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Monday, 29 March 2010
At the March meeting of all CITES members in Doha, the application by Tanzania and Zambia to suspend the 21 year old moratorium was turned down for fears that any sales would fuel the illegal sale of ivory.
A resounding victory for elephant conservationists, although Tanzania have announced that they will appeal.
Friday, 26 March 2010
RECONSTRUCTION OF SAMBURU SERENA SAFARI LODGE FOLLOWING THE FLASH FLOOD DAMAGE OF 4TH MARCH 2010
Following the flash flood damage of 4th March 2010 in the Samburu area, we wish to inform you that our project consultant team have now completed the due diligence on Samburu Serena Safari Lodge and assessed the extent of the damage.
The team led by our Managing Director, Mahmud Jan Mohamed, and the consultants visited four potential sites in the Isiolo/Buffalo Springs National Reserve, and after thorough research have identified a location on a hill behind our current site, which has impressive rock formations and vegetation and a spectacular backdrop with views of the river and the hills around Samburu.
A design brief for this new lodge has already been provided to our architects who are currently preparing an outline design for a new build lodge. The brief to the project team includes a luxury lodge with a reduced room inventory and excellent leisure and nature activities which will be a significant improvement on what was the old Samburu Serena Safari Lodge.
The exact time frame for the completion of this new lodge will become clearer in the next few weeks; however the new lodge opening should be anticipated for June 2011 at the earliest. We shall obviously do our very best to achieve as early a completion date as possible and will keep you informed as we become clearer on the details of the new lodge construction.
Thank you for your support, and please do not hesitate to contact the Serena team should you require further clarification.
Thursday, 25 March 2010
British Airways has announced its schedule for the second proposed Unite union strike from March 27-30.
Refer to BA.com for the latest updates on the flight schedules.
Thursday, 18 March 2010
Tanzania and Zanzibar
2010 is in full swing and the wildlife viewing at all Asilia Camps is delivering guests the experiences they were hoping to encounter, below just a few snippets of what has been witnessed this month:
Sayari Camp: the BIG 5 were seen by all Sayari guests with no other tourists in sight.
Dunia Camp: Most guests were able to see cheetah, lion kills, leopards climbing trees, buffalos in the Rongai area, hippos at Seronera pond and big herds of elephants.
Oliver’s Camp: Guests encountered lesser kudu, waterbuck, bat eared fox, giraffe and silver backed jackal – on foot during a walking safari.
Olakira Camp: The migration is still on the Ndutu plains and the calving process, with thousands of new little wildebeest babies already born, is still under way.
As always, lots of upgrade and renovation work will be done during the upcoming off-season.
Oliver’s Camp: Flush toilets and running water will be plumbed in for showers and wash basins. New lounge and dining room that will be permanent and thatched but very much keeps the feeling of traditional Oliver’s Camp.
Matemwe & Matemwe Retreat - Major refurbishment of rooms, and many back of house improvements (new electricity cabling, boundary walls, sewage systems).
Matemwe, Oliver’s, Sayari: New water treatment recycling systems for all permanent camps (Sayari Camp, Oliver’s Camp and Matemwe)
On top of that, many smaller renovations and upgrades will take place:
• New window coverings (drop down rain guards) for all open vehicles stationed in camps
• Upgrade / refreshing furnishings (all properties)
• New carpeting and floor coverings (all properties)
• New desk and desk chairs (Sayari Camp)
• New back up hot water systems for solar heaters
• New lighting (Sayari Camp)
From now until March 26th Kogatende airstrip is closed so all flights to Sayari Camp will go to Sasakwa from where it is a 3 hour transfer to camp.
The power works on Zanzibar are now completed and permanent power supply has been restored. Plans have been implemented to avert a similar crisis in future.
The introduction of a single tourist visa for East Africa could be implemented by as soon as June. A work plan for the study and piloting of single tourist visa from February to September 2010 has been developed and test runs are expected to involve nationals from South Africa, the UK, USA, Germany, France, Canada, Australia, Japan, Italy, The Netherlands, Belgium and the Scandinavian countries.
