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Botswana Safari, Okavango Delta Posts

Tau Pan Camp, October 2022

The heat rolled in off the pan in waves. Life slowed down with the mercury topping 40 degrees, and the Tau Pan camp waterhole became a veritable tick list. Lions, cheetahs, brown hyenas, leopards and all manner of mammals and birds frequented one of the last water sources in the area. 

Lions of Tau Pan Kalahari

We regularly saw the Tau Pan lion pride, although their hunting technique in the heat left much to be desired. They had some success in the cooler evening hours, and we often found them feeding on kudu and springbok. The pride was always alert to the possibility of a hunt. One day, we located them sprawled out at the airstrip with the small cubs suckling from their mother. The alarm call of a springbok sounded through the dry bush and the mother, thinking only of the prey, jumped up, sending the little cubs sprawling across the dirt, much to their dismay. 

Watching lions and more from Tau Pan Camp

Many guests took it easy watching the lion and animal activity from the comfort of the bar almost every day.  

Leopard, cheetah and brown hyena were all spotted at the waterhole this month but were acutely aware of the presence of the lions, so we often followed them further afield to where they relaxed. Further out in the bush, we watched cheetah hunt springbok, and the leopards posed obligingly in Camelthorn trees. Early one morning, we spied a brown hyena passing the waterhole, barely pausing for a drink. It’s always a joy to see these reclusive creatures.

The delights of desert bird life

The birdlife has been fantastic, especially the aerial battles around the waterhole. Yellow-billed kites and Temminck’s coursers have returned to the valleys and plains. Northern black korhaans, Goshawks, Tawny eagles, Steppe buzzards, Red-crested korhaans, Crimson-breasted shrikes, Yellow-billed hornbills, Pied crows, Kori bustards and Secretarybirds were just some of the other species we regularly identified.

In the middle of the month, we saw the first small clouds in the sky and within a few days, these built up to mountainous Cumulonimbus that dominated the sky. We could almost feel the sense of expectation from the wildlife. Late in October, rains finally arrived. And with the rain comes new life and a resurrection of reptiles. Two examples: a big puff adder crossed the road and a striped skink munched on a stick insect in camp. Insects have returned to the landscape too. Ground beetles, tok-tokkie beetles, hunting wasps and spiders, dragonflies, red ants, locusts, rose chafer beetles, and zebra white butterflies have joined the African monarchs. 

Reptiles of the Kalahari desert

We have also glimpsed the first springbok baby. As the landscape rapidly changes from a parched desert to a lush green oasis, we look forward to welcoming many new additions to the extended Tau Pan family!

The lionesses that took over the San Bushmen shelter last month have vanished into the bush. This hopefully means that in the next six weeks or so (the approximate time a lioness will keep her new cubs hidden), we will have some fantastic holiday additions to tell you about!

(Please note: For the safety of the animals, we do not disclose the 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, October 2022

African wild dogs were a constant enigma, with various packs crossing Pom Pom throughout the month, including a group of twenty-four! The resident pack (who lost their puppies to the hyenas) has wandered off, but another family of eight adults and sixteen pups kept guests entertained. We caught two of these adults taking down a male impala which would bring sound sustenance to the puppies.

Wild dogs Pom Pom

Summer’s avian migrants have returned. The Yellow-billed kites hunted near the camp, and Woodland kingfishers have brought their iconic staccato call to the bush. Despite the October heat, these birds are an excellent indicator of the coming rains and true to form, clouds rolled in late in the month and brought our first showers. Short grasses revealed the servals, civets, genets, and African wild cats that regularly graced our evening drives.

Hot temperatures, hotter tempers

The heat of the month also raised tensions. We previously reported on strains between the lions and the hyenas at Pom Pom and they exploded into outright hostility. We saw a male lion feeding upon a lechwe early in the month. Happy with its feast, the lion failed to notice the slow approach of the Pom Pom hyena clan — all 18 of them! As we quietly watched from a distance, the lion jumped to his feet and bared his teeth. However, a showdown in the bush is primarily a question of numbers. The hyenas went in to steal the lechwe as the lion roared and swiped ineffectually. He held them off for some time before they started directly attacking him, a seriously precarious position. He eventually broke off the defence of the lechwe and had to watch as the hyenas dismembered his meal.

