Beho Beho Bushmail – October 2018

So here I am just about midway through my third season in The Selous at Beho Beho and it is turning out to be a unique season yet again.

But first I want to start with a rectification. In the previous bush mail it was reported that The Gardener (the Elephant bull that likes to hang out in camp) had died near our airstrip. It turns out we were wrong, the bull that died looked a lot like The Gardener but was not him. The behavior of the injured Elephant, where he came into camp while badly suffering and the lack of any appearances in camp after the death, made us think it was The Gardener that died. A couple of days ago now The Gardener re-appeared in camp like nothing had ever happened and he has returned to tend to the green foliage a few times now. Looking back at it is always easier, it was likely that Titan (the largest bull Elephant in our area) being in musth was pushing The Gardener away. Titan would have been extra aggressive due to the high testosterone levels he was experiencing and he would have made his claim to be the boss of the area known to all Elephants in our surrounds. Only a much larger bull or another bull in musth would have stayed around and confronted him. Only a week or so earlier we finally started to notice Titan dropping out of musth and thus becoming his old relaxed self again and there was The Gardener again, risen from dead. Safe to say we were all very happy to see him again and we hope we will see him often in the months ahead.

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To get back to the beginning of the Bushmail, why is this a unique season this time around? Well, we had some early rains already in the last week of September, mostly to the north of us. Right in areas that had been impacted quite a bit by bush fires over the July and August months. Now there is a proper flush of luscious green grass in the area around the Beho Beho forest and the Old Airstrip area, drawing in large numbers of game. Now if you have visited Beho Beho before during these months you will probably remember going to Lake Manze and Lake Tagalala as those were the places where game would congregate. That has been different over the last few weeks as the animals did not need to travel all that way for water and thus we have been travelling to other parts of the reserve, parts that we would usually only visit during, traditionally, wetter periods. We are not complaining, it is not far from us and the sightings up there are stunning.

An interesting by-product of the earlier rains has been that the Impala have started to drop their fawns already, a full month earlier than last season. Impala are very reactive to rainfall patterns in their reproduction and the good rains last season and the early showers now would likely have influenced the early births. Funnily enough there has been a long standing myth that Impala can delay giving birth if the rains come late, this is false. In this case the fawns just do not survive or, due to the bad condition of the ewe, the fetus can be aborted or re-absorbed by the ewe. There are indications however that, when the rains come early, the Impala can give birth earlier, likely due to the improved condition of the female and a drive to make use of the good forage that will allow a female to produce quality milk.

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So hopefully we will be getting regular showers from now on that will keep the grasses lush and nutritious, bringing more game to our little part of the world that we can enjoy with our guests. And speaking of luck, on a recent morning safari the pack of Wild Dogs that is denning somewhere along Kipalala Hill was found near the airstrip. The difference with this sighting was the presence of the Alpha female of the pack, still heavily lactating. Usually she will stay with her pups at the den while the rest of the pack goes out to hunt. This might indicate that the pups are getting old enough now to be left alone and soon the pack will abandon the den to start their normal wanderings around the reserve, hopefully they will swing past our area soon so that we can see the new additions to the pack for the first time. In the sighting however it was very cool to see how the Alpha female claimed the majority of the remains of two Impala fawns that the pack killed.

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Lion sightings have been good, but since the rain has fallen the Beho Beho Pride has become more difficult to find as they have moved into the vast wilderness to our north where there are fewer roads. They are however still doing very well and all the members of the pride are still looking strong and healthy, they were spotted just a few days ago relaxing near the Beho Beho River. Luckily the Black Panther Pride has stepped up to the challenge and they have been regulars around the Lake Tagalala area. A particular sighting stands out where the whole pride joined a standoff between 4 Wild Dogs and a clan of Spotted Hyena. The Hyena and Dogs dispersed pretty quickly after the heavyweights of the African bush ran in to investigate the noise, however one of the adult lionesses charged after the Hyena into the bush and after some pretty scary noises walked back out blooded. We were not sure if the blood was hers or if she got hold of a slow Hyena.

