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Botswana Safari, Okavango Delta Posts

4 Rivers, February 2024

A pride of 10 lions with cubs became a familiar sight. Adding to the spectacle, three imposing males from the Kwara pride patrolled the region between 4 Rivers Camp and Kwara Camp.

Another remarkable morning, we ventured eastward on a game drive, reaching the Paradise or Tsum Tsum area, where we were treated to the sight of 13 lions resting in the expansive flood plains. Two days later, a male lion was sighted in the southern part of 4 Rivers lagoon, engaging in scent marking. Venturing northwest of Tsum Tsum, we traced the tracks of a significant lion pride, numbering nine. We explored the area further, discovering the remnants of a tsessebe antelope in the grassland, with hooded vultures perching on nearby trees. To our delight, we found the pride lying down in the nearest bushes, their bellies full from a recent feast.

Three lions were spotted in the morning at Last Mabala, stealthily stalking red lechwes. However, the openness of the area thwarted their attempt. Later that afternoon, we discovered three male lions resting along J.D Spillway. Another more minor pride of five lions secured their breakfast by capturing two warthogs and a red lechwe.

In mid-February, two leopards were observed along the main road to Kwara in the eastern part of the area. Later that day, in the afternoon, a male leopard made a captivating appearance along the scenic flood plains. Adding to the leopard tales (or should they be tails?), we had a delightful encounter with a serene female leopard one morning as she actively hunted tree squirrels. We closely followed her for approximately an hour as she skilfully navigated different habitats, transitioning from grassland to thickets in search of potential prey. Despite her efforts, she didn’t achieve a successful hunt and eventually settled down to rest in the nearest bushes.

On multiple occasions, a cheetah was observed in the northeastern region of the Paradise area, consistently displaying the vibrant energy of a young male.

Abundant Wildlife: Zebras, Elephants, and Avian Delights

The landscape came alive with zebras scattered throughout the area, alongside wildebeest, red lechwes along the floodplains, and the distinctive figures of warthogs and kudus. Substantial herds of elephants and buffaloes frequented the vicinity around the camp. These majestic creatures often visited the main river for a refreshing drink during the late afternoon.

Hippos Tsum Tsum river

Crocodiles lurked in the 4 Rivers lagoon and other pans, feeding on trapped fish and taking advantage of the drying conditions. Birds likewise congregated, feasting on the abundance. Among the avian residents, sightings of storks, African spoonbills, egrets, and ibises have offered special moments for observers.

Carmine bee-eaters, displaying their unique feeding behaviour near vehicles, were a delight for photographers. Birds of prey included the majestic bateleur eagles, martial eagles, numerous brown snake eagles, and the distinctive secretarybirds. Adding to the activity, the golden weavers began constructing their intricate nests in the green grass. 

A proliferation of water lily flowers in the river infused the mokoro excursions with beautiful colours. Guests also loved the charismatic presence of painted reed frogs. Due to diminished rainfall, floods have receded.

Still, the floodplains burst with exquisite grass species: the soft elegance of white-tufted snowflake grasses swayed in the gentle summer breeze and the warm glow of Natal red top grass created captivating scenery for enchanting sundowners that featured diverse cloud formations.

We had terrific glimpses of small spotted genets, civets and servals at dusk along the floodplains, witnessed during the night drive back to camp. Spotted hyenas were observed scavenging on carcasses abandoned by other predators in the region.  

Game drives offered glimpses of various snake species, including the impressive rock python, the visually striking spotted bush snakes, and the intriguing Mozambique spitting cobras.

(Please note: For the safety of the animals, we do not disclose the precise location of either rhino or pangolin sightings. Accompanying pictures are 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!)

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Tau Pan Camp, February 2024

African wild dogs were found satiated after making a kill. They were seen chasing a red-billed spurfowl, accompanied by a cacophony of bird warning calls. 

Later, they encountered the Airstrip Pride of lions, leading to an intense interaction between the two predator species.

Leopards lay in wait 

While we paused to observe a group of springboks along Phukwi Road, a sudden commotion caught our attention. Within moments, the springboks bolted, engulfing us in a cloud of dust. Puzzled by their sudden departure, we scanned the area and were astonished to spot a female leopard by the side of the vehicle. Witnessing the stealthy movements of this magnificent predator in such close proximity was remarkable! 

Two male lion tracks were discovered along Phukwi Road leading to Passarge Waterhole. Following the tracks, guides anticipated the lions would head to the waterhole and indeed found a female and two large males from the Tau Pan Pride quenching their thirst. Another notable waterhole sighting was seeing a pale chanting goshawk with a small mole snake. 

