Kwara Concession – One day our two resident wild dog packs bumped into each other very close to Splash camp, totalling 42 wild dogs in total! We decided to follow the bigger Kwara pack as they finished off an impala, meanwhile Splash pack went on to chase a female leopard and her cub up into a sausage tree.
The Kwara pack comprised twelve adults and thirteen sub-adults who continued to hunt successfully, often near to Kwara camp itself where they were specialising on impala. One time we saw them trying to hunt ostrich chicks but they were out of luck that day. Within this pack there are five dogs who were looking very old, but they were still keeping up with the family. One time they hunted and killed three impala lambs and, as they were feeding, they were charged by four lionesses so they had to give up their meal. They then moved towards camp.
The Splash pack of eight adult and nine young wild dogs took town a pregnant kudu close to the airstrip. Many vultures came to finish off the carcass. These dogs are prolific hunters. As an example, one afternoon they first took down two impala lambs at once and after a short rest they continued on to try their luck on a herd of zebra. The zebra resisted strongly and after a fight with them the dogs continued onwards and finally killed a tsessebe bull.
Resident male lions known as Puffy and Big Man were seen frequently, including on a kudu carcass that their lionesses had killed. Two male lions from the Zulu boys moved into their territory and were seen feeding on a young tsessebe. A few days later they fought with the resident males who were running from them. There was also a new coalition of four young males entering the area, so it seemed that the stage is set for some exciting territorial battles in the near future as the three coalitions compete for this game-rich area. The Splash pride of two lionesses and six cubs were still on the Kwara camp side of the reserve and seemed most interested in zebra. Sometimes they were accompanied by a male lion.
The resident male cheetah known as Mr Special was doing well, feeding on warthog and common reedbuck. One day he managed to hunt and kill a zebra foal which kept him busy for a couple of days. We saw another intruder male who was far from his usual home range during a period when Special seemed to have moved eastwards. When Special returned he was very actively going back around his marking posts to re-establish his territory. As usual, he continued to amaze us by climbing right up into trees, acting more like a leopard than a cheetah!
We managed to find a spotted hyena den which had five cubs of varying ages. We also saw hyenas bathing in muddy pools to cool off from the heat. Once a spotted hyena was feeding on an impala, chasing away jackals and vultures who were trying to scavenge.
A leopard was located up a tree feeding on an impala lamb and we also found a leopard cub on its own whilst its mother was away hunting.
More than once a female aardwolf with four cubs was seen during night drive. The mother was very relaxed, although the cubs were still a little shy. Both back-backed and striped jackal were seen nearly every drive with plenty of puppies accompanying their parents as they foraged. We came across a serval successfully hunting frogs.
Guides reported that more elephants were being seen than usual and buffalo were also massing in their hundreds, both species taking advantage of the very good grazing in the area. As the weather went through a dry spell, elephant herds at the Splash waterhole increased to about 100 strong.
Breeding season for the herbivores was well underway with zebra, wildebeest, warthog, impala and tsessebe all producing young.
Reptiles seen included snakes such as African pythons and black mambas.
A good number of migratory birds were seen in the area including steppe buzzards, steppe eagles, woolly-necked storks, broad-billed rollers, black kites and lots of yellow-billed kites. Wattled cranes were observed in a courtship display, jumping four metres in the air with wings spread out.
Lagoon – The resident pack of five wild dogs moved approximately two kilometres from their initial den; a normal behaviour which helps to reduce parasites and attack from other predators. The mother dog, the pack’s beta female, stayed guard at the den whilst the rest of the pack went hunting. When they returned, we were able to see them regurgitating food for her. During the first week of the month we managed to get our first glimpse of a single puppy and saw it often outside the den afterwards. By the middle of the month the pup was able to start eating regurgitated meat. The dogs were hunting very successfully, mainly on impala lambs, sometimes taking two at once. They also killed a kudu by the Lagoon camp staff village. During full moon they tried hunting at night, but this did not appear to be a successful strategy as they returned empty-bellied and the alpha male sustained an injury to his right front leg. Luckily it was not too serious and he was able to keep up with the pack.
After being soaked by the morning rain, hard work paid off for our guide and tracker as they came across cheetah tracks that hadn’t been touched by the rain, indicating that they were very fresh. They followed the tracks and noticed that the prints changed to show that the cats were running alongside antelope. In the distance we saw a tawny eagle landing next to a hooded vulture; a tell-tale sign of some action. Sure enough, when we went to investigate, the two cheetah brothers were busy feeding on a fresh kudu carcass. A few days later, we found that the brothers had separated with one calling for two days to find his coalition partner before they were reunited. The cheetahs were then absent for a week, so the guides hatched a plan to focus on seeking them out one morning. After hours of looking, they gave up and decided to stop for coffee, only to find the two cheetahs nonchalantly waiting at the pre-arranged coffee stop, as though they were playing games with us all along. At the end of the month we saw that they had killed two impala lambs at once and were busy feeding.
Lions were seen almost daily. Some were in honeymoon mood and once we had a rather unique sighting of mating lions, just 300 metres away from mating elephants. The three male lions known as the “Northern Boys” enjoyed feasting on a hippo. Baboon alarm calls also led us to find them with two females resting on a termite mound. A few days later we saw these females hunting warthog, but they were not successful. We followed the two lionesses as they hunted and watched as they eventually killed a tsessebe calf. We saw a different pride of two females and three cubs on a fresh zebra kill.
Since the start of the rains, we enjoyed relaxed sightings of bat-eared foxes foraging in the late afternoons near to their den. The aardwolf den was very active. Black-backed jackals also had puppies at their den site.
Female leopards were seen a few times, one with a freshly killed wildebeest calf carcass which she had hoisted up a tree.
During night drives we spotted porcupine, African civet, serval, aardwolf and springhare. We were lucky enough to get good photos of an African wild cat hunting at night.
Spotted hyenas were seen patrolling the area and a clan of twenty were feasting on a giraffe carcass.
General game was very good and included herds of eland, sable and roan antelope. There were many buffaloes in the mixed woodland and marsh areas. Elephants were also seen in big herds in the open areas close to the woodlands.
The inland pans had filled with water and were breeding hotspots for waders such as wood sandpipers, three-banded plovers, ruffs and little stints. Other species of waterfowl included red-billed teal, yellow-billed ducks, saddle-billed storks, little grebes, knob-billed ducks and giant kingfishers. Guests were thrilled to see wattled cranes, slaty egrets and ground hornbills. Birds feasting on emerging termite alates included yellow-billed kites, tawny eagles, marabou storks and even fish eagles. A couple of times we saw martial eagles feeing on impala lambs.
Lebala – The resident Wapoka pride was located on 29 out of 31 days in December. This large pride comprises five females, eleven sub-adult cubs and two males. We were able to follow them as they hunted and took down a buffalo bull. They were also taking full advantage of the herbivore breeding season by feeding on impala lambs and zebra foals. Once we saw that the two male lions had been left to babysit whilst the lionesses went hunting. In a bold move three male lions came across from Lagoon as far as the Lebala airstrip. Meanwhile the resident males were enjoying the carcass of an elephant calf along with the female with three very small cubs. By observing circling vultures, we were able to locate two sub-adult males and a sub-adult female feasting on a large giraffe.
Guides were excited to see the resident pack of wild dogs as they had been absent for a little while. This is a small pack of just two adults and two sub-adults. The youngsters were very playful, running around and even splashing through water.
A female cheetah with four cubs was located. In a fascinating encounter, we were able to watch as she gave the cubs a lesson in hunting. She had caught an impala lamb but deliberately didn’t finish it off herself so that the cubs could learn and practise the killing skills they would need later in life. We also came across the coalition of two cheetah brothers a couple of times on kills.
In a rare sighting for Lebala, we were lucky enough to come across a brown hyena. Spotted hyenas were located more frequently and once we had a lovely sighting of them bathing and playing in a pool.
A tom leopard was located highly mobile; we followed him for a while before he headed deep into the mopane woodland.
Most of the general game animals were in full breeding mode with babies at foot. Species included kudu, impala, warthog, steenbok, eland and wildebeest. We enjoyed lovely sightings of red lechwe leaping as they crossed channels, however on one dramatic occasion a lechwe was attached by a crocodile. They fought for about thirty minutes before the antelope finally managed to get away.
Elephants were in the area, coming down to the pools to drink; once we saw them chasing off a pride of lions. It was wonderful to see breeding herds crossing the channels with their calves. Guests enjoyed seeing hippos playing and opening their mouths wide “yawning” in a territorial display to show off their tusks. An unusually big herd of sixty giraffe were seen alongside herds of zebra. Sitatunga were seen on the flood plain next to a big flock of pelicans.
We had an active aardwolf den and were able to see the mother with her three cubs playing and feeding on termites. Bat-eared foxes also had cubs. On night drive we encountered a relaxed serval, aardwolf, African wild cat, honey badger and African civet
Some guests were particularly fascinated with dung beetles rolling their balls and burying them in the sand.
Notable bird sightings included ground hornbills, woolly-necked storks, carmine bee-eaters, brown snake-eagles, tawny eagles, martial eagles, black herons, yellow-billed kites, saddle-billed storks, woodland kingfishers, broad-billed rollers, carmine bee-eaters, pink-backed pelicans and Verreaux’s (Giant) eagle owl. We saw a pair of ostrich with their fifteen chicks.
Nxai Pan – After the first rains of the season the herbivores started to drop their young and we were lucky enough to witness a wildebeest giving birth. The calf was able to stand in ten minutes and was running around after thirty minutes.
As the month progressed, the numbers of zebra started to build into their hundreds as herds arrived as part of their annual migration to the pans. We saw two stallions have a very intense fight for more than half an hour
Bachelor and breeding herds of elephants continued to visit the camp waterhole in large numbers.
The resident pride of lions was seen fairly regularly and they seemed to be specialising on springbok and zebra. Two of the lions were mating over the course of several days and were often surrounded by game species such as giraffe, zebra and wildebeest who seemed to recognise that the cats had other things on their mind than hunting.
A pack of nine wild dogs, four adults and five puppies, were seen resting one day.
The resident male cheetah was observed actively marking his territory by spraying urine on posts such as termite mounds.
Springboks with their lambs were scattered around the pan. Other general game included gemsbok, red hartebeest, giraffe, common duiker, kudu and impala. Most of the antelopes were in breeding season, with lots of new-born babies.
We enjoyed watching a family of four bat-eared foxes playing together at their den and foraging for harvester termites. They included a young cub and a sub-adult as well as the parents. We also found a black-backed jackal den with two puppies.
At Baines Baobabs several elephant bachelor herds congregated together, numbering about sixty animals in total. They were mud wallowing and play-fighting.
We watched three lanner falcons try their luck at catching knob-billed ducks, forcing one duck to dive underwater to escape. After the rains, storks such as Abdims, yellow-billed and open-billed started to appear and we also saw the beautiful grey crowned cranes and lesser flamingos. Other water birds that arrived as the pans filled included red-billed teal, knob-billed ducks, marsh sandpipers, painted snipes and little grebes. Steppe buzzards, yellow-billed kites and pale chanting goshawks were seen together in a mixed flock hawking termites. We were lucky enough to see red-crested korhaans in a courtship display. A dead ostrich was found along East Road, but strangely none of the scavengers seemed interested in it at all.
Tau Pan – The Tau Pan pride were seen often and we came across them feasting on a gemsbok that they had killed some thirty minutes before. We also saw them cornering a brown hyena at the camp waterhole. The hyena looked sick and in the end the lions left without harming it. Another time they were at the camp waterhole being nervously watched by a herd of giraffe who were waiting for the lions to move off so that that they quench their thirst. We also came across lions at Deception Valley and Letia Hau during day trips.
Three brother cheetahs were seen along Passarge Valley, but they are not yet well habituated to the vehicles and were shy. A different pair of cheetahs was located at Phukwe Pan hunting, but they were chased away by gemsbok. Two female cheetahs and a herd of springbok were seen sizing each other up, but the cats didn’t make a chase in the end. A single male cheetah was seen near to the Tau2 camping site; he was looking very healthy and relaxed.
We saw a brown hyena highly mobile whilst we were on game drive.
A female leopard was seen trying her luck on ground squirrels, but the squirrels quickly escaped into their burrows. We also saw her calmly rolling around in the grass near to the road around sunset time.
Very relaxed bat-eared foxes could be seen with four cubs at their den. Black-backed jackals were often trying to attack the cubs, but the foxes aggressively chased the bigger predators away from their young.
A honey badger was seen wrestling a snake but won in the end and ate the reptile for breakfast. One day we startled a sleeping honey badger who hissed angrily at us before moving away.
Giraffe could be seen browsing the thorn trees. Gemsbok and springbok were grazing the Tau Pan, new shoots of grass at Tau Pan and San Pan.
We came across a penduline tit nest with chicks in it, this fascinating structure is made of woolly plant material and woven by the birds into a soft weatherproof mat resembling felt. According to our legendary San tracker, Scuppa, these nests were used by the Kalahari bushmen to use as swaddling or nappies for babies.
Kwara Concession – The resident male cheetah known as Special was seen hunting and killing a common reedbuck. A female cheetah with a three-month-old cub was located hunting on the eastern side of camp. Another cheetah mother with a sub-adult son was also spotted. One remarkable day all five cheetahs met up; the two females started to chase each other, leaving Mr Special as a somewhat unwilling babysitter to the two youngsters. The female with the younger cub eventually came and collected her offspring, leaving the other female to mate with Special whilst her cub continued to call for her.
In another great sighting we found a sub-adult female leopard trying her luck with impala but at the end of her approach the impala saw her and took off. However, the antelope ended up running straight into a female cheetah who succeeded in bringing one down. The leopard then came in trying to steal the kill, but the cheetah bravely fought for the right to her hard-won meal.
In a territorial challenge, three intruder male lions were seen roaring and following the resident males who were running away from them. Two separate pairs of lions were seen mating. A new pride to the area comprising two males and two females managed to kill a buffalo near to the mokoro station. The Splash Pride of two lionesses and six sub-adults were still in the area and doing well. They attracted the attention of two males from the Zulu Boys, well-known visitors to the Kwara Reserve. The Splash Pride were also seen hunting buffalo and zebra.
We managed to locate three separate aardwolf dens in the area and at the most established the cubs could be seen playing near the entrance, whilst the mother stood nearby.
The Marsh Pack of twenty-five wild dogs were located hunting more than once, variously killing impala, common reedbuck and tsessebe calves, sometimes right at camp. Once we saw them feeding on a fully-grown kudu bull which was the biggest prey we have yet seen them take down. This pack is made up of thirteen adults and twelve puppies of about 6 months old; the youngsters have grown well and join the adults on all their hunts.
The Kwara pack of twenty-six wild dogs were located early one morning running around camp hunting and eventually killed two impala at the same time.
Two tom leopards were seen in a territorial fight to the north of Kwara camp. Eventually one backed away leaving the other to go and rest on top of a tree. A very relaxed female leopard was hunting monkeys and eventually managed to catch a baby vervet to the consternation of the troop. A different female continued to specialise in hunting jackal.
Spotted hyenas were seen feeding on a dead elephant, chasing away vultures and jackals who were also trying to scavenge. We also saw a clan of ten hyena waiting for lions to finish up with a buffalo carcass.
Following the first rains general game in the area was very good with buffalo herds up to two hundred grazing the green areas that had previously been flooded. Tsessebe started dropping their calves. Big herds of zebra could be seen grazing, grooming each other and sun-bathing. Near to the boat station, a serious territorial fight between two common reedbuck lasted more than twenty minutes. Victory was eventually claimed by the sub-adult bull. Other game species included giraffe, wildebeest and impala. There were plenty of elephants in the area including a breeding herd of about forty drinking and mud-bathing at the Splash camp waterhole.
A pride of four ostrich were seen feeding on fresh jasmine leaves emerging along the firebreak
A serval was seen catching a bullfrog on the road before killing making off with it. We saw African wildcat during night drive.
Lagoon – During November, Lagoon guests were able to experience a remarkable combination of predator breeding behaviour as we were fortunate enough to have active dens for brown hyena, aardwolf, bat-eared fox and (very out of season) wild dogs. In addition, lions and leopards were also seen mating.
The brown hyena den had fresh tracks and a few times an adult was visible outside the den. The aardwolf den was very active, especially in the early hours of the morning and we were able to enjoy the cubs interacting with their parents. A new bat-eared fox den was discovered and one day we found the adults harassing a honey badger that was trying to enter their den. As the month progressed, we saw that they had six fox cubs. Other smaller mammals encountered during night drives included African civet, African wild cat, porcupines and spotted hyenas. One time we were lucky enough to come across a relaxed porcupine during the day.
Unusually for the time of year, the resident wild dog pack of two females and three males were found denning. We were able to watch them catching impala, but in another less successful hunting mission they had to turn tail and run back towards their den as they were chased by a herd of wildebeest.
As we stopped to take a picture of a broad-billed roller, we heard the mating call of leopards behind the nearby bushes. We quietly moved closer and found our resident female looking very relaxed but her suitor was shyer and he quickly moved off. After staying with the female for a while we heard the male calling and so decided to leave the female in peace as she went to re-join him in the thick mopane woodland. We came across the pair again a few days later when the female was seen chasing off a sub-adult who was trying to join her. Later in the month we enjoyed an exciting encounter with a tom leopard who was in hunting mode. Although he was not lucky on that occasion, our guests were able to get some stunning photos as he stood up on termite mounds surveying the area for prey. The following day we were able to watch him as he stalked impala.
We picked up tracks of a male lion who appeared to have paced repeatedly up and down the road. As we got down to investigate, we saw him disappearing into some bushes and moving closer we found a male with a young lioness, with two other males watching nearby. This was the three Northern males and it seemed that they were extending their territory southwards. The lionesses that they with were two who had broken away from the large Wapoka Pride that is usually found closer to Lebala camp. These lions were also seen feeding on a buffalo carcass and stalking wildebeest and warthog.
The Northern Pride lioness with four subadults was located a few times, including near to camp. We saw them trying to hunt buffalo, but without success.
We followed tracks from the resident two cheetah brothers all the way from the airstrip to Second Lagoon where we found them having a drink. We saw them trying their luck on kudu and red lechwe without success, but were lucky enough to see them bring down and kill a common reedbuck. We also saw a bigger, older, coalition of two male cheetahs feeding at various times on eland and tsessebe.
General game species included zebra, eland, giraffe, wildebeest, tsessebe, kudu, impala, warthog, red lechwe, sable and roan antelope. Breeding herds of elephant could be seen mud-bathing and crossing the channels. We were lucky enough to come across a pair of leopard tortoises mating.
Trapped fish in drying pools attracted many different species including pink-backed pelicans, slaty egrets and different kinds of stork. Spoonbills were also located in the same area. Long-crested eagles were seen, this being prime time to find them in the Kwando Reserve. Other notable bird sightings included Verreaux’s (Giant) eagle owls, woodland kingfishers, saddle-billed storks and carmine bee-eaters.
Lebala – We saw the large Wapoka pride most days during the month; they were feeding on warthog, buffalo, zebra and other antelope species. At the start of the month we found them feasting on a hippo along the channel by the camp’s hide. The hippo appeared to have died from a fight with another hippo as it had some deep puncture wounds on its body. We enjoyed a lovely sighting of the pride walking through the camp, playing with their cubs until they went to rest in the marsh near the hide. We watched as the lions waited for wildebeest to come and drink from the channel, but they were unsuccessful. After a particularly hungry day they finally managed to catch a warthog and squabbled noisily over this meal which provided a meagre ration for the seventeen lions. A few days later they managed to kill a buffalo and then the same day a zebra, but still they continued to fight with each other for the food and pushed each other around even though by this stage they were looking very full. Sometimes the two males known as Sebastian and Old Gun joined the pride; we witnessed them driving off a young male who originally left the pride two years previously. Another intruder male came across the river from the Caprivi Strip and was busy making territorial calls and scent marking.
