Alison's Trip Report - Duma Tau

Feb 9th, 2007, 09:06 PM
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Alison's Trip Report - Duma Tau

I'm afraid I have been bogged down since returning from Africa and Egypt at the end of last year and am just catching up now - for those who are interested, here is my report on Duma Tau - following my report on Seba camp earlier on:

12th OCTOBER 2006 – SEBA TO DUMA TAU

Our last morning drive with Max and we saw giraffe and hyena again. This time the hyena came right up to the car - I have to admit they look quite sweet with their black faces and big ears! There are lots of birds around today, wildebeest as well as kudu - curious animals with a mane and trumpet like ears.

After brunch it was farewell to Seba - saying goodbye to Max brought tears to my eyes. He has introduced us to a totally new way of life and appreciation of animals and nature. Our plane was a tiny Cessna and the flight to Duma Tau was 45 minutes. Our pilot this time was Fiona who looked about 15 years old with her blonde hair in bunches! She didn't exactly inspire confidence until she started flying and she is an excellent pilot.

Arriving at the Chobe strip, we were met by Brian, the Assistant Manager of Duma Tau, who was driving an open safari vehicle. It was so hot so we drank gallons of water and slathered on the sunscreen. Brian believes you see more without a roof on the vehicle - which is fine except when the sun beats down on you!

The camp itself is thatched and the rooms are reached by wooden walkways - elephants often cross over and we were warned to watch out for them and give way to them. Not too sure how I feel about that!

Our guide is Oates and on meeting him he asked what we wanted to see most. "Cheetah" I replied and so we set off at 4pm, it was still stinking hot and we drove through barren landscape filled with dead mopane trees (thanks to the elephants) and lots of sandy tracks. This is so different to the Okavango Delta. We came across a wide open plain with a hill, termite mounds and a couple of tall trees and there, under a tree, were two cheetah who had made a kill and were sleeping. They occasionally lifted their heads and were quite unconcerned that we were so close to them. An impala ran in the distance, they spotted the movement but were too contented to give chase! These magnificent big cats are so sleek and were, we were told, favourite pets of the Egyptians.

Next we came across a herd of zebra, their black and white stripes standing out in the grassy plain. They were mingling with warthogs and impala as well as giraffe and elephant. Then we saw a jackal and his mate racing across the plain in pursuit of a mob of mongoose. One jackal caught the tiny animal, bit it's neck and carried it a short way, dropping it near us bloody and still alive, so he could go and help his mate catch another one. This was our first kill!

We had sundowner drinks by a hippo pool - they are such frightening animals and snorted, yawned and blew water but stayed in the pool, fortunately, whilst we had our drinks.

Later we found the pack of wild dogs and their pups - there are 6 puppies and 10 dogs and they chased imapala but the antelope was too smart for them on this occasion! They then came to the edge of the river and the adults very cautiously crossed - apparently they are taken by crocodiles quite regularly. The pups were very unsure and it was so funny watching them trying to get up courage, placing one paw in the water, then stepping back, looking at the adults the other side and trying again, and again, and again. They failed and stayed on the same side as us.

Returning to camp it was dark and so we were spotting with a searchlight. Oates found a serval cat - which is very rare and is a tiny spotted cat a little like a tiny leopard.

We had a delicious dinner and socialised with the other guests including Dennis, an elephant who regularly visits the camp. This time his trunk was waving inside the window opening of the lounge area – the staff were not too bothered and shooed him away leaving the guests quite amazed at this interaction between animals and humans!


13th OCTOBER 2006 DUMA TAU

We slept reasonably well and awoke to hippos roaring and elephants trumpeting. By now I am used to these sounds and don’t panic as much as the first night! We got up at 0530 and were out by 0600 after a light breakfast - more Botswana porridge. It was still cool and we came across elephants and then so many hippos - some were out of the water, others were sliding back in and further down the river we saw a crocodile slithering into the reeds.

Driving along the Linyanti river it was beautiful. The early morning light, the reflection of the water and the myriad of birds was awe inspiring. We are on the border with Namibia and the country is lush and green - the river is about 1km wide and full of long reeds.

We came across the carcass of a giraffe that died of old age and it was surrounded by vultures and hyenas, all feasting and not bothered at all by us. The hyenas were really big. The vultures had a nest at the top of the tree and watched the proceedings with an evil eye. I always think they look evil! Baby baboons were playing at the base of the tree - in fact there are baboons everywhere.

Driving along the track we rounded a corner and came across a herd of breeding elephants with their babies. They were on their way to drink and were startled by the vehicle. Hurriedly they rounded up the babies and herded them into the middle and then a large female made a mock charge to the side of the vehicle. Once again my heart was in my mouth and I was shaking uncontrollably afterwards - she had enormous tusks!

