Atravelynn to Duba, Vumbura, Zib

Old Aug 28th, 2006, 06:00 AM
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Michael,
We'll see what all Julian was able to find at Jack's, but in Aug 2005 (I was at San Camp, same game drive areas as Jack's) I saw 2 aardwolves in 3 days. One was just barely photographable, the other at night. Kaelo, my guide at San said that was very unusual.

If aardwolf is high on your list, there may be a time of year that increases your odds of seeing them.
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Old Aug 28th, 2006, 06:27 AM
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Hi Michael,

Unfortunately I didn't see any aardwolves at Jack's on my visit, though I did see brown hyaena. The guides said that aardwolves are more easily spotted during the wet season when their prey is more plentiful.

Cheers,
Julian
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Old Aug 28th, 2006, 01:16 PM
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Julian,

I'd trade two of my aardwolf viewings for one brown hyena! Was it one that you saw or a pack?
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Old Aug 28th, 2006, 04:37 PM
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<font color="purple">As we headed out for Duba Day 3, I noticed our friendly but elusive kudus were absent and hoped that the luck they had brought the previous days would not be absent as well. We discovered that the buffalos had split into three herds of about 400, 600, and 900, all within the Tsaro pride’s territory. The lions were spilt also, between the largest two herds. That posed a problem if there was to be any hunting today. Which lions would we watch and would we miss the action by choosing the “wrong” group?

That problem was soon solved when the lions near the smaller of the two herds retreated and started heading in the direction of the larger herd and the other Tsaro members. But the cub was part of this relocating group and he was more interested in stalking his mother and running around than regrouping with the pride. They covered little ground.

We returned to the lions with the larger herd and followed them into thick brush that offered some shade. Time for naps. The buffalo sat down to rest in the thicket, the lions slept, and I dozed in their midst, glad to be out of the hot sun. As usual, James remained on alert. Suddenly the trumpeting of an elephant startled both the lions me and we were jolted awake. The lions responded with a roar and I groggily asked, “What’s going on?” James assured me all was fine. Apparently the elephant had stumbled upon the sleeping cats while wandering through the thick brush.

Eventually the lions with the cub found their pridemates and Tsaro was in full force. The buffalo got up and were moving into the open. Things started to look interesting as the lions began stalking an old bull with one deformed horn who had visible injuries between his legs (most likely from an earlier attack) This bull lagged behind the herd.

Any potential lion attack was thwarted by both the herd’s slow movement allowing the laggard to catch up and by the more amorous of the two Duba males. When Silver Eye would advance stealthily towards the bull, the Duba Boy would undermine her efforts by plodding up in full view to come courting. Apparently Silver Eye had lost her cub not long ago and the male believed she was in estrus. We never saw any actual mating.

Then James pointed out that two big bulls seemed to be so intent on their grazing that they were separating from the herd. We watched as the herd moved farther and farther away and the lions were watching too. They crouched, intent on the two males. Then the females slowly positioned themselves in a semi-circle around the two buffalos, taking care to remain hidden. Even the cub was stalking. These fascinating maneuvers took about an hour and James had us in position to see it all unfold. Every cat was in place. James predicted when the bulls tried to rejoin the herd--that was now out of sight--the lions would pounce, concentrate on one buffalo and allow the other to flee to safety. What a brilliant plan these lions had crafted. If executed successfully it would mean dinner.

Suddenly two warthogs poked through the brush about three meters from two lionesses. Both lions and warthogs were caught off guard. The two lions sprang to action and darted after the warthogs. Those little pigs ran for their lives right past our vehicle with lions in tow and drew two more lions into the pursuit. The warthogs escaped and the lions were spent from the chase. The two bulls were still isolated but now the lions seemed oblivious to their plight.

The pride never regrouped for battle and just relaxed at the edge of the thicket with the buffalos well behind them. We watched as the buffalos made their move to join the herd. They ran from behind the thicket and moved adjacent to the pride of lions, but were obscured from the pride by some termite mounds. Eventually they came into view and one of the female lions gave chase but her heart was not in it. The two lucky bulls soon were absorbed into the herd.