Spotted hyenas Pom Pom camp

The Spotted hyenas understand their collective strength, and we found the clan later in the month attacking four lionesses. These four ladies are formidable foes, but numerical advantage favoured the hyenas. The four lionesses were forced to flee into a tree, where they perched precariously as the hyenas circled beneath them.

Tree climbing lions Botswana

However, the lions were still a force to be reckoned with. Pom Pom was home to three separate prides comprising groups of fifteen, seven and five. With them, there are at least 10 cubs and several subadult males. If these youngsters can all survive the (quite literal) clan warfare, the scales will likely tip again in favour of the lions.

We tracked one pride across the reserve to find them locked in a battle with an old male buffalo. This pride of seven lions attacked the experienced old buffalo for over an hour. Lacking any help from a herd, ultimately, the buffalo succumbed.

Exceptional leopard encounters at Pom Pom Camp

Five leopards were regularly spied at Pom Pom, but two provided the majority of sightings. Nonetheless, a young female left us gawping when we found her with a baby vervet monkey. At first, we thought the baby was dead until it started to move in a rather disorientated fashion and got up to walk. The leopard watched it before gently guiding it back with a paw. This behaviour went on for almost an hour and a half. The leopard continued in its “play” until it suddenly placed a firm paw on the monkey and administered a swift bite. This done, she carried the remains onto a termite mound and swiftly ate the unfortunate prey. A fantastic sighting to end an amazing month at Pom Pom Camp.

(Please note: For the safety of the animals, we do not disclose the 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, October 2022

October heat can muddle the senses, and we thought we were seeing things when we came across an enormous crocodile walking along the road. 

Crocodile Kwando River

Crocodiles will wander surprisingly far from water and are ectotherms, meaning they rely on the outside environment to regulate their body temperature. Although October is usually the hottest month of the year in Botswana, access to water on the Kwando Private Reserve means crocodiles regulate their body heat effectively using cool waters. They also have very high levels of lactic acid in their blood (which would be almost toxic for a mammal), which helps them remain motionless for long periods. 

A pride divided

The soap opera of the Wapuka lion pride presented a plot twist: it has now split into two. The lions are divided into groups of two and three females, each having six cubs. One half of the pride made a base near Lebala camp, while the other has headquarters a few kilometres away. 

We enjoyed almost daily sightings of the pride near camp hunting on the floodplains. They had little daytime success, however, nighttime proved productive, and we frequently saw cubs licking the blood of some unfortunate prey off their mother’s nose come morning. A massive bonus for the camp pride was an elephant’s (natural) death to the east of Lebala Camp, which granted several days of feasting. The young cubs spent much of the time using the skeleton as a climbing frame and playground.

Lions of Lebala Camp

This month, five leopards, including a mating couple, were seen on various occasions. One day, we followed the sounds of furious baboons to find a leopard high up in the tree above a large troop. A big male baboon is a formidable adversary, and they have been known to kill leopards. While the baboons were, perhaps understandably, not keen to go up into the tree, the leopard spent an hour uncomfortably perched in her hiding place. As soon as the baboons started to move away, she leapt down and vanished at pace into the bush. The next day we watched a different female leopard stalking three male impalas. As she crept closer and tensions ballooned, three large male warthogs exploded from the bush and charged her. Caught completely by surprise, and with the three impalas now heading at speed in the opposite direction, she had to retreat and nurse her wounded pride.

Two male cheetahs roamed the reserve, and we frequently tracked them to their favourite resting perch at a termite mound with full bellies. 

Brown hyena den at Lebala Camp is still active

The brown hyena den was still active, but we only caught fleeting glimpses during the day due to sunny temperatures. The spotted hyena den was still in use too, despite attempts by the lions to dig out the pups last month. The lions revisited the site, so the cautious hyenas spent less time there, but we saw them periodically.

Like last month, we enjoyed large herds of elephants, buffalos and zebras, kudus, tsessebes, giraffes and wildebeests crossing the floodplains. Roan and sable also gathered in small herds, and we had the pleasure of sharing the bush with Crowned cranes, Southern ground hornbills and Secretarybirds.

(Please note: For the safety of the animals, we do not disclose the 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, October 2022

Guest favourites this October were two cheetah brothers, who used their phenomenal speed to great effect. We located them bringing down an impala, and they successfully hunted in the secluded Mopane woodlands of the Kwara Private Reserve. Another coalition of five (adult female and four subadults) cheetahs took down a steenbok near our vehicle. In an unequal contest of five against one, there was little remaining of the steenbok after fifteen minutes. A further group of four cheetahs (a female and four youngsters) were also occasionally seen.

