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Im folgenden Text können Sie die Sichtungen für die Monate Juli bis Dezember 2016 nachlesen:
Dezember 2016 Sichtungen in Botswana Kwando Camps (in Englisch)
Kwara Concession – When booking an African safari, more often than not you imagine driving across vast open plains teeming with game or sitting in a vehicle beside a waterhole surrounded by numerous different species. This is not always the case. Sometimes the action occurs right in camp without setting foot on a game drive vehicle. This is pretty much how December started at Kwara. Two nomadic male lions spent the night in camp roaring almost until dawn. For those who have experienced the roar of a lion at close range; the vibrations penetrate the walls of any room and can be felt deep within your chest. It is a distinct and unmistakable feeling of power that stirs our primeval instincts. The following morning these regal beasts were found resting on the road to the airstrip.
Despite the action in and around camp the sightings from the vehicles did not disappoint, on one occasion as the Mma Leitho Pride was enjoying the early morning sunshine a wildebeest appeared seemingly out of nowhere and walked right towards the resting pride. Being opportunistic by nature the lionesses stalked, ambushed and killed the wildebeest. Kwara’s three vehicles (the maximum permitted) were lucky enough to witness the experience. One other incredible sighting was when a lioness who had been away from the pride for more than a month was seen introducing her 6 week old cub to her home land. The cub was shy at first and scrambled into an aardvark hole afraid of the vehicle, but the lioness gently nudged the cub out with her front paw, carefully picked it up with a neck bite and carried her off. Such a tender and special moment for our guests to experience.
Two different packs of wild dog had a slight altercation. After the smaller pack had killed 2 baby impala and were busy regurgitating for their pups a larger pack came and chased them off; it was sad to see the adults abandon their pups as they ran for their lives but it all ended well and the smaller pack all managed to escape unharmed.
A female leopard was found earlier in the month as she moved from one island to another. Hunting, she climbed up trees for a better view. Excitement mounted as she spotted a bushbuck. She stalked and managed to get really close but just as she was about to pounce, the bushbuck managed to escape.
There were many other incredible sightings of carnivores such as lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena and wild dog, but possibly the most unusual predator sighting of December involved reptiles. A crocodile and a monitor lizard were found fighting just east of the airstrip, the left front leg of the monitor lizard was locked in the jaws of the crocodile. The monitor lizard had his entire body wrapped around the head of the crocodile as they both toughed it out. Eventually the crocodile surrendered and the two went their separate ways. Once again Kwara delivers an incredible and most unusual sighting.
Lagoon – When young carnivores play with their parents and siblings they pounce, tackle, bite and claw. This appears very cute and is an absolute treat to photograph, but in fact these are predators in training. Whilst playing these games, the cubs and pups are developing the skills that they will need one day to hunt and kill their own prey. For most these skills come naturally and quickly, but some need a little more training. In the natural world only the fit survives, and as with everything in life, practice makes perfect.
This was exactly the case for a young female leopard who we tracked on a lovely, cool cloudy day. The scenery was breathtaking with dark stormy clouds as the back drop to the beautiful bright greenery in the foreground. Having seen the young leopard earlier in the month with her mother the guides had become familiar with her and she was comfortable with the vehicle. We watched for about an hour as she over and over again stalked and missed opportunities to kill impala. It was evident that she still lacked the patience required to be successful. She was persistent however, gaining valuable experience for her future hunts.
Training seemed to be the order of the month as the carnivore puppies and cubs were all playing hard and some even participating in hunts. A cheetah female with two sub adults, one male and one female, seemed a little frustrated as they spent the morning chasing red letchwe around the Halfway Pan area. These two young cheetahs also lacked the patience they needed to make a successful kill. It is during these hunts that the mother will allow the younger ones to participate, develop skills, gain experience and then learn from their mistakes.
The wild dogs, a pack of 10 adults and 9 puppies; were seen a couple of times close to camp. They were very relaxed and spent their time playing with their young. They were then seen on the old Lebala road where they demonstrated their hunting strategy. At Halfway Pan they were busy chasing impalas but unfortunately they were unsuccessful and the impala managed to escape. They had better luck at John’s Pan where we found them just after they had killed and devoured an impala. Afterwards they became very social. They interacted with each other and played with the puppies before they lay down to rest in the shade of a large tree.
Lion sightings were also good this month, the pride of 7 adults and 10 cubs were seen numerous times, often lying in the shade and playing with each other. This pride has been very successful in raising their cubs and they were usually found full bellied and looking healthy. The other pride consisting of two females, two males and 10 cubs was also seen. These two females have many mouths to feed and were not always as successful as the larger pride. We also went out in search of the pride of two male, 2 females and 3 cubs that prefer the Kwena area. This pride looked happy and healthy as they played. We enjoyed a wonderful sighting next to the water with perfect late afternoon light to capture the moment on camera. Watching how this family interacted was an absolute treat.
Lebala – It was a sad start to the month for the Southern Pride. The lions were seen hunting and stalking Red Letchwe, but after a while we realized there was a cub missing. A few days later we came across two male lions from the Northern Pride, Old Gun and Sebastian; it transpired that the missing cub was injured and subsequently killed by these two dominant males. Infanticide is well-documented in lions with males often killing the young of others to try and ensure that only their genes are passed on. The rest of the Southern Pride had at this point moved on with one less family member.
The pack of 8 adults wild dogs and 14 puppies were fairly elusive this month, but when they were seen they delivered incredible sightings. On one occasion the guide and tracker team did brilliantly to track the wild dogs for a thrill packed hour and found them resting in the thick bush. While we were still watching them a young impala came running towards the dogs. After a moment’s hesitation the adult dogs pounced into action, caught and devoured the impala as we watched in awe. After the adults had stripped the carcass they then fed their puppies by regurgitating the meat. Yes, all the gory details do come along with the whole safari experience.
One of the more interesting sightings at Lebala this month started after a tssesebe made several alarm calls. We moved in to take a closer look and found a stunning pair of wild cats digging something out of a hole. Wild cats are nocturnal and spend most nights hunting small prey such as field mice, squirrels and birds. It is very unusual to see them during the day, let alone witness them hunting.
Leopards were seen fairly regularly; on one particular occasion we found fresh track of an adult leopard and two cubs. After tracking the leopard for a short while through the thickets we came across her and two sub-adult cubs feeding on a large male impala.
Cheetah were seen on rare occasions this month, a female and her two cubs were spotted near Halfway Pan with their bellies full. The two sub-adults were playing and chasing each other around a termite mound. This playtime is essential for the young adults as they dart around tripping and chasing each other, developing the skills they will need to hunt and kill on their own in the future.
The seasonal rain has arrived filling the pans and natural waterholes. The summer migrants have arrived, birds are nesting and the excitement of new life is contagious. There will be plenty to eat this year and we are expecting great sightings all round. The grasslands are lush and the grazers are content, as are the browsers as they trim the trees of verdant new foliage. It’s astounding how the rains bring new energy to the wilderness.
Nxai Pan – At the beginning of the month huge numbers of elephants occupied the waterhole as they took aggressive turns quenching their thirst. As the heavy showers increased mid-month the herds around the waterhole decreased to the point where it was no longer necessary to fight for a drink. Then towards the end of the month after ample rainfall there wasn’t an elephant in sight. They had temporarily moved off to areas where they knew they could get food and water without competition.
December is an interesting month at Nxai Pan. As elephants move out of the area large herds of browsers and grazers move in. In the open plains journeys of giraffe could be seen as they arrived to strip the acacia trees of their vibrant green new growth.
Two large male lions are still dominating the area. Lions were seen nearly every day and a pair was found mating at the wildlife water hole. Five of the seven lionesses are expecting cubs and we hope they will give birth by about mid-January.
Cheetah have also been spotted on nearly every game drive. A mother and her two cubs were regularly spotted hunting and feeding near the wildlife waterhole. A new young male cheetah has also been appeared in the area. These agile cats have taken full advantage of the large herds of springbok that have arrived with the zebra migration.