At Halfway Pan we located two lionesses and four cubs known as Mma D’s Pride. One time we were watching them rest when a sable antelope walked straight towards them. The lions stalked their prey and although their final chase was unsuccessful, it was a very exciting encounter.
A young lioness with her three newly born cubs was found west of the airstrip. She appeared to be actively avoiding the Wapoka Pride.
The small resident pack of two wild dogs were seen hunting impala and they managed to bring one down in the middle of the marshes. They have two puppies who appeared to be doing well. Another lone wild dog was seen wandering around for a few days but then we sadly found him dead near to where the lions were feeding. Its carcass was being finished up by vultures.
A new aardwolf den was discovered with three cubs and we were lucky enough to find them playing outside with their mother. We also found a jackal den with four pups. One morning we were lucky enough to find an African civet moving through the grass at about 9.30am – unusual for this nocturnal animal which is rarely seen in broad daylight. We also saw African wild cat, large spotted genet, honey badgers and serval during night drive.
Spotted hyenas were observed taunting a young male lion who was finishing off a red lechwe carcass. They were also seen hanging around the Wapoka Pride whilst they were on kills, hoping for the chance for some bones at the end of the lion’s feast.
A female leopard was found trying her luck on some impala, but was unlucky. We also saw a female climb up a tree to look out for prey species, giving us a great photo opportunity.
We saw the two resident brother cheetahs a couple of times during the month.
As the hot weather continued, herds of elephant up to two hundred strong could be seen visiting the river channels to drink and mud-bathe. General game species included wildebeest, zebra, warthog, common reedbuck, steenbok, impala, kudu, giraffe, sable and roan antelope. We were lucky enough to find a herd of six sitatunga grazing in a mixed herd with red lechwe.
A flock of two hundred pelicans were seen in a single pool at Lechwe Corner. As we watched them, a roan antelope and two male lions were also present.
Nxai Pan – November brought the first proper rains of the season to Nxai Pan. Afterwards, springbok could be seen jumping around as though excited by the change in weather. Plant species such as the trumpet thorn came into bloom and the magnificent trees at Baines Baobabs were resplendent with new foliage.
With the natural waterholes filling with rainfall, the game was less concentrated around the two artificial waterholes which are maintained by Kwando Safaris and the Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks. Nevertheless, these two spots were still a great place to find species such as elephant, zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, springbok, steenbok and impala. Day trips to Baines Baobabs yielded good sightings of oryx feeding on the new shoots of grass and we also saw lion in that area. Right at the end of the month we saw a herd of approximately 2,000 zebras near Baines Baobabs, heralding the first wave of the herbivores’ annual migration to Nxai Pan.
The resident pride of lions was regularly located at the waterholes as they waited for prey animals to come down and drink. The pride included three cubs who all seemed to be doing well. One day a dominant male was seen fighting with a young male, leaving the older cat with a wound on his front leg. Although the younger lion was also limping, we saw him the next day with a lioness so it appeared that he had won that particular battle for supremacy. At the end of the month we saw one of the resident males mating a lioness. Another time we enjoyed the comical sight of a lioness playing with a leopard tortoise.
A pack of nine wild dogs was located a couple of times near to the Department of Wildlife camping ground. They were full-bellied and resting.
Bat-eared foxes were seen at their den on Middle Road. On one occasion a black-backed jackal showed a bit too much interest in the fox cubs and so the parent foxes attacked the jackal.
A male cheetah was located a few times and was in good condition.
Lots of spider-hunting wasps were feeding on harvester termites. The fungus growth termites started leaving termite mounds in large numbers, taking to the wing as alates after the first heavy rains. Notable reptile sightings for the month included black mamba and leopard tortoises.
Summer migrants returning back to Nxai Pan included European bee-eaters, swallow-tailed bee-eaters, blue-cheeked bee-eaters, woolly-necked storks, steppe buzzards, black-winged pratincoles and Jacobin cuckoos. Nest-building for species such as the white-browed sparrow weavers was well underway and we saw a pair of secretary birds sitting atop their nest. Other species seen during November included greater kestrel, kori bustard, crimson-breasted shrike and ostrich. Three species of vultures (white-headed, white-backed and lappet-faced) were seen feeding on an elephant carcass. Big flocks of Burchell’s sandgrouse could be seen at the camp waterhole, soaking their specially adapted breast feathers so that they could take water back to their chicks. As the rains continued to arrive, birds more commonly associated with water started to be observed, such as the red-billed teal.
Tau Pan – In what was arguably Kwando’s most unusual sighting for 2019, a bull elephant was struck by lightning right in front of the game drive vehicle as guests were photographing him. Given that there are very few elephants in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve it was a most bizarre event to witness. Luckily our guests not too disturbed and were able to appreciate that the elephant’s instant death would give life to others. Over the course of the next week the carcass was eaten up by lions and vultures. Unusually, the five males of the Tau Pan pride allowed a sixth adult male to join them as they fed on the elephant.
The Tau Pan pride were regularly seen at the camp waterhole, sometimes as a group of ten which included three sub-adults, other times in smaller numbers. One day we saw a lioness trying to stalk some springbok, but they picked up her scent and scattered in different directions.
A different pair of lionesses, mother and her sub-adult daughter, who prefer the western side of the area were seen a few times hanging out at the airstrip near to the windsock. We also saw them feasting on an oryx as we drove out to Passarge Valley.
Yet another pride of lions who were new to the area were seen drinking at the camp waterhole. This group comprised two black-maned males, two females and a sub-adult male estimated to be just under three years old. We followed them to the edge of the pan and that afternoon they managed to successfully bring down and kill a kudu.
During day trips we found two lionesses resting at the Sunday Pan waterhole. A female cheetah with three cubs was located in Deception Valley and a different female cheetah at Letia Hau. On different trips we found the Deception Valley pride of eight lions and also saw a male cheetah chasing some springbok. A coalition of three male cheetahs was seen in Passarge Valley a couple of times, although they were still shy.
A male leopard was seen near to the airstrip resting on a branch and scanning the area for potential prey.
Bat-eared foxes with five cubs were observed playing at Tau Pan. We were able to spend quality time with an African wild cat who was trying his luck on ground squirrels.
After the first rains of the season large numbers of springbok and wildebeest started to arrive in Tau Pan. The camelthorn trees at the waterhole started to produce new leaves providing shade for other general game species such as giraffe, oryx and kudu as they came to drink. We still had a resident elephant hanging out near to camp and he could be seen calmly browsing.
White-backed vultures and tawny eagles waited near the lion kills looking for their chance to scavenge. Summer migrants that arrived during November included the red-backed shrike and lesser grey shrike.
Kwara Concession – Lions were seen every single day on Kwara Reserve during October. The One Eye Pride were located near to Splash camp. A male known as “Big Man” was mating a lioness whilst the others were resting. This courtship went on for several days. Splash Pride of two lionesses and six cubs were often around Splash camp. They managed to kill an elephant calf during nightfall and we saw them feasting on the carcass the following day. We also saw them eating greater kudu, with spotted hyena waiting nearby for the chance to steal. Another time they managed to bring down a warthog, but the male lion took the meal for himself.
A new pride comprising two lionesses and their seven cubs were seen feeding on zebra and kudu. The cubs were still very young and just getting used to the vehicles.
Two male lions who have been in different parts of the Kwara Reserve over the past year ended up bumping into each other and a big fight ensued with plenty of roaring. Big Man emerged the victor and Mr Limping was pushed away.
A leopard cub was found located up on a tree by himself, waiting for his mother to return from hunting. The resident female leopard known as Splash girl was seen regularly. A tom leopard was feeding on an impala high up on a tree, but gave us a good view. Guests were thrilled to be able to see another tom resting on a tree branch as they were on their mokoro trip!
The resident pack of eight wild dogs with their eleven puppies were doing well and we were able to follow them as they made a successful hunt of a reedbuck near to the boat station. We also saw them kill several impalas, although one time their meal was taken from them by a pride of lions. There was a period of a few days where these dogs disappeared and the guides tried in vain to find them. Then one morning we were delighted to find them not only back in the area but actually waiting for us at the breakfast area at Splash camp! Another time they made a kill of an impala within Kwara camp.
A second larger pack of fourteen adults and twelve puppies were hunting extremely productively in the marsh area. One morning they managed to managed to kill an impala and a red lechwe and the next afternoon they brought down another impala and a reedbuck. All four carcasses were eaten in the water. Another time we saw them chasing impala, but the antelope managed to make her escape by swimming across the channel.
In yet more wild dog excitement, a third pack of twenty-six arrived from Khwai, arrived into our area and we followed them as they chased a reedbuck into the channel. It was a bad day for the dogs, but a good day for a crocodile who opportunistically seized his moment and took the reedbuck down.
The well-known male cheetah, “Special”, was located feeding on an impala which he had killed that afternoon. Another time we were following him as he missed a few chances, but then a warthog piglet ran straight towards him and he was able to grab his meal. A female cheetah with her male cub had not been seen for some time so we were happy to discover them one afternoon. We followed them as they hunted and killed a reedbuck. There was another female who we saw nursing her two cubs. After they finished feeding the cubs climbed on top of their mother making for some cute photo opportunities.
Spotted hyenas were seen feeding on the bones of a buffalo carcass.
As the dry weather continued and the temperatures started to sky-rocket, a good number of elephants were showing up at the river for drinking, fighting, swimming and mud wallowing. Buffalo were also in the area. Two sable bulls were seen at Splash camp waterhole. Other general game included roan antelope, kudu, reedbuck, red lechwe, impala, zebra and giraffe.
We were lucky enough to find an active aardwolf den and in a special sighting were able to watch the mother nursing her three new cubs. On night drives we encountered African wild cat, genet and serval.
Notable bird sightings included ground hornbills and on a boat trip we were lucky enough to find a Pel’s fishing owl. It is always pleasing to see summer migrants return to the area and in October these included yellow-billed kites and southern carmine bee-eaters. Yellow-billed storks were seen near to the water and guests enjoyed photographing an African fish eagle devouring a fish. At the Xobega Lagoon and Gadikwe Heronry the storks, herons and ibis were busy nesting.
Lagoon – The pack of five wild dogs were seen hunting along the flood plains. In a scenario that is unusual at the best of times, let alone in October, the beta female appears to be heavily pregnant. This is the same pack that lost their puppies earlier in the year to lions. It will be interesting to see how they get on since wild dogs are not usually successful raising puppies when the weather is so hot. One day we were watching them as a herd of elephant came and started chasing the dogs around.
Smaller mammals encountered included bat-eared foxes, porcupines, servals, civets, African wild cat, springhare, servals and honey badgers. There were plenty of both black-backed and side-striped jackals. Troops of baboons and vervet monkeys were foraging along the edges of the flood plains. We saw a male baboon and his consorting female eating a scrub hare that they had killed. A pair of aardwolf were found in a den close to the main road. Bat-eared foxes were also denning and after sitting quietly for fifteen minutes we were lucky enough to see a tiny cub pop out to join its mother.
A pride of two females with four cubs known as “Mma D” were discovered looking extremely round-bellied after they had devoured an eland. A few days later we watched them hunt and kill a buffalo calf. A different pride of three females and three cubs formed a hunting party with the two resident males and we watched as they killed a buffalo as it was coming down to drink. By the following week they had three buffalo carcasses stashed in the blue bushes by Second Lagoon and we were lucky enough to witness a brown hyena coming to investigate them. The resident males were seen often and we found them feeding on a red lechwe that they apparently had killed in the morning.
The resident two cheetah brothers were seen marking their territory with two spotted hyenas resting close by. The next day we watched as they tried to target a buffalo calf, but they did not succeed. Another younger pair of male cheetahs had been seen in the area but sadly we found that one of them had been killed by lions. We found the other brother a few days later looking very hungry, but seemed as though he was missing his partner as he was not interested in hunting. A larger, older coalition of two cheetah males were also still in the area and we found them on a newly killed female tsessebe that was heavily pregnant. We also located them feeding on an eland calf.
A female leopard was located on a sausage tree but we were able to follow her as she went off hunting until she killed a steenbok and dragged it into the bushes.
As the dry weather continued big herds of elephants and buffalo were massing near to the water sources.
General game hot spots included some previously burned flood plains at Muddy Waters as well as the lagoons and river. Many species were grazing together in mixed herds including zebra, wildebeest, kudu, tsessebe, impala, giraffe, waterbuck, red lechwe, reedbuck, steenbok, roan and sable antelope. Very large herds of eland made a striking sight.
As the water levels continued to drop, the hippo population started to take strain and many died of natural causes. Although this was tough to see, it is part of the natural cycle and provided food for crocodiles, vultures, storks and other scavengers.
An African python was seen confidently crossing the road and heading towards the tree line.
Bird sightings included many stork species: open-billed, saddle-billed, yellow-billed and marabou. As well as the more usual heron species we also located goliath herons and the black-crowned night heron. The breeding colony of carmine bee-eaters was still going strong with hundreds of birds making an amazing spectacle and there was a different nesting site for white-fronted bee-eaters. In a spectacularly colourful argument, a broad-billed roller was seen fighting a lilac-breasted roller for a nesting site. Four species of vulture (hooded, lappet-faced, white-headed and white-backed) were seen scavenging carcasses. Yellow-billed kites migrated back to the area. A Verreaux’s (Giant) eagle owl was seen perched at dusk, ready to begin hunting.
Lebala – Lebala was closed in October for 2 weeks for maintenance, but during the rest of the month, sightings were still productive.
Three male lions were located by Lechwe Corner and looked as though they had been fighting as they had injuries. Another male was found feeding on a hippo which looked as though it had been killed the previous night. We found the Wapoka pride gorging themselves on a young elephant that that they had killed. They were surrounded by vultures and marabou storks waiting for their chance to scavenge. Another time we found this large pride of sixteen feeding on two separate buffalos that they managed to bring down at once. The tables were turned in different exciting sighting; the lions were resting when a herd of buffalo started charging them and sent the startled cats scampering off into the bushes. The pride was feeding regularly – one day we saw them enjoying a red lechwe for breakfast and a kudu for lunch. As well as the big game, the Wapoka pride also had the occasional warthog snack.
In the northern section we found four sub-adult male lions who had killed a zebra and were very protective about the carcass, taking it in turns to go to the river to drink whilst others stayed to guard their meal.
We saw the wild dogs a few times and they seemed to be looking healthy and well-fed.
We enjoyed some good leopard sightings, and one time were lucky enough to find two different leopards in a single day.
The coalition of two cheetah brothers were located feeding on a red lechwe.
General game included impala, zebra, giraffe, red lechwe, kudu, warthog roan and sable antelope. Big herds of buffalo and elephants were drawn to the channels.
Guests enjoyed watching a very active honey badger as it foraged in the ground. We saw aardwolf looking for termites. Other smaller mammals included African wild cats and bat-eared foxes.
Notable bird sightings included spurwing geese, African fish eagles, goliath herons, African spoonbill, pied kingfishers, tawny eagles pelicans, wattled cranes, brown snake-eagles, open-billed and saddle-billed storks.
Nxai Pan – The high temperatures in Botswana persisted through October, bringing huge herds of animals to the waterhole. The elephants continued to dominate the precious resource, so antelope species and even lions were driven away from the water.
We were lucky enough to witness a cheetah stalking and killing a steenbok in the middle of the pan, but close to the road.
A pride of four lions, a big male and three lionesses, were seen feeding on an elephant carcass for several days. The following week two of them were found mating and we saw them on a regular basis as they continued their honeymoon. A different lioness was seen drinking alone at the camp waterhole and also hunting springbok. We saw the four lions regularly; they were often hanging around the wildlife waterhole being warily watched by herds of antelope as they came to drink. One of the lionesses was heavily pregnant and seemed to be distancing herself from the rest of the pride as her delivery time came close. We enjoyed seeing the whole resident pride of seven, including their three sub-adult cubs, as they rested very full-bellied close to the Wildlife Waterhole after they had devoured a greater kudu. Another time a kudu got stuck in the camp waterhole and when the exhausted animal it eventually got out it was taken by a lioness.
Four bat-eared foxes were located regularly along Middle Road, and towards the end of the month they showed us their four new cubs. We also found African wild cat and plenty of black-backed jackals.
A leopard was seen drinking from the water tanks in camp one evening.
Three buffalo bulls continued to regularly visit the camp waterhole.
Spotted hyenas were seen a few times, including drinking at the camp waterhole.
A big black mamba was seen during game drive. In a mini-drama guests were fascinated watching a spider-killing wasp catching and eating a grasshopper.
General game included zebra, wildebeest, giraffe and springbok. Oryx were located along the road to Baines Baobabs. The baobabs themselves have now got their leaves making these giant trees even more impressive than ever.
Bird sightings included secretary birds and kori bustards. Both lappet-faced and white-backed vultures were seen finishing off an elephant carcass. A pair of ostrich were seen mating close to Middle Road and a different pair already had twelve chicks, estimated to be a couple of weeks old. Guests enjoyed ticking off crimson-breasted shrikes, blacksmith lapwings, gabar goshawks, pale chanting goshawks, northern black korhaans and marico flycatchers.
Tau Pan – In a fantastic sighting we found that the ten lions of the Tau Pan pride had treed a leopard who was looking down very nervously at the formidable lions below. We also enjoyed seeing this impressive pride regularly at the camp waterhole. A pair of lions from the resident pride were mating at the waterhole, however the antelope were so desperate for water in the searing October heat that they still crept down to drink, despite the courting couple. The following day there seemed to be much competition between the five males of the Tau Pan coalition for the attentions of the single female in oestrus. The males created quite a commotion with roaring and chasing which meant that the antelope didn’t dare to come close enough to drink. At other times we saw various members of the pride feasting on oryx and kudu. A female from another pride came to check out the Tau Pan males, but she was attacked by the resident lionesses and she slunk back to rejoin the other female that she hangs with.
A different pride of lions was discovered at Passarge Junction looking very full after they had killed and eaten an oryx. They were surrounded by over thirty vultures who were waiting for the lions to finish their meal. On another day trip to Deception Valley we stopped at Sunday Pan and came across lions who were finishing up a kudu that they had killed the previous day. However, we saw that they had also killed a lioness from a competing pride and to our surprise they were also eating her remains.
A lone elephant continued to hang between the camp and the waterhole, enjoying a mud wallow in the afternoons.
A female leopard was located at the camp waterhole drinking. We also saw a well-fed tom patrolling his territory which he was marking by spraying bushes with urine.
Two different cheetah were located on the same day in different places on a day trip to Deception Valley.
Bat-eared foxes were denning at Tau Pan.
Good general game could be seen concentrated around the waterhole at Sunday Pan. At the camp waterhole big herds could be seen coming in for a drink including a group of fifty kudu with some impressively-sized males. At Tau Pan the game ventured outside of the actual pan to take advantage of fresh shoots in the surrounding bushes. Species included oryx, giraffe, kudu, springbok and wildebeest.
Bird life was great with sightings of tawny eagles, black-chested snake-eagles, pale chanting goshawks and yellow-billed kites. We saw a big flock of vultures come to the waterhole to drink and wash themselves after they had finished eating a carcass.
Kwara Concession – A pack of wild dogs comprising eleven adults and thirteen puppies were found resting after a successful hunt; the puppies were extremely playful making for some great photo opportunities. One evening during dinner at Splash camp the same pack made a kill of an impala between rooms four and five. As the lions were not far away, they heard the commotion and came in to take over the carcass. The following morning, we found the dogs highly mobile with two puppies missing and lions roaring in the direction that they had come from. Sadly, the two puppies never reappeared.
We watched in amazement as a different pack of fourteen adults and twelve puppies managed to kill three impala during a single chase.