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Right now we are planning some more changes to the camp, some big some small, but I will not give away anything yet. At the beginning of next season we will reveal what we have been up to, although some of the guests coming to visit us from December might already notice a few changes. I will leave you with this cliff-hanger and we hope to see you soon,

Roel, Heribert, Vanessa, Godlisten, Saning’o, Idrissa and the whole Beho Beho family.

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Beho Beho Bushblog – Roel – 6th August

roelblog We had an amazing spectacle on a drive the other morning where we witnessed the Lionesses of the Beho Beho Pride hunt and take down not one, but two adult Wildebeest.

The morning started as normal with the Impala greeting us at the airstrip and the anticipation of what we might find. Thomas and Laura had been on safari for a few days already so I was going to focus more on the other things that The Selous has to offer, like beautiful and interesting birds, special plant life and the General Game that make up the bulk of sightings but often gets ignored. But then, about 20 odd minutes into the drive, Laura spots Lions, I glance over and can see immediately that they are interested in something. All we had to do is look in the same direction to see a herd of Niassa Wildebeest hanging around casually.

So I stopped the vehicle at a distance, this was all happening in a large open area so we could follow it all from a distance, and settled down to watch the scene unfold. I was wondering how these Lionesses were going to cross all the open ground in front of them, but they had that covered, (There is a reason this Pride is in very good condition and that is because there are some very experienced Lionesses that have been working together for years now.) the next moment a flurry of tawny ran at the Gnu from an unexpected angle and this drove the herbivores in a panic, straight at the rest of the Pride. Circling around prey to chase them into the willing paws of other pride members is a known strategy for Lions.

As the action started we moved forward to keep an eye on it all, and in the distance we saw two of the Lionesses grab and latch onto an adult Wildebeest cow, so we sped up a bit and went in closer to see who would win the day. A Wildebeest being grabbed does not always equate to breakfast for the Lions, although at two against one the Wildebeests chances were not very good. On the way there I noticed that the rest of the Pride had gotten hold of a second Gnu in the confusion and had pulled this one down already, the other three Lionesses were there and thus had more help.

In the end the Gnu did not manage to get away and the, I would imagine, happy Lions had two adult Wildebeest to choose from. As the Pride is quite successful at hunting the need to feed is not too high and we witnessed at both kills the youngsters copying the killing grip around the windpipe, just like they saw the adults do a couple of minutes ago, play and copying behavior is an important tool for young Lions learning the ropes.

Quite soon though the adult Lionesses starting to hear and see some disturbing sights, the commotion of the hunt had attracted some Spotted Hyena to the scene. The Lionesses did not like this as firstly they do not want to share any of the spoils of the hunt and secondly, the Hyenas would attack and kill the cubs if they got the chance. So with Chongo (the Lioness with one blind eye) in the front the Lionesses charged at and chased the Hyena around until they had gotten the message that they had to wait for the Lions to finish before they could get their share.

A little while later the Lioness we call Half Tail decided that it would be wise to move one of the kills into a more covered location, in order to hide it from the ever attentive Vultures. But her attempts were thwarted by the cubs who, although absolutely stuffed by that time, thought she was trying to steal the kill for herself and they fought and hung onto the carcass until she gave up, left the carcass out in the open and moved herself into some nice shade. Not long after the first Vultures did arrive proving that she was right. The activity from Vultures can attract unwanted attention from other carnivores that would like a free meal.

What a morning.

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Beho Beho Bushmail – July 2018

So yet another season has started at Beho Beho and we have already had some great guests come and visit our little corner of the world. Although the soul of the camp will never change, the look of the camp does. We have not been sitting idle during the rainy season and have made some changes here and there. The most obvious ones at the pool and Banda 10, at the pool we have removed the old roofing structure and built something more permanent while also creating a nice area for a meal or to relax during the day. At Banda 10 we went a bit further, we knocked out a wall on the side, extended the floor outwards and added a plunge pool. Of course this had to be tested and we all agreed that hanging in the plunge pool with a cold drink while looking out into the bush was a good thing. Up at Bailey’s Banda we made some changes in the living room but the most noticeable change is the new platform that was built were guests can rest during the day and fabulous dinners can be enjoyed at night. One of the changes that happened was not our choice, the lookout point at the Hippo-pool was washed away during the rains and cannot be used at this time, but we will be looking for a new spot to use.

