all watched as this beautiful and elusive animal cross gracefully in front of the camp. Not three days later the same thing happened but this time a magnificent leopard.
Another great sighting for the month was a group of nyala seen near the Sapi River. The stunning animals are only seen in this area and in the South East part of the country. The rest of the month was very busy with all sorts of activities: walking in the dense forest of the Sapi, driving through the breathtaking acacia albida woodland, one of the largest in the world and pontooning the mighty Zambezi in search of the ultimate African Sunset. Canoeing the same river provides more excitement as the hippos and crocodiles add an element of adrenaline to this alternative adventure.
Undoubtedly one of the most memorable moments of the month was watching the close proximity of five of our neighboring planets at sunset. The position of Mercury, Venus, and Mars could be seen as they changed on a daily basis.
For those guests which find fishing a great challenge or the perfect way to relax, the morning and afternoon trips have been incredibly productive, large Bream being caught and served for as starters the same day. The biggest Tiger Fish caught this month was a 12.5 Lbs., not only did it fight all the way into the boat, but it created a topic of conversation for the next two days!
Rather than set off for a siesta after our open air bunch some of our guests opt to rather spend a few hours in one of our many platforms spread around the concession. The quietness and the stillness allowing you to observe nature at it's best. And so in this Garden of Eden, the hours become days, which in turn changed into weeks and before you knew, the busy month of April came to an end.
Robin Pope Zambia Update, May 12 2002
Robin Pope is one of Zambia's leading safari operators. Here is their latest update:
Kevin and his team of bridge-builders managed to successfully finish their mission at the Kauluzi River last week and now the Tena Tena Camp and Nsefu Camp building program is well under way (without any vehicles getting stuck in the river and hampering the process)! Wildlife viewing at Tena Tena leapt into action well before camp opening with Daudi's report of a middle-of-the-night lion kill RIGHT in camp, and rather inconveniently between Daudi's tent and the toilet block! A puku was killed by a small pride and the grizzly sounds kept all the camp builders wide awake for several hours. Poor Daudi was stranded in his tent, unable to pay the toilet block a quick visit! An outstanding (if not inconvenient) start to the Tena Tena season!
Shanie's parents departed Nkwali the other day having recorded 173 sightings of different species of bird...in one week!! Amongst others they saw Twinspoted-Widowfinch, Purplebanded-Sunbird, cut-throat finch and an Ayres eagle. For these birding enthusiasts, their safari could not have been better and they were quite pleased with themselves to have such a high bird sighting tally. This week has also seen most guests walking at every opportunity - the ground is quite dry now so areas available for treading on foot are opening up very quickly. In fact there have been so many requests for walking that we have had to bring in another scout to cope with the demand! I'm not surprised of course - the mornings are so beautiful that you do just want to get out of your chalet at sunrise and go for a lovely long walk in the bush!
Apart from the birding and walking we have enjoyed excellent lion sightings this week. Most drives have encountered lion and one of the most interesting was a sighting by Simon and guests out on the Chichele plains. Six females from the Chichele pride had recently killed an impala. The interesting thing about it was that the pride and their kill were down in a waterlogged gully. It was as though the lion were hiding in the gully and that was how they snatched the unknowing impala! These gullies around the Park still contain lots of very muddy water...and the pride with impala kill resembled alien figures dipped in chocolate! The mud was just dripping off the lion and the kill....you couldn't see any animal fur or flesh except for the big yellow eyes of the lion as they devoured the impala. Quite spooky.
During a drive behind Nkwali Camp on Robin's private land we saw six species of mammal in one sighting - giraffe, zebra, elephant, baboon, puku and impala.
The ele's have returned to Nkwali with 3 big bulls wandering through each day and night plus a breeding herd came up to the lagoon 2 mornings ago. I often hear the sounds of the bulls moving through camp late at night but last night I slept through it. Now, as I sit typing away, there is a very fresh pile of elephant dung just outside my office window. Oh how lovely it is to breath in that fresh whiff of the African bush in the morning!
UPDATES FOR WEEK ENDING SUNDAY 5TH MAY 2002:
Duba Plains Tented Camp April Update, May 5 2002
Duba Plains Tented Camp is located in the Okavango Delta region of northern Botswana. It is noted for having the highest density of lion in Africa and herds of buffaloes in the thousands…
As expected the Okavango floodwaters started arriving into the Delta around the 7th of April. However the water's arrival has been much slower than the previous two years. Almost all areas of the concession are still accessible, allowing the guides to drive to all the lion pride territories. With the onset of winter, the collapsed Sycamore Fig tree has been well utilized as fuel for evening fires.
