UPDATES FOR WEEK ENDING SUNDAY 19TH OCTOBER 2003:
Robin Pope's Zambia Update, October 19 2003
Robin and Jo Pope run several very successful safari camps in Zambia. Here is their weekly update:
Big news of the week - Simon and his intended saw a cape clawless otter at croc bridge whilst on a game drive at Nsefu with Shanie's parents - a very unusual sighting for the area. Bruce and Jill then came back to Nkwali and pointed out a whimbrel on the opposite bank - this migrant is an uncommon bird to be seen here and so they certainly win the most unusual sightings award for this week.
Nsefu lions have been in action again. With the 2 males already full and one female off giving birth (hopefully) the remaining 3 females went hunting in the bright moonlight. Following some surprisingly intelligent stalking they managed to bring down an impala and one of them proudly emerged with a foetus - a somewhat gruesome first sighting of the season of a baby impala. In the same vein a baby bushbuck was taken by a baboon just behind Nkwali and the adult bushbuck spent quite some time chasing the the baboons around in circles trying to get it back - obviously to no avail.
On the same drive as the baby impala incident, Ed saw a leopard dragging a recently killed impala off the stork colony.
Meanwhile Paul is now our wildebeest man - he has seen a herd this week and more were spotted at the salt pan. Paul has also seen the somewhat elusive males lions from the salt pan pride. Jacob continues his honey badger bonanza and also saw a penant winged night jar on the wafwa.
Just had a short break to pop across the camp and see over 100 buffalos drinking from the other side of the river - fabulous.
Rekero Tented Camp, October 19 2003
Rekero Tented Camp is located in Kenya's Masai Mara Conservation area. Here is the camp's latest update:
After a very busy September we are now into the end of the migration or so it feels, although there are still huge concentrations of wildebeest on the plains. Large columns of wildebeest will soon be heading south across the main paradise crossings, through the Trans Mara and down into the Lamai Wedge into western Tanzania.
It is through the Lamai Wedge that they are again very vulnerable. This area to the west of the Serengeti is hunted by Watende (Kuria) tribesmen with their wire snares and packs of hunting dogs that take their toll yet again on the wildebeest herds.
Largely outside the control of the parks authorities, a boundary line drawn through a map splitting the path of the wildebeest is again an example of population pressure and habitat destruction due to the human population just being too successful at this particular time on our planet. No doubt Mother Nature will rectify this imbalance in the process of evolution.
Today some parts of the Mara experienced heavy local thunderstorms which no doubt will hold back pockets of wildebeest a little longer.
The influx of tourists and wildebeest subsides to the true peace and tranquility of this vast wilderness. After the October dry spell with large mammals concentrated on the permanent water, we enter the short rains in November and experience a period of clear blue skies in December. The distant hills look so close you feel they can be touched. This has to be the best time for scenic photography. The lion prides return to feeding on buffalo, warthogs, and the solitary bachelor wildebeest and the zebras that are disinclined to follow the masses.
We have recently been seeing a male leopard close to the junction of the Mara and Talek rivers just south of the tented camp with an injured back. We do not approach too close as he is very uncomfortable and lets the guides know it!! He has been feeding on wildebeest carcasses abandoned by hyenas and lions and is living in a aardvark hole away from the river on the plains which suggests that he is the casualty of a fight with another male leopard.
Upstream is a mother leopard with two cubs being filmed by the BBC and their accompanying fleet of vehicles. I hear that they are now finished filming and about to pull out with the film crew. We shall visit this family when all is quiet again. It has always amazed me how many leopard sightings we have experienced in a relatively small area up and down the Talek River, which flows adjacent to the tented camp. This piece of Africa must have one of the highest densities of leopards primarily due to the abundance of prey and superb habitat.
At Rekero Cottages the water hole has truly lived up to its reputation. Visited daily by large herds of zebra, impala, waterbuck, warthog, baboons, buffalo and of course the three resident herds of elephant plus a lot of strange groups of elephant who move up into the hills at this time of the year to get away from the wildebeest masses. Two sets of cheetah cubs are to be seen on the Aitong Plains again, after an absence of successful rearing in the last two years. In fact all the cheetah in the Mara are again increasing, perhaps due to a drop off in the hyena population. I assume this is all cyclic.
Tim Trench Safaris Update, October 19 2003
Tim Trench Safaris operate in Kenya. Here is their latest update:
As usual I am just back from a safari, and as usual just off on another. Travelling with guests very keen on photography, we had a great 12 day trip, visiting Samburu, Lake Nakuru, Lake Victoria and the Masai Mara. True to recent form, we again saw more than we could have ever hoped and ended the trip elated.
We saw lion and cheetah on kills, crocodiles taking zebra, and elephants galore, but the highlight for me, because of its unusual nature, was our cultural afternoon with the beautiful Samburu people of North Kenya. While on a game drive we "bumped into" a warrior acquaintance who happened to be wandering along the elephant infested banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River. As we were keen to witness and photograph "real" Samburu culture away from the inevitable influences of mass tourism, our warrior agreed to take us to his village to see his family. No singing and dancing for the visitors, just a glimpse into the real world of this warrior / pastoralist people.
After an hours drive out of the park and into the back of beyond, punctuated with the odd stop for elephants, we arrived at the Samburu "enkang", or village. This encampment comprised perhaps 20 souls, only our warriors' immediate family - mother, father, brothers and wives, children and unmarried sisters, all existing in simple isolation. After introductions all round, and a polite declination of a "cup of tea", we were given the guided tour while life went on around us. Their way of life and its simple intricacies were fascinating. For us as people who would rather remove inconveniences of nature than try and fit in to her mosaic, it was humbling to gain a basic understanding of how they have evolved their culture to survive in relative harmony with their harsh environment.
As dusk drew in and we prepared to leave, the cattle returned from grazing in the surrounding bush, to be kraaled for the night against predator attack. In the fading light we watched as they bled a heifer of a liter or two of blood, to be mixed with her milk, for their evening meal. Timeless experience.
UPDATES FOR WEEK ENDING SUNDAY 5TH OCTOBER 2003:
Robin Pope's Weekly Zambia Update, October 5, 2003
Robin and Jo Pope run several very successful safari camps in Zambia. Here is their weekly update:
I have just come back from a couple of days off in Lusaka so am full of the joys of spring. A couple of days is quite long enough in the big smoke and I did enjoy the novelty of eating out and choosing what to eat from a menu and ordering take away pizza! As you can see it doesn't take much to make me happy. I also had a new glam hair do, however, on returning all I seem to be attracting are geckos!
First one fell on my head and then this morning I was sitting have my morning wake up coffee at 6:15 AM when I felt a thump on my back. I leapt up with a screech, fearing that a snake had fallen onto me from the roof. Kipe, one of the airwaves pilots had to come to my rescue and take 2 geckos from my back. Nervous laughter followed as I had a quick look up at the rafters to see if these geckos had jumped to escape the jaws of a predator, I then made a hasty retreat to my office.
Shanie is on good form and wandering around showing her thigh to anyone who is interested... She was stung by a bee yesterday and the guys are all queuing up to inspect the damage - needless to say Simon is beating them off with a stick.
The Nsefu lion cubs have appeared earlier than expected and are proving very popular with guests and staff alike. The lioness introduced the 2 males and a female to the pride a few days ago and they look to be only about 4 or 5 weeks old. It is fascinating to watch them playing and interacting with the rest of the pride, who seem quite happy for the guests to sit and watch them. Their are also 2 lactating leopards in the area and I am sure that it is just a matter of time before they are seen too.
Paul had the great fortune of finding a herd of some 30 wildebeest at the salt pan the other day - great to see them back after a long absence. And Jacob continues to spot a whitewinged tern at Casicisi lagoon.
Meanwhile still on the cub theme, Marcus had a super sighting of a leopard cub whilst walking with guests near the Nkwali pontoon. New life seems to be appearing everywhere.
The mobile safaris have now finished for another season and certainly went out with a bang. Daudi took 6 American guests for the last mobile, all of whom had been friends since school and by all accounts had a ball. They were lucky enough to have good sightings of eland, buffalo and 3 lions on walks. However, the best was definitely left until last. Driving back from the Mupamudzi site 2 caracals were spotted in the road just by Zebra Pans and then to the amazement of all a 3rd appeared and they all trotted down the road in front of the car before disappearing off into the bushes - a very clear sighting and quite rare. As if this was not enough 8 roan antelope were then seen near Lundu plains just after the big baobab. A great finale for the mobile crew.
Stay well and have a great week, Cheers - Kim
UPDATES FOR WEEK ENDING SUNDAY 28TH SEPTEMBER 2003:
Duba Plains Tented Camp August Update, September 28 2003
Duba Plains Tented Camp is located in Botswana's Okavango Delta and is reputed to have the highest density of lion in Africa. Here is the camp's latest update:
The average minimum temperature was 8°C and the maximum 31°C. As expected, there was no sign of any rain, or cloud build up for that matter. Most of the month was pretty chilly, except for the last few days, which suddenly saw the midday temperature rise to 34°C. Jackets are still called for however, but not for much longer. The floodwaters are finally receding at a rapid rate. Daily, one can notice a difference in water levels when crossing over the bridge. We are now able to access the majority of our concession, but generally only utilize about half of it. There has been so much awesome game viewing close to the camp, that we have only made it as far as the Paradise area on a handful of occasions.
Elephant numbers are way up, with several large herds sighted daily. Almost like clock work, the elephants come visiting through camp after brunch. There is one remaining muddy pool in front of the tents in which the elephants have chosen to take their daily mud baths. After bathing, they then move into the camp to scrounge around for the many fallen Jackalberries around the tents. This has proved most popular with all our guests, only occasionally causing them to miss part of their midday siestas. There were a couple of leopard and cheetah sightings towards the beginning of the month, but nothing on a regular basis. The cheetah are simply hassled too much by the lions and hyenas to remain in the area. Reports from Vumbura tell us that our visiting cheetah have ventured across from their neighborhood.