Gemsbok chase a cheetah

A male cheetah was found resting at Sunday Waterhole. The guides and trackers observed this beautiful animal and anticipated it might attempt to hunt as a group of springbok approached to drink nearby. However, a few gemsbok were already at the waterhole, and warning calls were issued. Then, the group of gemsbok chased the cheetah and disappeared into the bush.

Oryx at Tau Pan Camp

Despite the dry conditions, particularly around Tau Pan and Passage Valley, the Kalahari landscape retained its beauty. While some areas showed signs of dryness, pockets of greenery persisted, especially around the camp. Trees remained verdant, attracting giraffes, although certain species like trumpet thorns and brandy bushes showed signs of drying. 

Gemsboks, springboks, and giraffes were commonly sighted, with wildebeests congregating at San Pan and Passarge Valley due to the relatively lush vegetation. Although brown hyenas were elusive, their tracks were spotted along the roads, indicating their presence in the area. Ground squirrels, yellow mongooses and slender mongooses, bat-eared foxes, black-backed jackals, and occasionally ostriches with chicks were also observed.

Birdwatching in Passarge Valley

Passarge Valley offered excellent birdwatching opportunities, particularly for raptors such as African harrier hawks, black-chested snake eagles, and brown snake eagles. Insect sightings included grasshoppers, ground beetles, giant jewel beetles, African monarch butterflies, and brown-veined butterflies. Near the camp, colourful birds like swallow-tailed bee-eaters and lilac-breasted rollers could be easily photographed snapping at the insects. Violet-eared waxbills were also common.  

Tau Pan Camp room

Come evening, constellations such as the Southern Cross, Musca the Bee, False Cross, Canis Major, and Canis Minor adorned the night sky, and we watched the stunning spectacle seated around the campfire.

(Please note: For the safety of the animals, we do not disclose the precise location of either rhino or pangolin sightings. Accompanying pictures are 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!)

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Dinare Camps, February 2024

There was a remarkable surge in leopard cub sightings, which excited everyone!

During one memorable drive, we observed a female leopard instructing her cub in the art of hunting, showcasing the finesse of stalking and suffocating prey as they targeted a young impala. Another highlight was encountering a female leopard with her two cubs and Rralebodu, a resident male leopard, frequently appeared between camps on game drives.

The Fantastic Four: Cheetah Brothers Reign Supreme

A group of four cheetah brothers, now considered residents and dubbed ‘The Fantastic Four’ were often seen along the boundary of Moremi Game Reserve. Additionally, the recent sighting of five new cheetahs bolstered their presence

As temperatures heated up, so did temperaments out in the Okavango Delta. A significant rivalry brewed between the River Boys’ lion pride (who reigned over the northern part of the Dinare Private Reserve) and the Three Gomoti Boys (who were eager to expand their territory from the west side of the Gomoti River). Their clashes were intense and we observed frequent fights, with their haunting roars echoing into the African nights. Guests sure got an authentic taste of the wild.

The presence of the Gomoti Boys in the territory suggests a shift in power, with Tee’s Pride now seemingly displaced, possibly relocating to Moremi Game Reserve next door.

Life of Lions: Mating, Resting, and Roaming

Lion sightings were always a highlight, but the plentiful sunshine sometimes made it challenging to spot them as they sought refuge from the heat in shaded areas for rest. However, we observed plenty of their habits. Exciting news awaits as two lionesses from the Batshabi Pride mated with the River Boys, raising anticipation for new cubs in the next three months. Additionally, the appearance of the old resident Nyakanyaka and his pride further south brought joy to the Dinare team.

Lions of Dinare

The landscape transformed towards the end of February as hundreds of buffaloes and elephants congregated near the river pans and major waterholes. We’ve observed a shift in the movement of these animals towards our camp and the Gomoti River. The dryness of the area has forced them to return earlier than expected, as natural ponds dried up and green grass became scarce. Fortunately, the river has provided a lifeline, offering water and green pastures. We logged a variety of general game, including elephants, buffaloes, impalas, red lechwes, and giraffes, both near the camp and during game drives.

Buffalo

African wild dogs were spotted chasing and taking down an impala one evening on a game drive, but we suspect the pack has divided and spread into other areas. Spotted hyenas were located along the riverbanks and scavenging for leftovers and potential prey during nocturnal game drives.

Migratory Birds and the Role of Vultures

Migratory birds, including European rollers and falcons, were spotted frequently in the area. Additionally, vultures and eagles have played a crucial role in assisting our guiding team. Due to the tall grass, our trackers used vulture activity to determine the freshness of kills, noting that smaller vultures, like hooded vultures, are typically the first to arrive at carcasses

(Please note: For the safety of the animals, we do not disclose the precise location of either rhino or pangolin sightings. Accompanying pictures are 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!)