April will go down as a month of unusual wildlife sightings. The month began with a sighting of the pregnant cheetah from previous months, now lactating. We suspect her cubs are being kept some kilometers to the north of the camp, in a dryer region. Later in the month we had our first sightings, in more than a year, of aardwolf, sable and wild dog. Whether this indicates of a dryer season or not, remains to be seen, but things are definitely pointing in that direction. It's unlikely these animals will remain here as the floods rise, but hopefully they will return later in the year. Other highlights included several sightings of our relaxed young male leopard and one of an adult male leopard feeding on a baboon, far from the safety of any trees. It appears a female leopard has moved into the immediate area of the camp, as her tracks are seen regularly on the pathways, not to mention the nervous screeching of our resident baboon and monkey troops. Two new six to eight week old hyena pups are being seen at the den. They are extremely relaxed in the presence of vehicles and take great pleasure in investigating the vehicle tires. Just as all the remaining waterholes and channels were drying up and the waterbirds migrating from the area, the flood arrived, rejuvenating the floodplains and bringing a myriad of birds back. With the return of the water, buffalo and elephant herds are spending more time out in the floodplains feeding on the lush, new couch grass.
April was another successful month with the lions. A total of 41 pride sightings were had, with an average of 12 lions a day. Slightly down from previous months, but this can be attributed to the shift in territories with the onset of the floods. The Tsaro pride is pushing further into the Pantry prides territory, resulting in the Pantry pride moving their cubs more to the east. Unfortunately we only got to see this pride once this month, but from their recent roarings, it sounds as if they are moving back into an accessible area. We look forward to seeing how many of the 10 cubs have survived this testing time. With the Pantry pride moving further to the east, it has allowed the long absent Old Vumbura pride (2 adult females and 5 x 19 month olds) to show themselves again. On one occasion they were seen picking off a buffalo calf from the back of a large herd. The Skimmer pride continues to push the Tsaro pride to the south and east. The 2 Skimmer subadult males have been seen pressing a long way into the Tsaro pride's area and are definitely building up confidence. The Duba Boys continue to chase them away regularly, only to have them return the very next morning. All 12 of the Skimmer pride are doing well, however, the young cubs are not getting as much food as they should, looking fairly skinny. This is most likely due to the subadult males stealing most of the kills. Fortunately, the next day they had well rounded stomachs after feeding on a buffalo while the Duba Boys saw off the 2 subadult males.
As usual, the stars of the month were the Tsaro pride. All 14 lions are extremely fit and well, albeit with a few wounded rear legs. In total 14 buffalo kills were seen and one unfortunate warthog. The lions are focusing on the new born buffalo calves, often catching 3 or 4 in a day. For the first time we are seeing the buffalo numbers being reduced, especially as so many of the calves have been killed. One exceptional sighting saw the Tsaro pride pull down 3 adult buffalo at once, only to be aggressively chased off by the returning herd. All 3 buffalo managed to get to their feet and rejoin the herd. The lions did not give up there, but continued to pursue the herd for another four hours. For a short while they attempted to capture an adult male hippo before heading back to the buffalo again. Several lions are sporting the scars of battles lost, mostly to their back legs where they have been gored by the buffaloes' horns.
With the flood rising and the lions establishing their new boundaries, we look forward to an exciting month of May. That's it for another wonderful month on the plains of Duba.
Mombo Camp April Update, May 5 2002
Mombo Camp is located with Botswana's Moremi Reserve. The Moremi Reserve is noted by many as being THE premier wildlife viewing location in all of southern Africa. Many traveler's have noted that no trip to Botswana would be complete without staying at Mombo Camp.
April at Mombo was a busy yet festive and action packed month! 25 millimeters of rain late n the middle of the month filled up the rapidly drying waterholes. Apart from that all signs have been towards the approaching winter: the baobab trees shedding their leaves, early morning mist hanging over the expectant floodplains, the summer-loving woodland kingfishers have taken their cue and departed for warmer climes, and testosterone-charged impala rams have been running around in circles frantically trying to impress as many females as possible! But the biggest event heralding winter occurred around the 17th of the month - the new floodwaters started pushing in along the main channels after months of travel from their headwaters in Angola's Benguela Plateau. In 3 days the floodplain in front of camp was transformed from a dry expanse into a shimmering blue lake with a myriad of birds following its advance. By all accounts the flood this year will be small, possibly meaning we will still be able to access areas that usually get too flooded. The Delta though is a remarkably dynamic place and only time will tell what paths the waters will follow this year.
