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Im folgenden Text können Sie die Sichtungen für die Monate Januar bis Juni 2015 nachlesen:
June 2015 Sightings report
Kwara Concession – At the start of the month, cheetahs, and lions were seen almost every day. One female cheetah has four gorgeous three month old cubs, and the mother had good luck catching impala regularly, to help feed her hungry cubs.
Male lions were seen resting and relaxing a looking well fed. Four males at Machaba East killed an adult female buffalo, as well as a young calf, and spent some time feeding on them both. And it wasn’t just the big males we saw – on the 4th June, a female appeared with two tiny cubs – estimated to be around 3 or 4 weeks old. She is keeping them away from the rest of the pride until they have grown a little larger. During the month we had a lot of lovely sightings of her, with her cubs at her lair, and she was happy to have us sitting quietly by whilst she suckled them.
Also on the 1st June, not far from the airstrip, we came upon a female leopard walking through the bush. After following her for a while, she climbed up a large tree, and relaxed there for the rest of the day. A little later in the month, and east of the airstrip we found the same female this time with a male leopard. They were busy courting – a not so common sighting!
A pack of 18 wild dogs were located along Kwara airstrip road, at the start of June, and past quickly through the west of the camp.
There was something special about the 26th of June. It is the only day of the month that lions were not seen by any vehicle out on game drive. Whether no one was looking for them (unlikely) or they were all away on a feline convention (together with the cheetah, as that is only one of three days where a cheetah was not seen) is not very clear. But to make up for it, 20 adult wild dogs, and three little pups were seen at the den that day. Oh, and a female leopard. (She obviously didn’t get the memo about the feline convention.)
Obviously taking on board the vast shortage of lions that had appeared the day before, four males and a female decided to do something about that immediately, and were found the next day. Mating.
We had good luck to find two honey badgers at Honeymoon Pan, busy digging in the softer soil around the pan, looking for food. Other unusual sightings this month have been sable antelope – more commonly seen in the Kwando concession – which were found close to the Kwara airstrip, and aardwolf, found close to Splash.
Lagoon – The lioness with three cubs was found feeding early on in the month. Two sub-adult lionesses also killed a warthog in the area. And a female was seen with two male lions, mating with one of the brothers. We also saw the lioness with two cubs regularly, as she was making kills in the area. Late in the month the lions had success in their hunts close to camp, killing buffalo near the airstrip, and a male kudu just to the west of the camp.
Four male lions (two coalitions) are spending a lot of time trying to either avoid each other or building up confidence to have another tussle. It’s a risky business for them, as each coalition is determined to claim the territory, but fighting an evenly matched pair puts them at risk of injury, or even death. In the meantime, we benefit from viewing these magnificent males, and enjoying their roars at night.
The lions also did a little bit of game viewing themselves, and gave chase to a female leopard. Later in the month, we came across a female leopard that showed signs of lactating north of the airstrip. She spent some time hunting, but just missed out on catching an impala that escaped her clutches. We saw this leopardess a few times in the area, and were also lucky enough to see her two cubs that are about 3-4 months old. It will take the cubs a little longer to get completely relaxed around the vehicles, but they will follow in their mother’s footsteps as they see that she is not alarmed by our presence.
A pack of 18 wild dogs were seen hunting in the area in the first week of the month. They spent a fair bit of time zig zagging this month between the Lagoon and Lebala camp areas, eventually appearing to pick a suitable den site for their forthcoming litter, close to Lebala. Sadly, no sight so far of the other packs that spend time in the area, but our trackers are at work to see if a den site can be located for the pack of 20 that appears to roam territory in the far north of the concession.
Lots of breeding herds and bachelor herds of elephants always around, feeding and bathing in the channel near to the camp.
Buffalos are also in the area, with several bulls doing a fair amount of fighting and bullying each other. The large herds are building up, and the lions have managed to take down a few of the outer-lying individuals. These herds will continue to build up during the winter months, reaching up to 2000 individuals if the conditions are favourable.
Still great general game, with regular sightings of the rarer sables, roan, and eland. We also had great sightings of hyena – often found close to the camp – including found feeding on a kudu that had been killed by lions which fed on it and then moved off.
A very unusual sighting of a stiletto snake, though sadly it wasn’t alive when we found it…. It had been killed by a blacksmith lapwing – a small plover-like bird.
Lebala – The lion pride of a female with four young is doing very well, with all being in good condition. One afternoon we saw them hunting and they killed a warthog. We also saw the pride feeding on a sub adult elephant – what was unusual is that the kill looked fresh, implying that the lions themselves may have killed the elephant – a very difficult accomplishment if they did. Whilst the five were feeding on the elephant, two other lions were finishing up the remains of a wildebeest they had killed the day prior, in the Hyena City area. (No hints as to what else was hanging out in that area at the same time!)
Four lionesses were spotted following a large herd of buffalo for sometime, looking for the chance of catching a straggler from the edge of the herd. They had no luck at that time, but perhaps had more success later.
The pride of six lions were found close to Mophane area. We followed them hunting, and they chased a warthog into a burrow. Two lionesses began digging for the warthog, and persevered until they pulled the poor warthog out from it’s hiding place.
The pack of 17 wild dogs was located at Steven’s pan. We followed them hunting and they took down an impala whilst we were with them. They spent some days moving around the Twin Pools area, and crossing in and out of our concession. After watching the dogs one morning at Twin Pools, we came across a female leopard up a tree. The leopard was oblivious to the presence of the dogs, and she came down the tree, and started moving towards where the pack was located. The dogs saw her \and gave chase, with the leopard having the presence of mind to quickly retreat to the safety of a tree again.
On the 12th of June, we came across the dog pack again, this time with the alpha female inside a den that she had used last year, cleaning it out. She spent the whole day there, and did not let any of the other packs to get close. This meant it was likely that she was about to give birth, and had selected that densite as a good place to feel safe and secure for her pups. Soon after this, it became clear that the pack had selected this as a den site, and the alpha female then stayed down in the den, coming out only to get food from the rest of the pack when they returned from a hunt.
There was also a very interesting interaction between the dog pack and the buffalos. The pack chased the herd of buffalos, until the buffalos seemed to remember that they were bigger and far outnumbered the dog pack, and then turned around and started chasing the dogs. Shortly, the tables would turn again, and the dogs would be chasing the buffalos back, with a few minutes later, the buffalos chasing the dogs….. This carried on for some time, until the dogs got bored with it!
At the end of the month, three male lions had a huge fight: two intruders took on one of the dominant males. Sadly his brother had already been injured, so the dominant male was left to take on the two intruders on his own. They moved off before we could see the end of the fight, so we are left in suspense as to who won the battle!
Nxai Pan – Although June is one of our ‘quieter’ months – with the zebra migration having moved off, and grass starting to become a little sparse – for many of the animals, this is their home, and they don’t move house because of the season. As a result, we have had some excellent predator sightings, and the elephants, as always, are frequenting the waterholes and being as much of a bully as they possibly can.
On the way to the Baines Baobabs, we came across a lovely relaxed young female leopard. She was resting on a piece of dead wood, just before the turn off on the main road.
A cheetah with two sub-adult cubs was seen at the main waterhole, as well as several times along middle road and the baobab loop road. The cubs are growing well, and learning all the necessary skills from their mother that they need to survive in their life.
Two male lions were also seen at various times, and appeared to be looking for a female to mate with.
As the temperature drops, it’s a little easier to see the bat eared foxes, as they spend the time in the open basking in the warm sun. We saw a family of six resting up in this way, with their big ears moving around like radar scanners.
