Climate and Landscape
July was a month of hugely fluctuating temperatures on Chief’s Island. We have seen highs of 31° Celsius and lows of 6°, and towards the end of the month had two very brief – and unseasonal – thundershowers in the early hours of the morning.
We watched the inundation recede a little from Chief’s Island earlier in the month but already it seems to have come back. The open area in front of Mombo is completely submerged, ensuring that we have active aquatic birdlife very close to the camp. What it also means is that we hear hippo, elephant and red lechwe splashing around by the rooms, with a lot of the activity occurring at night. The jackalberry trees and ilala palms have also produced fruit this month.
Animal life has been swarming to these trees close to the camp, with troops of monkeys and baboons, elephants and birds producing a flurry of activity, much to the amusement of us all. However, some elephant are fairly intent on reaching fruits that are often on the other side of a boardwalk. We have watched as some individuals try and squeeze themselves under our boardwalks and then promptly forget that the back half of their body should also remain down. This has resulted in the boardwalks popping out of their brackets – and carpenters being called out to quickly fix them.
Another method of circumventing the boardwalks has seen elephants firstly placing their front feet on the walkways, then sliding their bellies on the boardwalk, and lastly dragging their back feet off it. Amazingly enough, the boardwalks seem to have stood firm in the wake of this unusual practice.
Wildlife has again been abundant, both around and out of camp. Lions have lazily strolled close to camp twice this month.
The Western Pride of lions hasn’t been around quite as much as usual with only a handful of sightings this month. The Moporota Pride has been in the spotlight as its members tend to wander close to camp. Their five cubs are growing steadily, and growing in confidence too as the days pass.
Hyaena have been ever-present and it seems their numbers are increasing greatly. There is one particular blond hyaena that has just had cubs, to add to another two already in the den site close to Mombo. These little black furballs tend not to venture too far from the safety of the den and mother, but still play actively in her presence.
Legadema, our famous leopard has been around camp a few times this month as well. We have had to drive both staff and guests to their tents and around the camp area. She seems to be particularly fond of a termite mound not too far from the Little Mombo main area.
Birds and Birding
A scops-owl has been sighted a few times around camp this month, quietly whiling away the daytime hours in a favourite tree. We have also seen Pel’s fishing-owl, slaty egret, palm swift, wattled crane and a jacana with youngsters. A random sighting of a purple roller was also confirmed this month, which is a little strange for the winter season.
This month also saw the start of a new staff housing project at Mombo. Old-style bush housing which would typically consist of wood and canvas is being replaced with insulated cement fibre board housing. This is a huge improvement in making accommodation more comfortable in both cold and hot weather for those of us who call this wild area our home.
Text: Neil Steedman
Photos: Hamish Henderson and Neil Steedman