Kwara Concession – Once again, Kwara averaged more than 3 predator sightings per day during the month. The most dramatic event during May came after a single nomadic male lion successfully killed a baby giraffe near the Kwara staff village. As dinner was being served in the camp, a tremendous commotion broke out; hyenas started calling each other in to steal the lion’s hard-won meal. The guests were curious to see what was happening, so dinner was adjourned and the guests loaded in safari vehicles to take a closer look. On arrival, we found the lion feeding but surrounded by fifteen hyenas. A few minutes later, the aggression from the hyenas intensified and they started biting the lion from every direction. In the end, they won through sheer numbers and forced the lion to let go whereby he rested a few metres away from the carcass. The noisy fighting continued into the early hours, however by dawn the area was fully cleaned up as though nothing had happened.
The resident pack of seven wild dogs were often seen mobile and hunting; they successfully killed impala twice near to Little Kwara camp. The alpha female was heavily pregnant so it seems likely that she may den in the near future.
Various cheetah individuals and families were encountered during May. The most exciting sighting involved a resident male cheetah who was located by Jackal Den area, resting. All of a sudden, he was keenly focused on a warthog family. He climbed down from the mound and stalked before sprinting and catching one of the sub-adult warthogs. The squeaking of the prey alerted the mother warthog who appeared and jumped on the cheetah, fiercely biting and kicking until the cheetah ran away. Remarkably both prey and predator got away unscathed.
The mother cheetah with her two cubs, now 9 months old seems to have relocated to the Four rivers area where we found her on an impala kill. Towards the end of the month a male had joined the group and were all seen together resting on a termite mound. At one point, the male was testing the female’s urine to see if she was in oestrus.
We were happy to welcome back to the area Juda and Meruba, two magnificent black-maned male lions from the Marsh Boys pride who were last seen 6 months ago. They were joined by two females from the Solo Pride. A different pride of lions comprising one male and two females were seen often and although a small group they provided some dramatic action. On one occasion, they killed a warthog right in front of the game viewers. Another time they made an attempted kill of a young giraffe, missing by only a few inches.
Leopards were found many times, including a female feeding up on a tree with hyena lying in wait at the bottom, ready to snatch any falling bones. A pair of leopards were seen mating, so we hope that they will be successful.
The natural watering holes were drying out after the rains, so large breeding herds of elephants started to come down from the mophane woodlands in order to be closer to the main water channels. The groups included females with small calves. Some of the resident bull elephants were heavily in musth and searching around for females to mate with.
General game continued to be good including sable antelope, large herds of zebra, impala, tsessebe and red lechwe. Giraffe were seen in large numbers – up to fifty individuals in a single drive.
With the water levels dropping there were good sightings of Wattled Cranes, Saddle-billed storks and Yellow-billed storks feeding in and around in the shallow pools. A group of six endangered Southern Ground Hornbills were a regular sight around Double Crossing and could be heard calling in the mornings. Secretary Birds and Lappet-faced Vultures are both nesting in the concession at the current time.
Lagoon – One of the most dramatic moments during May at Lagoon Camp came on the very last day. The two impressive male lions known as ‘Old Gun’ and ‘Sebastian’ were seen passing right through camp. Our guides sensed that they were tracking something so followed up and came across a lioness close to Tent 9 who happened to be in oestrus. The two males, who are usually comrades in a successful coalition, turned on each other and fought fiercely for the right to mate with the female. It was a noisy and prolonged battle which went on into the night. Both lions sustained injuries, but in the end Sebastian was successful in proving himself the worthiest suitor. He has therefore now taken over as the dominant male, a position which has been held by Old Gun for many years. Despite this battle and their changed roles, the two males still patrol as a pair.
Earlier in the month these two lions had feasted for some days on a dead hippo, most likely killed in a territorial battle. Initially a large male leopard was found scavenging, then the next day the lions took possession of the carcass and stayed for a few days until it was getting rather ripe. At this stage, they left to look for fresh prey and allowed the hordes of waiting vultures to clear up.
The resident pack of 12 wild dogs were seen in the area, often hunting or on kills. One particular morning we had tracked the dogs until they were eventually found. The guides sensed that they seemed hungry and so decided to go and check on them again during afternoon game drive. The guides’ intuition was proved right in the most spectacular way when the wild dogs decided to target a group of eland, eventually giving chase and bringing down an adult female. The dogs fed on this substantial antelope for a couple of days.
The coalition of two cheetah brothers were seen hunting a few times, frequently climbing up onto termite mounds so that they can get a better vantage point to spot prey. This provided wonderful photographic opportunities.
The large Wapoka Pride of sixteen lions were seen regularly, most often in a smaller group of three lionesses and 8 sub-adults. One morning we were enjoying a peaceful sighting of eland when all of a sudden there was a huge commotion and clouds of dust rising from a nearby spot. We quickly drove to take a look and found this pride trying to distract a herd of elephants in order to get to the calves. The elephants protected their young aggressively and in the end the lions gave up. They were successful on other occasions though; we saw them on kills including warthog and kudu.
Sometimes the most special times in the bush are when you are stationary and the animals come to you. One such moment happened this month during a sundowner stop when a lioness came to drink, accompanied by her two small cubs, thought to be 2-3 months old. Guests and staff quickly hopped back on the vehicle and were entranced by this tranquil evening sight.
One evening driving back to camp we were following two young lions, a male and a female, when they suddenly gave chase to a porcupine. The porcupine defended itself rigorously, pointing its quills to the lions until the two cats gave up. It was not all bad news for this pair though. Another time, they were seen feeding on a kudu kill which they had managed to steal from the wild dogs.
A female leopard with two young cubs has been seen several times, the female is very relaxed and although her cubs are still shy at the moment they seem to be growing in confidence. One time we followed them back to their meal of a warthog which had been hoisted up into a tree. Although a male leopard came and took it over eventually, the young family had already feasted well.
Lebala – The resident pack of 12 wild dogs were seen frequently in the Lebala area. After finding them sleeping under a mophane tree one morning we followed up in the afternoon drive and found them chasing wildebeest. The herd managed to stand their ground and in the end the dogs gave up and moved towards the airstrip. Suddenly four hyenas moved in. One of the dogs went directly to the hyenas with his head lowered and his aggressive pose was sufficient to drive the hyenas away. The following day the pack was seen feeding on a tsessebe carcass.
The hyenas have a den in the area and it was very special to see the females interacting with the cubs. Quite at odds from their rather fearsome reputation, hyenas are wonderful mothers. On one occasion hyenas were witnessed mating, so hopefully we will have another family to watch before too long.
A very relaxed young male leopard, who we have known since a cub, was seen feeding on a jackal. We watched him dragging the carcass to the shade, at the same time calling for his partner who was not around at that time. His mother, known as ‘Jane’ is still resident in the area and was found one morning on an impala kill; her position given away by Bateleur and Tawny Eagles who were spotted descending to the ground. Leopards are very opportunistic feeders and other notable sightings included a magnificent male with a wildebeest hung up in a tree, a female with a face full of francolin feathers, and another young leopard pouncing on a mouse.
The Wapoka Pride consisting of four lionesses and 11 young were seen regularly. Once on a zebra kill the three smallest cubs of just 3-4 months old were very active, fighting for the meat. We were also fortunate enough to see the pride take down a warthog right in front of the vehicle. As the pride is so big the warthog was not enough and so there was lots of fighting and snarling over the carcass.
We came across the two large resident male lions calling for each other and once reunited we were able to watch them nuzzling and rubbing their heads together in a bonding ritual. Another time we witnessed them chasing a warthog, but on that occasion the prey got away. Later in the month they were seen on an elephant carcass.
A lioness from the Southern Pride with two small cubs stayed in the area; the cubs were still quite shy of the vehicle and apt to keep dashing into the bushes, however some lucky guests did manage to get a wonderful sighting of them suckling from their mother.
A resident male Cheetah was seen full-bellied and resting a couple of times. We were also lucky to get a rare sighting of a wild cat, although it was shy.
The general game in the Lebala area increased during May. The natural watering holes in the woodland areas started to dry up, forcing large herds of elephants to make their way to the riverine areas. There were mixed herds of zebra and wildebeest in their hundreds, as well as plentiful giraffe. A solitary male buffalo, a well-known “dagga boy”, was found along sable road. This was the first time he had been seen in the area since before the rainy season, so the guides were happy to see this relaxed individual again.
