This was the month that we completed the first ever Great Plains Conservation aerial survey over Duba Plains. We have collaborated with Elephant Without Borders’ Mike Chase and Kelly Langden for what will be two annual survey, one in each the wet and dry seasons. Each May, we will then release a full report with complete results. The initial sightings are outstanding. We managed to see the famous buffalo herds, two of which were considerable, and thousands upon thousands of Red lechwe antelope. The numbers really are a great surprise. The biggest highlight is eight sightings of sitatunga. They are an incredibly shy and illusive antelope, so much so we do not even possess a photograph of one in our archives. As with any aerial survey it is very difficult to see any predators. Not at Duba though, where we managed to pick up some hunting females following the buffalo herds. We are very excited about seeing MIke Chase’s final results, and of course the survey in September is likely to be equally as revealing.
In the field, February brought relatively low rains – a sure indicator that the rainy season is coming to a close. It becomes increasingly evident that we are knocking on the door of the dry season as water holes, once filled by the rains, begin to dry up. However, Duba Plains Camp remains undoubtedly an island with hippos submerged just in front of camp. It’s great entertainment to watch them snort and dive whilst enjoying a leisurely G&T.
In camp, February was quite a busy month with numerous construction projects completed. The Duba Plains airstrip was renovated and a new apron was built. The project took a bit longer to finish than anticipated due to unpredictable weather. Of course, a great spin-off of an airstrip under construction is the benefit of a 5 minute helicopter transfer from neighboring Vumbura Plains strip. This is always a real bonus for guests, and certainly makes for excited arrivals. Additionally, we extended the infamous Duba bridge, which links camp to the other side of the waters and allows us to traverse a much more extensive area. We removed the older part of the bridge which was in bad condition and extended the bridge straight. It is now likely deserving of the title of “Longest Bridge in the Okavango”.
The game drives this month have been superlative. Lions and buffaloes are still battling, and every now and then, the lions snatch a newly born buffalo from the herd. It’s a bit heart-breaking for the spectator but exciting nonetheless. Wildlife viewing in the camp itself was simply spectacular with buffalos, hippos, Side-striped jackals, waterbucks and Bat-eared foxes passing through offering ‘from-the-bed’ sightings. Like most of the summer season, this month has been no exception when it comes outstanding birding. It begins almost immediately outside camp where Meyer’s parrot feed on the ebony bods, a wake of the francolins and starlings surround the vehicle, and then our personal favorite are the Carmine bee-eaters which feed on insects disturbed by the moving car and surf right at eye level. It’s quite a treat! The calls of African fish eagles punctuate the tranquility of each afternoon’s siestas; and later at night, the melodious sound of the painted reed frogs lull us all to sleep. Oh, summer in the Delta, it is really quite special. The season’s birding highlight so far is undoubtedly KB’s discovery of a Pel’s fishing owl just 2 kilometres from camp. This ‘Delta Special’ is a coveted sighting.
Text by: K. Otlwaetse