The general game remains good, with lots of giraffe, and the resident zebras, wildebeest and springboks. Also oryx are seen often on the way to Baines Baobabs, and sometimes come in to camp waterhole to drink. And it seems a lone buffalo has decided to take up residence in the Nxai Pan area – he has been seen drinking at the camp waterhole a couple of times this month.
Large numbers of elephants are coming to the camp waterhole. This is wonderful, but slightly problematic. As the waterhole is filled from our water reticulation plant which produces potable water that is safe for animals to drink, it is dependent on people showering.. Now that its our quieter months, less guests, mean less showers, so we are having to pump more water out to the water hole to compensate. Even this is not proving enough, with queues of elephants bullying their way in to the waterhole, and then launching stealth missions during the night through the electric fence to munch on the more protected vegetation that is within the camp. It’s vital that we keep pumping, as otherwise, without enough water for every elephant, we will wake up one morning to find an elephant in the pool, or sucking the water out of the solar geysers like an over-inflated ice-lolly.
Tau Pan – The Tau Pan pride – consisting of two dominant males, two females, and their five cubs, are seen – and heard – regularly around the area – every day or two. They spend their time going to and fro from the waterhole, and using the areas near to the pan for hunting. With enough general game in the area, and permanent water, there is no reason to wander far! One day, the females and five cubs decided to visit their neighbours, and moved
Two female cheetahs were located along the Leopard Pan Road – they were very relaxed and resting under an acacia tree in the afternoon.
Another odd winter visitor – not sighted, but the tracks on a bull elephant were found moving past the waterhole and to the west of the camp. A week or so later, tracks of at least three bull elephants were seen on the cutline leading to Passarge valley.
Lots of black-backed jackals wandering around the area, digging and foraging for small bits of food to keep them sustained. Versatile hunters and scavengers, they adapt to whatever food source is available.
May 2015 Sightings report
Kwara Concession – A mating pair of lions were seen around the Splash area. The Matshwane pride were also seen several times – this pride consists of 3 adult females and 2 young females and 2 sub adult males.
A relaxed female leopard was found on a reedbuck kill, and another one was found strolling along the road to the airstrip. . Lots of cheetah in the area, with one mother having four cubs – she made a reedbuck kill. We also saw one female with two cubs hunting, and a male that had managed to bring down an impala.
One cheetah was seen resting along the Xugana main road, under the watchful eye of two spotted hyenas, lying on a nearby termite mound, waiting for the cheetah to hunt. Three male cheetahs also had a bit of a run in with the a male lion, who chased them (for a short distance) out of his area.
On the first day of the month, we came upon one lone wild dog, who had just managed to kill an impala on his own, and was busy feeding on it. A few days later, we saw the big pack of 20, close to Tsessebe Pan, sleeping off their early morning activities. Later in the months, the pack split into two groups in the middle of the month – one group of 12 and one of 8. It will be interesting to see if they stay in this configuration, as we are nearing the time of year when wild dogs begin to select den sites for their next litter.
Two packs of wild dogs were seen towards the end of this months – a pack of 20 found in the west and northern areas of the concession, and another pack of 10 located in the eastern areas, in the thick Mopane woodland. Our fingers are crossed that at least one of the packs will choose to den in our area.
Good numbers of vultures in the area – including white headed, lappet faced, and white backed vultures. This is indicative of a healthy eco-system. With many kills being made this month by cheetahs and leopards, hyenas were seen regularly trying to scavenge and steal the kills from their light-weight cousins. Hyeans were seen fighting a leopard for its reedbuck kill south of Kwara camp.
Another unusual sighting was of three relaxed roan, grazing in the Splash area. Serval were also seen acouple of times, hunting mice, as well as an african wildcat, busy hunting.
Lagoon – We had good sightings of lions in the area, both south and north of the camps. Several times we found the lions with kills – mostly of kudu and warthog. The lion pride consisting of six adult lions and two cubs was located at Kwena Lagoon, eating on a warthog kill.
Mid month onwards we saw the male lions and pride of one lioness and three sub-adults almost every day. During the night, we could hear three different coalitions of males roaring and fighting. The following days, we saw several of the males severely injured.
After a long absence, the two cheetah brothers came in to the area and spent a week moving around the area, checking out their territory early on in the month, but then disappeared again.
The beginning of the month we struggled with leopard sightings, but towards the end we had a few different sightings of a male leopard along the end of the month, as well as a female leopard. The high number of lions – and the amount of noise they were making – was probably ensuring that the leopards were keeping a low profile in the concession.
At the start of the month, the Kwando pack of wild dogs moved into the area having spent some time in Lebala. They now appear to number 16, with three adults missing at the moment. Due to the size of the pack, they were hunting twice a day, catching impala in the morning and the late afternoon.
Both large herds of elephants, and big breeding herds of buffalo are frequenting the area, now that the rains are well and truly over. Elephants dot both the woodland area, for the shade, and also moving out into the floodplains for the variety of vegetation and the refreshing water.
Good sightings of general game, including roan, sable and eland. Pods of hippos and crocodiles are found at Kwena Lagoon. And hyenas are still parading the area close to – and in to – camp.
Lebala – Predators are diverse at the moment with lion,, wild dog, hyenas and leopard all frequently seen. Currently lion and wild dogs are especially prevalent.
Two different prides of lion are being seen regularly. The pride of eight are very good at hunting warthog. We follwed this pride one day from Wild Dog Pan up to Baobab pan, where they killed a warthog that was near to the pan. However, with eight members of the pride, they have to catch a lot of warthogs to stave off any hunger pangs!
There is also a very active hyena den near the camp at the moment – we see up to five adults in the area near to the den, and six cubs of varying ages. Needless to say, with the destruction of the dining room chairs last month, we would not be overly upset if they moved a tiny bit further away from the camp…. Perhaps the lions were also feeling the same, as the pride of five got into a fight with some of the adult hyenas near to the den.
The Kwando pack of dogs are in good condition, and have been seen hunting in our area most days this past week. They now number only 16, with two dogs seeming to have dispersed. They spent some time attempting to hunt warthog, but didn’t have the same luck as the lions. They soon moved onto larger prey and caught a fully grown kudu. Five minutes after that kill, seven hyenas approached the dog pack in an attempt to chase them off, but did not succeed at first, until even more hyenas arrived, and managed to extract the kill off the dogs.
The last week or so of the month, the pack were roaming close to Lebala camp, searching out potential den sites, with occasional forays into the neighbouring concession. The alpha female is visibly pregnant now, and we hope that some time in late June she will be denning.
In the areas of open grassland and pan systems, there is a plentiful variety of game with impala, kudu, wildebeest, giraffe, tesessebe, steenbok, and even roan antelope. Big herds of eland being seen fairly often as well this month. Night drives can be particularly productive, with lots of smaller carnivores, including honey badgers, genets and civets.
Nxai Pan – Large herds of zebras and elephants coming to the waterhole in front of camp, now that the rainwater pools have dried up. Groups of giraffe saunter down in the late afternoon – 10 or 12 at a time – waiting till the bulk of the elephants have moved off, before coming in to drink in their ungainly fashion.
The mother lioness with her three cubs – now about three months old – look healthy and relaxed, seen often in the area around the middle road, stopping to drink at the main waterhole from time to time.
Three male cheetahs spotted hunting on the far reaches of the pan – the distance too far for us to see clearly what they were aiming for. The mother cheetah and her cubs were seen next to the camp sites, and then a few days later at the Baobab loop road. The large lion pride were also staking out the main water hole, but with hundreds of zebras there, and other game moving in and out to drink, they were in no rush to pick an individual to hunt. Later that day the 14 of them were seen walking along open area to the east of the water hole, looking a little hungry.
