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The Selous

January 29, 2013

News from Beho Beho

Filed under: The Selous — Tags: — Tanzania Odyssey @ 4:23 pm

The rains were late this season – we only received about 5 days of proper rain in the November-December period where we would usually have received almost daily rains. It was a dry few months with only the lingering clouds hanging over the Beho Beho hills threatening to pour, but no rains came, leaving the land, and animals, parched.

This drought lasted until the third week in December and finally we received some urgently needed rain which turned everything lush green and alive. It has rained intermittently every few days since then, and now there is water in abundance. The animals have swarmed back to the luxuriant plains around Beho Beho and we have great sightings of general game including giraffe, zebra, wildebeest and impala, colourful birds and even interesting reptiles and insects.

The elephants have also made their return known and many an evening they are seen feeding around the bandas or in front of the main area.

Our Employee of the Month Award for November went out to Omari – one of the room stewarts and longstanding employee of many years. Omari is a hard worker who never complains about anything and just makes sure the job gets done – and gets done properly. For December the award went to Godfrey – our head cook and leader in the kitchen who has also been with the company for many years. Goddy is quick on his feet, knows how to make a plan and guests will attest that the baked goods that exit the kitchen on a daily basis are worthy of note. To close the year we pay tribute to one of Beho Beho’s iconic figures – Mzee Majembe. Majembe had been at Beho Beho for the longest time – an astounding 34 years. In the beginning, he ran the camp and in later years, he became known as “The Minister of Water” as he looked after all the water needs, from making sure all the guest bandas had enough water to pumping water for the kintchen & laundry, staff accommodation, pools and waterhole. After he experienced a bout of ill health, he has passed away on 22 November 2012. May he rest in peace.

We also say goodbye to Onesmo, our head guide who has been with Beho Beho for almost 8 years growing from a driver guide to a walking guide and eventually to head guide – he has chosen to take another path and we wish him all the best in his future endeavours. After a relatively quiet period for the wild dogs, we have had quite a few sightings in the last two weeks which is fantastic news for guides and guests alike. These playful canines even became the welcoming party on the airstrip a few times as the planes came in to land! They like to frolic on the short green shoots of grass around the area and lie in the collecting puddles of water in our immediate vicinity. We look forward to a new year, with exciting game activities to be done, fantastic sightings to be seen and amazing experiences to be had. We wish you only happiness and prosperity in the new year. All the best, Walter, Karin, Heribert, Salum, Onno, Saning’o and the entire Beho Beho team.

 

News from Kwihala

Filed under: ruaha — Tanzania Odyssey @ 12:36 pm

Lorenzo’s Leopard

November 2012 Story and photos by Lorenzo Rossi, trainee guide at Kwihala camp Ruaha National Park November 2012

 

We were parked near a rocky outcrop on the north bank of the Mwagusi sand river. It had rained, and there was a small stream of water – buffalo were drinking and a big troupe of baboons and banded mongooses were foraging in the river bed. Suddenly a leopard sprang out from the outcrop and jumped on a mangoose and killed it.

 

News from Kwihala

 

Fearlessly, the baboons swooped down on the leopard in its exposed position in the river bed.

 

The largest males came very close to the feline, attacking it from all sides.

 

The leopard crouched down and snarled ferociously but could not win the battle against so many.

It was too much, the spotted cat abandoned the kill and raced for the rocky outcrop, where it disappeared into a crevice. The baboons were making a great racket and continued for some time, victorious in the battle….

 

News from Kwihala

 

We saw the leopard later, sitting on top of a rock surveying the scene carefully.

 

Ruaha Leopard Ruaha Leopard

January 8, 2013

Tanzania, Africa: Greystoke Mahale, where apes are lords of the jungle

Filed under: Katavi,Mahale — Tanzania Odyssey @ 2:20 pm

What’s the daily round like when you’re running a remote African safari lodge? Our columnist found out at Greystoke Mahale, stronghold of the chimpanzee .

Tanzania, Africa: Greystoke Mahale, where apes are lords of the jungle

By Richard Madden

Is this an emergency? It’s the middle of the night and we can hear shouting coming from the lake. Is it a guest? Or an intruder? Is the voice angry? Or frightened? Am I frightened? There’s no time to decide now. I am still buttoning up my shorts as I break into a run along the sandy path that leads out of the forest onto the beach.

