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  • Scaling up on Pangolin Conservation
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    Scaling up on Pangolin Conservation
    Scaling up on Pangolin Conservation, By Wendy Panaino, University of the Witwatersrand.

    Few people have ever heard of a pangolin, and very few have seen one in the wild. As part of my MSc degree, I have been extremely fortunate to be able to track and observe ground pangolins (Smutsia temminckii) for the past year in the Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, situated in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa.

    Little is known about how pangolins might cope with the direct (heat) and indirect (prey availability) effects of a changing climate, so I am currently investigating the body temperature, diet and activity patterns of free-living ground pangolins in a semi-arid environment. Tswalu lies on the south-western edge of the species’ distribution range, a part of Africa that is predicted to become hotter and drier with climate change.

    During my time following pangolins at Tswalu, I have had the enormous pleasure of witnessing many interesting behaviours exhibited by these extraordinary creatures. In September 2015, two female pangolins gave birth to a single pup each.

    Since then, I have been able to observe the growth and development of the pangolin pups through the use of camera traps placed outside the burrow. On one occasion, a female pangolin brought her pup out of the burrow while I was conducting behavioural observations. This was one of the most magical experiences I have ever had. With pup on her back, the female pangolin came to investigate my presence, sticking her long, sticky tongue out to get a real sense of the foreign creature that was me.

    After a few months, that pup left its mother to go on its own solo adventure to investigate the world.
    My experiences throughout this study have been nothing short of phenomenal, and I hope that the results that come from it can ultimately contribute to the conservation efforts of ground pangolins.
  • Pumulani on Lake Malawi
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    Pumulani on Lake Malawi
    David Livingstone famously named Lake Malawi “The Lake Of Stars” and for good reason, during the day the light dances across the deep blue water and once the sun has set the stars twinkle brightly both in the sky but also on the lake as the fishermen light up their hurricane lamps for their night on the lake.

    Situated on the west side of the Nankumba Peninsula on the Southern end of Lake Malawi you find Pumulani subtly nestled in the lush hills amongst the trees and craggy outcrops. The ten villas with their grass roofs to help reflect the heat provide the ultimate in space, design, comfort and privacy. Guests can relax on the white sandy beach or enjoy an elevated view of the lake from the stylish infinity pool.

    For those seeking some activity, on offer is water-skiing, sailing, kayaking, walks in the hills, sunset cruises on a hand built dhow along with snorkelling and diving. Under water activities never fail to amaze as the diversity of fish life is surprising and experts say that this lake is home to more native fish species than any other in the world.

    After dark you may revel in the joys of the night sky with the incredible star gazer, it will revolutionise the way you look at the stars!!
  • Come Travel with Hartley’s Unashamed Wild Luxury Safari
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    Come Travel with Hartley’s Unashamed Wild Luxury Safari
    Selected for their unique habitats and extraordinary experiences, Wilderness Safaris Camps in Botswana combine perfectly to create a luxurious and thrilling safari, where land meets water. This luxury offer includes a visit to either Jao Camp or Vumbura Plains, both which celebrate the true spirit of the Delta as well as the classic African safari experience.

    Jao Camp is the ultimate in relaxation and its exceptional island setting sees its opulent tents overlooking surrounding waters, while Vumbura Plains is a sumptuous retreat of contemporary design that boasts open and expansive rooms with a broad vista over a magnificent floodplain.

    Your second destination is the ultimate wildlife destination – Mombo Camp. This quintessential luxury safari camp looks out on the almost-continuous presence of wildlife, from large herds of plains game to lurking predators. Celebrated for its longstanding and important elephant conservation, the majestic Abu Camp is an inspiring finale. This extraordinary sanctuary transports you into the serene, sensory world of the African elephant.
  • Jewel of the Kalahari
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    Jewel of the Kalahari
    Described as the “Jewel of the Kalahari”, the Okavango Delta is where the floodplains have created a beautiful labyrinth of waterways, lagoons and islands and travellers are treated to unsurpassed game viewing activity in the humble Mokoro.

    The people of Botswana, who lived in and around the waterways of the Delta before the advent of tourism, used a wooden canoe carved from the stems of trees found in the Delta, namely the mokoro. It was used for hunting, fishing and transportation of goods through the maze like channels and shallow lagoons of the Delta. Today this is still in practice; however the trait is slowly giving away to the march of westernization into the area and most makoros are used in the tourism industry, opening up employment opportunities with many of the hunters and fishermen employed as 'polers' by the safari companies.