The pans and riverine area were still host to a variety of water birds including Egyptian Geese, Knob-billed Ducks, African Jacanas, Pied Kingfishers and sandpipers.
Nxai Pan – As Nxai Pan approached winter time there were lots of changes to animal behaviour and vegetation. The weather became colder and the pans started to dry up leaving two watering holes as the only sources of water. The camp watering hole was by far the busiest, being topped up daily via an eco-friendly water recycling system from our camp. Several species were seen here including buffalo, wildebeest, impala, a small harem of zebra and giraffe however the elephants remained dominant over this precious resource and were seen in their hundreds over the course of the month. The camp main area provided a great place to sit and watch the animal interactions during the day.
The Nxai Pan pride were covering more ground to search for food but were seen regularly. The pride still comprised two strong and healthy dominant males and seven lionesses. Two of the lionesses each had three young and all six cubs were doing well. During the month four of the females managed to kill a female giraffe and her calf – a massive feast which they and the six cubs enjoyed for a whole week. These tiny cubs appeared to have no fear of the game viewers which they approached in a bold manner.
The Nxai Pan pride were covering more ground to search for food but were seen regularly. The pride still comprised two strong and healthy dominant males and seven lionesses. Two of the lionesses each had three young and all six cubs were doing well. During the month four of the females managed to kill a female giraffe and her calf – a massive feast which they and the six cubs enjoyed for a whole week. These tiny cubs appeared to have no fear of the game viewers which they approached in a bold manner.
A mother cheetah with her now sub-adult cubs were still thriving and seen in different areas, often on a kill. We had great sightings along Middle Road where we saw them trying their luck on a springbok. The cubs were stalking whilst their mother was watching and seemed to be coordinating their behaviour. A single male cheetah was seen resting twice in the southern part of the area and is looking healthy.
An exciting discovery was made towards the end of the month when we identified tracks of a female leopard with very small cubs near to the airstrip. Although we haven’t managed to see the cats themselves yet, we hope that we will find them soon.
As the grasses were cropped shorter by grazers, the landscape opened up and it became easier to see some of the small cats and genets. African Wild Cat were seen, and we were thrilled to see a caracal mother with a kitten around the camp island. Wild dogs were located on the easterly side of the pan. Aardwolf were encountered foraging several times along middle road, sometimes in close proximity with bat-eared foxes and being followed by Cape Crows. We are hopeful that the aardwolf might be denning in the area as they were seen very regularly.
The birdlife in the Nxai Pan was still outstanding. Many birds flocked at the camp watering hole in the early mornings before flying further afield to look for food.
Our trips to Baines Baobabs remained a highlight for many guests during their stay at Nxai Pan. The day is planned to include a picnic lunch so that the guides can take their time to show varied aspects of this semi-arid ecosystem including different terrain, sandy areas, trees and grasses. The salt pan towards the famous trees had less water and was tinted red due to an accumulation of algae. The baobabs were losing their leaves so were starting to look quite different. Animals seen along the route included elephants, oryx, steenbok, springbok and ostrich. General game in the Nxai Pan area was starting to disperse but there were still good sightings also including kudu, wildebeest, zebra and giraffe.
The clear winter desert nights produced a dazzling display of stars. A spectacular experience, especially when accompanied by the musical sounds of jackal calling from the camp watering hole.
Tau Pan – During May Tau Pan underwent a dramatic transformation; the lush green vegetation which had been a feature of the rainy season started to dry and take on autumnal hues of yellows and browns. The Tsamma melons started to ripen and could be seen dotting the landscape like surreal alien soccer balls. These fruits are a forbearer of the domesticated watermelon and provide a vital source of sustenance for a wide variety of desert birds and animals during the dry winter months including oryx, brown hyena and porcupine.
Large herds of oryx and springboks were still resident in the Tau Pan area, making the most of the nutritious grazing. Guests enjoyed watching the evening migration of antelope back into the centre of Tau Pan each evening where the wide-open spaces give a better chance of protection against predators. Regularly the springbok calves started pronking just before sunset, their beautiful colouration enhanced by the evening light. The behaviour of the oryx and springbok started to change with the arrival of breeding season and we saw males of both species fighting for dominancy.
Regular sightings of cheetah were enjoyed, particularly of a female with two sub-adult young. A different female with three younger cubs was around but very skittish as she desperately tried to keep her cubs hidden from the other predators, notably lions, in the area. Two male cheetah were found on a springbok kill near Leopard Pan and a routine visit by out mechanic to our camp watering hole turned out to be anything but boring when a different male cheetah burst into action, hunting a steenbok. Some lucky guests found a cheetah on the airstrip as they were waiting for their flight out of Tau Pan, showing that it pays to stay alert until the very minute that you leave.
Phukwi Pan was home to significant numbers of giraffe. Six adult bat-eared foxes were also seen in the area, competing aggressively for food with some jackal who were nearby.
Leopard were also seen drinking at the camp watering hole and these cats were seen frequently during May, including a female with two cubs.
The Tau Pan pride comprising five males and two females were seen often, including on a kill of a large kudu bull on which the pride feasted for three days. One of the females was initially not interested in being courted, however soon afterwards she came into oestrus and attracted the attention of three of the male lions. Eventually she was seen mating with one of them. Another two lionesses, visitors to the area from the Deception valley pride, killed a sub-adult Gemsbok.
Huge flocks of guinea fowl, doves and other seed-eaters descended upon the camp watering hole in the early mornings and late afternoons. Kori Bustards were seen striding across the pans. Other resident raptors included Pale Chanting Goshawks, Tawny Eagles and White-backed Vultures.
Interesting sightings of smaller mammals during May included African Wild Cat, Bat-eared foxes, duiker and Honey Badger.
As usual, the sunsets at Tau Pan were amazing and there is surely no better feeling than watching the sun going down in a vast expanse whilst enjoying a glass of wine. Perhaps the Big 5 should be renamed Big 6 to include the incomparable African sunset?
Kwara Concession – We were excited to see that the alpha female of the wild dog pack of eight was heavily pregnant and that she was busy digging around termite mounds as though looking for a den site. Her chosen location appeared to be very close to Little Kwara’s staff village, so the dogs were seen hunting impala in and around the camp island very regularly. Right at the start of April they came into conflict with a smaller pack of three dogs and a big fight ensued. Luckily none of the dogs suffered fatal injuries, although one of the dogs from the pack of eight lost half a tail. After this, the pack of three moved further to the west of the concession, but the larger pack stayed close to the camps and we stayed hopeful that they would den nearby. Watch this space….
Spotted hyenas had already started denning and in April we were able have lovely sightings of the mothers suckling their cubs. The two cubs were believed to be a couple of months old and were starting to be playful.
A resident female leopard was also believed to be pregnant; this individual was relaxed and in great condition. She was seen stalking reedbuck through the marshes and on another remarkable occasion was seen killing a civet right in front of the vehicle. Towards the end of the month, after not seeing her for a couple of weeks, we picked up her tracks and found her walking along the side of the runway. We were delighted to see that she was lactating, so hopefully we will have some new leopard cub sightings soon. There was a different female on the east of the concession, towards Splash and we were able to watch her hunting a few times. A handsome male leopard killed a female impala and dragged it up a sausage tree where he stayed for at least three days. Very conveniently, this was on the road between the camp and the airstrip, creating some special first and last impressions for guests. The kill attracted hyenas who waited at the bottom of the tree, hoping that some juicy morsels might fall to the ground.
At the start of the month guests were lucky enough to see the resident male cheetah, known as “Special” mating with a female. They stayed together for three days. This individual regularly clambers up onto a large rain tree as part of his territorial marking and it is always a remarkable sight to see this tree-climbing behaviour. We also saw him hunting both zebra and impala. A mother cheetah with two cubs was seen regularly, but the guides were worried for them as she didn’t seem to be having much success with her hunts and the cubs looked hungry.
As always, there was plenty of lion action at Kwara. The Mma Mogotla Pride killed a zebra in broad daylight. Our guides noted that the sub-adult males were growing their manes and fighting with their sisters to get first share of the kill. On the eastern side of the concession near Splash there was a pride of two males and two females in great condition. They were found on a zebra kill and the males were roaring the whole night.
