LATEST CAMP NEWS
The sightings at camp were kicked off this month by a large herd of buffalo that settled into the floodplain in front of camp for a couple of hours …
Weather and Landscape
The beginning of the month was a little chilly as the mornings were nippy, but midday and afternoon temperatures were quite comfy. This however was quite short-lived as the rest of the month became very hot with temperatures peaking at around 36 °C. Interestingly we did experience a couple of windy afternoons, setting the stage for some incredible sunsets as the wind would stir up the dust and enhance the spectrum of sunset colours.
We have enjoyed some good wildlife sightings this month, both around camp and out on activity.
The sightings at camp were kicked off this month by a large herd of buffalo that settled into the floodplain in front of camp for a couple of hours – it was awesome to watch the herd interact with one another as they grunted and bellowed while grazing on the succulent grass shoots.
Leopard sightings have been plentiful this month, with many lucky guests having the opportunity to view these magnificent spotted felines go about their daily life. We had witnessed quite a dramatic encounter on Hunda Island this month when the Tubu Female leopard ambitiously tried to bring down a male kudu – unfortunately for her, the male kudu managed to jab her with his horn on her chin. She has been sighted since and looks to be doing well.
Going further up the predatory scale, the resident male lion coalition known as ‘Salt and Pepper’ have been making their presence known, roaring loud and clear every night. Despite their nightly symphony, we have not been able to find them out on drive, although we have been finding fresh tracks almost daily.
A large breeding herd of female kudu have been visiting the camp area this month, often allowing our guests great sightings from the camp. The resident bushbuck have also provided great close up sightings from camp.
We have also been blessed with some very unusual sightings this month, including a pangolin, porcupine and even an aardvark. On one afternoon all in camp got to enjoy a sighting of tsessebe as a herd made their way across the floodplain.
Birds and Birding
We have enjoyed some really excellent and solid birding this month as the summer migrants begin to arrive.
A family group of southern-ground hornbills have been serenading us for most of the month as they vocalise while searching for food during the morning hours after sunrise.
A Dickinson’s kestrel was seen this month being mobbed by a pair of crested barbets which were trying to protect their nest from the raptor.
The slight cloud cover in the mornings provided us with very nice sunrise photos. The skies at night were generally clear and excellent for stargazing, storytelling around the fire and constellation pinpointing.
The sightings this month were amazing. We had plentiful leopard, some feeding on kills, others just lazing in the trees in the afternoon sun. The big and shy male has been seen on several occasions, but still disappears very quickly once the vehicle makes itself known. The guests also got to experience on several occasions leopards calling, which is an amazing sound that no-one would have thought comes from such a beautiful cat.
The two male lions, Salt and Pepper, graced Hunda island with their presence and were found one early morning relaxing in the sun close to our airstrip after their long walk from the south.
Big herds of elephant were seen passing through the water near the camp, giving the guests a great show as the little ones tried to keep up. Lots of general game has been around; the impala and lechwe herds roam on the plains west of camp as we have coffee in the morning.
There have been several hyaena sightings this month, especially around the den site. The youngster is growing quickly and should start following his mother soon on her walkabouts at night and early mornings.
Honey badgers have been seen regularly and the guests enjoy them whenever they surprised us; once even welcoming us back after an afternoon safari.
On several occasions, journeys of giraffe with youngsters have been spotted on the plains in front of Tubu and on game drives, mostly feeding on the acacias close to the airstrip.
Our local Tubu tribe of monkeys and troop of baboons have entertained guests and staff alike, using our tents as a trampoline and sending the staff running to rescue our swimming pool umbrella.
Birding is fantastic at this time of the year at Tubu and on Hunda island! The open-billed storks amaze us with their aerial displays: landing in huge numbers around First Bridge and on the plains in front of camp. Some pelicans have figured out the fishing season on the plains have opened up for their use and are often spotted around camp and on game drive. A multitude of kingfishers have entertained the guests around camp and on water activities. Other sightings include fish-eagles, lilac-breasted rollers, storks, egrets and more.
Weather and Landscape
The months of the winter have come and gone it seems. The days have been rather pleasant especially when out on game drive, with the cool breeze and warm sun to enjoy. The wind picked up for a couple of days during the middle of the month, with a slight change in wildlife sightings, as animals take to the thick vegetation for cover during bouts of wind.
A reminder that winter was still present during the night however is that the temperature would drop to an average low of 10° C, but soon warmed up to an average high of 29° C once the sun spread its rays over the landscape.
What an exciting month for the leopards on Hunda Island – however, not so much for the civets that have fallen prey to these spotted felines on numerous occasions. The Tubu Female’s two cubs, a male and female, have taken a liking to hunting other (slightly smaller) predators too.
