Climate and Landscape
It's been hot, though not unexpectedly, as October is the hottest month of the year in Botswana. We experienced midday temperatures of 40˚ Celsius and higher on a regular basis but we were able to beat the heat at Vumbura Plains with our magical sorbet stops.
There were also many days where the plunge pools at the rooms were the most comfortable place for guests to spend their siestas between their morning and afternoon activities.
Days were dry and hot, with barely any clouds during the morning hours. Although the afternoons were dominated by rain-bearing clouds, we were only treated to four small thunder-showers. Thunder grumbled on a daily basis, so with some luck, the skies will open for us soon… and we can`t wait – I guess the animals can`t wait either.
Throughout most of the year, it is hard to imagine that Vumbura Plains Camp is actually located on the northernmost edge of the Okavango Delta, because the vegetation is so lush and the plains are mostly inundated… then at this time of the year, it becomes obvious. Driving north from camp will take you through very dry and sandy areas with a lot of mopane and Kalahari apple-leaf trees; what used to be waterholes are now patches of dried mud.
Three large herds of buffalo, with up to 1,000 animals in each herd, have been roaming the area and attracting the lions' attention. On two different afternoons our guests at Vumbura Plains North had an amazing afternoon tea with close to 1,000 animals grazing right in front of camp. Several times our guests witnessed one of our resident prides (Kudu Pride) taking down a full-grown buffalo bull. When they do succeed, they gorge themselves and can then spend up to two or three days sleeping it off in the shade. This provides an opportunity for the vultures, spotted hyaena and other small scavengers to take over – and by the time they are done, often nothing remains but the old, worn down boss (the horn section).
Our hyaena population is doing very well, with increasing activity around the local den. The cubs that were born last year are already helping to look after the litter which was born about eight months ago.
Our resident female leopard Selonyana gave birth to two cubs at the beginning of the year and had been doing well in protecting them… up until now. She was found one day with only the young male following her, so we are not sure if the young female is still alive. This lonely cub was clearly trying to acquire all the knowledge needed to survive out in the bush, so the absence of his female sibling is worrying. We can only conclude that the young female fell victim to a troop of baboons, hyaena, lion or another leopard, though we will only know for sure if she is dead if we don`t see her at all during November.
In happier leopard news, our other resident female (Mmalebala) is still doing very well with her +/-eight-month-old cubs and she is seen mostly around the airstrip area.
As for our wild dogs, known as the Golden Pack, it's just great to see how such a special and endangered species is doing so well and to be able to quantify the results of our efforts conserving the dwindling population of this rare animal. They were seen in and around camp frequently this month although we do feel for the impala at Vumbura as every time the dogs come around one or two of them are killed.
Other regulars have been the world's largest land mammals. The local elephants took a great interest in the camp's activities, and we enjoyed regular visits from solitary bulls, as well as breeding herds. Kaporota Lagoon in front of Vumbura North is especially popular amongst the youngsters that seek relief from the heat and to quench their thirst. They clearly also think that the best way to keep cool during the siesta time is in the water.
We also had some amazing sightings of general game this month with big herd of grazers back in some of our floodplains enjoying the new green grass.
Managers North: Alex Mazunga, Poppy Moatlhodi, Lebo Liphoko, Colleen Kern and Onnie Mokenti
Guides: Moronga Kandondi, Obonye Kamela, Lazi Moyantsi
Managers South: Lops Rampeba, Chris Brown, Alina Redka and Lemme Dintwa
Guides: Setsile Chikusi, Emang Letlhare and Ban Shakwa
Newsletter and pictures by Alex Mazunga