Climate and Landscape
The water level continues to drop at Jao – however, this makes no difference to the wonderful birdlife and game viewing opportunities. The weather in general has been very pleasant with clear skies, though we have experienced the odd cold spell.
We did have some amazing and unusual weather occurrences this month in Jao: firstly a rainbow and then for two nights in a row we had light drizzle, just enough to settle the dust of a Delta winter. The horizon has been showing the promise of the rains to come – and the levels of the water to come in the next season.
With the chilly mornings and cool evenings, many a brave guest is seen bundled up to their eyes with layers of jackets, scarves and beanies. Fortunately hot water bottles and large ponchos help keep the icy wind at bay and no doubt for guests returning in the evening, a mug of steaming hot chocolate laced with Amarula will have elicited a sigh of relief.
As one settles into the rhythm of the Delta it is the sense of peace that pervades. However, this month saw that peace replaced by thrilling excitement as we got to experience a pride of lion sharing our home and otherwise nonchalant elephants expressing their discontent at our presence!
We were privileged to get a brief insight into the upbringing of the cubs one morning. The lionesses disabled an antelope and then fetched their five cubs to make their first kill. The sight of the cubs bounding through the floodplain in anticipation of this lesson was spectacular. After the kill was made the cubs enjoyed the feast and then, in their excitement, continued to play tug-of-war until they were totally worn out. These memories will be etched in the minds of those of us who were privileged to share this once-in-a-lifetime experience. In the last week or so, they have been absent and it seems that they have made their way north-west again.
Suzi the hyaena is still lurking about, enjoying her territory around the camp, much to the excitement of our guests. However, whenever Suzi knows she is being watched she scurries away to another of her secret hiding places.
We were lucky enough to see one of the most unusual sightings in the African bush, a flying black mamba… We were alerted to this by the incessant alarm-calling of a vast variety of birds, from the humble weaver to the striking swamp boubou, to the brilliant presence of the squawking white-browed coucal. The next thing we saw was an almost three-metre-long mamba falling from the very edges of the tiniest branches of a majestic jackalberry tree, only to be chased by African jacanas once on terra firma… So much for the scariest creature in the bush!
The winter months always promise the allure of mesmerising sunsets and this month was no different! We are lucky enough to have some elephants visit us at our sundowners; some are friendlier than others. Fortunately the managers and guides are adept at reading the warning signs of these big-eared behemoths, whose gentle presence is something to be experienced while here in the Delta.
Birds and Birding
Among the vast array of birdlife we enjoy at Jao it is not often that we get to see a painted snipe. The hype of a busy freight day was interrupted as the heavily-laden vehicle came to a sudden halt on Camp Road – the painted snipe had wisely positioned himself at the edge of the receding Delta waters, making a meal of its fish caught in the shallow waters. Another wonderful opportunity just to stop and enjoy life in the Delta.
We were lucky enough to see a large mob of various raptors one afternoon. They had had a really cold morning, so the first warm air caused an amazing thermal that included a soaring martial eagle, a long-crested eagle, three African fish-eagles, two white-backed vultures and a whole load of hooded vultures – where they were eventually going and what they were doing only they knew.
We have also been watching the continuous flow of large flocks of water birds coming into the Jao flats to enjoy the bounty of the small creatures left stranded by the receding waters – the most impressive of these being a flock of about 20 wattled cranes flying overhead.
Cheetah Point is the perfect venue for the ultimate African bush dinner. However, when the five lion cubs decided to lie in wait and stalk the dinner, it raised the adrenalin to a new level. Fortunately our team of experienced guides made sure that our guests and staff were safe at all times and enjoyed their dinner without interruption!
The night skies in the Delta hold many a guest in awe. Whether it is the colourful stars, star clusters, and dark nebulae in and around the Crux, the Southern Cross, the most famed of all southern constellations, or the rich star fields towards the centre of our galaxy in the constellation Sagittarius (home to dozens of nebulae and star clusters within easy reach of an amateur star-gazer with binoculars), the Jao guides love taking the time to share their passion for these southern skies, quickly leading to many a photographic exploration by our guests!
Staff in Camp
Managers: Charl Bergh, Cindy Swart, Marina Lunga , Phyl Ngisi, Margaret Matlepeng, Mathilda , Debbie Bekker, Jacques Bester, Nadia Botha, Rauve Vermaak, Rijk and Lu Stoltz
Guides: July Mogomotsi, Moengotsile Malebogo, Marks Kaneletse and Tutalife Manjuka