Big breeding herds of elephant were seen and guests enjoyed watching them feeding and bathing. Giraffe were plentiful and mothers could be observed suckling their calves. Impala started their rutting season with the males vocally advertising their territories and vigorously defending their harems of females.
The sunset boat cruise produced beautiful sightings of malachite and pied kingfishers, different bee-eaters species, crocodiles, hippos and water monitors.
Right at the end of the month we had a lucky sighting of a female aardwolf.
Lagoon – A pack of six wild dogs were seen in the area and the guides were excited to note that two of the females were pregnant. This is heard of from time to time, but quite unusual as generally it is just the alpha female who gives birth to pups. We tracked the pack until we discovered them them feeding on a young kudu by the airstrip at the middle of the month and they were seen very regularly thereafter. We saw them hunting impala, warthogs and kudu and witnessed them making kills more than once.
We found a highly active spotted hyena den towards the end of the month. During April we saw six adults and two cubs, but from the tracks we suspected that there were more who were still in the den. We had a lovely sighting of a cub being suckled by its mother before the two started playing a great came of chase around the den site. Eventually the female lifted the pup in her powerful jaws and took it back down inside the burrow.
The resident female leopard and her two sub-adult cubs were seen often, sometimes just 100 metres from camp. The cubs were getting more independent and we encountered them singly as well as with their mother. We enjoyed some fun sightings of them playing together on their own. One time the young female made a brave, or perhaps silly, chase of a hippo that she saw outside the water. Luckily for her the hippo ran into the waterhole rather than attack her. A different female leopard with cubs of 3-4 months old was seen in the Cheetah Valley where she had made a kill.
We were pleased to see the coalition of cheetah brothers in the area and saw them every day in the middle of the month. At one stage we tracked them to discover that they were feeding on a female ostrich, a dangerous and difficult prey for a cheetah as ostriches kick forward viciously to defend themselves and their long claws can do a great deal of damage. When we observed them the following day we noticed that one of them had a fresh scar under his belly, possibly from the ostrich encounter, but it didn’t seem to deter them as a few days later we found them feeding on yet another female ostrich.
Four male lions who recently moved into the area were seen at the start of the month, though their movement was not predictable as they were covering large distances marking their territory. At one point two of them feasted on a buffalo kill for a couple of days. A different pair of male lions was also seen near to the airstrip. One of the two had fresh scars and the guides wondered if they had come into contact with the larger coalition. This pair linked up with two lionesses, one of whom appeared to be pregnant. These lionesses were seen stalking and hunting zebra without success but they did manage to bring down a warthog whilst we were watching. Unfortunately for them, the clan of hyenas heard the commotion of the warthog squealing and came to steal it from the lionesses. After staying towards Lebala for several months now, the Bonga Pride were occasionally seen at Halfway Pan, getting closer towards their old territory again.
There were plenty of elephants in the area; one day we heard a loud commotion and were lucky enough to see two of them mating. There are some lovely relaxed herds of sable and roan antelope in the area, including calves. Other general game sightings included hippo, giraffe, eland, zebra, wildebeest, kudu, impala, warthog, ostrich and giraffe. We had wonderful sightings of the smaller carnivores including African wildcat, bat-eared foxes, small spotted genets, large spotted genet and jackals.
An African harrier-hawk was observed feeding on the chicks of a Burchell’s startling, having discovered its nest in the hole of a tree. A family of four ground hornbills was seen hunting for frogs at the pans. Raptors seen during the month included martial eagle, tawny eagle, brown snake eagle, African hawk-eagles, secretary birds and bateleur eagles. In an unusual sighting more than ten black herons were seen at one waterhole. We also located a pair of Verreaux’s (giant) eagle owls regularly. Large numbers of vultures were seen on a carcass of a young wildebeest.
Lebala – The Bonga Pride of thirteen adults and three young were seen extremely regularly throughout the month. These lions are beautifully relaxed around our vehicles meaning that we can spend great quality time with them. Although this is a large pride, it is mainly made up of sub-adults and their inexperience with hunting can make it a challenge for the lions to catch enough food to feed the fast-growing youngsters. Luckily, one of the older more experienced females is an expert hunter and she seemed to be specialising in targeting giraffes so the family were seen feasting on these large carcasses more than once. We also found them feeding on other prey species including zebra, kudu, warthog, wildebeest and hippo. One time the pride chased a male wildebeest which ran into a waterhole to escape them. They surrounded the pan and spent the whole day waiting for him to come back out straight into their teeth and claws. It seemed as though our resident prides were starting to move back towards their more usual territories with the Bonga Pride moving towards Halfway Pan and the Wapoka Pride coming back to the concession from the south. The two territories were starting to overlap and towards the end of the month, the two males from the Bonga Pride were seen chasing away one of the females from the Wapoka Pride.
A female leopard with two very young cubs was discovered and seen more than once. At the end of the month they had an impala kill beneath a Feverberry Tree, but a hyena came and took the carcass from them. The following day, the mother was not around and there was only one cub waiting for her up on the tree, so we will have to wait and see if the second cub reappears. We saw a leopard hunting lechwe through the marshes, but unfortunately, he was unlucky. A sub-adult was seen trying his luck with impala a couple of times, but he didn’t succeed. In any event, he was being closely tailed by two hyenas who would have stood a good chance of overpowering him to steal the kill.
A pair of two wild dogs were back in the area and returned in style, chasing down and disembowelling an impala right in front of the safari vehicle. After eating their fill, they moved off to a nearby waterhole to drink.
There was an active hyena den near to Skimmer Pan and we were able to see two cubs. The hyenas were seen following lions as well as leopard, though they were keeping a respectful distance from the formidable Bonga Pride.
Guests were pleased with sightings of sable and roan antelope, as well as eland. There were large herds of zebra and wildebeest in the area as well as red lechwe who were enjoying the flooded pans. Other plains game species seen included giraffe, warthogs, impala and kudu.
The tall grasses made it a little harder than usual to see some of the smaller mammals, but we managed to spot species such as dwarf mongoose and yellow mongoose. Both back-backed and side-striped jackals were commonly seen. There was an interesting sighting of an olive grass snake eating a lizard.
Some of the migratory birds were starting to depart for warmer climes, but we still had plenty of ticks for keen birders including wattled cranes, kori bustard, tawny eagles, bateleur eagles. There were large flocks of wading birds such as yellow-billed storks and spoonbills. Black-winged pratincoles were seen in significant numbers.
Nxai Pan – The Nxai Pan pride were seen extremely regularly during April and were looking in great condition, which is to be expected at this time of year as they have just enjoyed the benefit of the annual zebra migration. There were still plenty of zebra herds in the area and the lions were seen stalking them. Usually we saw them as a pride of 9, three lionesses together with their six very playful cubs. Occasionally they were joined by a male – especially when there was food to be eaten. The pride of ten were seen feasting on a wildebeest carcass for a couple of days. Another time they were all together on a giraffe kill. Despite the size of the carcass, the male refused to let the rest of the lions eat. When the lionesses were without food, the male lion tended to be seen on his own.
A mother cheetah with her two sub-adult cubs was seen hunting right in front of camp however the herd of zebras that she was targeting stood together to chase the cats off. We observed that the female cheetah seems to be teaching the two youngsters to be more independent and they were sometimes seen on their own, but still calling for their mother. A male cheetah was seen hunting between the Department of Wildlife camp and the main waterhole. A different female was seen resting along the main waterhole road before heading east into the woodlands. This is a particularly relaxed individual and we saw her more than once during the month.
Some elephant bulls were still in residence, although less in number whilst the natural waterholes elsewhere were still full. Giraffe were seen feeding on the acacia trees. Plains game species included springbok and oryx who seemed to enjoy feeding under the trees. In an adorable sighting two steenbok were seen playing with their young lamb. Most unusually a bushbuck was spotted outside the camp gate; this is unusual as this species tend to be found in more riverine areas.
Some interesting smaller animals were seen on the way to Baines Baobabs including bat-eared foxes, jackals, steenbok and slender mongoose. The pan by the historic trees still shimmered with water and although it was starting to dry up there were still aquatic birds such as African spoonbill, red-billed teal, glossy ibis and back-winged stilt. The baobabs themselves were still adorned with a crown of green leaves.
At Nxai Pan other bird species identified included northern black korhaan, ostrich, kori bustard and pale chanting goshawks.