Blaauwbosh, Karoo, Eastern Cape, South Africa
Most of our guests over the past 4 months have a happy story to tell of their encounter with our young rhino calf. Cheeky and inquisitive by nature, he happily leaves his mom's side and wanders up to and around the game drive vehicle, seemingly aware of and loving the attention and photo opportunity he provides! Perhaps he will join Facebook and be a friend to our young guests, who can learn more about him as he grows!
Wednesday, 17 March 2010
A schedule of flights released by British Airways indicates that flights to and from Kenya will operate on a normal service between the March 20 and 22 when British Airways plan their first strike.
British Airways Kenya Commercial Manager, George Mawadri, in Nairobi said that the schedule indicated that customers flying from and into Nairobi would not be inconvenienced by the first part of the strike.
The schedule can be found on BA website
From 1 May 2010, the airport that serves Durban will change to the new King Shaka International Airport. This facility is located at La Mercy, 65kms north of the existing airport. The old airport will no longer be in use.
Tuesday, 16 March 2010
Governors Camp, Masai Mara
The first couple of weeks of February were hot, with temperatures reaching 34 degrees celsius and mostly dry. Uncharacteristically for this time of year, it started to rain, and a fair amount too. The mornings have been dry with a combination of sun and cloud with rain arriving in the evenings and at times late at night. The wonderful combination of rain and sun has caused the grass to shoot up to almost a metre in places. All this rain has caused the Marsh to flow and pour out some sizable cat fish which the Fish Eagles are gorging on. The whole of the Mara is looking amazingly lush, healthy and green.
There have been and continue to be huge groups of elephants moving over the plains, into the forest and through the Marsh. The elephant are content to feed on just the grass, sedge and fruit from the Greenheart trees, giving the acacia woodland in the surrounding areas a much needed break and time to re-grow.
The plains game have moved to where there is shorter grass mostly along the river line, leaving the large breeding herds of buffalo on the long grass plains.
The arrival of the rain has been wonderful for the resident birdlife. The abundance of life in the Musiara Marsh has drawn a crowd of water birds namely Herons, Storks and Hammerkops all hunting frogs and smaller catfish. The European Stork has recently made an entrance into the Mara, no doubt following the rain and the bounty of food which materialises with it. With food a-plenty many birds have nested and either have eggs or chicks at the moment. The weavers have built their nests hanging over the lush riverbanks, some are still building and some attending to chicks. Plovers, Longclaws and other ground nesting birds also have eggs and chicks in their nests hidden in the long grass and a Martial Eagle was seen killing a Wattled Plover near the Musiara airstrip.
The invasion of caterpillars we had in the camps and forest at the end of last month has now turned into the most brilliant display of thousands of different kinds of butterflies and moths. The Vernonia and Maerua plants along the riverside are flowering and are a big attraction for the butterlies and moths.
The lion prides are all well settled and thriving. The staple diet at this time of year is the unlucky warthog as there are plenty of piglets after the rain. However, they are just a snack for large prides of hungry lions. They risk not only injury but their lives hunting larger, more dangerous animals in order to feed their cubs.
The Marsh Pride has been seen feeding on a couple of buffalo kills first thing in the morning, although they mostly hunt at night as they have the advantage of better night vision. The lionesses and sub-adults were seen hunting a strong, young male buffalo. Three had jumped on it trying to hold on whilst the buffalo ran with them and into the deeper water of the marsh where he managed to face them off with his menacing horns.
The Paradise Pride males made a hippo kill not far from the river at night. The hippo may have been too far away from the water (where they normally seek safety) or it may have been injured or sick. The five males and cubs were able to feed first, followed by the lionesses. Three days later the hippo was reduced to bones and skin, which the hyena also fed on.
We have had some great sightings of the female leopard near the camps. She has been seen feeding on a monitor lizard and on a separate occasion a White Stork at the marsh.
The large male leopard was spotted with an impala kill near the Mara River.