The annual zebra migration brings thousands of animals into the area. While some zebras have migrated with their small foals, others are being born on the Nxai Pan plains. One of the most incredible things about a new born foal is the gangly length of their legs. A foals is born with such long legs that when it stands next to its mother its under belly is just about the same height as its mothers under belly. This, coupled with the disruptive colouration of the zebra stripes makes it incredibly difficult for a predator to target the young during an attack. It is easy to see why a group of zebras is sometimes called a ‘dazzle’.
The birdlife at Nxai Pan has also been very rewarding with plentiful sightings of Adbim’s Stork, Pale Chanting Goshawks, Yellow-billed Kites, Carmine Bee-eaters and Open-billed Storks. Nxai Pan is also home to the Kori Bustard, the largest flying bird in the world and the national bird of Botswana.
Tau Pan – 2016 was a fairly unusual year for the magnificent black-maned lions of Tau Pan. Late rains in March provided grass for the herds of antelope and zebra through much of the dry season which meant that they were not forced to migrate to greener pastures. In turn, because their food source remained stable the lions did not need to move to other parts of their territory and importantly this allowed the pride to reproduce successfully. Towards mid-December a pair could be seen from the main deck of the camp for several days as they performed their mating rituals in full view. Other pairs were seen mating at San Pan. By this time next year this pride will be fairly large and our guides are already predicting that in the future the Tau Pan lions are likely to extend their territory or even split up to form new prides.
One of the most unusual sightings was of a young lion that was seen whilst our guests were on a day trip to Deception Valley. The lion stalked and caught a new born springbok, but instead of killing and eating his prey he started playing with it. This is not something that is seen very often although other sightings of this behavior have been recorded.
Usually one of the more elusive creatures in Tau Pan is the leopard, but December yielded some incredible sightings. One large male in particular was completely relaxed with the presence of the game drive vehicle. He approached the vehicle out of curiosity and then moved off as though the vehicle was part of his afternoon stroll. This male moved into the territory in 2015; he and a female produced their first litter and so hopefully we will see more leopards in the future.
The cheetahs in the area also seemed to have a very successful breeding season, a female and three young cubs were seen whilst we were on a day trip to Deception Valley. Another mother with cubs was seen at Phukwi Pan and yet another family with three cubs was seen at Passage Valley.
All in all the Tau Pan predators had a great year and we will enjoy following the progress of the new arrivals.
November 2016 Sichtungen in Botswana Kwando Camps (in Englisch)
Kwara Concesion – It’s rare to see two leopards together – generally only when it’s a mother and her cubs, or possibly a male and a female mating. On the last day of October, we were even luckier, with the chance to see two male leopards meeting, and the resulting fight! Male leopards are territorial, marking the boundaries of their territory regularly. Intruders are not welcome! Yet to establish a territory, a male must at some point have fought another for the right to be there. Witnessing the two predators tumbling and fighting, is truly awe inspiring. For those that missed out on the fighting leopards, the middle of the month provided another double leopard sighting – this time a male and a female mating!
The start of November led to regular sightings of the two female lions with four youngsters. We saw them for several days, resting up in the heat of the day, and then finishing off the remains of a kill. Meanwhile, two sub-adult males that had ventured off on their own also had luck with their hunting, and had managed to take down a zebra foal. A good learning experience for them.
Throughout the month, the lionesses and cubs were seen the most often, being seen on 16 days. They always look well-fed, and were seen with the remains of several kills including impala and tsessebe.
Safaris can take a fair bit of patience, a lot of waiting and waiting, perhaps for only a tiny bit of action. But patience paid off for Kwara guests watching a cheetah in the area around Splash. They followed the cheetah for over two hours, as he stalked through the area. Then suddenly, having stalked carefully, in a rush of action, he managed to kill a reedbuck in front of everyone.
But, having all the patience in the world isn’t always a guarantee of success, as a female leopard found out. Having just spent a long time carefully stalking her prey – a reedbuck – a hyena appeared adding mayhem to the scene, with the reedbuck dashing off into the distance, and the leopard taking flight and heading to the safety of a nearby tree.
The tiny wild dog pack that denned this year near Tsum Tsum were found along Xugana road, having just killed an impala. As we arrived, the pack were still feeding on it – enough to go around for three adults and four puppies. Not long after, another pack – with 5 adults and two youngsters – were seen in the area around Buffalo Road, finishing off another impala. A few days later, and the pack arrived into Kwara camp, chasing the impala round and round, though not making an actual kill.
By mid November, life for the predators suddenly got quite a bit easier – the impalas gave birth to their new lambs. Certainly not as fast, agile, or aware as the adults, in any given herd they become the easiest target for any predator on a hunt. Wild dogs, leopards and cheetahs will slowly whittle down the numbers of the offspring, ensuring that the population is balanced and not over-populated.
And sometimes everyone is focussing so much on the available food, they don’t notice what is going on around them… a cheetah managed to catch a baby impala, just as the two lionesses also caught one very nearby. The cheetah, suddenly realising the lions were in the area, dropped her kill and ran!
Other interesting interactions – or see saws! – include the two lionesses with four cubs who killed a tsessebe. Soon after they had killed it, five hyenas arrived, and forced them off the kill. Then, in came a male lion, who proceeded to take the kill off the hyenas!
Lagoon – The first day of the month and an extra special sighting – not leopard, lion, wild dog or even cheetah – but a bush pig! These animals are very rarely seen – simply scarce, and thus shy – and are like larger, hairier versions of a warthog.
A fabulous morning for predators on the 3rd of November: we started the day following leopard tracks, and came across the female with her young cub and a kill. After that, we found the pack of 19 wild dogs feeding on an elephant carcass. From there, we spent more time tracking, which led us to the pride of 16 lions (8 adults, 8 youngsters) resting up at Elephant Gorge!
The two prides of lions (the main one with 17 members and the smaller one of 7) were seen on most days during the month of November. There was some mating going on, so the prides can only get bigger! There was also a new, solitary lioness seen in the area – “stumpy tail” – so it will be interesting to see if she stays around.
Great sightings of all the general game this month – zebras, roan, sable, eland, and of course lots and lots of elephants, and still quite a few large herds of buffalo. As soon as the rain starts, the buffalos will disperse, till next year. The majority of the elephants as well will disappear for a short while, and then come back in force when they realise that there really isn’t that much to eat and drink in the mopane areas!
The pack of 19 dogs seem to be looking for ever larger prey to bring down – this time we found them focussing on a small herd of roan – though whether they were chasing them around just for fun, or if it was meant to be a serious hunt, was a little hard to decide. Needless to say, they had no success whilst we were there!
Whilst the dogs seemed to be aiming big, the cats seemed to be aiming somewhat smaller. The large pride, with 15 members present at the time, caught a warthog. To say there was a little bit of squabbling over the meal, is a slight understatement. It the meantime, two males were attempting to uphold the “King of the jungle” title, and were found near Kwena Lagoon, each lion feeding on its own buffalo carcass!
The last week of November and leopards were abundant!- just outside the camp a leopard was found with two young cubs, whilst the female with the single cub was seen feeding on two days. WE also saw one shy male, and another male who had just killed a buffalo calf. Add to that a shy leopard near Kwena lagoon, and a relaxed male wandering along Fish Road, and you truly have a leap of leopards.
Lebala – All action happened at the camp when the pack of 22 wild dogs killed an impala. Fifteen of the local hyenas arrived with haste, and tried to fight the dogs for the carcass. With that many hyenas – a much stronger and bigger animal than the wild dog – there was little choice for the dogs but to let the hyenas take the kill. The same morning, and as the heat increases, the lions move less – we eventually found five adults and seven youngsters panting in the shade of a Kalahari apple tree. They remained there for the rest of the day, and only thought about moving in the very late afternoon.
On the 6th we came across a leopard cub that was playing in a tree, and relaxing along its branches. We were able to watch it for about an hour, before we moved off. Soon after, we came across a lion cub all on its own, and calling for the rest of the pride. Hopefully, they will reunite very soon.