The resident male cheetah known as Special was seen looking healthy and well-fed. One time we saw him bring down and kill a common reedbuck right in front of the safari vehicle. We also saw him chasing and killing a young warthog and a sub-adult reedbuck. A female cheetah with two cubs was new to the area, but was still skittish around vehicles so the guides were careful to give her lots of extra space until she gets used to us.
A female leopard, known as Splash girl seemed to have developed a taste for side-striped jackal and we saw her feeding on a remarkable four jackal carcasses during the month. A male leopard was seen south of Splash camp with a common reedbuck carcass up on a tree; we were able to revisit the animal over a four-day period, but still the leopard was quite shy.
The Splash pride of two lionesses with their six cubs were found hunting and they killed an impala. Later that evening they came through to Splash camp, the first time they have been seen there since they were pushed further west by the arrival of two new males late last year. Another time we heard zebra distress calls as we were still having early morning coffee in camp and started the safari only to find Splash Pride feeding on a carcass close to Room 1. Guests were able to take fantastic photos in great light. A few minutes later we came across two lionesses who are new to the area with their cubs. They had blood stains all over their faces so the guides suspected that they were the ones who had taken down the zebra, but Splash Pride had taken over their kill. Splash Pride were also seen making unsuccessful attempts on reedbuck and warthog during the month. The cubs were very playful and enjoy climbing trees to the delight of our guests.
We saw the same new lionesses with their cubs a few times. The lionesses were still being careful to hide their newborn cubs in the marsh area, but we saw the adults on a warthog carcass, surrounded by vultures.
The two resident male lions were lucky enough to find a sick buffalo who they finished off and then enjoyed eating for the next three days. We also saw them trying to hunt tsessebe, but these fast antelope moved off too quickly for the lions
Mother Eye Pride managed to kill a tsessebe but lost it to spotted hyenas; the lions were up on a mound covered in blood watching the clan devour their meal. Another time we watched as two spotted hyenas made an attempt to chase some impala, but they didn’t manage to make a kill.
General game included giraffe who were feeding on sausage tree fruits in addition to their usual browsing. As the dry weather continued, there were big herds of elephants along the main channel. Guests enjoyed watching breeding herds drinking and mud-bathing. A roan antelope bull could be seen drinking at the camp waterhole in the mornings and afternoons. On the boat cruise we saw plenty of crocodiles and also had lovely sitatunga sightings.
The guides were delighted to discover a new aardwolf den. We were able to enjoy wonderfully relaxed sightings with a range of smaller mammals on night drive including serval, civet, African wild cat. A shy honey badger was seen close to the Splash parking area and another with a cub was seen digging for rodents by the side of a tree.
A beautiful group of four ostrich with their twenty-two chicks let us spend good time photographing them. It was breeding time for many of the birds in the region; at the Xobega heronry we found a good number of yellow-billed, marabou and open-billed storks nesting.
Lagoon – At the start of the month the resident pack of five wild dogs were doing very well and we usually found them looking full. One day the pack was located feeding on a roan antelope near to the boat station. Another morning the dogs passed right through camp so we followed them as they moved on marking their territory and eventually, they killed an impala. At the start of the month this pack comprised two males and three females, however after a few weeks a male and female went missing, leaving just a pack of three. It is not certain whether the other two dogs dispersed naturally to find another pack, or whether some harm came to them. However, given the depleted numbers of this resident pack (which had originally started as seven), we were excited to find a new pack in the area which the guides named Rra Mosetha after the extremely pale alpha male. We saw this new pack make a kudu kill. Right at the end of the month we saw the pack of five fiercely attack the smaller group of three who eventually retreated.
A leopard was spotted resting close to a fallen baobab at the beginning of the month, but afterwards we didn’t have a leopard sighting for a few days. Then one morning one of our guides was doing early morning wake up calls and heard the call and growl of a leopard. The guides went to investigate and found a half-eaten impala carcass in camp. They followed the tracks through some Kalahari apple-leaf trees and were lucky enough to follow the beautiful cat for a while until she rested up on a sausage tree. Another morning we were entertained as she launched into a small tree to catch a squirrel at the end of a very thin branch. We also saw her catch and kill a steenbok. Towards month-end we were luckily enough to find two leopards mating at night.
As we were driving along the riverine area enjoying the beautiful early morning light, we came across a herd of antelope enjoying the green flush along the edge of the floodplains. We heard lions roaring and headed in their direction where we found two males and four females trying to cross a channel, but hesitating because of the presence of crocodiles. After an hour they started making contact calls and we heard cubs responding across the channel. Eventually the lionesses crossed over and the males followed thereafter.
The Mma Moselha pride comprising two females and three cubs were found eating a warthog at Kwena Lagoon. Another day, guests were enjoying their sundowner drinks when a herd of buffalo came down to drink. All of a sudden, the buffalo started to run and as we watched we saw a cloud of dust and heard a calf screaming. The gins and tonics were hastily packed away and on taking a closer look we saw that two lionesses were suffocating a calf. We watched for some time until the lions started feeding and dragged the carcass off into some bushes.
The huge Holy Pride comprised some 19 lions and were targeting big game such as elephant, buffalo, eland, kudu, wildebeest and zebra. They were hunting successfully and were seen on many different carcasses. The warthog specialists known as Mma Dikolobe Pride continued to deliver superb sightings. When we followed them hunting these skilled lionesses were almost guaranteed to make a kill.
One morning a lioness with three cubs confidently walked along the river in front of camp whilst guests were enjoying their early morning coffee in the main area.
The resident coalition of two cheetah brothers were found resting on a termite mound and we were amazed when they bravely, or perhaps rashly, decided to try their luck on a passing herd of approximately two thousand buffalo. Not surprisingly they were unsuccessful. We also saw two new bigger male cheetahs in the area again; they were first seen the previous month. These new arrivals seem older than our usual males as they are much bigger and stronger physically.
General game was abundant all over the area. We encountered big herds of buffalo and elephants as well as roan and sable antelope. A pair of impala rams fighting was named as a highlight for some of our guests.
More than ten crocodiles were seen feeding on a hippo carcass near First Lagoon. There is one huge crocodile which has been nicknamed Hanad by the guides. Although it has a short tail the animal is estimated to be over five metres long and guides therefore think it could have attained the maximum life expectancy of 70 to 100 years.
We saw honey badgers during night drive. An unusually relaxed porcupine was seen feeding on rhizomes during the day. A serval was hunting rodents along the flood plains during the day, but he switched to fishing at night. Spotted hyenas were seen feeding on an elephant carcass.
The breeding colony of carmine bee-eaters at Kwena Lagoon continued to increase in size, creating an amazing spectacle for birders.
Lebala – There was plenty of predator action at Lebala during September. For example, on just one night drive we found wild dogs finishing up a bushbuck, then came across a female leopard who had just lost her kill to hyenas and finally found Wapoka Pride feasting on an incredible four buffalos at once!
In another great sighting we found a leopard on a carcass but lions came in and stole the kill. Then, a big herd of buffalo appeared and the two male lions succeeded in taking a calf down.
Yet again, we were thrilled to locate a pangolin. Lebala is getting quite a reputation for locating these endangered animals this year. Other smaller mammals encountered included African wild cats, honey badgers, bat eared foxes, slender mongoose and yellow mongoose. A couple of times we were lucky enough to see an otter fishing in a channel.
We saw Wapoka Pride hunting warthogs a number of times, often the warthogs managed to outrun the lions, but sometimes we saw them make the kill, although it constituted little more than a snack for this large pride. One time we found all nineteen lions eyeing up a buffalo which had got stuck in the water as if figuring what to do next. By the following day they were trying to feed on the buffalo, but struggling to manage this because of the water so they were running in and out. At their age the 11 lion cubs were extremely playful and their antics made for some charming photo opportunities, however in a rather grisly sighting they were all playing with the dead body of a serval that they had killed. Another time we saw the pride fighting with a honey badger. At very close proximity the resident male lion, Sebastian, was seen gorging on an elephant that had died of natural causes. A few days later we found the male roaring to locate his coalition partner who had not been seen for a while and eventually we saw the two males together again. Three of the Bonga Pride were found eating a buffalo towards Halfway Pan.
The resident pack of two adult wild dogs with their five puppies were seen playing together as well as chasing and feeding on impala. Guests were fascinated to see the adult dogs feeding their puppies by regurgitating meat for them.
Two male cheetahs were found near to Halfway Pan.
The well-known resident leopard known as Jane, together with her two cubs, was seen feasting on an impala under a sausage tree. This carcass kept the family busy for three days. Another time she was seen hunting impala but the antelope saw her and bolted away. We continued to locate the leopards throughout the month. We also saw a tom leopard up on a leadwood tree where he was feeding on a tsessebe carcass. This male is Jane’s son from a previous litter.
Breeding herds of elephant could be seen crossing the river to access the green grazing on the islands and we also enjoyed watching them mud bathing. Big herds of buffalo were also coming to drink in the riverine areas and nearby guests were also able to enjoy good views of hippo out of the water. General game included impala, warthog, wildebeest, kudu, lechwe, tsessebe, zebra and roan antelope. We also saw plentiful giraffe including bulls fighting by “necking”.
Vultures were seen cleaning up the carcasses from the lion kills. Large flocks of pelicans were in the area and a highlight for some guests was seeing these striking birds flying in formation. Other bird sightings included African skimmers, fish eagles, yellow-billed storks, open-billed storks, secretary birds, white-faced ducks and tawny eagles.
Nxai Pan – As the dry weather continued huge herds of elephants possessively congregated around the waterholes, barely letting the other animals in for a drink. Guests were able to enjoy watching the interactions between the breeding herds and bulls from the main area and their rooms. Elephants were also browsing the foliage right inside camp.
Spotted hyenas were regular visitors to the camp waterhole and could also be heard uttering their haunting contact calls in the mornings around 6.30am.
Lions were seen a few times including a pride of two lionesses and three cubs who visited the camp waterhole. We saw them try their luck on some passing kudu, but they were not successful. Later that day the lionesses were stalking zebra but once again the predators did not manage to get their meal. One of the resident lionesses was heavily pregnant and had moved away from the rest of the pride. A new male was located and he was looking very nervous; our guides surmised that he may have had a clash with the resident male. A male and female lion were spotted in camp as we escorted guests back to their rooms.
A cheetah was seen heading to the eastern part of camp as we enjoyed our breakfast; it seemed hungry and on the look-out for a meal. We also saw him the next day, only about 200 metres away from the pregnant lioness, but neither predator seemed aware of the other.
Bat-eared foxes were located a few times foraging very close to Middle Road.
A group of four male buffalo could be seen at the waterholes. Other general game included kudu, giraffe, springbok, steenbok, impala, zebra, wildebeest and warthog. Oryx were seen during the drive to Baines Baobabs.
Bird sightings included ostrich, pale chanting goshawks, brown snake eagles, secretary birds and northern black korhaans. :Lappet-faced and white-backed vultures were seen most days.
There was a big bush fire at Nxai Pan in September which started at Baines Baobabs and heading to the pan region and this encouraged animals to migrate to the northern side of the park.
Tau Pan – We were lucky enough to have wonderful sightings of a caracal at the camp waterhole in the mornings and late afternoon. We had started seeing this animal near to camp the previous month and was relaxed enough that guests were even able to photograph him as he rested near to the rooms.
A huge tom leopard was seen drinking at the waterhole and regularly moved through camp during the night, guides observing fresh tracks as they went to the rooms to wake the guests up. This animal is so large that he is the same size as a sub-adult lion.
The lone elephant bull who has been hanging out near to camp for the past year was still in residence. With the general area so dry he has limited options to move elsewhere as the next permanent water source is now very far away. General game at the waterhole included wildebeest, kudu and springbok. There was also a lone impala, unusual for the region, and we saw that it had joined up with the kudu herd for safety. Kudu bulls engaged in a territorial battle; as expected the much bigger challenger won the fight.
Two male lions from the Tau Pan pride were seen attempting to hunt, but they started their chase too early and the prey animals managed to bolt to safety. The Tau Pan lions were often seen at the waterhole, sometimes making an opportunistic attack on the antelope species coming to drink. The pride has sub-adults and it was fun watching them play and greeting their parents. We also found a mating pair within the pride. Two intruder males continued to silently and stealthily use the waterhole, never calling and seemingly wanting to keep a low profile to avoid conflict with the strong coalition of five males in the Tau Pan pride. Two strange lionesses were also seen for the first time.
At Phukwi Pan two male lions were found on an oryx carcass. We returned the following day and the lions had moved on, but the remains were being scavenged on by a brown hyena and black-backed jackals.
A male cheetah was located near Sunday Pan and we also found a female with three cubs on Letiahau Road. The mother looked like she may have been in a fight as she had a cut on her leg.
There were plenty of black-backed jackals, ground squirrels and bat-eared foxes at Tau Pan. We were also lucky enough to see on occasion aardwolf and brown hyena. Guests enjoyed understanding about the symbiotic relationship between honey badgers and the pale chanting goshawks, the raptor following the honey badgers as they dug out rodents, looking for an easy meal.
Other great raptor sightings included tawny eagles hunting doves at the waterhole, sometimes jackals were hoping to steal their kill. A large flock of vultures was seen at Sunday Pan finishing off the remains of a lion kill.
Although the area was still dry, colour was coming back to the area as some of the tree species such as blackthorn and riverthorn were coming into bloom. The worm-bark albezia produced fluffy cream coloured flowers and the Kalahari apple-leaf produced pinky/purple blossoms.
Some guests who had enjoyed a night on the Tau Pan sleep-out deck described the stargazing as “breathtaking”.
Kwara Concession – We continued observing the resident wild dog pack who adopted three puppies from their neighbours. The pack now numbered eight adults and fourteen young including the new additions. It was interesting to note that all of the puppies were being treated equally by the adults. At the start of the month all seemed to be doing well, however during the month one of the “kidnapped” puppies disappeared, presumed dead. The puppies were at a very playful age, providing great entertainment for our guests. We were able to follow the pack many times as they chased and brought down their prey, mainly impala.
The resident male lions were found feeding on an elephant calf. A couple of days later the remains of this huge feast was being finished off by a clan of fifteen hyena with large numbers of vultures waiting for their chance at the carcass. These lions were targeting substantial prey and we also saw them feeding on a kudu bull and a buffalo. The two males were also seen marking their territory by spraying on bushes, an important activity because three new males were seen in the Kwara Reserve for the first time, appearing from the east and travelling towards Splash. A new pride of two females with seven cubs was also found; although the six-month cubs were very shy their mothers appeared to be well used to vehicles.
Meanwhile at the start of the month the resident Splash pride were looking hungry. We saw the two females trying to hunt zebra, but their six cubs were more of a hindrance than a help and scared the prey away. They eventually started managing to make some kills including warthog and by the middle of the month were seen feasting on an elephant carcass. One day we found them chasing a pack of wild dogs.
One Eye Pride were located hunting initially without success, but a few days later they we found them feeding on their target prey of waterbuck.
A resident female leopard was located up on a tree, eyeing up a nearby herd of red lechwe and a male was found with a porcupine kill up a tree; it was no doubt a tricky manoeuvre to lift this prickly carcass into place and the meal kept him busy for a couple of days.
There was plenty of cheetah action during September, with sightings on 23 separate days. The resident male spent about three weeks hunting near to Splash camp and we were lucky enough to witness him hunting impala and making a kill. He also was seen feeding on steenbok. A female cheetah with her three sub-adult cubs was hunting very successfully in the area and we saw them feeding on reedbuck and impala. A different lone female cheetah was spotted hunting at sunset. We revisited the area in the morning and found her feeding on a reedbuck. She was also seen with her sub-adult son feeding on impala.
A clan of four spotted hyenas were observed nursing their cubs.
Night drives were productive. A drive after dinner one night yielded springhare, African civet, African wild cat, bat-eared foxes, six hyena, a serval and a marsh owl. Other smaller mammals seen during the month included honey badgers and porcupines.
Good numbers of general game species could be found grazing on the edge of the floodplain near Tsum Tsum including a lovely herd of sixteen sable antelopes and some eland. We were excited to discover sable and roan antelope were also turning up at the Splash camp waterhole. Zebra were plentiful. Big herds of buffalo could be seen heading towards the permanent water channels and family groups of elephant could be observed drinking, playing and dust-bathing.
There were some interesting raptor sightings. A bateleur eagle was seen feeding on a side-striped jackal whilst a martial eagle killed and ate a yellow-billed stork. One morning a Verreaux’s eagle owl was seen eating a snake. Endangered wattled cranes and ground hornbills continued to thrive in the Kwara Reserve.
Lagoon – We managed to track the two resident cheetah brothers until we found them resting and looking well fed. The following day we followed them as they hunted, although they kept missing their targets. Eventually they came across a herd of impala from a distance so we positioned to be able to photograph the action and this time they were lucky enough to take their prey down. We were able to spend quality time with the pair getting amazing photos. We saw them throughout the month, sometimes marking their territory. In an exciting development another, younger, pair of cheetah males were seen for the first time in the area.
A young female leopard was seen a few times, twice we saw her posing with a kill up a tree and on one night drive we spotted her hunting impala.
Right in front of camp we picked up lion tracks and followed them until we found a female and six sub-adults of the Bonga Pride hunting kudu, however the area was too open and the predators were quickly spotted by the antelope who bolted away to safety. We also came across Wapoka Pride who were unusually far away from their Lebala hunting grounds; they were trying their luck on some wildebeest but did not succeed.
The next day a baboon alarm call gave away the presence of the Holy Pride of lions; the cubs were playing and an adult pair were mating. The honeymoon couple continued their behaviour over several days. We saw this pride of nineteen lions successfully bring down and kill a fully-grown eland bull. Three intruder male lions known as the Northern Males were in the area regularly and tried to take over dominance of the Holy Pride. They came off worse in the battle and were seen with bad wounds.
To complete the extraordinary month of cat sightings we also had a pair of lionesses with three cubs of a few months old known as Mmamosetha Pride and another pair with four cubs that the guides called Mma Dikolobe due to the fact that they specialise in hunting warthogs
Buffalo in herds numbering hundreds of individuals could be seen moving daily towards the riverine areas and one day our sundowner stop was interrupted by several elephant herds passing through to drink. Mixed herds of zebra and wildebeest were also massing. Relaxed sable and roan antelope could be reliably found drinking at First and Second Lagoon. Other general game included impala, kudu and giraffe
The resident pack of five wild dogs were found hunting impala and sometimes came right into camp. We also followed them as they pursued and killed a kudu calf. A different pack of seven was seen close to Muddy Waters.
Night drives yielded good sightings such as porcupines, honey badgers, aardwolf and servals.
We were happy to see the return of the carmine bee-eaters who migrate to the area each year to breed on the banks of the lagoons. The colour and noise from these colonies is a remarkable wildlife experience. Closer to home, a tiny scops owl continued to live in the tree right by the fireplace and could be seen huddled up camouflaging against the bark during early morning breakfast.
Lebala – The pack of two wild dogs were often hunting impala and steenbok in the camp area and then travelling back to the den to regurgitate for their puppies. The Wapoka Pride of lions sometimes took over the wild dogs’ kill and once this happened right in our car parking area. One day the puppies had been left on their own whilst the parents went hunting and the dominant male lion known as Old Gun came along. The puppies managed to make their escape before he could see them, supported by the alpha male dog who managed to divert the lion’s attention in the opposite direction. As the month went on the puppies started to accompany the adults on their hunting missions and we saw them hunting successfully near the airstrip and also killed multiple impala within camp itself.
The Wapoka Pride of nineteen lions were also doing well and they even managed to kill an elephant. In an amazing 48-hour period they killed four times in front of our vehicles including a simultaneous take down of an impala and a warthog. We also saw these lions feasting on a kudu bull, tsessebe and wildebeest. Once we came across them fighting with another pride and they had managed to steal a carcass from them when suddenly a herd of elephants appeared and started to chase all the lions.