An odd sighting at the camp waterhole – a large male buffalo came in for a quick drink on a few days, before disappearing quickly into the bush.
On the 11th – chaos! A hyena was seen running away from something. When we went to take a closer look, a lioness was seen chasing a mother cheetah, and following the lioness were the cheetah cubs! Exactly how this arrangement had happened was unclear, but we suspect that the lioness had stolen a kill from the mother cheetah.
Two adult male lions and one lioness with three little cubs observed resting east of the main waterhole. The lioness moved with her cubs to the water hole and had a drink while scanning the horizon. She spots a lone zebra grazing but the lioness was obscured by an umbrella thorn. She took advantage of that and launched an attack, and she managed to bring the zebra to the round. The males became aware of the on going situation and moved over to help the lioness kill the zebra.
A more unusual sighting for Nxai Pan – a brown hyena near the wild life cap. He was very relaxed, and we managed to have a great sighting of him.
Tau Pan – One of the dominant male lions from Tau Pan pride spent the whole night roaring by the waterhole. He was calling for the rest of his pride, but no one appeared to be responding to him, and he remained alone by the waterhole.
A few days later, we came across the Tau Pan pride – two lionesses, one big male, and five cubs, at the southern side of the lodge. The cubs were spending a lot of time playing around, and it took some time for the group of them to reach the pan itself. The cubs are all of different ages: two are 8 months old, two are six months old, and one little female is just four months old. This pride was seen the most often during the month, generally being seen every few days, comfortable in their home range.
This month we also came across a male cheetah who was feeding on a baby kudu. The next day, he had finished his meal, and was seen not too far away resting under the shade of tree.
Lots of general game in the area feasting on the new grass growth – big herd of wildebeest, springboks, steenboks, common duikers, oryx, giraffes, and lots of bateared foxes, cape foxes and black backed jackals.
Other sightings at the water hole included a brown hyena coming in for a drink in the morning, and in the late afternoon, a big male cheetah.
The bushman walks allow us to stop and look at the smaller things, and not focus on the bigger animals. We took the time on some of these walks this month, to investigate the different types of termites that are responsible for keeping this area in order: the harvester termites, haymaker termites, and dry wood termites. All are good sources of protein if needed too!
April 2015 Sightings report – read on for more…
Kwara Concession – And now, rain. Bizarrely late – so much so that we are not really in the ‘green season’ any more – but still appreciated. “Oh it will clear up in an hour”, said the staff gaily, enjoying the drops falling from the sky. But it didn’t. It drizzled on for the rest of the day, and the next. Intermittent dry patches were overshadowed by a forceful downpour, game drives were shortened as the threat of an ominous black cloud approached with speed. Animals have no ability to rush home and duck inside, so the rain doesn’t mean that they disappear and you can’t see any of them. However, for guests, coming out on their once in a lifetime holiday to sunny Africa, we understand it’s not exactly what they thought they were booking… For the staff in the camps, after six months of hot dry weather and a drought on the way, it’s hard to contain their happiness as the rain continues to fall….
A lovely start to the month, with a cheetah and her three sub-adult cubs hunting together. After a fair bit of trial and error, the three cheetahs managed to bring down an impala, and feed on it together.
Approaching the boundary of our concession, we came across a male leopard sitting in a marula tree, growling. Trying to figure out what the problem was, and why the leopard was growling, we looked around, and then found a female leopard walking around the other side of the tree. The two leopards were courting… and leading up to mating. A great sighting of a normally solitary species of cat! A few days later, and another leopard – this time a male catching a baboon, and feeding on it.
There were quite a lot of lions seen this month, with both males, females and youngsters being seen in areas ranging from Tsum Tsum, to Splash, and even in front of the camp. A lioness and her two sub-adult cubs attempted to hunt the wildebeest and zebras that were grazing on the Kwara floodplain. The next day, two lionesses with six youngsters tried their luck hunting tsessebe close to River Road, but they were unsuccessful on this occasion, but later in the evening, we found the same lions tucked away behind the Kwara staff village hunting impala! This time they had more success, and were able to catch one.
An amazing morning mid-month, where we followed the One Eye pride of lions, from close to Little Kwara out to the west. They came across a male leopard who had a kudu kill on top of a knob thorn tree. They chased the leopard, and he climbed into another tree nearby, knowing that he and his kill were relatively safe from the heavy lions.
The 16th of April was a very environmentally day, with fuel usage at an all time low – everything seemed to come to Kwara and Little Kwara camps… Apart from the abundant general game on the floodplains, a leopard was found nearby feeding on a kudu that he had hung in the branches of a tree. Then the lions were found just next to one of the guest rooms at Little Kwara, relaxing. They eventually moved off with the general day-to-day commotion of running a camp interrupting their beauty sleep. This made it slightly easier for the guests to gain access to their room.
Another leopardess was seen killing a reedbuck, and feeding on it one day. The next day, when we returned, we found her nearby to the kill, but she had been chased off the kill by a spotted hyena that was now feeding on the meat. Later that afternoon, we came across a male cheetah that killed a baby reedbuck, only to be chased off by a male lion who appropriated the kill for himself! The hungry cheetah watched the lion feeding from a safe distance, standing on top of a termite mound.
An unusual sighting for Kwara – sable antelope were seen fairly close to camp. This was a first time sighting for one of our guides. Two roans were also seen in an interestingly named area: “Spring Hare City”.
The pack of 19 wild dogs were seen several times this month – including when they hunted and killed an impala right next to the Kwara staff village (seems to be a popular hunting ground for impala by the predators…)
Lagoon – A lone wild dog was found at the Lagoon airstrip, making contact calls for the rest of her pack. After a while, she stopped calling, but remained in the area.
Two herds of eland were found next to Cutline Pan, and a roan antelope was also seen near the upper Kwando road.
It took several hours of tracking before we located six female lions (four of them sub-adults), relaxing under the shade of a Kalahari Apple leaf. A dominant male was also found with them. A little later in the month, we came across the six lionesses again, scavenging on the remains left behind by a pack of wild dogs.
On the 27th April, two dominant male lions were found along Diolo road. The animals were running as we found them, and about 400m further along we saw the reason why: two intruder males were in the area. Well ahead of us, the dominant males ran straight at the intruders, and from a distance, we could see the fight begin. It lasted all of 2 minutes, before the intruders were defeated and ran away as fast as they could.
A couple of days later, we discovered that the intruders had not gone far, when we found them with near Baruti waterhole, with one of the males mating with one of the lionesses.
Towards the end of the month, the Lagoon pack of dogs were located only 3 minutes drive from camp. The animals successfully hunted a female kudu, and then they stayed in the area for the rest of the day, mostly relaxing.
The elephant herds are back in the area again, after disappearing for a short while just after the heavy rains. Probably feeling like a very large group of yo-yos this year, the elephants have been to-ing and fro-ing into the mopane bushveld as the weather patterns become increasingly confusing.
Lebala – The Lagoon pack of wild dogs were in the area again, hunting impala. We saw them several times during the month, but each time without success in their hunts whilst we were watching. They must have caught something when we were not there though, as they looked in good condition and well fed each time we came across them.
Two hyenas were found near Kubu road, feeding on an impala carcass. There was some evidence that they had stole this kill from a leopard.
Five lions were found at Wild Dog Pan feeding on a warthog – although an adult, a warthog divided by 5 adult lions does not go very far… so there was a lot of snarling and shoving to get a piece of the action. The same day a leopard was found near Baobab Pan, lying along the road.