Cheetah of Kwando Safaris

The resident pack of eight African wild dogs took up a more permanent residence near Lagoon Camp and we spent many hours enjoying their boisterous and vocal group interactions.

We were treated to a fashion parade of wildlife coming down to the Kwando River to drink this month. Hundreds of elephants and buffalos were accompanied by herds of kudu, roan, sable, and zebra. Tsessebe and wildebeest fed on the lush grasses at the river’s edge and drank from the clear waters. This mammal medley attracted the attention of the Kwando Private Reserve’s prolific predators.

What did the lions of Lagoon get up to?

The lions focused on older male buffalo coalitions (the grumpy-looking dagga boys) and did their majority of hunting in the floodplains approximately one kilometre from camp, which afforded many guests ringside seats to the action. The lion prides and male coalitions we mentioned last month generally stayed in place, and we encountered lions almost daily looking well-fed and content. A lioness from the Mma Mosetlha pride was heavily pregnant and due to give birth any day now.

Lions of Lagoon Camp

A hippo died in the shallow waters not far from camp, and crocodiles descended en masse for this unexpected free meal. Lying in the shallow waters, these reptiles have a natural advantage over any potential competitors, but this didn’t stop the resident Spotted hyena clan from having a go! They assembled near the hippo and made the occasional dash into the water to try and snatch a bite. While hyenas have a good turn of pace when they need it, they don’t stand a chance against the tremendous speeds with which the crocodiles can turn and bite. After numerous nervous attempts and a couple of near misses, the hyenas retreated. Another advantage of having a hippo carcass not far from camp? Regular views of our favourite reptile, Howard the short-tailed croc, swimming in front of camp on his way to a hippo lunch!

An update on the Kwando River Carmine bee-eater colony

The various resident leopards were seen, and we had the privilege of “hosting” the family of three (female with two subadult males) in camp as they hunted impala and tsessebe from the camp environs. We’ve also spent time with a young mother and her cub. She has been leaving her cub up a thick shady tree while she hunts and once brought back an impala which kept them well-fed for almost a week.

Carmine bee-eaters Kwando Safaris

The Carmine bee-eaters, with their bright red plumage, were back at their normal nesting site and number over 100, with more on the way. They have been hunting dragonflies on the wing out in the floodplains and are a welcome dash of colour against the dusty brown landscape.

Southern African rock pythons, Spotted bush snakes, Puff adders, Leopard tortoises and Striped-bellied sand snakes were all seen. The sand snakes were often found twisted together and mating.

Fabulous frog sounds graced our evenings, and the Reed frogs and the Guttural toads were highly active.

(Please note: For the safety of the animals, we do not disclose the 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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Moremi Crossing, September 2022

African wild dogs, serval, black-backed jackals, lions, leopards and spotted hyenas graced outings at Moremi Crossing throughout the month. It was especially fascinating to have easy access to the Spotted hyena den near the airstrip, and guests loved watching the stunts of the pups as they emerged, blinking from the den into the bright spring sunshine. 

We also had regular sightings of a leopardess with cubs. Late one afternoon, returning from sundowners, we located a leopard on the stalk. She crept into position with incredible poise. Once within a few metres, she successfully ambushed a red lechwe and pounced to nab a suffocating hold on the struggling antelope.

The lechwe slowly succumbed to the bite, but before it was complete, the leopard released the animal (by now unconscious) and encouraged her young apprentice to complete the act. This did not go well in the first few attempts, but the youngster finally earned a firm grip and finished the task set for her. This critical life skill ensures the future of this young cat, and we’re delighted that Moremi Crossing provides such an excellent schooling environment!

Crocodile Moremi Crossing

In camp, we saw banded mongooses and small-spotted genets and during mokoro rides, guides noticed reptile life bounced back with the warmth. Frogs, snakes, crocodiles and water monitor lizards were added to the roll call, and the Okavango Delta waters began to drop from their peak. 

As we slowly moved into summer, trees showed their colours, with the Combretum and Sausage trees all flowering. Although they are pollinated by several birds and insects, it is at night that the scent of the Sausage tree flower really flourishes, bringing a fragrance to the night air. (As well as pollinating bats!) 

