Atravelynn to Duba, Vumbura, Zib

Old Aug 26th, 2006, 06:39 PM
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Atravelynn to Duba, Vumbura, Zib

<font color="purple">Aug 10-13 Duba Plains--4 nights</font>
<font color="green">Aug 14-15 Vumbura Plains-North--2 nights</font>
<font color="red">Aug 16-19 Zibalianja—4 nights</font>

A link to photos will appear at the conclusion of the report. Food and accommodations at each camp were excellent. All staff and guides (Duba= James 007, Vumbura = Z, Zibalianja = BB) were outstanding.

<font color="purple">This safari started with a bang! Literally. As the Sefofane charter with 8 of us aboard was about 10 minutes out from Duba Plains, I was startled out of my drowsy aerial sightseeing by a loud thud outside the right windshield of the plane. The pilot immediately informed us that we had hit a bird. The poor bird was the loser in that confrontation.

There was no additional excitement on the plane until we taxied down Duba’s airstrip after a safe landing. That’s when we saw it! One quarter of the Duba Plains wildebeest herd was migrating from one end of the airstrip to the other in a wild welcoming gallop. Then suddenly it was gone. “It” being the one wildebeest out of the herd of four. A few days later either that quarter of the herd or a different one-fourth would be spotted hanging out with the tsessebee.

Bridget, the hostess at Duba, gave me my welcome briefing in the gazebo overlooking a large marsh in front of camp. Throughout our conversation a Spur-winged goose kept flapping around, making itself quite conspicuous. I hoped its mate was not what the plane had knocked from the sky. After the briefing I hit the loo and was greeted with a lovely poster showing Botswana’s endangered birds. Of course I sat there speculating which one we may have obliterated. Not even an hour out of Maun and I had already violated the “leave only footprints, take only pictures” motto of eco-tourism.

My guide at Duba was James 007 and I have this forum to thank for that wonderful recommendation. This was the first time I had ever requested a private vehicle and guide. I made the request at the height of the excessive rains because I was concerned that with the extra water, getting to the lions at Duba might require an effort that I’d be willing to put forth but might not suit my potential vehicle-mates. The private vehicle turned out to be such a blessing but not for the reason I had intended.

Regardless of the number of people in the vehicle, if the buffalo move to an inaccessible part of the concession, the lions may follow, but the vehicles cannot. Even in drier years, it is not until late Aug or early Sept that the area known as Paradise can be reached by vehicle.

In fact, the day before I arrived a couple of guests had wanted to see the Skimmer Pride and went with the Mawalusy, the camp manager, to the far reaches of Duba Plains in search of them. They were successful, but on the way back the vehicle got stuck in the water, which required them to abandon it and wade through areas where they had earlier seen hippos and crocs. The rescue involved a tractor, which also got stuck, and another vehicle that brought them to safety. The woman came back to camp minus her soaked trousers, wearing one of those fashionable ponchos from the vehicle as a skirt.

So even a private vehicle could not get me to Paradise in mid-August. But I discovered a private vehicle was a necessity where lions hunt and interact with the buffalo primarily during the day, which is the rare case at Duba and Vumbura. If you wish to see that interaction you have to stick with the pride all day long and wait for them to make their move, which may not coincide with the morning or late afternoon game drives. Splurging for a private vehicle at Duba is some of the best money I ever spent.

After tea, I hopped into the “Bondmobile” with my guide, James 007, who had guided the Jouberts for two years in the making of Relentless Enemies and had taken Kenneth Newman, the bird book author, on seven safaris. “Wow,” I thought, “This is going to be an experience of a lifetime.” And it was for 10 minutes. That’s when the Bondmobile conked out. James did his best looking under the hood and checking wires, but it just wouldn’t start. Another vehicle pulled up next to us and I joined the couple and their guide and off we went.

About 30 minutes later we were enjoying a pair of bat eared foxes when James located us with his new vehicle. So I rejoined James and discovered the new vehicle was the one that had been abandoned in the water on the way back from the Skimmer pride. The plastic binocular/bird book/water bottle holders behind the seats were still filled with water! James was quite apologetic for the rocky start. Oh well, at least we were rolling now.

Whatever the breakdown did to delay or alter our route, it put us in the perfect spot for a first for both James and me. I saw movement at about 20 meters and suggested the creature looked doglike. James confirmed it was an aardwolf. I took a few photos and asked if we could try to get closer. James slowly approached and the aardwolf was quite relaxed going about its aardwolf business. It even stopped for a short snooze. We slowly moved closer and gauged the aardwolf’s reaction, which remained unconcerned. We ended up about 3 meters from it with unobstructed views in very good light and hung out with it for at least 15 minutes. James said he had never had such a good aardwolf sighting, nor had I, of course. (So there, Derek and Beverly Joubert!!)

