LATEST CAMP NEWS
The cold winter eventually arrived at Kwetsani in mid-June, the temperature dropping from the pleasant average high of 27° C in the day to 22°C…
Weather and Landscape
The cold winter eventually arrived at Kwetsani in mid-June, the temperature dropping from the pleasant average high of 27° C in the day to 22°C, meaning that the nights have become snuggle nights, as the guests gladly hold onto their hot water bottles going to bed and on the game drives, until about 9am, when the temperature becomes warm enough to remove all the layers. Strangely enough, the cold weather arrived with a strong wind, so that the following morning, the water that was covering the roads in front of camp receded, leaving the roads dry, which is something we have not witnessed over the past two years.
Kwetsani, being situated in a place where we are privileged to be able to traverse both Hunda and Jao Islands, has excellent predator viewing opportunities, as well as all the ‘usual’ plains game and elephant and buffalo herd sightings. Our enthusiastic guides, MT and GT, who have been on duty for June, have done a great job of imparting their knowledge of every aspect of this awesome wilderness area that we live in to our guests.
The Jao lionesses have been hanging out to the north of Kwetsani for a while, but this month passed by the front of camp one afternoon, much to our delight, being courted by the new dominant male – a really handsome beast. All the resident females were still coy and in submissive mode, meaning that this new brute has just managed to convince them that he is the guy for them. They have subsequently moved on to Jao Island, which is comfortable territory for them, and where they made a kill at the airstrip – as we all know the best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach – and in about three months’ time we can expect a new litter of cubs. At another sighting, two young male lions were seen on Hunda Island protecting a buffalo kill from the opportunistic hyaena.
The leopard sightings continue to be magnificent. This month our guests have really enjoyed viewing these regal felines in all of their glory – either stretched out on a tree limb, or on a termite mound, or relaxing under the shade of a tree, or simply strolling from one place to another. Seeing three leopards together on one morning was an amazing sighting which the guests could just not stop talking about. However, the very shy female leopard has eluded us, just leaving her tracks as well as those of her young cub quite close around camp. We have not seen this leopard yet but she is definitely around. On one occasion she killed an impala very close to Tent 1, but was soon robbed by a clan of wily hyaena – the evidence was in the tracks and sounds which were heard under the cover of darkness – the hyaena celebrated by giggling and cackling. Ending the great run of leopard sightings in June was an encounter between a leopard and a honey badger. Eventually the formidable badger backed off and strolled away. This amazing encounter was witnessed by a number of guests.
The resident banded mongoose family has thrilled all this month as they have provided some outstanding photographic opportunities. On one occasion we had the opportunity to watch these critters confront an Anchieta’s cobra. A brief battle followed, but the nimble band quickly neutralised the snake and fed on it.
General game sightings have been very good, as many impala are venturing onto the drying floodplains while the lechwe have been concentrating in the water-logged areas. Hippo too have been seen often as they have spread out all over the area. Elephant sightings have been good, especially around the camp and some impressive herds of buffalo have been moving through the area. Finally, zebra and giraffe sightings have been abundant.
The first month of 2013 proved to be a good one, with great guests, wonderful sightings and enjoyable company. Kwetsani was busy for the first half of the month and then we closed down for our annual maintenance, where we refresh the camp for a new year, so by the end of it, Kwetsani will also have a new and clean feel.
Weather and Landscape
The month of January was really a wet month, with two big rain storms where we had over 100 mm for each storm. The storms were accompanied by strong winds which had the rain falling horizontally. A few trees around the camp were felled by the storms, but not much damage to infrastructure was done. Towards the end of the month, we started getting high temperatures during the day, but due to all the rain, the evenings have still been cool and comfortable.
For about half of the month, during the night and early mornings, we were greeted by the roars of lions. These have either come from the Jao Pride or the intruder. The Jao Pride was on the northern Kwetsani floodplain in the beginning of the month, where they killed a lechwe and our guests got some great photographs of the juvenile male playing with his food. The pride then crossed the northern river and we have not seen them again. The young male or ‘intruder’ has been around Kwetsani Island for the last 10 days and he has been roaring each and every night, looking for other lions. He is often sighted by the water pump.
Leopard sightings have been scarce on Hunda Island but our guides have worked hard and most of our guests have seen this elusive feline. Hyaena have also been sighted in and around Kwetsani as well as on Hunda Island. The young male hyaena has been seen under Tent 4 and around the kitchen where he has been hoping to scavenge a tasty morsel or two.
The resident bushbuck have been seen each day and even the males are becoming more relaxed when they are sighted from the walkways.
