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Botswana Safari, Okavango Delta Posts

Moremi Crossing Camp, December 2023

On our most memorable safari drive this month, we spotted one resident leopardess and her adorable four-month-old cubs near tent 17.

On another morning activity, a male and female leopard were seen near the camp, assembling a romantic pair.  

In December, guests were treated to spectacular sightings of African wild dogs. On the 7th, a game drive revealed a pack of 23 wild dogs in action, feasting on note one, not two, but three impala kills! A week later, another pack of 15 wild dogs stole the show on Sedudu Island.

Tracking lions at Moremi Crossing

One morning, we tracked down a group of four lions attempting to bring down a zebra but were unsuccessful. However, a pride of seven lions, consisting of five lionesses and two males, was spotted on Sedudu Island, and another group of ten lions was found in the east. Guests were thrilled to witness their relaxed demeanour.

During the day, the air was filled with the sounds of the broad-billed roller, the chorus of carmine bee-eaters, the woodlands kingfisher’s song, and the graceful flight of European bee-eaters. At night, guests could hear the calls of side-striped and black-backed jackals, adding to the nocturnal melody around the camp. A serval, honey badgers, a small spotted genet, and the elusive porcupine were spotted during night drives, while banded mongooses, large grey mongooses, and vigilant water monitors added to the nocturnal spectacle.

Despite daily temperature fluctuations ranging from a cool 27 degrees Celsius under mostly cloudy skies to a warmer 36 degrees Celsius, regular rain showers in the early mornings and evenings delighted guests with a pleasant coolness. These rain showers also nurtured the growth of green pastures, contributing to the well-being of the ecosystem.

We were thrilled to see large flocks of pelicans, juvenile bateleurs, pairs of saddle-billed storks, the regal tawny eagle, and the striking black-chested eagle. During nature walks, guests were fascinated to learn about termites and their intricate ecological role in sustaining the Okavango Delta environment. Nature walks also revealed other captivating sightings of insects, from the artful antlion to the loud cicadas, emperor moths and hard-working dung beetles.

(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 Camp, December 2023

An extraordinary highlight was the rare sighting of a pangolin with its baby on Christmas day.

Pango-pup sighted at 4 Rivers Camp in the Okavango Delta

Baby pangolins, also known as pangopups, are miniature versions of adult pangolins. They have the same distinctive appearance characterized by protective keratin scales covering their bodies. Like adult pangolins, baby pangolins are born with soft scales that harden as they grow. These scales provide protection against predators. Kwando Safaris is involved in the proactive research and rehabilitation of pangolins with the Okavango Research Institute and the DWNP, so the sighting of this new life was the best possible Christmas present! Everyone celebrated with bubbly at the pangolin statue back in camp.

The spotted hyenas of 4 Rivers asserted their dominance in a chilling yet awe-inspiring spectacle. We witnessed about 11 hyenas stumble upon a birthing buffalo. The hyenas launched an assault and secured a kill, marking a remarkable occurrence.

Another highlight was the heart-pounding 40-minute pursuit as a pack of 20 African wild dogs chased a wildebeest into a zebra herd, creating absolute chaos and keeping guests on the edge of their seats as hyenas joined the chaos. Another pack of 10 African wild dogs showed off their skills, hunting and claiming a baby impala on the western fringes of 4 Rivers Camp, while a bigger pack of 28 were also seen running through the area.

What are the lion and leopard sightings like at 4 Rivers?

A once-unified pride of 17 lions, hinted at intriguing splits. Divergent sightings revealed a mix of four lionesses with three males, occasionally joined by a lone lioness with a cub. The reason for the split may be due to resources in the area. The spectacle reached its pinnacle when, during one memorable game drive, a lioness, trailed by a male counterpart, began a hunt that concluded with taking down a zebra that had been grazing with her foal.

Three male leopards made appearances in the southeast. The high point was a sprightly encounter while tracking African wild dogs. We stumbled upon a leopard, hungry and efficient, in pursuit of its prey – he quickly scaled a tree to get away from the wild dogs moving in his direction. Another episode featured a trio of male lions stumbling upon the aftermath of a male leopard’s impala kill, resulting in a chase through the open terrain for about 50 meters — luckily the leopard was not caught and got off unscathed.

There was a lot of competition and coexistence in as two male cheetahs shared the land with lions and preferred big open plains to woodland areas. The pair of cheetahs had a winning moment when they successfully pursued and killed a baby warthog. Cheetahs often kill smaller animals as they themselves are slender and fast and cannot take down anything bigger than an impala.

Expansive herds of red lechwes dominated marsh areas, and elephants, giraffes, buffalos, and zebras were plentiful. We had beautiful wild sable antelope spending time in the area, too, and we caught them strolling around near camp. The smaller residents of the Okavango Delta revealed their charm, from tree squirrels darting around the camp to nocturnal springhares, African wild cats, genets, an aardwolf and acrobatic bush babies leaping between trees.

