Monday, July 13, 2009

Chobe Game Lodge environmental news

During the beginning of the month we’ve had some really stormy weather with high winds and heavy showers of rain - most unusual for this time of year. We recorded 37mm of rain in total which really only helped to settle the dust a bit as it had no real effect on the vegetation. The main benefit though is that it helped fill up many of the big standing pans of rainwater out in the bush again. This means the wildlife would have a bigger range where they can graze for weeks to come, since they have water available to them in areas where they would normally not be able roam this deep into the dry season.

The Chobe’s levels receded rather fast after the exceptional flooding season we’ve had during our late summer months. Most of the floodplains that were inundated during the last 3 months dried out again, and we once again had access to the roads that were also inaccessible for months due to the high flood levels. There is still a surprising amount of grazing available on these floodplains - we expected most of the grass would have died off after being under water for such an extended period of time.

The large buffalo herds have returned to the Chobe floodplains after the floodwaters receded again
The rain we had also did not affect the movement of game as much as we expected, and the sightings we had during the last month far exceeded our expectations.
Our local pride of lions seems to have settled down after a long period of turmoil over the last year in the pride structure. Over recent months we’ve had two new males moving into the area as we have reported in earlier newsletters. Only about four of the females of the original pride roaming our area of the Chobe riverfront seem to have accepted the new males. The newly structured pride is now often seen together with the four new cubs – in fact lion sightings were basically a daily occurrence over last few weeks. The cubs are growing bigger by the day and this means we see them a lot more since they are now integrated into the pride and moving around everywhere with them.

Lioness with the remains of her breakfast – a young warthog.

A very photogenic young male, the pride of our Chobe pride!

As expected for this time of year we’ve had a very high success rate when it came to finding not only lions but other large predators too. What is remarkable though was the amount of kills our guides managed to encounter. The lions were seen killing warthog, impala and a buffalo calf at Puku flats.

A pack of 7 wild dogs roamed the area between the Serondella picnic spot and the Kasane Airport for a period of about a week. We were lucky enough to see these highly nomadic predators kill on at least three occasions. They first brought down a waterbuck near the HATAB 1 & 2 campsites and on the second occasion they managed to kill a kudu very near to the Lodge. The third sighting was at the Sedudu Pans where the dogs killed a fully grown male impala. We actually had the opportunity to time the dogs on how long it would take to finish their kill: within 7 minutes all that was left of the impala were its horns, ribcage and a piece of skin!

The pack of wild dogs after they brought down a kudu near Chobe Game Lodge.

Leopard sightings were perhaps not as common as we would have liked but at least they were not non-existent. The large amount of lion activity in the vicinity of Chobe Game Lodge may have caused them to be just a bit more secretive than normal. With undergrowth opening up as it is right now, the frequency of sightings of these large cats should increase during June.

Leopards were rather elusive over the last few weeks

As we progress deeper into July, winter will strengthen its grip on us here in southern Africa. In Chobe this fortunately means nippy mornings and pleasant daytime temperatures. The bit of chill experienced on the early morning game drives and late in the evening should be well worth enduring as winter is always the most exciting time for game viewing and we are always rewarded with awesome sightings and experiences.

We will keep you up to date with the latest in our next newsletter.


The Chobe Game Lodge Guides

Compiled by:
Wouter Theron
Chobe Game Lodge

Stunning sunsets are typical of Botswana’s winter months.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Xugana Island Lodge

With the water exceptionally high in the Okavango Delta this year, animals are on the move.

They cross from island to island with ease to find a plentiful supply of food. The situation makes a walking safari all the more intriguing, for participants never know what they might find, and those who are open to all of nature’s bounty, from the tiniest insects to the soaring African fish eagle, never come away disappointed.

On this day, led by Desert and Delta Safaris guide, Lets Ngoma, Jenny and Geoff Lee of Australia seemed the happiest of guests, paying close attention to Lets’ description of the dung beetle and its manner of rolling dung into a hole in the sand, a deposit that will one day feed its young. Lets was pointing to buffalo dung to describe the preferred food over that of the droppings of an elephant. As all of us inspected the ground, Lets soon noticed something else: lion tracks. He concluded that buffalo the previous evening had headed in the direction from whence we came, and a lioness had tracked them.

