RUCKOMECHI CAMP LATEST NEWS
March weather has been unpredictable – hot, cloudy and humid with temperatures ranging between 20° C in the early morning and rising to around 38° C during the day but with no rain…
The Zambezi River is at its highest with the Kariba floodgate having being open since the 19th of March. This without doubt allowed us to traverse through channels by boat that we can’t use when the river is low. The good news is that the channels are all being flushed out so we look forward to seeing some waterholes this year instead of dry pans – this will be great for waterbird and wildlife sightings.
Sightings have been exceptional around the concession this month. The young lioness, which is part of the resident pride, walked through the camp with three young cubs – we saw that one of the cubs is slightly older than the other two. It’s suspected the older cub has been adopted from one of the older females in the pride. This is interesting as last year this particular female’s mother adopted her cubs and this year, the tables seem to have turned with the daughter adopting her mother’s cub. We have been lucky to see the lioness nursing the cubs on a number of occasions.
A breeding herd of elephant has been regularly viewed feeding and quenching their thirst from the river in front of the camp. The nocturnal animals have also done their part with lovely sightings of leopard hunting, mating hyaena, serval, porcupine, large-spotted genet and a large-grey mongoose.
Other great sightings have been several huge herds of buffalo and large rafts of hippo basking in the sun along the river banks along with many crocodiles. We also had great sightings of kudu, waterbuck and impala.
Birds and Birding
The high water levels brought with them a huge array of birdlife such as gargantuan flocks of Abdim’s storks, white-faced ducks, comb ducks, sacred ibis, hadeda ibis, African openbills, red-billed queleas “swarming” overhead, European bee-eaters and many others.
This month Ruckomechi also hosted a Children in the Wilderness camp, where the kids come and stay and learn a variety of things including bush skills, environmental issues and conservation in a fun and outdoor environment. We saw a variety of staff and volunteers from the USA coming to help with the camp.
Weather, Climate and the Zambezi River
The weather this month of June has generally been warm with maximums of 33.6 degrees Celsius, however we have had a few cold and overcast days. Evenings are chilly and require a fleece as do the mornings, but this is normal for this time of year. Minimum temperatures this month went as low as 8.3 degrees Celsius. The Zambezi River appears to have dropped significantly, possibly due to maintenance on the turbines at Lake Kariba.
The inland vegetation and trees are losing their colour and leaves, so large concentrations of browsers are now coming down to the evergreen riveline. Large numbers of eland and kudu are seen under the attractive Natal mahogany trees, which provide them with most wanted food and shade. The albidas are in full flush and every gust of wind brings the elephant into camp to feast on the immature pods. Nyala berry fruits are ripening, attracting large flocks of fruit-eating birds and mammals alike.
Mammal sightings were most exciting this month. Guests were delighted to see our first cheetah this season. The young male has been seen on several occasions after disappearing from the area.
With inland waters and grass drying out, more and more animals are gravitating to the river’s edge and floodplain making these areas a predator’s paradise. Lion and leopard are seen and heard on a regular basis. Zebra, kudu, impala, waterbuck and an increasingly large number of warthogs area seen daily.
Our resident pride of four lion has made itself known in and around camp. Whilst our waiters walked between the kitchen and dining room with food, they have had to keep an eye on the old lioness watching an impala on the other side of the board walk. Guests were taken by vehicle to their tents that night for safety. Later the lionesses were seen on the floodplain in front of the tents hunting. The old female has an injury on her back leg, but seems to be healing well.
The departure of most of our migrant bird species in April/May allows the keen birder to see more of our residential species. June in particular has had some good offers, young vultures in their nests, fish eagles coasting and the arrival of one of the Zambezi specials, the African skimmer. Walking on the floodplains has also been rewarding: sightings like the pale morph of Walberg’s eagle, the collared palm thrush and Temminck’s courser being just some.
This month we bid a sad farewell to Theunis and Belinda Botha, they will be missed. We are grateful for the input they have given us, particularly on the training side and wish them many blessings with their new venture and also await the birth of their first child.
We welcome Gavin and Mina Woest as our new assistant managers and hope they settle in well. Erica Masawi and Ted Maberly, both students, have come to help us out and learn more about the industry. We have also had a flow of freelance learner guides this month. We thank Tapiwa, Manuel and Ophious for their knowledge and assistance this month. At the end of the month Dharmesh Daya, a learner guide, also returned to the Ruckomechi Team. Welcome back!