My first afternoon and evening at Duba Plains proved to be ironic in its abundance of excellent canine sightings, as opposed to sightings of its famous felines. We came upon an open field of eight bat eared fox, all visible in a panoramic view. I had sundowners with eight bat eared fox! I discovered those little foxes do not offer an adequate silhouette with the setting sun in the background. So I deleted the bat eared fox sunset shots but did enjoy their company.

That night we spotted another aardwolf and some more bat eared fox. We stumbled upon just one lioness by accident as we were tracking the foxes in the spotlight. So that made for two aardwolves and a total of 13 bat eared fox in one outing—all in a land known for lions. I thought 13 bat eared fox might be exceptional, but was told that was common at Duba Plains and another vehicle had also seen 13 that day.

There was some notable campfire conversation that evening. I was sitting near a family of four and posed the often-asked question, “What brings your family to Botswana?” The mother shifted nervously and turned to her teenage son and said, “Do you want to answer?” He responded that he had chosen the destination and that the trip was sponsored by Make-A-Wish. (That is the charity that grants children with cancer a wish.) Now I was shifting nervously. He went on to indicate that he had been healthy for several years and then proceeded to talk enthusiastically about future college plans. That certainly put concerns about water levels, species wish lists, and bird ticks in perspective.
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Old Aug 26th, 2006, 07:01 PM
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Nicely composed, Lynn. Lovely. Keep it coming. Your guide at Zib was BB, not OB? We've had Barberton (BB) at Selinda, a lovely bloke.

Your last para was very moving.

John
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Old Aug 26th, 2006, 07:27 PM
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Atravelynn: what an itinerary! Very glad you got James for your guide, it really doesn't get any better than that. Off too an amazing start with close viewing of an aardvark, that's a species I have yet to see.

A young man with a mind like mine to pick a Botswanan safari for his &quot;Make a Wish&quot; -- I hope he indeed will be a survivor and it certainly does put things in perspective.
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Old Aug 26th, 2006, 07:36 PM
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Check that -- I meant aardwolf of course.
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Old Aug 26th, 2006, 08:28 PM
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great start lynn! can't wait to read the rest. what a positive attitude that young man had, does put things in perspective. keep it coming!
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Old Aug 27th, 2006, 03:58 AM
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Hello Lynn,

Looks like a great trip report in the offing - can't wait to hear what happens next at Duba!

Cheers,
Julian
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Old Aug 27th, 2006, 05:52 AM
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Great start - can't wait to read more, and see the pictures. I laughed with your &quot;so there...&quot; comment, but I have a lump in my throat from your encounter with the teenager and his family. You seem to have a knack for emotional encounters.

<font color="green">Cyn</font>
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Old Aug 27th, 2006, 07:33 AM
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<font color="purple">In the morning James 007 discouraged any lingering at breakfast so that we could immediately begin our search for the lions in order to maximize our chances of seeing lion-buffalo interactions that can start taking place at sunrise.

We left camp and a couple of shy kudu bid us good morning before the hunt for the lions was on. We located the lone female from the night before. Soon she was joined by other Tsaro pride members: three lionesses, one 9-month old cub, and the two Duba boys. They waded through the water to make their entrance onto the scene. Two lactating lionesses of the pride were absent because they spent time each day tending to their cubs that were hidden far away. Because Silver Eye (one of the lionesses with a pupil-less eyeball, the result of an eye infection) was known to kill the pride’s cubs, the introduction of new cubs was being delayed until the cubs were more mature.

The pride neared the herd of about 600 buffalo, which concealed itself in thick brush. The buffalo herd was split with the majority of the 1900 in inaccessible areas. So the waiting game began for the lions and for us. The lions rested in nearby shade. If we sought shade, it would obscure our view of the lions and buffalo, so we endured the sun and waited for six hours.

During that time there were some nice views of the cub nursing. We also saw fish eagles clasp talons and plummet several hundred feet from the sky before soaring upward side by side. I finished a chapter The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency--Morality for Beautiful Girls. I am hooked on these wonderful books! Lunch and our sundowner snack for later was delivered by vehicle.

James also provided some entertainment with safari tales and his imitation of small aircraft sounds. Now that helicopters are also used, he had added the thump-thump-thump of the helicopter to his sound effects repertoire. It was during one of these conversations waiting for lion-buffalo action that James produced the Quote of the Trip. He recounted some advice he had given to a friend who was trying to overcome some character flaws. James said, “I told him ‘Try yourself to change.’” No sooner had he uttered those words of wisdom than I knew “Try yourself to change” was the Quote of the Trip.