 

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We also have some new family members that have joined us this season, although one of them is not too unfamiliar. First of all Heribert is back with us in the roll of Assistant Manager and we are very happy to have him back, as a man with his experience and background would be a valuable member of any team. In the Food and Beverage Department we had Vanessa join us from Namibia. She has worked there for many years in the Namib Desert and could not have picked a more contrasting place in terms of natural surroundings. But she brings with her a wealth of knowledge and ideas that we will gladly sample at mealtimes from now on. For the guests that were with us in December to February, they will remember Rama, a waiter that came to help us out over a few busy months. Rama used to work at Beho Beho previously but he decided back then that the big city of Dar es Salaam would suit him better so he transferred to the Oysterbay Hotel. During his three months in camp he realized that the bush is nicer than city life and when we asked him if he would like to come back to us on a permanent basis he happily agreed.

 

There is some sad news also unfortunately; The Gardener (a bull Elephant that frequented camp) has died recently due to injuries on his body and an ear, we do not know what happened to him but suspect it might have happened during a fight with another bull. The veterinarian team for the reserve was notified but by the time they made it down here it was too late and he had died. We all tell ourselves that is nature and the ‘circle-of-life’ and all that but it still makes us a bit sad, we shall miss him. Titan however is still going strong and seems to be keeping up as the largest bull in our area. He is a bit easier to recognize nowadays as he was volunteered to join a scientific study and he is now wearing a radio collar so that his movements can be tracked throughout the reserve, there are several other elephants in the reserve that are monitored this way. The reserve is also planning to collar some of the Wild Dogs in the same way in order to find out more about the health of the population.

 

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The Beho Beho pride of lions is still doing very well and the pride currently consists of the three males, five adult females, one juvenile and six cubs. They seem to be doing really well and are found quite regularly with a kill of some sort, as you can imagine it takes quite a bit of effort to keep all these stomachs full. As the dry season intensifies they might even become regulars in front of camp again where they can relax and wait for the Cape Buffalo and other game to come for a drink. The Black Panther Pride is also still in the area, we can see them towards Lake Tagalala and sometimes on the Little Serengeti. The females in the pride are doing an exceptional job taking care of their offspring and all eight juveniles are still with them, generally it is said that only one in four cubs will survive their first year, but we keep our fingers crossed that all the little ones will grow up strong.

 

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As I am writing this there is some rain on the way which is very unusual for this time of the year, normally we have no rain from about mid-May to November. It does not look like a big storm but it is unusual nonetheless. It kind of makes me think of my first season here at Beho Beho where we also experienced odd rains and then the November rains failed us and we went into a drought. We all hope it does not get to that again, as the wildlife suffers a lot during a drought and it is not nice to see them stressed as they have to move between ever dwindling food and water supplies. But we will keep positive and hope it does not get that far. Right now we are awaiting the arrival of the herds of Cape Buffalo that crowd our area in the dry season, one herd has already made its way here but the rest are still on their way (or so we hope). We are keen to find out if the white Buffalo cow will still be with them.

 

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Sincerely yours,

Roel, Heribert, Vanessa, Godlisten, Saning’o, Idrissa and the whole Beho Beho family.

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Beho Beho Bushblog – Saningo – 24th May

saningoblogIt is an unexplainable feeling that I had on my recent trip to Uganda, where I saw many things that I never even thought that I would see in my life.  The trip was quite a remarkable one, and I would like to thank everyone at Beho Beho who made this trip possible and especially Joel from Africa Reps who organised it all with Nkuringo Safaris and Lodges.

The highlights of the trip were quite different from what I expected before I arrived in Uganda, I was only thinking about Gorilla and Chimpanzee tracking, but when we actually got there, we were amazed at the number of exciting sightings and experiences that Uganda had to offer. I have always been fond of antelopes, so the Uganda kob and oribi, which was a first sighting for me, along with topi and hartebeest that I have not seen for a long time made me very happy. I had heard about the river Nile since being a child at primary school, so coming to this river was like a dream to me, a dream that I never hoped to realise.