The next day, the Wapuka lion pride (5 adults, 5 young) took down a kudu right in front of the vehicle. The lions were resting under a tree, when the kudu came walking out into the open area, but passed close to the tree where the lions were. The lions grabbed the chance – and grabbed the kudu… Two of the youngsters were missing from the pride, but we located them resting under a tree several kilometres away. Also resting nearby was the pack of 22 dogs!
Luckily for the two cubs, two days later the pride was re-united and killed a warthog, at least allowing the youngsters a morsel of meat after their few days of adventure away from the rest of the pride. A few days later, and the Southern pride were into the full swing of things, with a male killing a buffalo, then the females hunting three warthogs and a baby tsessebe!
Other than the predators, still great general game around with the largest numbers of course being that of the elephants. The large breeding herds still milling around the area, favouring the wooded areas along the edges of the water.
Nxai Pan – Lots and lots” – a description of just how many elephants are congregating at Nxai Pan camp’s waterhole… breeding herds, solitary bulls, bachelor groups, and pretty much any formation or type of elephant grouping or non- grouping that has been seen before, has been seen at the waterhole. A continual battle of elephant versus man – in the form of, “how fast can man pump the waterholes to prevent the elephants from choosing to begin siphoning out of the pool?” – or worse yet,- breaking the pipes and siphoning out from the very pipes that is enabling the water to be pumped.
And then, there is the great disappearing act: how “lots and lots” multiplied by an average of 4 tons, can suddenly vanish without a trace is one of nature’s little mysteries. (Along the same lines as how can a 4 ton elephant hide behind a scrappy bush that a small child could be seen behind?) Just the hint of a raindrop off on the horizon, and ALL elephants disappear from the area. Two days later, if that raindrop has not fallen in sufficient quantities, they will be back. And sure enough, they were…
Up to eight lions have been seen regularly in the morning at the camp waterholes, resting up from their nightly activities. Although no kill has been seen, they remain in good condition, so are obviously feeding regularly. A couple have also been sighted mating, close to the main park waterhole.
Surprise visitors to the camp waterhole, not seen since April, were the pack of wild dogs. It appears only four dogs remain from the original six that frequented us earlier in the year. It is not necessarily the case that the two missing dogs have died – it is common for dogs to disperse – move off to create new packs or join another pack. And since these four dogs were only seen two days in a row, it is entirely possible that the two missing members were simply scouting further out.
Although the big lion pride has fractured, there are still plenty of sightings of the individuals, or smaller groups. The males were found feeding on a dead elephant, whilst five lioness were seen closer to the main waterhole.
The mother cheetah with two cubs was also seen a few times this month. Although we didn’t see her with a kill, the jackals were picking at scraps and remains of something that she must have killed and eaten recently.
The general game is enjoying the few light rain showers that we have had. It has been just enough to kickstart a little growth of new grass… soon gobbled up by all the herbivores craving a new taste of greenery! Fingers crossed, the showers will continue, and this year will not be as harsh as last.
Tau Pan – Seven male lions and four females began the month finishing of the remains of a kudu that they had killed not far from room 1. Pied crows and vultures soon descended after the lions moved off the kill, to finish what remains there were to be had. Six male intruder lions arrived at the Tau Pan camp waterhole at the beginning of the month and chased away the two females that were there.. The lionesses were then not seen for a week or so.
The female cheetah and cub were seen drinking at the camp waterhole recently. Although they do frequent this area, they are also often seen in the Passarge waterhole. We also had the adult male cheetah coming down several times to drink – spending about 20minutes each time at the waterhole. We also saw another male cheetah near San Pan that had caught and killed an ostrich.
The colours of the Kalahari are changing – trees such as the camel thorn and the brandy bush are getting their new foliage, so greenery slowly comes into the desert. The scents are changing, too, as each acacia comes into blossom, one after the other.
It was however the month of Lions. Not only on the water hole in front of camp, but also in other pans in the area were they seen. But off course we don’t only look at lions the whole day. We have a resident baboon spider in the demonstration area, and the trackers know how to make them come out. A very impressive spider which lives in a hole, which is a trap for their prey at the same time.
Oktober 2016 Sichtungen in Botswana Kwando Camps (in Englisch)
Kwara Concession – A cheetah filled day at the start of the month. Two sub-adults were seen hunting along the Kwara floodplains, but they had no success. Sadly, these two youngsters have been left alone to fend for themselves, as their mother was recently killed in a fight with a leopard. A little later on in the same day, an adult female cheetah was found hunting, but she had better luck and caught a reedbuck near the southern section of the airstrip.
The cheetah youngsters were seen several times, each time trying to make a kill, unsuccessfully. Eventually, they will learn the correct technique through necessity – or possibly just chance – but in the meantime, they will have to sustain themselves with smaller prey – mice and other small rodents, and anything else unsuspecting. Its tough days for them though – whilst they are trying to perfect their hunting skills, they bumped into a male leopard, who began chasing them. The cheetahs luckily managed to escape through the reeds.
The small Tsum Tsum pack of dogs have managed to take their youngsters on hunts with them. Even with 8 puppies bumbling after them, the three adults successfully took down an impala. Impressive skills for such a small pack. A different pack with five adults and four pups made a successful kill of impala on Sable Island, a few days after the Tsum Tsum pack were seen. A pack of 13 wild dogs – all adults – spent the late afternoon chasing reedbuck, impala and red lechwe around in circles, eventually managing to catch an impala right in front of Little Kwara camp.
Two lionesses and their four cubs were seen nearly every day of the month – they looked healthy and spent a lot of time sleeping and resting under trees, but must have been hunting at some point to maintain their healthy look! We did see them make a few attempts to hunt the nearby zebras, without success, but by mid month we found that they had managed to kill a tsessebe. Three of the Zulu boys were also found finishing of a different tsessebe carcass. Four males were also lucky enough to come across an elephant carcass (if they weren’t involved in the kill itself?) and needed a lot of resting up after gorging on so much meat.
We also had a great sighting this month of a male leopard hunting warthog on the road to the boat station. We enjoyed watching the hunting process for an extended period and the guests were amazed at how patient the leopard was, even though the stalking process took more than an hour. Then, nearby baboons noticed the leopard and started alarm calling, so the prey was warned off and escaped! The leopard then retired to a nearby termite mound, and allowed everyone to take magnificent photos of him.
Although the massive fire in the area in August appeared devastating at the time, it’s now that we and the animals are reaping the benefits: the new shoots of green grass (not even waiting for the first rainfalls) are coming through, providing a well needed boost of nourishment for the grazers. And where they congregate, so do the predators. Whole mornings have been spent seemingly doing ever decreasing circles around the area, as guides find cheetahs in this spot, lions not far away feeding on something else, and then dogs lounging around on the other side under the shade of a tree.
The heronry is at its peak at the moment, with lots of birds having new chicks. Some late arriving birds are still building their nests, and competing for space, which is getting ever tighter…
A lovely sighting this month of two honey badgers. Male and female honey badgers have very slight colour differences as well as size (both only really visible when there are two together.) Obviously, a female with a subadult may also present the similar differences, so there was a lot of discussion – was this mum and kid, or was this Mr & Mrs? The smaller one was lounging around whilst the larger one was busy digging. The smaller one helped by shoving its head down a hole for an extended period, whilst the larger one continued to furiously dig. The smaller one lay down for a rest. (Definitely a kid, at this point, we had all decided…) Suddenly a mouse jumped out of one of the holes and made a mad dash – there then appeared to be a game of ping pong as the mouse dashed bounced from one honeybadger paw to the other.
Put a few guides in a car together and what happens? LOTS of discussion and differing opinions, but lots of learning too. And a discovery that sometimes fables that we all disregard, have a scientific background. On a little training excursion we passed by a burnt area, and the discussion turned to how fires start in the Delta. The general concensus: man-made, lightning, friction, and ghosts. I’m sorry, repeat that last one again? Yes, ghost fires. An immediate image pops up of Casper running around with a box of matches, lighting in strategic places, but the ghost fires were described as fires that seem to start spontaneously, with no sign of any outside influence. This was put down as an old wives tale, but on researching with even more guides, more of these stories came out. And the description matches that of peat fires – something that does happen in certain areas of the delta where layers of peat can lie smouldering underground for years, until a small disturbance allows them to light dry grass above ground, creating a fire with a puff of smoke. And so, ghost fires do exist after all!
