Climate and Landscape
We had just 52 mm of rain here at Jao Camp during April which, after the previous month’s 197 mm, is a clear indicator that the rainy season is coming to an end. True, we did have a few threats of rain that kept us on our toes. We also had a couple of days of constant drizzle during the second week of April, not to mention a last thunderstorm during one evening at the close of the month, but nevertheless winter is fast approaching. Another solid giveaway to the approaching winter is the time the sun rises and sets. Apart from that, the days are still mostly pleasant and warm, giving the illusion of a summer’s day; but don’t be fooled, come sunset it is wise to have a light jacket handy to keep the chill away.
The Delta waters have also risen a great deal in the past month, with a total of 580 mm for the month of April.
Never leave your room without your camera! This is a lesson many of our guests and even managers have learned the hard way. It always happens that you will see something amazing when your camera is not with you. Staying in camp and strolling along the walkways can be a safari in itself with sightings of mongoose, hippo, giant eagle-owl, martial eagle, water monitor lizard, lion, genet, vervet monkey troops and many more.
We are very happy to report that our six lion cubs are doing very well. They were born a few weeks apart to our two lionesses and our new male around October last year. They have grown up well and are still going strong. One great sighting in particular that stood out for guests was when our guides noticed, based on the behaviour of the lions, that their intention was to hunt. They followed them at a distance and were able to witness their keen thought process of stalk, chase, catch (they had chased an impala into water and followed it in), kill and feed.
Another amazing sighting was while the cubs were hidden under some bushes staying safe while the folks were away tracking their prey. As it so happened, three adventure-seekers decided it would be fine to go and play in the open road, only to have their minds changed by a big baboon that spotted them from his lookout point in a nearby tree, giving a loud bark as an alarm call. We couldn’t believe they could change direction so fast and dash back into the safety of the bushes!
During a siesta period one day, we had an amazing sighting from the main area of our big male lion – this served to encourage everyone to go searching for the lions on that afternoon’s activity!
Our big family of banded mongoose has decided that their clan is not yet big enough and so our month began with a sighting of the adults moving some less than one-week-old baby mongooses from one nesting spot to another (which happened to be underneath one of our storage containers) – and then a few days later moving them again to yet another nest. After about a week of no sightings of the babies, they reappeared with the adults, scavenging for food, only to have the adults send up an alarm upon our approach and see them scurry off to hide.
Our three resident baby impala are also doing very well at present and we are hoping that our previous family of four, now numbering seven, will continue to grow.
We also have a new addition to the family of hippo that occasionally come into camp to graze at night. Our comments have changed from “...that is one heavily pregnant hippo...” to “...it is soooo tiny!” Who knew that something so big and dangerous could start out so small and cute?
Birds and Birding
Jao Camp is a birder’s paradise and even those who do not care much for birds can’t help but ooohhh and aahhhh when they spot our amazing birds, from the tiny and colourful malachite kingfisher that is a regular sighting coming into camp at the Jao Bridge to the majestic African fish-eagle and its iconic “sound of Africa” as it welcomes the beginning of a new day.
The African jacana is a regular visitor to the jetty, walking across the surface of the water lilies looking for insects. Sightings of little bee-eaters are common too, with rather more rare sightings of the blue-cheeked, white-fronted and carmine bee-eaters.
A pied kingfisher hovering in the air is the epitome of poise and balance before it drops from the sky with perfect aim to catch an unsuspecting fish. The giant kingfisher entertains late breakfast-eaters as it tries and succeeds to catch a fish almost its own size – even though it will take him about 10 minutes to kill it with repeated beatings.
The screech of a juvenile giant eagle-owl turns many heads as the “un-owl” like sound echoes through camp while the parents are sighted sitting in the palms around the boma area, keeping watch for any acacia rats, woodland dormice or other critters that would mean a certain dinner.
A long-crested eagle soared overhead and a martial eagle was spotted yet again in the fields behind tents 1 to 3.
The pelicans have also arrived with the Okavango waters and are often seen on the Jao Floodplains, along with African darters.
Sundowners: Our sundowners are always received well, and when the first response from our guests climbing off the vehicle is “WOW”, our day is definitely made! Due to the rising water levels, hardly any sundowners are held in the same location twice now and many of the sites we still have available won’t be for much longer. Guests love the views of the setting sun over the Jao Floodplain, red lechwe grazing, wattled cranes flying overhead, the firepit “bush television” and hand massage, all while enjoying their sundowner drink of choice.
Bush Brunch: A surprise bush brunch after the morning activity always goes down well before coming back to camp. The shade of an ancient baobab out in the middle of nature works perfectly for an early brunch just as guests realise they are getting hungry.
Bush Dinner: Lanterns, candles and a night sky full of stars... need we say more? These dinners go down very well with our guests with the night sounds echoing across the sky, from lions and hippos off in the distance to owls sitting in the nearby trees looking for their prey.
We have many more special guests activities too, including bush high tea, special turndowns, animal tracking, private dinners, star-gazing, traditional evenings with dancing at the boma and so on.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Ken Walton, Andre van Rensburg, Estie van Rensburg, Cindy Swart, Retha Prinsloo, Marina Lunga, Charl Bergh, Marelize van Rensburg, Henk Truter
Guides: July Monomotsi, Tutalife Manyuka, Johnny Mowanji, Marks Kehaletse and Maipa Tekanyetso, MT Malebogo, Tababili Salani