It was the heat of the day now, about 2:30 pm. The entire pride moved to a new island of brush that offered shade and the buffalo continued to move away from the lions. When there was about 1000 meters between them, the lions stood up and slowly advanced toward the buffalo so as not to lose track of them.

Eventually we were joined by another vehicle on an afternoon game drive and they watched the pride until it made its way to heavy brush just behind the herd. James maneuvered our vehicle into the brush and we sat with the pride. “They’re stalking,” he observed, and pulled forward. We stayed behind the lions so as not to impede their views of the buffalo. Sure enough about three females were low to the ground, ears back, and inching forward.

Five minutes later we heard the sounds of buffalo stampeding and bellowing. The lionesses slipped out of sight and James was racing through the thick brush cautioning me to duck for branches. As we pulled to a clearing we could see a lioness on top of a buffalo. He went down in seconds. It was Silver Eye who had initiated the kill. James simultaneously positioned the vehicle for a good view of the scene and radioed the other drivers. In an instant Silver Eye was joined by her suitor who rushed in to suffocate the dying beast.

The vehicle that had left moments ago returned to see the remaining lions jump onto the rear of the bull. One of the lionesses was so excited that she leaped back and forth across the carcass as if she were jumping rope. A third vehicle arrived to witness the buffalo’s last moments. James stated that this bull died as quickly as any he had ever seen, with very minimal suffering, for which I was thankful. We soon discovered the crooked horn and realized it was the wounded bull that Silver Eye had been stalking earlier.

Back to the third vehicle—this was two couples who had just arrived in Africa for their first safari and had just begun game drive #1. The lion kill was their introduction to the bush. Rather than considering this an amazing stroke of luck, they became upset and immediately asked to leave. (I still remember my first sight in the bush—it was a browsing giraffe, followed by lots of passive zebra and some silly baboons. If my first sight had been a bloody kill, I might have been taken aback also.)

I was thrilled to have observed such an amazing event in nature and James was just as excited. After all, it was his expertise, driving skills, and judgment that allowed us to witness the lion kill. Once we were stationary and able to observe, James hopped behind the driver seat and sat next to me for a better view. We joked that we would check at dinner to see if any of the guests that left were vegetarians. They were not.

The entire pride minus one Duba Boy fed on the carcass. The missing Duba Boy kept his distance because with Silver Eye in heat, the brothers who were normally allies, were at odds and fought for the right to mate.

When the light died we left the lions and returned to camp, spending only 11 hours in the bush today. Those kudu that were missing this morning were waiting for me outside my tent when I got back. I caught just a fleeting glimpse of three females.

That evening I enjoyed the company of another woman traveling alone. She had rented a car by herself and driven through Namibia on a fabulous 2-week excursion before coming to Duba Plains (and witnessing the lion kill). She also had bungee jumped at Victoria Falls and was considering a repeat of that adventure in Cape Town, since the Cape Town jump is the highest in the world and Vic Falls ranks #2. Amazing, especially since she was in my age range (40-50) and not a kid. My holiday of three 5-Paw or better Botswana camps seemed quite tame by comparison. And that was fine with me.
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Old Aug 28th, 2006, 04:52 PM
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Lynn,
You're off to a great start. I feel as if I'm on the game drives with you.

Next up pangolins?

Waiting for more.
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Old Aug 28th, 2006, 04:55 PM
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Hello Lynn,

What a great day - watching several hunts, and then a kill!

My brown hyaena sighting was of a lone cub. We'd hoped to see the mum and cubs together but missed out this time. Hopefully I'll see them together next time.

What you said about swapping the aardwolves for the brown hyaena was funny - when the big family of 14 arrived at Mombo, they were dying to see leopards and told me that they would gladly swap the four wild dogs they saw on their morning drive at Duma Tau for the leopard I'd seen that same morning at Mombo.

Cheers,
Julian
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Old Aug 28th, 2006, 05:35 PM
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Wow, Lynn, what a day! Watching the lions/buff all day and ending with a kill. Watching them stalk/flank their prey is amazing to watch even when they aren't successful.

Great report! I'm really enjoying it. I want some bush forks too!