Lagoon – The wild dog family were seen regularly in early October – 9 adults and 10 pups. They had good luck catching impala, though at this stage, the pups are still too inexperienced to be able to participate usefully in the hunt, but just to try to keep up with the rest of the pack. Later in the month and the pack were seen all alive and well. Seeing bateleur eagles sitting on top of a tree watching the ground, we moved into the bush and discovered the pack of 19 feeding on a female kudu carcass.
A highly unusual sighting right at the end of last month as well – three cheetahs. We have only been seeing cheetahs every few months, probably because of the high lion activity in the area, they have been favouring the distant plains in the north west of the concession. The three cats that did decide to move into our more regular game drive area were exceptionally shy – understandable if they are not used to seeing vehicles. As soon as the vehicle was stopped, they took off at high speed! But, a few weeks later they came through the area again, and this time they were much more relaxed. We watched them attempting to hunt impalas, but they were unable to make a kill as the impalas saw them as they were stalking, and bounded off to a safer environment.
Not far from where they were being seen, a male lion and lioness with three cubs were seen feeding on a kudu. This small pride keeps separate from the large pride, which were seen a day or so later. The pride of 15 (7 adults and 8 youngsters) were found near water cut, feeding on a wildebeest, that they had killed during the night. The next day, the numbers had grown again – with another 4 adults joining the 15. No sign of leftovers this time, everyone was lying down and sleeping. We had good sightings of all of these lions throughout the month.
Good leopard sightings this month, with an adult found feeding on an impala carcass that was lodged in the branch of a tree, just to the west of the airstrip.
With the desperately increasing heat, the general game in the area is congregating as close to the water and the shade as possible. Elephant and buffalo numbers are at their peak, and all are waiting anxiously for the rain to fall – something that every human is also desperate for!
One lucky set of guests were watching the pride of lions and just as they have left them to return to camp, they heard the unmistakable squeal of a warthog. Sadly it was its last squeal. The guests returned to watch the feast. Feeding time over, the vehicle continued back to camp and found a bat eared fox on the way. Delighted with their luck, they could not believe it when an aardwolf appeared, posing like he was modeling for a mammal guide book. Astounded and chatting away, only laughter could accompany the unbelievable chances of them coming across an aardvark. Relaxed and nearly for over ten minutes.
Lebala – Lebala concession is doing very well in terms of predators this month, especially the lions. We have the southern pride which is a pride of 21 lions. There is also the Mapula pride, who are very good hunters, and who managed to kill a kudu and a wildebeest within a three day period. The northern pride have also had successful hunting, including zebra and warthogs. At the end of the month, most of the southern pride were seen together, with one of the males mating with a female for several days. Hopefully, there will be more cubs on the way, to add to the current seven youngsters! The southern pride was seen in the last week of the month with full bellies, so they must have managed to make a kill too.
Two different packs of wild dogs have been seen as well – the southern pack and the northern pack. The southern pack spends a lot of time to the south west, in the thick mopane belt, so are not so easy to find. The northern pack is doing well, and all puppies are in good condition.
In the last week the pack of 19 killed an impala just seconds before the guests arrived at the sighting.
Close to Park Drive, we came across a dead elephant, which was quickly found by predators. The first day saw the pack of 19 wild dogs feeding on the elephant, being pushed off the next day by ten hyenas, including two youngsters. By the third day, everyone’s appetites had been satisfied, and just four hyenas remained, sleeping next to the carcass. In the last week the pack of 19 killed an impala just seconds before the guests arrived on the sighting.
An unusual sighting of three honeybadgers at once – digging together for insects in the ground. They scattered as they noticed our approach. And a mother with her youngster was seen towards end of the month digging for mole rats near the airstrip. The youngster didn’t know yet how to catch those mole rats, but mother caught four while we were watching them.
One leopard sighting of a female in a sausage tree was a nice finale to the month of plenty predators.
Guides were also excited about the abundance of the general game in the area in October. Just about every antelope species, all with their offspring.
Nxai Pan – Our lion pride is back again, but slightly reduced in number – we see the five females, two subadults, two dominant males, and one little cub. The young males have been pushed out, and are unlikely to return, for fear of getting in to a serious fight with the dominant males.
The mother cheetah with the two cubs made an attempt to catch a steenbok (a small kill for three hungry mouths, but something is better than nothing) but she was not successful.
And the buffalos are still struggling along. The fact that they drink at the camp waterhole every day, in the morning and the late afternoon, should have made them more of a target for the lions. But they appear to have held safety in their numbers, and no attack has been made on the males.
At the end of the month two male and two female lions took down a giraffe at our waterhole. While they were feeding it, a hyena, unaware of the lions came to drink. One of the males stalked the hyena and killed it. It is common that predators kill each other if they have a chance, and it is thought that is to eliminate competition. Sadly no guests in camp at the time, but we did get pictures from our HR manager Thuso to prove it.
Tau Pan – 24 hours on safari is not a lot of time. With some luck, you’ll see good general game and perhaps a predator. Well, that’s what we thought too. Nature thought differently for the guest who landed in Tau Pan this month to find six lions waiting at the end of the airstrip. A short drive (carefully avoiding luggage confusion with the lions) to the camp, quick afternoon tea, then out for a game drive and six different lions coming back from the camp. Whilst on drive, they had had a great sighting of a cheetah, so things were going really well. A short walk in the morning before departure and add two more cheetah to the list, before getting on the plane to fly out to the next destination. This is NOT normal, please remember!
The first week of the month was slightly challenging for the staff (and guests) of the camp. When a coalition of six males and two lionesses decide that the best location for mating is just on the outskirts of the camp, everyone has to be on their most careful behavior. The early morning team that goes in to set up the breakfast and get the fire started were extra careful, and sure enough, discovered that one feline couple were having a romantic interlude under the main deck, looking down onto the waterhole. Now, we appreciate that everyone wants a bit of privacy in these moments, but timing is everything. Luckily, the noise of the set up by the staff was enough to encourage the happy couple to move a little further away, to somewhere more secluded.
Other good sightings this month included a lovely relaxed male leopard walking along the road, in hunting mood, a female leopard seen the same day close to camp, three cheetahs near Sunday Pan having killed a springbok.
There was one sighting of a cheetah mother with three cubs in Deception valley. We think they might stay on that area, because there are not that many competing predators there.
Birders and twitchers also had a very unusual sighting. They observed ten ground hornbills together, and when a flock of Kalahari scrub robins landed in the middle of them, the ground hornbills killed and fed on them.
The coalition of 6 male lions was seen again several times in the last week of the month. It is common to see two or three males holding a territory together, but six is very unusual. From a male lion’s point of view, there is one clear advantage to group together with some mates. The more you are the easier it becomes to overpower other males with an established territory and take it over from them, including the harem of females. Second advantage is, once you are holding a territory, it is easier to defend it against other intruding males, and it lessens your individual risk of injuries in doing so. So far so good. The challenges however are these: six hungry guys need a lot of food. Hunting is done mostly by the females (males help take down big prey sometimes, and they kill for themselves while they are patrolling and marking the territory, but during the time they are joined up with the females they don’t actively hunt), and the males mostly take the kills away from them, feeding on it first. You can imagine after six males have eaten, there is nothing left. That puts enormous pressure on the pride’s females. They will have to make a lot of kills to sustain these six males, themselves and the cubs. We used to have a coalition of the “magnificent” seven in Kwara for several years. It worked ok there, but we have to consider that the density of large prey is much bigger in the delta than it is in the Central Kalahri Game Reserve, so it was somewhat easier for the females there to find enough prey to kill. The other challenge is the personal fitness of these males. In this context, personal fitness doesn’t mean how fast or how far you can run, but rates your chances to spread your genes. In other words how many offspring can you produce. Obviously the more males that are together decreases your individual chance to mate with a female, since they all have to be shared, hence your personal fitness goes down. It is likely that these six males will split up in the future. Hopefully they will hang around Tau Pan for a while, so we can observe what develops. We’ll keep you posted!
