Southern Africa Bush Tails

Zambia News – March 2014

Toka Leya
Weather and Landscape 

The majority of the month was dry with very little rain experienced in the southern province – a worry, as we thought we might be heading for a dry summer season. Happily things shifted in the third week of the month and the rains came down in buckets, bringing much relief to us as well as the game, as the grass had started withering. The whole place is back to its lush summer green and pools of water have formed throughout Mosi-oa-Tunya Park with all the small streams now flowing heavily. Of note is the hanging white foam of the southern foam-nest frogs that are seen along the streams and waterholes.

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The Zambezi River is also looking great as the water levels have started rising – we are always amazed to see how a few weeks of rain affects the levels of this mighty river. However it is still very clear that we will need a lot more rain than this to see the Zambezi break its banks, given that the water is much lower than in previous years.

Wildlife 
Our resident young male hippo has become a Toka Leya Camp feature and this chap definitely feels he owns our camp surrounds as he takes it upon himself to entertain the guests. The text books would have to be rewritten if we were to rely solely on his behaviour: Moto Moto, unlike other hippos, spends almost all his life out of the water, creating confusion among guests whose guides have described hippos as having sun-sensitive skin. The wet days we have been experiencing are certainly in his favour, allowing him to stay out of the river for extended periods of time. There is never has a dull moment when he is around as he is always doing something every time you look at him. One such incident made a young guest describe him as a dancing hippo!

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There is a lot of excitement amongst the guides and the Park rangers at the moment as the news circulating is that we should be having another new addition to the white rhino population soon! Each and every one of the guides and rangers is keeping their eyes wide open and hope they would be the first one to break the news. The arrival of this new baby will bring the number to 10 and would mean five baby rhinos will have been born in the park, a great sign that the animals have settled in and are clearly not under any form of stress. Guides, as much as our guests, look forward to the rhino walk every day, and this activity is definitely one of our best now.

Birds and Birding
As always, the wet season is great for birders and there have been some tremendous sightings recorded by the guides around the camp this month. Early mornings are beautifully melodious with several different calls heard throughout the camp and surroundings. A considerable number of summer migrants are amongst the birds that have been recorded, both on the river cruises as well as on game drives. It also seems that the increase in the water levels brings the African finfoot to the water in front of our reception area every year, much to the excitement of our birding guests and guides who have a thrilling chance to see this otherwise very elusive bird.

Camp Activities
No matter how many times one has seen the indescribable Victoria Falls, one is awed by the volume and the sound of the Zambezi River as it cascades down into the zigzag gorges before continuing on to Lake Kariba and finally along the Lower Zambezi – home to Mana Pools National Park, a Ramsar site – before heading down to the Indian Ocean. From quite a distance now one can see the spray of the Victoria Falls and a visit at this time of year requires a rain poncho and an underwater camera to capture the magical moments of the ‘rainy’ spray.

 
Guests Comments
“Fabulous experience, great staff and great food and we even had a visit from the hippo Moto Moto. Thank you all so much.”

“Commendable efforts and sustaining the environment. A fun filled informative break. Excellent all round.”

“Absolutely fantastic. So much to see and do. Highly recommendable. Attention to detail beyond expectations.”
 
Staff in Camp
Pete and Gogo Guwa – General Management couple
Jacqui Munakombwe – Relief Manager
Evidence Musabi – Relief Manager
Amon Ngoma – Activities Manager
Muchelo Muchelo – Junior Manager

 
Toka Leya

Weather and Landscape 

The rainy season has finally arrived and we have had some amazing bolts of lightning and really dark cloudy skies. However the actual rainfall has not yet reached the levels expected at this time of the year. The exciting thing though is that even with the little rain received so far, the bush has taken on a completely new hue and is looking very lush and green – much to the delight of all the game that had been struggling to get decent food of late as it was so dry. The low rainfall received so far has really been a blessing as the temperatures are always so much more pleasant after even a few drops of rain.

Wildlife 
Although the vegetation is so green, visibility is not lost at all as the undergrowth is yet to come. We had some really brilliant game sightings during the month. Most exciting and definitely worth mentioning is the herd of elephants that has become resident over the last three years. We have once again seen this herd coming from the Zimbabwean side before they move on to the islands in the river in front of the camp.

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This herd has not been the only group seen wandering between the islands as guides have reported a great amount of elephants and a whole lot more game along the river – including giraffe, rhino and herds of buffalo which have been seen either drinking or heading down to the river for a drink of water.

An unusual sighting was reported by one of the guides and his guests on a boat cruise. They saw what they thought was a hippo fight but upon closer inspection they realised that a large crocodile had caught a baby hippo. Everyone watched this tussle in great surprise and finally the croc and its prey went under water… never to be seen again.

The game drives have been very rewarding as almost every guest that stayed with us had a chance to see rhino. This has really been a highlight for all our guests which have come from safari in Botswana and Zimbabwe. The successful conservation and protection of this species in the area is paying off.

Our resident hippo as usual is one of the most photographed pachyderms in the area as he seems to enjoy being the centre of attraction. Moto Moto, as he is famously known to everyone, is a great actor and definitely knows exactly when to make his appearance.

A few guests this month have captured excellent photos of the sable which have recently been reintroduced into the area. Wildebeest, puku and a whole lot more of the plains game have been recorded on both game drives and boat cruises.

Birds and Birding 
On the birding side, the list this month was very long given that most, if not all, of the summer migrants have arrived.

One of the avian highlights for the month was enjoyed from the camp on most mornings, in the form of a western-banded snake-eagle perched right in front of the main area almost daily.

African finfoot and rock pratincole continue to provide our guests with great sightings, especially on the river cruises. As we reached the peak of the dry season, we were amazed when we found a huge flock of marabou storks wading through a shallow pool along the Zambezi…gorging themselves on stranded fish and other aquatic organisms.

Camp Activities 
The low water levels have created another experience at the camp. We discovered a shallow sand bank which has become a great sunset and lunch spot. This activity really went down well with our guests and has been a firm favourite for sundowners. Click here for images of the ‘Toka Beach’.

Community 
This month saw Toka Leya hosting the annual Children in the Wilderness camp. We closed the camp for around a week and filled it up with children from Sinde Village. These camps are always inspiring and provide the children with a tremendous opportunity to learn life skills and gain exposure to the conservation and tourism industry.

Another highlight for the month was the completion of the solar pump project in the village. This means the villagers don’t have to constantly walk to collect water. This project has been funded by generous guest donations.

Staff in Camp 
Managers: Petros and Gogo Guwa, Ondyne Dobeyn, Cynthia Kazembe, Amon Ngoma and Muchelo  

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