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.
20 NOV 2012
Weather and Landscape
It was hot and humid – until about the middle of the month, that is – when the amazing thunderstorms started rolling in. For most of the time they just teased us with the sight of rainfall on the horizon, but it wasn’t too long a wait, as we finally received some rain. It wasn’t much but that 5 mm made the difference for all. As the month drew to a close, we had the pleasure of afternoon rain showers as well as overcast days, which brought relief to the hot days that we had. We look forward to receiving more rain.
The month started off with a bang, so to speak. From the south we had the arrival of a lioness and her three subadult male cubs and one subadult daughter. They have been providing us with some great sightings over the last month, as they move up and down the island in search of prey, and they have not been disappointed. In the beginning, they were extremely cautious of our vehicles, but as the month progressed they became more relaxed with our presence as the cameras clicked away.
The leopards have also kept guests with their fingers on their cameras. We had a lovely sighting of an elderly female to the south-west of camp – she has only once previously been seen on the island, so it was a privilege to spend almost an hour with her one afternoon as she scent-marked her territory. Meanwhile, in the north we had the return of Keledi with a five-month-old cub – we last saw her about two years ago. This indicates to us that the water levels are really dropping all around us, making crossing the channels easier.
And of course, who can forget the Tubu Female and her two cubs – they also put on a show on numerous occasions. We had a wonderful sighting of the family drinking water one afternoon and it was nice to see that the one cub, who previously always ran away at the approach of the vehicle, seemed to have settled his nerves in their presence.
Waking up to rain one morning, we enjoyed our quick breakfast before heading out on game drive, but not before we were greeted by 14 newly born blue wildebeest running around in the rain. We know that these little ones were all born in the floodplain in front of camp, as we saw the adults settling in for the night just the evening before – and another tell-tale sign was the sight of the mothers eating the afterbirth that had fallen on the ground. It is necessary for the female to do this, as this will cause them to lactate and it also helps remove the scent of a newborn from the soil and away from any predators’ olfactory systems.
All over the island we are greeted every day by newly born antelope, as well as zebra, blue wildebeest and giraffe. With the birth of all the youngsters, come the predators that prey on them. On a few occasions this month we were fortunate (or unfortunate depending on your point of view) to see one of our predators with a youngster. But at the end of the day, it is the inevitable cycle of life.
One afternoon drive, close to the end of the month, one of our guides spotted something running across the road and he was sure it was not an antelope, so he drove closer and there in the distance were three cheetah – a mother with two subadults. The mom is quite relaxed with the vehicle but the subadults are not and they keep running away. In the days following, we had daily sightings of the family – three times with a kill. It seems they have settled in nicely into the area, we hope they will stay.
Birds and Birding
The woodland kingfishers arrived in the concession around the 3rd of November, and they have been calling almost non-stop since the day they arrived. We have had some regular sightings of Dickinson’s kestrel, broad-billed roller and blue-cheeked bee-eater to name just a few.
The bird bath at the top of the steps has been a very busy spot indeed, in the hotter parts of the day, we have a whole variety of birds that come for a drink as well as a bath – cardinal woodpecker, crested barbet, black-collared barbet, lesser honeyguide and Hartlaub’s babblers are all common visitors.
18 Jul 2012
Weather and Environment
This year we have noticed a very big difference in the water levels in front of camp this year from last year. Last year the water levels were deep around the boma area for the entire month of June – we could do our mokoro activity from the front of camp. This year, when we came into camp the water was shallow around the boma area and now has receded approximately five metres, forcing us to move our mokoro station to another area. The rumour is that we can expect another wave of inundations coming in, but as yet, we have not felt it.
On average, the temperature was at least 5°C warmer than last year. Last year the ‘bush baby’, given to the guests to hug in bed on the cold winter nights, was a must. This year, most of the guests did not want one, saying it made them too hot. If the truth be told, it would be nice if our winters were this mild every year.
As always the leopard sightings have been superb at Tubu Tree. These majestic cats never fail to wow our guests. We had some great sightings of a female with two young cubs in front of camp and several sightings of different leopard with their kills in trees. What was however the most exciting, was the sighting of an 18-month-old cub making her very first impala kill. She protected it from her mother with all her might and did not share a morsel. Of course, mom now knows that her baby is ready to hunt on her own and they will go their separate ways.
On two occasions a male leopard was seen in the distance and everyone thought it was a lioness at first until they looked through binoculars. This huge male leopard is shy, but we are glad to have the privilege of getting a glimpse of him every now and then.
Nature’s pruners, the elephant, have once again had us in awe. There is something about these magnificent beasts that hold us all captive. Watching the interaction between the members of the breeding herds that come into camp is so fascinating. The young mothers alert, the babies playing and the teens wrestling can keep us all entertained for hours. A few days before a breeding herd came into camp, we had a young bull all on his own, just being mischievous. I thought he was lonely and looking for attention, but when the breeding herd came into camp, it seems as though he left with them, as we have not had to deal with his mischievous ways again.
The lions have been heard roaring in the far distance and only on one occasion was a lone lioness seen – but she did not stay long before going on to other territory.
The night air is broken often with the calling of the hyaena and wonderful sightings of these intelligent animals have been recorded. The interaction between hyaena and leopard is also a wonderful sight and lives in the memories of many a guest.
The giraffe is one of those animals that guests really want to see when they come to Africa for the first time. It is amazing for them to watch these tall animals feed, fight and walk together in a journey.
Although buffalo are often seen on the island, it is very rare to see them on the floodplains in front of Tubu. One morning an old dagga boy walked, as though in pain, past camp and then back again into the thickets on the side of camp.
General game has been in abundance around the island, congregating in large herds around the airstrip at night for safety.
A martial eagle feeding on a large black bird was an exciting sighting. The Egyptian geese in the shallows by camp decorate the floodplains, and it is really amusing to watch the open-billed storks go out in the formation of a search and rescue party, and slowly make their way in a line, heads under the water, out of the water, at an even and steady pace.
But what we suppose was the most unusual was the interaction between a red-billed hornbill and the white-rumped babbler. We rescued a babbler chick out of the shallows in front of camp and put it on a branch – where it fluttered and babbled. A red-billed hornbill landed next to it and began to gently touch it and tried to feed it in a motherly fashion. In the meantime the other babblers were frantically looking for food for it and intermittently came to feed it. After about 30 minutes, the chick was dry enough to try out his wings again and did so successfully with the incessant.
Information courtesy of Wilderness Safaris