The Kalahari is known for its lions (proof enough above), good cheetah sightings, and also brown hyenas and lobsters. Er, probably not the last one? Call it a misadventure with google translate, but on seeing what our unsuspecting German visitors were being advised by one website, we found a new understanding of why some guests had complained about not having enough fish on the menu. There is a member of the arachnid family that is variously known as a red roman, a solifuge, or a Kalahari Ferrari, that does have a passing resemblance to a lobster, but this is not something you would want to end up on your dinner plate.
September 2016 Sichtungen in Botswana Kwando Camps (in Englisch)
Kwara Concession – The tiny dog pack at Tsum Tsum were seen a few times this month at their den. The three adults with 8 puppies have been seen relaxing at the den, with the puppies playing around. It’s harder to follow the adults when they go hunting as the area still has water around, and with only three dogs to follow, they quickly move out of sight. We also had sightings of the other packs in the area: a pack of five with five puppies, and the larger pack of 14 with 8 puppies. Sightings were sporadic, as they are all now covering wide areas of territory.
Lions were seen almost every day – particularly the four males, and the two females with the four cubs. There didn’t appear to be a lot of territorial fighting going on this month, as everyone seemed to keep to themselves. However, the males were definitely more interested in the ladies this month, and one of the males broke away from the rest of his brothers to follow the two females. His attention was unwanted, and he was soon left on his own. Whilst he was away, the rest of the coalition turned their attention to zebra, and spent a day feasting on one they had killed. Unusually, they didn’t eat the entire thing, and left the remains to the vultures.
After a long time without seeing cheetahs, the female returned with her two sub-adults. They were seen resting in the area near buffalo pan, but were not as relaxed as they used to be. A male cheetah was also seen along baboon road, and made a reedbuck kill. By mid month, the cheetahs appeared to have settled back into their role as Kwara’s resident cats, and were seen hunting, relaxing, and posing. The cheetahs however, were not exactly welcomed back by the other predators, though they certainly benefited from having them around: the cheetahs had their kill stolen by lions, and then a day later, a leopard attacked them when they were feeding on a reedbuck!
The delta lions are not the only cats that will go through water if they need to – a female leopard was found near one of the water crossings, relaxing in the sun, with very wet fur, obviously having just been for a dip. We also had a wonderful sighting of a male leopard – we came upon him in the middle of dragging a reedbuck that he had killed that morning and partially fed on. The reedbuck weighed about twice the amount of the leopard, yet the leopard pulled it quite a distance into the marsh, to keep it safe from the roaming hyenas that are in the area.
Also a good sighting of a sitatunga this month, close to the boat station.
And a return visit from the slightly shy male rhino – he was found grazing around the Honeymoon Pan area!
And it seems rare fauna was around to stay, but of the feathered variety: only having been seen once before in approximately 8 years, a Pels Fishing Owl made an appearance. Or rather, set up camp. Literally. Seen roosting during the day in the tall trees over Little Kwara, he had chosen a particularly strange location: the noisy surrounds of the LK vehicle workshop… With occasional day visits to the Kwara trees – this exceptionally rare owl appeared quite content..
Lagoon – September – winter was only 4 weeks ago, but the Botswana summer is quick to arrive. Knowing this, the summer migrants have started flying in from afar: the first ones in are the kites and bee-eaters, ready to start their breeding season again. Soon, the air will be filled with the calls and colours of all the visitors – for us, an easy way of telling the change of the seasons.
Great lion sightings this month, with the pride of 2 males, 2 lionesses and 3 cubs being sighted as well as the large pride of 17, which included 10 cubs. The pride of 7 were found feeding on a young elephant – estimated to be around four years old. The two males from the large pride were also found on a different elephant carcass. With so many elephants moving into the area, there are bound to be natural deaths from individuals – it’s not clear if the lions themselves have killed the elephants.
A few leopard sightings, a shy male, and a small female in the area around Half Way Pan. We also found a small cub hiding behind a tree. Later in the afternoon, her mother returned. We then saw this female and her cub several times through the rest of the month. Other predators include the regular visitors – the hyenas. They were regularly seen hanging around the dogs, waiting to try and get a free meal from the left overs, or to force them off a kill if they could. Their calls sounded through the camp at night – territorial, and calls of courtship.
The wild dog pack were seen regularly in the beginning of the month, as they were still at the den site. However, they soon left the site and spent the rest of the month moving around the area. As the month progressed, the pack was moving larger distances as the pups became more comfortable keeping up with the adults. The dogs remained fit and healthy, and hunted regularly. Four of the adults appeared to split away from the pack from time to time before rejoining, an indication that they may eventually split off on a more permanent basis.
Elephants are massing in large numbers, and every waterway or shady area seems to have a congregation waiting. Many are moving in from across the Caprivi strip, cutting across Namibia, seeking a safe haven in Botswana. Some will even have moved down from Angola. All are waiting eagerly for the first rains, as is the rest of Botswana. Joining them are the large herds of buffalo, dotted over the marshes and floodplains throughout the concession.
Almost at the end of the month – a rare sighting of cheetah. This time, it was not the two brothers that made a foray through the area, but a shy female – with two young cubs in tow. We stayed with her for about 20 minutes, as they slowly moved along the edge of the bush line.
Lots of porcupine seen this month, as well as civet spotted regularly on the evening drives.
The most unusual sighting, probably for the year, was a lovely sighting of a big herd of buffalos, mingling with herds of elephants on the waters edge, not far from the edge. A nice enough sighting as it is, but whilst we were watching them, running through the middle of them all was a male sitatunga!
Another exciting and unusual sighting was of a martial eagle, that dove down and scooped up an ostrich chick, to the alarm of the parents!
Lebala – At the beginning of the month, the dogs were seen every day, either hunting – most times successfully – or at the den site with their puppies. The adults passed through the camp several times, on their hunts. One of the adults managed to kill an impala, but with the rest of the pack too spread out, three hyenas made a beeline for him, and pushed him off his kill before the rest of the dog pack managed to catch up.
We spent a morning tracking the two young leopard cubs that are seen often near the camp. We eventually found one of the cubs at Old Hippo Pool, but there was no sign of his sibling or mother. Returning to the same location in the afternoon, we found the two cubs together. Two days later and we had a wonderful sighting of an adult male leopard – lying down near a pan. It is unusual for us to see a very relaxed male leopard – they are often quite shy – but this one was totally unbothered by our presence. The next day, and a relaxed female was found in the branches of a tree. She came down the tree, and began hunting, only to return to a tree to scan the area again for potential prey.
On the 13th of the month, we found the mother leopard with one of her cubs. The second cub was missing and was not seen for several days. The mother had bad wounds on her legs – we are not sure what occurred, but possibly she gained them as a result of fighting with warthogs or baboons. By the 18th, we managed to relocate the two cubs, but this time the mother was not around, and the cubs looked hungry. It seemed to have a happy end to the month, as the mother was again found, and whilst we were watching she stalked and killed an impala. When we returned to the kill later, she was feeding on it with one of the cubs.
A single male lion was found following a herd of buffalos along Fish Road. He soon left them, and began heading north, looking for the rest of his pride, sniffing for scent marks and calling regularly. A few days later and he had rejoined his brother, they were feeding together on an elephant. The pride of 17 lions – without the males – also were seen in the area – looking a little skinny. A few days later, and the southern pride (5 lionesses and 7 youngsters) were seen attempting to hunt, with the cubs in tow. The two males were not far away. Towards the end of the month, the pride males killed an adult buffalo near the camp.
Nxai Pan – The large lion pride from prior months continues to remain apart. The two dominant males of the area are regularly seen around the main government waterhole. The rest of the pride are seen in small groupings, throughout the park, and do move through the camp waterhole to drink as well.
Good sightings of the lioness with the two cubs as well – the mum was relaxing under the tree, whilst the two youngsters played, and then flopped over when they got too hot. By mid month, the lionesses had regrouped, with three of them and the cubs spending a lot of time together, mostly close to the two water holes. The males joined from time to time.
The cheetah mother with two young cubs was also a regular sighting. She is frequenting the area around Middle Road, coming in to drink at the waterholes when the lions are not there.
