Tau Pan Camp, October 2020

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Lions were often in and around the camp area. A lioness with three cubs took up temporary respite from the intense sun under the deck of the manager’s house. We could see that she was nursing an injured leg and during this time seemed to prefer being away from the pride and staying in camp where she could hide her cubs. This meant that the camp team needed to be extra careful as they moved around, but by the end of the month, her leg had improved and she was seen more often with the pride at the waterhole. A male lion, the father of the cubs, was also keeping an eye on his family in camp and seen near to the office. The lions were often hanging out at the waterhole, much to the frustration of thirsty antelope, who could smell the water but did not dare to get too close. One day the lions were successful in killing a wildebeest at the waterhole and another time we saw that they were stalking some drinking giraffe, but the giraffes spotted them in time and ran away. As is usual at Tau Pan, the team looking after camp were regularly entertained by the coalition of five males roaring heartily through the night to proclaim ownership of their territory.

One morning a brown hyena was seen running away from a lioness at the waterhole. We also saw a caracal heading towards the camp office – a very special sighting.

A big tom leopard was seen resting under a bush, this is the son of the dominant female in the area. The resident leopard did a patrol of the whole camp, inspecting the veranda of each room, before moving onto the next one. We followed her tracks in fascination the next day, wondering what had been going through her mind. Maybe she is missing having guests in camp as much as we are?!

The camp team saw a gabar goshawk kill a cape turtle dove and then he took his meal off to the bushes to enjoy in peace.  Another time, a big brown snake eagle caught a dove, but he didn’t finish his meal, because all of a sudden, a tawny eagle flew over him and he dropped his prey, which was snatched up by the larger eagle.

General game at the waterhole included kudu, giraffe and wildebeest.  Right at the end of October we were delighted to see a newly born springbok, already strong and ready to run for its life from some approaching lions.

One morning our guide saw a slender mongoose climb a tree and then jumped down. As soon as he landed, a Kalahari scrub robin started to give a warning call to other birds.

(Note: Accompanying picture is from our Kwando Photo Library which consists of all your great photo submissions over the years, it may not be the most up to date, but we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

Tau Pan Camp, August – September 2020

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Our camps welcomed domestic guests in August, and the wildlife in and around Tau Pan did not fail to impress during game drives. One of the most photographed sightings this month was that of a male cheetah resting on a fallen tree.

As usual, the Tau Pan pride was active in the area. The large males from the pride were regularly sighted quenching their thirst at the waterhole, and two of the lionesses and their three cubs were spotted feasting on a wildebeest by the side of a road close to camp.

The waterhole in front of camp was also been a hive of activity for birds, such as the sandgrouse, shaft-tailed whydah and red-billed quelea. Raptors often lurked close-by to try their luck, preying on these smaller birds. A Southern pale chanting goshawk was successful and was seen feeding on a Cape turtle dove one morning.

As we arrived at the tail end of winter, the landscape around the pans was marked by dried yellow grass and many of the trees lost their leaves. Some of the trees, such as the camel-thorn tree, are adapted to have new leaves during this period, providing much-needed nutrition to browsers.

General game was excellent, especially in Passarge Valley where good numbers of oryx, greater kudu, springbok, giraffe, jackal, bat-eared fox and ostrich were encountered.

While tracks were seen along the camp’s pathways most mornings and his rasping calls heard during some nights, the resident male leopard remained elusive and shied away from being spotted this month.

(Note: Accompanying picture is from our Kwando Photo Library which consists of all your great photo submissions over the years, it may not be the most up to date, but we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

Nxai Pan Camp, October 2020

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As was the norm for the time of year, the main animal sightings in and around camp were elephants, elephants and yet more elephants. Herds up to 300 strong congregated at the camp waterhole. Dominant bulls hogged the precious resource causing a lot of frustration and fighting between the lower-ranked animals.

Plains game, such as impala and springbok, could only watch in thirty desperation as the elephants refused to let them come near. Luckily, they were able to use the Department of Wildlife waterhole to drink.