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Nxai Pan Camp, February 2024

February began with the discovery of a lioness at a natural waterhole on West Road, where she had concealed a wildebeest carcass. 

During breakfast, guests were treated to the sight of two lionesses and their playful cubs heading towards the Nxai Pan Camp waterhole for a drink. Later that day, another lioness was spotted at the same waterhole, and she led us to her den, where we spied three hidden cubs, only two months old. 

The lioness was also seen at the wildlife waterhole, along with two male lions we encountered on the baobab loop road. In the afternoon, these same males attempted to hunt a giraffe but were unsuccessful. Other sightings included a lioness passing by the camp, two male lions on the western side road, and another pair passing through the camp to drink at the natural waterhole. There were signs of conflict between three lionesses and two males, resulting in one lioness sustaining an injury to her right hind leg. 

Bat-eared foxes were frequently sighted near their dens, typically appearing in pairs with litters of up to six offspring. Scrub hares were commonly observed during the early mornings and late afternoons. 

Elephant at Nxai Pan

Another remarkable sight was the frequent arrival of a large buffalo herd at the camp waterhole in the early morning and late afternoon. The herd comprised numerous newborn calves, plus solitary and bachelor groups added to the spectacle. Like elephants, buffaloes also use mud-bathing for thermoregulation and parasite removal, highlighting their resourceful environmental adaptation. Large herds of African elephants were notable, as were towers and journeys of giraffes, along with their calves, common sights around the camp waterhole, gracefully sipping water and browsing on leaves in the surrounding bushes. 

In contrast, gemsboks showcased their adaptation as water-independent animals by digging tubers for moisture supplementation. Known for their unique coats, these desert antelope were sighted in breeding herds, as well as solitary bulls and small bachelor groups. 

The Nxai Pan zebra migration during February 

The landscape remained a lush wonderland of greenery, with many trees still adorned in different shades of green, some showcasing colourful pods and fruits. Wildflowers continued to enhance the beauty of the Nxai Pan area with their bright blooms. However, limited rainfall resulted in some grasses changing colour and drying out from the elevated temperatures.

Zebra Migration Botswana

The ongoing zebra migration remained prominent, with plentiful zebras and their playful foals spotted drinking at the camp waterhole. Witnessing them dust bathing for thermoregulation was a fascinating spectacle.

During a day trip, leopard tracks were located along the route to Baines’ Baobabs. 

Blue wildebeests were observed grazing in herds throughout the area, with territorial bulls often seen in solitude, safeguarding their resources. Territorial behaviours, such as rubbing their faces on the ground to release pre-orbital glands and marking their territory with pedal glands, were observed among these bulls.

The springbok population flourished, with an abundance of lambs, solitary males, and bachelor groups associating with breeding herds led by a dominant male. Impalas were also plentiful in the region, while greater kudus were spotted drinking at the camp waterhole before moving to thickets for browsing.

Steenboks were often observed in small pairs. These littel antelope form lifelong mating bonds. Occasionally, solitary individuals were sighted too. The population of black-backed jackals in the area was notably robust, with sightings of pairs, solitary individuals, and occasional small family groups. 

During our game drive expeditions, we enjoyed observing various bird species. Among them were the stately Kori bustard, common ostriches, pale chanting goshawks, and yellow-billed kites. We also spotted Gabar goshawks, northern black korhaans, and red-crested korhaans. Other birds that caught our attention were Marico flycatchers, chat flycatchers, white-browed sparrow weavers, and weavers like the southern masked weaver and violet-backed starling.

Birding Bonanza: Raptors, Rollers, and Kingfishers

We also saw several raptors, such as the common buzzard, secretarybird, greater kestrel, brown snake eagle, African harrier hawk, and various vulture species like the white-backed, lappet-faced, and hooded vultures. Marabou and white-bellied storks were also observed, adding to the diverse range of birds. We were also thrilled to see colourful birds like the southern carmine, European, little bee-eaters, and the striking lilac-breasted roller and European roller, brown hooded kingfisher. We also saw the bronze-winged courser, double-banded courser, Temminck’s courser and oxpeckers.

Game Drive Nxai Pan

Flying termites, commonly known as alates, emerged from the softened termite mounds during mating flights to establish new colonies. We also spotted golden orb web spiders, Matabele ants, spider-hunting wasps, and cicadas. We saw several butterflies and moths, including the African monarch butterfly, brown-veined white butterfly, yellow pansy, spotted joker, and emperor moth. Lastly, we observed countless dung beetles.

