Kwara, Splash

Splash/Kwara, August 2021

A Botswana safari is unparalleled, largely thanks to its water. Exploring the floodplains and boarding the boat to explore the Okavango Delta certainly yielded some of our best sightings during August. 

A mating pair of African rock pythons were seen at the boat station, and the little Marsh mongoose was seen twice this month! The big, dark-coated mongoose is extremely shy and a very rare sighting. Each time it was spotted, it would instantly merge with the marshes and disappear. It is also primarily, but not strictly, nocturnal. 

The landscapes at this time of year are beautiful, especially on the boat cruise. There are plenty of palm trees and Palm swifts diving in and out of the fan-like foliage. An adult male Sitatunga was identified during a boat cruise in the Muanachira channel. He was busy foraging but froze in alert when we stopped the boat. After a minute or so, he disappeared into the papyrus again (much like a Marsh mongoose). 

The Xobega heronry is still highly active, with waterbirds nesting in large numbers. Marabou storks, Yellow-billed storks, Cattle egrets, Squacco herons and many more contribute to the cacophony. It’s fascinating to sit and watch the nesting, mating and tending of fluffy chicks. 

At Kwara Camp, guests aboard the mokoro were equally treated to magnificent little sightings. Painted reed frogs, African jacanas, and many other water birds crossed the path of our traditional dugout canoes. The water level is now receding due to the rising heat and evaporation. Nonetheless, an aquatic orchestra continues. Outdoor dinners are amazing, with effortless stargazing to the deep blowing sounds from bullfrogs and the twinkling of the aptly named Bell frogs emanating from the lagoon.

Large herds of buffaloes and exceptional herds of elephants have been noted on almost all game drive routes. However, you don’t have to venture far to see the pachyderms. They love feeding on the fruitful Jackalberries within the Kwara Camp island. It’s getting windy, and most of the trees are dropping their dry leaves in the change of season. The Sausage trees, however, are rich with wildlife due to the nectars being produced. Baboons, monkeys, and plenty of birds are enjoying the sweetness. We have also been seeing herds of zebras and wildebeest plus small groups of waterbucks and pelicans at the waterhole in front of Splash Camp. 

A very large flock of pelicans amounting to hundreds came to rest at Pelican Pan. They were on the hunt and fervently fishing. A pair of Tawny eagles nested on top of a Knob thorn acacia nearby, which helps prevent other predators from getting too close, and we often witnessed the adult feeding their chicks. 

Did you notice? We haven’t even mentioned the big predators yet! 

At the start of August, Kwara Camp guides located the Mmaleitlo pride with their three cubs. The animals were well-fed and actively playing along the marshland. This pride later took up residency in the Splash Camp area. Occasionally, they were joined by the Mbukushu boys’ coalition made up of five males. Guests didn’t need to drive out to see lions. They would alternate between sitting at the campfire area to watch the waterhole and Splash Enclave to follow with the lively cubs. Herbivore activity around the waterhole came to a standstill because of their presence! 

Two lionesses from the Splash pride we located resting on the runway. These animals were in a hunting mood, looking around for prey, but baboons saw the cats and raised the alarm. Guides and trackers could only see two lionesses, but as the alarm was so serious and tense, they investigated more closely. Three months old cubs popped up and ran towards the mothers from their hidden area! 

These two lionesses were located again, southeast of Kwara Camp, but this time with the whole pride of nine lions. The happy cubs were among them sniffing each one of the lionesses and being licked in return greeting. It seemed this was their first-day introductions to the pride. This pride was later seen on Sable Island with a kudu carcass, which seemed to be the first solid meal for the cubs. They didn’t do much with the ample meat and instead kept begging for milk from the mother. 

Guides at Splash Camp, meanwhile, came across three female lions and two males feeding on buffaloes. After examining tracks and closely assessing the circumstances, it appeared that the lions had chased a herd of buffalo into the water, and some of them drowned. It was a feast for all, including Spotted hyenas and Black-backed jackals who soon joined the party. 

Speaking of parties. It’s always on the day you’re keen to slow down that things seem to happen! One day guests wanted to take it easy and bumped into a pack of 23 Wild dogs heading toward Kwara Camp. They set off in pursuit and witnessed an impala kill. In the afternoon, they went back to check on the wild dog den and found a few adult dogs had stayed home on guard. When the rest of the pack got back, they called the puppies out for a meal of regurgitated meat, which they promptly turned their noses up at. In the end, the guard dogs took over their meal.

One morning drive, guides heard the alarm call of impalas. Something must be around the area, possibly a predator, they thought, and upon arriving, a female cheetah with her subadult cubs was suffocating an impala. Mr Special, the resident male cheetah, was located nearby just East of Kwara Camp, walking between the solar panels. 

Another day, a male leopard known as Golden Boy was spotted. He was very relaxed and tried to steal a lion kill while the big cats were resting beside their buffalo carcass. A different male leopard was seen on top of a tree just 100 meters from Splash Camp. He was also relaxed and very obligingly waited until everybody had taken a photograph before departing. 

We still have two active Spotted hyena dens near Kwara Camp, and hyenas have been seen nursing their cubs in the late afternoons.

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