Cindy
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Old Aug 28th, 2006, 08:12 PM
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Hi Lynn,

You've captured another audience member, really enjoying your report! Sounds like a terrific trip so far. Looking forward to your Zib experience as that is one of my considerations if I go to Botswana. Still deciding between Zambia/Bots/South Africa for my next trip.
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Old Aug 29th, 2006, 05:13 AM
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Thanks for the comments!

Maybe I can finance my future trips by selling authentic Africa bush forks.

Carla,
Decisions, decisions! If you are considering Zib, I'll just add a few quick comments now. It is a delightful small camp with a resident dwarf mongoose colony and nesting lilac breasted rollers. There are no baboons and the staff is vigilant to keep it that way. I would not have thought to add this comment until Mike related his terrifying baboons in camp experience in the CONSOLIDATED post.

I've run into two people with Botswana travel experience that said they prefer Zib over the fancier Selinda Camp. Zib offered every amenity I needed.

I am impressed with what the Selinda area delivered under less than ideal circumstances. The earlier excessive rains had produced pools of water all over, including in the Mopane Forests, where the animals could seek shelter.

The waterhole &amp; hide at Zib was a bonus. Even with numerous other sources of water right in front of camp, the waterhole still attracted baboons, warthogs, impala that I missed, and a brief stop by wild dogs!

The managers, Stuart and Tessa, had just arrived 2 weeks ago and were great company and very enthusiastic. BB was super as a guide and passed his &quot;birding test&quot; with flying colors that was given by four British birders staying at the camp.

I would return!
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Old Aug 29th, 2006, 05:48 AM
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Lynn

Great write up on the buffalo kill, it is fortunate for all concerned that it was quick. The one we saw was quick but still took about an hour.

The issue of someone in the vehicle be upset is a difficult one, when we realized that we were going to see 7 Lions take down a huge Buffalo bull I was concerned about DW, but she stuck it out like a trooper and commented that while she would be happy not to see it again (no Duba for me) it would in her mind be hypocritical to just want to see the &quot;nice&quot; stuff.
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Old Aug 29th, 2006, 12:23 PM
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Lynn - Just wanted to thank you for posting what I am sure is a great report. I will savor it at home when I get more time.

Sharon
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Old Aug 29th, 2006, 03:55 PM
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Lynn,

At Zib, did you have mice raiding the pretzel jar on the dresser? When we heard the tinkle of glass in the middle of the night, we knew a mouse had tipped the lid off
John
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Old Aug 29th, 2006, 06:34 PM
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John,
Never heard a thing, but I am a sound sleeper. The lid was always tightly sealed. I had tasty crackers in my jar.

Lucky for the mouse it stayed hidden or I might have stabbed it with my bush fork.
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Old Aug 30th, 2006, 06:03 PM
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<font color="purple">Knowing this was my last day with James 007 made for a bittersweet morning drive. We checked the buffalo carcass and found one lioness licking the remains. The rest of the pride was lounging in the bushes. We saw the only hyenas I would see at Duba, which were two individual sightings miles apart. More canines appeared—pairs of side-striped jackals and bat eared fox.

We came upon a slightly distressing scene. A Blacksmith Plover was flapping and hopping about near a water monitor that was quite a ways from water. Upon investigation we discovered that the eggs the plover had been tending for days were missing. The plover had laid these eggs on the road and each guide carefully swerved off the track to avoid crushing them. The previous day we had even stopped for pictures of the Blacksmith Plover sitting next to the eggs. The care exhibited by the drivers ended up not benefiting the plover, but benefiting the water monitor. I suggested that the Jouberts be summoned back to Duba for another “Enemies” documentary—Plovers vs. Monitors.

Other interesting birds at Duba were the Collared Barbet, the Pink Throated Longclaw with good views of the pink throat, the Crested Francolin, and Long-toed Plover. Four ground hornbills were also a nice find.

We spent most of our time that morning with the smallest herd of buffalo that were far from the lions and therefore could relax as they grazed. But we knew they would not graze peacefully for long.

I detected some urgent radio chatter midmorning. When I asked what had been spotted, James informed me four giraffe that ventured over from Vumbura had been seen. Funny what causes a stir in different locations. There are no giraffe at Duba so this was a big deal. Nor are there any impala or zebra.

