LATEST CAMP NEWS
It has been a month of hot and cold, windy and dry weather. During the month of September it felt like August with a bit of autumn in the mix…
Weather and Landscape
It has been a month of hot and cold, windy and dry weather. During the month of September it felt like August with a bit of autumn in the mix. Leaves have been falling nonstop and the mangosteen trees have blossomed favouring us with a sweet smell in the air. Some mornings you wake up feeling this is now summer – then the next day it is cold and windy. Some days we reached temperatures of +/- 37 degrees Celsius and then lows of 19, which is still acceptable.
The water level has dropped rapidly. Between Jao and Kwetsani Camp we had to move our jetties to accommodate our guests with water activities, seeing that the boats cannot travel on certain channels when it is too low. However, travelling to Kwetsani Camp over the floodplains to get to the Kwetsani Jetty will always be amazing.
The lions were the main attraction during the month of September. They have made their presence known around camp a couple of times. One evening William and Angie had a magnificent sighting of them walking past the vehicle on Camp Road. We expected the one female to give birth, however, it still has not happened. All three camps, Jao, Kwetsani and Jacana, have had regular sightings and the guests have thoroughly enjoyed them. We are hoping to have brand new little lion cubs soon.
The hyaena have made their presence known around camp as well. We still see them as our naughty puppies looking for a shoe to chew on – so to speak. The guests love hearing the stories of how they visit the camp nightly.
As the resident civet was killed by this clan of hyaena, we didn’t expect to see another civet by camp for a while and we were surprised this month when two civets began to visit us.
Hippo have also provided us with outstanding sightings from camp and on one occasion two rival males decided to settle their differences right in front of camp during the darkest hours of the night… it went on for hours. The guests who were staying at Tents 7, 8 and 9 arrived the next morning looking a little tired and weary due to the ruckus of grunts and honks.
Red lechwe and impala have massed along the floodplains as the water levels recede and expose succulent and nutritious shoots.
During an evening drive, around seven springhares were seen hopping along the airstrip – a first time sight for many on the vehicle.
Birds and Birding
The southern-carmine bee-eaters are back in town. A couple of them have been seen around camp and on the channels to Jacana. We also saw a pair of Retz’s helmet-shrikes at the back of house hopping around in a tree looking for insects to feast on. African openbills are always a good sign that winter has passed and summer is here and have been seen en route to Pelo Camp.
Three southern-ground hornbills were been spotted close to the management tents. Their hoo-too-too calls are the best wakeup call anybody could get. They even showed off one morning making a kill. The youngster in the family of three could not wait to grab the skink from father’s bill and ran off with it.
Yellow-billed storks have also been seen around the camp area. These beautiful birds are a pleasure to have around. We were also fortunate enough to see a long-crested eagle in camp sitting on a tree stump.
The guests that come to Jao have either heard, read or been to Jao before. We try and give our guests an experience that they can remember forever. We had a number of WOW activities for the guests this month. We had bush dinners at several different spots. Some of the guests have never eaten outside in the bush before.
Hunda Island trips were a huge hit as always. Guests enjoyed going to the island and coming back with stories to tell. They had amazing sightings and praised the guides.
We had several basket weaving lessons given to the guests by our local staff. Some of the guests even gave it a try. After a prick or two on the finger by the tool the basket weavers use, the guests understood why the women start basket weaving when they are six years old. The ladies supported the cause by purchasing some of the baskets.
The 30th of September was Botswana’s Independence Day. It really worked out well that it was on a Monday which is cultural dinner night at camp. There was a big crowd of guests in camp which made it more special. The Jao Motswana staff were singing from early morning already. Cindy, our executive chef, planned a special traditional meal for the guests that night. The general staff came dressed in their traditional outfits which all looked spectacular. The guests were asked to join in with dancing around the fire.
June started with considerably high daytime temperatures reaching up to 30 degrees Celsius and morning temperatures of 15 to 16 degrees.
Weather and Water Level
June started with considerably high daytime temperatures reaching up to 30 degrees Celsius and morning temperatures of 15 to 16 degrees. A few days into the month winter came crashing into the Delta with mornings as low as 11 degrees and days reaching no higher than 27 degrees.
The water level is dropping day by day but Jao is fortunately surrounded by water year-round, making boat excursions to Hunda Island and relaxing mokoro rides everyday activities.