Tau Pan – The Tau Pan pride were seen very regularly, and often extremely close to the camp. At one stage the whole pride of ten (five males, two females and three cubs) took up residence next to the Tau Pan workshop, making the servicing of our vehicles a little tricky. The cubs were unfazed and played around the area, but thankfully after a couple of hours they moved off towards the camp waterhole so the mechanic could get back on with his work.
During the month, the pride appeared to be hunting successfully and were seen full-bellied. Guests really enjoyed seeing how tolerant the big males were of the smaller cubs playing with them. One of the females with her two sub-adult cubs split away from the main pride from time to time and they managed to kill a giraffe calf at the camp waterhole. Jackals and vultures descended on the area in large numbers, looking for an opportunity to scavenge. This kill kept the three lions busy for a couple of days before they reunited with the rest of the pride.
A different pride of lions was seen at the Passarge Valley waterhole, resting under a thorn tree.
We enjoyed a wonderful sighting of an African wild cat at Phukwi Pan who boldly came out of the bushes during the morning coffee break and lay on its back, entertaining the guests. It was a remarkable sighting of a species that is usually quite shy.
A lovely relaxed family of four bat-eared foxes were resident at Tau Pan and they could be observed foraging for insects and rodents. Black-backed jackals were often seen.
The day trips to Deception Valley often yielded interesting sightings, including a male leopard near to Letia Hau. A female leopard was also seen at the start of the month nearer to Tau Pan.
A herd of red hartebeest comprising ten adults and three calves were seen at the Tau Pan area as well as an unusual sighting of a single eland. This is not a species that we see often in the Central Kalahari, but it seemed very comfortable grazing alongside some oryx. At Passarge Valley springbok and oryx were plentiful and we saw a female cheetah with two cubs there looking full-bellied after having killed and eaten a springbok.
The Kalahari raptors are beautiful and we saw many different species on a daily basis. A highlight was a lovely sighting in April of two bateleur eagles enjoying the remains of an oryx carcass.
Kwara Concession – The pack of 8 wild dogs was back in the area and we were delighted to see that the alpha female is pregnant. Right at the end of the month we saw them having a big stand off with four hyenas who were trying to steal their impala kill. The prized carcass changed hands a few times before the wild dog pack eventually prevailed. It was an incredible encounter. The wild dogs were often seen in camp and towards the end of the month they killed an impala between tent one and two before spending two nights within the camp island. The pack of eight also had a skirmish with a small pack of three wild dogs that appeared to have split away from an original pack of ten. The female from the smaller pack was seen digging out old aardvark holes and so could also be pregnant since she seemed to be checking for potential denning sites. These three seem to be finding hunting harder work since they don’t have the advantage of large numbers, not helped by the grass being very long after good rains.
There were dramatic developments during the month concerning two female leopards. At the start of the month one was heavily pregnant and the other had a cub of about one year old. The pregnant female was seen investigating potential denning sights, but we noted at the time that hyenas were always following her on hunts. When she eventually gave birth to her cub we only saw it a couple of times before it disappeared and we found the mother leopard plaintively calling for it. We can’t say definitively what happened, but perhaps the hyenas were responsible. Then, in a very bizarre turn of events, a few days later we found that the same leopardess apparently feeding on the older leopard cub belonging to another female who was also nearby. The two females were seen for a few days in close proximity to each other snarling and growling. After this rather grim start to the month we enjoyed many happier sightings of the leopards on kills, mainly red lechwe and common reedbuck. One such carcass was draped in a tree for a couple of days and guests were able to get some great photos in fantastic light. Another time we were lucky enough to follow a leopard for 40 minutes and see her make her reedbuck kill.
The water level was rising and so the cheetahs were spending less time on the floodplains and more time in the woodlands. We saw the resident male, nicknamed “Mr Special” hunting and also resting after having devoured an impala carcass. We saw him try his luck on kudu and warthog missing both times, but was seen a couple of days later looking full-bellied after finishing up a reedbuck kill.
There was an active hyena den which was giving guests some great sightings of new-born cubs playing with sub-adults. All around Kwara concession we saw a lot of hyena movement with them travelling in groups of 4-8 individuals, especially in the mornings. We saw a clan feeding on an impala carcass and another time a lone individual feeding on an impala which, judging by the tracks, had been stolen from a cheetah.
As is often the case on Kwara concession there were a remarkable number of different lion prides operating. Mma Leitlho pride of three were keeping close ties with a younger male. They seemed to be doing well and the oldest female is pregnant. Mma Mogata pride of two females and four sub-adults were also seen in very good condition. To the west, the Shindi pride of three lionesses with their five cubs were also seen finishing up on a zebra kill. Meanwhile on the eastern side of the concession, towards Splash, two male lions including one named “Mr Limping” were frequently seen.
There were many elephants in the Kwara concession during March with breeding herds numbering up to forty coming to the islands to feed on marula fruits. In camp itself the marula trees were being enjoyed by solitary bulls. There were plentiful tsessebe and giraffe in the area. At one time we saw some young giraffes staring curiously down and investigated to find an African python killing a spur-winged goose. Sitatungas and bushbucks were both seen during the boat cruises. A sky African civet was also spotted.
A Verreaux’s (Giant) Eagle Owl was seen in camp. The mokoro trips continued to yield great sightings of species such as malachite kingfisher, lesser jacana and red-knobbed coot.
Lagoon – The four new male lions in the concession seemed to be doing well as they were located in different areas patrolling or hunting. This pride appeared to be specializing in stalking eland and were found feeding on different eland carcasses during the month. The four males were very actively patrolling the area to mark their presence and secure their new territory, often splitting up so that they could cover more ground. There were two lionesses in the area who appeared to be very good hunters, seen feeding on wildebeest close to Lagoon camp on a wildebeest and another time on a warthog. The two lionesses were also seen stalking different antelope species late in the afternoons as temperatures cooled down.
During the month of March three different female leopards and two cubs were spotted around Lagoon camp in different locations, the sub adult leopard was located hunting birds west of the airstrip. The mother of the sub adult leopard was also seen east of the airstrip heading west where the sub adult was located. An old female leopard with her two months old cubs was also located east of Lagoon camp feeding on a reedbuck; she was wise enough to take her kill up on a mangosteen tree to ensure that she didn’t lose her kill, or indeed her precious cubs, to hyenas or lions.
Hyenas were very active around Lagoon camp moving from one carcass to another. One brave hyena was spotted running away with a bone from an eland that was killed by the four male lions. It was very risky for a lone hyena to steal a meal from under the noses of the four-male lions, but the hyena seized its opportunity and bolted with its prize. Guests who were on that activity managed to take great pictures of the hyena running with a bone in its mouth.
An aardwolf was located at mid-day walking on the road; although it ended up going into a burrow guests were able to get some good shots before it disappeared. An African wild cat was seen walking through tall grass. Bat eared foxes were seen feeding, and jackals were found scavenging on different carcasses
The two resident male cheetahs were located on a hunting mission, after tracking them for two hours. The coalition managed to kill a piglet and after feeding they spent the rest of the day in the shade. The following day they started moving to start patrolling their territory area. These two brothers cheetahs cover a huge area.
A pack of six wild dogs were in the Lagoon area and seen either hunting or resting during the day. One morning the six wild dogs tried their luck with a pair of zebra but instead the two zebras chased them. The six wild dogs gave up and moved on into the bushes, but their bad luck continued as they then came face to face with a lioness so decided to run away from the area altogether.
General game was great during March. There were large breeding herd of elephants, a good number of zebras, eland, giraffes, impalas, wildebeest and roan antelopes. Hippos were also located outside water during the day.
Birds sightings were good and highlights included lesser jacana, hooded vulture, pygmy goose, white baked vulture, Verreaux eagle owl, scoops owl and pearl spotted owl.
A python was also located on several occasions.
Lebala – The Bonga pride of lions used to spend most of their time between Lagoon camp and Lebala camp, but now seemed to have settled in the Lebala area. The Wapoka pride who have long been the resident pride near Lebala appeared to have been pushed deeper south into the woodland. The Bonga is a pride of seven males and three females and were very successful with their hunting during the month as the lions were found feeding on different carcasses including zebra, kudu, wildebeest and giraffe. The Bonga pride are very experienced hunters and they can kill big prey species like giraffe, which is not an easy animal to kill. They were also seen stalking different antelopes on several occasions, witnessed by lucky guests that stayed at Lebala camp during the month of March. There is another female lioness with three cubs which used to be part of Bonga pride around the Lebala area, this lioness was found feeding on a baby giraffe and was also seen stalking impalas but unfortunately the impalas saw her and run away.