Our resident leopard Olive and her cubs are found on most days near the river, her cubs still with her but happy to spend their day resting a little distance from her. They will become more and more independent as they learn how to hunt properly and both will go their separate ways.
The three cheetah brothers have been back in the area and are very well. The mother and cub are thriving, having been in an area with many hyena leaving us extremely worried, but so far nothing untoward has happened. They were last seen on a Thompson Gazelle kill and were able to relax and finish it without any interference. Shakira and her three cubs are still on the other side of the river, she presently has no chance of coming back across the river after all the recent rain, unless she knows where the bridge is.
Two Rhino were sighted on Paradise Plain. It is encouraging to see them in pairs, as they may be either a mother and older calf (often adopted at this stage) or a mating pair. This is a wonderful sighting since between the Mara and the northern Serengeti we only have an estimated 20 or so rhino.
Friday, 12 March 2010
The much anticipated rains finally arrived and in December some good thunderstorms drenched the plains and woodlands of Ndutu.
Shallow Lake Ndutu turned overnight from a white, dusty open space into a proper lake, Lake Masek took a bit longer to fill. How amazing to suddenly hear the sound of shorebirds, to see some flamingos appear out of nowhere and to have to pay attention to where to drive near a lakeshore!
Before we realised, the High season was upon us. It turned out to be an unusual busy month culminating in the middle of December with a record number of guests.
An incentive group of French visitors – having arrived at KIA Airport with a hired Boeing 747 – ‘did’ northern Tanzania in 5 days, booked the entire Lodge for one night, with overflow of their group in a tented camp set up nearby! We were asked to cater for 145 and an additional 28 drivers on the 15th both for dinner and breakfast.
The Rain God smiled on us as the day prior and after, the heavens opened but THIS one night we were spared! In the end we set up an extra dining tent next to the main building to be able to accommodate all, with two more tents for the buffets on each side of the campfire. Luckily all went well and it certainly clicked us all into gear with a vengeance!
On the 21st, we received a phone call to announce that the President of Tanzania would come to lunch on the 24th. It was a great honour to welcome His Excellency President Kikwete and his family. It proved a bit of a ‘tour the force’, as we were fully booked that night – Christmas Eve – and due to the weather the entire party of more than 40 could only arrive around four in the afternoon. But all went well and the staff was so happy and proud to welcome their President to Ndutu again after his previous visit in 2008.
Two good bouts of rain turned the dry scorched spaces green very quickly and it did not take the wildebeest long to arrive! They streamed onto the plains in great numbers and with them came the zebras, the Thomson’s gazelles, Grant’s gazelles and a host of other followers. All of a sudden, many different sounds filled the air, often out of nowhere and overnight! The so familiar call of the Didric’s cuckoo, woodland kingfishers in an duet call, and the busybody noises near the workshop, where the weavers are frantically finishing their nests and trying very noisily to lure lady weavers to their waving masterpieces.
Once the waterhole in the front filled up, we started to see small groups of elephants visiting during the day and drinking and playing in the water.
Just before Christmas, we noticed that a little calf was dragging a wire snare along and as luck had it, the same herd returned to the Lodge several days running. We managed to send a message to the resident Veterinarian in the Serengeti NP, who asked us to make sure we sent a car to stay with the family so Hamisi went out to follow the small herd until Richard and his wife Sian flew in from Seronera later in the morning. We set off with 4 cars, and found Hamisi not far from the Lodge.
Both the mother and the calf were darted and luckily the others in the group went off and hovered a small distance away. Meanwhile Richard clipped off the snare and we were relieved to see that it had not yet harmed the calf. Water was poured over the elephants to keep them cool.
Then the calf was given the antidote and was quickly on its feet and soon found the ‘auntie’ group nearby. Meanwhile mum was still on her side and she too was then given the antidote. After getting up within half an hour she had found and joined her group and was reunited with her calf!
We were all so relieved and happy to see them all return to the waterhole the next day, still relaxed and in good form. They have since come and gone several times!
