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Aug 2012

Young gorillas observed destroying snares

Posted by / in Africa /

The staff at Diane Fossey Gorilla Fund have observed several young gorillas from Kuryama’s group destroying snares!

We knew that gorillas do this but all of the reported cases in the past were carried out by adult gorillas, mostly silverbacks. Today, two juveniles and one blackback from Kuryama’s group worked together to deactivate two snares and how they did it demonstrated an impressive cognitive skill.

John Ndayambaje, the field data coordinator, reported that he saw one snare very close to the group; since the gorillas were moving in that direction, he decided to deactivate it. Silverback Vuba pig-grunted at him (a vocalization of warning) and at the same time juveniles Dukore and Rwema together with blackback Tetero ran toward the snare and together pulled the branch used to hold the rope. They saw another snare nearby and as quickly as before they destroyed the second branch and pulled the rope out of the ground.

Four other snares were also removed by our trackers in the same area.

The battle to detect and destroy snares from the park is far from over, however, and the recent death of juvenile Ngwino, caused by snare injury, has given us all further motivation.

Today we can proudly confirm that gorillas are doing their part too!

Veronica – Diane Fossey Gorilla Fund.

See these amazing animals up close on a Gorilla adventure:

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Jun 2012

Malawi’s New Pride and Joy

Posted by / in Africa /

In August Majete Wildlife Reserve will become the proud recipient of four lions from South Africa, completing the return of the “Big Five” to this iconic reserve situated in Malawi¹s lower Shire River valley.

The reintroduction of lions marks a significant milestone in the rehabilitation of the 70 000 hectare Majete reserve. Historically lions were considered to be common in the Lower Shire Valley but by the early 1960s scouts in Majete were recording only one lion every 100 patrol days. Over the years poaching took its toll and there have been no reports of lions in the region since the 1980s.

The non-profit organisation African Parks has been systematically resurrecting Majete since assuming management of the park in 2003. Over the past nine years the park has been fenced, infrastructure developed and over 12 different species totalling over 2500 animals introduced. The safety that the perimeter fence and law enforcement programmes provides and the abundance of prey has now created an environment within which lions can once again thrive.

In August 2012 two male and two female lions provided by the North West Parks and Tourism Board in South Africa will be introduced to Majete ¬ sourced from South Africa as there are no suitable lion populations available in Malawi. Healthy animals at the beginning of their reproductive lives will be selected from Pilanesberg National Park and Madikwe Game Reserve, and the intricate relocation process will involve weeks of quarantine on both sides of the border. It will also be a costly operation with holding facilities having to be erected and flights chartered to transport the predators to their new home.

The reintroduction of lions to the Majete system will not only restore the park to a naturally functioning ecosystem but will also once again render Majete a “Big-5” reserve, as it already boasts the other four: elephant, rhino, buffalo and leopard. With the opening of the luxury Mkulumadzi Lodge last year and with the only Big Five game viewing experience to be offered in Malawi, Majete¹s future looks bright.

If you’re thinking of joining our Malawi Book Bus project then Majete Wildlife Reserve makes for a memorable weekend excursion.

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Feb 2012

Lake of Stars bed! Excited!!

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Coming soon – the Lake of Stars bed!
Situated on a private rock island 10 minutes from Nkwichi Lodge.

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Jan 2012

Abu Camp introduces Baby Elephant Warona

Posted by / in Africa /

bu Camp, located in Botswana’s pristine Okavango Delta, is proud to announce that Shireni, one of the Camp’s leading elephants, gave birth to her third surviving calf, a healthy female, at 22h05 on the 17th December. Measuring approximately 90cm at the shoulder and weighing about 110kg, the new-born stood on her four own feet, wobbling, within 20 minutes. The elephant handlers have named her Warona, the SeTswana name meaning ‘For Us.’

Reaching up to her mother, Warona suckled properly for the first time at 07h00 the next morning, 10 hours after the birth, and now takes short naps of 5-10 minutes. Closely watched over by her doting big brother, Abu Junior, the new-born calf is already showing signs of playfulness as can be seen in this video of her at three days of age.

Footage copyright AfriScreen Films and EBS. Used with kind permission.

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May 2011

The Real Thing

Posted by / in Africa /

Occasionally, rarely, you come across a place that stops you in your tracks and leaves a hint of a smile on your chops. These hidden gems tend to be off the beaten track, tricky to get to and even trickier to learn about in the first place. Privacy, these days, is the new luxury commodity. Anyone can do plush soft furnishings and good service, but a stunning location coupled with privacy, that’s the real nub of the matter; that’s what’s hard to find and even harder to preserve.

I used to know Malawi pretty well but haven’t been there for some years, so it makes perfect sense that my latest trip to rediscover Malawi should end up on the shores of Lake Malawi but actually within the territorial boundary of Mozambique! I had heard about a top-draw little lodge with just 8 cottages that the grapevine told me it was impressed with. This lodge has no road access: you can fly to one of two airstrips that are close-ish, but then it’s either of long, long walk or an hour in a motorboat to reach the lodge itself. Intriguing!