In terms of bird sightings, I saw a number of species that were a ‘lifer’ for me, – Uganda Black Crowned Crane, Shoebill stork, Abyssinia Ground Hornbill and African Finfoot, as we drove from Entebbe to Lake Mburu, Bwindi, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Kibale and Murchison Falls on our ten day trip.

Gorilla tracking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest was an amazing day, a bit tough going up and down the steep mountains in the dense forest, but when we found them we were so excited that we certainly forgot about the walk. It was a real privilege to be amongst these wonderful creatures who seemed unconcerned that we were so close to them as they munched on their breakfast leaves.

Tracking the chimpanzees in Kibale was a fantastic experience, quite different from the gorillas, as they spend most of their time in the tree canopy.

I would like to thank everyone at Nkuringo Safaris especially our guides Patrick and Julius, for driving us  all over the country. It was also very interesting to be accompanied by Ally and Theo the guides from Madagascar Classic Collection who accompanied us on the trip as it allowed us to swap stories and experiences. My colleague guide Godlisten was more than a colleague, he was like an elder brother to all of us making sure that we took full advantage of this wonderful opportunity.

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Beho Beho Bushblog – Saningo – 19th February

saningoblogAfter Christmas and New Year pass, there have been some great sightings. Amongst the action I saw two spotted hyenas taking down a wildebeest cow. Hyenas in most areas have a reputation of being scavengers, as I recall this is the way I thought about hyenas, I also heard the same thought by the local people about hyenas being scavengers. When I came into the safari industry is when I realize that they can take down big game.

I have never seen hyenas in action like that day, although at the beginning of the season there was a big clan of hyenas that wanted to take down a big old buffalo bull next to the structure at the airstrip, but unfortunately, we could not see the commotion. Eventually they manage to take down that buffalo as well.

This day with the wildebeest started with chasing and finished in a big fight as the wildebeest was also fighting back. It continued until the two hyenas manage to pull the cow down. That is a way the nature always takes its course, there is always a saying in nature which I agree with, that says, wherever there is life, there also must be death.

Other game sightings have included two prides of lions, a pride we call the Beho Beho pride and the second pride named the Black Panther pride that roams the shore of Lake Tagalala. In the Beho Beho pride there are several lionesses with new cubs, I imagine it’s going to be a strong pride by the next season. Bird-wise, we have been so lucky with a nice diversity of migrants and non-migrant birds, this ground horn-bill shot seems to be among the few good pictures of the day.

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Beho Beho Bushblog – Roel – 12th February

roelblogThis story I am writing is from a while back already, the 26th of December 2017 actually. That morning I went out with the Hay family for a drive and we were heading towards the Little Serengeti and maybe even beyond towards Lake Manze depending on what we would find along the way.

We had some nice sightings along the way of Cape Buffalo and general game, but when we got to the start of the Little Serengeti, there where the thick forest starts to give way to the open grassland, we encountered a small herd of Elephants. At first I thought they were a bit nervous as, without me knowing this, we had driven into the middle of the somewhat scattered herd. Normally when this happens the Elephants will either re-group and carry on with their lives or they stay nervous and we move on. After a few minutes the Elephants were still not really calming down but strangely they were not really interested in us and the vehicle, even the Yellow Baboons were more on their toes than normal. So I decided to move on and let them all relax and for us to go see what the plains would bring us.

We did not get far as we barely moved 50 meters and somebody in the back yelled “LIONS!!”, so I stopped and looked to my left and saw an amazing sighting happening. These Lions, they turned out to be the Black Panther Pride, had stumbled across a Masai Giraffe that had just given birth and they were eying the newborn for a meal.

The feelings in the car were a bit mixed but in the end we did watch the sighting unfold until the Lions had taken down their meal. This can be hard to watch as it did take a long time to happen, we were there for over an hour and during that time the mother defended her offspring admirably. But, in the end, she had to leave and rescue herself as she was getting more and more tired. The calf itself never stood a chance as one of its back legs was broken.

A morning never to forget even though it is a though sighting to watch.

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Beho Beho Bush Blog – Start of Season 2018/19

This is now my second season at Beho Beho and what a difference between the two. Last season was mostly influenced by the lack of rain in The Selous with all its accompanying drama and events. This season however is very different.

