Selinda/Kwando/Zibalianja: full report 3

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Sep 28th, 2005, 03:26 AM
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Selinda/Kwando/Zibalianja: full report 3

Day eight (Zib). Afternoon drive. We find a Selinda lioness and one of the pride's new suitors mating, near the southern end of Zib lagoon. Their late afternoon activity is keeping the hippos from leaving the water. It's frustrating for us, too. The pair do it every eight minutes. We line up the vehicle each time, hoping to get good front-on shots. Second-best would be side on. Each time, the lioness turns away from us and we see graphic rear-end scenery. Maybe a couple of shots are OK.

Day nine (Zib). We find the wild dog pack has moved den. The pups are very close to accompanying the pack on the hunt, and the first den is so full of parasites that moving house is essential. But they've replaced the photogenic den with one in nondescript flat grassy, scrubby terrain, not far from either the old den or Selinda Reserve's Central Management Unit.. There's only one good vantage point: that's looking straight down from the vehicle into the old aardvark hole which the dogs have occupied. We photograph some of the pups looking up at us from the entrance. Then, a different pair of lions mating, in the bowling green area. They give us better shots.

Back at the spillway, where most of the elephants gather each afternoon, we see another male lion in the water with a freshly killed roan. One of the lionesses has brought this antelope down, but the male (one of a coalition of four which looks like taking over this pride) has stolen the kill. We correctly decide it's a bull roan which we saw a few days earlier with a broken foreleg and which we predicted had a pretty dim future. We watch a confrontation between the lion and three lionesses who try to get their share of the kill. When he leaves the carcass briefly, they think it's their turn, go up to him and give him lots of loving nuzzles, then turn towards the roan...and bang! he swipes furiously at them and drives them off. The lion hangs on to this meal for at least the next 48 hours while elephants, wild dog and antelopes come by to drink from the spillway in his full view. The lionesses, meanwhile, go off (in disgust, if they were human) and find themselves a buffalo not far away. We saw them a day or so later with the remains of their kill while 'Prince Charming' lay bloated next to his.

On our return to Zib for dinner, the manager, who was guiding other clients, radioed to say a young leopard was on the prowl a couple of kilometres past the camp, so we hurried there and succeeded in photographing the cat drinking from an extension of the lagoon.

Day 10 (Zib). Wild dogs on the hunt, a sizeable impala herd drinking from the spillway, then some magic shots of giraffe drinking...three long, curved necks reaching to the water in unison; a really closeup portrait of a hyena patiently waiting for the wild dogs to bring home some bacon near the spillway; a full-face of 'Prince Charming' still by his lionesses' kill; elephants in the golden late afternoon sunlight, drinking within sight of the lion; and again, the wild dogs, standing and staring suspiciously in the dusk at where the lion lay with the roan.

This day finished with some lovely closeups of a white-faced owl perched high in a thornbush by the trail on our return to Zib in the dark.

Day 11 (Zib). Again we see lions mating, this time on the edge of Duma Tau territory, and this session gives us some of our better shots. It's one of the same males as before, and one of the same females, but we think they've swapped partners. And they are obviously very, very close to the end of their endurance.

In a thread which was posted while we were on safari, there was mention of guides trespassing into other concessions. What I and my companions have heard backs up Bwana Mitch's account of this. Some Duma Tau guides are notorious for bending the rules in this regard, intruding beyond reason, whereas Selinda/Zib and Kwando guides behave themselves and abide by an agreement between concession holders. It is not forbidden to cross a boundary to look at something, but you do not stray too far, and you give way if a vehicle from the concession holder arrives. I recall this happening a year ago in Selinda's territory near the Kwando boundary. We were watching the three cheetah brothers, and a couple of Kwando vehicles came in and shared the sighting with our blessing. But our vehicles took precedence. A similar thing happened on the Duma Tau boundary. We were watching a male lion just inside Duma Tau territory, when one of their vehicles arrived and informed us of a cheetah with her cubs resting under a bush nearby. We left them to the lion, took a quick look at the cheetahs, then departed.