The cool winter night’s silence has been broken by the continuous call of a male leopard on the eastern fringe of the camp island; we are still yet to see the elusive fellow who, judging from his grunt, has scars of experience and a tale to tell. This is also proven by his disappearing acts as a vehicle approaches, one only gets a glimpse of his tail as he vanishes into the thickets.
A mean bout between two hippos did not end well for the one, he had a gorge under his eye and what looked like whip lashes all over his back. The ‘river horse’ had taken the beating of a lifetime and spent the last hours of his life flat down with his head resting in shallow water. The gentlemen in ‘black suits and white shirts’ also known as hooded vultures have attended the scene although still perched on the surrounding tree line as if they could not believe their eyes.
The scent of this dead hippo seems to have drawn back into the area the two nomadic male lions which we now identify as Salt and Pepper because of the clear tone differences of their manes. It appears that these two youngsters do not wander off very far, because as soon as there is a something worth visiting they are there in a flash. They are two very good-looking males between the ages of four to five years, still to earn their ‘land rights.’ With little or no competition here, this should not be painful, especially seeing as there are two of them!
With the jackalberry trees fruiting, the elephants have returned from their seasonal drinking grounds and are now a common sight within the Delta. They seem to enjoy camp and are somewhat perplexed by the camp additions along the riverine forest where the camp is to be found.
Birds and Birding
Civet flesh must be a delicacy in the wilderness as a civet was taken out by a tawny eagle and flown to a dead but still standing knobthorn tree where it was leisurely consumed by the raptor.
A hamerkop was seen cashing in when he caught a sizeable frog from the lodge deck. Unfortunately for him, we were not the only spectators as a Dickinson’s kestrel swooped in and stole the hamerkop’s meal.
The early morning stillness has been broken by the deep hoot of southern ground-hornbills that roost somewhere between the workshop and first bridge, no need for a wake-up call as these giants are up at first light, welcoming us into the day.
Weather and Landscape
The weather over the last month has been fairly consistent, with the days hot and sunny and the nights being cool with a breeze. We have had a minimum of rainy and cool days. We have had one big wind storm which looked like it would bring a large amount of rain but it fell on Jao Camp and not on Tubu. We had three days during the month with rain during the late evening and early morning. The humidity has been high most days but has not produced the rain we normally expect for this time of the year. We had a spectacular storm early one morning and all the guests and staff were woken up with thunder and lightning all around camp.
After a month of annual maintenance, we re-opened for guests in the first week of February and the leopard sightings were few and far between. The resident leopards seem to have been moving further afield before the water comes in. The guides were seeing lots of tracks and there was definitely movement but no real good sightings, except a few fleeting glimpses. Towards the end of the month, the sightings have improved and it seems like we are now seeing leopards more regularly. We were fortunate enough to see two leopards out in the open in front of camp from the main area deck one morning. They did not hang around very long and were gone before we had the opportunity to take some photos.
The elephant herds have been all around the camp and not a day goes by without elephants being seen or heard around camp. It is really great to see the elephants in and around camp. They can keep you amused for hours with their human-like behaviour. Most herds have been seen with young calves which always add excitement to any sighting.
The herds of wildebeest and zebra have been in constant attendance each night in front of camp and they obviously find safety from being close to camp. A large number of impala have also taken residence in the camp area, with things becoming exciting as the rut begins and the males become very vocal and territorial.
The resident hyaena clan has been seen on a regular basis, and become particularly active once everyone has gone to sleep in camp. On two occasions, the clan was seen from the bar before dinner.
One of the highlights for the month was when Michelle found two honey badgers near the back-of-house one evening.
A pod of hippo has taken up residence in one of the open pools between the airstrip and camp and is seen on most drives.
Birds and Birding
The water from the annual inundation has finally arrived at Tubu Tree and as I write this newsletter, one can hear the African fish-eagles calling and I can count at least a dozen fish-eagles from the pool deck circling overhead and sitting in the sycamore fig near Tent 3.
There has been a pair of wattled cranes during most days in front of camp and we have seen African openbills and saddle-billed storks in the floodplain as well.
The southern carmine and little bee-eaters are in abundance and they are a joy to watch and are so beautiful.
“Kambango was excellent at explaining everything. Elephants on and near the airstrip – the calves playing together. The baboon jumping up and catching flying termites was really fun to watch. Also the room and the open air showers and the main room loo were quite an experience! A big thanks to Eloise and Hein, both very knowledgeable and helpful. Make sure not to lose Kambango – he’s the best guide we’ve met – very helpful and gentle and he knows everything in the bush but is very humble.”
“A wonderful camp with superb wildlife, leopard on all six drives…7 in total!”