We also had the chance to see several reptiles, such as the puff adder, spotted bush snake, black mamba, Mozambique spitting cobra, striped-bellied sand snake, boomslang, and African rock python. We also encountered the leopard tortoise, rock monitor lizard, and ground and tree agamas.

(Please note: For the safety of the animals, we do not disclose the precise location of either rhino or pangolin sightings. Accompanying pictures are 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!)

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Pom Pom Camp, February 2024

African wild dogs were a common sight in our area, and we saw them almost every week. We often observed them hunting impalas, which were their preferred prey.

The young pups from 2023 have grown into adulthood and become subordinate members of the pack. A fascinating development we noticed? The pack has split into three groups, with three dogs leaving to form a new pack in a distinct area north of Pom Pom Camp.

wild dogs Pom Pom Camp

The Pom Pom area boasted the highest concentration of spotted hyenas we have witnessed in a long time. Several inhabited the airstrip area, utilising an old ditch as a den for their cubs. Whenever we sought to observe hyenas, a direct drive to the airstrip usually revealed them, often found resting with their cubs on the runway. These hyenas developed a tendency to shadow the wild dogs during hunts, eagerly scavenging after a successful kill, with as many as 17 hyenas trailing behind the dogs!

Red-footed falcons and cheetah hunts at Pom Pom

We were thrilled to witness not just one but a couple of very rare birds—red-footed falcons. All the summer visitors which arrived in December, including carmine bee-eaters, European rollers, sandpipers, and others, were still present.

A male Cheetah was spotted resting southeast of Manontlhotlho floodplains. Using the height advantage of being perched on a termite mound, it saw a common reedbuck. It began stalking the unsuspecting antelope until a spurfowl sounded the alarm and gave away the predator. Another morning, the same male cheetah was seen in front of camp at the Mosadimogolo wa Phiri area.

Renowned for their captivating beauty, leopards must be one of Africa’s most stunning feline species. They excel in the art of ambush and embody a mysterious and elusive nature. Remarkably, a resident leopard known as Bonolo (meaning calmness) exhibited unusual behaviour by visiting the camp regularly. Bonolo was found wandering near the firepit or occasionally perched on the deck of various rooms.

Tiny newcomers

One night, during dinner, a genet gave birth to two kittens, and guests enjoyed seeing the little ones on a walkabout.

Water activities were on hold due to dry channel conditions, but nature walks allowed us to experience the exquisite Okavango Delta ecosystems. There were high numbers of zebras and wildebeests in the area. Tall grasses have flourished, creating a mesmerising scenery during sunset as the sun filters through the grass heads and stalks. With minimal rainfall and the pending floodwater from Angola, numerous crocodiles were observed in every drying pan, feeding on the trapped fish.

Since the beginning of this year, with the decrease in water levels, male lions have been seen regularly in the area. The arrival of new males has changed the dynamics of almost all local prides, leading to the expulsion of existing pride members. Bigger prides were witnessed consistently during each game drive, either sleeping or feeding. After hunting, they usually rested for extended periods. Some females have formed bonds with these new males, raising expectations for the emergence of a new generation of lions in the near future.

(Please note: For the safety of the animals, we do not disclose the precise location of either rhino or pangolin sightings. Accompanying pictures are 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!)

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Lebala Camp, February 2024

One subadult male showcased the leopard’s exceptional hunting skills at Motama Pan, securing a water monitor lizard and providing a three-hour filming spectacle.

Another male and a stray female leopard were located west of Kubu Pan. Although the female sought refuge in the bushes, the male remained relaxed under the shade of a blue bush. We also found another sizeable male drinking by Python Pan, leading us to an impala carcass. On yet another game drive, we watched a dominant male leopard along Baobab Road on a lengthy journey of scent-marking and patrolling. Unperturbed by our presence, he even sought shade under our vehicle. 

Leopard at Lebala Camp

A brown hyena carrying a piece of meat was spotted heading north of Lebala Camp at full speed into the marshes. 15 spotted hyenas were photographed diving in and out of the rib cage of an elephant carcass, creating joyous chuckles among our guests. Tawny eagles, yellow-billed kites, and various vultures — white-headed, lappet-faced, white-backed, and hooded — were also observed and photographed near this carcass.