A beautiful herd of fifteen sable antelope together with their nine calves were grazing as a mixed herd with zebra. We also saw roan antelope with their young. Other general game included red lechwe, warthog, impala, kudu, sitatunga, reedbuck, tsessebe, warthog, eland and steenbok.
The two resident cheetah brothers were located and we saw them feeding on red lechwe carcasses more than once. Once we saw them hunting but they were thwarted when their prey ran into the marshes.
Huge clouds of dust in the distance gave away the location of buffalo herds on the move. We also saw plenty of elephant and the cooler weather meant that sightings of hippo out of the water were good.
We were thrilled to find an aardvark two nights in a row as that is a very rare sighting. One very lucky night drive we located a pangolin along the airstrip road hopping on its hind legs, and later the same evening an aardwolf which was moving up and down looking for termites. We also saw honey badgers, porcupines, genets and wild cats during the month.
We located a male leopard hunting a couple of times. A female leopard was spotted hiding under a bush with her two cubs.
Flood waters were very slowly starting to seep into the Lebala area and so we enjoyed great birding. At Twin Pools African Skimmers could be seen living up to their name by flying close to the pools and skimming their lower mandibles through the water to feed. Other great bird sightings included fish eagles, vultures, white-faced ducks, goliath herons, Verreaux’s eagle owl, tawny eagles, marabou storks, carmine bee-eaters, black herons, pink-backed pelicans, African spoonbills and endangered wattled cranes.
Nxai Pan – As the weather started to get warmer elephants spent more time mud-bathing as well as drinking at the camp waterhole. This gave guests great opportunities to view the behaviour of the animals, and occasionally very close up photo opportunities as the animals came to investigate the camp swimming pool.
Three lionesses were located at the Wildlife Waterhole and the following day they had united with one of the resident males. These lions also tried to drink at the camp waterhole but were chased away by elephants who are very protective about the clean water that Kwando provides. One time we saw the lions stalking buffalo, but they were not successful.
Spotted hyena were seen a good number of times at the camp waterhole. In one particularly exciting encounter a lone spotted hyena decided to try his luck hunting blue wildebeest, but the whole herd turned on the predator and chased him away.
The camp waterhole was also visited by three buffalo bulls, warthogs, breeding herds of wildebeest, springbok, zebra and kudu. Day trips out to admire the huge trees at Baines Baobabs also yielded sightings of oryx in a herd of twenty and plenty of steenbok. Other general game included giraffe.
A male cheetah was located along the road in the middle of Nxai Pan.
There was evidence of a male leopard moving through camp and once during a bushman walk we found very fresh tracks from the previous night.
We saw a honey badgers digging for rodents and black-backed jackals were seen feeding on a guinea fowl carcass. We had a lovely view of bat-eared foxes lying close to a termite mound.
Ostrich were seen mating on different occasions, guests enjoying the ritual dance by the male. It was also breeding time for the vultures and we found both white-backed and lappet-faced vultures sitting on their nests. Other great birding ticks for the month were greater kestrels, tawny eagles, crimson-breasted shrikes, double-banded coursers, secretary birds, Bradfield’s hornbills and Cape penduline-tits. A martial eagle was seen eating a guinea fowl carcass behind the camp workshop; the resident pair seemed to be specialising on guinea fowl, however we also saw them eating a northern black korhaan and a slender mongoose. Guests enjoyed watching the brilliantly coloured lilac-breasted roller hawking for grasshoppers.
Tau Pan – A pair of lions were found mating fairly close to camp. They stayed in the same spot for many days, getting progressively thinner as they were not interested in hunting whilst they continued their honeymoon activities. This female was not usually part of the Tau Pan pride, but from a smaller group of three lionesses who are sometimes seen in the area. Towards the end of their time together the female seemed as though she wanted to get away from the male but he would not allow her to. Meanwhile the rest of the Tau Pan pride were regularly seen at the waterhole. The four other males, two lionesses and three sub-adults tried to stalk a giraffe as it came to drink, but the prey spotted them and managed to get away. In another spectacular sighting two male lions tried to ambush a wildebeest at speed, but the lions simply ended up with a rather comical bath in the waterhole as the herds stampeded away.
As the ongoing dry season continued the waterhole became very active with many species of game including wildebeest, steenbok, springbok, oryx, kudu and a lone elephant bull. In addition to the lions we were also lucky enough to spot leopard and brown hyena drinking. We were thrilled that a caracal was seen very regularly at the waterhole and this medium sized cat was also hunting guinea fowl around the area. As the month progressed the caracal became bolder and more than once ate a dove just underneath the camp main deck.
The guides spotted fresh cheetah droppings on a termite mound near to Sunday Pan and after following the direction of the tracks they found a female by some bushes. We were able to find her a few more times as the month progressed. The resident female cheetah of the Tau Pan area was also located.
A male lion from the Deception Valley pride was located near to Letia Hau. He was looking very skinny and old. The landscape towards Deception Valley was noticeably greener than the Tau Pan area and looking very beautiful. On another day trip we came across two different female cheetah hunting springbok, one at Letia Hau and one at Passarge Valley.
An African wild cat was spotted hunting a korhaan, but he mistimed his jump and the bird was able to fly to safety. We located yellow mongoose and slender mongoose. Honey badgers could be seen digging for rodents. Other smaller mammals included black backed jackals and the rare Cape fox.
In the early morning huge flocks of sandgrouse and doves visited the waterhole in front of the main deck. Raptors such as tawny eagles were waiting for their opportunity. We saw a gabar goshawk take down a dove before a pale chanting goshawk stole the kill. On game drive at Tau Pan we observed Northern black korhaans having a territorial fight.
Kwara Concession – A very unusual tale unfolded with two packs of wild dogs. Regular followers of these reports may recall that at the end of June the pack of eight and a smaller pack of four had a confrontation. In the days that followed the larger pack had taken to ambushing the den of the smaller pack and we feared for the lives of their puppies. But in an extraordinary twist at the start of July we found the three puppies of the smaller pack five kilometres from home at the pack of eight’s den – apparently kidnapped! We contacted researchers who explained that there are previous records of wild dogs adopting puppies from other packs and hypothesized that the smaller pack may in fact be a distantly related splinter group. The pack of eight continued to feed all fourteen puppies (eleven of their own and three from the other pack) via regurgitation and both sets were nursed by the alpha female. The two sets of puppies looked distinctly different at this stage because of their varied ages, the eleven from the pack of eight were still small and dark, whereas the adopted pups were much bigger and starting to develop their patterned coats. We were able to see the adult dogs hunting impala and reedbuck, usually finishing off the whole carcass in just twenty minutes, a strategy that helps to avoid competition with other predators. Once time we found the dogs being chased by lions who were attempting to scavenge, but luckily all the predators remained uninjured. Another time we found the pack taunting and chasing a herd of elephants, but the pachyderms grouped together to defend their calves.
To add to the wild dog excitement, at the end of the month we came across the Kwara pack of thirteen adults and followed them back to their den where we counted fourteen puppies. Having already seen the other pack we ended up seeing a total of 49 wild dogs that day!
The resident male cheetah known as Special still continued to be a big favourite with guests and we were able to follow him as he hunted impala and reedbuck. One time we saw him watching some common reedbuck who had young ones with them. The cheetah stalked to get closer before chasing and separating a lamb from its mother. The lamb was only a few days old and at that stage seemed to get confused as to who was its mother because it stopped running and turned straight to the cheetah. To everyone’s wonderment Special played with the lamb for about 10-15 minutes before, inevitably, killing it. Another time we found him close to Splash room 1 and followed him until he killed a common reedbuck. Some hyenas came and took away the kill, providing an exciting inter-species interaction.
We also found a female cheetah with three cubs a few times. They were feeding on different species such as impala, a kudu calf, warthog and steenbok and sometimes we were lucky enough to witness their hunt. It was interesting to watch the mother use a sub-adult reedbuck to train her cubs how to chase and kill.
A female honey badger and her young cub visited Splash camp every night, sometimes easily seen by guests as they enjoyed pre-dinner drinks around the open fire. We also saw many honey badgers during game drive.
A beautiful young female leopard, estimated to be about three years old, was very relaxed with our vehicles and we were able to spend quality time with her including watching her hunt impala. We found another female with a cub up a tree feeding on an impala.
Two lionesses with their six cubs were seen hunting to the east of the airstrip and we watched as they brought down and killed a young warthog. It took them just ten minutes to finish the piglet off. The two young resident male lions made a big deal of declaring their territory by roaring. We found them mating a lioness at the start of the month.
Two very bold spotted hyenas came quite close to the vehicle as we were stopped for sundowner drinks. Jackals were seen scavenging on the remains of a wild dog kill. We also saw African wild cat and civet.
Huge herds of elephant were in the area, attracted by the permanent channel that forms our border with the Moremi Game Reserve.
A very relaxed herd of five sable antelope could be seen near to the mokoro station and a roan antelope bull was seen more than once drinking from the waterhole in front of camp. Giraffe could be seen with splayed legs as they reached down to lick the minerals from the soil in a behaviour known as geophagia, commonly seen in many species during dry season.
Every day a large herd of buffalo could be seen moving to the west of camp. Once we saw them being followed by two lionesses from the Mother Eye Pride, the first time that we have seen this pride trying their luck on buffalo. In the end the buffalo won the day and the two lionesses walked away.
Cattle egrets and oxpeckers could be seen accompanying the herds of buffalo, some herds up to 200 strong. A flock of one hundred vultures were observed feeding on the leftovers of a cheetah kill. On the same morning we watched a fish eagle feed on a catfish and then a tawny eagle eating a monkey. Two fish eagles were also seen in front of Splash camp. Four bateleur eagles were seen on the ground drinking water neat to the mokoro station.
Lagoon – We were really pleased to see the resident pack of wild dogs back in the Lagoon area on 5th July as they had temporarily moved away after losing their puppies. They were drinking near to camp and had full bellies. The guides were able to follow them hunting and watched them bring down and kill an impala. They were also seen later in the month trying their luck on kudu. The alpha female seemed to have recovered well from the injuries that she sustained when she was attached by another pack in June.
One lioness was located with seven cubs walking and looking for the other females. We watched her as she hunted and killed a warthog which she shared with the cubs. This lioness specialises in warthogs and was managing to kill them regularly in order to feed her fast-growing youngsters. The two dominant male lions were nearby on the same island, one of the males bearing fresh scars from a fight the previous night. We eventually found the other two lionesses and followed them to the place where they were keeping their four young cubs. We saw the whole pride together many times with their eleven playful cubs providing entertainment for our guests.
The smaller Bonga pride were also in the Lagoon area and we found them feeding on a warthog at Second Lagoon. We saw them hunting buffalo unsuccessfully one morning but they managed to bring down a subadult sable antelope as a consolation prize. We also saw them hunting zebra and giraffe. At the end of the month they managed to kill a big buffalo which they feasted on for three days.
Two intruder male lions with collars were spotted, but they were shy.
One day we were driving along and heard red-billed francolins alarm calling so our guides started to look for a predator at ground level. After searching they found a female leopard feeding on an aardwolf and another near to the boat station. A female leopard was located a couple of times as she went up onto termite mounds to scan the area for prey.
The coalition of two male cheetah brothers were seen a few times, feeding on warthog twice and also trying to hunt red lechwe.
Guides were delighted to find an aardvark; this is a rare sighting and considered a good omen by the Batswana people. The aardwolf den was active and we saw the adults around the den, especially in the mornings. Once we had an unusual sighting of three aardwolves together; two males were fighting over a female. A female honey badger with her cub were seen foraging for beetle larvae and grasshoppers. Porcupine, African civet and spring hare were seen during night drive. Once we were lucky enough to spot an African wild cat whilst it was fishing.
Spotted hyenas were seen excavating a previous den site.
Huge herds of buffalo, up to 300 strong with eighty calves were attracted to the riverine areas to drink and could be seen massed between the airstrip and camp. Elephants were also in good numbers and we saw breeding herds arriving in a parade to drink and swim in the evenings.
Very good general game was seen in the Watercut and Muddy Waters areas. We saw roan and sable antelope, both with calves. Other general game included big herds of zebra, wildebeest, giraffe, eland, tsessebe, roan antelope and impala. A big, calm, herd of eland were located.
Lebala – Sightings were incredible at Lebala during July, and very close to home. We had four kills within the camp itself in the space of a week, once by lions and the rest by wild dogs.
We managed to track the pack of two wild dogs after they made a kill in camp and were excited to discover that they had a den with seven puppies. One morning, just as we were enjoying porridge at the fireplace, we heard the distress call of an impala at the bridge right in front of camp and found the two wild dogs eating an impala. It took them 40 minutes to finish the carcass – a bit longer than usual because they were running back and forth to their den a kilometre away to regurgitate for their youngsters. This pack was feeding on impala most of the time, once being chased around by a sounder of four warthogs who were not at all happy about their presence. Another time we found the adults and puppies running towards a spot where the alpha pair had made an impala kill.
The resident pride of lions was located practically every day with the eleven playful cubs always providing entertainment even when the adults were sleeping. We were often lucky enough to see the pride hunting and more than once witnessed them making a kill right in front of the vehicle. One evening they came right through camp hunting as all the guests were having dinner, providing great excitement for our guests. A few days later they killed a huge old buffalo bull near to our manager’s house and the guides were quickly alerted to bring their guests back to Lebala to watch the whole pride including the cubs feasted. They stayed on this carcass for several days, causing us to have to put in place some additional security measures to keep staff and guests safe as we walked around camp.
Once the two males were found feeding on a kudu by themselves, but at the same time they flushed out a female leopard who bolted from the thick bush up a tree. It was incredible seeing the two different cat species in one sighting. The following day the rest of the pride joined the males to finish up the carcass. A lone intruder lion with an injured eye briefly appeared in the area during July.
We saw leopard a few times during July but sightings were relatively scarce, probably due to the heavy lion presence in the Kwando reserve at the moment.
The resident coalition of two cheetah brothers were located resting, but soon got up and were moving around as though to start a hunting mission.
Spotted hyenas were denning in the area and so were seen fairly regularly.
General game included sable antelope, giraffe, wildebeest, impala, kudu, red lechwe and warthog. A wonderful herd of twenty-six roan antelope including ten calves were in the area.
Now that the inland waterholes had dried up lots of elephants could be seen crossing the river to and from the marshes. Guests enjoyed watching them mud-bathing and listening to their vocalisations as they prepared to move along. We also saw buffalo in breeding herds of up to 50 individuals. The dust clouds that they created could be seen from a distance, attracting the attention of the Wapoka lions.
Smaller mammals encountered included honey badger, spring hare and porcupine. An aardwolf was seen foraging for termites during night drive.
Bird sightings included vultures, Verreaux’s eagle owl, tawny eagle, marabou storks and saddle-billed storks. Birds associated with water such as spurwing geese, white-faced duck, African jacana, African spoonbill, fish eagles, herons and ibis could be seen by the channels. Pink-backed pelicans delighted guests by flying in beautiful formations before landing in the pools.
Nxai Pan – With the continued dry weather many different species could be seen congregating around the waterholes in the late afternoons, especially as the afternoon temperatures started to get warmer. This included big herbivores such as elephants and buffalo who are very dependent on having good water availability.
A pride of four lions, a male with three lionesses, was located frequently. The cats were looked full-bellied and in good condition. During the month we found two of the lions mating.
A female leopard was spotted moving through camp by one of our housekeepers.
General game was great and included breeding herds of wildebeest and zebra on the pan. Giraffe were plentiful and could be seen browsing the thorn trees. Springbok herds with up to 100 individuals were located at the Department of Wildlife waterhole alongside a large pride of ostrich. Oryx were located feeding along the road to Baines Baobabs.
Small predators such as black-backed jackals and bat-eared foxes could be observed trotting around looking for food. Jackals have a very varied diet and through the month we saw them foraging for harvester termites, finishing off the carcass of an impala ram and following honey badgers who were digging for rodents. We also saw an aardwolf.
Spotted hyenas, up to five in number, were seen at the camp waterhole early on several mornings.
Large flocks of helmeted guineafowl and Cape turtle doves were seen feeding on grass seeds and harvester termites. Guests enjoyed seeing ostrich dust-bathing. Pale chanting goshawks were often found and one was feeding on a guinea fowl carcass. We also saw blacksmith lapwings mobbing a tawny eagle. Other bird sightings included Burchell’s sandgrouse, secretary birds, greater kestrels, kori bustards, chestnut-vented tit-babblers, black-chested snake eagles and yellow canaries.
Tau Pan – Tau Pan was closed for maintenance during July, but as always there was plenty of action at the waterhole which is overlooked by the rooms and the main deck.
The dryer than usual summer months this year meant that there was not as much moisture to be gained from vegetation such as tsamma melons as there would have been during a wet year, thus the animals reliably came to drink from the water that we provided.
Visitors included the Tau Pan pride of lions, a resident female leopard, springbok, kudu, oryx, giraffe and a large herd of wildebeest.
Big flocks of doves came to drink in the mornings and it was quite common to see males fighting over a female. Black-backed jackals waited for the arrival of sandgrouse hoping to score a meal.
Kwara Concession – The pack of eight wild dogs were denning close to Splash and were visiting camp almost every day to kill an impala and then go back to regurgitate for the alpha female. She was heavily pregnant at the start of the month and the guides think that she gave birth during the second week as then she stayed down in the den. Sometimes the resident lions tried to come and steal kills from the dogs. On the 28th June we got our first glance of the eleven puppies that this pack had produced and continued to see them daily thereafter.
Towards the end of the month there was a conflict between the pack of eight and the smaller pack of four wild dogs. We saw the two packs fighting and although the four dogs managed to escape the larger pack went to their den and spent the whole day lying in ambush. Over the next few days they continued with this ambushing behaviour and we feared for the lives of the smaller pack’s puppies as we hadn’t seen them since the big confrontation, but right on the last day of the month we were relieved to see that the three puppies from the smaller pack were still alive and doing well. This story then took a very interesting turn in the weeks that followed – stay tuned to July’s sighting report for the next exciting instalment!
Big herds of elephant and buffalo could be seen coming down from the northern part of the concession to drink at the permanent water channels on the border of Moremi Game Reserve. Guests loved watching the elephant procession as they swam, fed and mud-bathed. One time we were lucky enough to witness the incredible sighting of an elephant giving birth. The big buffalo bulls were observed sun-bathing and wallowing in mud; some of the females were nursing their calves.
The Splash pride were seen at the waterhole in front of Kwara camp – perhaps looking for a sneak preview of the rebuilt camp which will be opening in September! We saw the pride feeding on a freshly killed warthog, but the prey was a sub-adult so there was not enough food to go around, leading to lots of exciting purrs and growls. On the east of the Kwara Reserve two intruder male lions killed a big male buffalo and we found them looking extremely full-bellied after their huge meal. We also saw the dominant males bring down a buffalo bull and they feasted on that carcass for a few days. We saw one of the resident males trying to court a lioness from the One Eye Pride, but she did not seem receptive.
The lion kills attracted many scavenging hyenas and jackals.
We were fortunate enough to find aardvark a couple of times during night drive, although the creature was quite shy. A very relaxed aardwolf was seen frequently on lechwe plains foraging on snouted termites and harvester termites. A honey badger with a young cub were to be found foraging along the pathways at Splash camp. Serval and genet were located on night drive.
The resident male cheetah known as Special was seen hunting often with prey species ranging from warthog to kudu calves. One time we were lucky enough to watch him stalking, then chasing and killing an impala. Another time we saw him losing a kudu carcass to a clan of hyenas. Right at the end of the month he killed a warthog piglet very close to Splash Room 1.
A young female leopard was seen stalking regularly near to Splash camp, one time being followed by a hyena hoping for the chance to steal a kill.
Other general game included roan antelope and sitatunga.