Walks on Maboa Island

The walking safaris provided an immersive encounter with the bush, where ancient paths told tales of wildlife movements. December’s rain-soaked landscape became a haven for reptiles and insects. From slippery monitor lizards, both water and rock, to the appearance of the typically elusive boomslang snake.

(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, December 2023

During one memorable game drive, we encountered a pack of 13 African wild dogs in excellent health at Letiahau waterhole.

The pack displayed full bellies, indicating recent successful hunts. Among them were six sizable adults and seven lively puppies.

The resident pride of well-fed lions often gathered at the Tau Pan Camp waterhole. We admired their reflections, which rippled in the water during their drinking sessions, creating a striking image of the Kalahari landscape.

A leopardess drinks from the Tau Pan swimming pool

We also enjoyed special moments with a female leopard, especially early in the month when she quenched her thirst in the camp’s swimming pool. Initially spotted near the waterhole, she gracefully departed due to approaching elephants, choosing the tranquillity of a poolside drink instead. Later, on the 30th of December, fresh leopard tracks led us on a brief pursuit, and we sighted her strolling along the road, making her way towards room one.

The arrival of springbok offspring (and their playful antics) was heartwarming, along with blue wildebeest welcoming new members to the family. The nimble black-backed jackals and bat-eared foxes, accompanied by their active offspring, added to the beautiful summer scenery.

Exciting cheetah encounters unfolded in the area, where we tracked two male cheetahs and a female with her trio of cubs. On the 5th, the mother and her cubs, positioned east of the pan, attempted a stealthy approach on springboks. Unfortunately, the antelopes sensed their presence, avoiding any close encounters. On the 22nd, a male cheetah on the eastern side of the pan engaged in a calculated stalk on grazing springboks, but the fast herbivores got away to live another day. Undeterred, the cheetah pursued a mother with a newborn, approximately two days old. A flurry of dust marked the conclusion of this high-speed chase, with the cheetah securing its meal, dragging it to the shade for a well-deserved rest before indulging in the feast.

Sublime green season in the Central Kalahari

Summer showers triggered a bloom of flowers that beckoned a diverse array of insects — the air was alive with the fluttering dance of butterflies, moths, bees, chafer beetles, ants, and wasps. As these insects thrived, they, in turn, were an irresistible draw for birds that feasted on them, highlighting the lively Kalahari ecosystem. From magnificent vultures to soaring eagles, the skies hosted a diverse cast of characters, including buzzards, falcons, kites, kestrels, goshawks, shrikes, guineafowls, spurfowls, cuckoos, sandgrouse, lapwings, thick-knees, coursers, and a myriad of LBJs (Little Brown Jobs).

A gripping encounter unfolded along Chock’s Road, where a black mamba and a yellow mongoose engaged in a fierce but fleeting battle. The mongoose retreated, and the mamba sought refuge in a hole near the road. Various snake species gracefully navigated the terrain, including snouted cobras, cape cobras, and black mambas. Tortoises, including the leopard and geometric varieties, ambled through their habitats.

Springboks CKGR Tau Pan

Guests immersed themselves in a wealth of information, discovering the intricate details of the bushman people’s lifestyle and culture during morning nature walks. Under the vast summer night sky, Tau Pan became a celestial theatre, showcasing prominent constellations. From the iconic Orion’s Belt, the hunter, to Taurus, the bull; Canis Major, the big dog, and Canis Minor, the little dog, the night sky unfolds a mesmerizing spectacle. The Southern Cross graces the morning, while the Milky Way, radiant and bright, adds cosmic brilliance. Planets like Jupiter and Saturn graced the night, and the morning revealed the gradual ascent of Venus.

(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, December 2023

A new lion pride heightened excitement this month. Boasting a headcount of approximately ten members — four youthful males and six females — moved into the Dinare Private Reserve, traversing the terrain around Mma and Rra Dinare camps.

This intriguing development signifies the coexistence of four distinct prides in the region: the established River Boys, Gomoti Boys, T Pride, and this new pride known as Batshabi. One afternoon, we tracked the Batshabi Pride trailing a buffalo herd, displaying remarkable stalking and ambushing strategies, resulting in the successful takedown of a female buffalo.

The resilient pack of 26 African wild dogs remained in the area. Impressively, the younger members of the pack have already joined the ranks of the seasoned hunters, displaying cooperative and skilful behaviour in several instances during our game drives.

Cheetah Santawani

As for the cheetahs, four brothers continued their patrol of the reserve, and we observed two females enjoying the plentiful prey species. In the last week of the month, we located the cheetahs mating and expect the cubs next year!  

Kwando guides also located a new spotted hyena den near the Dibatana water pan, and each time we visited, at least three or four members of the clan lazed about.

The leopards of the Dinare Private Reserve

The formidable Ralebodu leopard continued to exert his dominance over the territory. Additionally, a different youthful male consistently frequented the Rra Dinare Camp area. Among the leopard residents is a female with two young ones, both at the tender age of around six months, adding a touch of familial charm.

