Beho Beho Bushblog – Mike – 5th December

     The evenings have been filled with the sounds of lions roaring and in the last week, rather spectacular thunderstorms have moved over The Rufiji River Valley. Rain has fallen now and the bush has turned green in just a few days. Impala fawns can be seen everywhere and the wild flowers are making a return. It was my first opportunity to go out on a drive with the manager Roel and the other guides and see the property upon which Beho Beho prides itself and its visitors. Giraffe can be spotted on almost every outing and the landscape, with its tall palm tree thickets provide for some exceptional sightings. Wildebeest, Zebra, Buffalo, Eland, Wathog and of course Elephant were also on my first few drives. A couple days ago Saningo and Godlisten reported seeing three bush pigs walking past the camp water hole. There are no guests in camp at the moment and I have been using this opportunity to get to know the staff and fellow guides and have been orientating myself with the procedure to expect when they arrive.

Yesterday afternoon I was out learning roads with the Roel, when we came across the Beho Beho pride of lions. We were lucky enough to witness courtship behaviour between the Yellow-maned male and one of the lionesses clearly in estrous. It’s a typical love-hate relationship when lions mate and the growls and snarls could be heard for some distance away. The general game in the area didn’t seem too bothered by the lions and some watched eagerly from the edges of the clearing where the mating pair were. A while later we were able to enjoy a view of a small breeding herd of elephants that happened to stroll past without even taking note of the big cats.

Leopard vocalization can also be heard at times, particularly in the evening and I am waiting in anticipation to see my first one here in The Selous. The first thing that struck me about the reserve is the diversity of habitat types that one finds and also how fast the habitat changes into the next. There are Miombo woodland areas adjoining vast open plains and there are palm tree thickets as well as riverine forest areas. We also find dense rainforest on the slopes of the surrounding mountains and giant Baobab trees are scattered throughout the reserve.

Mention of the birdlife at Beho Beho must also be made as it is some of the best in Africa. Bee-eaters, kingfishers, rollers and cuckoos to name a few are some of the most colourful birds one might encounter and they are abundant this time of the year. Eagles, accipitors, storks, waterbirds, communal birds and vultures can also be seen on a daily basis. The area around Beho Beho is alive with animal life at the moment and it is an exciting time of the year for guide and guest alike. I look forward to the coming weeks as it can only get better. My only hope is that the Beho Beho pride will continue to grow in number and that they continue to take up territory here.

It is a humbling experience to guide at Beho Beho and one becomes immersed in its marvelous diversity of fauna and flora. Having been here only a short time I already rate it very highly. What a wonderful place it is and if you have not yet seen it, I thoroughly encourage you to do so.

 

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Beho Beho Bushblog – Saningo – 10th November

saningoblogThe short rains that started recently have turned the scenery green. It has also made the antelopes more active and they are enjoying this weather. A few days ago when I was out on an afternoon drive, I drove towards the battlefields where I saw a nice herd of impalas that were actively leaping all over the place. On the other side there was an elephant matriarchal herd, it seemed like there were two herds that encountered one another there and formed a bigger herd.

Predator sightings have been quite good, we often see the Beho Beho pride that lives around camp. In this pride there is at least one lioness that looks like she is pregnant, she has been walking in camp and sometimes sleeps on the flat stone pathways, it is this behaviour which made us think that maybe she is searching for the place to give birth. This lioness is more distinctive from other the lioness because of her short tail and new wound on her shoulder.

African wild dogs have been so elusive for almost two months, as they have been denning we have not seen them moving around. About a week ago, there was a nice pack of wild dog we saw on the plains in front of camp as we were having breakfast. We drove towards them and we found them with many puppies, as there were no other guests in camp, we took Mama B (Sarah Bailey), Mr. Simba and all the management and guides. At some point we saw these wild dogs start greeting one another and making a little whistling and eventually start hunting, it was so nice to see them chasing waterbuck. It was such a special evening.