Finally, the buffalo herd was on the move and the lions were in pursuit. Then we heard what James called the waterfall sounds. The buffalo were moving through the water. Since the water they had entered marked the edge of Tsaro’s territory, this posed a problem for the pride. If the buffalo left their territory, Tsaro would not be able to hunt them in Skimmer’s territory because it would provoke a fight between prides.

Time for some buffalo herding! The lions went to work, fanning out and charging the buffalo to redirect them. When the herd is threatened they band together and face the lions and that is exactly what happened. Even the buffalo that had started to walk and swim across the channels turned around and came back to join the herd. The lions’ strategy had worked perfectly. And it had provided me with some of the thrilling interactions I had hoped to witness. The buffalo were now moving away from the boundary and back into the heart of Tsaro territory.

The remainder of the day we watched the lions continue to follow the buffalo, sometimes stalking them, but not seriously since they had killed the day before I arrived and were not that hungry. While following the lions and buffalo, we had some other nice sightings: a pair of honey badgers, several side striped jackals, and another aardwolf that would have been my best aardwolf sighting to date had it not been for the previous day’s close aardwolf encounter.

We found an elephant in must whose secretions were quite foul smelling. He was trying to knock over trees so we kept our distance. We also found a small breeding herd. James said that usually the elephants start coming in around late July but this year they had arrived at least a month early.

One lucky sighting occurred when James stopped briefly to make a call on the radio. He saw some movement in the grass next to the vehicle and announced, “It’s a serval!” We had excellent views of this favorite of mine at close range.

After 12 hours in the bush, we headed back to camp and encountered the shy kudus from the morning.

That night at the bar I met one of the many people who work behind the scenes to make our safari experience so exceptional. I met the exterminator. He goes to over 60 Botswana camps each year for his work and visits each camp about 4 times a year. With that in mind, I asked his favorite camps to which he replied, “Duba Plains and Savuti Camp.”




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Old Aug 27th, 2006, 08:57 AM
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Hello Lynn,

Fantastic report - it seems that both of us saw a lot of bat-eared foxes this year!

Out of curiosity, what does the exterminator exterminate? I can't imagine him going after bugs and rats in the bush...

Cheers,
Julian
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Old Aug 27th, 2006, 09:18 AM
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Lynn,

Wonderful report - can't wait to see your pictures.

Best regards,

Johan
 
Old Aug 27th, 2006, 03:39 PM
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atravelynn, great report! We had two game drives with James when we were there in June and we spent a great deal of time talking to him in the evenings. He's definitely the man to talk to about lions! Lebo was our guide the rest of the time and he was also wonderful. We also enjoyed the managers Eva and Paul.
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Old Aug 27th, 2006, 04:50 PM
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The exterminator deals with spa girls run amok and really obnoxious, well padded older american men with cigars almost as fat as their bellies.

Note: if this last post caused any offence, please try not to visit the same camps as me.
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Old Aug 27th, 2006, 04:52 PM
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Lynn~great report just one question. You said the introduction of the new lion cubs were being delayed until they were older as Silver Eye was killing cubs...who was delaying the introduction, the lions themselves? if so, that's amazing they figured that out.
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Old Aug 27th, 2006, 04:52 PM
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atravelynn:

Wonderful report. Can't wait for more.

You don't know how lucky you were that the bird just hit the windshield of the plane. Many planes in African have gone down because of birds hitting the props! Glad all was well there.
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Old Aug 27th, 2006, 06:32 PM
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John,
Barberton (BB) was my Zibalianja guide. Excellent tracking skills and a good guy.

Predator,
Both aardwolf and aardvark were seen while I was at Duba. I missed the aardvark, darn it. It was the first one seen there in something like 4 years.

Julian,
This exterminator focuses on insects from what he told me.

Raelond,
Eva and Paul were not there while I was.
I joined Lebo for one game drive when my vehicle broke down and enjoyed him. James does love his lions!

Napamatt,
Loved the exterminator comment. He must be competent because I encountered no Spa Girls!

Dennis,
The lionesses were delaying the arrival of the cubs. There was no interference by man. I hope this strategy proves successful for them so that Tsaro can grow.

Jan,
I think I do know how lucky I am but don't like to think how close I came to being unlucky with that bird.
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Old Aug 27th, 2006, 06:48 PM
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<font color="purple">The kudus again sent us off for another full day at Duba. En route to the lions we saw two of the side-striped jackals that were everywhere. We found the whole Tsaro pride with all nine members present, making its way through the channels of water to approach the buffalo. We were able to find some shade today while following the lions. In fact I enjoyed an hour catnap after lunch in the vehicle, surrounded by lions in the shade of palm branches. James remained vigilant.