Abundant and diverse, the general game population thrived this summer. Majestic kudus, agile impalas, graceful red lechwe, and the stately presence of numerous buffalos and elephants. The water scarcity before the rains commenced in force made it easier to spot large crocodiles and snakes like pythons, mambas, and geckos. We watched as termites crafted beautiful mounds across the Okavango Delta terrain, and rains later in December cloaked the land in a vibrant green hue punctuated by the emergence of different flowers. The arrival of most intra-African migratory birds included woodland kingfishers, cuckoos, and woolly-necked storks.

(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, December 2023

At the Nxai Pan Camp swimming pool, two lionesses and a single cub quenched their thirst. 

This unexpected spectacle left us wondering, where was their missing cub? As the lionesses concluded their drink, a harmonious contact call filled the air, guiding us to the lost cub. A heartwarming reunion that put us all at ease!

Another day, the lions headed on an eastern journey, converging at the Wildlife waterhole. There, the trio of lionesses and two cubs revealed themselves again. 

On the west road of the camp, two lionesses and their cubs were engrossed in a feast, the remnants of a giraffe kill. On another occasion, a lone lioness on the middle road indulged in a unique dining experience, savouring a leopard tortoise. 

Lion cubs Nxai Pan

Meanwhile, the Nxai Pan pride, composed of two lionesses and their cubs, graced the eastern side of the Wildlife waterhole, partaking in a wildebeest kill. We also tracked two mysterious male lions that lingered near the camp waterhole, fuelling our suspicions of new arrivals. 

At Baines Baobabs, there was a pride of six lions featuring two lionesses and four subadults orchestrating a hunting expedition. A lone lioness with three adorable cubs perched at the edge of the scrub added a touch of innocence to the carnivorous endeavours. The same lioness, later seen on the Mini Baobab Road, engaged in a spirited but futile attempt to chase down springboks.

The birds and the big mammals

December’s birdwatching in Nxai Pan showcased a display of intra-African and Palearctic migratory birds. Red-backed shrikes, lesser grey shrikes, collared pratincoles, and the vibrant Southern Carmine bee-eaters, European bee-eaters and yellow-billed kites were all spotted. 

Breeding males among the ostriches adorned vibrant hues around their feet and beaks, signifying the mating season. Guests were also treated to the kori bustard courtship rituals, where the male showcased throat puffing and lekking. Northern black korhaan and red-crested korhaans displayed their own mesmerizing courtship behaviours, ascending to great heights before descending in a show of wings and song. Similarly, the southern masked weavers and red-billed queleas exhibited stunning displays. Witnessing the male southern masked weaver engage in nest building, with the female patiently observing, delighted our guests, creating a memorable craftsmanship moment. 

The road in Nxai Pan

The vast numbers of African elephants engaged in water-drinking rituals to aid digestion of their coarse diet were particularly striking. It was fascinating to witness these creatures perform thermoregulation exercises by mixing water with mud and spraying it on their bodies for cooling and parasite removal. Elephants’ ear-flapping, initially perceived as a cooling mechanism, also serves the vital function of cooling blood capillaries behind the ears, where they pump approximately 12 litres of blood every minute. 

Blue wildebeests exhibited territorial behaviours, including soil-raking with their feet to release pedal glands, rubbing faces on the ground to release pre-orbital glands, and tossing mud with horns to appear more imposing. The birthing season commenced, with springboks and impalas adding numerous lambs to the landscape. The imminent arrival of zebras hinted at an approaching migration. Kudus thrived in their preferred thickets, and gemsbok populations, especially around Baines Baobab, witnessed successful calving. 

Giraffes, seen as solitary bulls or in loose social structures, contributed to the sightings. African buffaloes gathered in large herds and bachelor groups, using mud-bathing for cooling and parasite control. Red Hartebeest, numbering around seven, added a special touch to the sightings near Baines’ Baobabs. The Nxai Pan landscape turned green thanks to recent rains. Baobab trees flowered, adding to the scenery, and there were more waterholes.

Cicadas were particularly intriguing, producing a continuous high-pitched sound. Grasshoppers also contributed to the acoustic environment by making sounds concealed in the grass. Other notable sightings included ground beetles, tenebrionids, and alates (flying termites) drawn to the camp lights during their post-wedding flight, marking the beginning of new colonies. The diversity extended to Matabele ants, bombardier insects, stick insects, scorpions, millipedes, centipedes, and various spiders such as community nest spiders, baboon spiders, and assassin bugs. Butterflies, including African monarchs, yellow pansies, common diadems, and white-veined brown butterflies, added vibrant colours to the insect panorama. Dung beetles were observed rolling away dung balls, and other notable sightings included spider-hunting wasps, moths, tree agamas, velvet mites, and African land giant snails.

