Tau Pan, June 2018

Kwando 2014- 2015

A couple of extremely unusual sightings happened in Tau Pan during June, the first of which involved no animals at all. On 2nd of June an asteroid collided with earth over western Botswana and our team at Tau Pan were some of the last humans to witness the huge flash it as it turned into a meteor fireball. Hearing the loud explosions our guests came running out of their rooms thinking that our generator had blown up, only to find very startled staff looking at a trail of smoke across the sky. Experts descended on the area from all over the world and partly helped by our team’s eye-witness accounts were able to retrieve fragments of the asteroid. This was only the second time in history that remains have been able to be recovered from a meteorite hitting earth.

Closer to home, another extraordinary sighting at Tau Pan was a leopard who approached our vehicle and then decided to crawl straight underneath it. Guests held their breath as the animal could be heard underneath banging against the metal. It eventually came out and then lay down to sleep right next to the game viewer in a most unconcerned way. A really incredible encounter which thrilled the guests.

Another complete surprise was the appearance of a bull elephant at Tau Pan camp who was frequently seen by the rooms and at the camp waterhole. Elephants are not common in the area and definitely not something our team expected to come across as they walked to the rooms. It goes to show you never know what will happen next in the bush!
The Tau Pan pride of lions were doing well. They were seen regularly at the camp waterhole and seen feeding on wildebeest carcasses.

An aardwolf was located in the evenings heading southwards across the pan. Honey badgers were seen much more regularly than they had been during the summer months and could be viewed digging at the pan for rodents and barking geckos most days. Bat-eared foxes and black-backed jackals were also regular sightings. Guests enjoyed watching ground squirrels digging and foraging around their burrows, always keenly checking the skies to ensure that a raptor wasn’t about to swoop down on them.

The resident cheetah was seen towards the west of Tau Pan and another cheetah mother with two cubs was seen on day trip to Deception Valley.

General game included oryx, red lechwe, wildebeest, steenbok, springbok and large numbers of giraffe.

Every morning huge flocks of birds were descending on the camp waterhole. At around eight o clock it was hundreds of doves and then by nine o clock it was the turn of Burchell’s sandgrouse. Ostriches were seen often during game drive as well as white-backed vultures and white-headed vultures.

The weather in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve during June was exceptionally clear and cold, making for very beautiful star-gazing conditions in the wide open skies.

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

Nxai Pan, June 2018

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Nxai Pan camp was closed for refurbishment during June, but although there were no human visitors, the animals continued to make full use of our facilities. As the dry weather continued, our maintenance team saw many species flocking to our waterhole to drink including lion, buffalo, kudu, impala, giraffe, wildebeest and springbok. As always, elephants visited in large numbers, some coming into camp to browse.

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

Lebala, June 2018

Little Kwara

The Bonga Pride of lions comprising eleven adults and three cubs of about nine months were still in the area. One of the lionesses had split away from the rest of the family whilst she was nursing her two smaller cubs. We found the pride together enjoying kills of buffalo, wildebeest, warthog and zebra on numerous occasions. They spent time during the day at the various waterholes, always with an eye on the opportunity to ambush prey coming down to drink. The two big dominant males, Old Gun and Sebastian, were starting to give the two-year-old males a hard time, injuring one of the youngsters, and our guides feel sure that they will soon be driven out of the family group. Another time two of the boys were seen fighting with a honey badger. True to its reputation the honey badger put up a ferocious defence and it took almost an hour for the lions to eventually kill it but after all that effort they decided not to eat the honey badger’s remains. The Wapoka Pride were also seen including two of the lionesses hunting warthogs near to the river.

As usual for the Lebala area, hyenas were often found near to the lion prides hoping for the chance to steal a kill. We also found a clan of twelve hyena on a kudu carcass which we suspected had died of natural causes. They were eating vigorously and didn’t take long to finish the meat off. Vultures were nearby to pick the bones clean, giving our guests a wonderful opportunity to see nature’s clean-up crews in action.

A leopard was located near to the staff village and guests were lucky enough to watch him kill a civet right as we followed him. This beautiful tom, known to the guides as The Fisherman, was seen often in the marsh area.

African wild cat was located on night drive hunting and more unusually also seen in the open during the day.

Elephants were seen crossing the river and it was fun to see them playing and bathing in the water. Herds of buffalo were also starting to come back out of the mopane woodlands and back towards the wetter areas. A lovely herd of ten sable adults with six calves were located. As the floods started to come into the Kwando Reserve we had fantastic sightings of red lechwe herds splashing through the water. Other general game species located often included giraffe, zebra and kudu.

A resident pair of two wild dogs came into the camp one morning and seemed to be in a hunting mood as they were running around the camp. Eventually they seemed to decide that luck was not on their side and they spend the day lounging by Room 9. Another time they were managed to kill a kudu calf and we were delighted to see that they had a puppy trailing along behind them. All of a sudden, a hyena appeared and managed to confiscate the carcass from the pack. The dogs were also found feeding on an impala east of our airfield.

The coalition of cheetah brothers spent time on the Lebala side of the Kwando reserve where they were seen spraying on trees to mark their territory. This lovely pair of cats can be quite playful with each other as they scamper up and down trees.

Birding was good, especially by the river where we saw saddle-billed storks, egrets and ibis. A remarkable sighting of twenty wattled cranes shows that the Kwando reserve is doing well in augmenting the Okavango Delta as a stronghold for these endangered birds. Guests also enjoyed a lovely sighting of a Verreaux’s Eagle Owl.