December will also be remembered as the month of the Blue Moon! And clear it was too! As an absolute extra, New Year’s eve not only featured this once every 2-and a bit year phenomena, but we were also rewarded with a beautiful part-lunar eclipse on the last day of the year. What a treat out here, where the dark sky often brings so many rare experiences!
While on celestial topics, halfway into the new year on January 15th, we marvelled when we witnessed an annular partial solar eclipse. We were well prepared with bits of welding glass from the workshop and my old eclipse glasses I had kept and contrary to many other parts of East Africa, we had a long (the entire exercise spanned more than 4 hours) complete clear view of a more than three-quarter covered sun. Somehow it was an even more spectacular event after the BBC announced that the next annular eclipse was ‘scheduled’ for the year 3043!!!
During most of January, all the action seemed to be concentrated around the marsh areas. The Marsh lions are doing very well, and many a daytime meal they have had to share these past two months with scores of tourists following their every move. By now they must be one of the most photographed lion pride in the southern Serengeti.
The Marsh pride alternate in attention with the three residential Cheetah brothers, Mocca, Espresso and Latte for continuous undivided attention, and by the way: these three brothers the other day feasted on three young wildebeest which they each had killed simultaneously!
Occasionally, guests reported to have seen a serval cat prowling along the reed’s edge, which is the perfect habitat for these solitary and often elusive cats.
And while we are at the Marsh, to our surprise our most invisible ‘Ndugu Snap’, the crocodile, was seen not long ago hovering as always in the little open water pool under the viewpoint. So keep an eye open when scanning from above, as with a bit of luck, you may pick up our most elusive resident!
I reckon he sometimes watches with great interest and a chuckle how many Tour Operating vehicles with too-over-confident drivers are still mistakenly trying to negotiate the marsh crossing….. getting hugely and permanently stuck there… After the early January massive rain stint we had to spend long, exhausting hours digging, jacking-up and pulling top-heavy tour vehicles out of the sticky soda mud. It seems no amount of elaborate notes at the Lodge warning drivers has much impact at all these days!
Once the six really wet days in January were over, it was followed by a long windy, sunny spell. When the waterholes in the surrounding plains dried out, the wildebeest moved off in great numbers, massing in the woodlands.
First we had a huge Masek crossing which ended in disaster and more than 150 wildebeest drowned, their bodies lining the western shore.
This in turn attracted vast numbers of vultures and marabou storks and of course hyenas. After day two, photography was only for the not so fainthearted!
When the huge concentrations of wildebeest moved through the woodlands and passed through the Marshes it provided the keen photographers with some spectacular material, and there were several bigger and smaller Lake Ndutu crossings too.
Maybe it is good that this year the calving seems to be on time, it has started just now, but will no doubt continue through to the end of February. And hopefully not too many lake crossings will happen just when most of the calves are born which in the past has often caused great loss of young lives around the lakeshores!
Right now these are occupied by hundreds of European storks. They come to roost in a corner of the lake in the shallow water.
Take off is during early morning and late afternoons, an impressive sight. Apparently the army worms have arrived again and those provide a tasty meal for all those European travellers! Actually, the influx of all manner of insects provides a feast for many small animals on the prowl! This morning I photographed our very tame local agama lizard on the little bridge to my house with one of those nice fat fearsome black-red-spiky caterpillars that turn into silk moths. Not my idea of a snack but the lizard looked very happy with breakfast!
I have kept the most exciting news to the last!
A few days ago Wild dogs were found at Lake Masek! Seven adults were resting on the shore and what a treat to have Wild dogs back in the Ndutu area after so many years! They used to be common in this part of the Serengeti in the seventies and eighties and often denned somewhere nearby.
This pack spent most of the afternoon resting and sleeping on the sandy shore. As soon as word got out cars from every direction homed in and at some point I counted 19 cars. Not surprising, considering it is nearly 25 years since they were seen in this area!
Based at the Lodge, wildlife camera man Hugo van Lawick and his wife Jane Goodall spent a lot of time in the late seventies-early eighties with wild dogs here. They produced a famous wild dog film called Solo, and during the time they also wrote a book called Savage Paradise. In it they pointed out that dogs should not be labelled as “vermin” (they used to be shot, also in the Ngorongoro Crater), but are valuable contributors in the ecosystem, and have every right, just like hyenas and other predators, to “BE”!!!