Serval Surprises and Wild Dog Dramas

Nocturnal explorations unveiled some intriguing smaller mammals. One memorable moment was seeing an aardwolf engaged in scent marking and insect hunting. Other frequent stars of the night drives included both sleek black-backed jackals and side-striped jackals, African wild cats, a lively gathering of bat-eared foxes at Sunset Pan and the playful antics of springhares reminiscent of kangaroos, which delighted all observers. One appearance by a serval cat along the fire break sparked joy, and it was affectionately dubbed “baby cheetah” by our guests. 

A highly-spirited pack of ten African wild dogs, consisting of nine adults and one subadult, thrived in the area. Fresh tracks led to an exhilarating hour-and-a-half tracking session during one morning game drive. We eventually found them at a natural waterhole, where they were drinking. The atmosphere changed suddenly as the pack spotted a herd of impalas and set off on a thrilling chase. They successfully took down a male impala.

Later in the month, on another game drive, a pack of African wild dogs shot out from the bushes at a swift pace. Notably well-fed, it became evident they had recently been chased by lions, causing them to retreat to the shade under Kalahari apple-leaf trees. We spent two hours observing their contented demeanour, leaving the guests spellbound by the display of their post-hunt activities.

One day, during a bird-watching expedition along Crane Road, we chanced upon the Scarface pride — two lionesses escorted by nine subadults of varying ages. Following them back to camp, they passed the lounge area of Lebala Camp and headed south toward the airstrip, eventually finding shade under Kalahari apple-leaf trees. In the afternoon, we ventured north, discovering two lionesses at Lechwe Corner on an unsuccessful hunting mission. However, they later led us to their hidden treasure — four lively cubs, approximately three months old! 

During a transfer to Lagoon Camp led to the sighting of three dominant males, two lionesses, and their playful cubs strolling the floodplain by Lechwe Corner. As the day waned, they sought shade under an African mangosteen tree, with the cubs amusing themselves by playing with the male lions’ tails. Two wounded male subadults were also discovered near Twin Pools, hinting at their recent struggles. The Stricker Pride, consisting of two lionesses and five subadults, was found moving along Old Hippo Pool, heading south toward Boundary Road. We encountered the Holly Pride along the cutline road — four lionesses and five cubs feasting on two buffalo carcasses.

We tracked a female cheetah north of Motswiri Pan, where she engaged in three hunting attempts. Despite two failures, the third chase resulted in the successful capture of a female impala. The graphic feeding scene under a small blue bush gave guests captivating footage. Additionally, two dominant male cheetahs were found feasting on a female common reedbuck, following the alarm calls of a troop of baboons by Wild Dog Pan. A subsequent day trip allowed us to track and locate these well-fed males heading west.

Elephant and eland herds

The area teemed with vast herds of diverse animal species. Large elephant herds drank at the natural waterholes before bathing in mud and dust. A mesmerising moment occurred when elephants, with their calves, gracefully crossed the islands in a single-file formation.

Witnessing over sixty elands, dazzling numbers of zebras, and adorable impalas with their lambs added to the wildlife experience. Towering giraffes also graced the plains, while different natural waterholes and lagoons hosted lively congregations of hippos. Even within our camp, elephants appeared, emerging from the woodland and marching into the marshes with audible stomach rumbles. Dung beetles meticulously moulded and buried their precious dung balls.

We found Nile crocodiles basking on sandbanks and water monitor lizards at the edges of the waterholes. The air was alive with the graceful dance of net-winged beetles, grasshoppers, damsels, dragonflies, groundlings, and butterflies, creating a colourful spectacle. 

The skies also teeming with large flocks of birds. Among the residents, marabou storks, abdims stork, saddle-billed storks, and yellow-billed storks were photographed, often with their juveniles around natural waterholes feeding on toad frogs, rubber-banded frogs, and bullfrogs. Migratory birds such as southern carmine bee-eaters, broad-billed rollers, amur falcons, and woodland kingfishers added to the songs of the sky.

(Please note: For the safety of the animals, we do not disclose the precise location of either rhino or pangolin sightings. Accompanying pictures are 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!)

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Lagoon Camp, February 2024

After undergoing regular refurbishments, Lagoon Camp reopened in February. Lion sightings increased significantly, and their roars became our anthem for the month.

The Holy Pride, a prominent group in the area, stole the spotlight. Comprising three females, eight cubs, and three males, they became a regular sight at Sgwenda Crossing. During game drives, we tracked them along the Makudi route, at Rax Pan, and alongside the Water Cut Road. Additionally, a coalition of three male lions joined the Holy Pride along Upper Kwando, while an alliance of two (Rra Lebante) appeared on the Water Cut Road.