One of the biggest highlights of the month was a half hour or more spent with a pair of Cape Clawless Otters. They were spotted while patiently waiting for the large buffalo herd to cross a channel in front of us. The buffalo were soon forgotten as one of the otters caught a fish and took it ashore to feed on. The other otter tried in vain to get its share of the catch. They then set off down the channel right in front of us, deciding to mark their territory on a perfectly exposed sand bank. This was extremely amusing, as it involved a strange jig which none of us had ever witnessed before.
The usual host of nocturnal creatures were encountered on the night drive; including genets, civets, wild cats, side-striped jackals, aardwolf and the occasional pangolin. The hyena den was not very productive during August. Most, if not all the young are now old enough to venture off foraging with the adults. No doubt the females will return to this den site in the near future to have their next litters.
August proved to be another amazing lion viewing month. Although the daily average number of lions seen per day was down to 13, they were still located on everyday of the month. The lower average can be attributed to 10 young male lions being evicted from the area by the Duba Boys and Paradise Males. In total, 73 different pride sights were enjoyed. The Tsaro pride alone was encountered on 29 days of the month.
For many guests, the most amazing viewing involved following the Tsaro pride and Duba Boys on their diurnal buffalo hunts. These lions are truly amazing, allowing us to join them on no less than 17 successful daytime buffalo hunts. Regardless of time and temperature, the lions will continue to pursue the buffalo herd until they either successfully complete a kill, the buffalo herd leaves their territory or the sun begins to set. The only other kills the lions were seen on were: a single male lechwe, kudu and warthog. With the lions being active throughout the day, many full days were thoroughly enjoyed with a picnic brunch on the vehicles while accompanying the lions on their persistent search for food.
As explained above, not much time was spent in the Paradise area, hence very few sightings of both the Skimmer Pride and the Paradise Males. We suspect they are still spending the majority of their time to the north of the deep channel, where there is little competition from other predators and in particular no other lions to threaten the survival of their new cubs. Hopefully they will soon return to the southern side of the channel in order for us to determine just how many cubs they have. The Pride has not been seen in its entirety since the beginning of the year. Other big news is the departure of the four Skimmer Males. This has come as quite a surprise as they were just settling in with the Tsaro lionesses and becoming quite confident in their territorial displays, not to mention all the mating that had taken place with the Tsaro lionesses. We suspect they have moved further to the east towards another large herd of buffalo, where the lion population does not appear to be as concentrated. They were last encountered on the 14th July. Whether they will be found again, remains to be seen.
The Duba Boys are currently experiencing a second lease on life. Only months ago they were looking in very poor shape, being challenged from all sides. The Paradise Males had managed to take over the Skimmer Pride and it appeared the Skimmer Males had control of the Tsaro Pride, even producing a cub. However, the last couple of months have seen the Duba Boys in tiptop condition with no sign of the Skimmer Males and very little of their sons, the five Tsaro Boys. August was a record month of Duba Boy sightings and we witnessed them on 26 days of the month. All bar one sighting saw them accompanying the Tsaro lionesses and most of them involved mating. For the first time in a very long time, the Duba Boys were actually seen participating in the buffalo hunts. The Tsaro Boys returned to the Duba area on two occasions, both resulting in exceptional sightings. The first, at mid month, had them appear from nowhere and set off after the buffalo herd. It was not long before four of the males pulled down an adult female buffalo. While watching this we heard another bellow near by. Upon rushing over to investigate, the fifth male lion was attempting to pull down another adult female buffalo on his own. This he managed in no time at all. The second sighting was alongside our airstrip. The game drive vehicles were following the Pantry pride stalking the buffalo herd, only to have the Tsaro Boys charge in at the herd and successfully capture a buffalo. A solitary Duba Boy suddenly appeared and immediately rushed in to chase them off. He succeeded with two of the males, but paid the price with a couple of superficial facial wounds. He was no contest for the five young males who quickly proved their strength in numbers. The Pantry Pride made several valiant attempts to see them off but failed miserably, eventually leaving the area. It was a truly an amazing sight to watch 17 lions chasing each other backwards and forwards with loads of roaring.
The Pantry Pride appear to be as strong as ever since they lost one of the adult lionesses in a failed buffalo hunt during July. Although never in peak condition when compared to the Tsaro Pride, they certainly have the upper hand with regards to territorial clashes. The best day of the month occurred on the 25th, involving 22 lions in total. The morning began with one vehicle finding the Pantry Pride resting at the edge of their territorial boundary, while the second vehicle found the Tsaro lionesses hunting the buffalo. The Tsaro lionesses were pushing the herd, waiting for a suitable opportunity. The setting was perfect for photography. The buffalo herd was stampeding with the lions in hot pursuit causing all the cattle egrets to take flight and a huge cloud of dust to develop over the herd. All this was taking place with the sun rising behind this incredible scene. This proved to be the beginning of a very memorable day. The Pantry Pride suddenly showed up, immediately displacing the Tsaro Pride, which set off after a single lioness, which they incorrectly identified as a Pantry lioness. They isolated her and attacked her from all sides. The poor lioness managed to break away, allowing her to call out. Immediately the 8 attacking lionesses realized it was one of their own. We rushed back to follow the Pantry Pride continue the hunt, no where nearly as adept as the Tsaro Pride. They never made any serious attempts, however, we got to see the whole pride nervously swim across a wide channel. One group of guests was due to depart for another camp, so we had to set off for camp. Upon reaching camp, we checked once more with the vehicle, which remained with the buffalo and lions. They advised us the buffalo had swung back into the Tsaro Prides territory. Luckily we had a last minute cancellation, allowing the guests to stay another night. We quickly rushed back to the hunt just in time to watch the lions pull down an adult buffalo right next to us. The final kill took place at 2pm. To round the day off, a very brave (or stupid) hyena strolled over to the kill. One of the lionesses immediately took off after it. Presuming it was a mock charge, the hyena casually trotted away. Fortunately it looked over its shoulder right into the face of a very angry and serious lioness, only a meter or two behind it. Somehow the hyena managed to avoid the lioness's out stretched claws by tucking in his rear end as far as it possibly could. An extremely eventful 12 hours with the lions, one that will not be forgotten for a very long time to come.
All in all, August was one of the very best lion viewing months on record at Duba. The great news is September has continued in the same vein, hence a slightly late monthend report. The diurnal activities of the Duba lions make for a truly unforgettable experience, throw in all the other wonderful trees, birds and animals on show and one soon realizes Paradise has finally been found. We look forward to sharing these amazing experiences with all who chose to visit our home on the Plains.
Duma Tau Camp September Update, September 28 2003
Duma Tau Tented Camp is located in the Savute/Linyanti area of northern Botswana in southern Africa. Here is the camp's latest update:
Another great month at Duma Tau, with exceptional wildlife viewing, fantastic weather and a lot of fun had by guests and staff alike. The sun is definitely closer and we have been experiencing some high daytime temperatures but absolutely unbeatable evenings and mornings. The last week has seen a big increase in clouds and we are entering the sunset phase of the year with wonderful pinks and reds painting the evening sky's.
We are extremely happy to have the DT pack of wild dog on our reserve after another successful denning. We hope that they continue in the same mould as the last 2 years and provide us with extreme action both in and around the camp as well as for our guests. This year they successfully raised 8 pups so far and with a splitting of the adults there are 21 dogs all told.
We were blessed again to witness the military like precision with which the 3 male cheetah coalition hunt. These guys seriously should have a documentary made about them. They are starting to get fairly old now, as Theba tells me he has seen them since Duma Tau was built (1997) but still they look extremely healthy and are wizards of bringing down game.
Unfortunately the "surfing lions of the Linyanti" pride, the famous hippo killers swam into Namibia last month have still not returned and this month. Our leopard sightings are way up and also cheetah and wild dogs are able to keep their kills. The hyenas, after chasing off 2 male lions from a giraffe kill, seem to have taken over the area. A large percentage of vultures that we have followed have revealed numerous hyenas on zebras and wildebeest kills. The latter also exposing fresh spoor of a male lion, possibly again denied his food by the queens of the night. The hyena den was raided by 2 male lions who killed off a lot of the younger hyenas in full view of our guests.
This year, strangely, we have seen a slight decrease in the number of elephant in the area compared to last year. However, we are still able to view elephants in bigger numbers than most places and no guest has ever complained about seeing too few elephant. Most guests see hundreds of elephant each and every day right now. The drive along the Linyanti River during the heat of the day or early afternoon is still a spectacle to be observed with numerous numbers of general game in the vicinity of the river - and with never a moment without some sort of mammal in view. Even though water levels are low, we are still able to go boating and this continues to be an awesome activity and a very different experience from the game drives.
George the elephant is back in camp along with numerous other bulls on a daily basis. We are still wowed by the respect with which our large grey friends hold our new walkways and incidences of damage are minimal .We were treated to a first the other day when we had 2 Georges in camp and George the elephant as well and all parties happily posed for a picture or two. The flowering of the mangosteens has come and gone and the beautiful scent still is lingering in some parts of the camp. Happy smiling staff and a wonderful relaxed atmosphere has been the order of the day once again at Duma Tau and this has resulted in happy smiling guests. Coupled with great game viewing this has been another super duper month at Duma Tau
UPDATES FOR WEEK ENDING SUNDAY 21ST SEPTEMBER 2003:
Star of Africa - Zambia Update, September 21 2003
Star of Africa is one of Zambia's top tour operators. Here is their latest update.
Spring has definitely arrived in our part of the world with lovely hot days and evenings and clear blue skies!
At Kulefu Tented Camp on the lower Zambezi River Mark and Robyn report "August has seen the end of winter with temperatures now reaching mid 30's during the day. All the water inland has dried up and the game is starting to concentrate along the banks of the Zambezi, providing some great game sightings for the canoeists and fishing groups. Game drives and walks have been very active with constant sightings of large herds of buffalo on foot and numerous leopard sightings on drives. In the last week we have watched 2 leopard kills as they took down impala and baboon."