“Great Camp, nice people and excellent meals as well as a comfortable room!” – Mike & Margaret (South Africa)
“An absolutely spectacular experience – this was our first safari trip and we could not be happier. Warm an welcoming, informative guides, elephant drinking out of the pool? We all felt special.” -Alan, Judy & Seth (USA)
“The sundowner beach party was a special treat. Guides Gadreck and Champion were outstanding in their knowledge of area and wildlife. Both were very professional and courteous.” – Robert & Mary Sullivan (UK)
Weather, Climate and the Zambezi River
Towards the end of April, the weather in the Zambezi Valley cooled down a lot and the evening chills caused one to draw the covers up to the chin. The days have been warming up however to 30 degrees Celsius and have been most enjoyable.
The mighty Zambezi River provides the most tranquil setting with beautiful escarpment views across to our neighbouring country, Zambia. The water levels have been steady, but turned a slight chocolate brown when the Ruckomechi River flowed once during this month. The average maximum temperature this month was 30.5 degrees Celsius with the average minimum being 20.5. Our average humidity experienced this month was 70%.
Mammal sightings have been very good this month reminding us that we are in the most pristine, untouched wilderness that Africa has to offer. Ruckomechi Camp being on the banks of the mighty Zambezi River offers a diversity that is second to none in the Mana Pools National Park. Our guests have enjoyed a number of very special and exciting sightings.
Huge herds of Cape buffalo have been spotted working their way down to the river to drink with accompanying species such as elephant, impala, waterbuck, eland, zebra as well as bushbuck. Warthog have been a daily occurrence and we all have been enjoying watching them wallowing in the mud at midday. Kudu have also been a regular sighting close to the Nyakasanga River with healthy numbers of both mature and immature bulls.
On one of the afternoon game drives with some of our valued guests, it was mentioned that their dream would be to see a leopard, although they had no expectations as they understood that we were in the wild and special sightings could not be guaranteed. A lovely drive was enjoyed by all complete with sundowner drinks and snacks on the banks of the Zambezi. On the drive back to camp we spotted a leopard in the Ruckomechi River. This young leopard was very inquisitive and walked straight to the front of the Land Rover and spent about 10 minutes gazing at his surroundings. Then he got up and walked straight back to where he came from and disappeared over the river bank.
The Ruckomechi Pride of lion has been spotted on a number of different occasions. The two young males have been seen relaxing in the Ruckomechi riverbed one afternoon. Our guests thoroughly enjoyed this sighting.
A hippo was spotted in the shallows having just given birth on a morning drive. It wasn’t long before six large crocodiles started drifting in to get a closer look and potentially chance their luck with a little snack, but they could not get past the protective mother.
Mammal Probability Sightings
Baboon – 100%, hippo – 100%, warthog – 86%, lesser bush baby – 3%, honey badger – 3%, waterbuck – 100%, bushbuck – 13%, impala – 100%, zebra – 100%, Cape buffalo – 60%, leopard – 6%, spotted hyaena – 20%, African civet – 16%, lion – 23%, large spotted genet – 23%, eland – 13%, vervet monkey – 100%, small spotted genet – 3%, elephant – 100%, wild dog – 3%.
This month has seen the expected busy birding times with a number of the breeding migrants still in the concession. Some lovely sightings have been recorded including Grey-headed Kingfisher, African Skimmer, Red Bishop, Osprey and an awesome sighting of a Martial Eagle. The Osprey showed his eagerness to catch breakfast by scanning the pools near Basil’s tree and almost attempting a full dive on two occasions. The Red Bishops have constantly been trying to keep up with the Red-billed Quelea, the males adding their stunning hot orange to the drab colour of flocks. African Skimmers, an embodiment of grace and precision and engineering, have treated us to some stunning formation flying on low passes along the still edges.
This month we bid farewell to Richard. Richard has chosen to conquer his challenges in life elsewhere and we wish him all the best in his future endeavours. We will miss him here and hope that we will cross paths again. Go well, Richard, we wish you all that is good!
“The surprise dinner was the cherry on the top after a fantastic game drive. A brilliant four days in paradise.” Tom, Belinda and Sophie
“Every aspect was superb. Game watching, boat trip, the smells, sounds and the sights of Zimbabwe.” Kevin and Vicky
“Remarkable welcome, very courteous and attentive. Exceptional guides. Very knowledgeable and professional. First class cuisine.”
Weather and Landscape
Our valley remains hot, with daily temperatures in the high 30s (Celsius) and humidity in the constant 80s with a few scattered showers through the month. The floodplain is still pretty dry as we only received a total of 79mm of rain for the whole month.