The bachelor herd of buffalos (six or seven of them) are still coming in to drink water at the camp water hole most mornings and later afternoon. They are now ‘stuck’ till the rainy season – they cannot travel the distance to any alternative water source, and will be reliant on the grass which follows the rains. What they are currently managing to survive on is a bit of a mystery.
Big big herds of elephants coming in and out of the waterholes. The camp is providing plenty of water for them to drink, and having made an industrial/elephant strength electric fence around the camp itself, has finally deterred those individuals that wanted their own personal watering station. There were a few surprised moments when the ‘regulars’ first tried to come back in – nothing damaging, other than to their pride. They are now ‘slumming’ it with the rest of the herds and bulls at the large watering holes in front of the camp.
Tau Pan – The Kalahari seems like a wide, flat place when you fly over it and look down. But on landing, you realise that it is a varied landscapes: a broad horizon, undulating low hills, and a mixture of plains and dry ancient valleys. At the moment, the dull colours are lifted with the first blooms of the acacias – camel thorn, blackthorns and the evergreen shepherds bush. The new colours bring a hint of what is to come when the rains finally arrive.
Finding tracks around room 1 of a male lion, we started the morning tracking the animals. We eventually found them not far from the camp water hole – three male lions lying down and relaxing There were also the main pride moving around the Tau Pan area for most of the month. And on the 24thSeptember, the big coalition of males regrouped for the first time in several weeks – six males relaxed together by the camp waterhole!
Room 1 is obviously a popular place to be – two lionesses decided the area adjacent to the room would be a perfect place to begin a hunt for food. They managed to kill an oryx nearby, and then spent a day or two feasting on the large antelope.
We get a little blasé about lions at Tau Pan, so it’s good to bring things down to size a little and remember what else is around us that doesn’t have the same marketing. Not a relation, but a namesake, the antlion is a fierce creature in its own miniature world. We spent some time watching this predator build his trap in the sand, and sitting in wait for his prey. A fly wandered too close to the edge of the conical sand trap, and the antlion shot grains of sand at the fly to knock it into the centre of the pit. Waiting at the bottom was the antlion, ready to grab its latest meal. Seeing a kill, does not always mean you have to be on safari in the safety of a car!
Good cheetah sightings this month too, with cheetah mother and her cub of 5 months old at Passarge Pan, another male cheetah frequenting the camp waterhole, and brown hyenas also wandering around the area. The male cheetah put on a great show one morning, trying to stalk a group of kudu near the waterhole. Each animal stayed frozen…. Eventually, the cheetah attempted to chase, but the kudu, having already seen him, fled without any problem.
And also a great sighting of a young leopard feeding on a springbok carcass near the airstrip. The carcass was hanging in a tree, and we could hear contact calls from the cub, so its likely the mother was in the bushes nearby, but she didn’t come out whilst we were there.
August 2016 Sichtungen in Botswana Kwando Camps (in Englisch)
Kwara Concession – To start off the month a lovely sighting of three roan antelope was seen in the area close to Splash.
On the 8th we had two great leopards sightings, one female feeding on a reedbuck and a second one – a male – feeding on a warthog carcass. The next day the female leopard was seen again, this time walking along Monwelawela road heading west, and crossing water. In the same area, we found an African civet attempting to hunt, but she was unsuccessful. The following week, the leopards were still around. The female was seen stalking reedbuck close to the airstrip. Unfortunately, there was not much vegetation for her to hide behind, due to a recent bushfire, and the animal spotted her before she was able to launch her full attack. The following day, she was located up a tree, with vultures nearby, so we suspect that she had some success after all. We also had wonderful sighting of a male and female leopard mating during the day – very close to the boat station.
Good lion sightings this month, including two females that had killed a warthog, and were found having to defend their kill against a few hyenas. In spite of being outnumbered, the females managed to keep their kill, and after a bit of fighting, chased the hyenas away. The lionesses with four cubs also managed to kill a zebra, and spent a couple of days feasting on that.
Several cheetah sightings this month, mostly of a single adults (male & female), but also of the female with her two young. With the numbers of dogs and lions around, they were not as prolific as in prior months. No doubt they will be a little less timid when things quieten down on the other predator front!
And a ‘confusion’ of dogs… early in the month, we had managed to located the tiny pack of three dogs that had denned near to the XamoXamo bridge. They had a litter of 8 puppies, still quite young. By the end of the month, the Kwara game drive area had an influx of dogs: apart from the above mentioned 11 dogs, there was a pack of 5 adults with 4 youngsters, another pack of 3 adults and 9 puppies, as well as a pack of 14 adults, with no youngsters. To top things off, 5 adult males suddenly appeared in the middle of Kwara camp right at the end of the month. That’s 51 dogs. The impalas, are looking somewhat nervous.
With so many dogs in the area, there was bound to be some interaction – even if it was unintentional. The pack of 14 adults were just finishing off their kill of a reedbuck, when 3 dogs from another pack came charging through the area, chasing a kudu. The 14 dogs leapt up and gave chase to the 3 dogs, with a very relieved kudu making his own getaway.
Sightings reports are sometimes accused of pulling out only ‘the good stuff ‘ to write about. True. It’s impossible to write about everything that is seen. However, to put things into perspective, here is a record of two days from the Kwara concession (without the stories to go with them!):
Lioness x 1, hyena cub x 4, civet cat x1, serval cat x 1, leopard x1M, lions x 2+4, leopard x 1F, wild dogs x 5, wild dog x 8+8
Add to that the ‘extras’ of sitatunga, elephants, buffalos and other general game, and you get a vague idea that there might be something of interest to watch.
And an unusual sighting of a big bird – ostrich are seen fairly often in the area, but we rarely get to see one sitting on her eggs! The male was nearby, so hopefully this will be a nice safe place for the eggs to be reared to hatching.
But, the most unusual, and special sighting, was awarded at the end of the month, to the guests who were able to write on their feedback forms: “We saw the Big Five!”. That super-rare, shy animal – a white rhino – was seen grazing in our area.
Lagoon – Early on in the month, the dog pack moved their den a short distance. We found the new den fairly easily, and were rewarded with wonderful sightings of the 13 adults and 10 pups. One morning we came across the adults circling a large tree near Middle Road. Looking a little closer, we discovered that they had chased a large male leopard up the tree, and were waiting at the bottom to harass it further if it decided to come down. The leopard was taking no chances, and remained up there for the duration, enabling guests to get some excellent shots of the animal. Following that, an inspection of the den found all puppies safe and well, and in as playful mood as ever.
An extensive morning of tracking lions was successful when we found the three adult lions with three cubs, just beyond the airstrip. One of the males was mating with the lioness. The following day, we came across the female again, but this time she was on her own with her cubs. And the day after that, yet another combination! The female and cubs, this time with the two males again, and another lioness.
One morning guests opted for a walking safari. They had a very productive time, and learnt about the medicinal uses of the plants in the area, how to find your direction if you are lost in the bush, and how to track animals of different types. Later that day, they put their newly acquired skills to good use, and helped the guide and tracker follow lion tracks till they came upon two male and one female lions resting close to a pan.
We also came across the lion pride with 7 adults (2 males, 5 females) and 8 cubs along the Water Cart area. The cubs rested while the females made several unsuccessful attempts to catch giraffe. They all returned to the pride and relaxed again, in order to regain their strength for another hunt.
August is starting to warm up, but the temperatures are still a little cool in the morning. Elephants are enjoying the availability of water in the channels and river areas, but are still browsing out in a broader area. As the temperature heats up, they will spend more and more time along the wooded river banks, traipsing in and out of the water.
This month we also saw the female leopard cub, several sightings of the hyenas in the area, and a few honey badger sightings. There is lots of general game in the area – zebras, impala, tsessebe, wildebeest, sable, buffalos and of course, plenty of elephants to go around.