Nevertheless, the dogs have since had a very hard time, due to diseases, poisoning, competition from other predators (hyenas and lions in particular), human intrusion and disturbances in their former habitats. They were almost extinct from the Serengeti.
Then more recently reports and sparse sightings of small packs of wild dogs and sometimes one or two individuals roaming around started to filter back. They also denned again on the short-grass plains. Although numbers are still very down let’s hope that their future here can be safeguarded enough so that these highly social and fascinating carnivores remain part of the Serengeti fauna.
Of course, the sighting of the dogs is THE HIGHLIGHT of this month!
We hope they will surprise us again with their beautifully coloured appearance, but as they appeared out of nowhere the other day, they vanished overnight, and have not been seen again since…
We wish them luck and good times roaming these teeming Serengeti woodlands and plains and above all: GOOD HUNTING!
Please visit the Ndutu website www.ndutu.com
Thursday, 11 March 2010
In a few days, 2 African governments will try to pry open the worldwide ban on ivory trading, a decision that could wipe out whole elephant populations and bring these magnificent animals closer to extinction.
They are lobbying the UN for special exemptions from the ban, but this would send a clear signal to the ivory crime syndicates that international protection is weakening and it's open-season on elephants. Another group of African states have countered by calling to extend the trade ban for 20 years.
Our best chance to save the continent's remaining elephants is to support African conservationists. We only have a few days left and the UN Endangered Species body only meets every 3 years. Click below to sign our urgent petition to protect elephants, and forward this email widely - the petition will be delivered to the UN meeting in Doha:
Over 20 years ago, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) passed a worldwide ban on ivory trading. Poaching fell, and ivory prices slumped. But poor enforcement coupled with 'experimental one-off sales', like the one being currently sought, drove poaching up and turned illegal trade into a lucrative business - poachers can launder their illegal ivory with the legal stockpiles.
Now, despite the worldwide ban, each year over 30,000 elephants are gunned down and their tusks hacked off by poachers with axes and chainsaws. If the loophole is exploited, this awful trade could get much worse.
We have a one off chance this week to extend the worldwide ban and repress poaching and trade prices before we lose even more elephant populations.
Please also read: http://africaportal.blogspot.com/2010/03/ivory-trading_07.html
Tuesday, 9 March 2010
Solio Ranch, West of Mount Kenya, Kenya
The Safari Collection (Giraffe Manor, Sasaab and Sala's camp) is delighted to announce a new addition to their portfolio. Opening July 2010, a small luxury lodge consisting of 6 cottages will be built on Solio Game Reserve just west of Mount Kenya. Recognised as the most successful private rhinoceros breeding reserve in Kenya, Solio is also home to numerous other wildlife species.
Monday, 8 March 2010
Okavango Delta, Botswana
Renowned Abu Camp in the heart of the Okavango Delta will be undergoing exciting developments this year. This includes a change in the current elephant encounter experience as well as a complete refurbishment. Abu reopens in June 2010.
Sunday, 7 March 2010
"Our go-down in Dar es Salaam is full and we need to dispose of some of the tusks to create space for new stock," Natural Resources and Tourism Minister Shamsa Mwangunga.
"Proceeds from the proposed sale of 100 tonnes of elephant tusks will be used to buy equipment and finance anti-poaching operations," she said, adding that around 15 billion shillings (11 million dollars) could be raised.
The Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species (CITES) will hold its 15th session of the conference of parties on March 13-25 in Doha, where Tanzania and Zambia intend to apply for permits to sell ivory stockpiles.
But Tanzania's neighbour Kenya is opposed to allowing the sale of ivory arguing that it encourages poaching.
According to the Kenya Wildlife Service poaching for elephant and rhino tusks has been on the rise in Africa since the 2007 partial lifting of an international trade ban to allow a one-off sale to China and Japan by Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.