Southern Africa Bush Tails

Sightings around our camps

Even though it’s quite dry at Desert Rhino Camp, the guests are still experiencing good game sightings.   In some areas there are still in excess of fifty Hartmann’s Zebra and on good days one can see… up to a hundred in one spot.  The zebras are still in good condition, even though grazing is scarce.   A family of 14 elephants moved through the surrounding area and guests were very excited to see two very young calves with this group. Unfortunately they moved towards the east but will hopefully return soon.  There are still a few solitary bull elephants in the area though.  A male lion that has been in and around camp has finally been sighted close by camp at the Salvadora spring.   A coalition of five young male lions has also been sighted but the camp staff are not too sure from which pride they come from. Very exciting this month was sightings of aardwolf on two separate occasions.

– A male lion resting at the Salvadora spring
– The Oryx are not doing so well in this drought stricken area
– There were plenty of good Rhino sightings during July as well.
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Damaraland Camp also reported that the Elephant families have moved away but the guides did manage to find them on some of the morning drives.  There was a memorable sighting where guests came across one of the families and watched a very young calf learning how to use its trunk.  A coalition of cheetah has been spotted wandering around the area of De Riet.

– Giraffe in one of the river beds around Damaraland Camp
– A special sighting of a very young calf
– Feeding time

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Kulala Desert Lodge had a sighting of the “White Lady”, the leucistic Oryx on the reserve; she is getting quite old now and very elusive.  There were some good sightings of small predators like Black Backed Jackals and the sightings of Bat Eared Foxes are always a highlight.  Due to the drought, some of the springbok have become quite weak and there’s been a few that have sadly just collapsed, providing a meal for Lappet Faced Vultures.

– The White Lady
– Bat eared foxes on the Kulala Reserve
– Johan came across this very rare Rufus form of the Spotted Eagle Owl in one of the dry River beds around Kulala Desert Lodge

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The Ongava Reserve and its animals didn’t disappoint during July.  A Hammerkop was seen at one of the waterholes on the reserve, very unusual at this time of the year but possibly because it is so dry in other areas.  A little interesting folklore story is that the Hammerkop is known as the lightning bird in the Kalahari Bushman culture.  Apparently, the bushman believe or believed that one will be hit by lightning if you try to rob a Hammerkop’s nest.  Kudus have been photographed with mud on their horns, they are sometimes seen to rub their horns in the mud, and some environmentalists believe it is to kill insects that burrow into their horns.

– A Hammerkop photographed at one of the waterholes on the reserve
– A Kudu bull with mud on its horns
– Anyone who’s ever thought about sneaking onto the Ongava Reserve at night, think again, this male leopard has been spotted a few times during July just inside of the main gate

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Ongava Tented Camp reports that Rhinos have visited the camp waterhole frequently at the waterhole during the evenings. The mud bath is still very popular amongst all the animals.   During one check in, the managers had to delay the camp talk because a female lioness was trying to approach a heard of impala in the heat of the day.  The guides said the lioness must have been quite desperate, trying to hunt alone during broad daylight, or she could’ve just been opportunistic.  Later on that same evening, the rest of the pride joined her for a drink at the water hole.  The Ongava Tented Camp pride has a new favourite area to relax, right next to Festus, the camp manager’s house.  A small spotted genet has been identified as the camp’s milk thief.  Every morning staff finds its tiny tracks across the coffee & tea station, trying to get to a milk jug.  He’s also been spotted in the staff village and the camp was lucky to get some photos of this elusive little creature.

– Lions, lions and more lions on drives with Ongava Tented Camp
– The milk thief of Ongava Tented camp, a small spotted genet
– A Long billed Crombec photographed in camp, quite a rare sighting

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Serra Cafema had quite an exciting month in terms of wildlife sightings.   The now infamous Colgate the Crocodile, as the camp has affectionately named him, has been found along the river a few times passing camp.  The monster weighs around 500kg and has a huge appetite for Oryx, cattle and donkeys that often roam close to the water.   The bird life along the banks of the Kunene is a big draw for birders.  Some birds like the African Darters are regulars along with the Goliath Heron, Egyptian Geese and species of weavers, but to be able to see a Black Crake and a Purple Swamp Hen is a real treat! If one listens carefully you might hear the elusive Black Crake as it makes its way through the thick, tangled undergrowth with its specially adapted long legs and big feet. With a brightly coloured beak, bright red eyes and legs and glossy black feathers this is one awkward looking fella!  Meerkat sightings have become a regular occurrence, with no less than three different family groups identified. These sightings happen early mornings and late afternoons as they take shelter from the desert sun.

– Goliath heron on the banks of the Kunene
– Purple swamp hen
– A Black Crake scratching through the undergrowth

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– Colgate, photographed on various occasions close to Serra Cafema

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– Some amazing photos of the Meerkat families in the area.

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Weather 
Damaraland Camp had one week of extreme cold where no one wanted to get out of bed, the fog was thick in the early mornings and the days didn’t warm up at all.  The rest of the month the area had summer-like weather with temperatures going up to 30 degrees during the day and down to between 15 –

– 20 degrees Celsius at night.
– Foggy mornings at Damaraland Camp – photos by Willem Retief

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Winter is now in full swing on the Kulala Wilderness Reserve.  Kulala Desert Lodge also reported misty mornings where the fog covers the dunes like a blanket.  There were two mornings where guests had to return from the dunes because it was impossible to see them!  During these mornings it was incredibly cold and temperatures ranged between minus 2 to around 4 degrees Celsius. Cold weather rolling toward Kulala Desert Lodge from the coast.

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It is definitely still winter at Serra Cafema and the fog has filled the Hartmann valley quite a few mornings. This beautiful blanket of fog gives the feeling of being on top of the world when staring over the vast landscape and onto the huge Angolan Mountains. Early morning drives reveal that the coastal fog moves well past the camp area to cover the Himba villages kilometres away.  Another touch of weather has been the warm east wind that blows during the day and settles at night. These winds bring in cold air that descends from the mountains, causing a rush of air that rises in temperature as it heads west. A common desert event that takes place around this time of year.

– Fog, sun and sand – all below photos by Denzel Bezuidenhout
– A Himba village hidden by the fog
– Early morning sunrise

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Training update 
The training team launched a “Set up Competition”, challenging the camps to do extra special set ups for their guests.  The camp with the winning entry will win a sheep or goat and cold drinks for a staff braai and the management team a choice of their favourite fast food.  Entries were received by Damaraland Camp, Serra Cafema, Kulala Desert Lodge, Little Kulala, Doro Nawas and Desert Rhino Camp:

Little Kulala Wine Cellar Dinner
– Candles, sand and a sunset, perfect
– A roof top set up at Little Kulala for private dinner and sleep out

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– And the winner of July’s Set up competition is:  LITTLE KULALA!  All the above images swayed the judging panel but everyone thought the below image was amazing (the angle of the photo belies the stunning views of the Namib Desert).

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