In the moonlight I can see the mountains of the Congo 30 miles away on the far shore of Lake Tanganyika. And then I see him. The silhouette of a man is gesticulating wildly from a longboat moored just offshore. “Habari?” I shout in my best basic Swahili. “Chakula. Kigoma,” he shouts back.

The penny drops. Provisions that were missing from our resupply boat from the town of Kigoma, 80 miles north along the lake and a stone’s throw from where Livingstone met Stanley, have finally arrived. At three o’clock in the morning.

If this isn’t real, it’s an incredible dream. In front of me the thickly forested slopes of the Mahale Mountains loom over a chieftain’s longhouse that is throwing moon shadows on the white sand under my feet. This is the main lodge area of Greystoke Mahale, built in the architectural style of the local Kitongwe people, and the heart of one of Africa’s most remote safari lodges.

It also looked like a worthy residence for the current Lord and Lady Greystoke, namely me and my wife, Sarah. We were working as relief managers for a month while the real Lord and Lady G, Steve Ladd and Kiri Maloney, both from New Zealand, took a well-earned rest.

Before we met, Sarah had worked as a camp manager at safari lodges all over southern Africa. My own qualifications were less specific but included a spell in the Army, writing about wilderness destinations, and an embryonic career as an after-dinner speaker. All that experience proved extremely useful in a job that is a mixture of man-management, complicated logistics, and the people skills required to make our clients feel they were honoured guests at an exotic country estate – albeit one in a remote jungle in the heart of Africa.

Unlike most safari camps, where guests come and go on a daily basis, Greystoke Mahale sees a light plane only twice a week, so almost everyone stays for either three or four nights; by the time they left, we often felt we knew them like friends.

The camp was built by an Irish adventurer, Roland Purcell, who sailed a fishing dhow, Isabella, down Lake Tanganyika in the mid-Eighties and landed in the bay. The prow of the boat can still be seen in the rock bar and much of the camp is built from the recycled wood of other vessels. Dhows are also used for sunset cruises and to transport the guests on the 90-minute journey from the airstrip.

Apart from the pristine beauty of the location, Greystoke’s main attraction is the chance to see one of the largest populations of wild chimpanzees in the world. Greystoke is in the territory of M group, a community of more than 60 chimps that have been habituated to short spells of human contact.

Tanzania, Africa: Greystoke Mahale, where apes are lords of the jungle

By chance, our time coincided with an unprecedented episode in the ongoing soap opera in the Mahale Mountains. As dictators toppled in the far north of Africa, the chimps staged their own Mahale Spring. After biting another of the dominant males, unprovoked and in the middle of a grooming session, Pimu, the alpha male, was made to pay for his bullying ways. His bloody demise at the hands of his fellow chimps created a power vacuum with two other powerful males, Primus and Alofu, jockeying to succeed him.

For our neighbours, the Japanese researchers who have been studying this group of chimpanzees since the mid-Sixties and whose camp was a 20-minute boat ride along the lake, it was a hugely important event and led to some fascinating discussions around the camp fire when they joined us for dinner with the guests.

For in this looking-glass world, it was impossible not to see our own human behaviour reflected back at us. From their facial expressions, so similar to our own, we could read the chimps’ passing emotions. The bullying, politics and in-fighting of the big males contrasted starkly with the extraordinary tenderness of a mother with her children: tickling, playing tag and on one occasion teaching her baby to use a leaf stem as a tool for eating ants.

Particularly touching to watch was an older, infertile female who had carved out a role for herself as a surrogate mother and was often to be seen clutching one of the babies in her arms, and keeping him out of harm’s way when the big boys came out to play.

The occasions when the chimps came into the camp itself were always unforgettable as they climbed into the trees in front of the guest bandas and casually wandered through the main staff area. But the mood of the group could also change with bewildering speed, peaceful periods of grooming interrupted by a cacophony of pant-hoots, whimpers, barks and tantrum screams whenever one of the big males approached.

Sharing a workplace with the creatures of the forest was a unique experience. At night we would fall into a deep slumber, lulled by the gentle suck of the waves on the beach on one side and the throbbing pulse of the jungle on the other. Walking to work through the forest every morning, birdsong ringing in our ears, we would encounter giant multicoloured butterflies, baboons, monkeys, bushbucks and bush babies, while often bumping into our own resident family of warthogs complete with grandma and hyperactive youngsters.