Day 12 (Zib). The last game drive...a final visit to the wild dogs and their den, and we again find the mother cheetah with her two adolescent cubs, hunting. She is all seriousness, the youngsters are a mixture of student concentration and playfulness...they are easily distracted and chase each other while mother looks for a kill. We get a flat tyre while following them, and one of the youngsters sits and looks curiously back at us while we stand around the vehicle. When I aim my camera at the cub, it turns tail, and I stop so I won't alarm the cats.

That's about it. I may have forgotten a few things which didn't feature in our photos, but it's a pretty comprehensive summary of our safari. I note with a bit of a chuckle that I was inconsistent in one respect...declaring that you never pass up a game drive, then revealing that we did just that the very next day. But Y has arthritis and is under constant medication, and deserved a break after such a long day on the trail. Her tolerance for pain and discomfort and her ability to handle a heavy camera in a jolting vehicle on safari have to be seen to be believed.

cheers,
John
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Sep 28th, 2005, 07:26 AM
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John

How did Selinda handle viewing of the den? At KP they allowed one vehicle per drive, and at Mombo they were not even going near the den.
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Sep 28th, 2005, 10:22 AM
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Some great viewing. Interesting account of the safari etiquette practiced by different camps.

Selinda does seem like a wonderful area. Looking forward to a visit.
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Sep 28th, 2005, 10:45 AM
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Hello,

Have you stayed at any of the Wilderness camps in the Linyanti-Selinda-Kwando area, or only at Kwando and Selinda? Did your friends make any comments on how the game viewing compared?

Hopefully, the 'trespassing' issue will be a thing of the past now that Selinda has been brought under the Wilderness umbrella.

Cheers,
Julian
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Sep 28th, 2005, 01:37 PM
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Julian, the Wilderness thing is not a fact yet, though as I've indicated, I'm worried it will happen. But as of a couple of weeks ago, the Jouberts takeover hadn't been finalised...bureaucratic delays, so strictly speaking, there are no new owners yet, let alone a new umbrella.

I've stayed at Savuti, it wasn't bad, in fact quite enjoyable (I loved it, as I've loved all my safari camps , but there was no comparison. My friends have been to Savuti, too (as well as other places), and they spoke highly of the woodpile hide next to the waterhole...great close-up elephant viewing. However, all their comments echoed what I've said in my report.

Matt, there was only ever one vehicle at a time near the den. I think it was the rule but it wasn't discussed. I recall another vehicle arriving at the second den but we were about to move off anyway. At Selinda, we've always been able to go close to this pack's den, except for a year or so ago when the dogs chose to camp in Duma Tau's territory. I've been to Mombo when we drove up to a den, watched a sentinel dog and the alpha female for quite a long time, then saw the hunters return and feed them. The pups stayed below. Maybe the Mombo policy has changed.

Lynn: you'll enjoy it and Kwando, assuming you're going to both. One thing I didn't mention but which may interest you. The Lagoon food was the best but it was also too much...you can get bloated all too easily. Selinda was pretty good and always has been, while Zib's main course left something to be desired on one or two occasions. They could do with a lesson in tenderising. One night we had eland which could have been used to sole our boots. Such things happen, but it's the first time on any safari that I've left something on the plate. It didn't bother me much, though, because I don't go on safari for the food. You get a light breakfast before the morning drive at both Sel/Zib and Kwando, but Sel/Zib's brunch after the drive is called 'breakfast' by Kwando (and the food reflects it...bacon & eggs etc). Sel/Zib's afternoon tea before the late drive is called 'lunch' by Kwando. But both places call the main evening meal dinner, thank goodness.

cheers,
John
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Sep 28th, 2005, 03:53 PM
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John

Mombo has decided to steer clear of the Dod den to avoid putting any pressure on a very fragile situation. I don't know there is a lot of science behind it, but as a dog lover I could certainly appreciate their actions. At Kings Pool it was one vehicle per drive, not one at a time, again to limit potential pressure on the site.
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Sep 28th, 2005, 03:53 PM
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That would be dog.
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Sep 28th, 2005, 04:21 PM
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John: fantastic report to follow on your incredible photos. I would definitely love to go to Selinda now after reading all the action you saw. BTW, I loved your owl pics -- an animal group I have done lots of work with and really love to see.