Weather and Landscape
The days have been warm and sunny, but at the start of the month we had a fair amount of rain on a daily basis, after which we were blessed with warm days and wet soil. A few days after the middle of the month, we had a late evening thunderstorm with lots of rain. The next morning when we went to look at the rain gauge it had overflowed and it was still raining – we estimated it at about 120 mm that night. That day was then cool and overcast with some drizzle. That evening the rain came again and we received another 115 mm making our total for a period of 36 hours almost 240 mm! The bush burst into life, the water channels started rising and we could see the glistening of water in the floodplain in front of camp, but this did not last for very long. The days that followed quickly burnt off all moisture in the soil.
As we were closed for maintenance this month, we did not get many opportunities to go out on game drive, but the drives that we did go on were not a disappointment. On the day that we closed for maintenance, one of our guides radioed me to tell me that he had found a female leopard (Impala Ridge Female) at Kalahari Pans, and she had just killed a warthog. By the time I got there she was in the open dragging the carcass towards the edge of the water into a large clump of reeds. A few days later we went out on a game drive towards Elephant Bones and Impala Ridge, where we know there is a resident female leopard (Impala Ridge Female). We found her not too long into the search with a baby warthog that she had killed and dragged up into a sausage tree. When we found her she was overlooking the floodplain and the general game that was walking in the plain. She relaxed and started feeding on the warthog carcass. She did it so elegantly, sucking on the intestines and then pulling it through her incisor teeth, to push out all the digested food, after which she would swallow the intestines. Gruesome I know, but great to witness nonetheless. We left her to enjoy her prize, and had sundowners while watching a troop of baboons settle in for the night in some large knob thorns. After sundowners, we made a quick turn past the tree and the leopard wasn’t there, so we decided to come back to camp.
On the way back to camp, the manager that stayed behind in camp (Hein) radioed us to tell us that there was a male leopard in a tree not far from camp, so we decided to have a quick look since it was on our way home. We saw the young male enjoying a power nap in a large marula tree on the outskirts of camp. We then decided to see if we could find the resident honey badgers, so we drove towards our staff village and there, walking behind one of the staff tents, was our third leopard for the drive… Another hat-trick drive in true Hunda Island style!
The rest of the month was a bit quiet, with daily visits in camp from a few herds of elephant, as well as zebra, blue wildebeest and impala. We also had the regular night visits from the clan of hyaena (thinking that anything that lies on the ground, accidentally forgotten is a chew toy for them) and the Tubu Female and her two cubs left their tracks for us to find.
Birds and Birding
Large flocks of southern carmine bee-eaters have been seen around the central parts of the island, feeding on termites, while red-footed falcons have been seen feeding on small insects in the floodplain in front of camp during dusk.
We have also regularly seen wattled cranes as well as southern ground-hornbills in camp.
Tubu Tree has been closed for maintenance from the first week of January to the second week of February, as we are in the process of building Little Tubu – a brand new sister camp on the side of Tubu Tree Camp. We have also been busy building three additional rooms for Tubu Tree Camp as well as walkways to and from the rooms and main area on decks. Keep your eyes posted for the opening of Little Tubu.
Information courtesy of Wilderness Safaris
Located on Hunda Island, the largest area of permanently dry land in this region of the Okavango Delta, Tubu Tree Camp is surrounded by the palatable grasses which lure many species of plains game. A range of diverse habitats, ranging from dry Kalahari sandveld to mopane and riverine forest on the edge of permanent waterways, also ensures diverse and spectacular game viewing.
Tubu Tree Camp is built in traditional style, with five tents on raised wooden platforms – each with picturesque vistas of the floodplains from a private front deck. En-suite bathroom facilities and an outdoor shower are standard. The main dining, lounge areas and pool are also on raised platforms and have panoramic views of the plains game. Tubu Tree Camp also has an outdoor pub area which lies under the canopy of a large marula tree.
Wildlife seen around Tubu Tree Camp includes elephant, lion, Burchell’s zebra, red lechwe, southern giraffe, tsessebe, and blue wildebeest on the floodplains. Kudu, impala, leopard and bushbuck are also seen in the forested areas. The variety of bird life is impressive, with dry-land species seen on the large islands and all the wetland birds seen on the floodplains and waterways.
Throughout the year day and night game drives in open 4×4 vehicles, as well as guided walks (which must be requested prior to travel), are available. There are two platform hides in the concession, offering incredible up-close viewing.During winter, the water levels around Tubu Tree Camp rise and the floodplains become covered with water (normally May to late September). This allows for a wide range of water activities from boating and fishing to moroko trips.
Camp Features / Activities:
Photos courtesy of Wilderness Safaris and Dana Allen