At Lechwe Plains Petros, the lodge manager, reports "Bird numbers are steadily growing with the various migrants starting to return. In particular we have seen the return of the small waders. We recently had a group here from the Crane Foundation and whilst out on birding walks we saw flocks of more than 100 crown cranes - quite an amazing sight! This was their fifth trip into Lechwe Plains and feedback from the group on their stay has been excellent. The group also did the cultural fishing village trip and as a result will very kindly be donating various things to the local school through Star of Africa. On walking trips we have had excellent sightings on the open plains of Lechwe - herds of over 1,000 wildebeest and zebra.
Mark from Chichele reports "the lodge has been very busy over the past month and guests have had some magical experiences. A recent comment from some guests was "Excellent hospitality - couldn't have asked for more". Our 2 guides, Obi and Botha have had good game viewing experiences with lion and leopard sightings on many drives. The Carmine Bee Eaters have just started coming back to the valley for breeding. We recently had 2 small herds of elephant right through the lodge which made very exciting viewing. Not so good unfortunately for our potted plants! Surface water is now drying up in the valley which leads to huge concentrations of animals around any permanent water source. This has resulted in some excellent sightings from our game viewing platform.
Dave Seaman who is currently up at Puku Ridge reports "the camp is looking magnificent and really starting to take shape. On the floodplains in front of the camp we have seen some great game - large kudu bulls, a herd of about 300 buffalo, elephant, Thornicroft giraffe, puku, impala and troops of baboons! Walking trips done in the past month have been excellent with good sightings of lion, elephant and buffalo. Our guide at Puku, Maxon, reports that the game is becoming more habituated to the camp and game viewing from room verandahs by guests is becoming more exciting and impressive each day! We had a leopard walk through the camp on two consecutive evenings and eight lion who took a liking to the pool furniture spent the night next to the pool!
Justice, Tendayi and team have had a very busy month at Sussi and Chuma. Whilst we had a large group from New Zealand staying with us we were surprised with some unexpected visitors! A herd of elephants came through the lodge much to the delight of the clients. To the dismay of the gardening team at the lodge the elephants proceeded to eat all our potted plants around the swimming pool!
Zimbabwean Odyssey, September 21 2003
Roy Watts recently visited Zimbabwe and wrote the following article entitled Zimbabwean Odyssey.
Tucked away in the chaos that is Zimbabwe is a collection of wilderness gems, and a lot of surprises. Question: It's no secret that Zimbabwe is in a state of political crisis, and hardly a day goes by without news of widespread strife and deprivation. Why on earth would anyone think of taking a holiday there? Answer There is a collection of game lodges that are not only surviving, but thriving and offering widely divergent safari experiences in luxurious camps that are equal to anything in sub-Saharan Africa - and better than most. With great ingenuity they have harnessed the remoteness of the bush and insulated themselves from the reigning chaos.
So it happened that in late August, I swapped a cold, wet, wintry Cape Town morning for a steaming arrival at the Victoria Falls - springboard for the light plane hop-around that would transport me to three of the nine Wilderness Safari camps dotted around the country. With surprisingly little fuss I cleared Immigration and Customs, and found myself bound for Makalolo in the Hwange Reserve. This is one of 'The Greatest Elephant Shows on Earth' with over 20,000 jumbos all crowded into 14,651 square kilometers. Foster, the first of a succession of charismatic, bush savvy guides, met us at the airstrip and transferred us to the very attractive lodge. The lounge, bar, and dining room are built with a commanding view of a huge plain, and are connected to the tented chalets by raised walkways. The whole area is teeming with game, and a constant procession of elephant, buffalo, zebra, giraffe and all the usual suspects provide an ongoing backdrop as they closed in on nearby watering holes. But it is jumbo activity for which Makalolo is famous, and here there are two unique features that promote a degree of interaction you won't find outside a circus. First up is the raised swimming pool in front of the cocktail deck. The elephants of Hwange have developed a serious chlorine habit, and they consider this to be their 'local', completely disregarding would-be swimmers. The height of the retaining walls prevents them from taking over completely, and by keeping a trunk length away, you can stand in the pool and watch them slake their thirst in 9 liter gulps. This activity continues well into the night and they usually manage to flatten the contents before dawn. Down a pool - feel satisfied. The other innovation that gets you up close and really personal with these wondrous creatures is an ingenious elephant hide. This is a collection of heavy logs piled over and around a steel frame. Snug within the safety of our woodpile, we spent hours watching huge herds cavort around. These amiable leviathans are the most sociable animals, and watching them splashing, jousting, trunk wrestling and generally having more fun than kids in a waterpark, we came to realize that being an elephant is definitely one of the better wilderness careers.
Meals at all the camps are convivial events, set at long baronial tables. Ambience and a friendly atmosphere replace the inhibitions of civilization with camaraderie and lively banter. The excellent repast caused me to wonder about the extraordinary logistics behind getting the quality provisions that went into the sumptuous menus.
The Makalolo Plains are broad sweeping affairs flanked by ridges of Mopani, Leadwood, Kameeldoring, Acacia and Jackalberry trees. In early spring, before the rains set in, they are stark and dramatic, although the first downpour will introduce a blanket of green. On the game drives and walks that are the staples of these safari holidays, we witnessed the extraordinary skills and passion of Zimbabwean guides. Obtaining a license is no easy matter and requires a long apprenticeship under strict supervision. There are testing examinations that demand an encyclopedic knowledge of birds, trees, animals, insects, bush lore and the micro-environment. Then there's the development of the skills necessary for the huge responsibility of safely guiding tourists on drives, walks and canoe trails. To graduate requires fervor, dedication and in many cases, the instinct that is the birthright of many Africans born to life in bushveld villages. Foster, our guide for the duration of our stay at Makololo, had all these qualities in abundance. On our final morning he doggedly followed an obscure trail picked up near the camp, and tracked down a pair of lionesses - two of the few animals missing from our dance cards.
One of the corollaries of Sod's Holiday Law decrees that at the peak of your enjoyment at any locality, when you are having the most fun, it becomes necessary to move on. And so reluctantly, I found myself flying over the barren moonscape that is Zimbabwe at the end of winter, en route for Kariba - the third largest man made lake in the world. The plane approached the broken jigsaw puzzle of shoreline, banked, completed a fly past to clear the broad dirt landing strip of baboons, and touched down.
Zimbabwe is a place of great contrasts, and nowhere is this brought into broader relief than Kariba. In its hyperactive waters, crocodiles lurk with malice aforethought, whilst hippo loiter without intent. Herds of elephant, buffalo, giraffe and antelope roam the shoreline, followed by an eager cast of predators. And in the skies an air show featuring a wide assortment of birds will delight the most demanding twitchers. Tucked away in a creek a short speedboat ride away from the airport, is one those uniquely romantic travel bookmarks - The Water Wilderness in the Matusadona National Park. Ghostly trees that drowned when the lake filled point skywards, sun bleached and petrified, above the shimmering water. The atmosphere is surreal and hauntingly beautiful, a Salvador Dalian landscape minus the melting watches. And anchored in this unusual setting is a flotilla of charming, beautifully appointed houseboats with a central 'Mother Ship' where entertainment and administration takes place. Guests are ferried to and from their lodgings in a barge-like water taxi, or establish their independence by using the sturdy Indian canoes on offer.
On one of those balmy African evenings, the lodge manager Dardley, big in stature and personality, held court. We were all seated at an immaculately laid dinner table on the mother ship, after having climbed the upper cocktail deck to watch a flaming fireball disappear into a pyrotechnic sunset. The convivial atmosphere loosened inhibitions and repartee flowed along with the wine as an all-pervading sense of bonhomie took over. Laughter and good food were the currency of the night, and even hoary old jokes from the dim distant past were as debutantes in contributing to the merriment.
In addition to game drives and walks, Water Wilderness offers tiger fishing and cruises along the shoreline. We saw lionesses on a sunset cruise, rare black rhino on a game drive, and got heart stoppingly close to a herd of elephant on a walk. One needs a lot of confidence in your guide running into any of the big five on a stroll, and we certainly had that in Dardley. But we were having much too much fun, and once again Sod's Corollary kicked in and it was time to move.
Cut to Mana Pools and Chikwenya, one of only four Heritage sites in the country, the others being the Victoria Falls Rain Forest, the Khame Ruins, and the Great Zimbabwe Ruins - very select company indeed. Situated on the Zambezi above a broad floodplain far below the dam wall, it is as lush, beautiful and serene, as Makololo is stark and dramatic. But the serenity is an illusion because in this neck of the woods, the animals hold sway. At night a bolshy band of right wing hippos and herds of extrovert elephants stomp around the camp, fully believing that the grass is greener closer to the raised tented chalets. Chikwenya owes its status to a unique eco-system that includes an abundance of Acacia Albida trees and Jesse bush. In winter the Acacias drop a bounty of protein rich pods, which attracts the vast and varied mammal population concentrated on the flood plains during the dry season.
There are two exceptional activities at Chikwenya. The first is an exciting canoe trail. Hugging the banks of the Zambezi, Kevin, a highly skilled river guide took us past hippos who looked as if they might abandon loitering in favor of serious intent at the slightest provocation. En route we enjoyed a spectacular tableau that took in the wide crystalline sheet of water edged with lush green forests, framed by purple mountains and set in a fiery sunset. The other special event was a nature walk with Sean, the camp manager who had a passion for, and an amazing knowledge of the insect world. Unlike the big- game walks at Makololo and Matusadona, this was a micro-tour that took in ant lions, air-conditioned termite mounds, spider webs and 101 uses for Baobab bark along with fascinating on-going dialogue about the local flora and mini-fauna. The small 5 you might say!
Holidays according to Sod, are the shortest units of time, and all too soon I found myself on an airliner bound for home, reflecting on a really extraordinary week. Each lodge had a singular charm and an atmosphere all of its own -I'm sure that there are as many moods as there are camps. But as a South African, who I was bowled over by the degree of normalcy that Wilderness Safaris have managed to achieve. The Falls are still one of the great tourist icons of the world, and any safari should end with a couple of days there. Ironically, I believe that the places I visited are amongst the safest destinations of the world. And you would be hard pressed to find greater concentrations of game or a wider range of different safari experiences.