Remote? Yes. No-phone zone? Definitely. Electricity? No. Absolute barefoot luxury? Oh yes! You come to a place like this to forget about all your toys. Slow right down, let your shoulders drop and settle into the local pace. And the local pace redefines “relax”. It’s really strange, but the first day you’re a tad frustrated and want to shake someone and yell “get on with it!”. Day two and you begin to get the point and on the morning of day three the penny has dropped and you realise why you made all that effort. This lodge is so well designed that you can’t see or hear your neighbours. Even the bathrooms are al fresco, with just the one wall and no roof and even a stuck-in-the-mud pilgrim like me becomes a bit of a naturist by day three. The place is put together with such craft that you feel you’re the only ones there. There really is no-one to disturb you except for the odd low-flying egret.

The nights were my favourite time: dinner on the beach with the other guests (if that takes your fancy) and then you’re gently set adrift. There are some decks cunningly concealed amongst the huge granite boulders that surround the lake and from where you can not see an electric light – anywhere! Zero light pollution! Stunning silence! The gentlest of breezes. And all wrapped up in an African night that’s black-cat dark and as soft as velvet. The star-scape has to be seen to be believed: the tropical sky is always so excitingly different from home but when conditions are perfect, this is the most romantic, erotic of settings. Our cottage was lit with a couple of dim oil-lamps and in this half-light a nightjar, on silent wings, flew in through one of the non-existent walls and out through the opposite one. How it sensed the voluminous mosi-net was there, and avoided it, I will never know. Pure magic!

This is Nkwichi, which is an onomatopoeia from the local language and is the sound barefeet make walking across the talcum-powder-soft sand.

This is a dangerous place: whoever you take with you, you are liable to fall in love with them!

More info / to book:

Note: VentureCo do not charge a fee to arrange safaris in Africa. We are paid a commission from the lodges and safari outfitters with whom we work. We can generally obtain better trade rates for you than those available to members of the public.

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Dec 2010

DRC (Zaire) back on the map

Posted by / in Africa /

These days safaris can be so disappointing: they used to be the preserve of the well-informed traveller but nowadays you see safaris advertised in all sorts of brochures. The idea of sitting on my bum, in a zebra-striped van with half-a-dozen others appals me.

But it doesn’t have to be this way!

Some years ago (1991) I camped on an oxbow of the river Garamba. We had made the trek after reading Mark Carwardine’s book “Last Chance To See”. I wanted to see one of the world’s last 28 Northern White Rhino. Getting to Garamba used to be a bit of a mission: it sits on the Sudan border, just inside Zaire (as it was in those days) and when we signed in, the foolscap ledger went back to the 1940’s. They hadn’t filled one visitor’s book in more than half a century! Believe me, it really was quite a mission to get there. Safari in Garamba was an amazing experience for a variety of reasons, but the pinnacle was probably being woken by hippo breath. Camping on an oxbow is always dumb, particularly in remote country, but on this particular night we all went to bed in the usual way and by the time the hippos came out to eat, we were all fast asleep in two-man tents. I was awoken in the wee small hours by a hippo exhaling on my sleeping forehead. He took off. I went back to sleep with a grin on my face. Fortunate outcome.

We were still feeling invincible on evening 2 and made camp, which consisted of four small tents, on a raised river bank that gave great views of the river. At dawn there was a huge herd of elephants in the river so we all played possum and kept silent. They soon crossed the river and continued on their way. As we got up we saw that the herd had passed right through camp, between the tents, and many pegs had been flattened into the ground. But not a tent had been touched. Let me tell you, that gives you a slow-burn adrenaline rush.

And the final memory I’ll dredge up to make my point happened on our final morning. We were out before sun-up and came across three people who were poorly concealed beneath an acacia tree. Safety catches were flicked off and we approach with caution because this was rebel country in those days. A warning was shouted which prompted absolutely no reaction. Slowly, slowly a scout crept forward and then beckoned us all in. There were three women who, it transpired, had walked from the fighting in Sudan, right through the park, for about a fortnight. One of the ladies had two fingers missing that had been bitten off during that night by a hyena. They were weak as waifs and when we eventually got them back to camp, the cook boiled up some rice and then discarded it, giving them only the milky water that it had been boiled in. They were so starved that they wouldn’t have been able to cope with proper food at that stage.

I rarely tell these stories, nor the hundred-and-one-others, because no-one would believe them and they’d be dismissed as “pub talk”. But the point is, safari, real safari, takes you absolutely face to face with the harsh and inspiring reality of Africa and her wildlife. That’s what you pay for, tales you can’t tell because folks back home will think you’re making them up! But occasionally you meet a person who has been there and seen the African bush dawn and felt the elusive quality of that air. Then you can trade the tales!

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