February also brought excellent cheetah sightings featuring the two resident brother cheetahs. The duo was spotted on a hunting venture east of Halfway, culminating in a remarkable achievement — an adept kill of a female red lechwe. Adding to their exploits, these siblings showcased their agility along the landscapes of Mosheshe.

Activity at the spotted hyena den

The hyena den buzzed as playful puppies frolicked, and a vigilant adult always kept watch nearby (as did we). It was always a cherished spectacle, and on the 27th, we were treated to the delightful sight of eight energetic hyena pups accompanied by two watchful adults.

A diverse range of general game included giraffe, tsessebe, impala, red lechwe, lively appearances by black-backed jackals, graceful steenbok antelopes, and the charming bat-eared fox. These remarkable creatures frequently visited prime hotspots in the Kwando Private Concession: Zebra Pan, Giraffe Pan, Grass Pan One and Two, Lagoon, and Muddy Waters.

The marsh areas and seasonal channels bustled with bird activity. Flocks of marabou and saddle-billed storks were witnessed feeding on fish. The busy display also included white-fronted bee-eaters, little bee-eaters, spoonbills, yellow-billed storks, and majestic African fish eagles soaring along our river; Tawny eagles, graceful wattled cranes, and the impressive Verreaux’s eagle owl were all logged too.

Leopard at Lagoon Camp Kwando

A solitary leopard made a cameo appearance towards the end of the month: a subadult female was observed reclining on a tree along James Road with a satisfied, full belly.

Water monitor lizards strolled about in the camp vicinity, and green-spotted bush snakes were familiar sights as summer started to close.

Views at Lagoon Camp

While the vegetation and trees flourished in strong green hues, the water channels experienced an unusual decline, and the once-lush flood plains lay dry. A unique juxtaposition where thriving life met the subtle ebb of water sources.

In the evenings, the Southern Cross (the most prominent constellation) shared the stage with Canis Major, the mysterious Scorpius, and the iconic Orion. And we took advantage of admiring the radiant presence of planet Venus, casting its glow in the cosmic expanse.

(Please note: For the safety of the animals, we do not disclose the precise location of either rhino or pangolin sightings. Accompanying pictures are 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!)

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Kwara and Splash Camp, February 2024

Despite lowering water levels, we continued with stunning boat cruises along the Maonachira River and mokoro activities.

The permanent swamp was lush and green with snowflake grass and both water lily species blooming on the fringes of the channel. 

Giraffe numbers were abundant, with eleven individuals sighted during a boat cruise. Crocodiles and monitor lizards were frequently spotted on the riverbanks during sunset sails. During mokoro outings, guests got close to the Okavango Delta’s various frog species, including long-reed frogs, Angolan reed frogs, and banded reed frogs.

African wild dog antics

A pack of 20 African wild dogs temporarily left the area and were last seen to the east of Splash Camp on the 10th of the month. However, fresh tracks showed that they had returned and were seen to the west of Tsessebe Pan. Two wild dogs were spotted at Tsessebe Pan chasing down impalas. Earlier in the month, we observed a further pack of six wild dogs feeding on an impala carcass at Motswiri Mogobe.

In the meantime, another pack of 22 wild dogs returned to the reserve from the Khwai area. We traced their tracks north of the camp at Splash. Later, they were seen as we off-roaded near Splash Hippo and headed north towards Tsum Tsum Plains.

African wild dogs Tsum Tsum

Spotted hyenas were active at their favourite lair south of Kwara Camp, where a single jet-black pup was spotted. One day, nine hyenas pilfered from a male leopard while he was enjoying a meal west of Peter’s Crossing. Additionally, a group of 12 hyenas was located along Elephant West Road during the late afternoon, suggesting a nearby den as two lactating mothers were identified. Moreover, there has been increased hyena activity around Kwara Camp, with sightings becoming a common occurrence during both evenings and early mornings.

A lion pride update from the Kwara Private Concession 

Lion sightings were abundant, with the Kwara Pride splitting into two family units. One of the three males from the Kwara Pride was frequently spotted at Last Mabala, while his two brothers roamed more towards the western side of Bat Eared Fox Den drawn by the high number of red lechwes and dazzles of zebras along the plains. 

Despite being chased away last month, the Mopane Pride returned to the area, primarily lingering on the western side of Splash Hippos. The resident Splash Pride did not frequently cover this area due to the limitations of the four cubs in covering long distances like the adults.

The Mma Leitho pride, often seen around Mangosteen Island with their cubs, enjoyed several successful hunting ventures, including feeding on a zebra carcass they killed the previous night with two dominant males. 