Napamatt: the Mombo den you refer to is new this year - correct? If so I am sure they are being very careful since they were absent for a couple of years after once being touted as the camp to see dogs, I'm sure they very badly want them to stay around. You better believe WS loves it when the rarest species are near their most expensive camps. They may feel like they over pressured the dogs previously too (although I doubt anyone will ever state that) and thus have developed a policy -- the kind of thing a lot more travelers are starting to care about. At any rate I'm glad to hear that Wilderness is being very careful with my favorite species!
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Sep 28th, 2005, 04:54 PM
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PredBi (hope you don't mind the abbreviation ): Thanks. And you, too, Matt, for the information.

I agree that the dog precautions are a good thing. It might be something which will occur at Selinda in the future. I might be wrong, but I think one of the advantages Selinda has had is the relatively small number of vehicles, enough to habituate most wildlife while not putting much pressure on the animals(though the breeding elephant herds gladly are still excitingly threatening). That advantage might start to disappear with the recent growth of Selinda camp, which now needs three vehicles to accommodate clients when the camp is full. But so far, it has been a rarity for us to find ourselves in the company of more than one other vehicle, and even one vehicle is not very common, whereas we've seen mini traffic jams in Duma Tau's territory. The dogs have always been very relaxed with us. I forgot to mention that on one of our visits to the den, the pups tried to follow the pack on a hunt and it took some time for the guardians to round them up. We were worried that hyenas might grab some of the pups. Anyway, we stopped for sundowners only a stone's throw from the den. While we were standing and chatting in the dusk, we saw a hyena on the track staring at us from only about 20 or 30 metres away. Then a wild dog appeared, stood nose to nose with the hyena and presumably caused it to change course and head off into the darkness. The dog then trotted past us at a distance of just a few metres, looking at us briefly without any alarm or suspicion, on its way back to the vicinity of the den. It was a most interesting experience.
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Sep 29th, 2005, 01:45 PM
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Afrigalah,

When I booked my 2006 trip, Selinda and Zib were offered as Wilderness options for the L/K/S area (if you spend 7+ nights at Wilderness camps, there is a long-stay discount, and Selinda and Zib would have qualified me for the discount).

Selinda and Zib are described on the Wilderness website as 5-paw camps (showing only the new tents at Selinda, not the original ones, which probably weren't posh enough for WS), and there is now a monthly newsletter like the ones from the other WS camps. Looks like a fait accompli to me, despite any temporary paperwork hold-ups.

Cheers,
Julian
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Sep 29th, 2005, 01:51 PM
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John,

Who were your guides at Selinda and Zib?

Cheers,
Julian
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Sep 29th, 2005, 02:57 PM
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Julian,

Kanawe (Selinda) and Motsamai (Zib).