What happened next was a treasure hunt, a classic tale of tracking. With Lets in front and tracker Lasty in the back, the group walked on. Lets had us inspecting even more lion tracks, including those of a big male. “Open your ears,” Lets advised us. “Open your ears.”

We examined more tracks. We watched Lets stand on top of termite mounds to scope the landscape of Palm Island with his binoculars. At one stage we heard a growl. It was low. We had to crosscheck with each other to be sure we had heard it. Lets moved away to test his theory. Quiet. Then more growls. Then in another direction, we heard scuffling and saw dust rising. It seemed animal action was all around us. And then Lets saw it: In the distance near a group of red lechwe was a lioness. He made sure we could all see her. “Well done!” whispered Geoff. It was 8:57 a.m., less than an hour after we had left the boat to begin our walk. Lets and Lasty decided we would move toward the dust cloud.

We were excited, and certainly our ears were open. Before long we had come upon a herd of Cape buffalo, somewhere between 200 and 300 of them, the tracker estimated. And in no time Lets had spotted more lions, two resting in the shade of a termite mound, their eyes on the buffalo. And then there was a lioness moving in front of us, not 50 yards away. And soon there was the male Lets had been hoping to see. The Lees were thrilled by the magnificence of the sight, although Geoff, a physician who maintained his sense of practicality, for which I was grateful, made sure we received instructions about where to flee should the buffalo charge us.

They eyed us curiously as they grazed, but kept their distance. In all there were 8 lions visible that morning. Lets and Lasty determined there were more, at least one more male, by the sound of the roars calling out to each other.

To be that close to wildlife in Botswana, on foot no less, is an encounter that can never be forgotten. All the senses come alive. Awe is the undercurrent. Those on a walking safari have been guests in the home of the wild animals of the bush. As Jenny exclaimed to the camp managers upon our return to Xugana Island Lodge, “We’ve been on an adventure!” Never to be forgotten.

Maria Henson, Desert & Delta Safaris volunteer

Monday, July 6, 2009


Bats may not be at the top of our guests' "must see" lists, but they are actually fascinating, overlooked (and misunderstood) creatures.

A Mauritian Tomb Bat (endearing name, n'est ce pas?), a species of sheathtailed bat which I saw hanging head down on a tree outside the Xugana dining room. She had a furry pup clinging to her underside which you can see if you look carefully at the photograph.

The second is the rare Ruppell's Pipistrelle Pipistrellus rueppellii, a species of vesper bat weighing a mere 7.1 g (142 to the kilogram) which I found at Camp Okavango. Little is known about this species, and according to my large Skinner & Chimimba mammal reference book, its roosting habits are unknown.

The third bat is the formidible-looking Commerson's Roundleaf Bat Hipposideros commersoni. I found it hanging from the thatched roof of the Camp Moremi dining room. Quite a beast, this, and the largest bat in Botswana, with formidible clawed forearms. Males have a wingspan of just under 600 mm and may weigh over 200 g (28 times heavier than the pipistrelle). Compare this with the 508 mm wingspan and 140 g weight of the only other large bat in the region, the Gambian - formerly Peter's - Epauletted Fruit Bat, Epophomorus gambianus. Commerson's Roundleaf Bat is insectivorous, as are the Mauritian Tomb Bat and Ruppell's Pipistrelle.

Richard Randall

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A morning Game Drive in the Moremi Game Reserve

Mc and I moved to Camp Moremi nearly 3 months ago. Time flies and one always has good intentions of doing so many things and sometimes those good intentions fall short. One of those intentions was to write more blog stories about the most amazing place we are very fortunate to be able to call home – Camp Moremi, situated in the heart of Moremi Game Reserve.

Before managing Camp Moremi we where managing Camp Okavango. Camp Okavango is another beautiful piece of paradise. Each camp is so diverse and each offers something quite unique. Camp Moremi has its own charm. The last 3 months have been full of interesting sightings. As a manger we don’t always get a chance to see all the activity for ourselves but instead get to live it through the guest’s eyes and their wonderful photos and their rendition of their game drive.

Today was a very exciting day for all our guests on the morning safari. The game reserve is looking stunning. We have had a lot of rain. That creates for an interesting safari just in itself. The water is endless and there are many deep puddles to cross. The well known Jessie’s pool is full to the brim.

The hippos are just loving all this water. The birdlife is also something to watch out for with plenty of different species of ducks enjoying the water as well as the ever watching Fish Eagle waiting for the perfect catch. Not to mention the crocodiles quietly cruising the water, looking for some unexpectant prey.