Beautiful birdlife at Moremi Crossing

The arrival of the summer avian migrants added beauty to the bush. This month we saw African fish eagles, White-backed vultures, Saddle-billed storks, African jacanas, Blacksmith lapwings, Red-billed hornbills, Verreaux’s eagle-owl, Lilac-breasted rollers, Squacco herons and Spur-winged geese. It was especially exciting to have vultures nesting in camp. Over the past few years, many vulture species have fallen victim to poisoning and poaching throughout Southern Africa, and we are thrilled they chose Moremi Crossing to build a home. As one species that helps to “clean up” in the bush, their importance cannot be overemphasized.

Sensational stargazing

Evenings warmed slightly, and we hosted awesome star-gazing sessions on the open airstrip allowing guests to wrap themselves in the universe and learn more about the stars, their stories and the various legends. Here in Botswana, we call the Southern Cross constellation the Dithuthlwa, which means “the giraffes”. Some cultures also believe the Milky Way is a footpath for their ancestors to walk along.

Moremi Crossing Camp Boating Okavango

Speaking of the people of Botswana, we celebrated Independence Day at the end of September. We hosted a surprise sundowner for all the guests with Botswana flags and a few traditional snacks, which included waterlily tuber, or Tswii. A local delicacy in the Okavango Delta. 

(Please note: For the safety of the animals, we do not disclose the 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, September 2022

The captivating nature walk with the Kalahari’s indigenous trackers, such as Majwagana “Scuppa” Tshururu, is often the highlight of a stay at Tau Pan Camp.

Tau Pan San Walk

However, we had to make slight modifications to the activity this month. We found a novel sight in mid-September while checking the walking route to ensure it was safe. The walk includes a recreation of a San (also known as bushmen in Botswana) homestead, and one morning we found that the shelter was occupied. Two pregnant lionesses commandeered the shady, cool house in the October heat. Perhaps a new maternity wing to be?  

What is the Central Kalahari like in October?

The Central Kalahari Game Reserve got very dry. Grasses gave way to hardened dust, and wildlife turned their focus to the daily trial of getting from the last water sources to the remaining grasses, shrubs, leaves and fruit that comprise their desert diet.

Lions of Tau Pan Camp

The Tau Pan Camp waterhole was the focal point for multiple wildlife species. Kudus, blue wildebeests, giraffes and even an elephant (who are not common visitors) graced the reservoir throughout the day. The resident cheetah also bravely spent time at the waterhole. We say brave as the Tau Pan lion pride also spent considerable durations at the waterhole and around camp. They were well-fed, and guests enjoyed watching the cubs play and interacting with the adults for many days. The lions were most tolerant of the youngsters, although they didn’t hesitate to put them in their place with a swipe or two when antics became irritating.

We also noticed an unknown young male lion in the area playing a risky game. He seemed to know this and was constantly on guard, ready to bolt whenever the bush rustled or a bird called.

The Brown hyenas were also wary. We found plenty of tracks, but they darted to and from the waterhole in the quiet dark of dawn to avoid the presence of the lions. The same could not be said of the resident leopards. 

The lively leopards of Tau Pan Camp

Leopards were spotted throughout the month, and our curious friend from August again inspected the game drive vehicle. This time, she decided the vehicle could serve as an excellent sunshade in the late afternoon sunshine. The car could not move with her underneath, and the only thing we could do was quietly enjoy early sundowners aboard. It’s a tough life in Tau Pan! Another delight was watching two subadult females playing about and chasing ground squirrels without successfully swatting any. We also located a Cape cobra attempting to hunt these squirrels.

Ground Squirrel

With the grasses low, it proved a wonderful time of year to spot the fantastic array of smaller creatures the Kalahari offers. Yellow and slender mongooses, bat-eared foxes, honey badgers, and black-backed jackals were regularly seen in the pans foraging for food on both game drives and when walking close to camp.

Some of the trees are green, especially Camelthorn, Confetti and Shepherds trees. We also noticed some blossoms have attracted insects as spring settles in.

(Please note: For the safety of the animals, we do not disclose the 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, September 2022

The late floodwaters brought large numbers of animals into the area, including elephants, lechwe, giraffes, impalas, tsessebe and many more species.