The area’s thriving population of black-backed jackals was noteworthy, evidenced by their playful puppies around dens throughout the month. Bat-eared foxes were spotted with their adorable pups in the vicinity. The loyal bonds of steenboks, observed in pairs, showcased their commitment as lifelong mates, often found solitarily along the edges of their territories.

Summer stars at Nxai Pan Camp

The stargazing experience was exceptional, with captivating views of significant constellations. One prominent feature was the Mighty Hunter Orion, a summer constellation between November and May adorned with the twelfth brightest star, Betelgeuse, forming one of Orion’s shoulders. Taurus graced the night sky, with its fourteenth brightest star, Aldebaran, serving as the eye of the bull in the V-shaped constellation. Taurus also boasts the Pleiades, known as the Seven Sisters. Sirius, a star in Canis Major, adds its brilliance near Orion. The Southern Cross, or Crux, is easily identified with its Alpha Centauri and Beta Centauri pointers. 

(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, December 2023

Throughout the month, the leopard count reached an impressive 12 individuals in 10 days — a remarkable frequency.

Mating leopards were observed at Xinega Lagoon, and two distinct impala kills were also documented at the exact location.

Bonolo, a resident leopard whose name embodies calmness, graced us with her tranquil presence. She was a familiar sight, often strolling past the camp at night and during the day. During dinner at the central area, she occasionally made a poised appearance. One particular evening, we shadowed her as she stealthily approached a wattled crane, leaping skilfully through the tall grass to make a catch. For our guests, witnessing a leopard in mid-air seizing a bird was a captivating first!

Leopard sighting Pom Pom Camp

Lion sightings remained extraordinary, highlighted by a breakfast encounter with two lionesses hunting red lechwe in front of the Pom Pom Camp lagoon. Unfortunately, their hunt was unsuccessful due to the alert lechwes. Another winning episode unfolded on the north side of the camp, featuring a clash between spotted hyenas and lions over a red lechwe kill, ultimately claimed by the hyenas.

Spotted hyena sightings were abundant, occurring both day and night. These creatures have established a den by the airstrip, housing cubs of varying ages. During one drive, we witnessed a hyena kill and devour an impala. Additionally, we observed intriguing interactions involving hyenas, lions, leopards, and wild dogs during shared kills, as the hyenas persistently sought a portion of the spoils from the other predators.

A resident genet chose the main area rooftop as its abode. Recently, this genet became a mother, and one morning during brunch, its kitten accidentally tumbled from the rooftop. The opportunistic baboons sought to feed on the vulnerable kitten, but the mother swiftly retrieved it and relocated it to a secure haven. Genets are frequently encountered during our night drives. Additionally, this month, sightings included an African Wildcat and a porcupine. 

What do lions have to do with water levels?

Since water levels began to recede, a parade of unfamiliar lions marched into the Pom Pom Private Concession. Two impressive newcomers who settled into the western floodplain of the camp about three months ago caught our attention. (Strangely, the Pom Pom Pride’s dominant male has been absent during this time). We closely monitored these lion intruders, and it became evident that they’d successfully integrated, even mating with the four resident lionesses. This leads us to speculate that they might have ousted our original pride male lion. Adding to the saga, nomadic males, victorious over the two Kanana males, claimed territory and the accompanying females early in the month.

The resident pack of African wild dogs, totalling 18 members (6 adults and 12 lively puppies), graced us with several sightings this month. Their predatory skills were evident with nearly every encounter, culminating in many successful kills. One afternoon, while tracking them, we witnessed three separate impala kills unfold right before our eyes. Their regular hunting excursions showed the challenges of nourishing the lively puppies.

A male Cheetah was sighted southeast of the Manontlhotlho flood plains. Initially, at rest, it noticed reedbucks near a termite mound and stealthily began stalking them. However, the reedbucks were vigilant and swiftly evaded the cheetah. Another morning, the same male cheetah was observed near camp. (specifically in the Mosadimogolo wa Phiri area) leisurely traversing the surroundings.

Elephants loved the lagoons

During every game drive, we encountered herds of elephants and buffalos, primarily near the ponds that retained some water. The landscape was teeming with new life as red lechwes, impalas, and tsessebes welcomed their young ones. Bushbucks, giraffes, zebras, wildebeests, kudus, steenbok, common duiker, reedbucks, and waterbucks were also logged.

The drying lagoon channels and floodplains confined fish and frogs, creating a bird haven in Pom Pom. Pelicans, yellow-billed storks, African spoonbills, fish eagles, and wattled cranes were among the many gracing the landscape, as were the broad-billed rollers, woodland kingfishers, and African skimmers that made a delightful return to the region.

With the onset of rain, reptile sightings increased. The lagoons, although dry, became hotspots for crocodile sightings, with these ancient reptiles lingering in anticipation of the next flood. During one morning game drive, we witnessed a sizable python, approximately five meters long, hunting a bird. Another morning brought a sighting of a 2.5-meter python gracefully transitioning from the main area roof to a fever berry tree in pursuit of prey.