One very hot afternoon, a lioness with two young cubs came for a drink at the camp waterhole. After drinking, they rested in the shade of an acacia tree. The general game continued to quench their thirst, the need for water driving them despite the presence of a predator. The next day we saw two lionesses with full bellies and blood-spotted faces, we didn’t see the carcass, but when we got back to the waterhole, we found another lioness on the remains of a kudu. It seems that at least one antelope paid the price for reckless drinking in the end. After that, all three lionesses, with their eight cubs, spent the night in camp. They were roaring all night and we could hear a response coming from about two kilometres away.

A pack of eleven wild dogs were seen in camp a few days running. Hyenas also visited the waterhole.

One time we saw an ostrich chasing a jackal to protect its chicks.

(Note: Accompanying picture is from our Kwando Photo Library which consists of all your great photo submissions over the years, it may not be the most up to date, but we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

Pom Pom Camp, October 2020

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A pack of four wild dogs, alpha male, female and two puppies, were located resting near the camp lagoon. Not too far away was the resident pride of sixteen lions.  We saw this big pride very regularly, including with their two males. Once we came across them as they were feeding on a wildebeest.

Breeding herds of buffalo were grazing and resting on the flood plain, about five minutes from camp. We also saw them feeding in the water at Marula Island. In a lucky sighting, we were able to see a pair of giraffes mating.

Crocodiles could be seen basking on the sand banks. We observed how they opened their mouths to regulate their body temperature.

Leopard sightings were good; one group of guests seeing three different leopards in three different spots during their two-night stay. A leopard was seen up a tree at Zeppa Island and came down as we watched. We also came across a mating pair of leopards. One afternoon we were lucky enough to come across a leopard cub resting on a tree.

Elephants were feeding along the channels and we enjoyed watching some bulls crossing the Xudum river. There were plenty of hippos in the water.

Two tsessebe bulls were fighting a territorial battle. We watched for about fifteen minutes until one ran away. Red lechwe could be seen splashing through the water as they ran from island to island.

Both black-backed and side-striped jackals were identified; one jackal was curiously approaching the camp fire at night, summoning up courage to get close, and then nervously darting away again. This was fun to watch. The resident clan of seven spotted hyenas were still often near the airstrip. A lone hyena was also seen walking across Shine Bridge. On night drive we found genet, wild cat and civet.

On walking safari we were able to observe wildebeest, zebra and giraffe grazing on the flood plain.

One day lucky guests were able to see a fish eagle catching his fish and eating it. Other notable bird sightings included wattled cranes, saddle-billed storks, yellow-billed storks and African jacana.

(Note: Accompanying picture is from our Kwando Photo Library which consists of all your great photo submissions over the years, it may not be the most up to date, but we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

Lebala Camp, October 2020

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Lebala was closed during October, but although guests were not visiting, the animals still were.

The two intruder male lions who had previously fought with the well-known resident males were in the area. On one exciting afternoon we saw five lionesses and a sub-adult drinking water and decided to follow them. As they crossed the airstrip road, they started to stalk some warthogs and managed to kill two of them.  The following day, Old Gun and Sebastian were back with their pride and chased away these intruders. A lioness with four sub-adults was seen on the west of camp

The pack of three wild dogs sometimes visited camp, looking for prey species, but we didn’t see them make a kill.

A coalition of two cheetah brothers were seen one day; they looked hungry and restless.

Herds of wildebeest could be seen grazing in front of camp. Lots of elephants and buffalo regularly overnighted at the end of camp towards the managers and guides’ units. Bushbuck could be seen browsing near the guest rooms and hippos grazed after dark around the camp.

Elephants were drinking at the channels and one night a particularly big bull somehow managed to squeeze himself right into the middle of the camp, but miraculously did not cause any damage in the process.

Impala were huddled into the shade to escape the blistering October sun. Warthogs were mud-bathing, also to beat the heat. We had a lovely sighting of a sitatunga family grazing the green grasses in the middle of the swamp. Other general game included eland, kudu, red lechwe, giraffe, reedbuck, tsessebe, zebra, steenbok and sable antelope. Baboons came into camp to feed off the fruits of the sausage tree. They also decided to use one of the tents as a trampoline, keeping our camp team busy with maintenance.

