Beho Beho Bushmail – End of year 2016

Since the last Bushmail in October things have changed in the Selous. While the area directly around Beho Beho has received little rain other parts of the Selous have had some decent showers already. This makes for a hard life for the local herd of Impala and the resident male Gnus, whereas most of the Buffalo herds have moved towards the areas with good rains to find fresh grass. The stragglers of those herds have been getting into trouble with our local clans of Spotted Hyena, who now have the numbers and confidence to take down adult buffalo when they come down to the Msini River to drink.

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In recent days we have had more rain though and hopefully that will encourage the grass to grow and give our ‘locals’ some reprieve from the hardships of a prolonged dry season.

But every cloud has a silver lining and the waterhole has been spectacular during the days and nights attracting animals to our doorstep to come for a drink. Almost every day will bring at least one Elephant bull into camp but otherwise there is a succession of Impala, Warthog, Waterbuck and Yellow Baboon coming in for a sip or two. But the nights have really stood out with large congregations of Hippo, Buffalo and Elephant vying for a spot at the waterhole with good numbers of Hyena skulking around waiting for their turn.

Although no new Lion pride has taken the area around Beho Beho over since the mysterious disappearance of Bibi’s pride in the beginning of the season, we have been getting good sightings of them. From time to time the Phantom Pride, whose matriarch we nicknamed “The Bus” (yes, she is that big), comes through the Msini Valley and into camp. One morning, Phil and Roel came to camp early to investigate and found the entire pride in between Banda 4 and 5. We had also heard rumors that the Black Panther Pride had some additions and luckily Roel found a small part of the pride at Lake Tagalala recently where one of the older lionesses showed off her three new cubs.

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After the usual dry spell of the Wild Dogs during their denning season, various packs have been spotted roaming around. Sometimes we see them from camp on the plains at the big Baobab and from our vantage point we really get a good view of their tactics when chasing game. It can also be fun to watch them amble up to a territorial Gnu bull to see if he is willing to run away so that they can give chase, only to be chased themselves. The lone bulls do not survive out there alone because they do not know how to defend themselves!

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So we look back to another year with so much happening around us and we are happy that we can welcome our guests to visit us in this little piece of the world where time almost stands still.

Greetings from Phil, Tricia, Roel, Nico, Simba, Saning’o, Godlisten and the rest of the Beho Beho Family. We all hope you had a festive season filled with joy and loved ones.

 

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Centenary Blog Sir Frederick Courteney Selous DSO 31st Dec 1851 – 4th Jan 1917 ….Part 2

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Sir Frederick Courteney Selous DSO

31st Dec 1851 – 4th Jan 1917….Part 2

During this second stint in Africa, Selous formed an association with Cecil Rhodes, whom was at the time one of the richest men in the world and was premier of the Cape. Selous used his knowledge of the area to lead an expedition of pioneers up in to Mashonaland and formed a colony in the area and was later instrumental in the formation of Rhodesia. Working under the employ of Rhode’s chartered company he was paid in De Beers shares and hence need not worry about money anymore.

Selous returned once more to England during which time he married Gladys Maddy with whom he had two sons. However Selous soon went back to Africa to fight in the first Metabele war. He was shot and injured but survived a flesh wound to the chest. This uprising was eventually quashed and Selous bought land near Bulawayo and settled there with his wife in 1896 – though not for long.

When Leander Jameson, with the full knowledge of Cecil Rhodes, attacked the Boers (Colloquial term for the Afrikaner people) in the Transvaal, with whom Selous had always kept good relations, in an attempt to gain control of the area where gold had been recently been discovered. Selous was disgusted with Jameson and Rhodes.

Then the Mashona (tribe) uprising along with the 2nd Metabele war, which Selous fought in, put Selous and his family in great danger and resulted in a disappointed Selous moving back to England. It was though during this time that Selous met 2 men of consequence fighting alongside them in the 2nd Metabele war. One Robert Baden Powell and Frederick Russell Burnham, who were both extraordinary men in their own right and were the inspiration for and in essence the founders of the International Scouting movement.