A pair of endangered wattled cranes were usually to be found on the Kwara flood plain. Four species of vulture were identified. Guests enjoyed photographing a goliath heron finish his kill of a frog with the amphibian’s legs dangling out of the bird’s bill. Other sightings included saddle-billed storks, ground hornbills, short-tailed eagles and tawny eagles.
Lagoon – Night drives at Lagoon were productive during June yielding sightings of African civet, serval, genet and porcupine. We were even lucky enough to see aardvark and even MATING aardwolf! There was also an active aardwolf den at Grass Pan where were able to see the cubs.
As the dry weather continued herds of buffalo up to 300 strong could be located near to the channels and the Bonga Pride of lions who have always enjoyed specialising on buffalo were never far behind them. We saw many kills, of which this is one example: we had stopped to admire a pearl-spotted owlet sunbathing when our guide heard vervet monkeys giving an alarm call. Moving in that direction he saw a huge cloud of dust caused by buffaloes stampeding. Then right in the middle of the herd he spotted a sub-adult male lion who was chasing them, but the buffaloes mobbed the cat and drove him away. Just when we thought it was all over, a lioness attacked the buffalo herd from the rear and managed to take down a calf as the buffalo scattered in confusion. The rest of the pride appeared and kept the buffaloes at bay whilst the lioness suffocated the calf. Eventually the buffaloes moved on and the rest of the lions came to join in the feast.
At the start of the month a single lioness who had isolated herself from the Holy Pride was seen lactating and so guides were excited that she might have cubs hidden somewhere. She is a warthog specialist and was often seen actively hunting or feeding on a kill. The rest of the pride comprised six lionesses with ten small cubs and we saw them nursing often, their cubs making adorable noises as they begged for milk. It Was interesting to observe how the lionesses cross-suckled each other’s young, a behaviour not seen in all predator species. The two resident male lions kept calling to mark their presence in their territory. One time we saw the pride feasting on a buffalo which they had killed at night. All the lions had very full bellies and the cubs were being extremely playful and climbing trees. The lions stayed on this huge carcass for three days before moving off.
A resident female leopard had been seen hunting in the morning. She kept going up into the trees to look for any possible danger as well as trying to find prey.
The resident pack of wild dogs had ten puppies at the start of the month and we were able to witness lovely scenes at the den site as the puppies played with each other and interacted with the adults. We also saw the adult dogs hunting as they went out without the alpha female to look for food. However unfortunately another pack came in and found the resident pack. A big fight ensued and the alpha female had so many injuries that she was unable to nurse the pups and they died. The pack then temporarily relocated out of the area
The two resident cheetah brothers were seen hunting, climbing up onto termite mounds to scan the area for prey. Eventually they killed a warthog and we found them with full bellies the following day. We watched as they rolled on the ground to leave their scent and then they moved off, stopping to spray bushes as part of their territorial markings. We saw them a few days later feeding on a fresh warthog kill.
A female spotted hyena was running around a former old den site with a piece of meat in her mouth so we hoped that they had also come back for denning. Two hyenas were located with full bellies after they stole a waterbuck kill from a lone lioness.
General game was excellent. We saw herds of zebra, giraffe, kudu, impala, wildebeest, especially near to the permanent channels. An extremely relaxed herd of fifteen sable antelope were enjoying the shorter grass on our firebreak and allowed vehicles much closer than this shyer species would usually accept. Roan antelope were also regularly sighted. There were plenty of hippos in front of the camp basking in the sun during the cold winter mornings. Elephants were seen very frequently, one time they came for a morning drink at Muddy Waters, ignoring the fifteen lions lying nearby!
Good numbers of hippo and crocodile were seen on the boat trips.
Birdlife was fantastic both on land and in the water. We had beautiful sightings of giant kingfishers, malachite kingfishers, storks, ibis, herons and egrets on the boat trip.
Lebala – The Wapoka pride’s six lionesses with their eleven cubs continued to delight guests. One time we saw clouds of dust in the distance and went to investigate only to find a huge herd of buffalo moving through the riverine area. We were not the only ones to see the dust because Wapoka pride arrived soon afterwards and started to chase the buffalo around.
The lionesses were looking after their growing family extremely well, making kills just about every day with prey species such as warthog and red lechwe. Sometimes they were accompanied by the big male lions known as Old Gun and Sebastian and we saw Old Gun successfully mating one of the younger lionesses. Another time Sebastian was found on his own on a sable antelope carcass. In one remarkable sighting we were lucky enough to see the cubs bravely chasing a honey badger. The cubs were at a very playful age providing guests with charming photo opportunities.
The resident pack of two wild dogs were still turning up fairly regularly in and around camp. One day they killed an impala right next to our hide. We also saw them hunting on Main Road. We also saw a larger pack of five a few times.
One morning we were trying to keep up with the wild dogs hunting when we spotted jackals and bateleur eagles moving towards camp. We changed direction to investigate and found the resident two male cheetah bothers on top of a termite mound. They still had blood stains on their faces from a recent kill. We found them again the next day, but they seemed nervous due to the close proximity of the lions. Right at the end of the month we found them hunting and witnessed them killing a kudu calf. They spent the whole day feeding on it before they were chased off by a lioness.
We found the resident female leopard hunting impala a few times and in one beautiful sighting we were saw her leap gracefully across a channel.
A clan of hyena was observed as the individuals were chasing each other around.
As the seasonal dry weather continued most of the game had moved out from the woodland areas towards the channels. Species included sable antelope, buffalo, zebra, kudu, giraffe, tsessebe, wildebeest, warthog and impala. A herd of six roan antelope were located near to the airstrip
Herds of elephant could be seen drinking along the channels and in one dramatic sighting we came across two bull elephants fighting. We also saw hippo in the riverine areas and pools.
A pair of aardwolf were denning to the southwest of camp and we were able to get good visuals of the female during the day.
We were lucky enough to spot the elusive pangolin again during June.
A colony of dwarf mongoose could be seen sunbathing to warm up after the cold winter nights. We came across African wild cat a few times, sometimes in hunting mode. Other smaller mammals located included baboons and monkeys.
Birds seen during the month included pied kingfishers, pied avocet, marabou storks, vultures, saddle-billed storks, fish eagles, pelicans, goliath herons and egrets.
Nxai Pan – Nxai Pan was closed for the month, but although there were no guests, the animals still came to visit us at the camp and waterhole.
Lions were seen frequently, and also heard as they called during the night. Once the lions made a kill of a warthog right in front of camp providing some entertainment for the maintenance team.
Elephants, on the other hand, seemed determined to make life harder for the maintenance crew, necessitating even more repairs to be made, but our team managed to prevail in the end. During the camp closure we made modifications to the waterhole to improve the supply of clean water in the hope that this will keep the elephants from looking for refreshment within the camp itself.
General game included big herds of wildebeest, but the regular zebra visitors had dwindled to just four individuals. We saw impala, warthog and many giraffes.
Black-backed jackals were usually around, and sometimes spotted hyena early in the mornings just after sunrise.
Birds seen at the waterhole included ostrich and yellow-billed storks. We observed a huge flock of vultures at the waterhole which made us go out and see if there was a carcass, but the vultures were just busy preening, bathing and drinking. A martial eagle was seen taking a guinea fowl. Black-breasted snake eagles, tawny eagles and pied crows were other regular visitors.
Dwarf mongoose and banded mongoose were seen in the camp grounds.
Tau Pan – The five male lions of the Tau Pan pride were still holding their territory in a coalition as had been the case for over two years. Sometimes they separated into smaller groups of twos or threes and we found them often, including their regular visits to the camp watering hole. One time we saw two of the males approaching a big kudu, but the wind was against them and the antelope was able to get away. As is often the case at Tau Pan the male lions had nights where they called and called, enthralling the guests. There were still three lionesses in the area, but one was now looking very old and usually seen on her own, seemingly unable to keep up with the others.
We were extremely lucky with leopard sightings during June, including a particularly relaxed female who we saw a couple of times sitting up on a camel thorn tree scanning for prey. We spent good time with her until she came down from the tree and set off on her hunting mission. We also saw her hunting together with her adult son, quite remarkable since nowadays they occupy different territories. They were highly mobile and appeared to be interested in hunting some steenbok together, but the prey species smelled them and bolted. More than once we saw the female hunting bat-eared foxes but she was unsuccessful; it was interesting to see how the jackal alarm call warned the foxes in good time. A male leopard was observed trying his luck on some young oryx, but the area was too open so they spotted him and ran away.
A brown hyena sometimes visited the camp waterhole early in the morning, before any of the other predators were nearby. One time we were lucky enough to see a brown hyena near to Tau Pan as we were enjoying our sundowner drinks. The hyena was walking straight towards us and so guests were able to get some great shots of this elusive mammal.
Now that winter had descended upon the Central Kalahari Game Reserve there was little sustenance in the pan grasses, so the general game started to disperse elsewhere. Species seen at the camp waterhole included oryx, springbok and kudu. We saw a good number of giraffe together, including two young bulls playfighting. On drive we also saw red hartebeest and wildebeest. Guests enjoyed seeing big herds of springbok pronking and described it as “springbok sports day”!
At the Tau Pan waterhole there were many birds coming to drink and the mornings took on a certain order of events as Cape turtle doves arrived at approximately 8am, followed by Burchell’s sandgrouse and guinea fowl flocking an hour or so later. These prey species attracted raptors such as the lanner falcon, bateleur, pale chanting goshawk and tawny eagle. Once we were nearby when a goshawk managed to swoop down on a dove and started eating it from a bush close to the vehicle – a real ‘wow’ moment for the keen birders who happened to be with us that day.
A lone elephant, the same individual who was visiting us last year, returned to the camp area to take advantage of the waterhole. This big bull tended to browse within the camp itself during the night.
We observed honey badgers digging for prey species such as rodents. Aardwolf were seen a couple of times, including a really close sighting where guests managed to get great photos. One morning we saw a remarkable ten bat-eared foxes. Jackals led us towards a female leopard late one afternoon as we followed their alarm calls. A caracal was briefly seen as it fed on a helmeted guineafowl, but the cat was shy and ducked for cover. We also saw a Cape fox.
A four-metre black mamba was spotted going in and out of ground squirrel burrows as it looked for a meal.
A remarkable bird sighting that we had not previously witnessed was a yellow-billed hornbill killing and eating another bird. A flock of white-backed vultures were found finishing off a springbok carcass that looked to be the result of a cheetah kill.
Kwara Concession – During May the Kwara Reserve lived up to its well-deserved reputation for fantastic sightings, averaging a remarkable three predator sightings per day.
At the start of the month the pack of eight wild dogs made it almost a daily ritual to visit Splash camp, kill an impala and go back to the den to regurgitate for their pregnant alpha female.
We saw the resident male lions responding to the calls of wild dogs as they tried to steal their kills, sometimes successfully. Once they killed a kudu and it was interesting to see how they dragged it under a bush and covered the carcass with sand to prevent other predators being attracted by the smell. There were two new male lions to the east of Splash camp; we saw them laying with very full bellies after they had killed a big buffalo bull. Probably because of the new males being in the area, the resident lions put on some terrific roaring performances during the night to proclaim their territory. Once they were joined by two lionesses at the camp waterhole; the females then decided to rest directly under Room 11 so we needed to drive them off a little so that the guests could safely enter their room for their own siesta! We saw this pride of four lions being chased out into the open by a herd of elephants, but then a big herd of buffalo also came to join in the action and there was an awesome sighting of lions and buffalo chasing each other around.
The Splash Pride comprising two lionesses and six cubs had been on the Kwara side of the reserve for some months, moving even further west out of the area, so guides were happy to see them back with us at the waterhole in front of Kwara camp
The male cheetah known as Special still continued to delight our guests and we saw cheetah on 29 out of 31 days! We saw Special try his luck on a warthog without success, but the same evening he managed to take down a kudu calf but as it was late in the day he lost the kill to hyenas. We also saw Special demonstrate his incredible acceleration to take down a common reedbuck, fortunately he got to keep his meal that time. The resident female cheetah was also spotted.
A young female leopard was seen looking relaxed and well-fed as we found her under spotlight on night drives. We saw a male leopard hunting during the day in the marsh area west of Kwara camp, although he was not successful.
An exceptionally relaxed aardwolf was seen regularly near to the mokoro station during night drive. Other smaller mammals observed included African wild cat and African civet.
Big herds of buffalo, up to 400 strong, were seen coming down from the northern part of the Kwara Reserve, heading towards the main channel. General game was concentrated in the areas near the channels and included giraffe, buffalo, wildebeest and large herds of elephant. This was breeding season for the impala and we observed how the males became vocal and highly territorial.
Despite the low rainfall in the Okavango Delta this season we are blessed to still have great access to water and the mokoro trips remained as popular as ever. Gliding through the water provided the chance to see creatures such as painted reed frogs, long reed frogs and we were even lucky enough to see a spotted necked otter.
A pair of wattled cranes were seen regularly near to the flood plains. We are glad to report that endangered vultures are doing well in the Kwara Reserve and on one buffalo carcass we saw four different species: hooded, white-headed, white-backed and lappet-faced. Jackals were also seen scavenging. Two adult southern ground hornbills were seen feeding their chick. Trapped catfish in the drying pools attracted fish eagles looking for an easy meal.
Lagoon – At the start of the month the guides were thrilled to have found the resident pack of wild dogs denning and guests were able to enjoy first sightings of the ten puppies of which four were pale and six dark. It seemed that there were two females with litters; this is unusual for the species but has happened before within this particular pack. The pack moved 100 metres from the initial den to a much more open area and perhaps this was a big mistake on their part as a few days afterwards a different pack found the den site and a big confrontation ensued. A week or so later we saw the dogs chasing and biting hyenas away from the den site. They were hunting regularly and we located them chasing and killing a kudu. Another time they brought down a kudu which they lost to hyenas, immediately killed a second kudu only to lose that one too. On the 15th May the alpha female had a huge fight with the other subordinate female and she suffocated her almost to the point of death.
In addition to the wild dog den we were lucky enough to still have aardwolf denning in the area. Spotted hyena were seen mobile near to one of their old den sites so the guides were hopeful that they may also be having cubs soon.
The brown hyenas are now a lot more elusive than they used to be, but we are still seeing them from time to time. A very relaxed serval was located stalking some ground birds. Two honey badgers were spotted near to camp and an African civet was seen close to Watercut.
A pride of three lionesses with ten cubs, known as the Holy Pride, were seen in close proximity to a splinter group from the long-resident Bonga pride which the guides have now called the Marsh Pride. The Holy pride seemed to be specialising on kudu and guests were able to get some wonderful shots of the lionesses playing with the energetic cubs. The Marsh Pride were seen hunting near to the wild dog den and eventually they took down a buffalo calf. We saw a mating pair of lions, with the other resident male nearby. One time we were following a clan of four hyenas and they led us to lions feeding on a kudu bull. The hyenas tried to intimidate the big cats, but the male lion came to the rescue to defend his family. At the scene four cubs of 2-3 months old were licking blood off the carcass and playing with bones.
A tom leopard was seen stalking a herd of impala close to camp however the antelope spotted him and started to make alarm calls so eventually he gave up. Some fresh tracks led us to a female leopard hunting, but she was mobbed by baboons and eventually decided to rest up on a leadwood tree.
Large herds of elephant and buffalo were seen throughout the month as the seasonal dry and cool weather continued. Kwena Lagoon had good numbers of eland, roan and sable antelopes. Grass Pan was another hotspot for plains game including zebra, giraffe, kudu, impala and wildebeest.
Crocodiles were seen feeding on a hippo carcass near to the Namibian border.
African skimmers were seen near to Muddy Waters. We saw an African Fish Eagle swoop down on a snake which was devoured in less than five minutes.
Lebala – The Wapoka Pride was still resident in the area. One time we were following fresh tracks through the Kalahari apple leaf and a distance away we saw vultures descending, a good sign that there might be a kill. Sure enough we found the whole family of 19 lions including two big males, six females and eleven cubs. The lionesses were finishing off the zebra carcass whilst the cubs were amusing themselves playing with the bones. Nearby one of the resident males started roaring, whilst the other was drinking. We came across the pride many times during the month, one time finding them all with their faces dramatically covered in blood after they had clearly eaten well. Although the pride seemed to be specialising in zebra, we watched one of the lionesses stalking a wildebeest calf which had got separated from its herd. Unfortunately. one of the lion cubs came out into the open and thereby spoiled the hunt. The Bonga pride were also seen on the northern side of the area.
We had been seeing multiple tracks of a female leopard, but they always seem to head off and vanish into the marshes. However, one morning we got lucky and saw the tracks heading inland and to our delight there were also tiny cub tracks. Nearby there was a very relaxed herd of impala, but in the end it was the alarm call of a tree squirrel that gave the game away and we found an impala carcass in the thickets with the female and two cubs feeding on it. Everyone was astonished by the fact that there was a well-camouflaged leopard feeding just a couple of metres away from grazing impala who seemed oblivious to its presence. We saw the female leopard again a few days later, up on a leadwood tree with her cubs.
A pack of six wild dogs were located at Kubu Pan just as we were about to stop for sundowner drinks. In the pack there was one very striking pale female and we watched her drinking at the pan. The resident pack of two dogs killed an impala ram near to Room 8 and guests were able to quickly return back to camp to witness them feasting. Another time we saw these two dogs take down an impala close to the airstrip.
Bush walks continued to be a popular activity giving guests a chance to see species such as giraffe whilst on foot, as well as being able to study tracks of the other animals who had passed through the walking range. One of the sightings of the month was being able to view a pangolin from the ground and to watch it feeding on ants under the sage bushes.
The inland waterholes were very dry and the large herbivores were attracted to the riverine areas. Elephants were moving through the mopane woodland in large numbers, sometimes trumpeting, and herds of buffalo up to fifty strong were also seen coming to drink. We loved watching elephants drinking, swimming and mud-bathing at the river. Hippos were still resident in Twin Pools and guests were able to get some great shots of them yawning in a territorial display.
A lovely herd of 28 sable antelope, including ten calves were in the area. Once we were able to witness two of the bulls chasing each other in a battle for dominance. Other general game included zebra, impala, wildebeest, warthogs, kudu and lechwe.
We found both serval and aardwolf along Vlei Road, both of these smaller mammals digging in holes. A large colony of dwarf mongoose was found sunbathing at the base of a termite mound.
On night drive guests were impressed when a sharp-eyed guide was able to spot a chameleon up in a tree.
A huge flock of vultures were seen feeding on a zebra that had died of natural causes. It was fascinating to sit with them for a while and listen to their hissing and squabbling.
Nxai Pan – A male cheetah was located moving along but with a very full belly. Guides reported that this animal was looking very healthy due to the large herds of springbok in the area.
A nomadic male lion was in the area for 3-4 days and he managed to kill a wildebeest near the Wildlife Waterhole. This lion did not seem used to safari vehicles and was still a bit shy. A lone lioness was also seen at the same waterhole and eventually the two paired up and starting mating.
There was very good general game in the area, mostly congregated at the two waterholes. Large herds of elephant were seen drinking whilst springbok, wildebeest, impala, zebra, kudu and giraffe all had to wait their turn. Herds of oryx were grazing on Baobab Loop and herds of up to 300 springbok were grazing on the open plains.
A sub-adult elephant died near to the camp waterhole after we had reported it to the Wildlife Officers the day before as we observed a bad injury to its hind leg. This carcass attracted spotted hyenas and a flock of forty vultures, both white-backed and lappet-faced.
There were many black-backed jackals near to the waterholes where they hunted guinea fowl, scavenged and hunted through elephant dung for beetles. A family of four bat eared foxes were located and honey badgers were seen hunting rodents along West Road.
The day trip to see the massive trees at Baines Baobabs was still popular and along the way guests saw oryx, steenbok and other general game. One time we were lucky enough to see a male leopard basking in the sun at the junction of the Baines Baobab road.