After enjoying all the wildlife at Jessie’s pool the guide continued with the safari, unsure of what he may come across next. Looking carefully at the road for any tracks and listening to the sounds for any warning calls. The tracks where clear, there had been a chase and possible a kill. Who was chasing who? By the looks of things it looked like the buffaloes got to close to the lions. It was an unlucky day for the buffalo but in this world, it is always survival of the fittest.

This made fantastic viewing for all our guests. They missed the actual kill but they where able to enjoy the lions relishing their meal. At this particular sighting there where at least 10 lions consisting of 3 or 4 adult lioness and a number of cubs. In the distances not to far from the kill where the hungry hyenas waiting to get their share of the meal. They where constantly checking to see if the lions where done with their feast and waiting to see if any scraps had been left behind for them to enjoy. One might think that hyenas are dirty good for nothing animals but in fact they play an essential role in keeping the environment clean. Hyenas clean up a kill. They are able to eat parts of a kill that other animals see as insignificant. Hyenas will eat everything left behind except for the hair and the teeth. In this way they are able to get calcium from the bones. That is why hyena’s faeces are white in colour and one may see a tortoise eating from them. The tortoise will do this to get calcium to help their shell develop.

After all this exciting viewing it was back into camp to enjoy a well deserved brunch and to share sighting stories and photos with each other and the envious camp managers. As camp managers it always gives us great satisfaction to hear these stories and to know our guests have had an unforgettable experience in the African bush that they will be able to cherish for many years to come.

Written by: Michelle Fowler, Manageress, Camp Moremi

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Desert & Delta Safaris Annual Service Excellence Award

Desert & Delta Safaris introduced the Annual Service Excellence Award, The Elephant Trophy, eight years ago to identify the lodge that best personifies our guest centric service ethos. Since then the trophy has always been keenly contested, testament to our staff’s proud commitment to that ethos.

Lodges are evaluated throughout the year. Every detail is considered, often with guest feedback. Departmental evaluation then takes place with the human resources, operations, finance, maintenance and the food and beverage departments being assessed.

Over the past eight years The Elephant Trophy has been awarded to Savute Safari Lodge five times, Camp Moremi twice and Xugana Island Lodge once.

After an exceptionally busy year the 2008 Desert & Delta Safaris Service Excellence Award went to Camp Okavango for a consistently excellent performance in all areas of operations.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Leroo La Tau, Khumaga Primary school outing

14th Feb, Leroo La Tau

As part of the ongoing and close association between Leroo La Tau and the local Khumaga community, the twelve top performing pupils, and two teachers, from Khumaga Primary School, were rewarded for their hard work with a morning game drive at Leroo La Tau.

Under the experienced tutorage of Fred and Lance, the students set out to experience at close quarters the wildlife and ecology of this unique area and were not disappointed with sightings of lion, a first for some, elephants, giraffe, hippo, impala, kudu and many other species of mammals and birds.

Following the drive they were taken to the lodge where they enjoyed sandwiches, cake and soft drinks.

A great deal of fun was had all round, the day ending with a choir competition between the Khumaga children and the Leroo La Tau staff culminating with all combining to form a single magnificent choir.

After a photo session a tired but elated group of pupils were returned to school. Such outings are vital for children, not only to learn about the wildlife that exists in their backyard but also for them to gain an understanding of how important the protection of the environment is for future generations.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Guest feedback, Savute Safari Lodge

Feedback from Flavio Poggi & Cristina Bordoli Poggi
Savute Safari Lodge

We are back home to a freezing Switzerland and just wanted to send you our greetings – please say hello also to Energy, Ben and all the staff. We hope in the meanwhile you are all doing well.

We are fascinated by your country and we hope to be able to visit it again soon.

You simply made it perfect for us, so thank you again for everything!
I would like to say “Wowwww!!” to your staff at the Savute Safari Lodge. Everything was done in a professional way, great!!

As a Microsoft Teacher and a freelance photographer I know that the customer satisfaction comes first and I know as well that it brings a lot of efforts to achieve that.

Anyway thanks in advance and take care of you.

PS: I attached some pictures about our stay in Savute Images here (two or three)

You’ll find some more (if you need some just let me know which you like most) on my “holyday web site”, please follow this link: and click the “Vacanze” link.
Guests : Flavio + Cristina