Upon Selous’s return to England he and his wife settled on an estate in Surrey, where Selous continued to write and enjoy the life of an English country gent. His writings found their way into the hands of US President Theodore Roosevelt and the pair became firm friends.

This friendship lead to his return to Africa through Mombasa as he accompanied Teddy Roosevelt, beginning his famous African hunting safari in 1909.  Selous did not lead the safari as he felt the party was too large, but was involved in its logistics and out-fitting in addition to joining as a member from time to time along the way.

In 1914 the First World War began and Selous was repeatedly turned down in his requests to be drafted. It is said that even Lord Kitchener himself turned him down.

However in February 1915 following a disastrous attempt to land near 10,000 men at the coastal settlement of Tanga and the ensuing slaughter by 120 Germans aided by 1,000 local Askaris (soldiers), Selous was eventually accepted into the 25th Battalion of Royal Fusiliers, or as they were otherwise known: “the old and the bold” this description however is a bit misleading – these may not have been young recruits (although some were) but they were a wide range of adventurers, bushmen, outdoorsmen and overall tough characters. Selous was initially brought in as Lieutenant and company commander. The Fusiliers first mission together was a success, even though they took heavy casualties, when they attacked a German radio station way up in the North East of Tanzania in a place called Bukoba and remained this the only British victory in East Africa for months.

Selous now promoted to Captain and having been in early 1916 awarded the Distinguished Service Order for excellent service, moved south, marching from Morogoro and then Kisaki and crossing the Mgeta river arrived to our beloved Beho Beho area. The engagements that followed have had many versions told about them, however what we know for sure is that:

On 4th January at around 1030am, Selous, in the area we now call the battlefields and leading his men from the front, moved slightly out of cover to scout a nearby wooded ridgeline with his field glasses (binoculars) whereby he was shot by a German soldier in the neck the projectile hitting his field glasses on the way.

He was buried were he fell.

He was in life awarded:

The Founders Medal of the Royal Geographic Society for his surveys and explorations over: 20 years in Zambesia.

The British South Africa Medal.

Distinguished Service Order.

In 1922  several smaller sections of game reserve were amalgamated into one and named Selous Game Reserve posthumously in his honour. Frederick Courteney Selous’s death was greatly and sincerely mourned, such were the man’s achievements in life and his character.

His legacy lives on here in Selous G. R.

Two quotes I like pertaining to Selous and his death are as follows:

Theodore Roosevelt said of him:

“There was never a more welcome guest to the White House than Selous. He told us stories of his hunting adventures. He not only spoke simply and naturally, but he acted the part, first of himself and then of the game, before the whole scene was vivid before our eyes. He led a singularly adventurous and fascinating life, and he closed his life as such a life ought to be closed, by dying in battle for his country, while rendering her valiant and effective service”

Major Philip Jacobus Pretorious DSO was Chief Scout for General Smuts (then in overall command of the British East African campaign) and in his book Jungle Man Pretorious  wrote:

“Captain Selous, of the 25th Royal Fusiliers, who had hunted big game north of the Zambesi  even before my time, was buried close to were he fell in the African wilds, where the lions serenade the spirit of a great shikaree. I think he would have liked to die, in the face of the enemy, and to be buried where he sleeps his long rest in the remote jungle land”

The picture in this blog contains Selous’ actual field glasses, which he was lifting to his eyes as the fatal bullet hit, first the binoculars and then Captain Selous. The binoculars were picked up by Frontiersman Jonathon Taylor whom was with Captain Selous at the time.

Taylors grandson (also a Jonathon) and his wife Rosalind, we are privileged to have as our guests this week, they brought the binoculars with them and we have spent the day today piecing together the events of those fateful days, on site at the battlegrounds and at Captain Selous’ grave. What we have pieced together really is deserving of another blog in the next weeks.