But behind the scenes, life as a manager of a safari lodge in such a remote location has its challenges. Resupply – by light plane or by boat from Kigoma – is something between an art and a science. The ordering of food and beverages, spare parts and building materials, must be carefully calculated and prioritised. Fresh fruit and vegetables are sourced from a village 90 minutes away by dhow, where Nomad Tanzania, the company that owns the camp, has a project helping farmers to grow food, buying their fresh produce and helping to build schools and a health centre.

The camp can take up to 12 guests, who stay in six beautifully-designed bandas hidden on the edge of the forest, with views over the beach and the lake.

To look after them, there are at least 20 staff at any one time – guides, trackers, cooks, waiters, boatmen, room attendants, askaris (nightwatchmen) and fundis (general workmen). And a delightful, hard-working and friendly group of people they were. We came to respect hugely their unfailing good cheer, knowledge of the forest, and ability to produce culinary miracles in a remote jungle setting.

One of their most popular dishes was the sashimi we would serve our guests at the rock bar on the headland after a successful fishing expedition. Kuhe, the lake’s top delicacy, served with soya sauce and wasabi, was a taste sensation. It was always the perfect way to end a day spent watching the chimps, swimming in the lake, walking to the forest waterfall with its cascading series of pools, or watching hippos and their babies swimming under the wooden dhows in the clear waters of the lake.

On our guests’ final night, a table would be laid out on the beach and Sarah or I would make a toast. And the toast was always the same: “To the chimps of Mahale.” They were, after all, the reason we had all made the long journey to this unique corner of Africa.

 

February 10, 2012

News from Adventure Camp

Filed under: ruaha,The Selous — Tanzania Odyssey @ 10:53 am

Our four camps in Selous and Ruaha will be closing for the rainy season around 24th March – Kwihala camp closes a little earlier, on 1st March. They will all re-open on 1st June, and Mbweni Ruins Hotel is open all year round – no closure.

Here is a little news on our properties:

News from Adventure Camp
Selous Impala Lodge, overlooking the Rufiji sunset

Selous Impala Camp – Jan 2012

The camp continues to thrive, situated as it is on the Rufiji in the ever popular Selous Game Reserve, only an hour’s flight from Dar es Salaam. The camp is pretty full in February and March this year, partly because of the fantastic 4 for 3 low season offer we have in place.

News from Adventure Camp
Selous Wild Dogs – photo by Dominic Oldridge

Wild dogs have again been seen in the Selous this season.

Lake Manze Tented Camp – January 2012 Newsletter

Environment

Lake Manze sunset, rainy season
Lake Manze in Jan 2012 – full to the brim

The rains have almost finished here in Selous, in the whole month of January we only recorded 16mm, but there has been so much consistent rain up in Ruaha, that our lakes here are huge and they completely flooded the shore around, that is usually dry.

Some roads have disappeared now under water; water is so close to the camp that we can now see some of the animals that usually prefer to stay close to it: like for example the big water monitor lizard I found yesterday on the veranda of tent no. 12, basking in the sun looking at the landscape that the lake offers now.

The water also opened up the way to the airstrip. Sometimes the guests are collected by boat as the channel to the Rufiji is open, with the water being so high. Straight away they can experience an adventurous boat safari for a couple of hours on the way to the camp.

Sightings

A mum lioness this month has been the star of the game drives. She and her two cubs showed up almost every day with long sessions of playing and stalking little lizards and squirrels. We see them growing up and this is great.

Doing the same are the pack of 18 wild dogs we found around Beho Beho area. It seems to contain lots of half grown puppies who are now learning how to hunt, looking at the efficient strategy their parents use.

Together with the big animals’ sightings we can also mention the tiny and inoffensive bark snake we found in camp a few days ago. It is a Hemirhagerrhis nototaenia, very agile climber on quite vertical and difficult tree trunks.

Our Wild Firends – Genets

Genet kitten at lake Manze
Genet kitten at lake Manze camp

Its  2:00 p.m., the sun is high in the sky, silence around, everybody is having a little nap before the afternoon activity, waiting for the sun to go down a little bit. Phil and I are sitting in the office, doing our daily duties, when we hear a strange crying sound just a few feet away. It’s a few weeks that we haven’t seen “our” genet.

It seemed to have disappeared, and we have been quite concerned for her, so we both run to the entrance in order to look outside hoping to see her. We hear it again, we look, we search but nothing! Once again, and again, and finally it’s there! No! It’s not her, it’s her kitten. Not one but two of them. She’s had kittens.