A group of four buffalo were seen near the airstrip and on the Jao floodplains, great herds of lechwe are always around. A couple of reedbuck are often seen in front of Kwetsani and impala are never far away.
Birds and Birding
The birdlife around the Jao Concession never fails to amaze and for birders, this is a great time. With all the rain, a small surge of water occurred in the waterways, which brought out all the newly-hatched fry and the catfish also came out of the mud. This caused the African fish-eagles to have a feast and enjoy the extra helpings. Woodland kingfishers are also seen and the sheer numbers of wattled cranes and saddle-billed storks are amazing.
A black-breasted snake-eagle has been seen between Kwetsani and Jao Camp as well as black-shouldered kites. The bulbuls, golden weavers and robins are seen every day bathing in the bird bath on the main deck.
It has been a busy month at Kwetsani and we have had some amazing wildlife experiences and equally amazing guests come through. We have been enjoying many dinners with good people on the main Kwetsani deck, braving the weather’s threat of large rain clouds in the distance. Luckily only one meal was cut short by rain. As soon as the rain began our full camp of guests all pitched in and we enjoyed the rest of our drinks in the main area watching the beautiful lightning show in the distance.
This coming month we will be hosting a fantastic wedding! We have been stocking up on goods for the wedding guests and are excited to be a part of something so special. The guests have been very interested in the logistics of this wedding and it has been the topic of conversation at many meals. Many have asked to see pictures and some have even joked about wanting to stay to be a part of the wedding festivities as well. All of Kwetsani will be full of guests, wedding suppliers, managers and staff ready to participate and celebrate this big day!
Weather and Landscape
November was diverse in the weather department. We had typical summer days where the thermometer climbed into the upper thirties Celsius and we had days where it struggled to get into mid-twenties.
During the first half of the month, the days were hot and the thought of rain lingered in everyone’s minds. Every day the clouds would build and threaten with rain, only to disappoint. But as the month progressed, the temperatures dropped daily and we finally received our first substantial rains. On the last day of month the clouds dropped 46 mm of rain in four hours. With all of the rain, the bush has erupted with vibrant green colours making the views around Kwetsani absolutely stunning.
Around Kwetsani the water continues to drop daily. The added rain will help as we continue to boat in the area. Trips to Hunda Island are still ongoing and boat cruises remain some guests’ favourite activities.
The lion drama continues to develop in the areas around Kwetsani. During this month we have had two new young male lions move in. They have spent much of their time around northern Kwetsani but have on a few occasions headed south towards Jao Camp. The two lions are very vocal and are constantly scent-marking but remain wary of the Jao Pride male. Everyone has been holding their breaths, waiting for a confrontation – but the two sides seem to be avoiding each other.
Early in the month we were seeing a male lion which we nicknamed “The Intruder”. He is a beautiful lion with a deep red mane. Even though he looks in his prime he is very timid and nervous and avoids any conflict. One morning he was chased across the Kwetsani floodplains by the two younger male lions. The guests were having early morning breakfast as the chase began and everyone quickly changed their morning plans and jumped into the vehicles to watch the drama unfold.
For most guests the trips to Hunda Island remain a major highlight. During November, the game viewing was superb. A new lioness with four cubs was seen regularly. It has been some time since lions made Hunda Island a permanent home and we continue to hope that she will stay. The cubs are around one-and-a-half years old and guests have seen their mother trying to teach them to hunt, although very unsuccessfully.
Another highlight of the month over at Hunda has been the return of the cheetah. Late in the month, a female cheetah and her two cubs were seen. Recently the cheetah have kept away from the Jao Concession because of the amount of water, but with it dropping we expect to see them more frequently.
As always the leopard on Hunda remain top prize. With all of the new lion activity in the area they have needed to be a little more secretive. This in turn has given the guests a great perspective on the tracking aspect of things. Guests always marvel at the way the guides are able to pick up and interpret the tracks they come across. And when it all culminates with the leopard posing on the termite mound they truly are blown away.
One of the most exciting mornings we had at Kwetsani was when a female hyaena and her two pups killed a large male red lechwe next to our kitchen. From the evidence and tracks it was a major struggle for the three to pull down such a large antelope. Eventually they were successful and they dragged the kill between Tents 4 and 5 where guests were able to stand on the walkway and watch them feed on their way to breakfast.
Birds and Birding
As we are now completely immersed into summer, the birdlife is reaching its most magnificent time. The migrant birds have returned to their summer breeding grounds and many have already changed into breeding plumage.