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Centenary Blog Sir Frederick Courteney Selous DSO 31st Dec 1851 – 4th Jan 1917 ….Part 1

philblogOn the 4th January we celebrate the life of an extraordinary man whom died fighting in the service of his country just a few kilometres from our beloved Beho Beho and whose simple grave still stands there today.

F.C. Selous, by all accounts was an athletic man with striking blues eyes, a man whose presence dominated the room. He came to be known in his time as a great explorer, adventurer, naturalist, one of the first conservationists and, late on in life, a soldier. The books he wrote surrounding his exploits inspired people across the western world. He was what we might now call a “great white hunter” and he also represents what we would see as the classic English country gent of the late 1800s.

In order to give justice to the life of such a great man, I shall split this blog into 2 parts, the second of which we shall post on the anniversary of his death.

The name Selous dates back to 1600s Jersey, when an Englishman, Philip Slow married a Jersey girl and in their son’s name, on the birth certificate Slow was transliterated (because Jersey was francophone at the time) into Selous.

Fredrick Courteney Selous was born into a well off family; his father was, for a period, the chairman of the London Stock Exchange.  He attended the English private school of Rugby, but he was not the most academic of students and never graduated. Sent then to Switzerland and Germany by his father to complete his schooling, he was inspired by the works of Dr David Livingstone and more interested in exploring the wilds of the continent, hunting and collecting. He later had to flee Prussia to escape imprisonment after knocking a game warden unconscious who caught him stealing buzzard eggs for his collection.

Following this his father relented to his son’s childhood dream to become a hunter in Africa and so in 1871 Frederick landed in what is now Port Elizabeth in South Africa with £400 in his pocket.

He quickly made his way north to Matabeleland (now part of Zimbabwe) and presented himself at the court of the Matabele king, Lobengula, requesting permission to hunt big game in his kingdom. Lobengula laughed at Selous, being just a 21 year old boy. The King told him to go where ever he wished, most likely thinking he would never see Selous again.

The following 7 years were spent in high adventure and hunting, notably for elephant, with which Selous met initial success. However towards the end of this period, he had a bad run, encountering very few elephants, suffering disease, swiftly dwindling funds and nearly being trampled by an elephant cow fuelling his decision to return to England in 1880. It should be noted here that these were different times and that although it would be easy to see Selous’s hunting of elephant in a negative light due to the state of elephant numbers today (mostly due to illegal poaching and habitat loss), Selous actually hunted rather few elephant compared to his contemporaries and it is believed that this is because he was one of the first of his generation to voice the opinion that the hunting of elephant at those levels was unsustainable to the overall population.

Selous used this interlude to write a book about his adventures – A Hunter’s wanderings in Africa, published in 1881. The book was a big hit and sold out 3 separate editions. This was just the first of Selous’ many literary works based on his African escapades. The epic nature of his adventures captured the imagination of many, both in the UK and USA. Today you would have to part with a good few hundred pounds to get yourself a 1st edition of one of his books.

As we all know though Africa gets into your blood and Selous was soon back in Africa and back at the Lebengula’s court. This time he wished to engage in African exploration and to collect and hunt specimens for the British Natural History Museum. Selous collected in his lifetime over 5000 plant and animal specimens, including 524 mammals from 3 continents, greatly adding to the understanding of natural history at the time….To be continued.

Acknowledgement:  

I used numerous sources in the research of this blog but chief amongst them was the wonderful book Wild Heart of Africa: The Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania. Featuring numerous authors and edited by Rolf D. Boldus

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Beho Beho Bushblog – Phil and Idrissa – 14 December

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Safari is not about just the big cats and although we love to see these iconic predators, there are plenty of other equally cunning and ferocious hunters out in the savannah of the Selous.

It is quite normal to see bones and animal skulls whilst out on safari in the African savannah and that would lead us to believe that death occurs quite frequently, the reason for those deaths could be from natural causes or from predators hunting prey. In times of drought this happens more often, when lack of water and subsequently nutritious vegetation, means that the herbivores lose condition and start to become malnourished. This in turn makes them easier prey.