We had a wonderful sighting of a martial eagle as we crossed to Lagoon camp one day. Other notable bird species were African fish eagles, open-billed storks and white-backed vultures.

(Note: Accompanying picture is from our Kwando Photo Library which consists of all your great photo submissions over the years, it may not be the most up to date, but we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

Lagoon Camp, October 2020

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Lagoon camp was closed to guests during October, but we still saw very good general game in the area, including zebra, wildebeest, eland, kudu, giraffe and sable antelope.

Big herds of elephants congregated at the river channels and lagoons as the dry season progressed.  One day a huge herd started to cross and then they went into a complete panic. They then gathered in really tight with their trunks sticking out, and we realised that they were all rallying around a TINY elephant calf. Watching the herd work together to help him was fascinating. Then around sunset a young mother and her calf came to graze in front of the swimming pool. It was so cute to watch the little one trying to figure out how to use his trunk.

Big herds of buffalo also crossed the lagoon right in front of camp, and hippos tried to escape the heat in the shrinking pools.

A pride of three lionesses with nine cubs was seen. The cubs were of different ages ranging from three weeks to two months. We were able to see them suckling their young and one day the three male lions came to join them. Two lionesses were seen near Zebra Pan feeding on a giraffe.

A solitary spotted hyena was seen mobile at zebra pan and a leopard was seen on the way back from the airstrip a couple of times.

A porcupine tried to come into the office one evening and the following night a honey badger came to visit. We also saw a civet.

Our little resident African Scops Owl still lives in camp and was seen near to Room 2.

(Note: Accompanying picture is from our Kwando Photo Library which consists of all your great photo submissions over the years, it may not be the most up to date, but we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

Splash/Kwara, October 2020

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One morning, whilst waiting for guests to arrive for breakfast, we noticed signs that wild dogs had been chasing impala in front of camp. Almost immediately, our tracker called to say that the dogs were on a kill next to the car park. The guide quickly rushed to collect his guests and went straight before breakfast to watch them eat. As soon as the dogs left for water, a female leopard showed up to scavenge and almost hunted a black backed jackal that had showed up before the leopard. Then we went back for breakfast and headed out for mokoro and fishing. Just as we left camp, after about half a kilometre we spotted a cheetah with a two months old cub! All of these sightings happened in less than an hour – Kwara Reserve living up to its well-deserved reputation yet again.

One evening we finished dinner and took all the guests to see the stars. As we were enjoying our astronomy, the five resident male lions started roaring. Although some of the guests decided to go to bed, others stayed up to enjoy the magical ambience of the camp fire. Half an hour later we heard the screaming of a buffalo, so the guide quickly rushed to fetch his game viewer and everyone jumped on board. About a kilometre from camp we saw shining eyes and the lions suffocating the buffalo. We watched the kill and then two lionesses arrived. The females wanted to feed, but one of the males preferred to mate so the chasing and roaring carried on for some three hours. What an incredible night-time sighting for our guests!

These five males had started to specialise in larger mammals, as well as buffalo they also killed giraffe and an elephant calf of about 4 years old.  It was incredible to see that they finished the elephant in just a couple of days. These males are still relatively young to have a dominant position at just under four years. They are feeding well and their increasing size will mean that they stand a better chance of defending their hard-won territory from older, more experienced males.

We were delighted to find a new female cheetah in the Splash area. After tracking her for an hour we found her feeding on a freshly killed reedbuck lamb. The following morning we located her again, on top of a termite mound, scanning the area for prey. Realising that she was on a hunting mission, we decided to cancel our boat trip and follow the animal. Half an hour later, the cheetah saw a group of reedbucks and zebras. She waited behind one the bush where we thought it was selecting her prey and calculating the distance. After a few minutes, the female took a few steps and then came out like a bullet through the groups of reedbuck. She picked off a young ram that was caught within 130 meters. The kill was made in open sun and the cheetah decided to drag the kill in the shadow of our vehicle where she started feeding. The resident male, known as Mr Special, was also in the area and feeding well. We were lucky enough to see him hunt and kill an impala.