(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, December 2023

In the stillness of one unforgettable night game drive late in December, we were treated to an exceptional sighting — a pangolin.

Initially shy, it became a star of the night, captivating us with its distinctive scales and comically short front legs. 

Oribi antelopes and enormous journeys of giraffes

Game drives along the boundary road by Python Pan and around Tsaro Pan revealed a spectacular sight of approximately eighty-six giraffes. Tsessebe Island treated us to the elusive sitatunga antelope. Oribi antelopes also appeared near James’s Pool, while a grand dazzle of zebras was a photographic highlight on the area’s western side along Zebra Road and Eland Pan.

Following the abundant rains, the entire Kwando Private Concession became a lush green expanse — the natural waterholes brimmed with water, where bullfrogs sounded their sonorous calls and banded rubber frogs appeared along the camp’s walkways.

The leopards and lions of Lebala

To the western side of the camp along Impala Road, we uncovered cat tracks weaving back and forth near a natural waterhole. As we traversed through the Kalahari apple leaf trees and approached the mopane trees, the tracks grew fresher. Our reward was discovering the leopard, a nursing mother with a two-and-a-half-month-old cub. The joyous sight of the cub cautiously emerging from the bushes to reunite with its mother brought immense delight to our guests!

During our expedition along the southern route, we stumbled upon a subadult female leopard’s faint but intriguing tracks near Motswiri Pan. Despite the rain causing the tracks to fade, our perseverance paid off as we tracked her down, gracefully resting along the road west of Twin Pools.   

On another morning expedition south of Lebala Camp along Vlei Road, we encountered the eleven lions from the Scarface Pride. Hoping for a hunt (as they appeared hungry), we followed them back to camp and kept tracking as they passed west of the staff quarters, heading north along Elephant Trail. To our surprise, they swam across the river!

Lions at Lebala

We also encountered the Scarface Pride along Crane Road. They were on the move north of camp, comprising two lionesses, nine sub-adults of different ages, and three big males. Attempting to hunt red lechwe, their efforts were unsuccessful as the lechwe spotted them, distracted by the playful antics of the subadults. During our morning drive along the main road via Baobab Pan, we found three male lions, the Golden Boys, and followed them as they roared, heading east. We witnessed a lion cub being introduced to the Scarface Pride, with the subadults keen on playing but held back by the growling mother.

One morning game drive, we heard lions roaring north of Lebala Camp. We headed in that direction for about forty minutes and found a male and female near Mike’s Crossing, north of James Pool. We spent at least half an hour photographing them, only to realise they had just started mating, which brought smiles to our faces.

Along the main road near the BDF junction, lion tracks etched a story of their recent passage, crossing the road westward. We navigated through the bush, where the lions, with a keen sense of smell, cornered a female on a leadwood tree. Bathed in the sun’s golden hues, the guests seized the moment, capturing exquisite photographs of this remarkable scene.

A walk on the wild side in the Kwando Private Concession

Walking safaris were extraordinary throughout the month. Engaging discussions on the medicinal uses of plants unfolded against the backdrop of blooming flowers, creating a sensory-rich experience. As we walked amidst the flora, guests could touch and smell various species, connecting with nature intimately. Encounters with wildlife during these walks, including warthogs, black-backed jackals, wildebeests, and red lechwe, offered a unique perspective into their fascinating behaviours.

For over an hour and a half, we diligently tracked two male cheetahs until we discovered them resting under the comforting shade of a leadwood tree along the westward stretch of the ten-kilometre road. Sated from a recent meal, we observed their laboured breathing and playful rolls from side to side.

On the 3rd, our expedition took us on an extensive drive along the boundary road, following the tracks of these magnificent cheetahs weaving through the mopane woodland. After a dedicated effort lasting two and a half hours, we found them reclined, their round bellies hinting at a substantial feast.

Later in the month, a drive along Bale’s Road presented fresh tracks of two male cheetahs heading towards a waterhole. Suddenly, with a burst of energy, the cheetahs leapt up and darted into the bushes. Following their trail, we uncovered a dramatic scene: the cheetahs overpowering a baby impala. Cameras clicked as they devoured every part, including the crunching of bones, culminating in a thorough session of cleaning and mutual grooming.

Due to the notable presence of lions and hyenas, we persisted in our efforts to locate the playful African wild dogs. A breakthrough occurred during our productive morning game drive along Zebra Road. We were drawn to descending vultures. The dogs, a pack of ten (nine adults and one subadult puppy), were found near Zebra Pan, satiated after feasting on the remains of a male impala. The dogs treated us to delightful antics, playing with sticks and frolicking in the water to cleanse themselves of blood.

There were abundant sightings of spotted hyenas, particularly in the vicinity of Twin Pools, where the presence of elephant carcasses drew them in, benefitting from the wetness brought by the rain. One extraordinary event unfolded as seven spotted hyenas engaged in a dramatic battle with the lions from Stricker Pride, consisting of two adults and five subadults, over a lechwe kill. In a surprising turn, the hyenas emerged victorious, claiming the spoils, while the lions were left to lick their wounds.