 

For example: could you imagine that such animals like a clan of hyena, whom we tend to think of as merely scavenging from the true hunters like lions, could actually take down something as big and powerful as an adult buffalo?

Because that is exactly what our resident hyena clan has been doing down in the Msine river this last week. This clan whom we know to number at least 25 are proving to be a formidable force and have successfully hunted 3 buffalo in this time. This goes a long way to supporting the fact that hyenas are actually more successful hunters than lion and that quite often other apex predators attempt to scavenge from the hyena instead of the other way around, as can be seen in one of these photos where three hyena are seeing off a crocodile whom was trying to steal from the hyena’s hard fought catch.

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It’s not just the large mammals that are doing the hunting around here either, sometimes we are lucky enough to enjoy watching some of the smaller predators like birds doing what they do best. This week we got to watch this Lilac-breasted roller dealing with its centipede prey, hitting it repeatedly on a branch to nullify the venomous sting before swallowing it whole.

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Some predators need great patience to successfully hunt. This red-necked falcon alighted in a tree, right next to where we were stood at a hippo pool. Seemingly unfazed by how close we were, it sat waiting and watching for doves to come down to drink. Although we did not get to see a successful hunt from this falcon, it is not often that you are afforded such a close up view of this beautiful raptor in the wild.

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On the other side of the coin, where there is death there is also life and although it seems strange to think of a crocodile as cute, this is exactly what we felt when we spotted these little hatchlings whilst boating on Lake Tagalala this week.

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Beho Beho Bushblog – Saningo – 5th December

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It has been a good start since I came back from home for my off days. I was away for about three weeks, actually my first two weeks were just for family excitements and other home life, my mind concentrating on them. But the third week I was starting to miss my job, missing going out on drives, boating excursions , hosting at main camp, and also miss my entire Beho Beho team colleagues.

After all this missing, the actual day of me to go back came and I flew in and straight away started heading out on a drive the next day. The bush continues getting drier, although it seems like there are a few wind storms that have started blowing, an overcast morning here and late afternoon there, the humidity rising – all of which are the indicators that the rains are building.

So far so good on my game drives, one evening, I was a battling on making my game plans of which road to take. Then Phil gave me an idea, as he said, ‘Saning’o if I was you I would try driving to the Beho Beho seeps area to see what you can find out there’’. Without delaying my thoughts, I took his advice and I casually drove that road, it was a good start with one little bull elephant close to the Beho Beho airstrip, and some normal game sightings on the way, at last reaching the point when I was close to the Beho Beho river and as we drove towards the river crossing, close to the road, up in the tree that I had a great sight of this leopard from last season, there he was again! I always glanced up in the tree and I am always hoping he will be there. It was close to the road, my car was close, but he was not phased, it was a great sighting!

Some other general game congregations seem to keep forming a lot along the lakes and springs too. On another morning we saw an unusual sight, when we stopped for our breakfast close to Lake Manze and all of a sudden we saw a black and white colobus monkey hopping on the ground coming toward us, and when it was a few meters away it jumped up in to a big tree and was relaxing up there not even caring of movement down below. It seemed like it had become quite habituated, it’s a beautiful type of monkey and to see it so close and in a savannah plains setting was unusual!

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Beho Beho Bushblog – Phil – 16 November

philblogWaterhole Safari’s

Whilst we still await the rains our waterhole increases in popularity.

Representing one of the few sites where good clean water is still available, a “waterhole safari” can be a very rewarding way to spend a few hours!

Taking a seat at the round table gives a close up view of the waterhole and its visitors, alternatively the eagles nest gives you an elevated and more extensive view of what may be approaching. Whichever you choose Mr Simba or one of his team will be on hand to provide you with refreshments too!