Robin Pope's Weekly Zambia Update, September 21 2003
Robin and Jo Pope run several very successful safari camps in Zambia. Here is their weekly update:
Yesterday afternoon I went for a zip across the river in the boat. At Nkwali we often boat guests straight across to the park from camp. I had not done this for a while and with Adam at the helm I was the counter balance for the empty trip back - not a very flattering description. However, as we were having tea it clouded over and Zebron appeared with rain coats - it is only mid September surely it is not going to rain! But yes, half way down to the boat we felt the first spits and by the time we got to the middle of the river it was raining enough for us to get little wet. After the heat of the last few days and build up of humidity yesterday morning it was quite a welcome relief. Only a short spit though. However, as I sit here this morning we have had another little shower and the smell is just amazing - Ross told me last year that this musty, instantly recognizable smell is called petrocal (spelling??) - the first drops of rain release enzymes in the soil which produce the wonderful aroma. I am sure this is just a little taster for more rain to come at the normal time of year.
Adrienne Waterfield, one of our regular guests, has just departed after a wonderful time game viewing. Adrienne was on a walk with Daudi at Tena Tena, who was busy explaining the intricacies of a termite mound when they heard a warthog screaming. They hastily climbed the mount only to fine that on the other side were 6 lions now eating the poor warthog. Continuing on they stopped for tea at Baka Baka and a hyena waded into the water and sat watching them as he cooled himself off. During her stay at Nsefu with Ed, Adrienne saw 2 leopards whilst on foot and then came across the Nsefu lion pride on her transfer to the next camp.
Another group of repeat guests, the Farmers and Bunces had the great chance of coming across a leopard with Jacob. This leopard was up a tree and they watched for some time as she licked the fur off the puku oblivious of her audience. Waterbuck and buffalo numbers have increased greatly of late with the onset of the heat and lack of water elsewhere. Claire even saw a herd of some 30 plus eland on her way to the Tena Tena crossing the other day and including 2 fabulous males.
Nsefu has continued to see good honeybadger sightings and came across one digging up a monitor lizards nest and then eating the eggs. On the bird front they had a whole host of European bee-eaters flying over camp on their way south and Paul reported a European roller on this way to the airport earlier in the week. Meanwhile Ed and Claire have squatters in the house at Nsefu. Two spine-tailed swallows have fledged their nest in the roof and are becoming very friendly, sitting watching as Ed and Claire move around their room. They are also, however, having to share the roof with a spotted bush snake who tends to get too close for comfort at times. The swallows start to dive bomb the snake to keep him at bay - urged on by Ed and Claire, who are not getting much sleep in during siesta time due to the in house entertainment.
Stay well and have a great week, Cheers Kim
Vumbura Camp August Update, September 21 2003
Vumbura Tented Camp is located in Botswana's famed Okavango Delta. This camp offers a wonderful mix of both land and water activities and great wildlife viewing. Here is the camp's latest update:
August from the outset is turning out to be another memorable and humorous one. Of particular excitement early in this month was the sighting of our two yearling cheetah, male and female. This was the first sighting of these two since they were last seen with their mother who now has three younger cubs. The cherry on the cake was that our guests watched the two take out a female impala on the flood plains. Of interest was that that a male impala saw the cheetah and herded the female towards them, seemingly offering her as the sacrifice probably to save himself.
We have said cheers to an Australian film making crew from the Victoria's Open Range Zoo, situated at Werribee. The aim was to make a three minute video for their lion enclosure. We were privileged to have these blokes here and now have a couple of movie stars in the family, our guide Kay being the main actor. Our lions did it all for them and they got great footage along with all the other animals that they saw. The camera man Peter, told me that he rated his Vumbura experience in the top three of his life. The other two were films he produced in the Amazon and NASA in the United states.
The Vumbura pride has been keeping the cameras rolling with several buffalo and a zebra kill. Enormous herds of buffalo have been coming across the flood plains and are an awesome sight, especially when their skins are wet, and glisten with blackness.
Just when we thought we had sent the best, last nights sighting has to top the lot. The Vumbura pride was seen walking along the airstrip road towards Imbishi 1 Island. Stretched out in two columns they made a fantastic sight. Having killed a small buffalo in the morning the thought was that they were going for water. Unbeknownst to them a herd of in excess of 500 buffalo was on the other side of Imbishi 2 Island. Before long the inevitable happened and the lions got scent of the buffalo. Moving into ambush positions the lions attacked from the rear of the column of buffalo. Mayhem followed as the 500 plus buffalo stampeded towards the new bridge. Three buffalo were brought down in the first encounter. Just when the buffs thought they were safe, a young one panicked and separated form the herd. One of the larger lionesses saw it and charged 100 meters tackling the buffalo at full run, the two animals hit the water and the lioness quickly strangled the buffalo. Where were the guests you might well ask? Watching the whole show with a bird's eye view on the new bridge. Who won in the end? The hyenas came in full force shortly after dark and the lions were removed from their carcasses! The guests and guides came home speechless.
On a lighter note, Vumbura has had a ghost visiting the tea station almost every night. In the early morning, managers arrive to see the milk jug on the floor, empty and upright. The puzzle was resolved when Sybrand arrived to do the early and found a young Caracal stealing the milk. The Caracal jumped behind the bar fridge where it remained for a while. It looked soft and cuddly until the time we tried to remove it then showing its prowess, aggressively hissing and scratching until it escaped . We have the photo!
A couple of honeymooners from France left us with some interesting suggestions to improve our service : 1. Have a heater in the tent which switches on automatically half an hour before wake up and switches off after the pick up for breakfast. 2. Heat the swimming pool, 3. Remove all the dead trees in the park
It's the 20th and we have just experienced the coldest day of the year, 5 degrees with an icy wind. Guests witnessed a giant eagle owl eating a cat fish. A first for all the guides. 25th and its warm again!! Last few days after the cold snap the game kept to itself in the thick bush. Today our male cheetah walked for several kilometers to the joy of the guests. Lions are back and killing buffalo.
We now have a young hyena who sleeps under the swimming pool deck. We have lots and lots of sable antelope in the area as usual! Vumbura must be one of the best places in Africa to enjoy sable!
Kind regards - Roger
UPDATES FOR WEEK ENDING SUNDAY 14TH SEPTEMBER 2003:
Robin Pope's Weekly Zambia Update, September 14 2003
Robin and Jo Pope run several very successful safari camps in Zambia. Here is their weekly update:
Well, the weather is hotting up and to go along with it a number of bush fires are adding to the heat. Last night a few of us went out for sundowners and on the way back I spotted a fire that was a little too close to Nkwali for comfort. We rounded up the camp staff and set off to beat the fire out. I was of course in the midst of things generally bossing everyone around - resplendent in my white skirt and top beating away with the best of them. Expecting to come back to camp black from head to toe - much to everyone's amazement my outfit was still snowy white but my face was black and the soles of my shoes had begun to melt.....anyway all well and the fire was extinguished before it had a change to do any damage. I can now add firefighter to my resume!
Tena Tena is having a super period of game viewing. Ross was recently on an afternoon drive when he spotted 4 leopard - 3 female and 1 male in long grass popping their heads up and then disappearing back into the thicket rather like hounds on the scent of a fox. The sight of the leopards prancing around in a small area was quite incredible with them taking it in turns to come running out of the grass, looking around excitedly before bounding back in to join the others - rather like a troop of dancers taking it in turns to come to the front of the stage. Then out of the same patch of grass came a very fat hyena with an impala kill. He seemed confused by the leopards' behavior too. Eventually the leopards ran out of steam and one by one came out of the grass panting from their exertion to lie down a few yards from the vehicle.
Another bizarre sight at Tena Tena was that of a giraffe at a buffalo kill. Yes really - guests watched the giraffe for about 20 minutes licking the carcass and sucking at the spinal cord. This giraffe even had the audacity to chase off a hooded vulture who thought he should have a go at carcass. We have heard of giraffes sucking bones to obtain calcium before but quite extraordinary to see one licking and nibbling at a carcass - should prove to be some interesting photos.
Tena Tena staff have also found 2 hyena cubs who are becoming increasingly friendly and enjoying putting on a show for guests.
Meanwhile not to be out done Nsefu is happy to report a new Carmine Colony in front of camp which is the cause of much enjoyment. Guests also happened upon lions killing a puku recently. The 3 lionesses had worked hard to stalk and bring down the puku when a male sprung about 3 meters out of its hiding place and grabbed the kill from the lionesses - typical it is always the women who do all the work and the men who profit. These 3 lionesses may have been so annoyed that they fancied a night on the town. When Ed and Claire arrived at the Nsefu bar early one morning they could clearly see signs of the 3 lions who had passed through camp the night before. They had obviously spent a lengthy time hanging out in the bar and whilst they did not drink the place dry, they certainly used it as a "midden" and some speedy cleaning was required.
Stay well and have a great week, Cheers - Kim
Mombo Camp August Update, September 14 2003
Winter is slowly relinquishing its grip on Mombo and the days are definitely getting warmer on the whole. We had a cold snap earlier in the month which meant that all those fleeces and jackets which had been half packed away were suddenly in action again. The staff certainly made good use of their newly issued Mombo fleeces and a green flush spread through camp as everyone put on their new shirts for the first time - complimenting the green flush caused by the floodwaters.
Days on the whole have been clear but a little cool due to the breeze - very typical August weather in the Delta. Mid-month the skies were hazy due to smoke from fires burning away to the west, and giving rise to some stunning sunsets. The lowest temperature recorded all month was 4 C, and the highest was a much more friendly 31 C. The average minimum temperature was 10 C and the average maximum was 26 C - not quite warm enough to fry an egg on the deck, but definitely warmer than July…
As the seasons slowly turn, so too has the flood. It has now seemingly reached its maximum extent for 2003 and in some areas a slow retreat is already in evidence. In front of camp the maximum reach of the flood is marked by a divide between green and brown - this line is patrolled by squacco herons, slaty egrets and blacksmith plovers.