Adding to our hyena experiences, we spotted a shy brown hyena north of the camp along Crane Road. Swiftly, it darted into the marshes, giving our guests a fleeting yet captivating glimpse as it vanished through the tall grass.

During our morning and afternoon game drives, the landscape came alive with the presence of black-backed and side-striped jackals, scrub hares, and bat-eared foxes. Impalas with their adorable offspring, sizable herds of elephants accompanied by tiny calves, and glimpses of sable and roan antelopes in small woodland groups.

Kwando Lebala Dining Area

In camp, closer to the kitchen and dining area, encounters with the olive grass snake and green-spotted snake provided fascinating insights into the local wildlife. Along the tributary east and south of the camp by the stadium, both large and small crocodiles gracefully navigated the waters. The air buzzed with the mesmerising flight of click beetles, net-winged beetles, and fruit chafers moving from one flower to another. A particular favourite among our guests was observing dung beetles skilfully rolling their dung balls from animal droppings.

Yellow-billed kites, Walberg’s eagles, tawny eagles, and various adults and juveniles of bateleur eagles soared overhead. Southern carmine bee-eaters, broad-billed rollers, lanner falcons, and red-footed falcons danced in the air in large groups, creating memorable visual displays. Meanwhile, thick-billed weavers, brown-throated weavers, and white-browed weavers diligently built and rebuilt their nests, providing a captivating glimpse into their nesting behaviours.

(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, December 2023

Golden Boy, a substantial male leopard, often strolled through the vicinity of Mokhutsomu Pan as he ventured northward.

Another male, Mazaboka, shifted his usual haunt to the north of Grass Pan, revealing the dynamic nature of leopard territories. Along Diolo Road, a young female engaged in intriguing olfactory investigations, seemingly searching for Mazaboka, her companion from multiple past encounters. Their rendezvous was documented west of Lagoon Camp along Number One Road. Mazaboka displayed his hunting skills by securing a kill — an impala lamb.

In other news! The mother of two, Mmamazabuka, showcased impressive adaptability, leveraging the abundance of young animals in the region, including impalas, kudus, and tsessebes. A remarkable deviation from typical leopard behaviour unfolded as we trailed her during a hunt, witnessing her chase an impala lamb for an extraordinary distance of around two hundred meters — an uncommon feat in the world of leopards. The subadults under her guidance also made their mark, securing a kill of an impala lamb south of Tsokotsha. Additionally, west of Pangolin and Upper Kwando Junction, we encountered a female leopard with a cub that had successfully hunted an impala lamb.

Leopard at Lagoon Camp

Frequent rains added a dynamic flair to the activities of the lion prides, notably the esteemed Holy Pride. Their movements, extending as far as Ipelegeng road and the Cutline Pan, typically favoured territories of the Mmadikolobe pride due to the abundance of resources — zebras, tsessebes, and wildebeests adorned these landscapes in impressive numbers. Their full bellies spoke of numerous occasions spent in these rich hunting grounds. Notably, one heavily pregnant female roamed with her eight cubs (all around seven months old).

The skills of the male lions, the Rrabogale coalition, were evident as they also covered vast expanses, ranging from John’s Pan to the far east of the camp. A glimpse of one member feasting on a hippo carcass by mud-waters and three others savouring a buffalo carcass southeast of mud-waters became a regular occurrence, their satisfied bellies showing off successful endeavours. At the start of the month, the Mmadikolobe pride ventured as far as the first lagoon, Badisa, and traversed the cheetah marking post route, the domain of Mmamosetlha. The Mmamosetlha pride, accompanied by three subadults, thrived, exhibiting successful kills in various locations. Their vitality was evident from feasting on a zebra carcass west of the airstrip to a later spectacle south of the airstrip, where they relished another zebra kill.

The great plains game of Kwando

Zebras dominated various landscapes of the Kwando Private Concession, from the second and first lagoons to grassy plains and the aptly named Zebra Pans. Most antelope species nurtured their young, while some still gave birth, including wildebeests, impalas, and tsessebes. Eland antelopes clipped across the open areas alongside zebras, while sightings of sable antelopes were less frequent. Abundant water in natural holes reduced elephant movement. Yet, whenever more than two rainless days passed, a significant number of these majestic creatures could be observed converging towards the Kwando River.

Two prominent cheetah brothers were frequently spotted, particularly in the southern region of Cutline, coinciding with tracks belonging to a female. Occasionally, they ventured on separate paths only to reunite the following day. We traced their recent movements with the discovery of fresh tracks near Grass Pan, leading us to locate them in the afternoon at their distinctive marking post by Mosheshe.