A little later in the month and two lions had come across a slightly larger meal than the warthog… a giraffe. Between the two of them it took several days of eating before they were finished with the meat. By this point, the smell was becoming overpowering, and its unlikely guests could have suffered another day of witnessing the King of the Jungle happily digging in to another serving of putrid flesh with maggots falling off… Refrigeration is a truly wonderful invention, and your pets should be reminded of this on a regular basis.
The next day, another leopard was found near Baboon loop, moving along the water’s edge attempting to hunt lechwe. This would be a big hunt for a leopard, as the lechwe are quite large antelope. We were not able to see if his persistence paid off or not.
We sometimes forget that life amongst the herbivores and antelopes is as much about dominance as it is with the sharp-toothed predators. A peaceful scene of zebras and wildebeest grazing together hides the sometimes fraught relationships that contribute to the scene. For each small herd of zebra, there is always a dominant stallion. And where there is dominance, there is fighting. Stallions will fight to gain a larger harem of females, and even fight the father of a young female for the right to take her away. A zebras hoof packs a powerful punch, and a fight between two males is quite awesome to watch… generally facing off, and raising up on their hind legs, the animals use their front legs to kick down and towards their opponent. Equipped with enlarged canine teeth specifically for fighting, the males will also bite their opponent at any chance that presents itself. So coming across a tranquil setting and a pair of fighting males, towards the end of the month, allowed us to see just what it takes to maintain a ‘peaceful’ harem in the zebra world.
Nxai Pan – April 1st was a rainy day, but that didn’t stop intrepid guests heading out on a morning safari. Low contact calls could be heard from the junction of Middle road, indicating that a lion was looking for his or her colleagues. Upon reaching the waterhole, a heavily lactating lioness was observed being followed by two fully grown males. She continued to make contact calls, looking for the rest of her pride, having moved out from the den where she had hidden the cubs for the day. The next day, she was seen in the same area, with the cubs out in the open, and the male lions not too far away: it appears she is ready to begin introducing the cubs to the rest of her pride.
With the first few days of April having rains, the elephants and giraffe disappeared. As there were sufficient puddles away from the roads, they were not dependant on the waterholes to drink from – a nice relief for the animals as they don’t have to compete with the bully elephants. A few days later, as the water dried, the queuing system at the waterholes returned, and with them, a surprising group of animals standing in line: zebras. With the peak of the migration being in December and early January, and no rain since, the zebras had dispersed to areas where the water and grass was more plentiful. However, the heavy rains for the few days at the end of March and early April, had made several herds return, ready to feast on the new grass shoots that grow as soon as there is a chance.
Around the Baines Baobabs, in the first weeks of the month, the pans filled again with water, attracting more water birds – Abdims storks, and even flamingos – heading back the way they had come several months previously on their migratory routes.
Around about this time, the lion cubs were seen one day on their own at their den-site. Without their mother around, anything is a potential danger, and as they get bigger, they get more and more curious – potentially getting themselves into situations that they can’t get out of. When they were seen this time, the zebras, were dangerously close to the cubs, and if the zebras had been spooked by the lion cubs, they could easily have been trampled in the panic. Luckily, they remained safe!
As the month progressed, and no more rain fell, the area slowly returned to ‘normal’, with lions and cheetahs being seen regularly around the waterholes, and groups of giraffe, oryx, zebra and of course the elephants, moving along the open areas. We had a nice sighting of a family of eight bat eared foxes, a honey badger digging out furiously after something, and plenty of black backed jackals calling to each other.
The pride of 15 lions – four lionesses, ten cubs, and one male – were also seen along Baobab loop, with the cubs playing around. The cheetah mother with her two sub adult cubs were also seen regularly.
Tau Pan – The rain that began falling at the end of March kept going for a few days into April, making things rather tricky for the vehicles – ruts formed in the muddy roads, meaning if you took the wrong track, you would sink and be digging yourself out for quite some time. Reaching Tau Pan if you were game enough to self drive became more of an adventure than normal, but each person managed to make it, with only the odd rescue party having to be launched from camp.
At the start of the month, there were few animals around the pan, as there was little vegetation to eat. Much of the game had moved to greener areas many kilometres away, but the heavy rain that had been falling over the last few days promised the return of the green grass and the return of the game. In the meantime, the water birds made a visit to the area – including whit storks, Abdims storks, bitterns and so on! A few springboks and gemsbok tiptoed through the water logged areas, and bat eared foxes foraged as insects and scorpions were forced out of their underground holes.
Only a few days into the month, and the rains stopped, and things started happening. Lots of giraffe, ostriches and general game were seen moving along the cutline. Hartebeest started making a return. Two wild cats were seen next to Tau Pan playing around, jumping up and down from a tree. Ground squirrels were out and about, busy renovating their burrows and removing excess mud that had built up from the rains.
The good weather brought out not just the general game, but an amazing array of raptors: tawny eagles, kites, giant eagle owls, barn owls, kestrels and falcons! Two lionesses were found at 8km road with their four cubs. There were lots of vultures in the area, so it’s likely that the lionesses had made a kill further in.
And the rain had brought a few special visitors – five male elephants found along Phukwe road, relaxed and enjoying the green shoots of the new grass growth. The same morning, a brown hyena was found walking along the airstrip, his hind leg slightly injured. And a little later, a leopard made an appearance at San Pan. Three unusual finds, all in one day!
Two dogs spotted a couple of days later near Phukwi pan, calling for the rest of the pack.
Now the grass has returned, the general game at the pan is excellent. Lots of springbok, oryx and wildebeest dot the pan. Lions were found feeding on a springbok the females with their four cubs, and one big male lion. Two males from the Tau Pan pride had also been seen around the pan – one of them badly injured from a fight with other males.
March 2015 and what a month for sightings…read further for more……
Kwara Concession – The cheetahs from last month are still being seen often, including the mother with three daughters, and an adult male cheetah.
A lovely sighting of 2 sable antelope near Motswiri pan, and then we followed that off with meeting the pack of 18 wild dogs on an impala kill. Later that morning, we came across the lioness with two cubs. A couple of days later, the same lioness was seen resting with her cubs next to a wildebeest that she had killed. They were alternating feeding on the meat with a bit of a snooze. They spend two days around the kill, until everything was picked clean, leaving a few scraps for the hyenas, jackals, and ultimately, the vultures.
Three lionesses were seen regularly in the start of the month, with a male lion always in the vicinity, perhaps sensing one of the females is about to come into heat. Whilst they seemed to spend a few days lounging around, a solitary lioness caught a baby kudu. Two male lions spent much of one day sleeping, building up their energy levels for the forthcoming night… after sunset, they set off stalking hippos that had come out of the water to feed on the grass. They made several attempts, but were ultimately unsuccessful.
Every day during this month there appears to have been a variety of cat that made an appearance. Whether it had a fluffy mane, spots or speed, the animals looked to be healthy and having luck at catching their prey. Warthog were not having a good time of it, when a cheetah caught one on the Kwara flood plain, and two days later, a lion and her cubs were found feeding on another in the same area. The remaining warthogs are sticking close to the camp now, with one youngster sporting a missing tail.
Cheetah were seen regularly, either solitary males or the mother with three young. One adult cheetah we found obviously in hunting and stalking mood – but no one could see what he was actually aiming for. No impala, no young antelope, nothing in the area that could be spotted! Perhaps he was just practicing his technique?
The pack of 18 dogs were seen several times, and had good luck hunting – managing to catch three impalas at the same time. The dogs were usually being followed at a short distance, by a spotted hyena or two, hoping to grab a snack from their leftovers.
Lots of giraffes around, and a special sighting of two males, fighting for about half an hour. It looks like a slow motion ballet, due to the length of the neck swinging down and hitting the side or back of the opponent giraffe, but it is done with such force, that such fights can easily badly injure the animal. At the end of the battle, the winner was obvious, and the opponent moved away to more peaceful grounds.