    Described as one of the most peaceful ways to experience Africa in its entire splendour, mokoro safaris provide an opportunity to observe the sights and sounds of nature at water level, without running the risk of scaring off animals and birds with the noise of a motor.

    For the modern traveller, the mokoro safari usually entails a guide standing at the back (stern) of the boat using the Ngashe Pole to steer and propel the boat forward, whilst one or two guests sit at the front of the boat relaxing and enjoying the view. The advantage of a mokoro is that it can be ‘poled’ across deep lakes and rivers as well as the scenic papyrus and reed filled channels and waterways, allowing one to traverse shallower waters, getting closer to the wildlife and birds frequenting the edge of the riverbanks.

    The photographic opportunities provided on a makoro safari are immeasurable as one glides past the herds of animals on the banks of the Delta river system. As tourism to Botswana has increased, the mokoro has since become an iconic symbol of the Delta. Be sure to take part in a mokoro experience during your next Botswana Safari!
  • Northern Tuli Predator Project
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    Northern Tuli Predator Project
    The Northern Tuli Predator Project was started in 2007 and focuses mainly on the study of lions and leopards. Additional large carnivore species have also since been selected for further studies, as part of the greater carnivore assemblage in the reserve. These include spotted hyenas and cheetah. The leopard component of the project has been running since 2005.

    Leopards are notoriously difficult to study due to their secretive nature, the habitats they frequent, and their low densities. Although leopards have been studied across a wide range of habitats, there is still a need for further study particularly with respect to management and human conflict. In the Northern Tuli Game Reserve a long-term leopard project has been initiated. Aspects investigated include behavioural ecology, population dynamics, movement patterns, population density estimation, habitat preference, prey selection and human conflict. Thus far 29 leopards have been monitored by means of VHF and GPS radio collars.

    BACKGROUND TO LION STUDY IN THE NORTHERN TULI

    Populations of large carnivores are becoming increasingly threatened throughout Africa, especially when not afforded protection by large conservation areas. Humans frequently limit carnivore numbers living outside protected areas and legal and illegal hunting, road accidents, and snaring are the cause of most fatalities that occur outside of reserve borders. Lions are highly social animals that live in fission-fusion groups, and are thus susceptible to population disturbances from humans. Infanticide also plays an important role in the level of disturbances within a lion population.

    This project aims to investigate the spatial-and temporal movements of lions from the Northern Tuli Game Reserve, Botswana. Lions moved across international boundaries and through local farmland regardless of fences and land use type, but spent most of their time inside their home ranges located within protected areas. When lions are moved out of these protected areas the probability of them being killed was high. In at least two instances this included males responding to the placement of baits set to lure lions out.

    Edge effects had a severe impact on the Notugre lion population, with 82% of adult mortality found outside the borders of the reserve. There were various reasons why males left their normal home ranges and went on excursions that took them outside protected areas, one of the reasons being females. Each radio-collared lion had a unique set of characteristics that characterized the size and location of their home ranges, resulting in wide variability in size and shape. Average 90% KDE for males were 69.0 km2 for females it was 41 km2.

    There was much less variability in the 50% KDE of both males and females the presence of human activities, in the form of cattle-posts, agricultural lands and villages also appeared to influence home range selection with lions tending to avoid these areas. With increasing human populations and the destruction of natural habitat, human-wildlife conflict will continue and requires urgent attention in order to mitigate the issue.

    THE AIMS OF THE NORTHERN TULI PREDATOR PROJECT
    * Determine lion numbers and population structures of the Northern Tuli Game Reserve
    * Compare current population status with that of historical records
    * Determine lion movements - especially male lions via GPS-radio collars
    * Identify factors influencing the lion population
  • Mashatu Tented Camp
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    Mashatu Tented Camp
    Not to be outdone, the Mashatu Tented is a very different refuge. For the ultimate in one- on -one intimate bush experiences, look no further than this! Eight twin tents, each with private en-suite facilities. Each Concrete platform-mounted tent is tucked under the branches of enormous trees, and is accessible via meandering pathways.