In the Mombo area we seem to have had a lower flood than in 2002, which was itself slightly below average. People who have known this area over many years (as many of our guests have done) say that 2003 has been one of the driest year that they can recall. Many of our water crossings are already getting shallower. This year's flood has been curious however in that it seemed to consist of two distinct pushes, with a lot of the water arriving later. Also, areas have been flooded this year that were dry last year, and in some places, especially further south on Chief's Island, it seems that the flood is still pushing in.
The best flood meter we have - how far out from the Main Camp steps you have to go before you can launch a mokoro - confirms that this year's flood is lower than last year's. This reduced volume of water has produced a very marked contrast between dry and wet areas here. The vibrant green swathes around each finger of water stand out starkly from the surrounding dry savannah and thornveld. A lower flood does not at all appear to have affected game numbers, but it has caused some heavy concentrations of game around water points - the Simbira Channel in particular is choked with zebra at present.
We are now hoping for a good rainy season to top up the temporary pans, but the appearance recently of the first few carmine bee-eaters darting red and blue across the sky suggests we may be in for a long, dry summer. As yet none of the animals seem to be losing condition, but without good rains, some of the more susceptible species may loose condition.
As the month draws to a close, the air is heavy with the scent of the yellow flowers of the candle pod acacia and the vervet monkeys are enjoying a bonanza of jackalberries - and raining the skins and seeds down on the tent roofs! We are expecting quite a forest of jackalberry saplings as a result.
The game at Mombo continues to more than live up to this area's awesome reputation. A group enjoying sundowners in the Mombo Lounge were startled to see two lionesses reclining at the water's edge just meters away. We have been kept awake most nights by the territorial male lions, and the sawing cough of a leopard has regularly cut through the night. The hyenas' ghostly whooping and the deep chortling of very amused hippos adds to the strangely melodic night time choir. Sometimes the fruit bats and Scops owls have to struggle to make themselves heard over all this din. A porcupine has been regularly running across the floodplain at sundowner time, to the delight of many our guests who have never seen one of these wonderful creatures. It seems that Botswana porcupines are much more impressive than their North American cousins as a lot of people are surprised at the size of Hystrix Africaaustralis! And all this game is of course seen without even leaving the camp - one afternoon two of our guests, about to head into the bush on a midday drive, were dissuaded when they saw first a herd of buffaloes and then a breeding herd of elephants pass by their deck, and opted to have a "game siesta" instead!
Out in the bush, another phenomenal month. A testament to the quality of the game viewing here is that we have had not one but two National Geographic film crews in the area during August - one concentrating on leopards, and the other on the re-introduced rhinos.
The Tortillis female leopard, one of the Mombo regulars, is still fully occupied in bringing up her latest cub, now approximately three months old. This cub easily wins out on the cuteness stakes, and we have seen some wonderful suckling and playing behavior between the two coolest cats at Mombo. The cub's every mood delights all who see her, and her new game of catch mother's tail provides endless fun, and not just to the cub. The mother has been doing well in hunting to provide milk for her growing offspring, and just recently we have seen the cub take its first tentative mouthfuls of the impala that will form the mainstay of her diet throughout her life at Mombo.
That young life almost came to an abrupt end one day when the mother was surprised and chased by a troop of baboons. She managed to evade them and at the same time lead them away from where her cub was hiding, wisely lying low until it was safe to emerge again. A few heart-stopping moments when it looked as if the cub might be discovered, but the game of hide and seek resulted in a total victory for the leopards.
Other animals and birds are also bringing up young: there are some new red lechwe calves around camp, and a family of Egyptian geese were spotted with some tiny goslings, all marching along in a line with military precision. Many of the impalas will be pregnant of course, but as yet their sleek forms are not distended by the bulging next generation.
We have seen more elephants than usual in this area, drawn to the water sources, and some of these breeding herds have very young calves - one, still not old enough to use his trunk to drink, struggled to kneel down to get his mouth to the water and at the same time keep up as his herd crossed a channel - there is a lot to learn for a young elephant in the bush…
The Mombo lions continue to do well, bringing down zebra and even one tsessebe. Even Africa's fastest antelope can't outrun a cleverly sprung trap. The cheetah are in the area in strength at present, with the veteran Steroid Boys showing that they still have what it takes, and the Ngonyama female has now succeeded in bringing up 2 of the 5 cubs she bore last June to over a year old. They are now the same size as her and will be setting out on their own in the next few months. Given the number of lions and hyenas in this area, the Ngonyama females has done a fantastic job of raising her young.
There is probably more "general game" here at Mombo than ever, especially zebra and wildebeest, and while there may not be so many wild dogs as in years gone by, once our guests see the strength of the lion prides we have here, they soon begin to understand about predator competition and natural cycles, and even get excited about coming back again and again to see how this most dynamic of ecosystems has evolved.
One repeat couple arrived and after one hour declared that Mombo was a "ghost" of its previous self. Confident that this area would deliver, as it so often does, we said nothing, and on their morning drive the next day they saw lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, cheetah… Difficult sometimes to resist saying 'I told you so'! The guests did not make that chirp again and went away very very happy.
Another family were desperate to see a kill but after three days their slightly bloodthirsty dream had not come true. As they sat at the airstrip eating their specially prepared kosher sandwiches, a lioness obliging tripped and strangled a warthog right in front of them. Hopefully they weren't put off their lunch!
After a glut of rhino sightings in July (with the rhinos released at the end of June largely staying within our game drive area) things have been a little quieter in August, although there have still been some memorable rhino moments. One of the newly released females, Bogale, is it seems in oestrus, and the dominant bull in the area, Serondela, has been shadowing her for some time. So far she seems determined to make a long siege of it and is resisting his advances. Her young male companion, Kakana, seems to be trying to intervene, but he must watch himself as Serondela is twice his size.
Further south, more rhino mating activity seems imminent. Our other territorial male, Sergeant, is showing a lot of interest in a group of four which includes 3 females of breeding age. He is having an even harder time of it than Serondela and is facing open hostility from the group - we witnessed one compelling confrontation which was quite literally four horns against one.
Hopefully the males will persevere and get to mate the females. Any calf which is conceived now will be born sometime around Christmas 2004 given the rhino's 16-month gestation period.
We are aiming to increase our rhino population much sooner than that, however, with a further 10 white rhinos slated for delivery in October, followed by the first 4 black rhinos - a whole new species for the wilds Botswana as the black rhino has tragically been "locally extinct" for over a decade now. The excitement is mounting…
No rain at all this month, but even though the heavens haven't opened for us, they have put on quite a show. Mars has been the star as it were - the red planet passed closer to Earth than it has done for tens of thousands of years and proved to be quite dazzling - a mere 98 million kilometers from us. At our regular game drive speed of something like 30km/h, it would take a Mombo Land Rover just less than 373 years of continuous driving to get there! Stand by for an increased diesel order!
But enough from us - let's leave the final words on August at Mombo to some of our guests…
"Such happiness is hard to find. 3 perfect days - it was faultless. Thank you for making it so very special."
"All of this I guarantee you will be sorry to have to leave this unique camp and all those who make it so!"
"Our expectations were exceeded continuously. Every time we thought it cannot get any better than this it did!"
"Our secret tip for Botswana: come to Little Mombo - that's a stay in paradise."
"One of the most enjoyable places we have ever been."
"From the moment we walked in, we felt welcome and at home. It's a fabulous place, use us as a reference. We look forward to returning. Many thanks to all for making it the MOST memorable family vacation."
"Migratory Behavior on a Safari", September 14 2003
Here is a reprint of the recent New York Times article written by Nancy Newhouse (NY Times Travel Editor) about her recent trip to southern Africa.
The cheetah moved silkily, stealthily picking up one front paw, then the other. Behind her, imitating her movements, were two young males. Our guide explained in a near whisper that she was teaching her teenage sons how to stalk, aiming for a distant group of impala.
Three open Land Rovers, reasonably far apart, held us, the rapt audience. Fifteen minutes passed in utter silence as the cheetah paused to sniff the air, exhaustively scrutinize the terrain, then move on. Suddenly, she dropped low and started running at warp speed, in complete silence. Then to our immense disappointment, she suddenly disappeared behind some small trees on this mostly open plain. Our drivers threw their cars in gear and we careered down the dirt track, but we were too late.
It was the most thrilling moment in an afternoon of game viewing at Mombo Camp in the Okavango Delta in Botswana. But there were so many moments. That morning, we had seen three male lions patrolling their territory. Among the striking birds was the lilac-breasted roller, a lovely little creature (common in southern Africa) in Popsicle tones of lavender, green and turquoise. Zebra and impala were so common they were pretty much ignored, although the elegance of the dainty impala never ceased to charm me.
This was Day 7 of a two-week ''flying safari," a mid-May tour of southern Africa with Wilderness Safaris. The ambitious itinerary started in Johannesburg, going from there to Namibia, the Okavango Delta in Botswana, Zambia and Victoria Falls and finally Zimbabwe.
I had arrived in Johannesburg on my own, traveling anonymously, to join what I was told would be a group of 10 others. In fact, when I came down to the lobby of the elegant Grace Hotel, after a night to recover from the flight from New York, just two people were there - Dan, a lawyer from San Diego, and Bruce Van Niekerk, the young, chipper and omnicompetent South African who was our guide and pilot for the entire trip. This was a group?
I never discovered why the numbers shrank so, but one result was that Dan and I had a private pilot, as well as a terrific guide and companion, flying us around southern Africa in a small plane, a Cessna twin-engine 310. In short order we took off from Lanseria Airport, flying northwest across the Kalahari Desert to southern Namibia.
When, several hours and one refueling stop later, we approached Sossusvlei Wilderness Camp, the first of six lodges that we would visit, we were definitely in the middle of nowhere - a stark, lunar gray-brown desert.
It seemed impossible that anything could live here, but waving cheerfully as we touched down on the small landing strip was Dios, crisply uniformed, who drove us in a Land Rover up a bone-rattling steep track to the camp, almost invisible above the plain. Two smiling staff members met us with cold washcloths and showed us the handsome lodge and our cabins. Nine of these thatch-roofed, stone and wood ''guest rooms'' (actually individual structures) were strung out along the hillside.