A lovely and unusual sighting of an aardwolf, resting next to the opening of a burrow. We also had a sighting of a serval, hunting in the tall grass.
One thing was noticeable towards the end of March…an increasing number of hippos in the lagoon in front of camp. The lack of rain that replenishes moisture lost as the flood waters evaporate, have caused waterholes to shrink in size, and not provide sufficient cover during the day for the sensitive hippo’s skin. This forces them to move to areas of more water, such as the lagoon. However, the water here has also reduced in area, and with less water, and more hippos, comfort levels are reduced somewhat, placing more stress on the animals. So that we humans don’t place any more unnecessary stress on these large but sensitive animals, by the end of the month, we chose to suspend mokoro activities. This way, the hippos won’t feel we are encroaching on their territory, and create any incidents that either species will later regret! As soon as the flood waters return, which should be in the next few weeks, humans and hippos will be able to luxuriate together in more roomy conditions.
And the most spectacular sightings of the month: wild dogs mobbing three cheetah, and leopards mating at night!
Lagoon – The Lagoon pride of lions moved into the mopane woodland in the first week of the month, making it difficult for us to track and follow them. However, two young males – intruders from the north-western section of the concession – moved through the area in the prides absence. The next week, the lionesses were back with three cubs, and were seen feeding on a zebra. They look healthy and relaxed. Six hyenas were standing off to the side, waiting for a chance to get into the remains of the zebra.
A few leopards around, with a shy male seen after dark, and a female spotted out in the late afternoon, along Mokhuthsuro road. The tall grass is providing wonderful hiding grounds for the leopards, but we know they are there as there are tracks seen on the roads most days.
The two packs of dogs – the Lagoon pack of 19, and a pack of 7 dogs from the northern pars of the concession – were seen in the Lagoon camp area early on this month. In the second week of the month, the two packs clashed and had a small fight – none appeared the worse for wear after their altercation. One morning, we tracked the pack of seven dogs for 2.5 hours before we were able to locate them.
Small breeding herds of buffalo are starting to come into the area, slowly increasing in number. Big herds of elephants in the area, as the daily temperatures refuse to drop to the more usual pleasant March temperatures – the elephants are coming down to the river for a refreshing swim.
Although the grass is still long, we are seeing excellent general game – including herds of eland, roan, sable, and the more common wildebeest and giraffes. There are a huge number of zebras in the area in particular, having moved in from drier areas. We also saw one herd of eland that numbered over 300!
Kwena Lagoon provided a lovely sighting of hippos – with quite a few very young babies. The little hippos were resting on top of the adult’s backs, with their head bobbing up and down above the water.
A wonderful sighting of an amazingly relaxed caracal, sitting at her den, with her young! Sightings or caracals are usually very quick, so this was truly a special event. We also saw two honey badgers jogging along the road together, before they ducked off into the bush.
Lebala – The pride of lions – four adults and five young – are doing very well in the area around Lebala. We followed them one afternoon when they were attempting to hunt. They had come upon a group of wildebeest, who were unaware of the approach of the predators, and carried on grazing whilst the lions began to stalk. The lions slowly approached, working as a team, and focussing on one individual. Suddenly, everything happened at once, and it was hard to tell what was going on, with animals moving in all directions. When the movements stopped, the lions had been successful, and had managed to catch one of the wildebeest, and suffocate it. It was an amazing sighting, and we were able to watch it from beginning to end!
Three leopards were seen in one week, with a female resting in a tree in Kanawe Park. She was very relaxed, and looked in excellent condition. We also found a different female feeding on a warthog she had killed, and a shy male walking along Kubu road.
We also have excellent general game at the moment, with lots of eland, zebra and wildebeest (minus the one that the lions ate). Also special sightings of roan and sable – both are getting more and more relaxed with seeing the vehicles, and not all of them run away!
Breeding herds of elephants and the bulls are moving around the area and seen several times on each drive.
When you buy furniture for a camp that is open to the elements, there are a few factors that have to be taken into account: how will it last in the sun? Will the wood get damaged too easily if it gets rained on? Are there gaps in the construction that will allow squirrels to use it as a nice nesting area? And most importantly – is there any leather on it? Leather furniture in a lounge that is open-sided and on ground level is the equivalent of an immobile wildebeest sitting patiently with a sign around its neck saying “eat me”. For a hyena, it’s a dream come true.
So, when selecting new dining chairs for Lebala – again open to the ground level – we carefully ensured that the lovely looking seat cushion was a high-quality synthetic material, not leather. For several months, they stayed unmolested. But one night in March, guests in the closest room to the dining area could hear something moving furniture around. The next morning, three chairs had little nibbles out of one corner. Too small and not enough destruction involved for it to be a hyena, we thought. Maybe a honey badger? No defining tracks could be seen. So in an attempt to reduce further damage, all chairs were put on top of the tables every night. And so began the war. It soon became apparent, that if a honey badger started the proceedings, a hyena (or two or three) took up the torch… Either pulling the chairs off the tables with his jaws, or standing up and knocking them off, no chair was safe….
Ultimate proof that fabric production is now at such a high level that not even hyenas can tell the difference between the real stuff and the fake.
Nxai Pan – Little baby lion cubs – about six weeks old – were seen with their mother a few times this month. The lioness has three young, and she moved the cubs carefully to try and keep them safe. We saw the big pride of lions (16 of them) all together a few times this month – such an impressive sight!
Leopards are tough to see in Nxai, but we managed to come up with a couple this month – one female that was seen briefly crossing the West Road heading into the pan at dusk. Also a male, whose tracks had been seen around the camp for several days, was finally found in bushes close to the camp waterhole. He rested up there all day.
The mother and two sub adult cheetah cubs are doing well and were seen often, mostly in the area to the south of the main pan. And we were lucky again with the wild dogs – the pack of six were seen hunting and chasing springboks across the area.
Elephant breeding herds with young calves are increasing in number – frequenting the two waterholes. Great numbers of giraffe are seen on the pan, and alongside the wooded areas. Zebras, wildebeest, and springboks spend their days on the pan, and then move to the waterholes in the morning and afternoons.
And love was in the air this month for the ostrich – males were seen courting the female – strutting his stuff, fluffing his feathers, and showing off legs that were a lovely shade of pink to impress her!
Tau Pan – A special daytime sighting of a brown hyena – close to the camp, so that everyone could see it from the deck.
Two lionesses and four young managed to kill a big male kudu to the eastern part of the camp. One of the male lions also killed a large adult giraffe – probably by chasing the giraffe at night, and causing it to stumble, so that the lion could reach the neck and suffocate the animal. The lion spent five days sitting next to the kill, gorging himself.
The cheetah and her daughters were also seen regularly in the area around the pan.
The predators were probably the only animals that were doing well in the beginning of the month, with the area so dry, herbivores were pushed to their limits, looking for food, and travelling further distances away from the water. Deception Valley itself was parched brown and dusty – an exceptionally harsh environment for the few animals that were remaining there.
In the absence of vegetation, mice and other small rodents were more visible, and had to become more daring in their search for food. In their rush to find something to eat, they would not always notice the beautifully camouflaged puff adders that lay in wait. It’s highly unusual to see snakes when you are on safari, but the unusual conditions have allowed the odd one or two to be seen.
Towards the end of the month, thunder clouds and lightning began dotting the horizon, then approached the camp, but it seemed to skirt around the area at the last minute. At least somewhere was getting rain!