So if you had settled yourself in one of these two places in the last week, ready with a drink in hand, plus of course your camera and binoculars at the ready here is what you may have witnessed:

Fred (our resident bushbuck), Waterbuck and Impala (of course) are regulars and we are currently being entertained and endeared by the Impala’s little wobbly legged lambs at the moment. They’re not the only babies we are seeing though, tiny (and I mean really tiny) little warthog piglets are accompanying their mum as closely as possible too.

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Baboons while away the odd afternoon in the trees surrounding the waterhole, as always full of mischief and play a nature which makes them always fun to watch. But there is also a sinister side to their presence – Myself and Nico watched one afternoon this week as an Impala ewe and her gangly little lamb attempted to dodge around the incumbent baboons surrounding the water hole in search of a place to drink. However the baboons were very aware of the baby Impala and what a lovely meal it would make. Nico and I urged the mother, from our vantage point in the lounge, to come back later as she persisted to find a way in between the baboons to the water, despite numerous attempts from the baboons to catch her little lamb. Eventually dragging ourselves away only to rush out from the office 10 minutes later to the sound of squeals. The impala lamb may have escaped the baboons but unfortunately a baby warthog was not so lucky. Sad to see but it is for this reason that warthogs have large litters of up to around 8 and get one or two to maturity.

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Elephants are regular visitors, especially bulls. However recently we have had a herd returning regularly and often quite conveniently making an appearance in time for new guest arrivals, putting on a show and setting the tone for their safari. It has been great watching the two little ones learning to use their little trunks.

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Although it is not really possible to take pictures, the night time waterhole safari is equally as busy. Hippo are a regular nightly visitor and also elephant, but they have of late been regularly joined by buffalo some of which have been brave enough to chase off the odd elephant for their right to drink! Hyena meanwhile lurk on the edges of the light illuminating our view of the waterhole looking for a space not occupied by the big herbivores to sneak in a drink or alternatively rushing in boldly for a drink momentarily disturbing the peace.

We are often asked if lions or leopards come through camp. And yes they do! Lions were at the waterhole this week and guests enjoyed a good view over dinner. The leopards we see at the waterhole too and they visit more often than lions but not necessarily when we are around to see them, often choosing to come and drink whilst we are tucked up safe in our beds.

 

 

 

 

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Beho Beho Bushblog – Godlisten – 10th November

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Clouds start to build up slowly which is a good sign for the shot rains, it’s time for Impala and Warthog to deliver and they really need green grass so that they can have enough milk for the new borns. We still have real good sightings of Lion, Hyena, Buffalo and Elephants around the camp.

 

Msine River is busy right now with herbivores and predators, all coming down looking for water, and this makes walking safaris more adventurous, changing route for the walking safari happens many times after we find out Elephant’s block our way.

 

Wild dog sightings are great now after almost three weeks on them being illusive. Phil called on the radio and said he saw tracks around airstrip, we traced them without any success, then after something like twenty minutes Roel found them close to the Beho Beho River with a kill, before Hyena took over, so they ran all the way to Msine River and this time it was Phil’s turn to see them.

 

Today I’ve had a lovely morning with Tim and Sonya, starting with the general game around our area before it started to get busy at Lake Manze where we saw two young Lions with a kill. We spent almost 45 minutes with them without any other vehicles and this is why the Selous is a unique place to visit. Later on we found a big pack of dogs, something like 14 of them resting under Doum palms but not that active because it was starting to get hot.

 

Tagalala is still doing great and the jumping fish are very active and jumping all the time, which makes the boat trip amazing every time. The water levels at Lake Manze are dropping every day which makes the Hippos and Crocs life unpredictable. Also other animals like wildebeest and Zebra do not find it easy to drink because they have to pass through thick mud to reach water and some of them like the young get stuck in it.

 

Birding is becoming even better because it’s a good time for migrate birds to come in. Right now we have Broad billed Roller, Southern Carmine Bee-eater and European Bee-eater. We are waiting for White Stock now.

 

We have had sightings of Colobus Monkey close to Lake Manze, it is unusual for them to be in the open area instead of forest where there is suitable food and good cover.

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