Lots more giraffe and impala were along the route and then Oates found a lioness hiding in the shade of a bush. Only a trained eye could spot her from so far - she was sleeping off a feed of a warthog. The head was nearby and she had buried the intestines in a mound so that the hyenas would not detect the kill and thus find her two cubs – who are about ten weeks old. The lioness is part of the Selinda pride and is now alone and protecting her young. A jackal skulked nearby trying to work out how to get to the head of the warthog - it would be sudden death for him if he came close to the lioness but we didn’t wait to find out!

The night drive was entertaining - we had sundowners in a hide on the bank of the river and observed lots of hippos all snorting, roaring and splashing about. It was magical to watch the sun go down over the water. Again we saw the serval on the way back to the camp.


14TH OCTOBER 2007 ELEPHANT DAY AND WILD DOG KILL

Today has been absolutely amazing - we set off at 0630 for a full day game drive with Oates and travelled as far as north of Kings Pool along the river bank - a distance of about 50km.

First stop was to see the lioness and her cubs - 8 in all. This lioness adopted two cubs when their mother was killed about two years ago. It was early morning and the landscape was bathed in a golden light. The lioness was lying near a tree and the cubs were playing nearby. Two were suckling her and she was not at all disturbed by us. It was a scene of perfect tranquility and we felt so privileged to witness all this in such close proximity. After about half an hour we noticed a movement and the pack of wild dogs ran past lower in the plain so we followed them and watched them playing - the pups were running through the grass leaping and jumping and having a wonderful time. The adult's faces were covered in blood from an earlier kill and all seemed very contented.

The countryside is beautiful - very lush and green and the river has large clumps of water lilies and masses of waterbirds. The most fascinating to me is the Black Egret, which extends its wings to form an umbrella trapping small fish underneath. This is the border with Namibia and elephants often cross the river - apparently they feel safer in Botswana as farmers in Namibia kill them as they constantly destroy their crops. A crocodile was sunning itself on the bank and two waterbuck antelope were resting along the river's edge a little further down. We spotted red lechwe, roan antelope, warthogs, hippos, hyena and lots of baboons. The highlight of the day was lunch in a hide at King's Pool where we watched literally hundreds of elephants coming to drink and bathe in the river. Hundreds were crossing back to Namibia and more came to the water. They were unaware that we were in the hide and it was wonderful to watch such huge numbers from such close quarters and yet feel safe! However, later on I didn't feel quite so confident. We drove through several herds and it was frightening as we were in an open sided, open top vehicle offering no protection but Oates revved the engine to scare them. They ran off, turned around and trumpeted long and loud, flapping their ears and making quite a commotion. I felt very apprehensive but Richard was finding these antics amusing - when I watch the little video I took, I can see what was funny but I didn't feel that way at the time! In all we saw around 900 elephants during the day - and this was the day when I was hoping we would see fewer of them!

We stayed in the hide for around two hours - during the hottest part of the day - and set back to camp looking for the leopard but without success. We saw lots of hippos out of the water - they seem quite out of proportion with their stumpy little legs and huge bodies and they were munching at the reeds and grasses. It was extremely hot and I was surprised they were actually out of the water.

Beautiful impala seemed to be everywhere as well as warthogs - they are so ugly but I have developed quite a fondness for them. Zebra were grazing quietly and there were lots of giraffe as well. In fact the day's sightings have been phenomenal.

Arriving back at the camp about 4pm feeling very hot and dusty as well as weary, we had a swim and a shower and felt revived. The other guests departed for their evening drive and we settled ourselves on the deck and enjoyed a drink whilst watching the sunset. Suddenly we heard a commotion and some barking. The wild dogs were at the entrance to the camp and had cornered an impala - they grabbed it by the hind leg but the frightened animal managed to free itself and clattered over the boardwalk running past the bar to the front of the camp with the dogs in hot pursuit. The next thing I noticed the impala flopped on the ground right in front of where we were sitting - the dogs stalked it, alternately coming closer and then backing off and finally one grabbed the impala's ear and tugged and tugged. The little impala was screaming and my instinct was to try and help but of course this is Africa and this is nature, and so feeling quite sickened I just left the area so I didn't have to watch. It was heartbreaking and the dogs began to tear the animal apart whilst it was still alive. This I found hard to bear but once the impala was silent, I walked back and watched the rest of this kill and was amazed at the speed with which the dogs tore at the body and feasted. Eventually one of the females walked away from the body, crossed right in front of me and then regurgitated the food so her puppies could eat. By this time it was getting dark and the dogs began to run off hauling great lumps of meat and bones with them. We then observed a crocodile lurking on the water's edge opposite us but he didn't venture out of the water as a hyena appeared and swiftly made short work of the carcass.

This whole event took about an hour and a half and was all over by the time the other guests returned from their drive. We felt so privileged to have witnessed such a kill but it didn't alter the fact that I felt saddened by it in one way but was amazed at the dogs' behaviour and their code of helping each other. Who needs a David Attenborough movie when it is right on your doorstep!