The large congregations of wattled cranes have arrived in the Jao Concession. It is not uncommon to see flocks of up to 50 of them on and around the floodplains. What a pleasure it is to have such special birds making this concession their home.
Just around the camp, we have witnessed some interesting birds making kills! One afternoon, we watched as the resident band of mongoose were foraging near Tent 2 when a yellow-billed kite swooped down and snatched up one of the group’s babies. The kite flew right over our heads clutching its prize.
One night as we were walking guests back to their room, we spotted a Verreaux’s eagle-owl sitting on a dead tree. Just as we spotted him he swooped down out of the tree and took a mouse and then flew back up to the branch that he had been perched on. A few days later we found the remains of the little creature in the form of an owl pellet on the main deck. Some guests had never seen one before and were very interested in the exciting digestion process of owls.
Weather and Landscape
Winter is definitely creeping in on us – slowly but surely. The mornings and evenings require us to wear a jacket to keep off the chill. The days on the other hand have been just perfect, not too hot and not too cold. No doubt next month we will be commenting about just how cold it is.
The water levels are reaching the edge of the camp at a rate of about 50cm a day. I put in a level stick to see how much the water is rising in front of camp but an elephant did not like it there so pulled it out.
The game viewing has been very exciting this month. All the predators have been visibly active. A Southern African python was seen trying to swallow a steenbok, which of course is a great sighting. Several leopard kills have been seen; many were ‘treed’ with the proud leopard feeding on the carcass high above the ground. But I suppose the most exciting news has been the arrival of a small lion pride with tiny cubs on the island.
The arrival of the lion on the island began with a violent spat between lion and the hyaena. We know the lions left Jao with five cubs, but only arrived with four on the island, so we are wondering if maybe a hyaena managed to kill one of the cubs? Whatever happened, it is clear that one of the hyaena got badly injured in the confrontation. We first noticed the injury after inspecting the tracks, as it was clear that the hyaena was dragging one of its back legs. This was confirmed when we spotted the individual, which had large gashes across its hind quarters.
The visiting lions have been taking advantage of the prolific game on the island as they have been very active in hunting. Quite soon after arriving on the island, the lioness killed a young warthog and then after a small snack, went to collect the cubs. Unfortunately for the cubs, one of the male lions stole the kill for himself – leaving the cubs hungry and exposed. The cubs soon followed their mother back to the safety of some thick vegetation. The stingy male finished the entire carcass and then rolled over and enjoyed a lengthy nap.
The lionesses were soon again on the hunt, this time focusing on a small herd of lechwe which were feeding in front of camp. This time though, the hunt was unsuccessful. Hunger forced them to hunt again the next day in the same area with the same result. Driven by hunger, the male followed the females on the hunt, probably with the intention of stealing an easy meal once again. The hunting felines soon disappeared into some thick vegetation and we lost sight of them. Later on that afternoon, the females emerged with full bellies, indicating that they were successful in making a kill and keeping it.
The male lion has been following the females closely towards the end of the month, displaying the Flehmen grimace, which tells us that one of the lioness may be coming into oestrus.
The elephants have done their rounds around the camp too, but seldom staying long enough for us to get a sighting from the deck. However, the elephant sightings on the game drives have been phenomenal. The hippo have also provided incredible sightings, entertaining our guests with their honks and grunts.
The impala rut has begun, and it is fascinating to watch them fight for dominance and take ownership of a herd. The giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, buffalo, red lechwe, to name but a few, are a common sighting, and always wonderful to watch in their natural environment. A very young bushbuck fawn has caused a lot of excitement amongst guests in camp, as the tiny antelope is so cute.
Birds and Birding
A juvenile Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl has been hunting around camp at night, which is always fantastic to watch. A resident Green Wood-Hoopoe has also been entertaining our guests, as it searches for tasty morsels by turning over pieces of bark and probing every little crevice in the tree trunks, not to mention their energetic call that often erupts after finding some tasty treats.
Weather and Landscape
The water levels are slowly rising and becoming visible across the floodplain, creating a perfect playground for the red lechwe.
The air temperature is dropping slowly but there were still a few hot days with temperatures rising to high 30′s (Celsius). The rainy season seems to be over and we only had one major storm this month.
The majestic Tubu leopard has recently given birth to two of the most adorable little cubs ever seen, with their chubby little faces and their tiny little spots. So far, mum has kept them hidden from danger and the threats that they will one day have to encounter. Only a handful of lucky guests have managed to see them currently, and an even fewer number of pictures have been taken of them. We hope they will become the future generation of leopards at Hunda Island and we have faith that they will survive the season, as the water is moving in slowly, making the island smaller and bringing animals, both predator and prey, closer to each other – as if an unwanted neighbour has pitched a tent in your very own backyard.