Lions at Kwara

A young male, approximately three years old, believed to have been evicted from his maternal territory, was observed on a hunt for a giraffe calf, albeit unsuccessfully. The Sephane pride was seen multiple times between Mabala, Matotsi, Kwara, and Splash Hippos. Two dominant males were chasing them from the Mma Leitho pride around Thware Pan during our most recent sightings of them.

In Splash, the resident Splash Pride remained active. They were primarily sighted in the northeast and southeast areas, where prey species are abundant due to short grasses and rainwater in the pans. Their prey included zebras, wildebeests, waterbucks, reedbucks, and warthogs. 

Leopards, cheetahs and servals too

A mother leopard with her two cubs was located between Springhare City and Sekgapa Sa Khudu, indicating a new leopard presence in the area. Meanwhile, in Splash, two leopards were found on Flame Lily Island atop a tree, displaying relaxed behaviour. They were left undisturbed for a sundowner, still perched in the trees. The resident female from Kwara Camp remained around Kwara Island, with tracks often spotted around the camp. The last week of February proved fruitful, with sightings of three different leopards in various areas, all exhibiting relaxed behaviour.

Both Kwara and Splash had great cheetah activity. In Kwara, Mr. Special was spotted at Last Mabala after a two-month absence, displaying robust health and a full belly. A female cheetah was also seen at Impala Pan, feeding on an impala carcass she had hunted. The resident male cheetahs remain in the western region, likely attracted by the expansive open plains and abundant antelope populations, offering ample prey and reduced competition from other predators.

Significant elephant herds congregated around the wetlands, with a considerable breeding herd observed swimming along a channel at New Bridge. The eastern areas boasted plentiful herds of zebras, tsessebe, and wildebeest. Meanwhile, at Splash, the general game sightings remained robust, with the usual array of prey animals, such as zebras, frequently grazing and drinking near the camp waterhole. Significant herds of wildebeest, elephants, greater kudu, and other species were logged. Two sightings of sable antelope were also recorded.

We enjoyed multiple sightings of serval cats in the vicinity of New Bridge. Banded mongooses were a regular feature on game drives, and a sizable colony of dwarf mongooses caught our attention at Honeymoon Pan. 

Reptiles were quite active, too. At Wild Dog Pan, a massive snouted cobra was sighted, and we located striped-bellied sand snakes, a python, a puff adder and green-spotted snakes. The Bushveld rain frog was often spotted near Room 6 at Splash Camp, where it has made its home.

(Please note: For the safety of the animals, we do not disclose the precise location of either rhino or pangolin sightings. Accompanying pictures are 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!)

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4 Rivers, January 2023

Encounters with cheetahs were memorable during January, particularly on the eastern front near Paradise.

A promising young male caught our attention during off-road tracking game drives, and we wondered if he might be poised to take over territories previously dominated by the undefeated cheetah, Mr. Special. This young male was observed to have successful kills, showcasing his hunting prowess. His movements, marked by strategic scent markings, were tracked as he ventured further east towards Splash and Kwara.

The resident pack of 21 African wild dogs kept us on our toes! We tracked them as they gracefully navigated the flooded plains, skilfully capturing red lechwes, wildebeest, and even small zebra foals. An exciting incident unfolded when they surrounded a large herd of lechwes near 4 Rivers lagoon. Some lechwes, unfortunately, found themselves in the clutches of hungry crocodiles, and the distress calls attracted spotted hyenas to the scene, too. We watched in awe as the pack adeptly defended their hard-earned meals.  

African wild dog 4 rivers camp

One particularly fascinating observation this month involved a snake capturing a flap-necked chameleon near the staff village area.

Among the treasures of the avian world, the magnificent Pel’s fishing owl was also observed gracefully perching in the riverine forests at camp, and further bird sightings included storks, colourful bee-eaters, regal herons stalking the pans, and the elusive marsh owl.

The lions and leopards of 4 Rivers: cubs coming?

Leopards concentrated their movements within the impenetrable woodlands. However, we encountered a few shy leopards and occasionally spotted relaxed ones around the 4 Rivers lagoon area. Anticipation is high for the coming months, with expectations of increased sightings and the possibility of glimpsing new leopard cubs!

We frequently crossed paths with a pride of 11 lions in the southeast, while the east hosted a lively group of 17 with playful cubs. Moving westward, two males were spotted accompanying a female, and to the northeast, a lioness was seen with three subadults. Excitement lingers!
We look forward to new arrivals within the pride of 17 lions, with several females expected to give birth in the coming months.

We encountered small hyena clans south of camp. These clans, often accompanied by playful cubs, engaged in various activities. Some were spotted feasting on the remnants left behind by lions. To our surprise, a few hyenas ventured close to the lodge, offering our guests an unexpected but delightful spectacle.

