Part 10: Dumatau Camp, Linyanti Concession
April 28, 2015
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Early on the afternoon of Dec 10 2014 – after a very smooth flight from Savuti with Mack Air – we arrived in the Linyanti Concession. Between Kathy and myself, we had visisted the area 6 different times in the past starting in the mid 1990’s and spending various amounts of time at Linyanti Tented Camp, Kings Pool, Dumatau, Selinda, Lebala and Lagoon Camps.Of all of these visits, this most recent 2-night visit to Dumatau produced the least satisfying game-viewing. Surprisingly, we did not see any elephants there over the course of the two days, which was disappointing particularly because we knew that several good-sized herds were present in the area and had been seen crossing the Linyanti River.
Of course it all has to do with seasonality and luck. Early in the wet season – when the elephants are widely dispersed – it is possible to experience a couple of quiet days anywhere and prospective visitors should keep this in mind when booking green season trips. Give yourself enough time in any one particular area – at least 3 nights but preferably 4 – so that one or two quiet days won’t matter as much. You will make up for it with some quality sightings – but they are sometimes few and far between. Don’t forget: the animals move around in real time and could be anywhere, anytime.
Over the years – both during the green season and later in the dry season – we have enjoyed some of our best game-viewing and most memorable sightings in the Linyanti-Selinda-Kwando region. Huge concentrations of elephants, leopards mating, lions hunting, a cheetah kill, African Painted Dogs pretty much every time – we’ve seen it all in this area. So we were probably a little spoilt and had set our expectations just a little too high.
The few sightings which we did enjoy this time – there was very little in the way of general game – were very good though. One morning early we had our best lion sighting of the trip when we bumped into a coalition of two young males just entering their prime years. They were just waking up from a slumber and did not seem to be in any hurry to get going, giving us that flat, yellow-eyed lion look. The one which you know isn’t exactly meant for you but which makes it quite clear that as long as you remain blended in with the vehicle, you’re ok. Stand up and wave or put your foot down on the ground and everything changes. That look.
We also had a brilliant porcupine and small-spotted genet sighting on a night drive. Night drives are often rather dreary, uneventful outings but this one was quite lively and seeing the porcupine close up was very special. Particularly because we could see quite clearly that the porcupine was a good-sized, powerful animal – quite a contrast to its retiring, shy nature. Except of course when it is threatened.
One of the most memorable events of the entire trip happened pretty much by chance when we were observing a Tawny Eagle feeding on something. Which turned out to be a snake – identified as a Puffadder when we finally moved up close enough to see it in the binoculars. Always risky to get closer to a bird on its prey as it may feel threatened and fly off. The Tawny started to look at us and gave us ample warning to stop approaching any closer. Which we promptly did. As the encounter proved once again, patience pays off big time in the bush. We must have been watching the Eagle feed for a good 5 minutes when a Yellowbilled Kite unexpectedly injected itself into the scenario. The kite repeatedly tried to rob the eagle of its prey, flying in and out and dive-bombing the Tawny over and over, hoping that it would abandon its kill.
When the kite unexpectedly gave up just when it seemed that it was getting the upper hand, the eagle quickly relocated to a different, safer spot, dragging the snake behind it, initially hopping along, before finally taking to the air. It turned out that the kite had indeed snagged a portion of the puffadder, so in the end it worked out ok for both of them. And we enjoyed a spell-binding few minutes on safari, plus we managed to take a couple of nice photographs! A win-win-win scenario…
The new Dumatau Camp itself was fantastic and exceeded our every expectation. The communal area which consists of an expansive lounge, dining area and several separate small corners and circles gives the appearance of air and space even beyond what is there. Everything you ever wanted in a safari lodge and more. Elegant, exciting, fun to hang out in, an inviting bar plus several cozy, secluded corners for private dinners. You could spend 3 nights here without having two meals in the same spot. The variety of food, preparation and presentation were excellent and every bit the equal of several deluxe properties we had visited previously.
Our room was very private – and a good hike away from the main lounge area. The lay-out of the room had just recently been changed to move the shower to a different position in the room. Not having experienced the ‘original’ iteration of the room we can’t say for sure if this is an improvement or not, but it worked great! There was plenty of space for our ‘stuff’, the bed was comfortable and while we had preciously little time to enjoy it, it had a nice view over the Linyanti River. We even saw some impala jumping over the boardwalk one afternoon when Bert had to return to the room to pick up something.
One of the best activities at Dumatau was an afternoon of fishing on the Linyanti River with Tim and Haley from Seba Camp, who happened to be at Dumatau at the same time. It was most successful and between the four of us we must have caught – and released – more than 20 decent-sized tilapia and African Pike, as well as catfish – a most fun outing!
But beyond just being fun, we enjoyed the beautiful surroundings and the complete privacy. There was not a person or another boat to be seen or heard in any direction. We had miles and miles of river, marsh and lagoon all to ourselves. That is what makes the private concessions in northern Botswana so special. You just flat-out don’t have to deal with anything like the numbers of visitors and presence of other vehicles which often mar the experience in other more heavily visited safari destinations.
Another interesting activity which we tried out for an hour or so is a launch or pontoon cruise. The vessel which takes up to 15 or so passengers is able to cruise along the Linyanti River comfortably and smoothly, either up or downstream from Dumatau, and is ideal for brunch or sundowner outings. We would encourage all our clients to try this activity at some time during their stay at Dumatau.
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