Bird species encountered included kori bustard, secretary birds, helmeted guinea fowl and ostriches. Smaller passerines included marico and chat flycatchers, black-chested prinias as well as the colourful lilac-breasted rollers. There were many pale chanting goshawks and we found one feeding on a cape turtle dove. Another time the goshawks were seen flying along behind two foraging honey badgers, hoping to be able to snatch a rodent that the mammals might flush out from a hole.
Kwando’s desert camps are always a good place to observe some of the smaller dramas that play out daily and guests spent quite some time watching a dung beetle roll up a ball five times its own size. A highlight for others was watching a black mamba hunt and eat a striped skink.
Bird species identified included pale chanting goshawks, marico flycatchers, crimson-breasted shrikes, lanner falcons, pallid harriers, secretary birds and kori bustards. A flock of over 100 white-backed vultures along with a few lappet-faced vultures were seen bathing at the camp waterhole. Also at the waterhole there were large flocks of Burchell’s sandgrouse and cape turtle doves. Over 100 cattle egrets were seen following wildebeest; these birds taking advantage of the animals’ movement through the grass to disturb insects. Crowned lapwings were nesting and we were able to observe them camouflaging and defending their nests. Northern black korhaans were displaying to attract females.
Tau Pan – Lions from the Tau Pan pride were seen almost daily and very often at the camp waterhole where we were able to get lovely photos of them drinking with reflections in the water. Once we saw one of the males trying his luck on some oryx, however the area was too open and the antelope made their escape. The male lions are well known at Tau Pan for regularly roaring near to camp and on a couple of nights they kept the guests awake and enthralled as their roars almost seemed to make the walls vibrate. We saw the lionesses a few times including one who was stalking a herd of kudu, but the herd picked up her scent and galloped off. We also found a lioness with porcupine quills stuck in her neck after an encounter with the large rodent.
One male was limping, perhaps from a thorn or other foot injury, and he had been staying near to the waterhole where he had been eating smaller prey such as springhares and sandgrouse, however he astounded the guides by managing to bring down a large kudu bull all by himself despite his injury. We were lucky enough to witness this unusual kill. The following day three other male lions came to join in the feast. A brown hyena was seen skirting the waterhole, but this solitary animal kept his distance because of the male lion. We were lucky to see the hyena the following day in a more relaxed state.
A couple of times a tom leopard was spotted along the main road, but this is quite a shy individual and guest had to be quick to take photos before it ducked for cover. A more obliging female leopard was found up in a tree scanning around before she jumped down to the ground. She was also seen again a couple of times near to the firebreak, once posing in beautiful light. Right at the end of the month we were lucky enough to see a male leopard hunting and spent some quality time with him as he stalked springbok, though the open ground was against him and he was not successful.
A female cheetah was found a couple of times and seemed well fed and in good condition. We were able to observe her marking her territory.
Bat-eared foxes were seen at Tau Pan and, briefly, an aardwolf. Guests enjoyed seeing black-backed jackals calling and responding to each other. Honey badgers were also located, sometimes with the jackals following behind hoping to pick up a rodent escaping the honey badgers’ digging. On one occasion we saw a flock of crowned lapwings mobbing an African wild cat before the cat disappeared into the bushes.
Now that the Central Kalahari Game Reserve was in its usual dry state the camp waterhole was visited by all kinds of creatures including giraffe, springbok, wildebeest and a good number of kudu with their calves. There was plentiful birdlife also at the waterhole including helmeted guineafowl, Cape turtle doves and Burchell’s sandgrouse in large numbers. There were a good number of giraffe in the Pan and we were able to see two male fighting for dominance in a behaviour known as “necking”. Towards the end of the month the antelope species, such as oryx, stayed on the eastern side of the pan where they were foraging on tubers that were still holding valuable moisture.
As temperatures dropped and skies cleared the stargazing became even more incredible, one of the features for which the Kalahari desert is famous.
Kwara Concession – April was an incredible month for predator sightings and we successfully found lions on 29 out of the 30 days! The two young resident male lions were still in the area near to Splash and we found one of them mating a female very close to camp. On one dramatic night some of our vehicles were following the resident males and other guides had picked up the tracks of the different males, the “Zulu Boys”. The lions were roaring as they made their way towards each other and the evening culminated in a dramatic chase as the two sets of male lions clashed in a territorial fight. After a few days the lions clashed again and the resident males chased the intruders for a long distance to the west of the Kwara Reserve where they promptly stole a kill from some lionesses. One time the resident males came across the carcass of a kudu bull that had apparently been killed by another kudu and so they enjoyed that bonus feast for a couple of days.
The Splash pride comprising two females with their six cubs were further to the west and seemed to be in good condition at the start of the month. We were very happy to see them reunited with the father of the cubs, one of the males who was driven from the Splash area some months before. It is the first time that we have seen him back with his pride since that time. However right at the end of the month the guides were worried that three of the six cubs were missing. Mother Eye Pride of four adults was found feeding on a waterbuck in the marsh area.
A very relaxed African wild cat allowed us to photograph it for quite a number of minutes and we were also able to see serval, water mongoose, springhare, African civet during night drive. Black-backed and side-striped jackals were visible during most drives.
The resident male cheetah, well-known as “Special” was seen extremely well fed. We were able to watch him hunting, although on one occasion he was so full that that he completely ignored some kudu grazing surprisingly close by. A female cheetah was located hunting east of Splash camp and managed to kill an impala. She initially had two cubs but unfortunately lost one early on and the second disappeared towards the end of the month. The female seemed very stressed and went for three days without eating as she called for her cub.
A pack of eight wild dogs were seen almost daily at the start of the month. We were able to follow them until they came to drink at the camp waterhole and a couple of times we saw them feeding on impala. The smaller pack of four wild dogs were highly mobile and covered large distances. The alpha females of both these packs appeared to be pregnant and we think that they will give birth during May. A spotted hyena was fighting with the dogs over a kill.
Yet another pack of thirteen dogs were located feeding on a female kudu that they killed in front of the Kwara camp lagoon. Vultures were waiting hungrily on the ground, but the dogs kept chasing them away. Once we saw this pack chase a sable bull, but he ran into a waterhole to save himself.
Three spotted hyena were waiting underneath a leopard in a tree with its kill, presumably hoping for some bones to drop down to the ground. Later we found them drinking at a waterhole. A different leopard dragged a calf up a tree and gorged on it for almost two days. A shy male leopard was found looking down nervously at two nearby lionesses who appeared to have treed it. Eventually it found its opportunity to escape and jumped down.
Different herds of elephant, totalling about fifty in number, were seen every afternoon on the way down to the boat station. Guests enjoyed watching them feeding, playing and bathing in the soft sand in the Splash area and crossing at the mokoro station at sunset with their small calves. Herds also visited the camp waterhole to drink. Giraffe were plentiful and were spotted in groups of up to 21 individuals. Zebra, wildebeest, tsessebe and baboons were commonly found.
As the waterholes started to dry up we saw birds such as white-headed vultures and lappet-faced vultures feasting on trapped fish. Martial eagles were located nesting. On night drive we successfully found the largest owl in the region, Verreaux’s Eagle Owl, and also one of the smallest, the pearl-spotted owlet. Two red-necked falcons were spotted fighting over a dove which was killed by one of small raptors. Red-faced mousebirds were enjoying the fruits of the red star apple. Other notable bird sightings included African hawk-eagles, fan-tailed widowbirds, secretary birds, wattled cranes, lesser jacanas and different families of southern ground hornbills.he animal was well fed, hardly surprising since there was plenty of prey in the area including lots of young antelopes.
We watched two adult spotted hyenas nursing their four cubs at the den towards the Kwara camp side of the reserve. Closer to Splash there were many hyenas concentrated in an area where last year there was an active den so we are hoping that they might use the same spot again.
There was plentiful general game including zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, reedbuck, tsessebe and impala. Guest enjoyed seeing big herds of elephant. Smaller mammals located included serval, aardwolf, genet, African wild cat and springhare. In a rare sighting, an aardvark was located during night drive on the way back to camp.
There were lots of summer visitor birds still on Kwara Reserve including European bee- eaters, carmine bee-eaters, European rollers, woodland kingfishers and Wahlbergs eagles who we saw feeding on harvester termites. Marabou storks were plentiful since the breeding season was over for them. The heronry island was less active as most of the chicks had flown, but some birds continued to use the area as a roosting site.
Lagoon – We were very fortunate to still have good amounts of water in the river at Lagoon camp, despite the drier than usual rainy season. Boat activities were able to continue as usual where we encountered hippos yawning in a territorial behaviour before ducking under the water as the boat approached closer. Elephants were drawn to the river for swimming and drinking and one in particular, nicknamed Pedro by the staff, spent a lot of time in camp enjoying the fruiting marula tree near to the main area.
Hippos were seen out of the water during game drive, one standing his ground very firmly and marking his territory causing our guide to wait at a safe distance until the animal relaxed.
We were excited to discover a breeding pair of aardwolves denning in the area. Other smaller mammals encountered during April included springhares and families of bat-eared foxes. Lesser bushbabies were observed leaping from branch to branch during night drive.
The sub-adult brown hyenas were still found to the east of camp, but tended to be seen at night on the move and not so much at the den compared to when they were cubs. Once one of the brown hyenas was flushed out by a lioness. Spotted hyenas were seen patrolling along the flood plains and also following the dogs whilst they were hunting
The resident coalition of two cheetah brothers were in the area; they looked hungry when we saw them at the start of the month and a couple of days later we saw them hunting although they were not successful.
The resident pack of wild dogs were playing as a pack and then suddenly started to look serious about getting on with some hunting. The following day we saw them finishing up a warthog kill. Some days later we saw them hunting again, but this time they were disturbed by a lioness prowling through. A few days later we found vultures feeding on the remains of a kudu carcass that appeared to have been killed by the dogs judging by the tracks. One time the pack ran straight through camp and appeared to be in a hunting mood.
A lioness with three cubs of about six months old provided an entertaining sighting for our guests with the cubs playing as they walked along. We saw them a few times during the month including a hunt of reedbuck. Another lioness was located hunting warthog unsuccessfully by herself and a few days later the pride together managed to kill a warthog. The two resident male lions were seen marking their territory and seemed to be well-fed. At one stage they were mating one of the lionesses. We saw the males feeding on an impala and one time we came across a dead aardvark that we believed had been killed by lions.
General game included eland, impala, kudu, giraffe, tsessebe, red lechwe, zebra, warthog as well as sable antelope. A lovely herd of fifteen roan antelope were seen near Watercut.
As the natural waterholes dried up we saw huge flocks of pelicans (up to 120 at a time), egrets, herons, and vultures feeding on the trapped fish and amphibians. Many species of stork were observed in a feeding frenzy at Watercut including saddle-billed, openbilled, yellow-billed and over 200 marabou.
Lebala – A pack of five wild dogs killed a kudu calf right next to the staff village but before they could finish eating the carcass was stolen by a clan of three hyenas. Later in the month we found them chasing down and killing another young kudu which they quickly devoured. The usual resident pack of two dogs were also spotted in the area chasing medium sized antelope such as impala, red lechwe, bushbuck as well as warthog. They once killed an impala right in front of camp. Whilst they were still feasting a lone hyena came and ran away with the whole carcass.
One time the trumpeting of an elephant led our guides to investigate what was happening and he came across the Wapoka Pride which now has nine cubs, three older ones and six small cubs. One of the females was drinking water and the rest were lying in the shade. We found this fast-growing pride many times during the month, once their growls led us to find them enjoying a zebra kill. On another occasion three females and their six cubs were drinking at a waterhole when they quickly disappeared. All of a sudden, the two males known as Old Gun and Sebastian appeared and they seemed agitated as though they were worried about an intruder in the area. The next day the males were with the rest of the pride enjoying the last of a kudu carcass. The complete pride of sixteen were also seen feeding on sable, kudu and warthog, on the latter occasion the males kept the meat to themselves and wouldn’t let the lionesses or their cubs eat at all. Guests enjoyed watching the cubs nursing from their mothers.
Another resident lion family, the Bonga pride, was still roaming the Lebala area. One evening they caught a warthog very close to camp. We watched them eating and after finishing the carcass they went to the nearest water to drink with their cubs playing nearby. Two spotted hyenas came and started to gobble the carcass. This pride was seen targeting a wide species of prey ranging from warthog to giraffe. Towards the end of the month the two lion prides came across each other and after a combat they retreated back from each other’s territories so that they were no longer overlapping.
Keen eyes by our guide and tracker team spotted the flicking tail of a leopard in the marsh area and discovered our resident tom, nicknamed Fisherman, hunting in his favourite habitat. The resident female known as Jane was also located hunting reedbuck, moving from tree to tree as she tried to stalk her quarry although she wasn’t successful on that occasion.
The resident coalition of two cheetah brothers was seen along the road stalking impala, but their prey spotted them from some distance away and bolted leaving the cats looking hungry. Later in the month we found them with an impala kill, but it was stolen by the ever-opportunistic hyenas.
The lack of rainfall in the area influenced the movement of certain species and elephants in particular. Individual herds of elephant could be seen coming out if the woodlands heading to the riverine areas where they congregated in huge numbers. Guests enjoyed watching elephants playing and bathing in the water.
General game included impala, wildebeest, zebra, warthog, red lechwe, kudu, warthog, bushbuck, giraffe roan and sable antelope.
Bird species identified included saddle-billed storks, wattled cranes, herons, African fish eagles, and egrets.
Nxai Pan – Lions were seen regularly at Nxai Pan during April, particularly during the second half of the month. The resident pride consisting of three females and three sub-adults favoured a shady spot close to Room 1 and were frequently located at both the camp and wildlife waterholes. We found a mating pair of lions which was particularly interesting as the male appeared to be new to the area.
The resident male cheetah was seen looking healthy and full-bellied.
A female leopard was seen stalking steenbok along the airstrip road before disappearing into the thickets.
A pack of five wild dogs was located along the main road near to the turnoff to Baines Baobabs. They were just finishing off the carcass of a steenbok.
As the weather dried up elephants started to return to both waterholes in large numbers and breeding herds up to 100 strong were seen. The elephants were often seen right inside camp, sometimes taking a cheeky drink of our swimming pool creating some amazing photo opportunities.
At the start of April there was still very good general game in the area including herds of zebras, springbok, wildebeest and kudu, but as the month progressed the numbers of zebra started to reduce as the annual migration headed back towards the Boteti area. A tower of giraffe was seen licking the soil, a behaviour that helps them to absorb vital minerals.
Lots of black-backed jackals were seen scattering around elephant dung in order to forage on dung beetles. There were several families of bat-eared foxes in the pan area. Honey badgers were also seen digging for mice a few times.
Kwando’s desert camps are always a good place to observe some of the smaller dramas that play out daily and guests spent quite some time watching a dung beetle roll up a ball five times its own size. A highlight for others was watching a black mamba hunt and eat a striped skink.
Bird species identified included pale chanting goshawks, marico flycatchers, crimson-breasted shrikes, lanner falcons, pallid harriers, secretary birds and kori bustards. A flock of over 100 white-backed vultures along with a few lappet-faced vultures were seen bathing at the camp waterhole. Also at the waterhole there were large flocks of Burchell’s sandgrouse and cape turtle doves. Over 100 cattle egrets were seen following wildebeest; these birds taking advantage of the animals’ movement through the grass to disturb insects. Crowned lapwings were nesting and we were able to observe them camouflaging and defending their nests. Northern black korhaans were displaying to attract females.
Tau Pan – As a dry spell of weather continued the animals started to disperse and for a while the Tau Pan pride appeared to have followed prey animals out of the area, but by the 9th April we found three of the lionesses back on the firebreak near to our airstrip and halfway through the month the whole Tau Pan pride was back in its usual territory near to camp. On one morning two of the males responded to a lioness who was roaring near to the camp waterhole and then they started to fight. At Deception Valley a healthy pride of four adults with three cubs was found relaxing in the shade and another time four males were feasting on a fresh oryx kill. Meanwhile at Passarge Valley some loud roaring led us to discovering a pride of nine lions who then stopped to drink giving us the opportunity to capture lovely photos of their reflections in the water. Another time we watched the same pride hunting although they were unlucky.
A very relaxed female leopard was seen more than once fairly near to camp. This is a well-known individual in the area and she never seemed to be disturbed by the presence of the vehicle. A tom leopard was seen looking rather skittish as he ran away from the lion den.
A female cheetah was located feeding on a young springbok near to Phukwi Pan. Two male cheetahs were located at Deception Loop and were seemingly interested some oryx calves who were grazing with their herd. However there were plenty of eyes and ears to spot the predators and so a plethora of warning calls meant that the cats were unsuccessful. These two individuals are well known to us and we have seen how they travel long distances from Passarge Valley all the way to Deception Valley. At Passarge we found the carcass of a young oryx that we suspected the cheetahs may have killed.
As the prey species started to disperse the general game was grazing in mixed herds of springbok, oryx and wildebeest in order to still achieve safety in numbers. Breeding season was starting to get underway and so testosterone levels amongst the male antelope appeared to be running high. One day we were observing a large herd of gemsbok at Tau Pan when all of a sudden two bulls started a dramatic fight over a female. Male wildebeest were also fighting for dominancy and one individual came running the whole way across the pan before kneeling to graze, but seemingly the main reason for doing this was to assess his opponent and after a few minutes the two bulls started to fight. Giraffe bulls were also located fighting by swinging their necks at each other to land blows with their horns in a behaviour known as “necking”. Other lovely giraffe sightings included herds drinking and also browsing the umbrella thorn trees in a classic African panorama. A good-sized herd of red hartebeest were found by our guides and kudu were frequent visitors to the camp waterhole.
We were able to watch an African wild cat hunting a ground squirrel. Honey badgers were also found, sometimes being followed by pale chanting goshawks, the raptors hoping for an opportunity to swoop down on any prey that the honey badgers may have flushed out. Bat eared foxes were also seen foraging. Towards the end of the month a brown hyena was briefly seen at the camp waterhole.
We were able to watch a flock of vultures finishing up an oryx carcass which appeared to be from the night before. Guests enjoyed watching a gabar goshawk taking a bath at the Tau Pan waterhole. Other raptors observed drinking at the camp waterhole included tawny eagles, bateleurs and secretary birds.
Kwara Concession – The male cheetah known as “Special” by our guides was seen often and we held our breath as we watched this favourite resident being stalked by a lioness from the One-Eyed Pride. Luckily for the cheetah the wind changed direction as the lion got very close and when he picked up the bigger cat’s scent he bolted away. This is the second time that the same lioness has targeted Special. As with the previous month, Special was having some luck targeting ostrich and we were lucky enough to witness one of these kills. Another time we saw him try for a warthog, but the sow aggressively defended her piglets and managed to drive the cheetah away. We also saw him hunt impala more than once, sometimes successfully and sometimes not.
A female cheetah with her cub were seen a few times, including a remarkable sighting where we were watching them with a fresh impala kill. Suddenly, a male leopard appeared and chased away the cheetahs to take over the kill. After about an hour two hyenas came over and started fighting with the leopard over the carcass and then, having successfully won it from the cat, the hyenas then started to fight each other for the prize! An incredible morning’s action for our lucky guests to witness.
There were three resident packs of wild dog in the Kwara Reserve during March, a pack of sixteen towards Kwara, a pack of nine near Splash and a pack of four towards the east. We had an amazing sighting when we started following the dogs during afternoon game drive, only to find that they were leading us back towards camp again. They started to chase impala and were getting away from the vehicles when camp radioed through to say that they had made a kill right in front of the kitchen. As it was almost sundowner time guests disembarked the vehicles to see the dogs whilst on foot at the main area. That particular day, aside from the wild dogs, there were elephants in front of camp and hyenas coming in to try and steal the kill, interacting with the dog pack! Towards the end of the month one of the pack of nine went missing but we were not sure if it had been killed or whether it had naturally dispersed from the pack to find a new territory.