A male leopard, son of our well-known female Jane, has been nicknamed Fisherman by our guides as he likes to spend most of his time in the marsh looking for red lechwe. This is a good strategy to avoid the hyenas who are generally found in the more open areas. He was seen feeding on lechwe more than once and was also seen close to camp. When away from the marsh he was seen hunting warthog, even if this means digging out the warthog from their burrows; a sight much relished by Lebala guests. Unfortunately, there was no sign of the resident female leopard Jane and her two cubs during the month of March but this is not necessarily cause for alarm as she has a wide territory in which she patrols.
A pair of one male and female wild dog were seen around Lebala camp area during the month of March; the two dogs were seen hunting impalas and warthogs. It was very interesting to see these two dogs hunting as they covered a big area in a short time. In a lovely sighting the two wild dogs were found resting in a lagoon trying to cool down during the day.
Spotted hyenas were located in different areas feeding on the left-overs from lions and other predators; the hyenas seemed nervous of coming near the lions whilst they were feeding, but because there were plenty of kills they kept moving between the different carcasses. A lone female hyena with two cubs was also seen not too far from the camp.
A serval was seen busy hunting going into the burrows looking for mice and other rodents, this was one of the special sightings as a serval is one of the more elusive cats to see. Honey badgers were also located hunting on several occasions.
General game was plentiful and many different species were found including zebra, wildebeest, impala, giraffe, tsessebe, kudu and sable antelope. Breeding herds of elephants were in the area. On cloudy days hippos were seen outside the water grazing, another special sighting as hippos usually spend most of their time in water during the day.
Bird life was also great. We still had carmine bee-eaters in the area and guests enjoyed photographing the woodland kingfisher, another seasonal migrant. Guests were amazed to see lappet faced vulture, hooded vultures and white backed vultures all in one area busy feeding on the left-over carcasses.
Nxai Pan – The zebra and wildebeest migration was still in full swing at the start of the month, with thousands of extra animals in the park. By the middle of the month the rainfalls started to become less frequent and slowly the zebra numbers started to reduce. However other species such as giraffe, ostrich, wildebeest and springbok were still very plentiful. As the zebras started to move away, the bull elephants started to return to the Nxai Pan area where we can expect to see herds steadily increasing in number over the coming dry months.
Day trips to Baines Baobabs continued to be very popular with our guests, especially as the pans were full of water making the landscape exceptionally beautiful. A big herd of oryx relaxing their calves near to the historic trees made for some beautiful photographs. Two buffalo were seen on the road to Baines.
The resident pride of lions was enjoying the bountiful food supply as a result of the zebra and wildebeest migration and were seen frequently, looking extremely well fed. The pride currently comprises three lionesses with their six playful sub-adult cubs, with an adult male also being seen with them from time to time. More than once we saw them engaging in roaring stand-offs with the resident cheetah family, although it seemed that neither species was keen to engage in a physical fight. The cheetahs were always quick to move off when threatened by the lions.
This mother cheetah with her two sub-adult cubs was seen often, usually along the middle road of the pan where they were hunting for springbok. Although we didn’t manage to see them actually making a kill, they looked in really condition so it seems that they were being successful. A male cheetah was also seen during the month.
A pair of wild dogs were seen during the month and they appeared to be travelling large distances between the camp watering hole, the Department of Wildlife watering hole, and even out towards Baines Baobabs
Smaller mammals were not as plentiful as they are during the dryer months, but there were still black-backed jackals in the area. Leopard tortoises were also seen.
We experienced some spectacular storms which made driving conditions tricky. The rains encouraged shrubs such as the wild stock rose and trumpet thorn to produce their flowers.
The good rains meant that we started to see some birds more usually associated with wetlands than desert such as red-knobbed coot, Egyptian goose and red-billed teals. At Baines Baobabs there were also black-winged stilts and glossy ibis. Other more common residents seen included kori bustard, ostrich, northern black korhaan and double-banded coursers. Greater kestrels, a seasonal migrant, were also spotted.
Tau Pan – During March there were plenty of wildebeest, springbok, red hartebeest and oryx in the Tau Pan and Passarge Valley areas enjoying the green grasses that emerged following good rains. Guests were able to enjoy seeing them galloping and jumping in the morning breeze before the temperatures started to rise. Giraffe and kudu could also be seen drinking from the camp watering hole.
The most unusual sighting of the month at Tau Pan was a leopard trying to kill an aardwolf. Both animals are elusive at the best of times so it was a special privilege to witness this remarkable interaction. Luckily the aardwolf managed to dash into a burrow and escape to the relief of everyone watching. A female leopard was also seen behind the Tau Pan staff village. Although initially she was walking through long grass we eventually were able to get a better view and spent about an hour with her. Another time two different female leopards were seen on the same morning, one posing beautifully on top of a camelthorn tree before coming down, pausing whilst guests took some lovely photographs, and eventually making her way east.
Another pleasant surprise was locating a pack of 12 wild dogs during a day trip to Deception Valley, a species not often seen in the Central Kalahari. On the same day we also came across plenty of elephant tracks and an impressively full-bellied brown hyena by San Pan.
The Tau Pan pride of lions were seen very regularly throughout the month, sometimes roaring through the night near the rooms to the delight of the guests, and occasionally walking through camp itself. The pride spent a lot of time at the camp watering hole, sometimes all five impressive male lions together accompanied by three females and their three cubs. The cubs were at a very playful age, chasing each other around even when the adults were lying sleeping. A different pride were seen in varying sized groups near to Letitia Hau.
Cheetah were seen regularly. We watched the resident female trying her luck on a steenbok not far from Tau Pan; she pursued for a while but was not successful. The resident male was seen watching and stalking the springbok in the Tau Pan area. A mother cheetah and her two sub-adult cubs, were seen from time to time between Passarge Valley and Deception Valley; but these three females are notably more shy than the animals resident closer to camp, so our guides are patiently trying to habituate them to the vehicles.
A large family of 15 bat-eared foxes, including four puppies were seen regularly near to Tau Pan where they particularly enjoyed relaxing under some shady umbrella-thorn trees. We discovered a group of seven back-backed jackal, two males, three females and two pups catching and eating slender mongoose by the pan. Honey badgers were seen close to Deception Valley
An African python was spotted near to San Pan. Another memorable reptile sighting was a lovely group of seven leopard tortoises, including some babies, feeding on flowers
An unusual sighting for the Tau Pan watering hole was two African painted snipe, these uncommon birds are usually more associated with marsh and wetland regions than the semi-arid Kalahari. An immature martial eagle, the largest raptor found in the area, was seen at camp where it was perched on a camel thorn tree eyeing up some helmeted guineafowl who was scratching at the ground beneath him. Pale chanting goshawks are a common bird species at Tau Pan; some guests managed to take excellent photos of this elegant grey raptor eating a gerbil. The goshawks were also seen following honey badgers as they were seen digging for insects and rodents, hoping for a chance to make an opportunistic kill for themselves. Guests were able to get some lovely images of a bateleur eagle bathing in the camp watering hole. Other species seen regularly were ostrich, kori bustard, secretary bird and northern black korhaan.
Kwara Concession – There was a new female cheetah in the area who had two cubs in great condition. We located her for the first time as she was hunting close to Honeymoon Pan and we were able to see her successfully kill an impala. Two days later we found her again and once more she brought down an impala in front of the vehicle. She appeared to be a very skilful hunter. The two cheetah males in the area seemed to be doing well and managing to actively avoid all the lions. One of them seemed a very active hunter who was specialising on warthogs, though on one occasion we watched him being driven off ferociously by a sow protecting her piglets. Another time, we had a wonderful sighting where he was rolling over and over on the same area of a termite mound.
The number of lions in the Kwara concession appeared to be growing and two big new males were actively patrolling and marking the eastern area from Splash, all the way to the Kwara airstrip. The two brothers have formed a coalition and were very vocal when separated from each other – to the delight of our guests who were thrilled with the spine-tingling experience of having lions roaring very close to the game drive vehicle. The new males were seen mating with two lionesses so hopefully they will be successful in holding onto their territory for the arrival of the cubs.