A new king has arrived at Jao Camp – a male and two female lions have been seen in the surrounding areas. On their very first day we could hear the male growling around camp in an attempt to mark his territory. The small pride has been spotted around the airstrip and was also seen with a kill – a good sign that they will stick around. A couple of days later we went in search of the lions and caught them in the act! We hope that this continuous mating will bring some little cubs into our concession and will be the beginning of a new pride at Jao.
On one of our day trips the managers, waiters and chef were putting up the surprise brunch for our guests when an elephant came in to see what they were doing. Clearly an area of great interest, lions Salt and Pepper were also spotted in the same area.
On Hunda Island, many giraffe, zebra, buffalo, elephant, warthog and even sitatunga antelope have been sighted on all of our trips. On one occasion, we went in search of leopard and found a young one climbing a tree. We did however have to pass a herd of nervous elephant to get to it. While one of the bulls was clearly unhappy about us being there, we all managed to eventually get to the leopard who was enjoying a kill in the tree.
One night there were sounds of violence nearby. One of our visiting guides told us that these were from fighting hippos. Male hippos typically fight over territory and this time one of them was the clear winner as the next morning we found a dead hippo in the channels. The lions came in to feed off the carcass, making for a real show for our guests.
Sad news is that Moruti (which means ‘Shadow’), our “camp” civet was taken by some spotted hyaenas. The hyaena clan is still around and are becoming cheekier day by day – even visiting us on boma evening.
Mongooses, monkeys and baboons are still at the heart of Jao Camp. We found some of our banded mongoose in the entertainment room, presumably having fun. They ran off, leaving a big mess once they were chased out. Monkeys have also been found in the gym jumping, bouncing and balancing on the Pilates balls – clearly they wanted a workout. The baboons love to be seen as well and make regular visits into camp.
Our beloved fruitbats keep on sleeping day by day in our Curio Shop – some free-tailed bats tried to make this their home but the fruitbats have done a good job of keeping them out!
A Verreaux’s eagle-owl has been seen relaxing in the trees of Jao. As this the biggest African owl with a very particular song it was difficult miss it. Continuing with the biggest birds in Africa, a martial eagle was seen with a young steenbok as prey – what an incredible moment. As some guests were departing Jao a female bateleur flew over our heads. It really is a spectacle seeing this beautiful eagle flying around us. A white-browed coucal has also been hanging around camp. In the Delta you can find hundreds of species of birds, and indeed, relaxing with a book on our deck while listening to their songs has no price.
It has been a very busy month at Jao and we try hard to give the best experience to all our guests. Sundowners, bush brunches in our favourite spot at Hunda Island, high teas with our loving staff teaching basket-weaving techniques and our local Bushman Kupira showing the traditional way that his people used to live in the Delta. On our traditional boma nights our staff choir and dancers wow the guests.
Some of our wine connoisseur managers have also delighted our guests with wine tastings. Do not hesitate to ask for a sample of our wine cellar when you come to visit us. You will be amazed to discover how many wines Africa has to offer.
Our little ones have enjoyed a swim in the floodplains and learning pole the mokoro like real Batswana!
A highly enjoyable time, the staff and the management have been very happy to see a full camp for the whole month and being able to receive guests from around the globe! We hope you all have Africa in your hearts!
Weather and Landscape
The wake of the month came with hot open skies in the morning and mid-afternoon thunderstorms that passed through. The new moon brought about an interesting but expected change in rainfall pattern. We have had a good month of rain and in total, we received 222 mm of rain for January, not bad at all.
All this rain has been caught on the floodplains and on the roads where it lies in pools, which just goes to show the sensitivity of our ecosystem and how high the water table is. As rainwater fills the floodplains, many birds have congregated, enhancing the panoramic views of the plains.
After spending some time around the boundaries of their territory, early this month, the Jao Pride moved over to the Kwetsani floodplains. With one of the young females showing signs of readiness to mate in late December, the dominant male followed at their heels. An intruder male that was first seen in September and still shy at that time has resurfaced and this time with slightly more confidence and we were able to photograph this handsome young male. He followed the Jao Pride to northern Kwetsani probably behind the young female’s strong trail of pheromones, but no encounter seems to have taken place yet with the dominant male.