I was amazed at the comfort of my tile-floored bungalow, with its king bed draped in mosquito netting, a chaise and a few pieces of attractive dark wood furniture, a double free-standing sink and claw-foot tub, a toilet and a shower with a small window that opened to the desert. A tiny porch with a postage-stamp sized pool completed the setup, all sited for total privacy.
There wasn't much time, however, to luxuriate. We left after a quick late lunch to explore the Kulala Wilderness Reserve in which the camp is set, and before dawn the next morning, were off to the adjoining Namib-Naukluft Park to see the sun rise.
At almost 19,300 square miles, it is one of the largest nature reserves in Africa, noted not for game (although there are ostrich, springbok, oryx and many birds) but for the vast sweep of huge ocher dunes, truly orange-red at dawn and sunset.
Backpackers and tourists of all ages walked and hiked in the park. Bruce pointed silently to a dune lark, unique to this area, hopping in the grasses before we unpacked a generous picnic brunch under an acacia tree.
That night, back at Sossusvlei, we were surrounded by deep silence, and a black night sky brilliant with low-hanging stars.
The next camp, Ongava in northern Namibia, could not have been more different. We reached it after a diverting day flying up the coast, stopping for a boat ride to see seals, have lunch on the beach and walk around Swakopmund, a pristine little coastal town founded by German settlers in 1892.
At Ongava Lodge, we were in rich game country. The flat plain of vast Etosha National Park, 8,600 square miles, was practically next door. At a popular park watering hole we visited in a Land Rover expedition the next day, zebra, kudu, wildebeest, springbok and black-faced impala milled about. We saw 14 giraffes browsing, their necks sticking up at wild angles, and two young males fighting. A lioness thrilled us by giving chase to a jackal, as her five cubs popped their heads up.
The camp itself, undramatically set in scrub trees at ground level, is in the safari company's private game reserve. As a result, much of the same park game can be seen in relative solitude, or from the lodge, overlooking a watering hole lighted at night.
At Ongava the skill of Shadreck, our ebullient driver-tracker with superhuman eyesight, came into play, as an afternoon game drive extended into darkness. Driving while holding a floodlight, he showed us the track of a python, and knew an elephant's size, age and sex from a footprint. His triumph was finding a family of rhino. On the way, a group of rare Hartmann's mountain zebra dashed across our path.
As at all the camps, at night you are accompanied to and from your lodging by a staff member. After all that rough driving, I fell into bed after dinner, to be awakened by the roaring of a lion, near enough to make the air vibrate.
After arid Namibia, Jao Camp, in the Okavango Delta of Botswana, felt like a verdant water world. Our band of three flew there from the unprepossessing small city of Maun, the jumping-off point for the delta's many camps.
All nine units (wood floors, tented sides, thatch roofs) and the main lodge are connected by wooden walkways, high above the ground under towering trees. Even the animals like the arrangement, as it allows them free passage underneath.
My bungalow was downright luxurious, its wooden floor gleaming, with a comfortable couch and coffee table, free-standing double sinks and tub, and notably, a toilet in a separate enclosure with a floor-to-ceiling view of the delta. An open veranda ran its length. As at each camp, there was an outdoor shower; a mischievous vervet monkey in the canopy tossed a nut down at me as I showered, the closest I got to injury in the wild.
Another amenity, a deeply cushioned gazebo, looked out on the delta, one segment of a vast area where the Okavango River spreads out and comes to an end in an aqueous world of reeds and stunningly rich bird life. Water levels have been a concern in recent years, but the river had just released a substantial amount of water.
At Jao, the few hours of downtime between early-morning and late-afternoon game drives were particularly welcome, and the dawn symphony- peepers, bell frogs, bird calls - was scintillating.
It was also the liveliest camp socially, in large part due to the warmth and constant attention to detail of the couple who run it, Rebecca and Clinton. Often, Rebecca met groups when they returned from drives; Clinton quickly fixed a glitch in my outdoor shower. One very jolly dinner was held in a circular log stockade constructed in traditional form; inside, a bar, a communal dinner table and copious buffet, and a stomping, rocking group of welcome songs from the African staff kept us up late around the campfire.
As at other camps, guests were a mixture of Europeans and Americans. Among the 20 or so guests were four Belgians, a French father with teenage son; an Italian and several American couples. And there was at least one young honeymoon couple in each camp.
In addition to game drives, Jao offered boat trips. Moving silently, the narrow makoros, the traditional hollowed-out log boats poled by a standing oarsman, carried us into the mysterious, sinuous delta. We made our way in narrow channels through papyrus and thick reeds, opening into large pools studded with waterlilies. A thumbnail-size green painted reed frog clung to a reed, and a tiny brilliant malachite kingfisher flashed by. At sunset, we pulled up on shore near a huge baobab tree to observe the tradition faithfully followed at every camp, the sundowner. Out came the drinks kit, and shortly a cool vodka and tonic or a glass of good South African red wine was in hand as the sky lighted up and the reeds turned to bronze.
Just 10 miles away, but still requiring a flight, was Mombo Camp, less green than Jao but equally comfortable. The camp looks out on a large shallow lagoon, which animals sloshed across at all hours, particularly lechwe, a marsh-loving antelope, and elephant families.
One creature, the vervet monkey, was all too present; the monkeys had just learned how to unzip bungalow screens and had trashed three cabins.
Leaving Botswana for Zambia, we flew northeast, arriving directly over Victoria Falls before landing in Livingstone, just across the Zambezi from Victoria, which is on the Zimbabwe side. The river was so high that rafting was forbidden and the falls were only partly visible under a cloud of mist.
We were headed for the River Club, a delightful hideaway several miles outside Livingstone, run and co-owned by a paragon of English style, Peter Jones. The lovely small manor house, decorated with hunting prints and deeply comfortable furniture, is supplemented by 10 thatch-roofed, tent-sided bungalows high above the Zambezi. Simply but pleasantly furnished, they are completely open on the river side. To wake up looking directly out on the Zambezi, magnificent in its breadth here, was rivaled only by descending a short staircase to the open-air bathroom (the toilet was enclosed).
Lunch was pleasantly set up under the trees, then guests were free to swim in the pool or take the sunset cruise, as most of us did, seeing hippos and birds including the brilliant bee-eaters. Not a game lodge, the River Club offered a visit to a nearby village with traditional style huts, where we were able to meet Zambian children and talk with their teachers, as well as visits to the funky but interesting Livingstone Museum in town (now under renovation), and of course Victoria Falls. Under umbrellas and slickers in a drenching rain created by the torrent below, we inched along the slippery but well-fenced path on the Zambian side, as moved by the water's thunderous roar as the view, because only a portion of the cascade was visible through the mist.
When Peter Jones was in residence (one night of our two), the River Club was also host to passionate croquet matches.
Before leaving for our last stop, Chikwenya in northeastern Zimbabwe, I wanted to see the Victoria Falls Hotel, the grand 1904 hostelry on the Zimbabwe side of the river. We had already seen the blocks-long lines of cars waiting for gasoline in Livingstone, and an even clearer expression of the political turmoil in Zimbabwe was the near emptiness of the elegant and impeccably maintained hotel.
After meeting Bruce at the Victoria Falls airport, Dan and I were reassured by the long flight over Lake Kariba and hundreds of miles of bush: our Zimbabwean destination was truly remote.
Chikwenya is set in a valley of Eden-like beauty in Mana Pools National Park, a World Heritage Site. The Zambezi, much narrower here, is flanked by huge acacia trees, and game is plentiful.
We joined an English angler, who comes here every year, on a morning fishing trip. He immediately caught three fish, including a fighting tiger fish the area is famous for; no one else had a nibble. Then to my astonishment a tiger fish grabbed my hook. I battled to reel it in, and succeeded, with the shouted encouragement of five males. What feelings of triumph!
On our final outing, we took a canoe trip downriver, carefully led by camp staff because of the hippos dotted around the water. A saddle-billed stork, baboons on the bank, egrets, all were at eye level, and as we paddled, the Zambezi was stained pink by a brilliant sunset. It was hard to imagine anything other than peace in this lovely corner of the world.
UPDATES FOR WEEK ENDING MONDAY 8TH SEPTEMBER 2003:
Chiawa Camp August Update, September 7 2003
Chiawa Camp is located on the Zambian side of the Lower Zambezi River. Here is the latest update from this incredible tented camp (This update is dedicated to Stumpy the Lion): I've been meaning to write this newsletter for a few days but a leopard stalking past the window of Lynsey's and my tent has prompted me to finally put finger to keyboard. The leopard in question was the local big tom, oft referred to as Mr. Tembo, who made such a racket stepping through the dried leaves just a couple of meters away that we thought it was one of the resident bull buffalo passing by! It was only the rhythm of his step that prompted me to shine my flashlight through the screen and confirm what it was - what a bonus!
The season is speeding by and the sky has already become hazy - the light has taken on a somewhat magical aura. The brilliant red Flame Creepers are flowering, as are the delicate white flowers on the Albizia's, making for excellent sun bird viewing which are taking advantage of all the new flowers. It has been a chillier than usual winter and the hot water bottles in our beds are still much appreciated. However the real news this month is of the lions.
For the past two years the lion sightings in the Lower Zambezi have been frequent however the pride had appeared to have broken up and not yet regrouped since Stumpy's departure (and subsequent recent demise). On a drive yesterday I heard a faint growling and after much investigation and bush bashing, came across 16 lions happily feasting on a buffalo. These included Tag, Dan & Douglas (Stumpy's increasingly impressive successors), Sally (last year's sole surviving cub), 4 new cubs from this season, and 8 other lionesses. It is a while since we have seen so many lions in one spot and I am hoping the trend will continue, as well as the pride's seemingly renewed success at making new lions.
On the same morning Steve was walking with guests on the plains adjacent to Waterbuck Island and returned to his vehicle to find a male lion prowling around and sniffing its tires. After the lion posed for a few photos it disappeared into the bush presumably disappointed that the vehicle was not edible.