What is the weather like in January?

The initial weeks of the month brought forth bountiful rains, ushering in a transformative spectacle across our ecotones. The floodplains changed remarkably as water levels surged, resulting in widespread flooding, and we enjoyed mokoro rides in the brimming lagoons. This natural rainfall acted as an irresistible invitation for various animal species, leading to the emergence of vast herds of buffalo, mixed groups of zebras and wildebeests, elegant waterbucks, and agile red lechwes. Even the usually serene woodland areas experienced a metamorphosis as their waterholes filled with water, attracting elephants. Adapting to this abundance, the wise hippos expanded their territories, mitigating potential competition and conflicts between dominant and younger males.

We also experienced magnificent lightning strikes with the storms. Although there is a significant risk of fires created in the Okavango bush, this atmospheric nitrogen is also converted by plants and used to produce proteins required by the grazing animals in the great web of life.

When lightning strikes, it indirectly helps plants by contributing to nitrogen fixation in the soil. This happens because lightning splits nitrogen molecules in the air, which allows nitrogen atoms to combine with oxygen to form nitrogen oxides. The nitrogen oxides then dissolve in rainwater, creating nitrates and nitrites. These compounds are essential nutrients for plants and can be absorbed through their roots.

Honey badger 4 Rivers

In the quiet embrace of the night around the camp, we often spotted the curious honey badgers. Another nocturnal presence is the porcupine, its quilled silhouette appearing in the darkness. 

(Please note: For the safety of the animals, we do not disclose the precise location of either rhino or pangolin sightings. Accompanying pictures are 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!)

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Tau Pan Camp, January 2024

The pan has been unusually dry this month. Consequently, we embarked on longer drives from the camp. Despite the uncommon conditions, our epic expeditions had many exciting moments! 

The most memorable? Watching approximately eight black-backed jackals join forces to confront a baby oryx. This young oryx had become separated from its mother due to a bull attempting to mate with her.

Black backed jackals Tau Pan

The jackals persistently tested their luck for about 10 to 15 minutes until the same bull that had chased the mother returned to the rescue. However, the jackals did not easily relent, continuing their challenges until we departed as the sun descended. 

The plentiful joys of Passarge Valley

Many of our best general game sightings occurred along the Passarge waterhole to Passarge Valley, where we watched numerous oryx with their young, springboks with offspring, wildebeests, and occasionally a few red hartebeests. We also encountered one timid brown hyena on the route to the Passarge waterhole from the camp, before it swiftly disappeared.

A cheetah mother of three cubs, estimated to be 7 to 8 months old, was observed resting under a buffalo horn acacia at the Passarge waterhole. Following that, she was sighted along Phukwi Pan for three consecutive days. Another mother, accompanied by a subadult cub, was glimpsed on the northern part of Tau Pan during one of the afternoon drives. Additionally, two subadult cubs were seen at Letiahau Pan, resting on the roadside, leading us to assume that their mother had left them, possibly for hunting.

The scarcity of rainfall significantly influenced the movement patterns of local prides, including the resident Tau Pan pride. During one morning activity, we encountered the airstrip pride attempting to hunt adult giraffes, but the endeavour yielded no positive results. Due to the heat, they sought shade under an acacia tree on the roadside. The same pride, accompanied by two of the five dominant males, was spotted at Passarge Valley, feasting on an oryx. At times, the Tau Pan pride ventured into camp, entertaining with their playful activities and creating noise, and in the mornings, they frequented the waterhole, offering a picturesque view from the deck of the main area. The last three days of the month were particularly special, as our resident pride was consistently present in the camp, even during the nighttime. 

Leopard swimming pool bush

A resident subadult leopard female attuned to our movements, and one morning, she visited the poolside while we tucked into breakfast around the fire. 

Busy families of bat-eared foxes and ground squirrels contributed to the lively atmosphere in and around Tau Pan. We also spotted secretarybirds twice this month on the hunt. Additionally, sightings of a pale chanting goshawk, Gabar goshawk, and peregrine falcons added to the avian diversity around the pan. 

Limited rainfall prompted many animals to migrate to other areas. The harsh Kalahari landscape featured trees gradually turning brown, and temperatures reached a maximum of 42 degrees. Natural waterholes were dry, and animals relied solely on pumped waterholes. Elephants hovered in the area seeking water, but encounters were limited to tracking their footprints and dung along our game drive routes. 

(Please note: For the safety of the animals, we do not disclose the precise location of either rhino or pangolin sightings. Accompanying pictures are 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!)

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