Other swift predator tracks have been seen on Jao Island: a young male leopard, it seems, moves with the shadows, leaving only tracks to see or the alarm call of vervet monkeys as he vanishes. We were able to get a good visual of the cat, but as in most cases a camera was not handy! The young female on Hunda Island on the other hand was not shy to show her spots, and on one occasion she was seen with a warthog kill that was a bit too much for her to move up a tree to safety, so she enjoyed her meal at the foot of an acacia.
We have had quite a bit of snake activity this month and seen a lot more than we are used to. A snouted cobra was given away by pestering starlings as it slithered along the walkways to safety! A Cape wolf snake, rhombic night-adder and quite a few variegated bush snakes were seen, as well as a few who were a bit too quick for us to identify!
The ‘Jao Mafia’, our banded mongoose troop, is getting its numbers up; we have seen some heavily pregnant females forage around mid-month.
Birds and Birding
The rains this month have resulted in birds flocking on the floodplains as they wade, skim and search for small fish that the swollen main tributaries have washed away onto the flat open plains – what a spectacle at sunset! A flock of about 40 wattled cranes, marabou storks, yellow-billed storks, African fish-eagles, hamerkop, pied kingfishers, saddle-billed storks, egrets and pratincoles, just to mention a few, have been gracing the floodplains.
In camp we have seen a few visitors chirping or doing acrobatics above our heads: broad-billed rollers above the main area, black-headed orioles hidden in the mangosteen canopy and blue-cheeked bee-eaters diving for insects in the evening light. On one spectacular sunset over the Jao floodplain, we had a scoop of pelicans stop over, perhaps to enjoy the view and just say ‘Howzit!’
We have also had a heated debate among managers about an osprey that was mistaken for an immature martial eagle! With a blurry image to argue over, please check our picture and help Angie out.
Weather and Landscape
The weather has changed dramatically from being scorching hot to comfortable. The clouds have been gathering almost every day but with little or no rain. We are still waiting patiently for the teasing to end and the heavens to pour down some decent rains, even we have had a small amount of rainfall during the month. The temperatures have been quite varied this month, with a high of 39° C and a low of 19° C.
What an eventful month, from finding painted reed frogs on our coffee mugs to sitting by in the main area and watching a male lion walk across the open floodplain while we are having breakfast, not to mention the African paradise-flycatchers nesting in a nearby tree – what a great way to start your day!
We have been very lucky here at Jao, since over the last month we have had three new intruders, the kind you hear roaring in the distance looking for new territory or even a new partner perhaps… I am speaking of three young male lions on the prowl. The resident male had better beware, as there is some competition! We have also had the lions in camp on a few occasions which has made moving around back of house a bit tricky.
The Jao floodplains are full of lechwe every evening. During the heat of the day there are only a few territorial males to be seen on the floodplains, while the big herds move to the waterways on the edge of the floodplain.
As the water level drops in the Delta, different species move into the concession – we have seen zebra and giraffe throughout the month, with the buffalo herds returning to the area towards the end of the month.
Birds and Birding
The first of the broad-billed rollers have arrived and are showing off with their bright colours and flashy flight. The resident little bee-eater eggs have hatched and the chicks are growing quickly. They are now being fed full-sized dragonflies by the ever-vigilant parents.
Guests have regularly been spotting rosy-throated longclaws out on the floodplains. As the water recedes, fish traps have formed on the peripheries of the floodplain, attracting huge flocks of waders and water birds.
The avian highlight for the month was the arrival of no less than 60 wattled cranes, which have taken up residence around the Jao Hippo Pools. It is fantastic to watch the males perform their elaborate dance in a bid to attract a female.
Weather and Water level
Winter is here and at the beginning of the month a very big cold front pushed over Botswana bringing very cold weather from South Africa. This created some very chilly days and nights which saw temperatures descend into single figures in the evening and climbing to low teens at midday. The mushroom heaters in the main area, the warm wraps and the hot water bottles in the beds went down well with everyone. Fortunately it only lasted a week before our beautiful weather returned: only dropping to low double figures in the evening and mid-twenties during the day.
Water levels continue to drop, however the channels are still flowing well and the water is clear and high enough for all the wonderful sights and activities available at Jao.
It has been another great month on the Jao Island. The young male leopard has been seen south of the airstrip again and he is relaxing nicely. To add to this, tracks of a female leopard have been seen which will also encourage the young male leopard to settle. A very large male leopard has been heard and briefly seen between Jao and Jacana; when the water drops maybe he will visit Jao Island too.