A clan of ten hyenas were seen feeding on a wildebeest calf.  Black backed jackals were trying to steal meat from the carcass but were driven off by the larger predator. Another time we found a hyena lying fast asleep on a kudu carcass that it had stolen from a leopard.

Large concentrations of elephants were found around Splash area as they browsed the riverine forest looking for greenery. We were surprised by one bull standing on its hind legs with trunk fully stretched out straight as it reached up to find food high up a tree.

More than once we found our resident sub-adult female leopard up on a sausage tree, enjoying the breeze and also a shyer leopard up towards Tsum Tsum.

We enjoyed watching African wild dogs along flood plain areas with water, where they seemed to enjoy playing.

Night safaris yielded aardwolf, Verreaux (giant) eagle owl, marsh owl, small spotted genet, African civet, lesser bushbabies and hyenas.

During mokoro activity we were able to show guests lots of waterlilies, Angolan reed frogs, long reed frogs African jacanas, pied kingfishers, malachite kingfishers, a few fish eagles and red lechwe.

On the boat cruises we had good sightings of malachite kingfishers, pied kingfishers, hippos, a few crocodiles, lots of elephants, red lechwes, sitatunga and fish eagles. The heronry was very active, with some nestlings including marabou storks, open billed storks, grey herons and yellow billed storks

As the weather warmed up, fishing became more productive, especially at the mokoro station spot. On one trip we caught nine red-breasted tilapia and in general guests were really enjoying this activity.

 

(Note: Accompanying picture is from our Kwando Photo Library which consists of all your great photo submissions over the years, it may not be the most up to date, but we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

Nxai Pan Camp, August – September 2020

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As the dry weather continued and temperatures started to rise, the numbers of elephants at the camp waterhole continued to increase daily. We were surprised to see a tuskless elephant amongst the herds. The numbers of elephants grew and grew, to the frustration of other general game species such as zebra and kudu who could do nothing but wait in the dust for a chance to drink. In addition to the elephants, a herd of twelve buffalo frequented the camp waterhole.

A spotted hyena was seen passing between the staff village and the guides’ rooms and later that night we heard lions and spotted hyena calling close to the camp. The camp manager thought that he heard a hyena make a distress call and, sure enough, the following day we found the dead hyena just in front of Room 5. Judging by the tracks, the hyena had been killed by the resident male lion. The following day we did a short walk with the guests to look at the hyena carcass and found it being scavenged by black-backed jackals and pied crows.

One of the resident lionesses was lactating, so we can expect to see new cubs soon.

General game species included zebra, wildebeest, springbok, impala and giraffe.

A family of bat-eared foxes was seen near the pan, and in the same area we saw ostriches and kori bustards. Raptors included pale chanting goshawks and greater kestrels.

(Note: Accompanying picture is from our Kwando Photo Library which consists of all your great photo submissions over the years, it may not be the most up to date, but we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

Pom Pom Camp, August – September 2020

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The lagoon at Pom Pom was still full of water, making for a beautiful sunset view. A pod of nine hippos were permanently in residence and other species enjoying the water were pelicans, pygmy geese, pied kingfishers and bushbuck. African jacanas were nesting in the water right in front of camp; once the eggs hatched, guests enjoyed seeing the chicks, with their impossibly long toes, venture out onto the lily pads.

A herd of impala were seen often grazing in camp and a solitary male elephant visited regularly, causing the maintenance team some extra work, especially when the laundry stood between him and some particularly delicious palm nuts. He decided to take the direct route through the laundry to his meal, causing chaos in the process. We have since relocated the entire building to a safer place!

The resident pride of fifteen lions were found behind the staff village where they were finishing off an impala kill.  This pride comprises four lionesses, seven sub-adults and four cubs of about ten months old. We also saw them feeding on buffalo and wildebeest, sometimes accompanied by one or two of the males.

Whilst on a walking safari we were thrilled to come across a pangolin. Initially it was on the move, but it sensed the people nearby and rolled itself up into a ball.

A clan of hyenas had a den near to the airstrip. We saw the mothers suckling their young, and sometimes the hyena cubs could be found peeping out of the drainage tunnel that runs beneath the airstrip.