The Lagoon Pack of African wild dogs

A pack of ten African wild dogs, known as the Lagoon Pack, consisting of nine adults and an endearing puppy, journeyed near Lagoon Camp, heading southwards towards Rrakgolo. They displayed their skills by hunting and successfully taking down an impala lamb. After their meal, they found respite by the cheetah marking posts along Grass Road. The afternoon unfolded with a thrilling pursuit, resulting in the pack securing at least four additional impala kills. However, by the following morning, they had mysteriously vanished, leaving behind tracks indicating a trajectory toward Cutline. In the afternoon, their presence was noted on the Lebala side. During another morning game drive, we were drawn to a single highly mobile wild dog, swiftly disappearing into the dense mopane bushes. In the afternoon, diligent tracking led us to a group of approximately fifteen wild dogs within the mopane woodland.

Wild dogs Kwando Lagoon Camp

Spotted hyena encounters were exceptional, with these fascinating creatures frequently appearing in various areas. In the preceding month, there was a den not far from Middle Road, but the hyenas relocated due to flooding. Following the tracks of African wild dogs, we stumbled upon their new den along Maporota Road, although the clan appears to be accustomed to denning along Middle Road. Throughout the month, we were fortunate to witness their hunting and scavenging activities unfold in diverse locations.

Bat-eared foxes foraged, and springhares hopped into the lamplight during night drives. Banded, yellow, and slender mongooses added lively dynamics to bush explorations, while aardwolves made noteworthy appearances throughout the month. Two bustling aardwolf denning sites were particularly active, situated by Main and Makudi junction roads and another along Makudi road, though it, unfortunately, also succumbed to flooding. The elegant serval cat was seen foraging along Water Affairs Island, and African wild cats, with their mysterious allure, were repeatedly sighted.

A languid giant crocodile was observed basking by the second lagoon, accompanied by several energetic young ones at Kwena Lagoon and Half-Pan. Water monitor lizards were also spied.

Diverse cuckoo species, carmine bee-eaters, broad-billed rollers, steppe eagles, wattled cranes and open-billed and yellow-billed storks adorned the skies while majestic ostriches moved through the lengthening grass. Various vulture species added to the aerial ballet, soaring and, on occasion, feasting on scattered carcasses.

Celestial bodies like Jupiter occasionally graced the night sky when clouds parted, and Venus cast its early morning glow. Constellations like Orion’s Belt, Taurus, Sirius, and the Pleiades made captivating appearances during clear spells.

(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, December 2023

We encountered six cheetah individuals this month: four males, one female, and an adorable cub. 

Additionally, a cautious coalition of two male cheetahs travelled the Ngorongoro area. The movements of the resident male cheetah, Mr. Special, became intricate due to the presence of a young male in his territory at the Bat-eared fox area. Interestingly, the young male marked the same territory posts as Mr. Special. Unfortunately, a female cheetah lost two cubs to hyena threats, but she bravely cares for her surviving single cub. She spent most of her time in the West, benefiting from the open terrain, which served as an excellent hunting ground.

Cheetahs Kwara Concession by Jay Collier 2
By Jay Collier

Green season boat cruise in the Okavango Delta

The Okavango Delta waters teemed with life during boat cruises into the Moremi Game Reserve. Numerous young crocodiles inhabited the shores, and we occasionally spotted snakes, skinks, and monitor lizards along the channel. Summer migrant birds listed included carmine bee-eaters, woodland kingfishers, and yellow-billed kites. Various kinds of storks, pelicans, and, on one occasion, the violet-backed starling were observed in Kwara Camp. The heronries were all active, with Godikwe being particularly lively. 

Boat Cruise Moremi

The Kwara Pride, thriving notably, frequently roamed the Bat-eared fox area, with occasional ventures into the 4 Rivers expanse. The once-familiar pride of seven, a customary sight near Splash Camp, has embraced the sanctuary of the mopane woodland. Speculations suggest they are shadowing buffaloes drawn to the replenished inland water holes courtesy of the rainy season. 

On the eastern fringes of Splash Camp, the resilient lion pride of five, known as MmaLeitho, prospers. An exciting encounter involved these lions scavenging on an elephant carcass. In the morning game drive, we witnessed a clan of hyenas interacting with the lions. Watching these large predators engage in a standoff was captivating, with the lions emerging victorious. After a while, the lions moved away from the carcass due to the unpleasant smell, and the hyenas continued to follow them through the meadow grasses. Considering the challenging terrain, we decided to leave the scene. 

Two impressive male lions, relatively new to the east of the concession, appeared robust and handsome, with fewer battle marks on their faces. Zebras were a favoured meal, and we observed two full-grown females lying down at Ngorongoro, looking very healthy indeed.

Summer at Kwara and Splash Camp

The calving season has rewarded us with remarkable leopard sightings and these beautiful cats were often seen preying on young animals. One memorable incident involved a leopardess hunting and successfully taking down an ewe impala behind tent three at Kwara Camp, right in front of guests being escorted to their tents after dinner. She showed little concern for the onlookers as she continued with her duty, eventually dragging the kill into the bush. Another leopard appeared near the main area in the following days, heading towards tent seven.