When at last it came time to depart, James and I waited at the airstrip. But the only airplane sounds were James impressions, which were surprisingly accurate, but fell short of getting me to my next camp. Then a call came on the radio that the flight had been delayed 2 and a half hours. So back to camp, fortunately only a few minutes away, for another look at Tent #2, which was lovely. I can see no advantage or disadvantage to any tent location of this small picturesque, small camp.

I gazed over to where the lions had made the kill the previous day, which was not far from camp, and noticed the first vultures I had seen during my stay. About six were circling, but I would have expected more of a vulture presence with all the lion activity.

I don’t know if a 4-night stay qualifies me for dispensing advice on traveling to Duba Plains, but here is my two cents: If you wish to see the beautiful Duba environment, some lions, some buffalo, and some of the other animals and birds in this concession, then a 2-night stay is probably sufficient. Three nights is a safer for bet for lion viewing because when I asked James how long the lions are absent when they head to inaccessible areas, he replied a day or two.

However, if your goal is lions and buffalo interacting, with perhaps a lion kill, I think 4 nights is the minimum, with 5 being what I’d recommend and what I would do next time. Also, I believe a private vehicle is a must to observe lion-buffalo interactions, since you may need to remain with the lions throughout the day and you cannot count on other guests wanting to do that. I consider a private vehicle a luxury beyond my means for most Botswana camps. But for Duba Plains it was a sound investment that paid off in lion-buffalo interactions unique to this region.

Finally, a pair of thin white gloves to protect your hands from the sun when sitting without protection for 5-6 hours would be a good idea, especially later in the dry season when it is even hotter.

The four days I spent at Duba Plains were the most exciting days I’ve had in a vehicle on safari. Maybe not the most varied or prolific game viewing (though darn good), but it was the most intense.
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Old Aug 31st, 2006, 09:09 AM
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Fabulous report, Lynn. So many terrific experiences. Am I to understand that the Silver Eye lioness kills the cubs in her own pride? Is this common? And very sad for the plover, too...the cycle of life, death and survival is just as dramatic for the smaller species, too.

I, too, am glad that bird only hit the windshield. Looking forward to your photos!

Sharon
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Old Aug 31st, 2006, 11:52 AM
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Lynn: great report thus far, really enjoyed so much detail of my favorite camp that I have visited. I have never ponied up for a private vehicle -- typically beyond my means but I think you are right that this is a place where it could make a huge difference and I would try and do so in the future.
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Old Aug 31st, 2006, 01:05 PM
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Yes, Sharon, the theory is that she has killed them. Now as to why, my guide James gave two proposals:
(1) she knew the pride could not support the number that were born.

or

(2) initially she killed the cubs because the pride could not support them and then developed a taste for lion cubs, which were easy meat.

It is a disturbing situation and not too common, I hope.

James also went on to say he thought that future cubs would have a better survival rate now that the pride knew the cause of their death. He said if she is aggressive toward cubs from now on, the pride &quot;will beat her&quot; and deter this lethal behavior.

She was very aggressive and a good buffalo hunter.

Predator,
When did you go--year and month--and what was going on with the prides when you were there? Johan had indicated the value of a private vehicle also.

Maybe someday we could have a Fodor's reunion at Duba and reserve a private Fodor's Mobile!

So you agree with the exterminator that Duba is a favorite!

BigCountry and Johan Belgium are up next for Duba (and maybe others I don't know about) so I will be interested in their findings. I hope they report the new cubs are flourishing.

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Old Aug 31st, 2006, 02:08 PM
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Lynn: I am enjoying your report, especially the details that so add to the impressions of the camp. You've given me a good sense of the value of a private vehicle. You had quite the experience.

James 007 sounds like a terrific guide, and I love the fact that he did his plane imitation on the airfield when the plane wasn't coming.

cw
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Old Aug 31st, 2006, 06:48 PM
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<font color="green">Two and a half hours of waiting for the 5-minute Duba to Vumbura plane ride—now there’s irony. If I could have gotten a running start, I could have just leaped over to Vumbura. Apparently later in the dry season it is possible to drive between camps. Both guides at Duba and Vumbura indicated that the drive can be very productive gamewise, so that could be a rewarding option.

