Climate and Landscape
As winter tightens its icy grip on the Okavango Delta and the inundation changes the landscape, the beauty of the flora and fauna here at Jao sets the season’s scene: herds of red lechwe prance across the vast Jao Flats, sitatunga graze quietly in the shadows, families of elephant swim trunk to tail through the channels… the magic never ends!
A few brisk mornings have greeted both guests and staff but on the whole the weather has been amazing. Many of our guests have commented on how pleasant the weather has been, enjoying the early morning and evening activities to the full. The cooler days have tempted many guests to stay snuggled up under the warm sheets, paying homage to the luxury of the electric blankets! But the allure and mystery of the wilderness always wins. A sumptuous hot breakfast under the glow of the gas heaters fortifies guests and before long they brave the morning and head out on another adventure wrapped beneath a warm poncho hugging a comforting hot water bottle.
The five lion cubs and their antics have been enthralling everyone, always bringing a smile to our guests. The month started with them making a foray south and the family was not seen for nearly 10 days, but, much to our relief they made their way back in style; an old ‘dagga boy’ buffalo became the prey and much-needed nutrition for the growing cubs.
As the sun began to sneak over the eastern horizon and the staff put the final touches to the vast breakfast spread, news of the lions in camp began to ripple along the grapevine. The unmistakable tracks were spotted on the pathways around Jao Camp so all our senses were on full alert. It wasn’t long until we heard that one of the lionesses had killed a sitatunga on the road and was on her way to collect the five cubs. Soon the cubs and second lioness arrived and made short work of the carcass. What a sighting this was – and right in camp!
Hyaena have made their regular winter sojourn in camp once again, so everybody has been careful to ensure that doors and gates are kept tightly closed at night. These shy carnivores have the unfortunate reputation of ‘tasting’ whatever they can get their powerful jaws around – even items we wouldn’t consider to be edible like a pool lounger, bucket or rain gauge, a leather sofa or picture frame. Nothing is sacred! Still, the rare privilege of seeing these beautiful spotted, laughing mammals is always worth it...
Birds and Birding
The highlight of the month at Jao was certainly the sighting of a martial eagle’s steenbok kill. What a privilege to see the power of this majestic, beautiful bird of prey! It is not often that we are privy to such a spectacle – so both guests and guides sat in wonder and amazement as this master of the skies allowed them a brief glimpse into its life!
The legendary Pel’s fishing-owl has brought many friends to the Delta to see this shy bird. A mokoro quietly slips over the waters as the guide expertly slides into position for the eager guest to capture the perfect picture of this rare bird. Having a Pel’s around camp has sent ripples of excitement through everyone as we all keep our eyes open to ensure our own special sighting!
The screeching of a juvenile giant eagle owl has become almost normal around camp for this past month. This has also presented some special photographic opportunities much to the delight of our guests.
The wonder of the southern African stars has been a great source of excitement – especially whilst standing out in the bush with a cup of hot chocolate or smooth scotch on a brisk winter’s evening. We have all enjoyed the knowledge of the guides as they explain the various constellations and the pictures of the ancient legends take shape in front of our eyes.
The flames of the fire flickers light across the faces of guests gathered on the fire deck enjoying a satisfying drink before dinner. The music of the night is drowned out by the excited chatter of the day’s game sightings as friends share the enjoyment that only the Delta can bring. Suddenly a rhythmic stamping and chanting subdues the chatter as a throng of… mosquito-proof uniform-clad Americans marches down the walkway! It all began thousands of miles away as a prank – a mischievous mother purchased so-called malaria suits for her family’s safari. These then became the centre of attention at dinner the night before so in good humour the family put on a parade of their unique “uniforms” for all the camp to see, and played out a well-rehearsed performance for our entertainment. A delightful first for Jao!
“The Land of a Hundred Sunsets” – the phrase is coined as we enjoy watching the sun setting over the floodplains with friends from the world over. The sky takes on myriad colours as the sun slips below the palm trees, and then not 15 minutes later, while enjoying a glass of perfectly chilled sauvignon blanc, a new palette of colours is released as we all stand in awe of the spectacle!
Staff in Camp
Management: Ken Walton, Charl Bergh, Retha Prinsloo, Phyl Ngisi, Margaret Matlepeng, Alejandra Pablo Wolf, Andre van Rensburg, Estie van Rensburg, Rijk & Lu Stoltz
Guides: Johny Mowanji, July Mogomotsi, Salani Tibabili and Marks Kaneletse