A pride of three lionesses in the 4 Rivers area with their five cubs was doing well. We followed them hunting and watched them kill a warthog, on another occasion they came close to pulling down a wildebeest in front of the vehicle, but just missed. One time we were watching them interacting and grooming each other, with one of the Zulu Boys a short distance away keeping an eye on his females. Whilst we were still watching the lions, we saw some impalas springing out of the bush pursued by a pack of 8 wild dogs. We quickly drove around to follow them and saw that they had managed to kill one of the impala and were busy feeding. Very soon afterwards jackals, hyenas and vultures arrived seeking their opportunity to scavenge. There’s never a dull moment at Kwara!
The pack of 8 wild dogs were seen hunting often, although sometimes the long grasses seemed to be impeding their ability to pursue their prey. Nevertheless, we found them on successful kills including a young kudu and a common reedbuck.
There was a new female cheetah in the area who had two cubs in great condition. We located her for the first time as she was hunting close to Honeymoon Pan and we were able to see her successfully kill an impala. Two days later we found her again and once more she brought down an impala in front of the vehicle. She appeared to be a very skilful hunter. The two cheetah males in the area seemed to be doing well and managing to actively avoid all the lions. One of them seemed a very active hunter who was specialising on warthogs, though on one occasion we watched him being driven off ferociously by a sow protecting her piglets. Another time, we had a wonderful sighting where he was rolling over and over on the same area of a termite mound.
The female leopard who lost her cub earlier this year was still in the area. One day she was spotted moving through long grass, almost invisibly due to her camouflage, but then obligingly climbed up a tree where guests were able to get some great photos. On the western side of the concession there was a new female leopard. At one stage she had killed an impala and could be seen feeding on the carcass up a tree for three consecutive days. There was also a new male leopard who was beautifully relaxed. One day jackal alarm calls alerted us to the presence of a large predator and we discovered the tom holding a male impala’s neck in the act of suffocating it. Another time, we found him on the kill of a waterbuck calf.
The cooler, rainy weather during February was favoured by the hyenas who were active patrolling during the day. A giraffe carcass in the north east of the concession which appeared to have been killed by the two new male lions was a particularly favoured meal. This large carcass also attracted side-striped and back-backed jackals.
Large herds of elephants were still in the area and guests enjoyed watching them browse and mud-bathe. As the water levels dropped at the start of the month, the hippos changed their feeding habits and were noticeably more aggressive in protecting their territory. No doubt they welcomed the heavy deluges of rain that finally appeared as the month progressed.
Three species of vultures were regularly seen – lappet-faced, hooded and white-backed – true wilderness areas such as the Kwara concession are becoming increasingly vital for the safe future of these endangered birds. The heronry was still active and a highlight for guests during the boat cruises.
Lagoon – A new pride of four male lions have continued to do well in the area and were located in different parts of the concession as they explored their new territory. Sometimes they were seen patrolling alone, each taking a different route to cover the maximum ground, before meeting again. Some of the guests were very lucky to see them roaring, which is also part of marking their presence in the area to other lions. A female was also located with one of the male lions the guides suspected that they might be mating. The male lions were also seen stalking zebras but unfortunately not being successful. The Bonga pride were located resting on a termite mound.
The resident female leopard appeared to be doing well raising her two cubs, it takes a very experienced leopard to raise two cubs in an area where there are so many hyenas and lions. She was seen hunting and her biggest target seemed to be baboons; she was spending most of her time around the area where the baboons spend their night. The two cubs were seen playing around chasing each other around the trees. This female leopard was also seen stalking impalas but not being successful. She was also spotted resting on top of the sausage trees during the day, making for great photo opportunities.
A pack of six wild dogs were still in the area and seen often. One afternoon the guides followed them as they were hunting and guests were lucky enough to see them bring down and devour an impala. Another time the wild dogs were found feeding on a warthog carcass. The pack was also seen stalking impala on different occasions.
The two male cheetahs were located in the area during the month of February, the two male cheetahs spend most of their time in the area between our two camps Lebala and Lagoon. The male two brothers were seen patrolling their area to make sure there were no intruders. A serval cat was located one of the afternoons and the lucky guests managed to take good daytime pictures of this species who is more usually seen at dawn or dusk. Six bat eared foxes were seen busy hunting feeding on insects and going into the holes looking for beetles and other insects.
Spotted hyenas were seen in different location feeding on the left-overs from other predators; hyenas could not keep up with the wild dogs to try steal their carcass.
General game was great and we saw good number of zebras, wildebeest, impalas and breeding elephants. A massive herd of over 150 eland were seen often and made an impressive sight; this is the largest of the antelope species and to see them in such numbers is a wonderful sighting. A herd of roan antelope were also located more than once.
There were some good rains end of February and the vegetation was nice and green. The river channel in front of the lodge filled nicely and grunting hippos were always wallowing in front of the rooms.
Bird life was also good as we still have birds coming for breeding including carmine bee-eaters and African skimmers. The African fish eagle was always regularly seen, and a real favourite with guests.
Lebala – February was a great month for spotting some of the more elusive animals. One evening as a game drive was returning to camp and we thought that all the action was over, the sharp-eyed tracker suddenly asked the guide to stop and reverse, whereby he proudly pointed out a pangolin – a highly prized sighting. An aardwolf was also spotted on a night drive as the guides were game driving back to the camp; the aardwolf was very relaxed and going into the termite mounds looking for food. An African wildcat was also seen.
During February the Wapoka pride split into three separate groups, but the majority of the lions were still in the Lebala area. The guides frequently located one female with three cubs and two male lions, as well as a different group of six males with one female. The rest of the pride were not located during the month of February. One of the main reasons why big prides split is if they do not get well fed, or possibly the six sub-adult males were now old enough for the dominant male to eject them from the family group. All two different prides located were being very successful with their hunting, the mother with three cubs and two males was spotted one of the morning feeding on kudu. The same pride was also seen feeding on a zebra carcass, making for some great photographs for our guests. The six boys were found feeding on a giraffe carcass, and they were also seen stalking wildebeest.
A pack of sixteen wild dogs were seen regularly and appeared to be doing well in the area as they were seen hunting and feeding on impala on more than one occasion.
Resident female leopard Jane and her two cubs were back in the area which was very good news as she has been not around for some time. Having been located, she immediately thrilled the guests by chasing and killing a warthog. She took that up a tree where she stayed for a day feeding along with her two cubs. Guests were able to get some fantastic photos. A male leopard was also located feeding on an impala carcass one of the afternoon.
Two male cheetahs were located resting as they were on a mission of patrolling the area, it was getting dark so the guides did not spend much time with them.
The hyenas moved from their den after the lions spent most of their time nearby and posing a great threat to the hyena cubs. The clan were spotted feeding on left over carcasses, and there was one hyena who regularly came through the camp at night.
General game was good and there were large numbers of wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, kudu and breeding herds of elephant. Honey badgers were also located in the area busy looking for something to eat. Hippos could be seen enjoying the natural pans which had filled with water after the rains.
Bird life was abundant due to the summer migrants. Species seen included a breeding pair of endangered wattled cranes, carmine bee-eaters and African skimmers.
Nxai Pan – After an exceptionally dry January which appeared to stop the usual zebra and wildebeest migration, we were hoping for late rains to arrive in February and we were not in the least disappointed. The gathering afternoon thunderclouds made for memorable sundowner stops with the different shaped clouds and colours giving some incredible photo opportunities.
Right from the start of the month we experienced very regular rainfall at Nxai Pan and as the wet weather continued the game started to return in large numbers. Every day, the herds of zebra, wildebeest and giraffe increased, congregating at the natural watering holes which had filled up at last.
With the return of the prey species, came the predators. The dominant male lions had not been seen for a while, they had probably followed the herds as they moved away, so we were delighted to find them back in Nxai Pan on 5th February, full bellied and resting after enjoying a good meal. They announced their return with plenty of calling that night and the following day were found reunited with the rest of the Nxai Pan pride comprising three females and six cubs. The young lions are at a very playful stage, engaging in games of chase and pulling each other down, all good practice in terms of learning essential hunting skills, but making for some charming photographs as well. The lions were making the most of the zebra herds and were seen feasting on kills.