Lebala – The big lion pride – 17 of them – was found feeding on a zebra carcass nearly half way between Lagoon and Lebala camps. The carcass was almost entirely gone, but it seems that everyone had had a fair share, as they were relaxing around the kill, all with full bellies. The next day, they were found close to the same area, again relaxing, with one of the couples mating. A few days later, we found four cubs on their own, relaxing under an apple tree. The next day, the pride was back together, attempting to hunt lechwe and warthog. And proving that fact that a Botswana lion is always a delta lion, the entire pride, little cubs included, safely crossed a deep water channel as part of their transit towards our airstrip.
There’s not just baby dogs in the area at the moment, but also baby hyenas – four cubs are often seen at the hyena den site, alternately resting, playing, and trying to chew their siblings ears or tails off. This is something to take relatively seriously, when an adult hyena has enough jaw strength to happily break down bones, but luckily for the cubs, their powerful jaw muscles haven’t quite developed to full strength yet.
A late afternoon visit to the dog den site is often very productive, as when 14 adults return from hunting and try to feed 15 puppies by regurgitating their food, it can be quite chaotic! 29 dogs running around yipping and begging for food and scraps, and tails wagging everywhere is a lot of fun to watch. The adults are having to do a lot of hunting to ensure that there is enough ‘on the table’ for everyone, so regularly there are a few members of the pack missing when we get to the den, still busy out hunting. However, in the middle of the month, the adults began to take the puppies out on the hunts, with them following at a distance as they cannot keep up the same pace.
And you pretty much hunt wherever you can get the opportunity – including right in front of the camp. At 1845, just as the sun was going down, 14 of the dogs caught an impala on the flood plain in front of the main area, and quickly ate it. Two hyenas came and cleared up the tiny bits that were left over from the feeding dogs.
It’s not just the predators that are coming in large numbers at the moment – huge herds of buffalo have congregated in the Lebala area, averaging around 300 in a herd, but with some herds joining together and comprising of around 1000 individuals. With drought conditions over the last two years, this is going to be a tough year for them, and they need to keep finding enough grass to feed on. For now, there is sufficient along the floodplains and river banks to provide for the large herds.
An unusual leopard sighting – a female and her cub were found feeding on an African civet – quite a rare kill for a leopard, of another shy animal. A few days later, another leopardess was found, this time with two cubs, crossing a small channel.
Nxai Pan – Naturally, our most common sightings at the moment are the elephants. There are few places in the world that can be slightly exasperated at the numbers of elephants that are in their back yard, but Nxai may be in the running. Although they may be giving the camp managers grey hairs from their attempts to drink from their own personal choice of water supply, rather than that which has been provided for them in plentiful amounts, there is always an air of magic around them. As they quietly move across the front of the camp there is nothing but awe from all of us standing by to watch them. Yes, the numbers in our area have increased, yes, it’s a constant challenge to ensure they have enough water to drink and to discourage them from breaking anything that we really need to run our camps, but we never tire of their presence.
Good lion sightings this month, but the large pride from previous months has split up – probably due to the males reacting to the young males in the pride. However, we regularly saw two females and two males – though not always together at the same time. They seemed to spend a large portion of their time hanging out near to the waterholes – alternating between the main park waterhole, and the camp one. Not only is it a good place for a nice coolish drink, but it’s a great place to sit down and wait for your meal to walk by…
Two of the lions – the two males – seemed to take a particular liking to the area near to the camp. They were resting in the area near to room 1, and were naturally, a little shy of people. The general day to day noise of the camp and people moving around made them move off to a quieter area, and the next day they were found on Baobab Loop.
A lovely new sighting after our previous cheetah cubs have all grown up – a female has three new little cubs! The family were found near the southern camping grounds, resting under the shade of a tree. They seemed fairly relaxed to have us watching, so we hope that we will continue to have regular sightings of them, and be able to watch them grow up.
We continue to have the unusual sightings of a small group of male buffalos coming to drink at the waterhole, and bizarrely, resting up for the night in the back of house areas of the camp. Exactly what they are eating remains to be seen, as there is very little in the way of grass around.
Tau Pan – As one of our guides points out when guests mention they are seeing no animals in the Kalahari – “Are you sure?”. Even on the quieter days, there is a lot of life out there, just on a smaller scale. The most populous animals belong to the insect family – and there is a huge variety to behold: harverster termites, ants, butterflies, beetles, armoured crickets, and many many more. Many of the mammals that live in the Kalahari are truly dependent on these smaller beings for their existence. Don’t overlook what doesn’t have four legs and fur!
But if its big things you are looking for, they don’t come much bigger than an elephant. They don’t normally come to the Kalahari as the habitat is too dry for them, but one was seen mid month standing under a group of acacia trees, before moving off.
The beginning of the month and it was a show-down between two groups of predators – the smaller ones this time: a stand off between black backed jackals and bat eared foxes. The jackals start to challenge the foxes, though they appeared nervous about doing so. The foxes launched into the jackals, and it was the jackals that had to turn tail and flee!
On the same day, a male cheetah appeared at the waterhole, looking pretty hungry. He drank for a bit, and then began to stalk some springbok in the distance. He ran at them, in the hope of catching one, but missed it.
An early start – 5am with the sun not yet up – and the lions could be heard roaring around the camp. Skipping breakfast, we headed out into the dawn, to see what we could find – and we found lots and lots of lions – 16 in total! A big male and female were mating, from the Tau Pan pride. Members of the San Pan and Phukwi pride had also turned up, and these were chased away by the Tau Pan pride! By the next day, it wasn’t all happy families even within the Tau Pan pride – one of the males approached the dominant male that was mating, and soon found it advisable to back away slowly, as the bigger male growled and stood his ground. There were also tussles at the water hole, as the two large males attempted to drink from the same spot (near the pipe, where the freshest water comes out) Although there was sufficient water available for all, this was obviously a coveted spot, and resulted in an all-out brawl between the two!
The mating couple continued their honeymoon for the next four days, providing pretty much guaranteed lion sightings for the duration.
Guests were also treated to the first sighting in many months of a brown hyena – passing by the waterhole one morning. He didn’t stop to drink. A few days later we saw him again in the late afternoon, this time stopping for a drink. At the end of the month, the hyena turned up again to drink, only to find a cheetah already at the waterhole drinking. When the cheetah saw the hyena, he ran off, not wanting to an altercation with another predator.
We also had a great sighting of a male leopard, that was resting by Phukwi Pan.
Kwara Concession – Boat cruises are a lovely relaxing activity – perhaps getting to see a hippo, maybe a crocodile, and if lucky elephants coming to drink or cross. But their main focus is to see the beauty of the waters, birdlife and aquatic plants – to experience another side of being on safari. It’s not normally the place you would see predators. But the Okavango Delta being what it is, always has a surprise up its sleeve… a morning boat ride along the channels into the Moremi Game Reserve came across three large male lions contemplating a swim in the chilly winter waters, standing on one side of the channel. They seemed intent on getting to the other side, but a lot of thought was being put into this. Eventually, two stopped ‘pussy-footing’ around and edged into the deep water, swimming to the other side. The third one, however, had had enough, and backed off the way he had come, preferring the safety of dry land.
A male leopard was found along River Road, hunting, but had no success whilst we were watching. Another day, and another male leopard hunting. In spite of his stealthy effort at stalking a group of impala, they caught sight of him before he could make his move and he left empty-handed. A female leopard also struggled to make a kill along Boundary road, just missing a reedbuck. Meanwhile, the female leopard that has a cub is doing well in the area, and the cub is growing bigger every day as a result of mum’s successful hunts.
We were also lucky enough to see two male leopards meet each other – not something that is seen very often. It’s likely that the scent of a female leopard nearby caused the males to ignore any territorial rules and duel it out for the right to mate. A very impressive sight!
In case there are not enough lions in the Kwara area, an unidentified sub-adult male arrived into the area near where Mma Leithlo’s pride are resident. Young males have to roam until they can establish their own territories, and form coalitions, but it’s a very dangerous time for a single lion, as any other male will automatically see them as a threat. Being sub-adult, he is not an experienced fighter, nor has the weight or muscle to defend himself against a fully grown male. Not far away, two of large males from the Zulu boys were busy hunting warthog, unaware of the new presence in their territory for now…
Temperatures this month got down to 3 or 4 degrees Celsius in the early hours of the morning, so it takes some time to warm up – not just humans, but also the animals. Lions were seen sunning themselves on the top of a termite mound, hoping to catch as many rays as possible without grass shadows getting in the way.