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

Lagoon, June 2018

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Wild dogs were still denning near to Lagoon camp in June giving incredible sightings of the mother nursing and the whole pack interacting, including their “greeting rituals”. The pack comprised six adults and they hunted every day to give the alpha female and her puppies sufficient food. Towards the end of the month the eleven puppies were getting quite bold and were curiously approaching our vehicles. The female who lost her puppies to the alpha female the previous month appeared to have recovered well from their fight. The dogs had good success hunting in the riverine area where they were seen feeding on a female kudu and sub-adult waterbuck.

Spotted hyenas also had a den in the area with seven cubs of varying ages. Most appeared to be doing well, though towards the end of the month we noticed that one youngster was getting weaker and was being bullied by the other cubs; this is quite normal dominance behaviour within the clan. There were usually a few adults left behind to guard the den site and guests enjoyed watching the mothers tenderly nursing their young. The cubs were being very playful and one day we watched them having a tug of war over a warthog skull which the adults had brought back to the den.

Two sub-adult leopard cubs aged 10-11 months are now more independent and were seen increasingly on their own, as well as with their mother. The cubs were now at a stage where they were practicing their hunting skills on mice and birds meanwhile their mother was keeping their bellies full with impala, warthog and baboon carcasses. The young male appeared to be splitting away from his sister and mother completely and one day paid us a visit at camp, passing between Room 1 and the main area. The female leopard came into oestrus and then was seen together with a very nervous adult male.

A group of five lions were seen in Lagoon during the month consisting of three males and two females. One of the males is markedly more skittish than the others and tends to keep himself a bit more separate, especially when vehicles are around. The other two brothers were patrolling huge distances to mark their territories, sometimes splitting apart to cover different areas. One of the females came into oestrus during the month and was duly mated. As a pride, they seemed to be specialising in wildebeest as a favourite prey species, but the lionesses were also seen visiting warthog burrows in the late afternoons as the temperature cooled down.

The coalition of two cheetah brothers were seen occasionally. On one occasion they were hunting a huge male warthog, but he stood his ground and eventually chased the cats away. They were also seen hunting red lechwe.

Aardwolves were located more than once during night drives. We saw a caracal successfully hunting mice through the grasses and it eventually moved into a more open area giving everyone a good view. Other smaller mammals located included African wild cat, honey badger, African civet, genets, bat-eared fox and side-striped jackal.

General game was very good throughout the month including large herds of elephant, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, impala, kudu, red lechwe, tsessebe, eland and waterbuck. Endangered roan and sable antelopes were also enjoyed by our guests. Large buffalo herds have come back out of the mopane woodlands and were often found drinking by the river.
Notable bird sightings included saddle-billed storks, ground hornbills, secretary birds, pearl-spotted owlet, Verreaux’s eagle owl and black herons. Short-tailed and tawny eagles could be viewed following the hunting wild dogs, hoping to be able to scavenge the carcass. A large group of vultures were seen at their bathing spot.

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

Kwara Reserve, June 2018

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The wild dog pack of 8 adults and 11 puppies were denning close to Little Kwara camp. We were able to witness them making successful kills and then returning to the den to regurgitate food for the alpha female. Guests really enjoyed seeing the mother nursing her pups. From the 10th of June the pack relocated to an old hyena den nearby and by that stage the puppies were also starting to eat the meat that the adult pack members were providing.

The spotted hyena den was also very active with five young cubs. Guests enjoyed watching them playing with their siblings and the adults. The cubs also seemed to take a liking to our vehicles and came close trying to chew the tyres.

A female leopard with her two cubs was located very often at her den site and the cubs appeared to be in good condition. Hyenas stole reedbuck kills from her a couple of times, but we also saw her with impala carcasses, taken up the tree for safety. Her cubs were about two months old and very playful. We had delightful sightings of them climbing trees and playing with their mother’s tail.

The resident male cheetah known as “Special” was seen throughout the month. At the start of the June we saw him by the old mokoro station trying to hunt a warthog, but in a dramatic encounter the warthog fiercely fought him and he suffered an injury. Luckily he was not hurt too badly and to everyone’s relief we saw him the following evening chasing red lechwes though he was not successful that time or the next day. By the end of the month he seemed to be back on form and we saw him eating well on impala.

Four male lions had formed a coalition, although often seen in pairs. They appeared to be in good condition. One day we saw two of them in a stand-off with one of the Zulu Boy males. They were fighting over the carcass of a baby hippo and roaring at each other. Two lioness sisters were located nursing cubs of about 3-4 months old and were seen again feasting on a tsessebe carcass. The six cubs were initially nervous, but were getting used to the vehicles and settling quickly after the engine was switched off. There was another lioness seen often at Splash drinking from the waterhole in front of camp. The guides suspected that she was lactating so perhaps had cubs nearby.

Guests enjoyed watching a very relaxed honey badger who was digging for mice. Aardwolf, porcupine, serval and African civet were all seen during night drives.

General game included plentiful giraffe, zebra, tsessebe and wildebeest. Elephants were seen in good numbers, especially towards Splash hippos. A breeding herd of forty buffalo was located.

At Splash the general game and birdlife in front of camp was excellent, with many species coming to the waterhole to drink. Lions and hyenas could frequently be heard at night calling from within camp. Elephant and buffalo were also seen nearby.

Bird species seen during the month included martial eagle, saddle-billed storks, marabou storks, secretary birds and the endangered ground hornbill. A Verreaux’s (giant) eagle owl was roosting every night in the camp island. A large flock of pelicans were seen at Splash camp. The boat cruises continued to provide lovely bird sightings including African fish eagle herons and spoonbills.

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