Also back in the area after having been away for a little while was the resident male cheetah. He was looking in great condition. He is a very mobile individual, covering the whole area from the west to the east of the pan. A female cheetah with two sub-adult cubs were seen at the wildlife waterhole, surrounded by some very nervous zebras who were alarm calling.
Two wild dogs, an alpha male and alpha female were seen in front of the camp more than once, but were chased away by a breeding herd of elephants from the waterhole. They were also seen hunting springboks in the pan area.
A family of four bat eared foxes were seen regularly along the Middle Road of Nxai Pan. They could be seen looking for food such as grasshoppers and other insects amongst the grasses. Black-backed jackal were often seen near to the larger predators, hoping for the opportunity to scavenge from their carcasses.
Elephants were still in the area, but not in the huge numbers that we see at Nxai Pan during the dry season. Now that the natural pans had filled, they were using the opportunity to browse vegetation further away from the permanent water sources that they rely on at other times of the year.
Cooler weather provided good birding conditions and we had some exciting summer visitors to admire. Two Denham’s bustards were located during the month. This was an exciting sighting of an uncommon seasonal migrant to the area which has been classified as ‘near threatened’. Big flocks of black-winged pratincoles could be found near to the natural pans and the two permanent waterholes. Lots of vultures were in the area, waiting for the predators to make inroads in to the migrating herds.
Tau Pan – Lions were seen on the majority of the days during February and guests were often serenaded at night by the sound of nearby roars as the Tau Pan pride made contact with each other. As is often the case at Tau Pan, we came across the cats in groups of varying sizes, including a sizable pride of twelve lions which was seen regularly towards Letia Hau, comprising 3 males, 2 lionesses and seven young. One of the times that pride was feasting on a wildebeest kill. The camp watering hole was frequented by the lions very regularly including a female with a cub and the impressive black-maned resident males.
A brown hyena continued to be seen at the watering hole, especially at dawn and dusk. However another individual was less fortunate and we found its carcass nearby, possibly killed as a result of conflict with lions.
An African wild cat was seen a few times hunting mice around the Tau Pan areas and lucky guests were able to capture some photographs of this elusive mammal. Honey badgers were also seen digging for rodents in the same area. Pale Chanting Goshawks were seen keeping a close eye on the honey badgers, hoping to steal some food, but their reactions were too slow to be successful. Black backed jackal, ground squirrels and bat-eared foxes were seen most days, however some more unusual sightings of a Cape fox and the elusive aardwolf were great to have. Cheetah were located at Passarge Valley.
In a very unusual encounter, we came across elephants in Deception Valley – a female and calf. Elephants haven’t been seen in that area by us for many years. They were resting in the shade – although the day was cloudy it was extremely hot.
Following heavy rains towards the end of February plains game species such as oryx, springbok and wildebeest moved into the Tau Pan area to take advantage of the new green shoots of grass. The springbok herds were estimated to be as large as 300 animals and made a spectacular sight as they ran and pronked at sunset. Steenbok were seen regularly and there was a small herd of red hartebeest at Phokoje Pan. A journey of eleven giraffe were seen regularly.
Birdlife continued to be excellent at Tau Pan, especially for the raptors. Species seen included pallid harrier, gabar goshawk, tawny eagle, black-chested snake eagle, brown snake eagle and yellow-billed kite. A pair of bateleur eagles are building a nest near to camp. Kori bustards and secretary birds could be seen stalking across the pans looking for food. We had a remarkable sighting of 45 ostrich chicks in one flock, being looked after by two sets of parents.
The northern black korhaans and red crested korhaans could be seen displaying. In the case of the latter, the male flies straight up and then dramatically tumbles towards the ground as though shot.
Although the first half of the month was fairly dry for the time of year, the clouds were building up each afternoon making for some spectacular sunset shots. Once the rains came the bush sprang to life and was beautiful and green.
Kwara Concession – Many different prides of lion were seen on Kwara during January. A group of eight were seen feeding on a zebra foal. A smaller pride was also seen eating zebra. At the end of the month two lions took down and killed a large male warthog, right in front of the vehicle. A male and female lion were mating at Pelican Pan for several days and towards the end of the month the guides noticed that another two lionesses had moved away from their pride and suspected that one of them had cubs in the area.
The New Year started with a sighting of a female cheetah desperately calling for her sub-adult daughter. Our worst suspicions were confirmed when the next day we found the younger cheetah’s carcass. Judging by the bite marks on the animal’s neck, we suspect that she was killed by lions. Whilst sad to lose much a magnificent animal, inter-species competition is an important part of the natural world. Despite this incident the adult female was still spending a good deal of time in the same area, but regularly lost her kills to lions. Near Splash camp we found another female cheetah with her cub, feeding on an impala lamb and they were also seen chasing common reedbuck. The resident male cheetah is doing well and usually seen full-bellied. We watched him chase and bring down a common reedbuck, with tremendous views of him accelerating across the open floodplain. He was also seen with a female testing to see whether she was in oestrus.
One morning leopard tracks were found in camp and after following the prints for two hours we heard the alarm calls of a common reedbuck. Rounding the corner, we found a female leopard playing with a newly-born reedbuck lamb whilst its mother looked on helplessly. We then followed the leopard into the marshes. After the female leopard lost her cub in December, she changed her movement pattern and was spending more time in the mopane woodlands where she was seen doing some territorial marking. One time we saw her stalking a herd of tsessebe and seemed to be focused on their calves, but a troop of baboons spotted her and raised the alarm, sending the antelopes bolting. A male and female leopard were seen together on a tree and as we watched they climbed down to mate.
The wild dog pack of 7 has lost one of the two pups from the litter of 2017 – there is now only one pup left from the original nine. Towards the end of the month they were seen hunting and chasing impalas through Kwara camp. The pack of six is doing well and even the limping male is back on his feet. Guests enjoyed seeing them engage in playful interactions and successfully taking down and devouring an impala.
The spotted hyena clan started to take their cubs out and about on their hunting missions.
A very relaxed mother serval with her young kitten were seen more than once and we were even lucky enough to find them feeding on a fresh kill. We were also lucky enough to get great sightings of honey badgers.
The weather during the first half of January was unusually dry for the time of year and as a result large breeding herds of elephants were seen regularly in the afternoons as they made their way towards the main channels of Moremi Game Reserve to drink, feed and dust-bathe. Guests enjoyed watching teenagers playfighting and swimming.
The general game was very good with plentiful herds of zebra, tsessebe, wildebeest, impala, lechwe, reedbuck and giraffe. In addition to the more usual species we were fortunate enough to see sitatunga and bushbuck, the latter not as commonly seen in the Okavango Delta as in wooded areas.
The water levels were receding towards the end of the month and so many water birds could be seen feeding on the fish trapped in drying waterholes. In a most unusual sighting, a flap-necked chameleon was seen swimming across a channel.
Lagoon – At the start of the month the guides were thrilled to find an aardwolf den with three cubs in residence. This very rare sighting was a delight for our guests. Bat-eared foxes also had den sites in the area and were seen on almost every drive as well as both black-backed and side-striped jackals.
Four male lions who were new to the area were initially a bit shy towards our game viewers, but the guides’ patience was rewarded and the lions seemed to get more relaxed as the month progressed. Their presence seems to be influencing the Bonga Pride of 10 who are spending more time in the south of the area whilst the intruders occupy their usual territory. The Bonga pride were seen feeding on a baby giraffe; as they later walking up to the watering hole for a drink some spotted hyenas lying in wait, but keeping their distance at the lion’s kill. The Bonga pride were also seen hunting zebras and a male warthog, but without success. A young male lion who was pushed out of the pride was sometimes seen with his sister and together they managed to catch a warthog piglet. Another time the make was located feeding on old wildebeest carcass
The resident coalition of two cheetah brothers were in the concession and found feeding on an impala
A female leopard with two cubs had been missing from the area for a while, so our guides were pleased to find her back in the concession and feeding well on two kills at the same time – a zebra foal and warthog piglet. A male leopard was located a couple of times as he patrolled his territory, though he was still quite shy.
Hyena sightings were more common than usual during January and were often seen morning and afternoon as they frequented carcasses along the woodlands and floodplains. A hippo carcass in the marshes at Watercut attracted scavengers including hyenas and many vultures. Another single hyena was seen feeding on an old elephant carcass that was been soaked by the previous day’s rain.