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Beho Beho Bushblog – Saningo – 19th October

 As we have reached the height of the dry season, there have been some great sightings of game congregations close to the water sources. Some of the permanent water sources we have in the Selous Game Reserve include natural springs, lakes and the great Rufiji River. Lake Manze is among the lakes in the Selous that tends to attract a great number of different game species, which includes herbivores, predators and giant reptiles like Crocodiles. The drying out of this lake and the other water sources is the main reason for all these different species to gravitate to the much needed water and interactions between different species abounds. Lake Manze as it keeps drying out much more rapidly than other lakes means that in order to get to the water, the animals need to negotiate large sections of cloying mud flats and some times they get stuck! A few days ago my drive started as a relatively quiet morning, but by the time we were approaching the lake we started seeing plenty of herds of wildebeest heading down toward the lake to drink. Reaching the lake and we had a very good sighting of a dead wildebeest that was stuck in the mud, crocodile were the first to scavenge from the carcass, it was so nice to watch crocodile scavenging on land and not in the water as we would normally see. A few minutes later came some vultures and hyenas to share the dead wildebeest, it was a very active morning but the action did not stop there. It seems like the lions must have been hiding in the bushes and after seeing the vultures landing in the swamp they came to inspect what was going on and that is when they found vultures and a few hyenas feeding on the wildebeest. So the lions eventually took over the carcass in the end but everyone got a little share before them.

Another great sighting that I had in the last few weeks when I went out on an afternoon game drive towards Selous Grave and I found a small herd of elephant were crushing and munching on the palm bushes, little did we or the elephant know but under one of the bushes there was an African civet hiding away, but now pretty much surrounded by elephant and losing his palm bush cover fast. He eventually escaped his precarious position but not without a bit of a chase from the elephants.

One of my “lifers” sighting was at our hippo pool when I saw a crocodile crawling on the back of a live hippo. The hippo seemed not too bothered at all. I have never seen this happening and it was a great excitement to me and to the guests.

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Beho Beho Bushblog – Tricia – 16th October

This season has felt more magical than seasons past. And we’ve made some memories over the years that are difficult to beat.

 

In most seasons, I’ve just managed a glimpse – one glimpse all season – of a Sunset Moth as it flitted out of view; in this season I’ve watched them on many consecutive afternoons frolicking around flowering Cassia trees. And even now that their heyday has passed I still find one occasionally floating away through the trees.

In past seasons I’ve rarely seen Impala Lilies – also called Desert Roses – in bloom; this year they seem to be blooming all around. Even the ones in our garden have come into bloom this year.

And the sightings from camp! This office arguably has the best view, at least from any office I’ve ever worked in – with frequent visits from elephant and bushbuck over the years; I’ve even watched Wild Dogs sprint through camp on several occasions.

 

But 2017 is the season of the lion. At least so far.

 

As you will have read in previous blogs, the Beho Beho pride has kept a strong hold of its territory, and has spent most of the last few months in the valley, and many of those nights in camp itself.

 

These days, it’s not unusual for a morning meeting to end with a warning to staff that the lions are in camp and to use extreme caution during the work day, as we ferry the chaps up and down to the staff village in a vehicle.

 

But the lions’ presence does not outweigh the parched throats of the buffalo, wildebeest, waterbuck and impala, seeking water from the water hole or at the pools in the Msine below.

During breakfast this morning I listened with our guest, to a herd of buffalo stampeding in the river bed below. Their hooves clanging off the rocks. It’s one of those sounds I always pause for. Phil rushed out of the office – maybe the lions have attacked.

 

But a few minutes later we saw the buffalo rising onto the ridge in their Roman army formation. They stood tightly together, and as we casually continued chatting, then spread out along the ridge again.

 

Suddenly the buffaloes began alarm calling, and dust was in the air. I caught a flash of a lion attacking the back of a younger buffalo. Phil saw the male lion swing his head around the neck for what should have been the killing bite on its throat, but at the same moment the herd regrouped and charged the lions, sparing its brethen’s all but imminent fate.

 

Taking a closer look we watched as the buffalo accounted for their herd and began to move away beyond Christopher’s Baobab. Half-tail, a lioness from the Beho Beho pride sulked in and out of the long grasses smelling the meal that got away, with a fresh wound on her right shoulder.