Indeed it is as pleasing to see these new lions, as it was disappointing to hear of Stumpy's (the tail-less patriarchal lion of the Lower Zambezi) inevitable, but perhaps overdue, passing. Although he had been chased out of the area by the lions we call Dan and Douglas in November 2001 and had long ago been presumed dead, last month he returned with a vengeance. He was seen on the Chongwe River looking tragically thin and seemingly on his last legs, and then last week got into an enclosure in one of the villages and killed 13 goats, of which he ate one. The following night he got stuck into more goats and notched up another 10. However these were the last creatures to fall to his jaws, paws and claws, and Stumpy was killed the following day, age estimated at about 14 years and much older than the natural average of 7 years. Chiawa Camp bids a final salute to a magnificent warrior-cat that dominated the Lower Zambezi and gave so much excitement to our guests for so long. And so it is good to know that Stumpy's genes live in his offspring (all with correctly apportioned tails!) that I saw contentedly devouring the buffalo yesterday.
We are pleased to welcome back all our repeat guests to Chiawa this season, from England, USA, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. It has been good to see you all and it has been great having you back at Chiawa as old friends. We look forward to seeing you all again soon during our off-season travels or back at Chiawa next year.
Also gracing us with their presence are the large breeding herds of elephant lingering around Chiawa Camp, and drinking daily under our viewing platform. This has made for wonderful viewing opportunities without having to leave camp. Same goes for the dead hippo that conveniently washed up in front of the viewing platform and provided 3 days of food for a male lion, a few hyenas, and dozens of vultures, and 3 days of fascination for Chiawa's guests. It's not often that one gets to watch feeding lion and hyenas from the comfort of one's tent!
On re-reading this newsletter it comes across as a touch anthropomorphic. I would like to reassure everyone that the animals of the Lower Zambezi are as wild as nature intended, however Chiawa's guides sometimes attach names to remarkable individuals of some species in order to keep better track of, and better understand, their movements and habits.
Muchenje Lodge Chobe Update, September 7 2003
Muchenje Lodge located on the western boundary of Botswana's Chobe National Park offers the best value and widest array of activities in the area. Here is the lodge's latest update:
We are now coming to an end of our "winter", with August traditionally being our windiest month. Already the days are warming up, a great respite from those cold winter nights. Daytime temps are back to the high twenties but nights are still in single figures. Early morning drives still require warm clothes.
The 'Silly Season' is well under way. This is great because the game is exceptional in August and with the bush being so dry, clients are being blown away with exceptional sightings. There are masses of game coming to the river to drink so guests can set up with G&T's in hand and enjoy game with minimum effort required.
Our refurbishment program is complete and our new-look rooms have been well received by clients. The bathrooms have been completely redesigned and everything inside has been replaced. The huge showers are a real hit.
We are very lucky at our end of the Chobe - It is very wild and very special. It's virtually our own. When we go on game drives we rarely see other vehicles. Normally we view the animals completely on our own. This makes for amazing photography.
In the last newsletter I mentioned that the Chobe River had flooded. In May this flood was one of the biggest that we have seen. The flood plain was at a depth of 4-5 meters right across into Namibia. The lake in front of us grew to 6 km across by around 15 km in length. The lake's water level is still very high, although it is now dropping; we think that there will still be huge water until the end of the year. The sunsets in the evenings looking over the water are staggeringly beautiful; such scenes take our breath away. Pinks, oranges, mauves- even 'lunar-rise and sets' which makes a lovely back drop at dinner.
A Russian client recently enjoyed an afternoon's drive viewing over 2,000 elephants (pretty typical in August) but complained the next morning when he only saw 10 elephants. Asking where they had gone overnight, the guides cheekily replied they migrate to the other Parks so all guests can see them. The guest then asked "which one did they go to?"
Chobe is one of the great bastions of elephants in the world. Numerous breeding herds are in the Muchenje area, and in August they appear to come together which makes for great viewing. All of the breeding herds have young; indeed, a few days ago clients enjoyed mother and baby a few hours old. It is truly amazing; even with so many elephants one rarely sees an actual birth.
Botswana enjoyed some good TV coverage in U.K. recently with the BBC Documentary "Spy in the Herd", some of which was filmed on the banks of the Chobe river. A "Dung Cam" was used to capture amazing footage of elephant behavior. The Dung Cam - was mobile with miniature remote controlled "heaps" capturing behavior from both land and water. Mind you, we have insisted our guides check for "Floaters" in the Chobe river to make sure no cameras were left behind!
There are plenty of buffalo around. The Cape buffalo are in constant stress with the lions. We've had some spectacular buffalo "kills" near Muchenje recently. Even as I type clients have arrived complaining about the rank smell of a nearby buffalo carcass some lions were gnawing on!
These Muchenje lions are the most incredible and powerful beasts; it is the lionesses that do the bulk of the hunting and it is their skill and power that overcomes these much bigger buffalo. Male Buffalo can weigh up to 800-900 kg (females are around 550 kg), whereas a female lioness only weighs around 125 kg.
Of course, now that the zebra are around the buff have a sporting chance because lion graze zebra like toffee's resulting in some very fat, lazy lions.
The waterbuck love our lawns; this is a great frustration for Peter, as he is very, very proud of "his" lawns. Now we are mid way to the rains the dry conditions take there toll; it is Peter that takes a special care of the grass. Mind you, it's great to see all of this greenery at the Lodge; the waterbuck clearly have the same opinion, but slightly different point of view, as they eat the grass!
The lake in front of Muchenje has brought even more bird life with it, treating our birders to nearly 200 species in one day. And further down the river intrepid Muchenje guests saw Henry, our oversize crocodile, take out an impala. The speed of the croc was amazing, reminding us all not to take this 'sloth like' creature for granted.
Guests enjoying one of Ruth's famous packed lunches recently saw a huge python in the water; it was wide as it was long so had obviously just eaten. Python are a scarcity in themselves but seeing one swimming was a great sighting. Pythons are not poisonous, but beware, they can inflict a severe ripping bite with their fangs. Prey is squeezed to death. Very unpleasant!
Our elusive leopard is back. Hurrah! We are seeing tracks around the lodge every morning. We've also had both serval (a true cat) and genet (we have two types, small-spotted and large-spotted) at the lodge. The genet is a mongoose-like carnivore the size of a small cat.
Our staff village currently have a Honey badger taking up squatter's rites; she has burrowed underneath their Lethaka reeds and is living under the kitchen. At night it comes out and feeds on staff rations. Honey badgers are notoriously vicious; already she has tried to bite anyone that comes close. We have chosen the easy option and temporarily moved the staff kitchen until she finds a new home!
We get quite a few baboons and vervet monkeys at the Lodge, which tests Sandi's veggie garden and our patience to the limit. We discourage these two species coming anywhere near the Lodge; because once they get a taste for scavenging on rubbish they will destroy most rubbish cages and are potentially dangerous to clients. Sandi is 'Officer in charge' of baboon and monkey maneuvers!
On closing I'm sure you will all wish Sandi and Peter congratulations as they recently got married!! Many of you already know this, but I'll tell you again as it is great news for us and for Aussie/Zimbabwean relations. We always knew that Pete would make an honest woman of Sandi.
Also - The Stork has returned to the Smith Tribe. Mind you it must have been a Maribu, because it delivered a healthy 8lb 13 oz baby boy, named Samuel. Congratulations Matt & Lorna.
King's Pool Tented Camp Update, September 7 2003
King's Pool Tented Camp is a platinum level camp set in the wildlife rich Linyanti / Savute area of north eastern Botswana. Here is the camp's latest update. Things, as usual, are going really well at Kings Pool. I think August so far tops all other months. It has been the best game month that I can remember, so September through to November should be even better. Guests are really enjoying the private pools in their rooms now that the warmer weather is here.
The elephants have been keeping us very busy. They are battling to come to terms with the new elevated wooden walk ways we put in earlier this year and in a few places are removing them from their path. Gordon and myself are slowly (not too slowly) becoming an expert maintenance team.
The lions have decided to move their core territory area away from camp. At one stage it felt as if our camp was the very core of their territory. Every evening before game drives returned Gordon and myself were on lion patrol watching them walk past the kitchen and through the car park to the staff village and then to the rest of the camp. Then every morning they would walk through camp to the other side. Things have now settled down a bit on the lion front anyway, but the elephants have taken over.
The weather has warmed up rapidly, except for one morning that was colder than our coldest winter morning. Luckily most of the cold fronts in South Africa have missed us.
Wildlife wise it has been amazing. Not too sure what to mention as it has all been good. One special event, rather sad, was a lioness taking on a bull Roan antelope. It was a long match but the lioness won after about 6 hours, also suffering a few minor injuries herself. We think we have found an aardvark burrow - we will need to monitor it for a little longer. We have been seeing wild dog.
Chitabe Camp Update, September 7 2003
Chitabe Tented Camp is located near Botswana'a famed Moremi Reserve. Here is the camp's latest update:
The month of August was excellent at Chitabe. Winter came and went and apart from Jack Frost presenting us with a few really cold mornings, the temperatures have been very pleasant, with an average minimum of ten degrees and maximum average of twenty-eight. The flood waters are continuing to slowly creep in and have pushed their way beyond the front of Chitabe Trails camp. On a whole, the area is still very dry, but the upside of this is that the game has been unbelievably good. August was our "BIG 5 MONTH". We definitely have had an abundance of elephants on the concession this year, and the Gomoti area of the concession seems to be a favorite hang out for the huge herds of buffalo. We've had numerous sightings of herds well into the thousands, and as we all know - where there are buffalo the lions cannot be far off. This proved to the case with the Gomoti lion pride who were spotted "dining on a buffalo" each time the herd was sighted. The Chitabe lion pride have been under huge pressure from four younger males that have moved into the area, the oldest pride male `Scar Face` has been badly injured and thoughts are that it is highly unlikely he will make it through the next month.