And then, on the last couple of days of the month, something happened: the clouds thickened, and the rain began to fall… Six months of almost unbearable conditions, with every day the same heat as the next, had suddenly, unpredictably, broken. As the fat raindrops hit the ground, the smell that rose up was wonderful, and for each staff member, a sense of relief: the late rain brought promise of greenery and food for the animals if enough was to fall.
Sightings report for February 2015
Wir haben es ja schon immer gesagt: Auch Monate, wie z. B. der Februar, sind eine hervorragende Reisezeit um afrikanische (Groß)-Katzen in Botswana zu sehen!
Kwara Concession – A catty month. Cheetah cheetah cheetah, lion, cheetah, lion, cheetah cheetah, cheetah cheetah chee…..Pens were running dry as guides scribbled out the sightings reports for the day: “Cheetah, two females, 3 sub adults – Machaba east, cheetahs, 1 female, two sub adults, Splash area, Cheetah, 1 male…” . For a few weeks, it almost seemed like the smaller spotted cat had taken over the position of the lion prides. Who knows why? – Optimum weather conditions? Good vegetation for hiding and then stalking? Large amounts of prey animals? Lions busy else where? Whatever the reason, we were certainly seeing a lot of them, and no one seemed to mind.
By the middle of the month, the lions decided that it was time to make their presence a little more felt, and they were also being seen on most days. Another hippo met a gory end when confronted with four hungry lions…this one was caught not far from Little Kwara camp, and was consumed over the space of three days. By the last day, the hyenas were waiting in the wings, ready to launch into the carcass as soon as the lions moved off. This grouping of lions was seen regularly during the rest of the month, and they finished off the month with an ostrich kill – made along the aptly named Ostrich Road!
To mix things up a bit, a pack of six wild dogs also spent some time in the Splash area in the middle of the month. They were spotted at a pan, drinking water, before moving off to hunt. Later in the month a large pack of around 19 (a little tricky to tell as they were moving in and out and around) spent some time hunting at Splash as well. They didn’t have any success whilst we were there. A few days later, they were seen again along the main road, and we were able to spend quite a bit of time with them.
The long yellowing grass is making it tricky to spot leopards, but at the end of the month, one was seen slinking off into the thickets as the car moved along the road.
Nice herds of elephants as well this month, with the breeding herds spending a lot of time in the area, and even bachelor groups reaching up to 14 individuals. The males spent a lot of time drinking and playing in the deeper water near the crossings.
Lots of wildebeest and zebra were dotted around – nice herds of 20 -30 individuals feeding on the short grass that is drying up quickly.
Lagoon – The lagoon and channel in front of camp are the lowest we have seen it in many years. Hippos nudge together and stroll along the centre of the lagoon, indicating just how low it has got. Crocodiles anchor themselves in the small islands of reeds, and launch themselves at fish and birds with a resounding splash, than can be seen and heard from the pool deck.
The elephant herds that left temporarily for the mopane veld, are trickling back in, and the males are enjoying the comparatively deeper water of the channel. Even buffalos have arrived back in increasing number – a good indication of just how dry this season has been.
The pack of seven wild dogs were out and about around bee-eater island, resting next to the Kwando River. Later in the day, they stood up, and began the hunt. They made several attempts on assorted animals, but were unsuccessful on this occasion. However, two days later in the early morning light, they were seen racing past Lagoon camp, and managed to catch an impala. In the middle of the month, we saw a lone female, in the area of cutline pan. This is the time of year where dogs disperse – leave the pack to search for a new grouping, and the chance of forming their own pack.
The next day we came across a female leopard, resting on top of a termite mound. She was very relaxed, and allowed us to make some good photographs. Later in the month, we had a great sighting of a lactating leopardess, hunting through the woodland and heading west.
Two intruder male lions were seen at the airstrip, facing each other off, trying to prove who is dominant. Although we did not see them fight then, the very next day, we came across the younger one of the two, suffering from extensive injuries, that made it difficult for him to walk. We are guessing that the older male won this bout…. A little later in the month, and they appeared to have settled their differences. They were seen together with a young lioness from the resident pride, feeding on a zebra carcass. Jackals could be seen on the periphery of the kill spot, whilst white-backed, hooded and lappet-faced vultures hovered, together with the scavenging eagles such as tawny eagle, and yellow billed kite. Oddly, a herd of zebra mixed in with a number of eland, came very close to the scene and watched for some time…
A little later, and another unusual sighting – the Wapuka pride of two adults and six sub-adults – a pride that has not been seen in the area for over a year! They caught and fed on a zebra, and after only half a day, moved south out of the area… Shortly thereafter, the lioness with three cubs was located along Leadwood drive. Two days after that, the same grouping was seen – this time all together, resting under a shepherds tree to the west of John’s Pan. And a little east of them… 19 dogs were found next to the road. Following them for a while, they killed a reedbuck.
An action packed dog morning in late February, near the airstrip, with 1 male and 2 females from the pack of seven dogs, coming in close contact with two female intruder dogs from the south. The three had been active most of the morning, to contact and regroup with the rest of the pack: running and calling. A little later on in the same morning, the pack of 19 dogs were found resting at Johns Pan. And just for good measure – six hyenas were seen patrolling the edge of the mopane woodland.
And apart from all the predators, such wonderful sightings of eland, sable, and roan this month – we are getting quite a reputation for seeing these more unusual antelope!
A crocodile was seen in a small muddy pool for several days, feeding on a baboon carcass, which had probably got a bit too close to the water’s edge…
Lebala – The rain that has not fallen anywhere else, has fallen on Lebala. Muddy pools start edging over the side of the road, and grass has grown to extreme heights. Everyone seems to be suffering from the new grass seed and pollen, as it is just the right height to blow back into the vehicle, and into the eyes of all the passengers. Even lions seem susceptible, with one of the big males having a runny nose!
Early in the month, elephants were around, but after a week or so, the breeding herds begin to arrive. The rustle of a bush next to the vehicle, and one elephant suddenly turns into 100, as the herds quietly move through the vegetation, feeding as they go. They are heading for the river and green vegetation.
The Lagoon pack of wild dogs made several forays into the Lebala area – hunting warthog, and trying to catch impala. We also saw them take down a baby wildebeest, which does not go very far when divided by 19 hungry mouths.
Eight lions killed a zebra close to John’s Pan, and spent two days by the kill. Over the following days, they moved slowly south, taking four days to travel to Boundary road, where they spent some time relaxing. Once the lions moved away from John’s Pan, the pack of dogs arrived!
Although we had a few good leopard sightings during the month, we also saw a baby leopard, that had probably been told to hide by the mother as she went off to hunt. It was curious, but a little shy and hid back in the bushes.
Nxai Pan – The rains that occurred early to mid last month, have all but finished. The first spurts of lush grass have been grazed up, and only fairly short grass remains. The zebras, on a couple of occasions, looked as though it was time for them to head off to try greener areas – if there are indeed any to be had this year…
The breeding herds of elephants are around, siphoning the water as fast as they can. Every person looks to the sky, as the strange weather brings with it high temperatures and hazy days, more reminiscent of October. Clouds repeatedly fail to build up and produce any rain: this does not bode well for the future health of the animals. Although there will always be water for them to drink at the artificial waterholes, if the new growth of grass does not last, the grazers in particular will suffer from the scarcity of food in the coming months. The camp waterhole is in constant use, with zebras, cheetahs, lions, jackals, and more zebras, trying to get to the water before the elephants bully their way in. Even amongst elephants, it is a meeting ground with everyone jostling for position.
Rumours of drought carry across the whole of Botswana, as rainfalls have failed to reach normal levels. After such abundant rain last year, this season comes as something of a shock. We still have a couple of months left of the so called ‘rainy season’ – so there is still hope.