Two wild dogs were seen hunting at Salt Pan. Another time we saw the pair resting and watching a herd of red lechwe.

A leopard was found resting up in a tree during game drive and on another occasion, we were lucky enough to come across two tom leopards chasing each other. We had been following tracks for about 20 minutes, when we heard some impalas making alarm calls. As we approached the spot, we saw the antelope about 30 meters away, all looking nervously in the same direction. As we got closer, we saw 2 male leopards running towards us, passing 10 meters in front of our vehicle as they chased one another. We followed them for 5 minutes until the one lagging behind gave up and rested behind a morula tree where we stopped to enjoy the sighting.

Large herds of elephant and buffalo were seen feeding in the area. Sometimes we were lucky enough to see elephants feeding in the water or crossing a channel. The floodwaters meant that there was a good concentration of hippos, and crocodiles could be seen sunbathing on the sandbanks.

General game included zebras, wildebeest, waterbuck, giraffes, tsessebe and impala. Guests enjoyed a classic Okavango spectacle of red lechwe antelope running through the sparkling floodwaters.

Smaller mammals encountered included bushbabies, a civet hunting and a genet up a tree. A female honey badger with her cub was seen near the First Hippo Pool. We saw both species of jackal resident in the Okavango Delta, being black-backed and side-striped.

We enjoyed some beautiful owl sightings including the Pel’s fishing owl and the Verreaux’s Eagle owl. The flood waters brought in water species such as herons, cormorants, darters and ducks.

(Note: Accompanying picture is from our Kwando Photo Library which consists of all your great photo submissions over the years, it may not be the most up to date, but we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

Lebala Camp, August – September 2020

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The most exciting sighting of the period came when two wild dogs came chasing 2 impalas through camp. One got his prey in front of room 6 and the other brought down his quarry just in front of room 9. This spectacular action was so close to the guest tents that the camp manager was able to video it on his cellphone! After strangling the impala, one dog started calling and later was joined by a third dog so in total there was a male and two sub-adults (the survivors from the previous year’s pack of seven). We were curious as to why the alpha female was not with them. The following day the three dogs came and rested in front of camp, but the female was still not with them.

Two male cheetahs were spotted; they looked hungry and were highly mobile. A couple of days later we found a cheetah carcass in the same area, a very upsetting sighting. Looking at the tracks we believed that this was the work of lions.

Lions were seen mating on the eastern side of the airstrip. To our surprise, the male was one of three that earlier in the year were fighting with our dominant males Old Gun and Sebastian. To see this intruder now being bold enough to mate one of the younger Wapuka lionesses raised our eyebrows. The next day, all three new males were calling and marking territory along the marsh to the south of camp. We wondered whether they had taken over the territory since they were already mating the resident pride. However, a few days later, Old Gun and Sebastian were back in their territory and judging by the loud roaring they were ready to drive off the challengers again.

A different coalition of two male lions was seen on the east side of the camp. On closer inspection we noticed that one of the males was one that had recently had a collar removed by wildlife officials, across at Lagoon camp. Then yet another mating pair were found resting in the shade; these animals were skittish and the guides thought that they may have crossed from Namibia.

Five lionesses with 1 sub adult were spotted south of the camp. They just came from drinking water by the river; as we followed them, they stalked two warthogs and made successful kills. These lions were originally part of the Bonga Pride, but were part of the the offshoot that became known as the Holy Pride once the big Bonga family split.

Guides were delighted to find the tom leopard known as Fisherman. He had not been seen since before the April lockdown. We watched as he climbed down and tried his luck on a warthog, but he failed that day.

A breeding herd of twenty elephants and five tiny little calves were seen in front of the camp heading to the channel to drink. Buffalo were seen resting in the marsh near camp, close to the hide. Fresh shoots in front of camp provided grazing for wildebeest.

The inland pans were shrinking, meaning that storks were feasting on the frogs and other creatures that were resident.

(Note: Accompanying picture is from our Kwando Photo Library which consists of all your great photo submissions over the years, it may not be the most up to date, but we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)