The general game was excellent with a phenomenal influx of zebra and giraffe throughout the area. Large herds of eland moved in from the north west of the concession, grazing in a mixed herd with the zebra. Wildebeest were also spotted in large numbers and we also had wonderful sightings of shy roan and sable antelope herds. All of the plains game including impala, tsessebe and warthogs have babies, making for delightful photographs. As the unusually dry weather continued during January, elephants started to return back towards the river area from the mopane woodlands where they would usually be found at this time of year.
The resident pack of wild dogs has reduced in number over time from 12 individuals to just 6 at the moment, although the remaining dogs were looking well-fed and healthy. They were often hunting at the airstrip area, one time flushing out a group of three leopards, a mother with her one-year-old cubs. We saw them making other kills including an impala and warthog piglet.
In terms of smaller mammals, we saw included slender, yellow and dwarf mongoose. Wild cats were seen from time to time.
There were plentiful ostrich and many had chicks following them as they grazed – up to 12 at a time trotting along behind their parents. One time, hundreds of vultures were seen by the river having a bath. Four species of vulture were still being seen in the area; white-backed, hooded, lappet-faced and white-headed, some of them had nest sites. Secretary birds and ground hornbills were also breeding in the area and wattled cranes were seen with nestlings were found at the inland waterholes. Following the first heavy rains insectivores such as bee-eaters were attracted to the alates, sometimes known as flying ants, that took to the wing in huge numbers. Raptors identified included tawny eagles, bataleurs, wahlberg’s eagles and lesser-spotted eagles.
Lebala – One morning, a reedbuck made its alarm call while the guests were having early morning breakfast, so the guides went to check and found a resident male leopard in the bushes. The guides went back to the main area and told the guests, who quickly jumped in the vehicles and drove around to the rooms. When they got there, to their amazement, they found that the leopard had killed a bushbuck in front of room seven. There was no sign of the main resident female, known as Jane, in the area and the guides thought that she moved to a new location to raise her two baby cubs. However, a different female leopard (one of Jane’s daughters from a previous year) was seen stalking impalas though not successfully. She was also observed seen resting on top of the trees on several occasions. The resident male leopard was also seen stalking game and posing beautifully for photographs on branches.
The Wapoka resident pride of lions were kept on top of their game during the month of January, as there was another pride of lions in the area known as the Bonga pride, who were moving down from the north of the concession. This affected the behaviour of the Wapoka Pride who spent most of their time in the southern woodland to avoid coming face to face with the Bonga Pride. Having lost two of their cubs this year already, the Wapoka Pride were being very cautious and they know that if the two prides were to meet then there would likely be a big fight over the territory.
A male and female from Wapoka pride were found mating which was regarded as one of the special sightings of the month, some of the guests were lucky to see the courting couple in action. It was a very busy month because of the two prides of lions in the area stalking the herds of zebra and wildebeest. These antelope were still dropping their young. The Wapoka pride was found feeding on a kudu carcass in the woodland after the guide and tracker tracked them for more than an hour.
The pack of ten wild dogs was been located in the area both hunting and on kills. They were targeting different species, but mostly impalas. It was still a good time for the dogs when it came to hunting as there were so many young antelopes, however the size of the pack means that they need to kill frequently in order for all the dogs to have sufficient food.
Two male cheetahs were spotted hunting by the airstrip; we did not see the two cheetahs for some weeks and it was nice to see them again. The guides and trackers followed them for some time and the cheetahs started stalking some wildebeest but without luck.
The hyena den was still active and some of the guests were able to watch the cubs playing. Hyenas were also found feeding on leftover carcasses from the other predators. The clan was often seen waiting for the lions to finish feeding so that they could scavenge.
An African wild cat was spotted one afternoon walking around the termite mounds looking for mice and small rodents. An African civet was also seen during one evening game drive just after the sundowner drink.
General game was very good at Lebala during January which is one of the reasons why we had more predators in the area. There were a good number of wildebeest, impalas and breeding herds of elephants. Bird life was also excellent as we still had carmine bee – eaters in the area, African skimmers, wattled cranes and flocks of beautiful red bishops.
Nxai Pan – After some good early rains in November and December, January was much drier than expected and as the natural watering holes dried up, the game started to concentrate once again on the two man-made watering holes. The camp watering hole was extremely productive with lots of elephants and mixed herds of giraffe, zebra, impala, buffalo and wildebeest, many accompanied by their new offspring. Jackals were often seen active in front of the camp. At the wildlife watering hole, the mix of game was a little different including kudu, springboks and oryx.
The unexpected dry spell in January seemed to confuse the zebra, wildebeest and giraffe herds who usually congregate in their thousands at this time of the year. The animals had started to arrive, but as the heat continued we saw their numbers decline again. Eventually towards the end of January the rains started in earnest, so it will be interesting to see what the herds decide to do next. There have been occasions in the past when the migration has returned for a second time in similar circumstances.
Three lionesses with six cubs were located trying to hunt some zebras, but as the area was so open they were not able to stalk close enough to launch a successful ambush. A couple of days later they obviously had more luck and were seen feasting on a zebra kill, surrounded by vultures and about twenty black-backed jackals. One time these cubs provided delightful photo opportunities by climbing some trees, to make the experience even better their three mothers started roaring.
One afternoon the guides spotted a single lioness who was previously known to us as part of the “Seven Sisters” walking from the middle of the pan to some bushes when all of a sudden two tiny lion cubs came out of the undergrowth to greet her. We were delighted to find this unexpected little family in Nxai Pan. The new additions brought the total number in the Nxai Pan pride to twenty, although they were most often seen in smaller sub-groups.
The resident male cheetah was seen looking in very good condition. Meanwhile the female cheetah with her two sub-adult offspring was venturing further afield and even seen towards Baines Baobabs.
At the start of January we started to see migratory birds in the area such as Abdim’s storks, steppe buzzards and blue-cheeked bee-eaters. Once the rains recommenced towards the end of the month we started to see new birds in the area that we would usually associate more with wetter areas such as African jacanas, black-winged practincoles and spurwing geese.
The increase in herbs and flowers in the area made for some interesting explanations during the bushman cultural walks. Along the road to Baines Baobabs there were lots of berries for the trackers to talk about in terms of their value to the hunter-gatherer lifestyle of the San tribe. In this area, the guides and trackers were also able to show guests some of the smaller points of interest such as dung beetles rolling their balls, and aardvark tracks. The famous baobab trees themselves were looking beautiful with seed pods and leaves.
Tau Pan – The Tau Pan pride was seen regularly as they spent a lot of time moving between the camp watering hole and their nearby den. The five impressive males were often baby-sitting the youngsters – presumably whilst the lionesses were out looking for food. Two of the lionesses often joined the pride, but halfway through the month the third lioness went missing and the guides though that perhaps she had gone to give birth. Different prides were seen at Passarge Valley and Deception Valley during full day trips.
A brown hyena was visiting the camp watering hole from time to time, usually at dawn or dusk. It was a really special treat to see this usually nocturnal animal in good natural light.
The resident female cheetah was seen hunting springbok at Tau Pan, but the antelopes’ strategy of staying in the middle of the wide-open pan helped them to spot the cat in enough time to thwart her attempts. A male cheetah was having good success in Tau Pan and was seen feasting on a wildebeest calf. A family of three cheetahs were located at Letitia Hau.
General game at Tau Pan included springbok, oryx, kudu and wildebeest. This particular herd of wildebeest are always resident in the area, although they move quite considerable distances within the vicinity to find the best grazing, according to where the most rain has fallen. We saw a big herd of 30 oryx, including 10 calves feeding alongside two male red hartebeest at Makgoa Pan. Guests enjoyed seeing large journeys of giraffes with their young calves browsing on the acacia trees and drinking from the camp watering hole.
Bat-eared foxes, honey badgers and black-backed jackals were all smaller mammals seen frequently around the edges of Tau Pan.
As the dry weather continued, massive flocks of red-billed queleas in their thousands came to drink at the watering hole, their combined weight breaking branches of the nearby trees. The bushes in the area seemed to be made of feathers rather than leaves as the little birds huddled together. Raptors including lanner falcons, steppe buzzards, yellow-billed kites, Gabar goshawks and pale chanting-goshawk swooped in and out of the flocks of quelea, snatching their prey. Guests enjoyed seeing secretary birds and kori bustards stride out across the open grasslands as they searched for food.