Weather and Landscape
It’s the end of the month and for the first time it feels like we might survive the heat, grateful for the light breeze stirring the palms. Clouds cover the Delta, spread out like a cotton wool blanket and weather-wise it seems like nature has at last found its equilibrium. The month started out with a week of uninterrupted rain, 135 mm in all, with the middle of the month close to unbearably hot, recording temperatures above 35° Celsius most days.
Just before falling asleep around 22h00 one night I suddenly sat up straight: the impalas were sounding their alarm call. I listened intently; we had seen lions earlier that evening south-east of the airstrip. The next morning we found the tracks of a lioness who had made her way from between the management and staff villages right through camp and out the other side by the bridge!
William and Angie told me that they had also found two lionesses lying in the road the night before. This is the second night this week that we have found them exploring the camp – it makes me wonder how many times they have been here and we haven’t seen them!
On the morning of 20 January one of our managers came to the office in great excitement to tell us that she had found tracks of a leopard on the main road through the camp: one set of big male footprints parading through and exploring the area.
It was just after 20h00 and we were still in the office when I received a message to take dental floss to a guest. I had heard the rumour of a destructive hyaena lurking around at night chewing on sofas and scratching on doors. But I had never seen him and if it was not for all the small gates we have to close on the walkways every night and the invoice for the new couch, I would have brushed it off as fiction. Andre and I delivered the package to the room and on our way back, deep in conversation we passed the kitchen when Andre suddenly stopped. Two metres in front of us a spotted body and big black eyes were looking straight at us. Shock and excitement course through me simultaneously and the thought of running crossed my mind, but the hyaena’s reaction was faster. We watched as he took off; what a strange-looking creature with hind legs too short for his body, but at the same time such a striking animal. Now I know, the camp hyaena does exist and is very much alive and real!
Our band of banded mongoose continues to entertain us, and we have watched as the little bodies crawl over each other, paws, nails and furry tails. One can just get a glimpse of them through a crack in the log which the mother mongoose had cleverly turned into a safe den for her newborns. It’s the second litter for the summer, and while watching them I couldn’t help but wonder how they solve sibling rivalry in a big family like that!
Birds and Birding
We watched a western banded snake-eagle as he was sitting in the sycamore fig tree in front of the main area at Jao with as much confidence and majesty as only a bird of prey can muster, a little female paradise flycatcher and a black-collared barbet were trying their very best to scare him off, bombing him, and picking at his feathers, but with no success. Not bothered by them at all, he just sat there staring ahead. Then after about 30 or 40 minutes he elegantly took off.
One of the best things about visiting a camp like Jao is the people you meet. We have guests from all over the globe coming to experience the peace and tranquillity of our beautiful Jao: from British citizens to South Africans, Germans and Americans amongst others, and even a family from Lichtenstein. It still amazes me how people can come together from different backgrounds, different countries and share in the most delightful conversations around the large dinner table in our dining area. Maybe there is some sort of ‘magic’ to eating together, whether at a dinner set-up in the middle of the floodplain with candles and lanterns, a table next to the boma fire with traditional food cooked on the hot coals or a surprise early morning breakfast under a large marula tree. Private dinners in the Spa have a very special charm too, aided of course by a romantic turn-down. Naturally good food plays an important part, but our selection of excellent South African wines has also led to many conversations long into the night.
Staff in Camp
Managers: William Whiteman, Angie Whiteman, Cindy Swart, Gloria Amos, Kamogelo Mapila, Andre Van Rensburg, Estie Van Rensburg, Retha Prinsloo, and Marina Lunga, Alejandra Pablo Roa, Philistus Ngisi
Guides: Alberto Munduu, Johnny Mowanji, and Selani Tibalili
Newsletter by Estie Van Rensburg