 

The buffalo may have won this battle, but the water will tempt them near the lions’ den again.

 

 

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Beho Beho Bushblog – Phil – 9th October

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We are always writing about our sightings of the big impressive carnivores of the African savannah – but we should not forget the little guys!

Just as interesting and sometimes rarer to see, they can be really fun to watch if you are lucky enough to spend some time watching them.

A few that we see in Selous are:

Dwarf Mongoose: These little predators look cute and cuddly but they sport little dagger-like teeth great for dealing with tough little invertebrates like beetles, spiders, crickets and scorpions.

If they don’t run away, watching a foraging business (the plural for a group of mongoose) can be real fun with many finding food and others standing sentry duty.

A very interesting and amusing relationship has also been recorded of a certain species of hornbill foraging with dwarf mongoose and picking up any insects that are scared up from the grasses as the business make its way through the bush. These hornbills have also been recorded giving the mongoose a wake up call in the morning and chivvying them on should they be slow to get up.

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Banded Mongoose: Another but larger social mongoose species these are a fairly regular sighting for us in the Selous. Again great fun to watch and can sometimes be seen throwing hard shelled food items like millipedes and snails and dashing them off of rocks. They can also be very brave when confronted by a potential predator, banding together to mob animals as big as Jackals and large eagles like Martial eagles.

The have even been known to form rescue missions to save a captured member of their business.

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Genet: If we see this nocturnal feline-like creature it is generally a pair of eyes shining back at us from its resting place in a tree or close to camp sliding between the shadows on the hunt at night. They are stunningly marked, highly agile and active little ambush and chasing hunters of small mammals rodents and invertibrates, not long ago we witnessed a failed attempt to catch a scrub hare on our airstrip. Unfortunately getting a photo can be difficult being that it’s nocturnal and it is very seldom that you would see them in the day time.

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Civet: A genets larger and ground dwelling cousin, the Civet is equally beautifully marked, also nocturnal, but much more of a generalist in its hunting behavior, it covers large areas at night as it simply snuffles along in a stealthy walk taking opportunities as they present themselves and are generally not picky in what they eat. Fruits and berries supplement a diet of invertebrates, their strong constitution enables them to deal with the noxious Giant Africa millipedes whom everyone else leaves alone. We have also witnessed civets feeding from large carcasses however not if larger carnivores are around. We see them in camp at night and fairly regularly on game drives, but even if we don’t see them their sign is always visible every morning, their tracks can be seen walking the roads and their territorial middens, called civetrys, are widespread and prominent.

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Beho Beho Bushblog – Godlisten – 13th September

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A great morning and a great time for our guests with Lion and Hyena, but not that good for Wildebeest and poor Cape Buffalo, and that is because they lost there lives after being killed by Lions and Hyena.

 

All this actions happened in the morning, five minutes from the camp at the Beho Beho International Airstrip. First, Lions killed a Wildebeest. We were on the way heading to Little Serengeti, we stopped at the airstrip, watched Hyenas moving around and once they ran away for a few minutes we heard Lion growling a few meters from where we were sat. We decide to move in because it was behind the bush and we found a big pride of Lions, nine in total, three big male lions, five lionesses and one cub. Two of the big males having eaten enough already, meant it was time for the one younger male lion to have his share. Most of the kills are made by the females but males always start to eat and then the females follow, and this is to make sure that the males stay healthy and strong enough to defend the cubs who when below one years old could be at danger from any rival males who may try to take over the female pride.

 

After three days another lovely sight was Hyena and Cape buffalo, this happened a few meters from where the Lion kill was previously, it was really interesting and was a good breakfast for the Hyena but as usual the vultures were there waiting for their time to clear everything up.

All this just at the airstrip!

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Beho Beho Bushblog – Roel – 8th September

As I am about to go on leave for a couple of days, I was thinking back on what an amazing work cycle it has been. We have had great guests coming to camp who all came to seek the relative peace and quiet of Beho Beho and The Selous, and they were not disappointed. Our little corner of what is still a vast wilderness is far removed from the other camps and seeing anybody else on a drive is still an exception, making sure that the majority of our sightings are experienced in quiet and solitude. And what sightings they have been.