Mma Dinare elephant

The Dinare Private Reserve is named after the majestic brooding buffalo (nare in Setswana), and they moved through in their hundreds this month. Old bulls, young mothers and tottering calves left a beautiful dust haze that made for fantastic sunset photography in the late afternoon. (This is because red light waves — within the visible range of light — are scattered the least by dust and atmospheric gas molecules, creating epic sunsets). 

The lions of Dinare Private Reserve

Where buffalos wandered, lions followed. One pride, led by the mighty male Sankindi, settled for much of the month to the Southeast of Mma Dinare camp and saw them regularly. Sankindi was heard throughout the night, bellowing into the darkness. Our other principal pride (T’s pride) hunted in the area where we usually conduct mokoro rides. The five males and four females that make up T’s pride have youth and strength on their side and granted guests many fabulous lion sightings!

Rra Dinare Lions

The African wild dog pups at the den reached three months old, and all the pups are still with us. The pack left the shelter and was seen roaming throughout the reserve. 

Three cheetah brothers also made a bunch of appearances. Cheetah coalitions, often made up of two to three brothers, may stay together for much of their lives and are fierce hunters when they have such strength in numbers. Their position in the predator hierarchy (quite far down) means that they often give our camps a wide berth due to the mighty lion prides we have the privilege of hosting.

Seeing spots

The leopards put on a show this month, preening and stretching wherever a tree allowed them to pose for the camera. However, this was a month of spotted hyenas who crossed our path on game drives almost daily. The clan focused on the road to the airstrip, and one female frequently had two young cubs with her. They are developing their characteristic spots marking them a month or so in age. With a female hyena typically having only two teats, hyena cubs are born ready to fight. A third sibling may commonly be forced away by the others and left to starve. Survival of the fittest can be harsh in the bush, but it does ensure that the strongest go on to support the clan.

Migrant birds arrived in steady numbers with the bee-eaters, Yellow-billed kites, and Lesser-spotted eagles amongst the new residents in the neighbourhood after their journey from Central Africa and, in some cases, as far as Northern Europe. 

Hamerkop nest okavango delta

We watched in awe as a Hamerkop constructed a nest not far from camp. This is the avian equivalent of building a castle, and guests can be forgiven for asking if there are pterodactyls in the area. Hamerkop nests can reach over 1.5 metres wide and support the weight of a grown human. Thousands of sticks, leaves and mud go into this major construction project, and it can take over two months to build. Hamerkops often build in pairs and seem to enjoy it, often building two or three nests to create a healthy property portfolio. This often proves necessary because the brown birds are frequently forced out by owls, genets, snakes, and other species, sometimes even Leopards!

(Please note: For the safety of the animals, we do not disclose the 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, September 2022

Cheetah passed through Nxai Pan regularly this month, and one morning, a pair of African wild dogs joined guests for breakfast when they stopped to sip from the waterhole in front of camp!

Wild dogs Nxai Pan

However, the concentration of lions around these last water sources made other predators very mindful when coming to drink. The success of the Nxai Pan lions has been well-documented in the past few months. Sometimes it’s inevitable that prey fights back.

Buffalo calf trumps lioness

At 4.30am, the first hint of sunlight peeped from below the horizon. Camp stirred with guides on their way to knock their friendly wake-up calls. However, one morning the alarm call was different when dawn was abruptly punctuated by the thunderous sound of hooves. A herd of buffalo, spooked by a lone lioness, bolted for the perceived safety of the bush near camp.

Buffalo Nxai Pan Camp

When light enough around the firepit, we saw a lioness had attacked a young cow. She tried to seize the animal alone, but the feisty calf shook the lioness off, who then uttered a low call for the pride to assist. Simultaneously, the potential prey likewise hollered for help and the buffalos were first to answer the calls. Seeing the lioness alone, the herd warily approached in ones and twos, until eventually charging en masse. Vastly outnumbered, the lioness retreated, and the injured calf re-joined her hero herd. We saw the little calf several times since the attack, bearing the battle scars but apparently none the worse.

As temperatures rose through September, the lions sought shade at the hottest time of the day. One day they settled not far from the main area, and we monitored them as they scanned the waterhole. Well camouflaged, they raised their heads when a small kudu herd approached. As the antelope cautiously started to drink, the lions locked target and shot forward in a cloud of dust. Lions can move at speeds of more than 70kph, but the wary kudus were quicker, and the pride returned huffing and puffing to the shade.