Last week, a leopard tom made a mark by killing two prey, an ewe impala and a red lechwe. The two carcasses were skillfully hoisted into different trees. During a late afternoon game drive, we encountered a substantial female hyena lying under the same tree where one of the carcasses was kept. (The denning area near Kwara Camp was active, with nightly echoes of hyenas howling and their footprints leaving a trail along the walkways). The following day, we missed the carcass, and it appeared to have dropped down, possibly taken by a hyena. 

A female leopard known to frequent the airstrip vicinity appeared to be lactating. There was a suspicion that she might have cubs, although no one has had the privilege of confirming the presence of these elusive offspring.

The African wild dogs of the Kwara Private Concession

An established pack of 22 African wild dogs has expanded its territory and sometimes seen at 4 Rivers. The pack and its six puppies showed resilience after losing two pups last month, and abundant food sources have contributed to their well-being, including offspring from prey species such as impalas and tsessebes. There was an intense encounter when the pack ventured into Kwara Camp and successfully hunted impalas. A clan of hyenas promptly appeared, hoping to scavenge, leading to prolonged and noisy competition for food.

Recently, we observed a shift in the pack’s movements, spotting them three times heading deeper east. During one instance, we tracked them as they captured a fully grown tsessebe and took it down. The following day, we trailed them along Mabala a Matlotse. As they reached the centre, they began chasing impalas. Although the impalas managed to escape, the wild dogs turned their attention to a dazzle of zebras with small foals. In a surprising turn of events, the wild dogs successfully captured a young foal, approximately two days old. The foal’s mother valiantly tried to defend her offspring, but unfortunately for her, the wild dogs strategized and succeeded in killing the foal. 

(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 Camp, November 2023

We headed out on many a cheetah-tracking adventure this month!

Trackers and guides located fresh cheetah tracks on the east side of Tsum Tsum. The pursuit led us to the northern part of the region, tirelessly following the faint trail for nearly 30 minutes. Our efforts were rewarded as we unexpectedly encountered the renowned “Mr Special” concealed in tall grass, guided by the vigilant alarm calls of common reedbucks. However, the morning didn’t end with a successful hunt. Towards the end of the month, a newly discovered cheetah, seemingly more relaxed, was observed on the eastern fringes of Tsum Tsum.

In the heart of 4 Rivers, lions kept everyone on our toes. The Kwara pride, a team of three robust males, four regal females, and a lively ensemble of sub-adults with cubs, stole the show. With 20 members, this pride grapples with internal dynamics, breaking into smaller groups due to the intensifying competition for sustenance. We witnessed a marsh-side feast on wildebeest and the later spectacle of the Kwara pride relishing the spoils of two zebras. Our guests also observed the War pride indulging in a giraffe feast.

Leopards are being seen more and more at 4 Rivers. On 15 November, a male leopard crossed our path, utilizing the roads common to these stealthy creatures during nighttime. Another leopard was seen on 20 November at the eastern edge of the 4 Rivers waterhole. Tracking African wild dogs led us to their resting place under a jackalberry tree.

As temperatures cooled, the dogs stirred, and the pack ventured into a marshy area. There, they discovered a leopard with its prey, a common reedbuck. As hyenas joined the scene, a dramatic skirmish ensued, creating a tense standoff. In the wild hierarchy, the outnumbered leopard yielded to the combined might of hyenas and wild dogs.

African wild dogs 4 Rivers

Hyenas become a familiar sight, drawn to waterholes during the searing heat. Their numbers surged, and occasionally, the animals shadowed the more prosperous African wild dogs, likely in anticipation of scavenging the remnants of a successful hunt.

Walking through a wild wonderland

Nature walks on Maboa Island came alive with countless birds, and the ground was adorned with the vibrant bloom of freshly germinated flowers. The termite mounds buzzed with activity, becoming lively hubs amid our exploration. As we strolled through the bush, a bustling community of insects, including dung beetles,  bright red velvet mites, ants, and their predators, tiny ant lions, revealed themselves, turning every step into an exciting discovery.

The northern side of Tsum Tsum burst into life, attracting various animals. Towering giraffes, herds of zebras, wildebeest, tsessebe, roan and sable antelope, and a herd of eland created rich scenery. The breeding season post-rainfall has predators keenly eyeing their vulnerable young. The changing weather also spurred activity among reptiles. We clocked eyes on leopard tortoises, pythons, black mambas, and crocodiles basking along riverbanks.

Night drives unveiled a cast of smaller mammals, from African wild cats and porcupines to rabbits, beautiful elegant servals and charming small-spotted genets.

The skies and waterways become alive with the arrival of birds from the north. Slaty egrets, woodland kingfishers, and black herons engaged in their respective captivating ballets of flight and fishing. We also saw carmine bee-eaters, Wahlberg eagles and many more species.

(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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