Wildlife sightings have been amazing: With regards to lions the Steroid Boys have been making regular appearances as well as a whole host of lion cubs from different prides - the Wheatfield Boys have maintained their stronghold on their territory despite incursions by numerous nomads - providing the ideal secure environment for the raising of cubs. On one occasion we witnessed one of them bring down a zebra right in front of camp in the morning in an amazing display of an adult male lion's hunting prowess - not quite as elegant as a lioness but just as effective!
But by far the most amazing sighting involved 3 of the major predators in a drama that was played out in broad daylight less than 1 kilometer from camp: the Burned Ebony male, the dominant male leopard, attempted to bring down an adult female wildebeest (an animal probably more than twice his weight). Somehow it all went horribly wrong and the wildebeest managed to gore the leopard and actually impale him on her horns - he was not fatally injured but was completely immobile due to the horn through the skin near his front leg. The wildebeest could also not move since the leopard was just too heavy to pick up and the leopard could not effect the killing bite because of his precarious position! The commotion of course attracted every hyena in the area (if you've ever heard a wildebeest death bleat you'll understand!) By the time we arrived (having also been alerted in typical scavenger fashion!) we found 5 hyenas disemboweling the wildebeest from the rear and the leopard stuck on the front end! The hyenas continually tried to get at the leopard as well to secure a two meals in one deal but were repelled by one paw the leopard had free and his intimidating growls indicating he was very much alive! But the leopard was clearly living on borrowed time and the look in his eyes indicated he knew it! Eventually the hyenas feeding activities killed the wildebeest and they moved the carcass in such a way that the leopard could painfully pull himself off the horn. He sat for a while licking his wounds and growling his disapproval as the 5 hyenas tore into his meal. Suddenly, all the hyenas scattered in unison as a nomadic male lion came tearing out of the bush, fortunately the Burned Ebony male was also able to pick himself up and make haste to the nearest tree. As the nomad began tucking into this unexpected bonanza he too suddenly became very alert, and, entering from stage right we saw the Matata Pride of 7 lions running in - and with them one of the Wheatfield Boys! About 20 meters out the Wheatfield male stopped and stared in disbelief as he saw the strange male standing over the wildebeest carcass! It took a few seconds for this blatant act of territorial disrespect to register before he started chasing the nomad across the floodplain, roaring his annoyance! By this time the pride had settled down and proceeded to enjoy their opportunistic meal.
A 30 minute drama that we were very fortunate and privileged to have witnessed! Although we were very concerned, the story ends well for the Burned Ebony male, as he was seen a week later doing his rounds and marking territory seemingly none the worse for wear - although I'm sure he'll think twice before attempting anything on an adult wildebeest again!
Robin Pope's Safaris Update, May 5 2002
Robin and Jo Pope run one of Zambia's premier safari operations. Please find their latest update below:
I'm sitting at my desk on this chilly Monday morning, summarizing what I consider to be newsworthy events over the past week. And yes, it is all about the wonderful weather and lots of wildlife viewing! For instance, word has come through this morning about a sighting of two male leopards and a lion in the bush opposite Nkwali camp.
Yesterday I enjoyed a lovely afternoon activity. We boated across the river from the Nkwali bar to a waiting vehicle and drove off into the Park - all very quick and civilized! I was astounded to see so many elephant on one outing - they were dotted all over the plains, large gray mounds looming above the tall grasses, with the occasional flapping of the ear to confirm their identities! Lots of little ones as well! We had sundowners by the lagoon next to the Big Baobab and at least six adult eles came down to the edge to drink, completely unfussed by our presence - in the fading orange light it was all very beautiful! On the same outing we drove up to three redbilled hornbills having a dust bath in the middle of the road, lowering their bodies onto the ground and kicking up a storm of dust. At sunset we saw about six Abdim's storks flying overhead...soon they will head north for the European summer. And seen through the thick bush we saw a large buffalo herd...it sounded like there were hundreds of them with all the branch snapping and synchronized mooing going on!
Sighting of the week certainly went to Simon, Shanie, Jill and Bruce on Saturday during a morning walk. As they approached the Katete riverbed they could see two male lion, both fast asleep, one lying with its legs in the air! They stirred awake with the walkers watching from a safe distance. The lions didn't know what was happening...groggy eyed, they looked at the walkers and then skulked off into the grass. Along the way the walkers enjoyed some excellent birding, including the rarely seen purple banded sunbird and a cut-throat finch. In the early evening they also saw a beautiful spotted eagle owl and a spotted dikkop, both uncommonly seen in the area. An excellent day for birding enthusiasts!