I have a different understanding, one that's not based on what I see in websites/brochures/advertising. True, the signs are worrying, but if on-the-ground management style doesn't change, it won't matter much what else happens. It's that style which has given Selinda its appeal, as much as the location and wildlife. People from Europe to Sydney, who I haven't met and I hadn't even heard of until now, have thrown their hands up in horror in recent months at the rumours and speculation they've heard. Meantime, I'm told the deals which have been entered into are vital for the whole operation: revenue lost because of the ending of hunting at Motswiri has to be made up. That may be the key to whatever eventuates.
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Sep 30th, 2005, 07:11 AM
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Pred - abbreviated further! The Mombo pack is two males and a female and yes the den is new. Our guide told us about them and the guides decision to back off and leave them alone. Every guide I have ever met loves the dogs and love guests who "get" them, so while it is disappointing to miss an opportunity, you have to see the big picture. My sense is that dogs will have a tough time at Mombo with c. 100 Lions in the general area. Not to mention Leopard.
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Sep 30th, 2005, 07:55 AM
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napamatt: thanks for that info. You are right that the dominance of lions is going to make it hard on the dogs and with a pack of 3 its great that they are leaving them alone. They would have no chance to defend the pups against lions if discovered where as a pack of 10 can actually mount a defense. Possibly more important if the litter size is normal, the adults are under a tremendous stress as only two dogs can go hunting which is really not what they are built for and then there are only two food carriers coming back to regurgitate for all the pups and an adult. Successful recruitment from this litter is critical for that pack's establishment.

PB -- I'll abbreviate the name even more.
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Sep 30th, 2005, 08:48 AM
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PB~ I'll be in Zambia next year from late May to early June. What do you think my chances are of seeing wild dog? (I know impossible to predict FOR SURE, but any guesses?)

(I'll be in Lower Zam first, at Chiawa and Old Mondoro, then moving up to S. Luangwa after that. Bush camp, Luangwa River Lodge.) Thanks for the speculation!
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Sep 30th, 2005, 09:10 AM
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Afrigalah,

I hope you're right about Selinda maintaining its distinctiveness.

It really wasn't the websites/advertising which rang bells for me -- it was the fact that I could get the long-stay discount. If money is involved, the relationship is much closer than it once was -- I wasn't offered that option when I booked for 2005.

I was curious about this so I sent an email to the Selinda team. They indicated that they have strengthened their ties and have a close relationship with Wilderness, but are not fully part of Wilderness. Hopefully this means that they will be keeping their own guides -- one of the things I don't particularly like about Wilderness is how much the guides move from camp to camp. I think Kwetsani and Tubu Tree have a similar arrangement and do have their own group of guides, so that bodes well.

Cheers,
Julian
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Sep 30th, 2005, 09:38 AM
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Cooncat - at that time of year I think its really going to depend on if there is a den close to any of the camps. You will be there probably 3-4 weeks early for the emergence of puppies from the den but during your time the blind and helpless puppies should be born within the den and thus the pack will remain around that area. That probably means feast or famine for you -- if they are in your area you might get to see them a couple of times on the hunt but if there is no denning in your drive areas it will be unlikely to spot them. Where they den within S. Luangwa is not well known and it seems they move around quite a bit, although new studies are just starting. In Lower Zam they are more well studied so perhaps the lodges will know where to look, I don't have any knowledge of that area.

The great news is since they will be denning if anyone has seen dogs they should be using a relatively small area greatly increasing your chances of finding them as opposed to other times of the year where they will be in one area today and not be seen again for a month.
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Sep 30th, 2005, 11:39 AM
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VERY cool. Thanks PB! I'll keep my fingers crossed and eyes open!!

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Sep 30th, 2005, 11:57 AM
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I wish you the best of luck! Hopefully you will see them.
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Sep 30th, 2005, 05:08 PM
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Julian,

We hope for pretty much the same things, I guess.

Selinda discounts haven't been all that unusual in the past, and haven't depended on length of stay. That they may do so now isn't surprising...revenue needs to grow.

On the question of local management, it's been a while since I visited a Wilderness camp. The friends who joined us at Selinda first went to one in the delta and were subjected to a very touristy welcoming ceremony which included some kind of musical performance, plus a prolonged and tiresome briefing. It didn't impress them...and it would have turned me off too. The briefing may make some sense for newbies, if it is kept short, but the rest was nonsense. Any idea if this is a trend starting in the delta, or is it just an isolated case of local managers having "a bright idea"?
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