Throughout the day the lions kept tabs on the buffalo, moving when the herd moved and resting when the buffalo sat down. It was when the herd was in motion that 90% of the kills took place. The buffalo were less vulnerable when sitting because it was harder for the lions to cut one weak member out of the herd, away from the protection of the group. One lioness had a single encounter with a male who strayed from the herd, but the pride made no serious attempts on the herd.

After two days without eating, I figured the lions would be getting hungry but James informed me that with only one half-grown cub to feed, it was not necessary to kill often. A pride with many weaned cubs to feed must kill more frequently.

A highlight of the day was provided by a flock of black egrets. It is their practice to hunt for fish by making an umbrella out of their wings so that fish swimming beneath them are suddenly thrust into darkness and become disoriented. James had told me of this phenomenon at our first black egret sighting and even pointed out a picture of it in Newman’s book. So when we rounded a bend and came upon all these black turtle-looking creatures in the water I immediately knew what was happening. The black egrets were fishing! We observed this fascinating behavior for quite some time. I took photos of what appeared to be black turtle-looking creatures.

Then we ran into our serval friend again a couple times near where we had seen her yesterday. We knew it was a she because her subadult kitten was nearby. In total, we would have four close serval sightings in three days.

I had to chuckle at my boxed lunch today. It contained a delicious salad, which of course needed salad dressing. With no little McDonald’s salad dressing packets on hand, an entire bottle of oil and another of vinegar were packed with saran wrapped around their pour spouts.

Then we discovered that my utensils were missing. I offered to scoop the salad up with my spring rolls, but James had a better idea. He would provide me with a “bush fork,” which was a 6-inch spear whittled from a palm bush stem. What a novel idea! I suggested that all packed lunches that required utensils should have these “bush forks” instead of regular knives and forks for a more authentic experience. Of course really authentic is eating with your hands.

I was so enamored with my bush fork that I wanted to request a set of service for eight. Thinking that might be excessive whittling for James, I trimmed my request to 4 bush forks. James obliged and I acquired some great souvenirs. Of course I had to remember to check these four mini-spears in my luggage and not include such weapons in my carry-on.

There was a bit of drama today within the Tsaro pride. When the lions and I awoke from our nap, the cub continued sleeping and was left behind as the pride pursued the buffalo. His absence was not noted until about 5:30 pm when we heard the call of a jackal from the direction where the cub was last seen. His mother immediately reacted to the jackal call and turned toward the palms where the cub had been left. She started calling softly and backtracking. James said the mother’s a reaction was due more to the fact that jackal’s calls meant night was near than any danger imposed by the jackal itself.

Another lioness saw the mother’s behavior and started trotting back to the palms also. I thought I detected a look of concern on these two lionesses’ faces. James confirmed that they were worried. Soon the cub became visible and the three lions ran toward each other for a happy reunion. The day ended happily for them and with some white tailed mongoose and a civet in the spotlight on our night drive, it ended happily for me too.
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Old Aug 27th, 2006, 07:01 PM
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I'm waiting for Julian's report on Jack's Camp, and based on your report, I may pair it with Duba -- I have only seen one aardwolf, from a distance and for a fleeting moment, at Savuti. Duba seems to be infested with aardwolves. I still haven't seen an aardvark, either.

Michael
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Old Aug 27th, 2006, 09:27 PM
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Continuing to enjoy your reporting style, Lynn.

Some very interesting tidbits...I always thought the black egret's 'umbrella' was to cut out surface reflections so that it could see better what was down there. Maybe it serves a dual purpose. And you're lucky to be able to take such great little souvenirs as the bush forks home with you. Oz is very strict about imports of such things as vegetable matter...a highly finished wood-carving would get through quarantine inspection but something freshly-made in the bush probably wouldn't.

John
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Old Aug 28th, 2006, 04:42 AM
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Lynn,

I've done a little research on the black egret/heron and it seems the jury might still be out

<i>wildwatch.com</i> says: &quot;The Black Egret is famous for its unique technique of opening and folding both wings to form an umbrella over the water surface; whether small fish are attracted to the shade, or the shade reduces glare for better visibility, we cannot be sure - but the strategy works!&quot;

Then, the Smithsonian's &quot;Animal&quot; book backs the first strategy; and Butchart's &quot;Wild about the Okavango&quot; goes for the latter, the one I thought was correct.

Interesting. Thanks for mentioning it.

John

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Old Aug 28th, 2006, 05:55 AM
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Fascinating facts on the black egret, John! Whatever the reasoning for their actions the result is still black turtle-looking creatures.
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