Weather and Landscape
February has been a hot month with little rain. The month passed with cool mornings and blistering hot afternoons, of which a few cooled down with the odd thunderstorm, with only 27mm of rain for the month. The first push of the annual inundation arrived in mid-February, making most channels accessible. The water level has risen to a mere 44cm below our high water jetty and the lodge boats have been moved to the Jao Camp jetty.
With February being our maintenance month for the year, Jao was closed for most of the month. Although we have not had guests on activities, when the opportunity arose we took the chance to get out on the concession. We have also had quite a lot of animal activity around camp on Jao Island, especially with our local ‘Jao Mafia’ mongoose family. One morning, in the middle of maintenance the entire ‘Jao Mafia’ decided to visit the curio shop…the family appeared with 11 new youngsters! Needless to say they have brought much entertainment to the staff in camp since that morning, including stealing toilet paper from our laundry…that might have been the fastest Jao has ever seen a housekeeper run! The resident spotted hyena has also gone through many personality changes in the month, from inquisitive and daring to shy, elusive and naughty, he makes his nightly visitation to each part of Jao, chewing most of Jao’s swimming pool pumps and plumbing to leather couches! A stealthy tortoise came to visit our offices during the month, much to the amusement of the ‘Jao Mafia’ mongoose family!
A couple of hippo and calves have also decided to visit Jao this past month, as we found their tracks close to camp every morning. Further excursions on the concession provided us the chance to witness a lion kill on the Jao floodplains, as well as a sighting of a new male by the eastern floodplain road just north of Riley’s Island, who to say the least was not interested in our presence! There was a sighting of the rare sitatunga at Jao Bridge and on the channel making our way to Jacana. More sightings include buffalo south of the Jao Airstrip, a Southern African python, a black mamba, a night adder as well as witnessing a crocodile catch and eat a white-faced duck.
Birds and Birding
The water birds on the concession have been seen in abundance, with Jao also doing an annual water bird count in the beginning of February. In camp we have seen our three resident spur-winged geese and a pair of saddle-billed storks with a juvenile waddling around the pools created by the abundance of rain in January. With the presence of the lion kill found at Jao floodplains and our water bird count shortly thereafter, we were lucky enough to see a group of white-backed vultures and four lappet-faced vultures…a magnificent viewing to say the least!
The elusive and rare sightings include greater painted-snipe, long-crested eagle and white-backed night-heron. On the occasion we were able to get out on the channel and visit our neighbourly camp, Jacana, or just to get out on the water, we were able to do some magnificent birding, with sightings of malachite kingfisher, pied kingfisher, African jacana, African darter, little bee-eater, African fish-eagle and common moorhen.
On the 22 February, Jao opened its doors to guests and to start off the season with freshly motivated and encouraged staff waiting eagerly for the guests return! On our first night with guests in camp, Jao planned a wonderful traditional evening in our boma, but unfortunately we had to adapt as a surprise thunderstorm came through the concession minutes before guests were to arrive back from drive…the power of nature never ceases to amaze us! We have also done a full day trip to Hunda Island, for our guests which went really well.
Staff in Camp
Managers: William and Angie Whiteman, Bryan Webstock, Theresa Fourie, Nadia Fourie, Phil Ngisi and Charl Bergh.
Guides: Cruise Mollowakgotla, Solly Kanyeto, Alberto Mundo and Bee Makgetho.