It is fascinating at this time of year to see the concession so green, especially driving up the Ruckomechi River – it is awash with long green grasses where it is normally dry, dusty and sandy as a riverbed should be. The ana trees are coming into early leaf around the concession, as well as the indigofera, which are now breaking out into serious growth, adding a beautiful shade of mauve with their flowers. The feverberry trees are looking quite tatty as their leaves are heavily fed on by a range of larval insects.
The Zambezi River seems to be very low, and we anticipate that some of the dam gates will be opened soon. Having said this, the Ruckomechi River flowed this month and has now channelled into the Little Ruckomechi River.
We have been fortunate enough to have had a very good sighting of the Ruckomechi Pride on the far side of the Little Ruckomechi River, which was flowing at the time. The old female had an injured front paw and the young female had very swollen mammaries, possibly feeding young or about to give birth? The two young males remain with them – promising a future for the small pride.
Towards the end of the month, we had a magnificent sighting of a very curious and relaxed male leopard on Leopard Loop. He was about four metres away from the vehicle, peering curiously over the long grass at us. The light was excellent and we had NO CAMERA! We all enjoyed the moment anyway, as he quietly melted into the thicket, satisfied we were not so interesting after all.
Elephant breeding herds were unusually numerous at the start of February, but with more showers inland, seem to have retreated back toward the escarpment.
Earlier in the month, a trip to check the Boundary Road provided a sighting of the wild dog on the ridge about to move out. Recognised as Jock’s Pack, 10 dogs were counted and it is hoped that the 11th is denning with puppies!
Robinson Crusoe (our Lone island baboon) gave us a few anxious days when he was not sighted at all. We now have slightly blurred photographic evidence that he is alive and well. We have since realised on discussion that he has actually been there since September as the guides recall and so has survived almost six months alone – not even a tree on his island. We hope that the water authority does not open four gates at once, as Robinson will have yet another swim for his life!
Birds and Birding
Interesting sightings this month has been an Ayres’s Hawk-Eagle with its juvenile near Parachute Pan and the distinct call of the Black Coucal pointed us to a good sighting at Clea’s Drift.
The trill of the Woodland Kingfisher is constant as is the African Mourning Dove. Tropical Boubous wake us in the mornings.
A total of 147 birds seen this month beating last month’s record.
Carel, JuJu, Elizabeth, Matt and Champion and 22 junior staff have been busy with new improvements in and around camp. We have a new bar area attached to the living area where the old Ruckomechi mokoro bar has taken up its rightful place to fascinate and refresh guests, as they sip their drinks overlooking the beautiful Zambezi.
Information courtesy of Wilderness Safaris
Ruckomechi Camp Description
On the middle reaches of the Zambezi River, a hundred kilometers below Lake Kariba is the Mana Pools National Park situated in the heart of the Zambezi Valley. Ruckomechi Camp lies on the banks of the Zambezi, shaded by a large grove of acacia and mahogany trees and with a superb view of the mountains of Africa’s Great Rift Valley across the river in Zambia.
Ruckomechi Camp accommodates guests in ten spacious en-suite tented units, including a honeymoon suite, all of which overlook the Zambezi River. Each tent has both indoor and outdoor showers, and the camp boasts a favorite amongst guests: its outdoor ‘bath-with-a-view’ in a secluded, scenic spot. The central dining, bar, library and lounge areas face the escarpment and are connected to the rest of the camp by low-level walkways that minimize our environmental impact. There is a separate deck with infinity pool for swimming and sun bathing, and an inviting, cushion-strewn star gazing deck.
Following on from our Zambian camps, Ruckomechi Camp has aimed to be as environmentally friendly as possible – hot water and lighting for each unit is provided by solar power.
The camp vegetation is dominated by broad canopied albida trees, much loved by elephants for their rich nutritious pods; these animals often join visitors in camp for a light meal!
The area is renowned for large numbers of elephant, buffalo, hippo and eland, especially in the winter when they concentrate along the river. Predators such as lion, leopard and wild dog are all found in the area. Birdlife is superb, particularly for both mopane woodland and riverine species with numerous local specials like Collared Palm-Thrush, Racket-tailed Roller, Purple-banded Sunbird and Black-throated Wattle-Eyes.
Activities include wildlife viewing in open 4×4 vehicles, on motorized pontoon boats, on foot, in hides and in canoes.
Operates June – Mid November
Camp Features / Activities:
Photos courtesy of Wilderness Safaris, Dana allen, Mike Myers and Courtney Johnson