It’s a wide open expanse, with no vegetation – just around the edges. As the sun beats down, temperatures on the surface rise quickly. The odd prey strays across, and is snapped up quickly by the resident predators. As stark as it seems, this territory must be defended against outside intruders who seek to usurp – or just share the domain. When you are a 10cm long skink, with the lounge deck as your world, you can still be as fierce as a lion: any skink that dared to touch the edge of the deck, was swiftly attacked, resulting in two skinks leaping high into the air, lashing tails and kicking with feet. Somersaulting, any intruders were thrown off the deck, and the resident skink returned calmly to his domain.
The big pride of lions killed a zebra not far from the camp waterhole, and although the kill itself was not accessible, we had the benefit of seeing the lions come in and out of the bush, towards the waterhole to drink. A few days later, all 15 of them were found on Middle Road trying to stalk zebra. There was not much hope of them catching anything, as the area is so open, the herds can see them a long way off. Even on the days where they couldn’t be found, they were often heard calling during the night, with the sounds echoing across the open plains.
The cheetah and her two cubs were seen every few days, hunting some of the smaller game that is filling the plains, such as springbok.
Excited guests were able to see a boomslang at the entrance of the main area. This snake, although venomous, is exceptionally shy, and not often seen. It was only found when someone heard all the birds twittering and alarm calling. It moved off quickly, to escape the harassing birds.
Another rare sighting for Nxai Pan this month – a male leopard. Very shy, he was resting on the road to the airstrip when he heard the approach of the car. He quickly moved off into the thick bush next to the road. And wild dogs, yet again! – this time chasing springbok across the middle of the pan.
Tau Pan – A good hunt for the two female lions with their youngster – they killed an adult oryx at Tau Pan, and they were able to feed on it for 7 days straight.
Driving along the cutline road, on a relaxing game drive, we were surprised to see two bull elephants moving the same direction. Not quite as surprised to see us, as we were to see them, they flapped their ears and did a couple of mock charges, before doing that unique sideways step that elephants do when they have decided to retreat but still want to present their largest side to the potential ‘threat’. With the very low rainfall this year, they will have to move off in search of better vegetation, so this will probably be the only time that we can see them.
Unusual sighting for our area this month, other than the elephants, was a rock monitor lizard. It was unfazed by the game drive vehicle, and we were able to watch it for some time. Although this big lizard is not uncommon in Botswana, we don’t get to see them very often in the Kalahari.
When you are on safari, its always good to get a good nights sleep, so you can be awake bright and early and ready to go just after dawn. However, sometimes, not sleeping becomes part of the safari experience…. Two Tau Pan lions decided a nice and refreshingly cool night towards the end of the month was the time for a bit of vocalisation. Rather than waiting till the hour or so before dawn – where sound travels the most – they started up just after midnight, and every half hour, gave a roaring chorus that filled the night. Occasionally, a few kilometres away, an answering call could be heard. The Tau Pan lions not being known for their extensive walking ability, they didn’t appear to move at any point during the night, and were obviously sat very close to the waterhole. All the better then for their roars to reverberate up the sand ridge and into the guest rooms… An early morning excursion by the guests and we discovered that it was actually a mating pair… and more confusing for everyone, the lioness had a six week old cub with her. It is very unusual for lionesses to mate with such a young cub – the cub is also in danger of being killed by the male. They continued to mate – and roar, even through the heat of the day, providing a nice welcome to the guests that arrived.
Like most of Botswana, this area too is looking very very dry. At the beginning of the month, there were a few light rain falls, and surprisingly, a hail storm. But nothing that would really give life to the needy plants. Day after day in February, the temperatures reached the high thirties, with not a cloud in the sky. Finally, the last three days of the month, and thunderstorms built up, but danced around the camp itself, raining off into the distance.
Sightings report for January 2015 – Great start to the New Year…..
Kwara Concession – Munch munch munch munch…. The sound of hungry mouths ripping their food to shreds. Not so uncommon a sound to hear out on a drive, but a tad unsettling to hear when you are walking to your room in broad daylight. Particularly when the sound appears to be coming from all around you, and you cannot tell where it originates from. Munch munch munch….. It’s actually thousands and thousands of tiny little mouths – caterpillars, only 3cm long and about 3-4mm wide, are on every Large Fever berry tree, munching away. These are the larval stage of the Green-veined charax butterfly. They move over a tree, and in the space of 48 hours, can totally strip it of every leaf, before moving on to another tree to decimate. Even during the night, you can hear them munching away, sounding like a constant pitter-patter of rain on the roof.
Although the start of the month was oddly quiet for predators, it didn’t take too long for things to pick up. The general game enjoyed the hiatus, and there was plenty of them to see!
Cheetahs made regular appearances this month, but everyone was surprised when a cheetah was found in the camp! Not quite the ‘open plains of the Serengeti’, the cheetah managed to successfully hunt an impala to the eastern side of the staff village, after strolling through the main camp! And not to be out done by the cheetah, on the same day, a lone wild dog decided to chase an impala straight through the Kwara and Little Kwara camps! There didn’t really seem much point going out on drive that day, but those that did make it, also saw a nice male cheetah relaxing in the Splash area.
The fleet mechanic that arrived for a few days inspection of the cars and boats, became a very popular guide, as it seemed each time he was testing a vehicle on drive, or heading to the boat station, he ended up finding a predator. Between cheetahs and lions, he didn’t get much work done, as on radio-ing his findings to the camps was told to ‘stay there until we get there’ by the other guides. The cheetah he found – just as the guests were having brunch – began hunting, and the guests managed to finish their brunch and head out in time to see a kill.
Out on a drive towards the Kwara/Shindi boundary, the vehicle came across two big male lions that were covered in blood. Looking for the source of the blood, nearby, a hippo was located that was badly injured, but had managed to pull itself away from the attacking lions. Another large male lion was left feeling rather hungry, when he managed make a kill – a baby warthog, which would not have been much more than a couple of mouthfuls for him!
The Four Rivers area was productive as well, with two hungry-looking lionesses being seen with their six cubs, and a very shy leopard that we only saw a glimpse of. We saw what is likely to be the same leopard a few days later as well.
Lots of breeding herds of elephants in the area, with lots of babies. A nice time of year to see the families, though lower rainfalls have forced them into the areas where the channels and floodplains still hold good enough water for them to drink. In a month or so, some of the fruit trees (palm, jackal berry, marula) will be ripe, and so every one of these elephants will be battling the monkeys and birds to get to the fruit first.
The remaining four male lions of the Magnificent Seven are now looking a little old, and tired, at around 11-12 years old. This is a ripe old age for lions, and the fact that the four of them have remained together for so long, has probably helped them maintain their status, and limit their injuries. Still with battle scarred faces, and accentuated back bones, the lions could benefit from any help they can get from free lunches…. One stormy afternoon, the four males were snoozing in the shade at Splash Hippo Pools (currently without Hippo and without Pool), when the sounds of distressed elephants came from across the open area, perhaps a kilometre away. The lions immediately stood up, and began trotting part way across the open area, listening to the sounds of what they thought was (hopefully for them) an elephant that was being killed. The sounds stopped, and returned to just normal elephant noise, leaving the lions alert but sitting down in the open area, watching for the chance of any stray young elephant silly enough to wander out of the open away from the huge herd. Looking a little obvious with their big manes, they didn’t stand much chance of doing anything but being trumpeted at by the herd mingling in the treeline.
Quite a few different hyena sightings this month as well – including an unusual sighting of a pair of them feeding on a baboon. No way of telling whether they had managed to catch the baboon themselves, or if they had come up on it already dead, but they seemed to be enjoying it, none-the-less. Another odd sighting of a pair of hyenas fishing: between them, they managed to catch a sharp toothed catfish in the water at Four Rivers.