The Jao Pride, which consists of one dominant male, two lioness and five cubs have been seen too. The cubs are around three months of age and have become very boisterous and playful, but never straying too far from the protective paws of mother. At this stage their environment is a huge playground, as they constantly chase each other through the long grass. Their playful antics have provided our guests with some great photos.
A couple elephant bulls have moved into the camp area, taking advantage of the tasty vegetation growing amongst the camp structures. These gentle giants are always the talk at the breakfast table and sometimes are the loudest snorers in camp at night.
The resident hyaena have really become brazen lately. It has become a regular occurrence to be visited by the canine-like predators at camp, when enjoying a refreshment at the bar or fireplace. A couple of individuals will wander up into the main area’s terrace and quietly move between the furniture, in the hope of finding a tasty morsel or two. If one sits quietly and patiently, these creatures of the night will happily continue with their camp foraging, all the time keeping a watchful eye on the observer.
The resident troop of monkeys have reared their babies well, as they have taught them how to swiftly and elegantly move through the trees in the same manner as the adults do. We have endless laughs as we watch the vervet monkeys move around camp in the tree line – the parents forever watching closely as their clumsy yet adorable young ones try to keep up and show off their new-found talent as they go along.
A number of hippo have been out and about. They are most commonly seen in the water, but lately we have seen them quite often outside of the water, grazing along and under the boardwalks. These bulk grazers give us a reminder of why one should not wander around at night.
Bat activity has been exciting too during the month. We have the occasional sighting of them as they dart through the darkness, but they do provide us with a serenade during the evening hours. Their clicks and squeaks and the chirps and beeps are incredibly synchronised in a way that only nature can explain.
Birds and Birding
The Woodland Kingfishers have all moved off as the summer months have come to an end. The resident Pied Kingfishers have provided us with great entertainment, quite often from the breakfast table. It is really funny to watch them test the water temperature, swiftly diving into the water and exiting just as swiftly, quickly flying to a perch and shaking the water off their feathers. When they do start hunting, they hover over the water like a helicopter until a target is acquired. Once they have honed in on a target, they dart into the water, using their long beaks to seize the fish.
A pair of Green Wood-Hoopoes have built their nest in a cavity in a fig tree behind the camp’s ‘loo with a view’ – this is a toilet with a large window that allows for awesome views of the plains – the perfect spot for some bird watching. The hoopoe pair energetically dart in and out of the nest, constantly feeding their demanding young ones.
Saddle-billed Storks have also provided great sightings as they fish in the shallow waters. They use the bright red colouration on their legs to attract fish within striking distance. A courting pair has taken up residence on the island.
African Fish-Eagle have been very active in the area as the annual inundation begins to pour into the area, causing the fish to spread all over in search of food. The water in the channels is crystal clear, making for easier hunting for the eagles – and every other water bird.
Information courtesy of Wilderness Safaris
Located in the central region of the Jao Concession, Kwetsani Camp has access to the vast open floodplains and some of the most stunning vistas of the Okavango Delta. To the north of Jao Camp on the same floodplain system, both camps are surrounded by beautiful islands fringed by riverine forests.
Kwetsani Camp consists of five furnished ‘tree-house’ chalets, each with its own en-suite bathroom, which are an open, airy accommodation of thatch, wood, glass and canvas. The dining room, lounge and drinks area are constructed under a large, cool thatched roof and offer incredible vistas of the surrounding floodplains dotted with lechwe, wildebeest and other plains game. Guests can also watch this wildlife from a communal pool or simply the comfort of their own rooms.
Kwetsani Camp offers excellent land and water activities dependent on the annual flood levels of the Okavango Delta. Game drives by day or night are on offer, as well as breathtaking wildlife viewing by moroko. More intrepid guests can also explore the many palm-fringed islands on foot (this must be requested prior to travel) or utilise the two platform hides in the concession.
Lion, leopard, wild dog, cheetah, tsessebe and red lechwe are among the major game attractions at Kwetsani Camp, while hippo, sitatunga antelope and crocodile reside in the deeper, permanently lily-filled lagoons of the area. Nocturnal animals such as porcupine, aardwolf, serval, large spotted genet and lesser bushbaby can be observed on the night drives (water levels permitting).
Camp Features / Activities:
Photos courtesy of Wilderness Safaris and Dana Allen