    The tents themselves are spacious and comfortable has its own private outdoor en-suite facilities, including W.C. and shower - a room with a real view! Meal times are enjoyed either in the open-air thatched gazebo or in the boma (enclosure) overlooking the floodlit, well-populated waterhole. The camp's plunge pool invites guests to cool off and escape the relentless heat typical of the summer months. The shaded hide also overlooks the waterhole, and here bush enthusiasts can sit quietly and witness animals going about their day, completely unaware that they are being watched.

    The bush is a humble place….

    (Available for children over the age of 12 years).
  • Mashatu Main Camp
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    Mashatu Main Camp
    Burning torches at the camp's entrance lure safari-goers into this oasis of luxury and impeccable hospitality.

    14 luxury suites lie along the camp's perimeter and are designed to allow absolute privacy and a communion with the bush and its inhabitants. Watch elephants splashing at the waterhole, listen to the lyrical melody of the woodlands kingfisher on a branch overhead, smell the grassy scent of the bushveld. The air here is so pure and invigorating you won't want to leave. Ever.

    The insect-proofed luxury suites, each boast a full en-suite bathroom. Sliding doors open onto the African bush, two large beds and a day bed for a child is available. A magnificent stunning viewing deck directly off the safari bar is a highlight of this camp, together with an elevated lounge overlooking the waterhole. A swimming pool and camp discovery research Centre complete the camp.

    Children of all ages welcome!
  • Experiences
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    Experiences
    What lies beneath the surface

    By: Neil Tinmouth August 2014 Having a family that is spread out over the world means that the opportunities to get together are few and far between. This led us to the creation of our combined bucket list odyssey; we meet up as frequently as possible, and together tick off the entries. What could be higher on a recreational divers list, than the opportunity to plunge into clear warm tropical waters and descend onto wrecks frozen in time? Add to this an abundance of corals and marine life that inhabit these artificial reefs and you have the perfect dive site.

    We visited this dream destination, the spectacular lagoon of Chuuk, formally known as Truk Lagoon due to a mispronunciation. The South Pacific islands of Chuuk with their sheltered lagoon harboured the Japanese Combined Fleet during World War II. In 1944, Operation Hailstone, a U.S aerial assault sent more than 60 vessels and hundreds of aircraft to the floor of the lagoon.

    Owing to the geography of the reefs and the number of ships harboured, they were all moored close to each other at the time of their destruction. These coral encrusted wrecks, the majority of which were of the Japanese imperial merchant fleet now lay silently in clear blue waters, and form the renowned ‘Ghost Fleet of Truk Lagoon’. The calm waters allowed us an unparalleled opportunity to explore the wide variety of wrecks. Unfortunately even their close proximity did not allow us to visit a fraction of them; this is where our local dive master’s knowledge paid dividends. Following our DM’s lead, we easily swam around super structures and upturned hulls, identifying telegraphs and guns that now stand silent. Decks were littered with the remnants of trucks, tanks and objects retrieved from the holds. Bowls, bottles, telephones mixed with guns and gas masks lay clustered together. The largely intact wrecks allow for penetration.

    Below decks, in the holds were partially assembled aircraft, tanks, boxes of munitions, bulldozers, motorcycles, bicycles, torpedoes, spare parts, and not to mention the huge abundance of other artefacts. With a compulsion to explore, we carefully made our way around the superstructures entering galleys and bathrooms, all the while trying not to stir up the silt. From behind the camera, this unique underwater experience took on another dimension. Ambient light needed to be used strategically to enhance the captured images. Dark engine room penetrations presented their own unique challenges.

    All the while, as I looked tactically at each subject, the measure of focus created an awareness of the anguish that the sailors must have felt as their world was torn apart. Each wreckage be it afreighter or the Betty bomber with its large shoal of glass fish had its own distinctive allure. Seventy years on, with storm damage, corrosion and coral growth taking their toll, the opportunities to experience a memorable moment in this underwater museum are running out. A tick done, just in time! Palau Collecting our gear together we island hopped over to Palau.

    These islands were to offer us an incredibly diverse selection of ‘customary” diving experiences, but the primary reason for our visit was the opportunity to snorkel with the so called, Darwin jellyfish. After a short but gruelling walk we arrived at Jellyfish Lake, a marine lake situated on the island of Eil Malk. Donning fins, mask and snorkel we carefully entered the warm murky green stratified waters filled with golden and moon jellyfish. Around us masses of “sting less” jellyfish slowly propelled themselves through the water, gently bumping into us as they glided past.