The Beho Beho Pride, they have now been in our area for the whole season so we can give them a name now, is still very active in our area. The three males, Mr. Black, Mr. Blonde and Mr. Orange (I just watched Reservoir Dogs) seem to have a strong grasp on the area and can be heard most nights from camp claiming their territory. As for the females, they seem to be a tight nit group that is mostly seen together. The fact that Chongo (the one with the bad eye) is looking healthy and strong testified that her cooperation with the pride as a whole is going well. If she were left alone the lack of stereoscopic vision might hinder her hunting abilities severely and her condition could deteriorate.

As the bush has been drying up quickly we have started to venture more often towards Lake Manze, as the water there attracts good numbers of general game. We were glad to find the Manze Pride still together, the two females and what are now two sub adults. It is great to see they are doing well and how much the two youngsters have grown, the young male is far bigger than his sis now and will be his moms size soon. The young female is quite a feisty character, as I witnessed her stealing an Impala kill off two Spotted Hyena single-handedly and then defending it with vigor when the Hyena wanted it back.

At Lake Tagalala the water levels are still very high due to the amount of rain we had during the long rains, this means there are still plenty of Hippo and Nile Crocs to keep us busy. Also the Heronries are still quite active, providing us with beautiful sightings and entertainment. If we are lucky we find the Black Panther Pride on the lake shore, still complete they make quite a sight with three adult females, a sub-adult female and eight cubs. Keeping all those stomachs full must be quite the headache for the adults.

The Wild Dogs have been more elusive the last two weeks or so. We believed they had a den-site somewhere along the base of Kipalala Hill, which is the mountain that we look out on from camp. But they might have decided to move away due to the lion activity in the area. On their forays to go hunting the Wild Dogs would have smelled and seen both the Beho Beho Pride and the Black Panther Pride often, as the lions pose a risk to the adults and certainly the pups they would have moved to a safer area. But the pups should be approaching three months of age soon and then the pack will abandon the den for the year and start roaming around again.

Leopards are as elusive as ever in The Selous, but a young female has been quite a few times now in the area around the airstrip. She is still quite shy when encountered during daylight hours, but when the sun has set she gains confidence and behaves like she owns the place. The saying goes “a Leopard never loses its spots” and that is true. Over the years I have often encountered a Leopard that would disappear in thin air, and it happened again recently. On my way to Lake Manze we found a Leopard and it had just missed some Impala during a hunt. We saw the cat briefly as it walked into a small drainage line. I gave it a few seconds, as I did not want to scare it, and then moved my vehicle slowly forward so that we could see into the drainage-line. Gone, nothing to see, not even signs in the sand of a running animal. We checked around and peered into the thickets until our eyes fell out but we never saw or heard anything of that cat that day.

As I mentioned before the bush is drying up rapidly now and thus the spring in the Msine River and the waterhole at camp are becoming a big draw for animals in need of water. One of the big upsides of the heavy and late rains we had is that we still have good numbers of Zebra and Gnu in the area and they are now being joined by large herds of Cape Buffalo. During most days the animals can be seen from camp gathering on the plains in front before they gather the courage to go down into the valley to drink. The white Buffalo cow is still around and trying to spot her amongst the hundreds of dark shapes can be challenging, but it is nice to see she is still doing well. It is also worth noting that the elephants still know about the fresh water to be had in and around camp, breeding herds can be seen on drives and from the camp almost every day. The bulls however are bolder and come into camp to feed and drink, allowing some of the guests with close-up encounters from their bandas.

So as we now move into September the winds are picking up a bit and eventually they should bring with them the rains. We all hope that the Short Rains will not elude us again as they did last season when the rains failed and the wildlife suffered because of it. By the time I will go on leave next we should, hopefully, have had some rains and the bush will vibrant with lush greens and abundant water. But we will have to wait and see, Africa is unpredictable.  

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