The mother cheetah and her cubs spent five days at the beginning of the month along the Kwara floodplains, but did not seem to be having any luck in their hunts. Finally, on the sixth day, persistence paid off, and it was definitely worthwhile following them: they spent a lot of time trying to get close to a herd of impalas without being noticed, and sure enough, closing that distance paid off as when they sprang into action, they managed to catch one and kill it just in front of the vehicle!
The very small pack of wild dogs – just three adults – were found denning in the Tsum Tsum area of the concession. We did not have any luck seeing the pups, and it took us some time to relocate the den when they moved it – about 100m from the original den site.
Other interesting sightings this month were a big herd of buffalo (not so common in the Kwara area in such large numbers), honey badgers strolling around, and a very active hyena den. We had lots of elephant activity – in and out of camp – and large congregations of giraffes, as well as all the normal general game we see – kudu, warthog, zebra, wildebeest, tssessebe and so on.
Lagoon – Driving from the airstrip one morning we found a dead impala tucked under a bush, next to the road. Whose was it? Returning a few hours later, we found a female leopard feeding on it. She didn’t get to feed on it for much longer however, as hyenas arrived and chased her off the meal.
On the first day of the month we were also lucky enough to see the first sighting of the tiny wild dog puppies at their den site. The 14 adults were playing around the den when five little puppies came out of the den and joined in! By the end of the week, more puppies had emerged from the den – making a total of 10 in the litter. Whilst they are so small, one or two of the adults remain with the pups at all times, whilst the rest of the dogs go out and hunt. After a successful hunt, they return to the den, and regurgitate food for both the puppies and any adults that have remained behind.
Arriving at Half Way Pan on the morning of the same day, we spotted a large male lion looking fairly majestic, sitting under a tree. On approaching, we realized that the male had been assigned a task perhaps not normally associated with the “King of the Jungle” – babysitting. He had been left alone to supervise eight cubs! The mothers were either ‘out’ hunting, or perhaps taking a chance of a bit of peace and quiet… A few days later and the same pride were seen again in the same area. The lionesses had blood on their faces when they appeared, and soon led their cubs away to a warthog they had killed earlier.
Another day, and another wild dog hunt. This time, guests didn’t even have to leave the comfort of their fireside chairs to witness it. Early one morning, 13 wild dogs came chasing a kudu at full sprint through the camp, only stopping when they got to the fireplace and saw a rather startled group of people sitting around having coffee and porridge for breakfast. A quick detour by the dogs, and another hunt began finally catching a male kudu close to the airstrip (and followed by a rather rushed group of guests having given up on breakfast and dashed out to the cars.)
You don’t always find exactly what you are looking for when tracking animals in the bush – a fair amount of time was spent tracking a leopard, only to come across two male cheetahs off in the distance. We were able to sit and watch the hungry-looking animals for some time, whilst they stalked their prey, eventually chasing and catching a female kudu. We left the leopard hunt for another day!
Later in the month, we were again following the dogs hunting – they had had several warthogs over the last few days, and even attempted to chase sable herds to harass the youngsters. They were moving from one termite mound to the next as we followed them, apparently searching for more warthogs, when all of a sudden they gave chase and disappeared through the bush. We could hear them barking – not something wild dogs actually do very often. On re-locating them, we found them all around the base of a tree looking up – at a very unhappy male leopard that had obviously just scrambled up there in the nick of time!
Tables were turned slightly, when the pack of dogs were found feeding on a kudu. Whilst we were watching a big male lion appeared, chased the dogs off, and began feeding. The dogs hung around for some time, trying to see if they could risk an attempt at getting the kill back, before giving up and moving off after an hour. They returned to the den site and regurgitated what they had managed to eat for the puppies.
Lebala – Lots of activity at the hyena den, with six cubs of varying ages being looked after there. Four adults are seen around the den, trying to keep the cubs somewhat in line. Not the easiest thing to do when they are so boisterous! You can imagine, when the adults aren’t there, things get even more interesting… naturally curious, any vehicle visiting becomes a possible target for an over-eager hyena cub, wondering what a mud-flap is like to chew on.
18 lions is a lot of lions to feed (even if eleven of them are not fully grown) so it’s not surprising that the lion pride tries to kill as big a game as possible. This month, they were seen feeding on several buffalos and a zebra. Apart from the big pride, we also had lovely sightings of a mother suckling her young cubs, and an attempted hunt by three lionesses of a kudu, that was unsuccessful, due to the rather over-excited and eager 5 month old cub that tagged along for the ride and didn’t stay put when told to!
And if you think six youngsters might be a handful, try 15 of them. The Southern Pack of wild dogs – thirteen adults – is busy raising a litter of 15 little puppies at their den site. They all seem in good condition and healthy. With so many mouths to feed, the adults have to be sure that they are hunting often enough to ensure everyone gets a fair share. When they do have successful hunts, they try harder than ever not to lose the kill to another predator. This was the case when we witnessed them kill an impala and three hyenas immediately approached to try and take the kill off them. The dogs and hyenas spent some time tussling with each other, before the dogs had to retreat – too big a risk of injury when having to fight the much heavier and bulkier hyena.
We were lucky enough to see a female leopard with her two young cubs a few times this month. This is the small family that set up shop in and around the camp last month – this month, they were found a little further away. We also followed them when they were walking along the road, and were very relaxed with us following them. After a while, they moved off into the thicker surrounding bush, and we left them to their evening.
General game this month was wonderful, with lots of big herds of elephants everywhere – including in the camp, making it tricky to get to your room at night – as well as the bulls interspersed amongst them. Zebra, impala, wildebeest, reedbuck, kudu and lots of warthogs. Interesting and unusual sightings this month included porcupine and serval cat.
Nxai Pan – Lots of sightings of bat eared foxes about at the moment – although common throughout the year, they are very noticeable at the moment, as they are trying to keep warm in the colder temperatures. To do this, they hunker close to termite mounds, which keep their residual warmth even through the coldest of the nights.
Although the zebra migration has long since moved on, we are still left with our resident zebras. These are seen mingling in the middle of the pan with the springbok, and even a few ostrich as part of the crowd. Definitely safety in numbers with a good collection of eyes to keep watch on whatever predator may try an attack from the wide open surrounds.
Chaos abounds in the large Nxai Pan lion pride – the two adult males decided it was time for the eight sub-adult males to leave –before they get too big and become a threat to the dominance of the adult males. With the youngsters forced out, the pride fractured for the time being, and the three lionesses and two female sub-adults also moved off from the two males. The males are likely to try to rejoin the lionesses at a later stage, seeking them out for mating, but also for the benefit of being able to get a few free meals off them.
A relaxed female cheetah was found resting in the shade of a tree. She appeared to be lactating, but there was no sign of her cubs. Likely they are still very small, and hidden away for safety, with her visiting to suckle them between hunts.
Lots of bull elephants, and even breeding herds, coming to the camp water hole to drink. Some of the males are still making forays into camp, even though there is sufficient water for them to drink at the waterhole. Part of this is pressure from too many males being at the waterhole at once, and the eternal search for one’s own personal water fountain. Luckily, breakages have been at a minimum this month – partly due to teams of staff sitting up all night to deter overly enthusiastic individuals – as well as regular cleaning out of the waterhole to make it even more enticing!
Elephants are not the only nightly visitor to the camp – three buffalo bulls are regularly seen coming into the camp at night – seemingly believing that the camp grounds offer a safe haven to rest up from the dangers of the bush. Since lions have also been seen in the camp, this possibly needs a re-think.
Unusual sightings this month include honey badgers, and an aardwolf that appears to have denned near to the main water hole. Add to that some very strange visitors – a herd of eland passing by in front of camp!
Tau Pan – Tau Pan was closed in July for its usual maintenance and the camp staff were hard at work getting it spiffy for its re-opening in August. No exciting sightings were reported unfortunately but we look forward to next month’s installment.