Kwara, Splash

Splash and Kwara Camp, April 2022

We enjoyed incredible night drives and have started to see more small cats, including serval and African wild cats, plus civets and genets. One afternoon, a serval was located just southeast of Diolo Road on a dead stump. It had been forced up a dried log of Leadwood by hunting dogs and stayed put until the dogs left. The cat had a hard time coming down because they are not good climbers!  

The Splash Camp guides glimpsed a mother leopard with two cubs of about 4 to 5 months early this April. The tiny cubs were very shy, and it was probably the first time there was a vehicle close to them!

Another female leopard was pinpointed by the Kwara team, and she too bore evidence of caring for cubs because of her swollen teats. We saw her on several occasions in the same area near Green Pan, either disappearing into or emerging from the thick bush. Hopefully, she will soon show us her healthy cubs because she has had some successful kills. One morning, we noticed an ostrich with a swollen leg, and the leopard killed it overnight. We then located her sharing the spoils with a male leopard! Later, two Spotted hyenas finished up the remains.

Golden Boy is a male leopard frequently seen on Kwara Island. One day we spotted him a few meters out of Kwara Camp and followed as he walked towards the vehicle stop area before cruising on past room six. A week later, alarm calls issued by unhappy baboons and monkeys resounded from the trees south of camp. We tracked a young female leopard to some long grass, where she was using an elephant highway to navigate the plains. The next day she was seen again near the airstrip, catnapping upon a Sausage tree branch.  

The Bat-eared Fox Den area had luxuriously open plains with good short grasses after the fires from last year. It’s proved a fantastic hunting ground for cheetah because it attracts herbivores in considerable numbers. We’ve enjoyed the gathering herds of zebras, wildebeest, lechwe, Common reedbuck, tsessebes, kudus, and impalas.

What’s happening with Mr Special?

Mr Special was often seen, but our guides noted that he seemed to be ageing and spent more time resting than actively pursuing food. Not that we can blame him when it seems to fall from the sky! One morning he got incredibly lucky. While sleeping, an impala herd passed right beside him. A male impala just walked right up to Mr Special, and the cheetah speedily leapt from his slumber to give a brief, successful chase. He was also seen hunting a zebra foal by Mabala a Matotse area but had no luck as the mother zebra fought back, forcing him to abandon the pursuit. After spending almost three weeks in the west, he finally veered east of Splash Camp to inspect his territory. He also struggled to make a kill one day, and we saw that one of his upper right canine teeth had broken short.

A female cheetah with her subadult male treated us with excellent sightings. We found her frequently around Willies Valley and the Old Xugana main road, shoulders tensed for a stalk and hunt as she diligently tutored her cub. She has since moved out of this area because big herds of elephants began to arrive through her favoured stalking bushes.

Herds congregate again

Enormous herds streamed down from the woodlands, especially at midday and late afternoon, because the waterholes have started to dry up. Marula trees dropped their berries, which was undoubtedly another drawcard! We loved watching these giants of Africa bathing or crossing the flood plains, sometimes passing the safari vehicle at incredibly close quarters.

After almost two months without big buffalo sightings, we were treated to a vast herd of over 100 buffalo by Matswiri Mogobe. We also relished the presence of a Sable antelope that moved west of Sable Island and a huge python, which crossed the road near Giraffe Pan. A Spotted bush snake was repeatedly seen in Splash Camp, and we found plenty of Water monitor lizards sunning themselves on the river banks during our regular boat cruises.  

The African monarch butterfly was seen all over, and the changing grass shades provide a further reminder that the rainy season has come to an end. Our summer bird visitors were getting ready to fly out with their young, and we enjoyed the last stunning sights of Woodland kingfisher and Swallow-tailed bee-eaters. Secretary birds, Wattled cranes, and Verreaux’s eagle owl were common sightings, as were Malachite Kingfisher, African Jacana and African fish eagle. We saw three different Southern ground hornbills families one day, which was a remarkable sighting!

We were treated to some extraordinary endeavours of the two different Wild dog packs in the area. The resident Kwara Pack was seen in the west for the most part, and we followed them often as they hunted, killed and ate with great success. One morning, we trailed the group as they confronted some impala and gave chase. It was chaos as zebra and wildebeest united to face down the dogs with victory. They managed to kill a Red lechwe, but unfortunately, a lioness was nearby, and she came running across the floodplains, taking the kill for herself. The alpha female is expecting pups soon. Her belly was almost touching the ground, constantly slowing the pack down.

The Splash and Kwara lion prides interacted but avoided each other for the most part. They use the same space, and sometimes the five males are seen together. Halfway through the month, the two groups met at Lechwe Plains, and we witnessed the showdown. The Splash or Mmaleitho Pride won and displayed their dominance at room 12 for a few days, booming roars to advertise their territory.

(Please note: For the safety of the animals, we do not disclose the 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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