Climate and Landscape
We had 197 mm of rain in March, leading to high hopes for a very good 2014 inundation. The water has already reached underneath the front of house swimming pool, and the Jao floodplains are covered with water. As beautiful as the rising water and rolling clouds may be, they do also hold some challenges. We can be planning a bush dinner or sundowners for the coming day, but when the time comes it is a gamble with the weather. However we are always ready with a counterplan; a warm towel, hot chocolate and Amarula-coffee warms up the guests if they do come back wet from a game drive. Some of our other pleasures are wine-tasting before dinner or sipping on a cocktail while watching the sun set in the west with its amazing display of colours. One can start to see signs of the season changing as the sun sets earlier and rises later in the mornings.
While we were setting up the tables for brunch one morning, the barman said out of the blue: “Look at how the pygmy geese are swimming”. But instead of a “wild goose chase”, they were rushing after a puff adder that had decided to cool down in the channel that flows in front of the main lodge area.
We now have a total of eight impalas on Jao Island! The two impala ewes decided that the one impala lamb cannot be the only little one on the island and so two more baby impalas were brought into the world.
A while ago one of resident lionesses and the male lion had felt that the island was not big enough for themselves and the resident leopard, so they chased it up a marula tree. For months, only leopard tracks have been spotted on the roads around camp and now and again we hear leopard calls at night, but none has been seen. Until now! A fabulous leopard sighting was a thrill for all who saw it.
If you are a guest coming to Africa for the first time, you might not know what to expect. You get on a game drive vehicle with your camera, binoculars and animal checklist, and obviously take pictures of every single tree, plant, bird, and insect. The guests we had in camp this week had no idea how lucky they would get on their drive. They were still taking pictures of everything, when suddenly, two metres from the vehicle were two lionesses lying in the shade of an African ebony tree with their full stomachs exposed to the sky and the carcass of a lechwe to one side. Then as a bonus, out of the bush came their cubs! They were very curious but still cautious. They watched us while we watched them and then decided that this strange object was not that interesting after all and continued playing with each other in the tall grass.
One night while I made my way along the boardwalk, I saw eyes reflecting while pointing my torch. It was a beautiful African civet that had decided to come out of its hiding place and start its hunting for the night.
On her way from the management village to the spa, one of the therapists was lucky enough to spot a sitatunga ram in front of Tent 1!
Birds and Birding
With the water levels rising, we have seen increasingly more breeding pairs of saddle-billed storks and wattled cranes on the Jao floodplains and as well as the open area in front of the main lodge. Malachite kingfishers have made the Jao bridge their home again and are happily feeding on the hundreds of little fish swimming around at the beginning of the season. A giant eagle-owl has been showing itself in the evenings in a dead leadwood tree between Tent 5 and the gym. Carmine bee-eaters were seen on Hunda Airstrip doing an acrobatic show catching rain ants. Saying good bye to guests at the turning circle, a bateleur eagle flew by to bid his own farewell. A martial eagle was seen at the back of house area at the water tanks while a hadida ibis took it upon himself to be on airstrip duty and make sure that the strip is clean and safe for the planes to land.
The guests enjoyed wine tastings at the bar or cocktails and sundowners at the pool. Out-of-camp sundowners are always a great success with the spa therapists giving pampering hand massages while guests sip on white wine or gin and tonic at Kwetsani Jetty. We’ve also had bush dinners and a bush brunch at the Jao Hide and Cheetah Point. One of the highlights was definitely the bush brunch at the sycamore fig tree on Hunda Island. Fishing season has started and the fishing rods and tackle are prepared and ready for catching (and releasing) the big one.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Andre van Rensburg, Estie van Rensburg, Alejandra Pablo, Charl Bergh, Cindy Swart, Philistus Ngisi and Marina Lunga
Guides: Chris Hange, July Monomotsi, Tutalife Manyuka, Johnny Mowanji, Marks Kehaletse and Maipa Tekanyetso