    Nature had once again put on a spectacular show for us to experience. After Jellyfish Lake, we were now ready to take on the world class dive sites of Palau. Armed with our reef hooks we took to the water. How can you top a drift dive along sheer walls, clothed in soft and hard corals, inhabited by an abundant variety of marine life and numerous turtles? Well, add inquisitive circling reef sharks slowly twisting and turning an arm’s length, and you have an opportunity for plenty of underwater photographs.

    In one of our channel dives, we knelt glued to the seabed as giant mantas soared over us. Friendly Napoleon Wrasse’s intrigued by the camera housing accompanied us on many of our dives. They offered us up close and personal interaction time as well as some interesting photographs.

    Dropping through the blue hole into the near perfect cave below, gave another dimension to diving. The chandelier caves provided a very different photography opportunity and once again challenges were present, not least the stalactites just above the surface. An unexpected bucket list tick came on our last day when we took a helicopter excursion.

    This ride gave us the opportunity to take in the scale and incredible beauty of the islands. We picked out the different reefs and channels we had dived, which gave us a sense of order and direction. But back to our tick, from the air we saw a family of seven dugongs, swimming below us. The only word I can use is, Awesome! What a way to finish a holiday.
  • Incredible New Destination
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    Incredible New Destination
    Hoanib Skeleton Coast, Namibia – Wilderness Safaris

    Rugged, iconic, startlingly life-filled
    Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp is scenically located in a broad valley at the confluence of two tributaries of the Hoanib River in the northern part of the private Palmwag Concession. Its location thus straddles the Palmwag area and the iconic Skeleton Coast National Park, in one of the most remote areas of the Kaokoveld. Exclusivity is taken a step further as camp is only accessible by light aircraft and the camp itself consists of only seven twin-bedded tents and one family unit, each comprising stylish en-suite bedrooms with shaded outdoors decks. Flanked to the east and west by rugged hills, the camp looks out over stunning, starkly beautiful scenery and offers guests all the luxuries and amenities for an unforgettable stay.

    Highlights

    * One of the greatest concentrations of desert-adapted elephant and lion
    * Historic coastline, endless horizons, fascinating people
    * Diverse activities showcase scenic wonders and unique wildlife
  • Up, Close & Personal
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    Up, Close & Personal
    A Rhino’s View of Africa

    After having a passion for rhinos for more than 30 years, in around 2007, I started thinking about travelling to Africa to see rhinos in the wild. There were a few obstacles – my kids, work, lack of money, and the biggest one = being petrified to go to such a “dangerous” place on my own!!
    Many unsuccessful attempts to find someone to come with me eventually convinced me to bite the bullet and go on my own, just making sure that everything was 100% organised and leaving nothing to chance except my own potential stupidity.
    My objective was, strangely enough, to maximise seeing rhinos, especially black rhinos. My first trip was in August 2008 – almost six weeks, six African countries, and amazing animal experiences, including rhinos! When I sat down in my seat on the plane to come home, I made the decision that I would come back every year, as long as I could possibly manage it financially and physically.
    On my second trip, in July 2009, I found out that there were easier, more efficient ways of travelling to/from Sabi Sands/Kruger, to/from Johannesburg and between lodges in South Africa. Through Rhino Walking Safaris in Kruger, I had discovered Hartley’s Safaris, and have since completed 10 incredible African trips with them, two each year from 2010 to 2014, adding another two African countries to the list.
    Although it is a long way from Australia to South Africa, the Hartley’s personnel and their extensive experience ensure there are absolutely no “gotchas”, and no planning gaps. They make planning, organising and even paying for trips totally effortless, and I would not dream of going to Africa without involving Hartley’s! We are currently in the planning throes for August 2015.
    On most trips, I try a few new lodges and go back to some of my favourites. Returning to my “special” lodges means catching up with old friends, not just the staff, but also the animals that frequent those areas. When I observe particular leopards, cheetahs or prides of lions out on drive, it creates much more of a personal interaction when I have seen them on previous visits. It really feels like visiting old friends!

    Rita Shaw
    Sydney, Australia
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