As in the previous month, the Splash pride were still residing more to the west after two big male lions known as “Puffy” and “Big Man” took up the territory nearer to Splash camp. These males were in prime condition; they mostly hunted at night but one time we watched as they made an awesome attempt on a zebra, running right in front of our vehicles. They also took over a kill made in camp by the wild dogs – the pack’s second kill in camp that month. The lionesses on the Splash side of the reserve are known as the “One Eye” pride. These two lionesses had two cubs, but during the month one disappeared so our guides assumed that it had died. We found these animals feeding on a wildebeest. We managed to stay in touch with the Splash pride and in one unusual sighting we watched as the cubs were playing with a water monitor. It was interesting to see how the lizard defended itself by whipping its tail.
Two young male leopards were located at Honeymoon Pan; they appeared to be having a territorial battle.
There were a good number of hyenas in the area. One morning the guests could see a hyena from the camp fire and it turned out that it was eating a jackal.
Big herds of elephants were moving south through the Kwara reserve so that they could get access to water at the main channel. Guests enjoyed seeing them drinking and bathing. Due to the dry conditions general game was also pushed closer to the river; species included plentiful zebra, giraffe, impala, wildebeest, tsessebe, red lechwe, reedbuck and warthog.
Birdlife was excellent and summer migrants such as the carmine bee-eater, woodland kingfisher and purple rollers were still in the region. Raptors included African fish eagle, bateleur and Ayres hawk-eagle. Tawny eagles and vultures were seen perched on trees waiting for predators to finish eating. Lesser jacana, African jacana and malachite kingfisher were spotted during the boat cruise. Different types of hornbill were identified, including the endangered ground hornbill. Secretary birds were seen feeding and were being followed by lots of carmine bee-eaters hawking the disturbed insects. One day distress calls from starlings and hornbills led us to a two-metre black mamba at the base of a large fever berry tree.
Lagoon – We were able to follow the resident pack of wild dogs they hunted. One time we saw them take down and kill a sub-adult warthog. Within five minutes their prey was completely devoured.
The two big resident male lions were seen often and also a pride of lionesses with cubs. One time we observed the lionesses stalking a herd of zebra, however they were spotted by a troop of keen-eyed baboons who started to make alarm calls until the lions gave up and lay down in the grass. The following day they tried their luck on some red lechwe near to the flood plain, but they saw one of the lionesses and ran off to safety. Finally, on the third day we were able to see them with their cubs full-bellied and crossing the channel back across from an island. Another time we followed them through tall grasses until they killed a warthog piglet from a sounder who had been feeding. Sometimes the cubs were left on their own whilst the lionesses went hunting and we were able to get some lovely photos of them playing on a fallen dry tree.
We picked up the tracks of the two resident cheetah brothers and after an exciting one and a half hour tracking mission we finally located them sleeping on top of a termite mound. Guests were able to take some beautiful photos. We also found them very close to some lionesses.
The brown hyena cubs who have thrilled us so much during the past year were still doing well and were seen playing outside their den area as well as returning from a drink at the channel. Spotted hyenas were also in the area and we saw a clan feeding hungrily on a wildebeest carcass.
There was good general game reported including zebra, kudu, impala, wildebeest, eland, roan and sable antelopes. A highlight for some guests was watching warthogs nursing their piglets. Another interesting sighting was watching young giraffe bulls playfighting by swinging their necks at each other to land blows with their horns.
One time the sound of a jackal’s alarm call drew us to find a female leopard lying on a termite mound. Nearby there were two hyenas feeding on a carcass that we suspected had originally been killed by the leopard. A male leopard was found up on a tree, but he was a little shy and jumped down as we approached.
Smaller mammals encountered included African wild cat, porcupine, jackals, bat-eared foxes, yellow mongoose and honey badgers. Towards the end of the month we saw an aardwolf near to a previously used den, so guides will be watching closely to see if they appear to be using it again.
Herds of elephant came to the Lagoon in front of camp and guests enjoyed watching them swimming alongside the resident hippos.
Bird species identified included white-fronted bee-eaters, martial eagle, marabou storks, fish eagles, pelicans and Verreaux’s (giant) eagle owl. White-backed vultures bathing made a spectacular sighting.
Lebala – The resident Bonga pride of two adults and six cubs were found frequently, and often near to camp or the airstrip. One time we saw them trying to hunt giraffe who were browsing nearby but a lack of cover meant that they were unsuccessful. The following day the lions covered a huge amount of ground by travelling to Halfway Pan where we found them feasting on a zebra. We saw them a few days later with the carcass of a big kudu bull which was finished up by spotted hyenas and jackals after the lions had left. This opportunistic pride showed great variety in their diet which ranged from wildebeest to warthog; one time the lions had treed a large male baboon who was looking very nervous, but he managed to escape. Sometimes the sub-adults were left on their own whilst the females were hunting, on one of these occasions the cubs were sitting on a termite mound having finished eating the carcass of a red lechwe. The male lions were seen patrolling often, sometimes on their own but calling for their coalition partner.
The female leopard known as Jane was located near to Twin Pools having caught a reedbuck. The next day she was still there, this time feeding on a civet. After a long tracking session a few days later the guides found Jane again; she had spotted her cub from last year and gave chase to it as though in territorial dispute. Meanwhile Jane’s older son was located with a kill of a tsessebe calf up on a tree. A few days later he was busy stalking reedbuck in the marsh area, this being his favourite territory and one that gives him his nickname “Fisherman”. A female leopard was found calling, as though looking for a mate.
One day our guide’s attention was drawn to a small herd of impala getting an elevated view from the top of a termite mound. We heard them make an alarm call and then the coalition of two cheetah brothers appeared. We also saw them stalking a dazzle of zebra, though they were not successful. Now that the foals were growing in size and strength they were getting harder to hunt.
We had quality sightings of elephants swimming across the deeper channels and they were present in good number at Twin Pools. Guests were able to enjoy seeing hippos grazing out of the water during the day. The was very good general game in the area. From time to time the big herds of red lechwe grazing at the edge of the marsh made a spectacular sight as they splashed through the water. Other species included sable antelope, wildebeest, zebra, impalas, giraffe and kudu.
A clan of hyenas was found devouring the carcass of an elephant calf; our guides suspected that it could have been killed by lightning. A couple of times we saw a lone hyena moving around near the camp searching for something to eat.
Sometimes the action happens right inside camp. One day we saw a water monitor moving near to the main area. We heard a squirrel make an alarm call and the next moment the lizard caught and killed the squirrel.
At Twin Pools and the marsh area there were lots of interesting birds including saddle-billed storks, cranes, ibises, egrets and eagles. Brightly coloured red bishops flocked in front of camp as they enjoyed eating seeds from the long grasses.
Nxai Pan – At the start of the month there were still a couple of spectacular thunderstorms, but overall this year’s rains were lower than previous years and so the animals started to congregate towards the artificial waterholes sooner than usual. A number of male elephants – up to fifty in one group – were witnessed drinking at the Department of Wildlife waterhole.
We watched as six of the lions, two lionesses and four sub-adults, tried to work as a team to split a zebra calf away from its mother but they were not successful and ended up giving up to lie down in the bushes. The next day a male lion tried to join this group, but the lionesses were not happy with him and chased him away roaring loudly. Another time the adult lionesses allowed three of the youngsters to try hunting some wildebeest on their own, but lack of cover meant that they were spotted too easily and the wildebeest ran away – another important lesson learned by the sub-adults. Later in the month we saw the same pride feeding on a wildebeest a few times and also on a zebra foal near to the camp staff village.
We saw the resident male cheetah fairly often, usually either with a springbok kill, or in the vicinity of these antelope as he eyed up his next meal.
Other smaller mammals included jackals and bat-eared foxes, some of whom had small cubs.
The Wildlife waterhole was a good spot to see general game including elephant, zebra, wildebeest, kudu, giraffe, steenbok and large herds of springbok. One time we watched as two zebra stallions had a vicious fight at the waterhole. Eleven buffalo were spotted grazing as part of a mixed herd with wildebeest.
Bird sightings included ostriches, kori bustards, secretary birds and pale chanting goshawks. There were plenty of vultures including white-backed and lappet-faced.
Tau Pan – The Tau Pan pride was located at the pan in a group of ten, five males, 2 adult lionesses and three sub-adults. One of the younger lions was already showing great enthusiasm for hunting and she was often found chasing some prey animal around the pan. The guides suspect that she will be an excellent provider for the pride in years to come. One of the adult lionesses was been mated by a resident male at the end of February and the activities of this pair continued into the start of March. One morning the guests were enjoying the sound of nearby lion roars echoing across the plains when three lions, the “honeymoon couple” and another male, came into view at the camp waterhole. Sometimes the lions walked straight through camp and one day our bushman walk was interrupted by the arrival of a big male lion. A nomadic lioness who is not part of the resident pride was also spotted at the waterhole, but she looked scared and ran away when the Tau Pan lions approached. A few days later she appeared to be looking weak, had a swollen front leg and was bleeding from the mouth. This resident pride seemed to enjoy hanging out at the airstrip, resting under the shade of the guest luggage rack so we had to alert the pilots’ attention to the cats’ presence by flashing vehicle lights before they got down from the plane.
At Deception Valley a different pride of lions was found feeding on an oryx and at Passarge Pan a big pride of fourteen were near to the public campsite.
A leopard was seen hunting near to camp and was lucky enough to bring down a gemsbok calf which guests watched it eating. A couple of other times we watched her leopard stalking steenbok, but she didn’t manage to make the kill. One time the leopard crawled right under out vehicle.
A female cheetah was encountered on Passarge Link road, but she was unsettled having been chased by lions. A couple of days we found her looking more relaxed and feeding on a Common Duiker lamb. At Deception Valley we saw a female cheetah running around, trying her luck on springbok.
A female brown hyena was seen drinking at the camp waterhole.
Tau Pan itself was very productive with plenty of general game including desert-adapted species such as oryx and springbok. One day we watched two oryx bulls fighting for dominance for over twenty minutes until another male approached and appeared to split them up. Giraffes were seen browsing on the taller thorn trees.
Smaller mammals encountered included bat-eared fox, honey badger and back-backed jackal. A pair of worried looking African wild cats were nervously eyeing up two male lions who were lying nearby under a tree. We were lucky enough to see a Cape Fox, one of the less common species to spot, although it was quick to dart away.
Even within camp itself there are always interesting interactions between the smaller animals and birds. One day we watched as a yellow-billed hornbill was hunting a striped skink, but it was quickly snapped up by a yellow mongoose.
As usual there were plenty of sandgrouse at the camp waterhole, but some extremely surprising visitors included red-knobbed coot, lesser moorhen and painted snipe – it is very unusual to see these water birds in the Central Kalahari Desert.
Kwara Concession – We were excited to find three new cheetah in the area, a female with her sub-adult cubs. The youngsters were apt to spend time chasing each other around whilst their mother was getting on with the serious business of hunting, moving from one vantage point to the next looking for their next meal. We saw these cheetahs bringing down and killing an impala, chasing away the jackals that were making a noise as the cats were trying to enjoy their feast. One day the resident male cheetah known as Mr Special was located marking his territory, but we were surprised to see him walk straight through one herd of impala after another without giving them a second glance. We wondered what he was up to but eventually we saw tracks of a female cheetah and her cub around Jackal Den area so we think he picked up their presence within the area. Towards the end of the month we saw Special pull off an amazing kill of an ostrich that he found walking along on the open plain.
A pack of 13 wild dogs (five adults and eight pups) were located deep in the mopane at Lion Pan. These animals were highly mobile and seemed to be in hunting mood. They were following routes along old denning sites so we hope that they will stick around for the next couple of months until this season’s pups are born. We also picked up fresh tracks of a pack of nine dogs and managed to follow up and find them hunting until they brought down and ate an impala. Guest loved the whole tracking experience, especially as it culminated in such an exciting finish. A third pack comprising just four dogs were seen from camp whilst we were having our breakfast. We followed them hunting but they were not successful.
The two resident lionesses of Splash pride and their six cubs were still in good condition but were staying more on the mopane woodland near to Kwara camp; it seems that they were still trying to avoid the new males on the Splash side of the reserve who would be a threat to their cubs. During the middle of the month these females looked nervous and were staying deep bushes with one lioness venturing out occasionally to look around. We suspected that the new males could have patrolled the area leaving their scent and we will have to hope that the mothers continue to do such a good job of hiding their cubs away. We saw that they had killed an adult kudu, so these lionesses are clearly good hunters. We also saw them near to New Bridge ambushing some red lechwe. Another time we watched them stalking a warthog, one of the lionesses edging along flat on her belly before springing for the kill. She was successful and soon two spotted hyenas, black-backed jackals and many vultures turned up to try and scavenge.
To the west of Splash a fully-grown male leopard was located at Green pan with a fresh kill of a reedbuck ram. The kill was really heavy for the predator so he fed on the ground before dragging it up onto a tree. It is a good job that he did this because two male lions were couple of kilometres east of the area and raptors such as bateleur, tawny eagles and yellow billed kites were starting to give away the location of the carcass. A leopard was located a kilometre north of camp during morning game drive; the animal was identified as a young male. The animal was well fed, hardly surprising since there was plenty of prey in the area including lots of young antelopes.
We watched two adult spotted hyenas nursing their four cubs at the den towards the Kwara camp side of the reserve. Closer to Splash there were many hyenas concentrated in an area where last year there was an active den so we are hoping that they might use the same spot again.
There was plentiful general game including zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, reedbuck, tsessebe and impala. Guest enjoyed seeing big herds of elephant. Smaller mammals located included serval, aardwolf, genet, African wild cat and springhare. In a rare sighting, an aardvark was located during night drive on the way back to camp.
There were lots of summer visitor birds still on Kwara Reserve including European bee- eaters, carmine bee-eaters, European rollers, woodland kingfishers and Wahlbergs eagles who we saw feeding on harvester termites. Marabou storks were plentiful since the breeding season was over for them. The heronry island was less active as most of the chicks had flown, but some birds continued to use the area as a roosting site.
Lagoon – There was excellent general game around the inland pans including big herds of buffalo as well as zebra, giraffe, impala, tsessebe, sable and roan antelope. A magnificent herd of approximately 200 eland were found. These are the largest antelope species in the region with bulls standing to five to six feet tall at the shoulder (1.5-1.8 metres) and when massed together are a wonderful sight. One day we were investigating a burrow which showed some activity when we were startled by a warthog and four piglets who came bursting out and left the guides covered in a cloud of dust.
Three sister lionesses with three cubs were located a few times. These lionesses were mostly seen in the southern part of the area where they were dominated by two big brothers. The cubs were of a very playful age, making for some good photo opportunities as they gambolled around. We saw the lionesses hunting zebra during night drive and were able to see them feeding on their kill the following day. One morning we found extremely fresh tracks of a lioness and cubs. We followed up and sensing that we were nearby positioned the vehicle up on a mound to get a vantage point. The slightest movement in the sage grass gave the cats’ position away and the guiding team were delighted to have found them. As we approached there was a huge roar and the pride moved in that direction until they were reunited with the big male. The cubs were keen to play with him, but he did not seem amused by their antics.
The resident pack of wild dogs were successfully tracked and we followed them as they started hunting a herd of wildebeest, but then one dog disappeared behind a thicket and rounding the corner we saw an impala ewe fighting for its life as two dogs started to tear into it. Within ten minutes there was nothing left but bones. A couple of hyenas came to try and steal the carcass but the dogs ganged up on them and drove them away. Eventually the dogs lay down at the waterhole and relaxed.
A male leopard was found a couple of times, but he is still quite shy and was darting from one bush to another.
The brown hyenas were still regularly seen. By now they were occupying two dens and moving regularly between them. One morning we saw the cub’s eared pricked sharply forward and followed its gaze to see two lionesses resting nearby. As we approached the cats we saw that they were on a fresh wildebeest kill. The lionesses dragged the carcass towards the nearby bushes, probably to avoid the carcass being detected by aerial scavengers such as vultures which might in turn attract other predators. The brown hyena cub seemed tempted to approach the lionesses as he kept on going back and forth, but we breathed a sigh of relief when it eventually dashed into the den for safety.
Elephants were seen often, including within the camp as they came to the river for water. Guests enjoyed watching them swimming and drinking from the camp and during the boat cruise. One herd was seen working together to surround and protect a day-old calf. Fruiting trees at the river attracted troops of entertaining baboons as well as birds such as green pigeons and Meyer’s parrots. Some guests commented on how much they enjoyed being lulled to sleep by the grunting of hippos in the river that flows part the bedrooms.
We were able to spot animals such as porcupine, African wild cat and serval during night drive as well as different owl species ranging from the tiny scops owl to the huge Verreaux eagle owl. The mopane woodland was a birders paradise with species including broad-billed roller, European roller, golden oriole and Bradfield’s hornbill. Many bee-eater species (carmine, little and European) dominating the tree stumps in the open grasslands. A highlight for some guests was watching a hamerkop devouring a frog.
Lebala – The resident pack of six wild dogs were located near Halfway Pan and we were pleased to find that the alpha male and female were mating however in an interesting development of pack dynamics a few days later we noticed that the long-time alpha male was injured as if in a fight and the female was being mated by a different dog. Another pack entirely, one who had denned in the Kwando Reserve two years ago, was found after our sharp-eyed guide and tracker team had spotted kites and bateleurs at a distance. After following up they found the pack of ten dogs finishing up an impala who they had just killed. Let’s hope that they stay around for the next couple of months and choose to den nearby.
In a spectacular sighting the two dominant male lions known as Old Gun and Sebastian taking down a male buffalo. The bull tried to stand his ground but the two big lions were too strong for him and Old Gun started to feed whilst Sebastian was still suffocating the prey animal. The two male lions stayed on the kill for a few days, irritably chasing away the jackals and vultures who came to feed. A pride of two adults and six cubs were tracked from camp until we found them. In the evening we returned and found the cubs by themselves whilst the adults had apparently gone off to find food. The next day we discovered that the hunting mission had been successful and the whole pride was busy feasting on a sub-adult giraffe. There were plenty of hyenas and jackals hanging around and by the next day the scavengers, including many vultures, had taken over the carcass. On another occasion we found the pride feeding on a freshly killed wildebeest. We also followed the lionesses as they tried their luck on some red lechwe, but their stalking was spoiled by the noisy alarm call of the francolins. We also saw a pride of ten lions being chased by a herd of elephants.
Individual herds of elephants were seen heading towards the riverine areas and guests enjoyed watching them swimming and mud-bathing. However seeing so many elephants by the river was unusual for the time of year and an indication that the natural pans in the mopane woodlands did not have as much water as would be the norm during rainy season. However, some rains meant that the area was lovely and green meaning plenty of food for the herbivores. We found good herds of eland, impala, zebra, wildebeest, giraffe with plenty of young animals still nursing from their mothers. Warthogs and baboons helped to make up some classic African landscapes.
The resident coalition of two cheetah brothers were seen rolling around in the ground seemingly to get rid of flies that were irritating them, but possibly to also scent mark their territory. We found them patrolling a couple of days later.
The smaller animals also produced their share of the action and we saw a mongoose chasing and finally killing a lizard. We were lucky enough to find a serval fishing along the marsh and watched as it pulled out a catfish. Honey badgers were seen digging for mice and we saw one feeding on a monitor lizard.
Hippos and crocodiles were seen at the larger pans and we also saw a big African python slithering up out of a waterhole.
Bird sightings were good, especially around the Halfway Pan area which had many wetland species including storks, pelicans, egrets and terns.
