Jao Camp - April 2013

Apr 15, 2013 Jao Camp
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Weather and Landscape
The morning chills have already started - a sure sign that winter is upon us. All the more reason to enjoy the sunrise over a cup of coffee or tea, or better yet, a hot chocolate. As the annual inundation pours in, the water levels have stabilised mostly and we don’t anticipate any further increases in the water levels for the rest of the season. But one thing that you can never predict or anticipate is nature and its movements, so we shall see what the water does as we move further into winter.

We’ve had the pleasure of seeing some of the quieter predatory species that chose to grace the camp with their presence. First, the slithering type: a boomslang passed by en route to the more spacious expanse of trees on the outskirts of the camp. On the far north of the island, a black mamba was also seen making a termite mound his winter accommodation. It is clear that these endotherms are preparing for torpor – a form of mild hibernation.

On the mammalian side, we have had genets, water mongoose and the resident civet in and around camp, giving our guests and staff many hours of entertaining viewing. Speaking of entertainment, the resident group of banded mongoose has had its third litter of pups for the season and the whole bunch are still filling the camp with their never-ending squeaks and squeals. It is a sound that is always pleasant and we miss it when they go further afield to forage. This is more often the case as the temperature drops. Many animals need to expand their foraging areas searching for available food sources during the ‘dry’ season.

As for viewing out on the greater concession, we see there is a change ahead for the lion pride that calls the Jao Concession their home. As is the case with most lion prides, the females are the ‘glue’ of the pride while the males change dominance every couple of years. This is nature’s way of ensuring the variance of genes within the lion population. A younger male lion has been making his way into the territory and challenging the resident male. The younger male has proven to be stronger in willpower as well as in physical strength and the resident male has been seen breaking away more frequently from the females with his sub-adult male offspring at his side. Only time will tell the outcome of the resident male’s fate.

We have also seen the steady trickle of elephant making their way back to the area - in particular, we are seeing more breeding herds and not just a scattering of bulls moving through the channels. Guests and guides have come back from game drives reporting the pleasure of seeing some newborn elephant calves in amongst the legs of their mothers. Elephants are not seasonal breeders and can conceive any time of the year; after a 22-month gestation, the long wait is always worth the priceless viewing of a young elephant still clumsy with its trunk, a skill they only master from three months of age.

Birds and Birding
With the change of season, we have been saying farewell to some of the migrant bird species. It will only be from September onwards that we will have the pleasure of viewing certain birds such as the various cuckoos, carmine bee-eaters, and woodland kingfishers amongst many others.

An adult and a juvenile martial eagle were seen perching together on the same tree. The martial eagle is amongst the largest eagles in Africa and it is the fifth heaviest in the world.

Other bird species that we were privileged to see this April were the giant kingfisher, long-crested eagle and a goliath heron – an apt name as it is the largest of the heron species that grace the Delta.

In front of the main area, we have a very large sycamore fig which has a pair of striped kingfishers that were nesting in a hole in one of the branches. They provided much entertainment for guests as they vocalised and zipped around.

Another epic sighting at the front of the main area was the secretive Pel’s fishing-owl. This beautiful owl is a much sough- after sighting, not just in the Delta but in most African countries. It was a brief sighting however; as soon after it was seen and identified, it spread its impressive 153 cm wingspan and glided into the darkness.

Lastly, a melanistic gabar goshawk was also seen. Melanism is the development of dark-coloured pigments and is the opposite of albinism. Melanistic gabar goshawks are often seen perching and nesting with the regular coloured gabar goshawk and it appears to not interfere in any way with their lifestyle.

Camp Activities
We have had a few birthday celebrations this month and there have been the largest and tastiest varieties of birthday cakes gracing the dinner table.

With the annual inundation coming in, we have maximised the opportunity, doing an occasional floodplain sundowner for the guests. We had one guest refer to it as ‘the floating bar’ which we found an apt way to describe the experience – luckily, nothing was floating away! Another high tea was experienced at one of the channel crossings. You can imagine the guests' surprise at a full spread with barefoot managers wading in the water, ready to serve them high tea delights.

We had a local honeymoon couple fresh from a weekend wedding. There was many a joke and pieces of advice going around the dinner table as they shared a glass of wine with other couples reporting their years of wedded bliss at 10, 20 and even 40 years for one couple! They loved the experience and they are looking at the possibility of coming back for their one-year anniversary.

For those who did choose Jao for their anniversary celebrations, we gave them a private dinner to reminisce over their years together. One couple opted for the couple treatment at the Jao Spa which is aptly called ‘The Romance Ritual’ and reported back feeling relaxed and stress-free.

We had some of the younger generation in camp and we all enjoyed the young energy in camp. Much of the energy that wasn’t burnt up while on game drive and boat cruise was spent on making some elephant dung paper and cards for their grandparents about whom they said they were missing! They also were shown how to use plaster of Paris to take an imprint of animal tracks and each young lady walked off the proud owner of a plaster of Paris hyaena print with their names carved into the back!

Staff in Camp
Managers: Neuman Vasco, Retha Prinsloo, Marina Lunga, Angie and William Whiteman, Bryan Webstock and Theresa Fourie.
Guides: Cruise Mollowakgotta, Solly Kanyeto, Bee Makgheto, Alberto Munduu and Johnny Mowanji.


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