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Nxai Pan May 2013

 

In the beginning of May, it’s hard to get out of bed. It’s the beginning of the change in weather, as the temperature at night begins to drop, and the idea of getting up at 5.30 a.m. means getting out of the snug warm duvet in the darkness, getting dressed quickly, and moving as fast as possible to the fireplace, for a welcome cup of coffee. For those that were a little slow to get started one morning, it meant an enforced delay in getting their cup of coffee…. For those first around the camp fire, most were staring into the warming flames, though one of the eagle-eyed guides was looking out towards the waterhole, still barely visible at such distance in only half-light. A moving shape alerted his interest, with his initial reaction being that it was a brown hyena (rumours of a company-wide scheme of rapid promotion for the first person to show a brown hyena to the writer of this report may have had something to do with it). A little closer look, and the brown hyena turned out to be a lioness, with another lioness following close behind. As they moved away from the water hole, towards the camp, a quick count of guests at the fire place (now much more awake) and the realization that two guests were taking a few extra minutes getting out from under the duvet. To complicate matters, the lionesses were now making a bee-line for the gap between rooms 5 & 6. Very quickly, the sleepy guests had a vehicle not far from their bedroom with the guide telling them not to go outside till the cats had moved off. Luckily, the vegetation between the rooms is not very lion friendly. The lions soon moved back out into the open to warm up in the sun, enabling the guests to finally secure a good cup of coffee! Later in the morning, the lionesses moved off to the east of the camp, to lie up under the scrubby acacias, in the hope of catching something a little later.

Although the nights are cooler, the days are still warm, and wildebeest, oryx and other general game are seen resting in the shade of the small trees that dot the edge of the pan, and the tracks to Baines Baobabs. Moving to the main waterhole to drink, there is relief there for the thirsty animals, but right of way still belongs to the elephants, who shove the wildebeest away from the waters edge. Ostriches also move in to drink from time to time, and a pair were seen with a flotilla of knee-height chicks following along the way.

The 9th of May was a lucky day for two kudus who almost fell upon two lionesses as they approached the waterhole. The lionesses ignored them, focusing more intently on the other game that was drinking at the water hole. Perhaps they were just whiling the day away, as the lionesses didn’t make a move on any individual. The next day wasn’t such a lucky one for a zebra, as a herd of zebras was seen fleeing from Baobab Loop, and we made the discovery of one lioness having just caught one.

Lions were seen several days in a row in mid-May, with the Main Waterhole being the key area. Of a group of six lions, one male and female were mating for several days, ignoring the presence of the others, and pretty much any other animal nearby.

Cheetahs were seen several times as well this month, and we were able to follow them for two days in a row whilst they desperately searched for something to hunt. They travelled a distance of roughly ten kilometers over the two days, without seeming to have any success.

It’s not just the big predators that get to make the kills out here – raptors often take one of the many thousands of guinea fowl that roam around the ground. One raptor, a martial eagle (the biggest raptor we have) did well to catch his meal of a guinea fowl, but then lost it immediately to a brave black backed jackal!