The rains that eluded us the year before arrived in full force in October already making the reserve look beautiful with the rich green colours of the vegetation and the sparks of colour brought by wildflowers, birds and insects. Very soon afterwards the impala gave birth en mass adding frolicking shades of reddish-brown to the mix. The rains have been very regular and the flush of grasses and abundance of water have attracted many herds of Wildebeest and Zebra to our area.

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We have seen a lot of The Gardener this season as he still comes into camp regularly and diligently picks the weeds from our Aloe gardens with his trunk. At times he can be quite a roadblock as he now seems to think that his best place to rest is in between Banda 2 and the Main Area, blocking the path for the guests coming from that side of camp. Unfortunately we have not seen much of Freddy this season except for a handful of sightings around the Managers Bandas, he might have moved on into a territory of his own now he is old and big enough.

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Since the beginning of the season we have had a new pride of lions around our area, by now we just refer to them as the Beho Beho Pride. Five adult females make up the core of this group and there are three males attending them. The oldest female in the Pride had two cubs in the beginning of the season but lost one very early on, leaving the one cub to harass the older Lions into playing with her. Over time we observed the males mating with most of the other females in the Pride and this has resulted in 5 new additions to the group. One cub was born about three months ago and we just had confirmation that the Half-Tail Lioness has four cubs of her own (sorry no pictures yet, but we will work on that). From what we have observed it looks like at least the Lioness we call Chongo, also has cubs stashed away somewhere. These little ones should provide us with plenty of entertainment over the next couple of months as they get introduced into the Pride and to each other.

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It does seem that the dominance of the Lions in close proximity to our camp has had an influence of the rest of the predators, and rightly so. The three males seem to be very aggressive towards the Spotted Hyenas, and the clans in the area are a whole lot quieter nowadays. The new Lions have killed about 4 or 5 Hyena that we know of, this is not for fun or sport, but to get rid of competition.

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One of the best things coming with these rains is the eventual arrival of the Northern Carmine Bee-Eaters. They have arrived in big numbers this season, so have many other species of birds, and entertain us with their aerial acrobatics as they swoosh around the vehicles as we bumble along. This can also be observed when they do it to other larger animals, who, as they move around, flush insects like Grasshoppers that the Bee-Eaters can then swoop down onto and eat. Just before Christmas I observed an irate Southern Ground-Hornbill snapping its bill at the Carmines as they were grabbing the food right from under his nose.

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There have been a few changes in camp too. Phil and Tricia decided that after their many years in the Bush of Africa it was time to move back to civilization. They left Tanzania at the beginning of November to start their new lives, although Phil will be arranging safaris for people and will guide some of these him-self. It just shows that once Africa is in your blood it is very difficult to separate yourself from its magic.

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So, as you cannot run a camp like Beho Beho by yourself, I have had some help over the busy Christmas period. Elizabeth has come all the way from South Africa to assist with the running of camp and adding a female’s flourish to the place and bringing with her many stories of travels through Africa and the rest of the world. Another old bush enthusiast is Sal, the man-with-the-plan in the kitchen. His experience in running bush-kitchens made quite the difference as meal after meal came out to entice the guests over the holiday period. “I was not that hungry but still finished my plate” is a quote that I heard many times over the last few weeks. On the guiding front we had Mike (Michael) join the team, coming from South Africa. He brings with him many years of guiding in some of the prime places in the Kruger Park area of South Africa.

Our trainee guide, Idrissa, is doing very well and we are confident that soon our guests will be entertained by him as he will start taking out drives by himself. He is interested in a broad number of subjects in the bush and likes to get out with other guides whenever he can to learn more. Both him and Saning’o have expressed the desire to further themselves and become qualified walking guides, so when you visit do not be surprised to see one of these two join for a walk, as experience is the best teacher out there. Godlisten can attest to this as his persistence paid out and he is taking walks out regularly and enjoys it a lot. Being out on foot just gives and extra dimension to guiding.

So now we are in 2018 and in only three months or so camp will close down for the main rainy season. We still have quite a few guests to welcome to Beho Beho and The Selous, and we are looking forward to it. In a place like this you never know what will happen and where but we will try and be there when it does.

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