Reptiles and raptors

As grasses withered, it opened up new foraging for large bird species. It was fantastic to watch ostriches, Kori bustards and the stately Secretary bird strut their stuff across the plains. The Secretarybird has an incredible way of hunting. Their stamping technique may seem a strange way of killing prey. However, they can hit targets in approximately a tenth of a second while applying a pressure of almost five times their body weight. The snakes that have resurrected with the warmth best watch where they slither.

Honey badgers were not perturbed by the rise of reptile activity and were found foraging along the roadside, and the clever Pale chanting goshawks kept an eye out for anything it missed.

What to see on a day trip to Baines’ Baobabs?

At Baines Baobabs, areas near the trees were burnt by a bushfire, and a few springboks, steenbok and gemsbok fed on the roasted fodder. Nearing the end of our dry season, it’s been windy, and out on the salt pans, we saw great dust clouds whipped up in massive whirlwinds that spiralled hundreds of feet into the air.

Baines Baobabs

Early morning proved the best time to be out in the bush with elephants, springbok, blue wildebeest, bat-eared foxes, and sometimes spotted hyenas seeking water before the temperature increased. The elephants made for great photography subjects as they covered themselves with white sand and earth, and youngsters plunged into the shallow pan to cool off. 

(Please note: For the safety of the animals, we do not disclose the 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, September 2022

The spotted hyenas continued to grow from strength to strength and asserted dominance from their base of operations near the airstrip. As mentioned last month, they have new cubs, and the clan’s power gives these little ones an ideal family environment to thrive.

Pom Pom Camp Spotted Hyena Den

Despite being typecast as scavengers, spotted hyenas hunt their own prey as much as lions do. We saw them repeatedly, and sometimes, the animals wandered through camp. They have also taken to stealing kills from leopards. After losing kills to lions last month, these cats can’t seem to keep any food for themselves!

Leopard growth at Pom Pom?

The resident leopards are still thriving, however. Four different individuals (with offspring and the occasional mate in tow) have territories across the Pom Pom Private Reserve. One young female born to the south of camp occasionally hunted the bushbuck that rest out of the harsh sun under the guest tents. It also seems like the healthy Pom Pom Leopard population is about to get a bit bigger! We noted one future mother about to give birth, and two other females were seen with males.

Leopard Pom Pom Camp

The best Leopard sighting goes to an early ambush. One morning we found two sets of cat prints threading through the bush, and patient tracking led us to a young leopard creeping towards an impala herd. Using the long dry grass as cover, she slowly inched towards the antelopes as they fed quietly below a Jackalberry tree. Once within a few metres, she waited five long minutes while the impala cropped at the grass. After what seemed an eternity (everyone holding their collective breath), one impala wandered within range, and the leopard pounced like a coiled spring. After a futile battle, the animal succumbed to the fatal predator throat bite within 15 metres of our vehicle.

Animals gave the airstrip a wide berth

After the sad loss of the African wild dog puppies last month, the pack took a sabbatical and vanished for a week. However, they re-emerged with a bang chasing an animal through camp. The impala sprinted to the water in front of Pom Pom Camp and dashed to safety after much splashing and jumping. The following day, however, the wild dogs won. We were following a hunt through the bush and kept our distance, shadowing the last dog trailing the pack.

We followed that African wild dog until it came across another pack member trying to hold on to a frantic Impala. The dog entered the fray, joined shortly after by the rest of the pack, who got to the gruesome job of taking down the herbivore and eating their fill. Since then, we saw the pack hunting and patrolling on several occasions close to camp and further afield while definitely avoiding the airstrip!

The jackals avoided this area too. Late in the month, we located a side-striped jackal den east of the airstrip. Both jackal species mate for life, and this monogamous pair had five puppies. We had the good fortune to watch them relocate the tiny jackals to a new den during the day. At night, we spotted African wild cats, servals, African civets, and genets when heading back to camp.

Return of the raptors

Guides noticed plenty of raptor action, and birds seen across the reserve included eagles, harriers, kites, Pel’s fishing owl and a Verreaux’s eagle-owls that took over a Hamerkop nest near the boat station. Even more exciting, we spotted a chick in the nest. Verreaux’s eagle-owls leave their nest after approximately two months, although they do tend to hang around and be fed by their parents for some time.