Our leopard sightings have been consistently good, with a sighting almost every other day. `Mosadi mogolo`, meaning "old woman" is a very relaxed female who has two cubs approximately seven months old. We recently noticed that the male cub has separated from his mother and sister. At the time of our last sighting, he was looking a little thin and weak, so we are all keeping fingers crossed that he gains some strength. We have confirmed six different leopards in the Chitabe area this month and there is a strong possibility that there are even more.
We have to take the opportunity to thank Nick, Mombo and Wilderness for affording us the opportunity to have our first RHINO sighting. We first picked up their tracks at the beginning of August and have seen them several times since. On the afternoon of the 28th, our guests the Taylor's and Welsh's spotted the two female Rhinos, they continued their game drive only to come across a herd of +/-5000 buffalo, elephant on their way back to camp, and a male lion. To put the proverbial cherry on top, the next morning they saw two leopard, and therefore, became our first guests at Chitabe to have a confirmed Big 5 sighting and we issued them with our own little home made Big 5 certificates. All the staff, guides and managers were all beaming with pride that once again we have the privilege to have rhino in the Chitabe area. Let's hope they stay!
Some other special sightings we've had were pangolin and aardvark (on the same drive) and a number of other pangolin sightings through-out the month. We also had the pleasure of seeing a small herd of about twenty Roan antelope in a lovely area knows as "Tico's Pan".
Not to be out done by the cats, rhinos and bovine, the Chitabe pack of four wild dogs are denning at the moment and have produced eight puppies. Nothing seems to be more endearing then seeing wild dog puppies, with bellies so full they drag along the sand. The game drives have seen some fantastic interaction with the pups as they are getting very used to the vehicles. The adults don't even move from their resting places and the pups come gallivanting out from the den to meet the vehicles, as if to give each and every guest a personal "wild dog welcome" to Chitabe.
We've done one two day walking trail this month and about six one night sleep-outs at the hides. This experience is proving to be so successful and the guests really enjoy the simplicity of the platforms, mosquito nets and the subtle ambiance created by old fashioned lanterns and a small cozy fire.
Jacana Camp Update, September 7 2003
Jacana Camp is a great little 4 roomed water camp located in Botswana famed Okavango Delta. Here is the camp's latest update.
This time of year the flood waters start to recede and we hop into spring! At first we were very disappointed to start losing the water but soon the benefits of this new phase in the year became apparent. Although boating activities are more limited than they have been for the last four months, mekoro activities are currently unaffected. Sitatunga and Pel's Fishing Owl sightings are still very regular, in fact, sitatunga sightings seem to be at their highest point this year. The receding water has certainly brought in huge quantities of birds to feed at the waters edge. We are also noticing an increase in the number of species spotted as some of the winter migrants have started to return.
One aspect that would be hard not to notice is the increase in elephant activity in the area. We are constantly entertained by a number of large bull elephant that frequent our island, including of course the infamous "Jack". A small breeding herd numbering five individuals often seen around in the past have started to roam closer to camp and have spent a few days and nights feeding on Jacana Island this month. We have also frequently seen a larger breeding herd numbering around 15 individuals in close proximity. They are sighed frequently while guests are partaking in water activities.
The night noises around Jacana have also started to change from the usual owl calls of the wet season. They have now been accompanied by the barking of baboons, whooping of hyenas, roaring of lions and rasping of a large male leopard that is known to live in the area. The lions we are hearing, but have not sighted yet, are suspected to be the pride that was frequently sighted last summer and spent 3 weeks parked on the edge of the island. We are going to try to hold on to the boating for as long as possible but will welcome the ability to do night drives once we can drive on to the island again.
With the temperatures rising guests are taking advantage of our new pool with it's beautiful view. We also look forward to the drying out of the floodplains to give an opportunity to our resident vervet monkeys to leave the island. They are getting rather mischievous after being stuck on the island with us all winter. No doubt once they have the opportunity they will move on and be replaced by a new troop that has not yet discovered the wonders of soap and toothpaste.
This month we have had many bush brunches out on deserted islands and the summer will bring the opportunity to have some dinners out in this amazing wilderness. Our cultural dinners are getting more exciting with the arrival of some new staff members with some superb dancing skills. Accompanied by our already talented drummers and singers these events are a favorite with the guests who also enjoy a tour of the staff village to learn the mysteries of basket weaving, mekoro carving, fire by friction and other such unforgotten skills.
UPDATES FOR WEEK ENDING MONDAY 1ST SEPTEMBER 2003:
Rekero Tented Camp, September 1 2003
Rekoro Tented Camp is located in Kenya's famed Masai Mara. Here is the camp's latest update:
Great columns of wildebeest are heading west from Ol Keju Rongai to the Talek and Mara rivers leaving huge swathes of trampled and closely cropped grass in their wake. The recent heavy rains in the Mara are producing a flush of new shoots for the gazelles. The burnt areas of Paradise Plain will look fantastic in the coming days. Today is sunny and windy and the full moon phase rains are hopefully over.
Our cheetah family close to camp are faring well in this time of plenty. The Ol Kiombo pride of lions are all around camp and we watched a large male courting opposite the dining tent during breakfast yesterday.
The huge Nile crocodiles are feasting on the zebra herds that precede the wildebeest. Our guides and guests have witnessed many gory spectacles in this last week at the river crossings and as the wildebeest follow the zebra the swollen rivers will claim more victims as huge traffic jams build up as they enter the crossings followed by even more chaos as they try to exit up the slippery banks.
Dinner stories interrupted by a howling hyena and the roaring and coughing of lions around camp are really what make this sojourn in the bush so special and it gives me so much pleasure to be part of the animated conversation in the evenings round the campfire relating the events of the day, each group returning with their own special experiences varying from extraordinary wildlife behavior to unique cultural exchanges with their Masai guides or the communities they have visited.
Ken Beaton (my father) wrote some lively diaries at the formation of Kenya National parks where he was the first game warden. I quote "There are many folklore fireside stories about animals in Africa. One is about a couple of Ildorobo hunter gatherers who decide to kill a giraffe. It is arranged that one should climb a tree and jump on a giraffes neck, then the other was to run in and spear it. They do this, but the spearman is so convulsed with laughter when he sees his friend waving around on the end of the giraffes neck that he rolls on the ground helpless. His friend is thrown for six and the giraffe escapes. Many tall yarns are told around a dorobo bushmans campfire for their entertainment value. The stickler for the truth was ever the bore". A wardens Dairy September 1948.
Pauline and I have recently been hosting the tented camp along with our Masai guides whilst Gerard and Rainee had a short break and Jackson Looseyia was battling up Kilimanjaro raising funds on a sponsored climb for the Mara Conservancy. Jackson made it to Uhuru peak and has been complaining about frost bite ever since. He was obviously very elated having conquered the highest mountain in Africa. Next Everest!?
Some of our guests were on a game drive to see the migration a few days ago and found a very confused black rhino charging around the wildebeest in large circles. You would have thought that he had seen all this before, maybe he was a nomad or maybe just behaving like a rhino!
Mark our cook has been producing the most spectacular food even though he had a challenging request from some strict vegetarians from India. We flew in some special dishes, which were expertly prepared by him. The Rekero team were very pleased to have Dave Herndon (Journalist for Travel and Leisure and National Geographic traveler) again in camp even though his visit was short. Rainee is gearing up for her art exhibition in San Diego in November and this is to be followed by the wedding of our daughter Tana in the Pump Room of the Roman Baths in Bath England. Dress easy. Togas ala Masai!
At Rekoro Cottages the elephant have moved into the hills since the rain, as have the buffalo. It is already very green and cool. We are doing some bush walks in the mornings with good birding but the wildlife is spread out after the rains with abundant available water everywhere. Our resident leopard was coughing around camp during the night just incase any one was encroaching on his territory. The waterhole in front of the cottages should get good usage in the coming month as it dries up again in the latter half of September and October.
Regards from Rekero team
Robin Pope's Weekly Zambia Update, September 1 2003
Robin and Jo Pope run several very successful safari camps in Zambia. Here is their weekly update:
Love is in the air at the Nkwali - no I have not been swept away on a wave of romance, enduced by a handsome hunk of a safari guide whispering sweet nothings in my ear - oops getting carried away now.....Let's talk animals - they seem to spend their time mating, fighting or eating and our guests have had some splendid sightings of all of these in the past week - well not much fighting actually but the 3 sound better together!
Nkwali have had 2 amazing views of different leopards mating - quite an unusual sight in itself but these were separate sightings on the same evening - something to do with the Red Planet hurtling toward us maybe - more of that later! It is not uncommon for lions to be spotted mating but although leopards tend to mate more frequently in a set time period, they are less demonstrative as they move around rather. The most spectacular mating award goes to Jacob at Nsefu who found a pair of honey badgers so engrossed that the lucky clients managed to watch them for some time - a rare opportunity in itself but since none of the other guides have seen this spectacle, Jacob is quite rightly pretty chuffed with himself.
In the same vein Ross at Tena Tena and regulars Mike and Fiona Collet and Peter and Helga Stoer had the extraordinary good luck to come across a baby elephant at Lunga Lagoon which had just been born - it was still wet and was unable to stand so must have been less than an hour or so old. They watched this wonderful sight for some time before moving away. Guest returned in the afternoon but there was no sign. It is incredible how quickly animals get up and moving after birth and this particular elephant sighting will no doubt remain a special moment these lucky guests will not forget for awhile.
Mars is going to be at its closest to Earth for at least the last 5,000 years (scientists say it could be 60,000 years) on August 27, 2003. As luck would have it Nkwali is going to be empty that night (the only night in the season) and so Shanie and I feel duty bound to mark the occasion with a Valley All sundowner party. Jo is away at the moment but we are sure she would feel that we were being remiss if we did not mark this special night with a bit of a bash - Mars Bars have been ordered of course and we are working on Red snacks (most involving Beetroot!!), a red cocktail and beer with cochineal for the unadventurous bush types!! As the planet does not reach it's closes until around 12:30 AM I fear a long night and a few fuzzy heads the next day. Apologies in advance to anyone arriving at Nkwali on 28th if you are welcomed by a caterer in dark glasses with an ice pack pressed to her temple! Stay well and have a great week - Cheers, Kim