Nxai Pan – During February there were big herds of zebra, wildebeest and springbok, often grazing just in front of camp. Some of the zebra herds were 300 animals strong and they favoured the open pan which gave them good visibility against predators and nutritious grass to graze. One day we were lucky enough to see a zebra actually giving birth. It was amazing to see how the mares worked together to protect the new foal from the stallion who was keen to get closer.
We were watching a tower of twenty one giraffe including five calves when we noticed that one of the giraffe had a broken horn which was hanging down at the side of its face, most likely as a result of fighting. Unlike European and North American deer species who drop their antlers annually, African antelope horns are permanent fixtures forming part of their skull so this injury was unusual and presumably very painful for the poor animal. Another time we were watching as fifteen giraffe were licking at the soil, a behaviour which helps them to ingest valuable minerals such as calcium and phosphorous.
Two adult steenbok were seen running across the road with a tiny lamb of only a few days old. This was a rare sighting because new born lambs, barely more than a couple of kilograms, are usually hidden out of sight for at least the first two weeks. Guests loved watching the springbok jumping and pronking in an excited fashion after a heavy rainfall. Other general game species seen included impala, red hartebeest, oryx and warthog
Elephants were still visiting the camp waterhole and it was lovely to watch them bathing and splashing from the main area. One time we came across a bull elephant and explained to the guests that they could tell he was in musth from the strong smelling urine that the animal was dribbling all over his back legs.
The resident pride of six lions were seen drinking from the camp waterhole. In this group there were two adult females, one sub-adult female and three playful sub-adult males. The dominant males were not always with the pride, but we came across one of them sitting on a termite mound roaring. One day we found the pride had killed a wildebeest and were still feeding on the carcass, surrounded by black-backed jackals and vultures. The lions were also targeting the big zebra herds and we saw a zebra hobbling along with big claw marks as a result of a lucky escape.
The resident male cheetah was seen a couple of times and a lone spotted hyena was seen occasionally, including drinking at the camp waterhole.
Kwando guides enjoy showing guests all aspects of the ecosystems that they work in and one of the smaller, but no less interesting sightings included two tiny lizards of just five centimetres having a fight. Butterflies such as the brown-veined white and African monarch were seen settling in large numbers on fresh elephant dung where they were lapping up the moisture.
Smaller mammals found included bat eared foxes, black-backed jackals, honey badgers and wild cats.
White-backed and the scarcer white-headed vultures were seen bathing in one of the natural waterholes. Steppe buzzards, pale chanting goshawks, pallid harrier, yellow-billed kites and tawny eagles were amongst the raptor species identified. A secretary bird was seen chasing a mouse around until it caught and devoured it and we also watched a kori bustard killing and eating a small black mamba on the open plains. Brilliantly coloured blue-cheeked and swallow-tailed bee-eaters were located as well as three roller species (lilac-breasted, purple and European). A pride of ostrich was found dancing around in the pan, the adults were attempting to protect their chicks from jackal. It was also interesting to find a kori bustard displaying and inflating his neck pouch and fluffing up his feathers to attract females.
Tau Pan – The resident Tau Pan pride were located frequently throughout the month and they were often seen drinking at the camp waterhole. The lions regularly lazed at the airstrip providing arriving and departing guests with amazing Kalahari memories. One time we heard a male calling near to camp and followed his roars where we found the whole pride of 8 adults and three sub-adults together. We saw pair of lions mating repeatedly for more than a week, so hopefully there will be even more additions to the family in the near future. They appeared to be hunting successfully and we saw them on kills including red hartebeest. One time we found a male eating something small whilst the rest of the pride looked on very hungrily. Another morning the adults were all sleeping at the pan whilst the sub-adults honed their skills by chasing oryx and springbok around.
A different pride of three females and a sub-adult male was located at San Pan and at Passarge Valley we found yet another group of 10 which included six youngsters of 1-2 years old. This latter pride was found a couple of times, once snoozing under a large umbrella thorn at the public campsite – we hoped that any arriving campers were vigilant!
A beautiful female leopard was back in the area after being absent for a couple of weeks. We were lucky enough to witness her stalking a steenbok lamb which she caught and ate. A couple of days later she was targeting the same species again and missed a couple of opportunities before she finally got her breakfast. One time we caught her running into the bushes carrying a bat-eared fox in her mouth. Another time we spotted a different female leopard walking along and then we saw that she was going to a kill that she had in a nearby tree. We watched as she fed for a while before she jumped down and went into the bushes.
Right at the start of the month we came across a pack of twenty wild dogs resting under a shady buffalo thorn tree at Deception Valley.
A single brown hyena came to drink at the camp waterhole in the early morning before we started our drive. Guests loved the time that we spent with this rare animal.
We saw cheetahs hunting often and as usual they were targeting their favourite species in the area, springbok.
General game species seen included springbok, oryx, red hartebeest and blue wildebeest. All of the antelope species had offspring who were still nursing from their mothers.
We had a very lucky sighting of two aardvark as we were driving along Passarge Valley. These nocturnal animals are very hard to see at the best of times and so it is an extremely rare encounter to find them out during the day. Other smaller mammals seen during the month were bat-eared foxes, black-backed jackals and lots of ground squirrels. Honey badgers were digging holes hunting for rodents and insects. We saw an African wild cat hunting mice in the long grass.
A lovely pride of ostrich including twenty chicks were seen at the Passarge waterhole. Other species which birders enjoyed ticking off included the iconic kori bustard, northern black korhaan, black-chested prinias and fawn-coloured larks. Palearctic migrants such as the pallid harrier were still in the area.
Kwara Concession – The sweet short grass that sprang up after December’s fire continued to bring in substantial herds of general game, especially zebra which were present in huge numbers.
One time as soon as we left camp we picked up very fresh cheetah tracks and after following them for about 30 minutes we found the resident male cheetah known as Mr Special sitting up on a termite mound. Whilst watching we saw a dazzle of zebra approaching from the south. The cheetah got ready and when the herd was about 30 metres he burst forth to chase one of the foals out of the group. However the zebra stallion did his job well and was able to rescue the foal from the cat. After giving up the hunt Special started to mark his territory including climbing up and jumping on trees. During the month we saw the same cheetah also preying on impala and common reedbuck. One time we saw Special being chased by a lioness from the Mother Eye Pride. Initially it didn’t look like a serious situation for the cheetah, but when the lioness got close he burst into top speed to escape. The chase lasted about five minutes.
For about 6 weeks we have been seeing three young cheetahs, two sisters and a brother. As yet these youngsters were still a bit shy so the guides are patiently working to slowly let them get used to the vehicles.
A pack of nine wild dogs were seen often, one male of this pack was described as a „killing machine“ by our guides and has been nicknamed Boko. When he is hunting the chances of seeing prey brought down is very high indeed. One time we were following for about 10 minutes when the chase started on a herd of impala with Boko in the lead. When we caught up with them Boko was fighting with a young ram. Immediately the rest of the pack arrived and disembowelled the antelope.
On another occasion the wild dog pack started chasing a full grown common waterbuck. Boko as ever was leading and putting pressure on the antelope which ran into a small pool of water. The pack tried to harass their prey out of the water until eventually Boko leapt into the water and attacked the waterbuck from the tail whereupon the buck ran out of the pool. He was chased by the pack but he escaped and went back to the same water again. This time three dogs chased him into the water and attached him at the same time. The waterbuck decided to sit down in the water and defend himself with his large horns, but Boko was still holding onto the antelope’s tail until he managed to cut it off and ate it. By this stage both predator and prey were exhausted so everyone seemed to decide to take a rest and after about 10-15 minutes the dogs gave up and moved on leaving the tailless buck still in the water.
Another time the pack killed an impala right inside camp near to Room 8. Because lions were not far away they picked up the distress call of the antelope and chased the dogs off the kill. The two male lions started fighting over the kill and they, together with two lionesses, spent the whole day in camp including lying right in front of the main area during brunch time.
A different pack of four wild dogs – two adults and two youngsters – were also seen hunting through the mopane woodlands.
The male lions known as „Big Man“ and „Puffy“ were located close to the boat station. We tracked them to find them posing beautifully on a termite mound. The Splash pride with their cubs were also successfully tracked.
After being missing in action for a while the resident lioness known as Mma Leitlho was located south of Splash camp feeding on a warthog. Our guides were alerted to the kill by the presence of a tawny eagle and hooded vulture who had been sitting in a branch above the carcass for a while. Once she started moving our guides noticed that she was lactating, so we suspected she had cubs hidden nearby.
Whilst we were enjoying bush dinner we heard two male lions roaring about a kilometre east of camp. Ten minutes later we saw a lioness followed by two males walk between the main area and where we were sitting. The lions and the guests all remained calm and the guests even managed to get some photos to record this extraordinary moment.
A mother leopard with her cub seemed to be new to the area and were still quite shy. The female leopard had killed a reedbuck which was hanging in a tree, with hyena and jackals waiting underneath hoping for some meal to fall to the ground
There was an active spotted hyena den near to Kwara camp. We saw three adults and four cubs. The cubs were of a playful age and were coming over inquisitively to the vehicles, to the delight of the guests.
Termites flying out after the first rains made a feast for other species including giant bullfrogs, snakes, mongoose and many species of birds such as eagles, bee-eaters and swallows. We saw African rock pythons as well as tortoises.
Night drives were interesting with plenty of good sightings of the smaller mammals such as African wild cats, civets, aardwolf, servals and genets
There was very good birdlife in the area and we saw wattled cranes, secretary birds and southern ground hornbills almost every day.
Lagoon – The two lionesses to the north of the reserve are known to the guides as Litikazi and Mma Mosetha. As they were patrolling they found a dead wildebeest on the runway which had been killed by hyenas the previous night. They moved on from the carcass and promptly despatched the calf who was still looking for its mother. A couple of days later they were seen hunting warthogs. Further south the Bonga Pride were pushing back into the Lagoon side of the Kwando Reserve after spending the last few months closer to Lebala camp. This pride comprises seven females and two dominant males. One of the lionesses has three cubs of 3-4 months old; we found them feeding on a zebra that appeared to have been killed the previous night. Sometimes she was accompanied by one of the males and at the same time the other male was mating a different lioness nearby. One of the cubs is not faring as well as the others and it was sometimes left behind. Two new very shy male lions were found hunting and patrolling at Kwena Lagoon. Males from the new coalition were seen at Zebra Pan looking very restless.
The brown hyena den was still active and the cubs were seen playing nearby, but as the month progressed we noticed that they increasingly spent time away from the main den and moved to a new spot to the east of camp. They are now being seen less regularly and their behaviour is becoming more typical of the shy and elusive species. On several occasions we located solitary spotted hyenas mobile to and from a hippo carcass on a channel near to the army camp. A clan of four were also seen hunting.
The resident pack of wild dogs were seen feeding on an impala. Last time we saw the pack they numbered seven so they appear to have lost a female. The dogs did not appear to be calling for her, so our guides deduced that she must have been missing for a while.
The resident coalition of two male cheetahs was located and the animals looked well-fed. We watched them patrolling to the southern part of the Kwando Reserve.
A shy male leopard was seen a couple of times near to Second Lagoon.
There was very good general game in the area with 12 buffalo bulls hanging out north of Second Lagoon. Several breeding herds of elephant were located drinking and mudbathing at waterholes that had trapped rainwater and also at the river in front of camp. Guests enjoyed the excitement of the young elephants as they rolled around in the mud. A huge herd of over 150 eland was grazing amongst zebra and wildebeest on the periphery of the mophane woodlands. Other antelope species seen included impala, tsessebe, red lechwe, common reedbuck, waterbuck, giraffe, roan and sable. Twelve kudu bulls made a magnificent sight, this being a larger than usual bachelor herd.
Several troops of baboon were seen along the edge of the river and we watched as a male baboon flushed out a newborn reedbuck from its hiding spot chased it for a long distance. We were not able to see the end of the action, but the guides suspected that the baboon killed the young antelope in the end.
Various families of bat-eared foxes with their young cubs of approximately six months old were seen. Other smaller mammals included different species of mongoose, jackals, servals, genets and African wild cats.
Crocodiles and hippos were seen along the river and flood plains. Hippos had also moved into inland waterholes now that they have been filled with rainwater. There was a particularly bad-tempered hippo at Zebra Pan.
Lots of vultures responded to a hippo carcass near to the army camp. All four species that we have resident in the area were seen, including the rare white-headed vulture. Raptors were seen feeding in large numbers on termites. We saw one feeding frenzy that included Wahlberg’s eagles, tawny eagles, kites, swallows and rollers. Other notable bird sightings included fish eagles, snake eagles, martial eagles, storks, cranes, hornbills and pelicans. Summer migrants such as swallows and bee-eaters were present.
Lebala – Wapuka Pride was located near to the airstrip with a blue wildebeest carcass. The following day we found the ten lions on a giraffe that they had managed to kill overnight. As we came in there were lots of scavengers around. The next morning the pride’s two dominant males had moved into the kill and one of the males was mating a lioness. Later in the month we watched two of the females hunting down a large warthog boar, but the prey managed to escape. We also came across the pride hunting red lechwe, again without success.
Bonga Pride were also in the area, although they had pushed closer to the Lagoon side of the Kwando Reserve. We watched as they eyed up a herd of zebra, but chose not to make an attempt in the end. We saw them a couple of days later looking full-bellied and this time the five lionesses and three cubs were joined by the dominant males, Old Gun and Sebastian. The two male lions were seen patrolling and marking their territory by spraying urine on bushes.
A tom leopard was located in a tree but eventually climbed down
A pack of six wild dogs were located at Halfway Pan. They looked starving and we watched as they tried their luck but they didn’t catch anything.
We were fortunate enough to locate a wild cat after picking up some guests from the airstrip. Although the animal was a bit shy it was a treat to see this species during the day. Black-backed jackals were observed sifting through elephant dung looking for beetles.
One morning drive we managed to come across a coalition of four cheetahs who were trying to hunt wildebeest, but they were still skittish to the vehicles and ran away. A few days later we saw them feeding on a warthog and were able to watch them from a distance. The guides will need to work patiently get these new animals to our area used to the vehicles.
Spotted hyenas were seen mobile, and one was running away holding onto a wildebeest skin. We also found a clan of eight in camp just as we were leaving for morning game drive.
A black mamba snake was observed sunbathing on a termite mound. And in other reptile action, guests enjoyed the rather comical mating of two tortoises.
We saw big herds of elephants coming through the area, moving from east to west as though they had a definite purpose in mind.
Lots of general game was seen in the area, especially around Nare Pan. Species recorded included giraffe, zebra, impala, wildebeest, tsessebe and red lechwe. Many of the antelopes had new offspring with them.
Birdlife was excellent, especially along the marsh. We saw three species of bee-eater (Little, Carmine and Blue-cheeked) as well as many different egrets and herons. Open-billed, saddle-billed and yellow-billed storks were all present. Raptors included tawny eagles, Wahlberg’s eagles and fish eagles. A special sighting was watching a martial eagle swooping down to take a banded mongoose, with the rest of the mongoose trying to rescue their family member..
Nxai Pan – As the rainy season got under way the sweet grasses in the pan came to life creating a beautiful green landscape. This nutritionally important grass is what attracts huge of zebra and wildebeest herds to the Nxai Pan National Park in an annual migration. As expected, the numbers of animals multiplied rapidly as the month progressed.
We saw the resident pride of lions comprising two adult females, three sub-adult males and a sub-adult female. The cats appeared to be well-fed as you would expect during this time of plentiful game. One time they were hanging out in camp near to Room 1 and we watched them hunting zebra, but the prey species saw them in enough time and galloped away to safety. Another time the lions got luckier and killed a pregnant zebra close to camp. We saw the subadults on their own whilst their parents were away hunting. We watched them drinking and then one jumped up onto a termite mound posing beautifully for the cameras. That day they looked hungry, but we came across them the following day looking full-bellied and contented. We were pleased to find one of the lionesses who we had not seen for a while back in the area accompanied by three young cubs.
The resident male cheetah was located a few times, always looking well-fed.
There were still elephants in the area and guests enjoyed watching them drinking and bathing at the waterhole outside the camp.
Black-backed jackals were seen, often near to the lions where they were hoping to steal some scraps from their kills. One pair of jackals currently have six puppies aged approximately five months old.
Aside from the massive herds of zebra and wildebeest, other general game was good with lots of oryx, giraffe, impala and red hartebeest. Springbok were seen in herds up to 100
Guests enjoyed spending time dung beetles rolling their dung balls and African monarch butterflies getting moisture from the elephant dung.
Kori bustards were spotted regularly and guests photographed male masked weaver birds building their intricate nests. Flocks of Abdim storks and black storks were seen hanging out close to camp. A pied avocet which is a rare bird to see in the region was located at the Department of Wildlife waterhole. Pale chanting goshawks were feeding on other birds such as Cape turtle doves and once on a black-winged pratincole (we saw up to 500 pratincoles in a single day). Other raptors included martial eagle, tawny eagles, steppe buzzard, pallid harrier, yellow-billed kites and greater kestrels. Different prides of ostrich were in the area, some with chicks. A mixed flock of white-backed and lappet-faced vultures were seen feeding on a zebra carcass.
Tau Pan – After some summer rains Tau Pan was transformed into a carpet of green and slowly attracted more animals into the area to take advantage of the nutritious grasses.
After the rain at the start of the month, the resident pride of lions seemed less reliant on the camp waterhole and we saw them drinking from the natural pans that had filled. However, as the month progressed, it was much dryer than usual for the time of year and so we saw the pride back at the camp waterhole more regularly, including a lovely sighting of three generations of lioness. For part of the month the lions were quite unusually in a group of 4-5 males with just one lioness, she seemed to be anxious to find the other three females who usually make up the family group and was doing a lot of sniffing, tracking and calling. One night three males showed up in camp and their roared the whole night to the guests’ delight.
We watched the lions approach a group of jackals, but it turned out that the jackals were in that spot because there was a leopard with a kill behind a nearby bush. As the lions approached, one of the jackals made an alarm call and the leopard bolted away with its kill. Another time we saw a female leopard who has been known to us in the area for over nine years now. A rather shy tom leopard was found on the way to San Pan.
A female cheetah was seen relaxing at Phukwi Pan, a herd of springbok nearby seemed aware of the predator but did not seem unduly disturbed by being in the company of their natural enemy. A different female cheetah was observed at Piper Pan. A single male cheetah was located at Letia Hau; he was running back and forth calling as though looking for his coalition partner.
An enormous bull elephant was seen at Phukwi Pan moving easterly towards the camp.
Herds of springbok with their new lambs were enjoying the new shoots of green grass in Tau Pan. Red hartebeest were also found at the pan and guests enjoyed photographing their calves jumping around in the afternoon light. A large herd of wildebeest were seen running with their calves, apparently fleeing from some jackals although these small predators should not usually pose much of a threat to the much larger herbivores. At Phukwi Pan we saw a large herd of oryx with calves together with red hartebeest and springbok. There were a big herds of giraffe on the western firebreak and around Tau Pan feeding on thorn trees. We enjoyed watching a tower of 15 giraffe, including five calves, drinking at Passarge waterhole. Other antelope species seen included common duiker and steenbok.
An adult aardwolf was seen at Tau Pan as well as some very relaxed bat-eared foxes with their cubs. We saw an interesting commotion between some bat-eared foxes and some black-backed jackals after they discovered a giant bullfrog. Although they both chased it and had a quick skirmish over it, the jackals as the larger more dominant predator took the prey. It was unusual to see the bat-eared foxes interested in such a large frog as they more typically feed on insects. An African wild cat was seen walking through the short grass at Tau Pan.
Raptors commonly seen during January included tawny eagles, bateleur eagles, yellow-billed kites and pale chanting goshawks. A summer migrant, the pallid harrier, was also still in the area. Ostriches, secretary birds and kori bustards were seen frequently as they walked the plains. Smaller notable passerines included fawn coloured larks, sabota larks and black-chested prinias. Afrika Reisen