A special sighting of a python this month too – the sounds of an impala in distress, alerted the guides to an area where they found a sub-adult impala that had been caught by an African rock python. Initially with just one leg trapped, the python quickly wrapped itself around the rest of the animal and suffocated and crushed it. The python then managed to swallow the impala – a big meal that will last it for a good length of time.
Lagoon – Predators were proving hard to find – in spite of not having had a lot of rain this year compared to last, the grasses are very high. This is great cover for the lions and leopards, as they can sneak up on the game. But it does mean that they are harder to see, and we have spent a lot of time tracking them. The benefit is, that cats too, also like to walk on the road, out of the way of the long grass, from time to time. Much easier to track them along the sand tracks, than when they are tip-toe-ing through the grass stalks.
The pack of seven wild dogs were seen several times – sometimes hunting, some times just relaxing in the shade by the time we found them. We also had good luck with the Lagoon pack of dogs – all 19 of them. The pack of 7 spent several days around the Lagoon airstrip – a good place for them to hunt, as their prey animals are attracted to the relative safety of the open areas. But one day, the Lagoon pack arrived at the same spot, and sure enough, the 7 dogs had to make a run for it, to escape the much larger pack. The 7 moved out to the northern parts of the concession, whilst the Lagoon pack attempted to hunt warthog – not very successfully this time around.
In the middle of the month, we finally found the 2 females and 3 cubs of the Lagoon pride of lions. They had been keeping a low profile due to the marauding nature of the nomadic males that have been moving through the area – trying to keep their cubs safe. This time, they were seen feeding on a zebra they had killed at the conveniently named Zebra Pan. There was a scrum of vultures hanging in the trees waiting for their turn at the leftovers, and of course, a hyena or two also pushing their luck. The next day, they were gone, but seen again shortly after that.
The 15th of January, and the rains finally arrived in force – so much in the morning that we didn’t actually have a chance to go out on game drive. A little later, and we were able to get out, and see the antelope all enjoying the cooler climate – and the Lagoon pack of dogs who were still full from a great hunting session in the morning.
Lovely boat trips in the afternoon with elephants crossing the channel in front of the boats, and enjoying the refreshing water. Young carmine bee-eaters flitting in and out, catching insects whenever they can.
Although elephants are still around, a large number of herds followed the rain storms in to the mopane – one of their favourite types of food, and now with pans filled with rain-water, enough sustenance in one area to stay for a while. As these pans dry up, and the appeal of the river increases, the elephant herds will return to the Lagoon area in a short while. With the rains being so sporadic this year, the herds have been zigzagging in and out of the mopane scrub.
Lebala – The first day of the month and a lovely morning out with lots of general game every where, big breeding herds of elephants, and a female leopard was also found having killed a jackal, and feeding on it. A lioness, with her sub-adult, seen hunting, but had luck in their chase.
A couple of days later, and we’ve been lucky enough to have some rain, refreshing everything. Two female leopards – one at John’s Pan, and one along Fish road – provided good sightings. Later the same week, another female was found with her cub, having killed an impala. A big male leopard then approached the female with the kill, and shortly after that, a hyena arrived to see if she could also get a piece of the action – or at least a piece of the meat! Somehow, the hyena managed to steal the kill away whilst three leopards stood by and watched!
The two male lions were often seen this month, with sightings every couple of days. The two nomadic males were also moving through the area, and there were lots of lion tracks moving to and fro, as they appeared to be doing circuitous routes to avoid each other. The pride lionesses also made several appearances.
The wild dog pack of six were seen several times, zig-zagging throughout the southern end of the concession, and into the surrounding areas. The Lagoon pack of 19 dogs also made forays into this end of the concession, hunting impala.
Sightings of eland too, still unfortunately heading off into the distance, as eland are wont to do, but sightings, none the less! Lots of more relaxed zebra are in the area, and a big herd of wildebeest with babies are hanging out around the airstrip open areas.
The 16th of January was a sad day for The Baobab – the iconic tree that stood close to one of the main tracks, and has been the focus for the Lebala camp’s conservation project to try and protect it from marauding elephants – finally fell (or was pushed) over, and split from its roots. Now looking very much like a giant bottle brush, the tree hundreds of years old lies on the ground with the fibrous tufts sticking out from the end of the trunk. It is the fibrous nature of these trees that make them much enamoured by elephants, together with their water storage capabilities. It also makes them very difficult to age – no annual growth rings are visible. The guides believe there are now only 6 baobabs left in the concession drive area – and none as spectacular as this specimen.
Nxai Pan – With lots of zebra now here with their young, and lots of baby impala and springbok, a jackal must have thought life was truly unfair as he continually got chased around the open plain by two cheetah cubs, who were learning to hunt, and had chosen the jackal as a suitable moving target. Luckily for him, he managed to get away safely!
Nxai has had a bit more rain than other areas, so at the start of the month the grass currently had a lush green appearance. And plenty of animals to feed on it! All the zebra, wildebeest, oryx and springbok are enjoying the tasty vegetation. And the lions are enjoying the tasty wildlife…. The lions were seen regularly during the month, including when they came through to the camp waterhole for a drink after ingesting a rather large meal of zebra!
Plenty of cheetah too – with up to six being seen in one drive, and at least one being seen every day or two.
Day trips to Baines Baobabs provided a beautiful scene with flocks of lesser flamingos congregating in the pans with water. These birds are on a migration through to the salt pans around Nata, and Baines provides a short rest stop for them.
A fabulous morning drive started with six wild dogs resting in the shade, who suddenly started up when they saw three male cheetahs strolling along Middle Road. Not far off from them, the lions were pre-occupied feeding on a zebra closer to the pan. And coming back round on the loop drive from Baobab Road, the female cheetah was found with her cubs!
Thirteen lions came down to drink at the main water hole. A little like a rugby scrum, the lions crowded on one side of the waterhole, whilst the zebras crowded nervously on the other. The lions were ignoring the zebras. The zebras drank occasionally, but with an eye on what the lions were doing on the other side of the water hole. None of them were watching the small bird that was wandering up and down the inner lip of the water hole, stopping drink and then pacing to and fro. At one point, it decided it had had enough to drink and took off – zebras turned and scattered – as did 13 lions who couldn’t get away fast enough, tripping over each other. Once the dust settled, both teams of animals returned sheepishly to the matter at hand – drinking.
Also, a surprise sighting of a small group of buffalos! Not often found in the Nxai area, these big grazers are not likely to stay long, as they need lush grass, and a good supply of fresh water to thrive.
Tau Pan – Early January, and the surprise visitor from last month – a bull elephant – was found along the cutline to Deception Valley. It’s unlikely he will hang around long, as the low amount of rain so far means that the vegetation in many areas is drying up already. It would be more beneficial for him to head north towards the ‘greener pastures’ outside the CKGR.
The Tau Pan pride of lions have not been budging far from the area – and there are very good reasons why. They are essentially hemmed in by other established prides: Deception Valley, Passage Pan and Sunday Pan all have their own prides with large territories. If the Tau lions move out of their current area, they will be forced to battle with the other prides, and the outcome will not necessarily go their way. They also have little reason to fight for another area – with a guaranteed year-round water supply, and a good selection of prey species, Tau Pan has a proven track record for being a good nursery for raising lion cubs….
Without continued rain falls, the grasses even on the pans are drying up fast. This makes it good visibility for the two cheetahs that frequent the area, and allows them to blend in with the colours of the grass. However, since the grass is still short, they have to crouch down low to the ground carefully to ensure that the prey they are stalking does not see them before they are upon them.