Eventually I was airborne for a few minutes. When we de-planed and made our way to the vehicles waiting at the Vumbura airstrip, Z came to greet me and immediately stated, “It is just you and me during your stay.” What luck! Another private vehicle--but this one without the surcharge!

Z went on to suggest, “I think tomorrow we should stay out all day.” Of course I agreed, even more amazed my good fortune. But it got better.

Next Z asked if the other vehicle could go in front of us, so it could head to tea. We, on the other hand, would skip tea and just head out for our afternoon in the bush and come back in time for dinner, if that was ok. At that point I concluded the “Z” must stand for zealot because this guy was nuts! And I was lucky to get him. I and knew we’d have a splendid couple of days at Vumbura.

I requested lechwe and Z located some herds. We spent a good deal of time with them, which was fortunate because that was my only opportunity to see them in numbers. There was so much water around that they wandered far out of the range of our vehicles. I asked Z what month of the year would usually have these current water levels. He stated late May. It was mid-August.

Z made a good suggestion. Since I had originally booked Little Vumbura, but had been upgraded to Vumbura Plains, he asked if I’d like to experience the boat ride to LV and see the camp. I agreed that would be a nice way to have a brief water activity, since Vumbura is known for water activities. I got quite the water activity, but long before we boarded the LV shuttle! We got stuck in a channel with water creeping to the very top of the vehicle. Z hopped out and worked diligently to increase the traction by shoving big sticks and branches under the vehicle. My job was to watch for crocs. I also watched a herd of giraffes watching Z wade around the vehicle. Fifteen minutes and zero crocs later we were underway again.

The transport to LV, and all of the boat activities, was in a large rowboat with a motor. There were no mekoros. It was a peaceful and pleasant 10 minutes through a wide channel with papyrus and reeds, and some water lilies. Eva, the LV manager, greeted us, offered a beverage, and showed us around the camp--a truly charming place, with nice views of the surrounding water environment. She could not show me any rooms because they were all taken (by the folks who had kicked me out!) As we departed Little Vumbura and returned to the dock there was a pink sunset that I could observe from the water.

Z informed me that the boat outings lasted a couple of hours and were done instead of a game drive. They were similar to what I had experienced, only longer. He said that the boat rides were unlikely to produce any game sightings but were quite relaxing and enjoyable. Finally, he mentioned that usually LV game drives returned before dark so that the boat transfer would take place while there was still light.

The night drive back to Vumbura Plains-North produced an African Wildcat and a Civet. I arrived after dark so the view from camp would remain a mystery until morning. My orientation and introduction (made by Linda of the Linda-Richard managing team) was completed as the staff was beginning a traditional performance. The modern waiver of liability I was signing juxtaposed with the traditional drumming, singing, and dancing in front of me presented an interesting contrast. The performance was followed by a traditional African meal served outside.

When it was time to retire, I trekked with an escort to my palace. It was a trek and it was a palace. I was in #7, the last tent/palace, which was a very long walk mostly on raised platforms, but at times descending onto the ground for about four meters before the railed wooden walkway resumed. For anyone with trouble getting around, a tent near the dining area should be requested. On the other hand, for anyone who would like to do an unguided walking safari, this offers the opportunity. You can really get some exercise in beautiful surroundings. (I was told Vumbura Plains-South was identical in layout and tents.)

My palace was even larger than most since I had the family unit, consisting of two huge tents with an adjoining deck, complete with a private pool (all tents have the private pools). All told, it was far more square footage than my home! While I only glanced at the auxiliary palace across the deck, it appeared to be as finely appointed and attractive as the “mothership” palace. I would describe the decorating theme as striking, spacious, innovative, and most definitely 6-Paw.

In the middle of the night I awoke when nature called. I decided to forgo the lights and make my way in the darkness. Not that turning on the lights was a problem. On the headboard of the bed was a reading light as well as a panel of light switches that looked like the console from the Starship Enterprise.

