Kwara, Splash

Splash and Kwara Camp, March 2022

What sets Botswana apart from other safari destinations is the affluence of water in an unusually arid setting, and plenty of action transpired at the water this month.

We had several leopard sightings in the Kwara Private Reserve, but the most spectacular sighting had to be of a male leopard hunting a baby hippo at Waterbuck Pan. He managed to catch the calf, but the mother came out of the water and rescued the baby.

Sitatunga

A rare antelope, the aquatic Sitatunga frequents the deepest parts of the Okavango swamps, preferring the protection of the tall papyrus and wetlands that make it more challenging for predators to get at them. We found these handsome animals a few times this month during our boat cruises and two bulls together on one occasion. Guests also enjoyed two big elephant bulls crossing the channel in front.

Many Malachite kingfishers were seen during boat cruises with regular water birds such as Squacco herons, African jacanas, Spur-winged geese, Black-winged stilts, Yellow-billed storks and African fish eagles. This month we also saw lots of vultures; Hooded, White-backed and White-headed. There was also the wonderful view of a Greater painted snipe, small flocks of Southern ground hornbills, plus a delightful family of ostriches (their collective noun is a pride) with young ones.

We caught sight of a Southern African python around Mogobe Wa There one day, but it subsequently disappeared into the grasses. There was lots of tall grass across the reserve, especially in the floodplains, which can make it tricky to observe animals. However, we had no shortage of spectacular predator sightings!

The talented Mr Special

Mr Special was often located around the Bat-eared Fox Den area, and we discovered the fresh trail of another male cheetah by Impala Pan. Trackers later found him by Giraffe Pan, where he was stalking a juvenile Tsessebe. One morning, we followed Mr Special hunting at Splash Hippos, where he made several failed attempts to catch impala, but they all escaped. He later tried to hunt a baby wildebeest and managed to catch it. The mother came to the lamb’s rescue by trying to trample and kick Mr Special, but to no avail, and he enjoyed the meal once it had given up.

We also located a female cheetah and her sub-adult cub with full bellies in the same area, and they had killed an impala. On another occasion, the Kwara Camp guides followed the pair one afternoon. Suddenly, a steenbok bolted from behind the bush, and the two cats gave chase with an impressive sprint. They caught it within just 80 metres.

Three African wild dog packs roamed Kwara

We have recently enjoyed the antics of three African wild dog packs in the area. A pack of 13 dogs was seen resting at Impala Pan resting, and we found them later feeding on an impala lamb, a meal we frequently encountered them with. One day, guides tracked down the pack to find just 12 members Tsum Tsum Road. The alpha male was missing, and the rest of the animals were restless, making contact calls without moving. After about 15 minutes, the alpha male returned to the pack covered with blood. The dog also had fresh wounds on his back and wasted no time. Instead of leading his group back to the kill,  he moved in the opposite direction. These were all signs that he was involved in a fight with another predator that stole his kill. The Kwara Pack also had multiple successful impala hunts. A third group, dubbed the Golden Pack, was seen feeding on a baby kudu north of the Splash Camp workshop.

Plenty of game enjoyed the spoils of Splash Camp. Three hyenas walked in front of the staff village and a small pride of three lionesses was seen near guides’ tents. One of them enjoyed playing with a fire extinguisher and removed the pin so fire extinguisher went off, much to the consternation of the pride. The lionesses cautiously approached the empty extinguisher once it had finished hissing and spraying. They were snarling as they tried to figure out what kind of creature just “attacked” their cub. Hopefully, the cubs learned a lesson that they should leave our safety equipment alone from now on! The Mmaleitho Pride was also in the camp, resting near room 12, and we made sure to safely collect the guests from their room by vehicle for the morning activity. The lions had spent the night in camp and killed a male kudu. The Kwara pride comprises five females, one male and two cubs. They were also found on a kudu kill, and the male chased everyone off the kill and fed alone. We also found them feeding on a giraffe kill. A coalition of five lions still controls the Kwara-Splash territory and were often seen clearly marking and patrolling their territory.

Over at Kwara Camp, a (harmless) Spotted bush snake was located between the bar and dining area during high tea and guests have enjoyed visiting an active Hyena den southwest of Kwara Camp close to Mothusi’s Crossing. Thanks to the heavy rains, the landscape was still gorgeously green, with water levels rising every day. 

(Note: Accompanying pictures of Mr Special were taken by Kate Nelson and others 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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