Okavango Delta Pom Pom Camp

The gradually falling flood waters revealed more and more of the floodplains, which led to an influx of game onto the islands as they re-emerged from the Delta. Large herds of elephants, buffalo, giraffes, kudu, tsessebe and plains zebras graced the landscape. Some zebras liked to feed in the water to get at the choice shoots along the water’s edge. They’ll need to keep an eye peeled, though, as some sizeable crocodiles cruise these waterways. We often saw the reptiles sunning themselves on the banks.

Finally, to the Pom Pom lion pride. The pride (one male, four females and 10 cubs) took advantage of the herbivores passing through the new corridors that formed as the floods fell and made two wildebeest kills. We watched the hunters bring the whole family to one of the kills and they devoured an entire Blue wildebeest overnight. While they remain a powerful family, the growing hyena clan also vied for dominance. On multiple occasions, the lions moved through the hyena’s territory, causing scuffles and violent encounters. As pride and clan have many small mouths to feed, there is cautious respect from both sides. As the guides in camp put it, they don’t see “eye-to-eye”! Will this “truce” hold, or will we see some serious fallout?

(Please note: For the safety of the animals, we do not disclose the 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. Still, we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

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Lebala Camp, September 2022

Maybe it was the increasing heat, but the inter-species rivalry and search for food boiled over into cinematic-level sightings for guests at Lebala Camp. 

Lebala Camp

During morning drives, we noticed more active reptiles as the season shifts, including a Southern African python sprawled across the road and monitor lizards digging for food. A coalition of two full-bellied male cheetahs was also seen strolling across the open plains at midday until they found a patch shade to rest.

What do you call a baby porcupine? (other than adorable)

A resident porcupine has had young! She lives not far from camp and has kept the little ones (cutely known as porcupettes) safe and away from the world’s prying eyes, but they seem to be about four weeks old.

Other youngsters we regularly saw were ostriches (who loved running on the airstrip) and three brown hyena cubs! The cubs curiously peeked at the game drive vehicles while the mother rested by the den entrance.

Elephants Kwando Private Reserve

Young elephants moved across the landscape with their large herds and had to work hard to keep up with the long treks from food to water and back again in the heat. The lioness that was hiding her cubs finally introduced them to the pride. She had hidden them in front of camp, so we got a superb view of her introducing them to the family. The older cubs immediately started to play with the newcomers, and the mother had to step in as the older siblings were in danger of hurting them with their rough play.

The lions of Lebala hunt hippos

Last month, we reported on the hippo-hunting lions of Lebala, and they refined their technique in the past few weeks. We saw them on the carcasses of no less than three hippos. Hippos are not an easy prospect with multiple tusks, some reaching over 40cm in length, a bite force of 1800psi and a nasty attitude. Each time we came across a carcass, the broken landscape surrounding it evidenced that the flight to bring it down was wide-ranging and demanding.

The lions didn’t stop at hippos. A bachelor herd of 11 buffalos caught their eye and only four now remain. The lions didn’t always get their way, however. One day three lionesses attacked a porcupine that was racing to its den. Having cornered it, the lions swatted cautiously while the porcupine attacked with its quill-covered back. The lionesses finally managed to kill the porcupine, but the two came away with multiple punctures to their paws. These quills have sharp tips and overlapping scales (that act as barbs), making them difficult to remove once stuck in noses. They are in for an uncomfortable few days!

The Golden Boys of the Wapuka Pride were still in charge, although we heard a challenge to their authority one evening. There was a horrendous row in the darkness, and we came across the two dominant male lions battered and bleeding the next day, but the intruders were seen off. While not lethal, their injuries were severe, and they boast more scars they will carry with them for years.

Two other subadult male lions took the fight to the local spotted hyenas. We found two lions trying to dig out cubs at the local hyena den. The female alpha hyena arrived on the scene and furiously attacked the felines. Clearly taken aback by the fierce onslaught, the lions decided that the risk of injury wasn’t worth taking further scuffle.

Wild dogs vs the wild

A few days later, the den was besieged by a pack of African wild dogs. A few hyenas again defended the youngsters, and the den remained unassailable for another day.

Wild dogs lebala camp

The wild dogs, not content with attacking the hyenas, then turned their sights on the leopards. We’ve had great leopard sightings and were excited to find two mating. As we watched their courtship, eight wild dogs appeared on the scene and cornered the two big cats! As the leopards spun and swiped at the dogs, the female darted up the nearest tree. The course of love does not always run smooth!

(Please note: For the safety of the animals, we do not disclose the 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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