This is great news, she had disappeared to give birth to two fantastic tiny sweet kittens! One is right in front of our eyes, near enough to touch it if we wanted, but he was so quiet that we almost couldn’t spot him. The one making the noise is now probably experiencing his first outing from the nesting place. He’s literally running away from the mum, down the Doum palm here beside us. Mrs genet is running around trying her best to catch at least one of the kittens wandering around. When one is caught by mum’s mouth, by magic the other one leaves his games and follows the mother diligently, back to the nest.

Sarah and Phil, lake Manze Camp Selous

January 2012 Newsletter: Kwihala, Ruaha NP

Ruaha bat-eared Foxes
young Bat-eared Foxes, Ruaha

A drop of rain falling onto the dry ground is like cold water being poured into a glass destined for your lips: it provides sustenance and renews life, it cools and it cleans; its vital, critical. We sometimes take that for granted, especially since many human lives are so viscerally separated from the real and tactile significance of it… yet it is by a very great measure, probably the most single important resource human beings have for their survival. Indeed, for the survival, growth and reproduction of almost every other living creature on planet earth. And so, Ruaha is wet and lush and verdant now and a renewal of life – with a little death thrown in for good measure – is taking place at a breathtaking pace.

We are daily witnessing butterflies & bees and all manner of nature’s inordinate fondness for ‘small life forms’ busy about their daily activities and replicating their kind in almost every corner of the landscape – what an incredible eruption of colour and movement! Witnessing the tail-end migration of Common & Brown-veined White butterflies drifting across the woodlands reminds one of snowfall almost they are so numerous! Perching on every object from their specific host plants to lion scat provides for interest and entertainment and wonderful photo-opportunities. The grass has become a verdant ocean drifting and swaying in the afternoon breeze, whilst Kudu and Giraffe even partake in ingesting some of its sustaining goodness, a broad departure from their otherwise obligatory diet of bushes and trees.

Watching lions hunting Lesser Kudu, Impala and Giraffe here over the last month has provided us with dropped-jaw excitement at times, and they have in so doing not failed to enthrall and draw the gaze of our guests who have the good fortune to come and stay for a while with us. January has seen a drop in leopard sightings but we have had 3 memorable experiences with these “Princes of Darkness”, once a leopardess deciding she ‘liked’ the vehicle and stayed walking around investigating the environment for some time, rolling on the ground, stalking prey, staring at the tyres (fascinating for leopards you know!) and then sauntering off into the savanna. A few steps and all that is seen is the white tip on her active “tell-tail” drifting effortlessly… silently… throught the long grass. “Death in the Long Grass” to borrow a phrase from another writer.

Elephants have been numerous and beautiful to spend time with in this stunning landscape of running rivers, mud and soft rain. We got a little wet… so what? So did the elephants! So many antelope and other larger game species, elephants certainly not excluded, are so enjoying the absolute abundance of food that surrounds them that they are engaged in social activity for much of the time. Watching baby elephant go to sleep at the feet of their mothers; and at other times having the “free time” to push and thump each other around, play in the water and mud and soft cool sand, allows one to really take a look through the proverbial ‘keyhole’ into their lives! Spending time with these animals, great and small, is what turns an ordinary ‘game drive’ into something more, an experience with nature, a chance to spend some ‘oblivious time’ in the “now” where you forget everything else and witness a spectacle which brings a smile to your face but pushes that smile deeper down. Elephant have the capacity, through our knowledge of their exceptional intelligence and their obvious gargantuan proportions, to really slow us down and make us start taking notice of beauty just for the sake of it, silence for the calmness of it, sound for the feeling of it and awe that something could be so big and yet so gentle. Delicate almost. The 28th of January was exceptional… over 25 different herds of elephant in one morning!!! The day before in the same area… one solitary, lonely bull!

Ruaha Wild Dogs Jan 2012
Ruaha Wild dogs, January 2012

We had I think 5 or 6 Wild Dogs sightings in January – it’s not Selous, but it’s Wild Dogs! The pic here was from a sighting I enjoyed by myself for about 2 hours, following a pack of 29 dogs. Eventually we left them as some of the guests needed to ‘mark territory’. The dogs followed us (unbeknown to us of course) and pitched up with all of us standing around the car enjoying a drink and discussing them! A few minutes later we watched them kill a baby warthog not 20m from the vehicle, all of us standing around still with glasses in hand!!