14th OCTOBER 2006 DUMA TAU TO VICTORIA FALLS

We slept in as we were leaving mid morning and had to pack and organise our things. It was lovely not be woken in the dark and to enjoy the room and it's outlook as it was cool and very pleasant. The room faces west and is very hot in the afternoons. I woke to hear a lot of crashing, hands clapping and voices shouting. An elephant was destroying the boardwalk right next to our tent! This was probably Dennis again! Earlier on I hear a lion roar and hippos were honking - it was a cacaphony of noise!

Ban drove us to the airstrip - it was so hot and dusty and sitting in the open vehicle in the midday sun is no joke - animal sightings were few but we did see a mother giraffe and her baby - the youngest we have seen so far - and impala and warthog. Our plane circled overhead but we had to drive down the airstrip to chase away a herd of zebra that had decided to congregate in the middle of the strip! This is a first for me and was a great camera opportunity!

Victoria Falls and Chobe to follow

Tropical_gal is offline  
Feb 9th, 2007, 09:29 PM
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Alison,

Lovely report. Thanks.

John
afrigalah is offline  
Feb 10th, 2007, 12:00 AM
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After reading your report a wont to go to Duma Tau....tomorrow.Amazing and very amusing,thanks.
Paco.
PacoAhedo is offline  
Feb 10th, 2007, 12:15 AM
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santharamhari
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Alison,

I love your enthusiasm and appreciate your report. Your report reflects the fact that it is a privilege to visit such destinations and appreciate every minute spent there......

What super luck with both the dogs and those two cheetah boys (argueably the most popular cats EVER!!!)

Thanks for sharing
Hari
 
Feb 10th, 2007, 12:17 AM
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santharamhari
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http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=34902668

That's Alison's Part-1 of her trip report from Seba camp: for those that missed it

Hari
 
Feb 10th, 2007, 09:42 AM
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Join Date: Sep 2005
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Wonderful report. I stayed at Duma Tau last June and it was during our stay that 2 males lions killed two females. The guides were very concerned that the orphaned cub (there had been two cubs, but one was missing) would not survive, as the lioness who adopted them already had two cubs of her own. Do you know if the adopted cub survived? It was only 4 weeks old at the time. We also experienced some close encounters with charging elephants near the Linyanti River.
raelond is offline  
Feb 10th, 2007, 05:33 PM
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Yes, Raelond, the cub survived and was adopted by the lioness who had two of her own. We saw her with four cubs - two were suckling her and there were two bigger ones which we were told she had adopted. They made a really lovely family unit and it was wonderful to see.
Tropical_gal is offline  
Feb 10th, 2007, 06:43 PM
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Duma Tau really came through in a big way, starting with the cheetah.

Outstanding dog action. Same pack I saw in Selinda in Aug. So did you tell the people who had been on the drive about what they had missed?

You have to give the male jackal credit for has handling of the mongoose so he could help his mate.

Tell me about the time spent in the King's Pool hide. You stayed at Duma Tau, but visited the KP hide? Isn't it for just KP guests? Is it common for Duma Tau guests to view game from the Kings Pool hide? Thanks.
atravelynn is offline  
Feb 10th, 2007, 09:30 PM
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Yes, we did tell the other guests what they had missed when they returned - they were suitably miffed!! Apparently their vehicles were contacted by radio but they were too far away to get back in time to watch the action. We were just lucky, I guess.

Re the Kings Pool hide - there are two at Kings Pool and we were in the one overlooking the water - north of Duma Tau and west of Kings Pool. Our guide had radioed before we left camp to make sure no Kings Pool guests were using it that day. We had a picnic lunch there and stayed about two hours. Perhaps there were no guests at Kings Pool at that time. I dont know, but it was a quiet part of the season. I doubt that Duma Tau guests would go regularly to that hide unless they were on a full day's game drive as it is quite far away.
Tropical_gal is offline  
Feb 11th, 2007, 08:10 AM
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Lynn

Different hide than the sunken hide right at camp I believe, there are also some raised hides overlooking the river at various points, including one where Livingstone crossed the Linyanti.
napamatt is offline  
Feb 11th, 2007, 11:25 AM
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Thanks for the hide info and you answered the other question that I had not even asked. Were the guests on the game drive radioed and informed of the spectacle back at camp? Apparently they were, luck was just not on their side to arrive in time.

Only once did I have something like that happen to me. I missed 2 cheetah cubs. I ended up getting great views of them a day or two later, but until I saw them I was disappointed. Then I was disappointed with myself for being disappointed. I just drank more wine whenever I had the opportunity to appease my spirits as I brooded over that great injustice. I still think I was a big baby about it.
atravelynn is offline  

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