After quite a hike, I discovered I was not at my destination; I had stumbled into the spacious shower, a place so big you could turn two cartwheels and still remain within the curtained shower plaza. Realizing where I was, I did an about face to retrace my steps. I was sure I was getting close when I scared myself by my own reflection in the full-length mirror, illuminated by moonlight and outdoor lanterns. At last victory was mine and I conquered the loo and headed back to bed for a comfortable night’s sleep.
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Old Sep 1st, 2006, 09:50 AM
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Lynn: I went to Duba in January 2003, on my first ever safari. At that time the talk was all about the amazing concentration of male lions and what was going to happen with the demise of the Duba Boys which was expected to be coming very soon at that time -- Did James say how old the Duba Boys are because they were supposed to be 10 and at the end of their prime way back then, although they were still ruling 3 prides at the time Tsaro, Skimmer, and Pantry. Pantry was the biggest at around 22 lions, the other prides were both between 10 and 15 lions approx. There were 4 Skimmer Males including 2 just coming into their prime at 5 years old (one was believed to have mated with Tsaro females) and two 3 1/2 year olds. There was a coalition of 5 Tsaro brothers who were 4 years old with mohawks, and then there were 2 intruder males in their prime who had wandered in recently. In 3 days I saw 13 male lions only missing one of the intruders.

We had two major highlights. First was when we heard the Duba Boys roaring and followed the sound to see them staring down one of the intruders, I called him Mr. Handsome and to this day he was the biggest lion I have ever seen. Our guide Katembo agreed it was the biggest he had ever seen -- light blonde mane framed with black and ripping with muscles. Apparently Mr. Handsome and his brother had a big battle with the Duba Boys just days before my arrival. One of the Duba's had a big puncture scar right infront of his hip and a huge gash in his groin, there was actually concern that he may have lost his baby factory. The Duba Boys continued to roar with everything they had and slowly move toward the intruder who was on the opposite side of a channel. The brother who had the wounds seemed reluctant but he had to get his brothers back when he all of a sudden burst into a full out sprint and both of them jumped completely over the channel of 15 to 20 feet in width. An incredible sight! The intruder decided to run away rather than fight 2 by himself. I then watched each of the Duba Boys swim back across the channel, I have my favorite picture framed of one of them just entering the water with a full relection and it is my screen saver so I think of Duba every day. We then watched as the Duba Boys rubbed heads and celebrated their victory by cementing their bond. No doubt their bond probably is special even beyond typical lion coalitions allowing them to have unprecedented success. We were then able to catch up with Mr. Handsome who calmly walked around marking every clump of bushes in the area.

The second major event was on our last drive as we found the two older Skimmer brothers, beautiful in their prime. They stood head to head staring in concern. Across the plain we saw their issue -- the 5 Tsaro males were stalking the herd of 1,000 buffalo on Skimmer territory. We rushed down there and watched the approach as they pushed the herd into a large palm island. Then unfortunately the buffalo lay down and the hunt came to a standstill. The Tsaro's were very uncomfortable knowing they were in the wrong place but they lay down in the palms. The younger Skimmers than showed and with the older brothers walked through a shallow channel toward the Tsaro boys. We were parked right where they crossed the water single file and as each of the 4 approached us their eyes were absolutely on fire. As they came about 3 feet behind the vehicle and my wife and I were in the last row Katembo said Bill &amp; Molly stay very still. The only time I have ever been warned in a vehicle as these lions were not relaxed and very close. Of course they really did not care less about us, they were just intent on the other lions. After crossing they all regrouped and did lots of head rubbing and then laid down on the opposite side of the palms from the Tsaro, probably just 15 feet separated these 9 males. Nothing was going to happen until afternoon now and we had to go off to Mombo and another couple was leaving too but I wish I could have stayed at Duba Plains.

It is definitley my favorite camp both for what I saw but also it had a small family feel beyond any other camp. At the time James was the manager and his girlfriend was the comanager and an amazing cook. Beyond that there was an additional manager who was from Botswana named Ike and I had a tremendous bond with him. We talked for hours about lions and his country and I learned so much. It will just always be a very special place to me. Fodors reunion idea with a vehicle is a great idea!!

BTW, off to a great start with Vumbura -- that is a camp high on my list for the future.
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