We’re having fun out here! All the best and hope to see you soon.

Steven Roskelly

presently in Ruaha N.P. Tanzania
www.clearlyafrica.com (the manager guides at Kwihala are supplied by Clearly Africa, and spend approx 3 months each in the Ruaha)

RSA +27 83 564 3041 TZ +255 76 385 7736

Mdonya Old River Camp – January Newsletter

Environment

Mdonya and the surrounding Park has changed overnight with the much anticipated rains, from a dry and harsh environment into a lush and green Garden of Eden. Bone dry riverbeds have turned into flowing rivers, hippos that huddle anxiously in tiny caked puddles of water are now wallowing in deep pools and the elephants are out in great numbers, covered in mud, spraying great streams of water over their backs. The impala’s coats are glossy with health and the zebra fat with feasting. At camp our little office has all but disappeared into the overhanging foliage. It is a wondrous sight: the Great Ruaha’s waters glinting in the sun as you fly in to land at Msembe. An amazing transformation. What an incredible start to the new year of 2012!

Sightings

Ruaha Pangolin
Ruaha Pangolin

It is said that the top 3 rarest creatures to be seen in Africa are the aardvark, the pangolin and the caracal, in no particular order. Guests at Mdonya had the most unbelievable luck recently to find the elusive pangolin, a nocturnal, incredibly shy and rather odd looking creature. This wonderful specimen, large for its species, was spotted trotting along happily close to one of our roads near to the camp. With all the excitement and noise, this fellow, not being a fast mover at the best of times, dug in and stayed put, as pangolins are wont to do in defensive mode: the best option once spotted. He thereby gave all our guests the very rare opportunity to really get a close-up look at one. Chances are that none of us will ever see one again. The clever creature waited until all of us had visited, and as we drove away, we saw him uncurl and walk off, which we would have paid large sums to get a picture of, but none did, and the mysterious pangolin got the last laugh.

Our Wild Friends – Chameleon

Ruaha Chameleon
Ruaha Chameleon

There have been so many through the start of this year in and around camp. Herds of zebra – who we don’t see here at all in the dry – have decided to make Mdonya camp their grazing grounds for a while and their many hooves can be heard thundering around in the evenings. Two lions graced us with a stealthy walk-past the dinner table as we had just settled into our starters at dinner – the starters went cold of course… the big cats always steal the news in the dry season.

In the wet we think it right that the smaller creatures get their just coverage. Enter the chameleon, which we don’t see here outside the rainy season: a most marvellous creature that appeared near the office, all flashing green and yellow, and a lot of black, a reaction to all the attention it wasn’t too pleased about. It’s amazing 360 degree rotating eyes watching our every move, its legs jerkily moving forward in very measured and slow turns, swaying gently backwards and forwards, as a means of camouflage, mimicking the movement of leaves and branches. Once safely back in the foliage, it turned a beautiful luminous green.

Mbweni Ruins Hotel in Zanzibar

Mbweni Ruins Jan 2012b Mbweni Ruins Jan 2012a

The  Mbweni Ruins – the old arab house

We have been repairing the historic ruins – 6 lovely rooms are being built into the “Industrial Wing” overlooking the palm gardens.
A “Wellness centre” including a spa aromatherapy centre has been installed in a wing of the old Arab house, the oldest part of the Mbweni Ruins.~
The current rooms have been refurbished and in some cases enlarged.
Mbweni is a lovely place to relax after safari – and our new Arusha-Ruaha-Selous-Zanzibar packages are making this easier than ever for the cost-conscious clients.

Take a look on our website in the Specials section :
www.adventurecampstz.com/acspecials.htm

please ask me for Agents’ nett rates for these packages.

- you can book a 6 to 9 night safari from Mbweni Ruins Hotel in Zanzibar, to Ruaha and Selous, beginning or ending in Arusha – for an unbeatable rate.
Valid (using high and low season rates) till 20th December 2012:

Agents’ Rates: Mbweni-Selous-Ruaha-Arusha Packages

Please don’t hesitate to ask me if I can help with rates or info any time.

Sincerely,

Flo Montgomery

info@adventurecampstz.com

The House of Spices in Zanzibar

House of Spices Zanzibar
The House of Spices, Zanzibar
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