The female hyaena has been spotted almost every night this month and has even visited the walkway twice this month.
There are now two resident African civets on the island – a female and a male – maybe we’ll have a family soon. Our resident mongoose family is doing very well and the numbers continue to grow. A power struggle is developing with a new young male who is challenging the old dominant male and it looks as if the old male who has been here for about eight years is soon going to be knocked out of the group.
There are also two resident genets, one by the offices and the other up by the main area. Both of which seem to have perfected the art of finding milk and a few other little treats when backs are turned.
The lion are doing well and their two cubs are still strong and healthy – a buffalo, a lechwe, two tsessebe and the last wildebeest on the island have been taken this month. With the water dropping and the red lechwe returning to the Jao floodplains the pickings are only going to get easier for the Jao Pride.
Elephant breeding herds are back. At the beginning of the month we only had the large males on the island as the herds were still coming across from the waterholes and the channels were still deep, but in the last week of the month the herds arrived filling the gaps around camp.
Finally, but not least, our otter family is still doing well with the two youngsters now almost fully grown and about to head out on their own.
Winter is sometimes a little challenging for birders, with the males not looking their best and the migrants away, however we are in the paradise of the Delta and even the hardcore birders will always have a good time here.
The big highlight of the month was the site of a greater honey guide seen twice on the island, the first flock of about 100-150 open-billed storks have arrived with the first few flocks of wattled cranes. Our resident giant eagle owls are nesting and to add to that we now have a nesting pair of barred owls as well. Then also a special sighting this month was a western banded snake eagle killing and eating a spotted bush snake.
These are just some of our birding highlights, but seeing all the water birds on the channels, the fish eagles fishing, the Pel’s fishing-owl in camp, the busy weavers, the daily battle between the black-collared and the crested barbets and the babblers and the starlings, Jao is quite simply a birding garden of Eden.
Water activities have still been the most popular at the moment – however with the lions being as active as they have been and with the cooler weather the local drives have also been a highlight. Fishing has been enjoyed and some very nice tigerfish have being caught as well as pike and bream also coming on the bite.
This time of year, however, with the floodplain still covered in water, mokoro excursions are a very big highlight in any guest’s stay – either morning or afternoon: the sun rising or setting with water reflection, lechwe around and lions roaring adding to the spectacular ambiance.
Hunda day trips are also popular and leopards have been seen on almost every trip across to the island. The consistency of the general game also adds to the experience and to top it off a picnic lunch in the middle of the bush.
Private dinners, floodplain brunches and sundowners have also been enjoyed this month, but the big highlight has been our barge sundowners in the middle of a lagoon on a large boat with a barbeque going and a full bar with cocktails while guests watch the beauty of a Delta sunset – it does not get better!
Information courtesy of Wilderness Safaris
In the central region of the concession, vast open floodplains provide some of the most stunning scenery Botswana has to offer. Jao Camp lies in the southern side of the plains, an area with beautiful islands fringed with riverine forests.
Jao Camp has nine spacious, beautiful tents, each individually handcrafted. These twin-bedded canvas and thatched rooms are situated beneath a canopy of shady trees and have en-suite facilities, as well as an outdoor shower for the more adventurous. Built on raised decks, each has a private sala for afternoon siestas and offers wonderful views of the spectacular surrounding floodplains of Botswana. In addition to the lounge and dining area, there are two plunge pools and an outdoor boma for dining under the stars, complemented by wines from an excellent wine cellar. Jao Camp also has a spa where a wide range of massage therapies are offered.
Mekoro, boat trips, fishing, nature walks (which must be requested prior to travel), day and night game drives and birding are usually on offer all year round due to the abundance of wildlife in Botswana. There are two platform hides in the concession. During an unusually high flood season, game drives begin by boating out to a nearby Hunda Island where the vehicles are waiting, and the drive begins from there. Huge herds of red lechwe can be seen, followed by their primary predator – prides of lion. Other game typical of Botswana include elephant, buffalo, leopard, tsessebe, zebra and wildebeest, hippo and crocodile. Many bird species are resident such as Meyer’s Parrot, African Harrier Hawk, Black egret, Coppery-tailed Coucal, Malachite Kingfisher, Hamerkop and Black Crake being some of the avian treasures found at Jao Camp.
Camp Features / Activities:
Photos courtesy of Wilderness Safaris and Dana Allen, Michael Poliza