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Month: September 2022

Moremi Crossing, September 2022

African wild dogs, serval, black-backed jackals, lions, leopards and spotted hyenas graced outings at Moremi Crossing throughout the month. It was especially fascinating to have easy access to the Spotted hyena den near the airstrip, and guests loved watching the stunts of the pups as they emerged, blinking from the den into the bright spring sunshine. 

We also had regular sightings of a leopardess with cubs. Late one afternoon, returning from sundowners, we located a leopard on the stalk. She crept into position with incredible poise. Once within a few metres, she successfully ambushed a red lechwe and pounced to nab a suffocating hold on the struggling antelope.

The lechwe slowly succumbed to the bite, but before it was complete, the leopard released the animal (by now unconscious) and encouraged her young apprentice to complete the act. This did not go well in the first few attempts, but the youngster finally earned a firm grip and finished the task set for her. This critical life skill ensures the future of this young cat, and we’re delighted that Moremi Crossing provides such an excellent schooling environment!

Crocodile Moremi Crossing

In camp, we saw banded mongooses and small-spotted genets and during mokoro rides, guides noticed reptile life bounced back with the warmth. Frogs, snakes, crocodiles and water monitor lizards were added to the roll call, and the Okavango Delta waters began to drop from their peak. 

As we slowly moved into summer, trees showed their colours, with the Combretum and Sausage trees all flowering. Although they are pollinated by several birds and insects, it is at night that the scent of the Sausage tree flower really flourishes, bringing a fragrance to the night air. (As well as pollinating bats!) 

Beautiful birdlife at Moremi Crossing

The arrival of the summer avian migrants added beauty to the bush. This month we saw African fish eagles, White-backed vultures, Saddle-billed storks, African jacanas, Blacksmith lapwings, Red-billed hornbills, Verreaux’s eagle-owl, Lilac-breasted rollers, Squacco herons and Spur-winged geese. It was especially exciting to have vultures nesting in camp. Over the past few years, many vulture species have fallen victim to poisoning and poaching throughout Southern Africa, and we are thrilled they chose Moremi Crossing to build a home. As one species that helps to “clean up” in the bush, their importance cannot be overemphasized.

Sensational stargazing

Evenings warmed slightly, and we hosted awesome star-gazing sessions on the open airstrip allowing guests to wrap themselves in the universe and learn more about the stars, their stories and the various legends. Here in Botswana, we call the Southern Cross constellation the Dithuthlwa, which means “the giraffes”. Some cultures also believe the Milky Way is a footpath for their ancestors to walk along.

Moremi Crossing Camp Boating Okavango

Speaking of the people of Botswana, we celebrated Independence Day at the end of September. We hosted a surprise sundowner for all the guests with Botswana flags and a few traditional snacks, which included waterlily tuber, or Tswii. A local delicacy in the Okavango Delta. 

(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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Tau Pan Camp, September 2022

The captivating nature walk with the Kalahari’s indigenous trackers, such as Majwagana “Scuppa” Tshururu, is often the highlight of a stay at Tau Pan Camp.

Tau Pan San Walk

However, we had to make slight modifications to the activity this month. We found a novel sight in mid-September while checking the walking route to ensure it was safe. The walk includes a recreation of a San (also known as bushmen in Botswana) homestead, and one morning we found that the shelter was occupied. Two pregnant lionesses commandeered the shady, cool house in the October heat. Perhaps a new maternity wing to be?  

What is the Central Kalahari like in October?

The Central Kalahari Game Reserve got very dry. Grasses gave way to hardened dust, and wildlife turned their focus to the daily trial of getting from the last water sources to the remaining grasses, shrubs, leaves and fruit that comprise their desert diet.

Lions of Tau Pan Camp

The Tau Pan Camp waterhole was the focal point for multiple wildlife species. Kudus, blue wildebeests, giraffes and even an elephant (who are not common visitors) graced the reservoir throughout the day. The resident cheetah also bravely spent time at the waterhole. We say brave as the Tau Pan lion pride also spent considerable durations at the waterhole and around camp. They were well-fed, and guests enjoyed watching the cubs play and interacting with the adults for many days. The lions were most tolerant of the youngsters, although they didn’t hesitate to put them in their place with a swipe or two when antics became irritating.

We also noticed an unknown young male lion in the area playing a risky game. He seemed to know this and was constantly on guard, ready to bolt whenever the bush rustled or a bird called.

The Brown hyenas were also wary. We found plenty of tracks, but they darted to and from the waterhole in the quiet dark of dawn to avoid the presence of the lions. The same could not be said of the resident leopards. 

The lively leopards of Tau Pan Camp

Leopards were spotted throughout the month, and our curious friend from August again inspected the game drive vehicle. This time, she decided the vehicle could serve as an excellent sunshade in the late afternoon sunshine. The car could not move with her underneath, and the only thing we could do was quietly enjoy early sundowners aboard. It’s a tough life in Tau Pan! Another delight was watching two subadult females playing about and chasing ground squirrels without successfully swatting any. We also located a Cape cobra attempting to hunt these squirrels.

Ground Squirrel

With the grasses low, it proved a wonderful time of year to spot the fantastic array of smaller creatures the Kalahari offers. Yellow and slender mongooses, bat-eared foxes, honey badgers, and black-backed jackals were regularly seen in the pans foraging for food on both game drives and when walking close to camp.

Some of the trees are green, especially Camelthorn, Confetti and Shepherds trees. We also noticed some blossoms have attracted insects as spring settles in.

(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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Dinare Camps, September 2022

The late floodwaters brought large numbers of animals into the area, including elephants, lechwe, giraffes, impalas, tsessebe and many more species.

Mma Dinare elephant

The Dinare Private Reserve is named after the majestic brooding buffalo (nare in Setswana), and they moved through in their hundreds this month. Old bulls, young mothers and tottering calves left a beautiful dust haze that made for fantastic sunset photography in the late afternoon. (This is because red light waves — within the visible range of light — are scattered the least by dust and atmospheric gas molecules, creating epic sunsets). 

The lions of Dinare Private Reserve

Where buffalos wandered, lions followed. One pride, led by the mighty male Sankindi, settled for much of the month to the Southeast of Mma Dinare camp and saw them regularly. Sankindi was heard throughout the night, bellowing into the darkness. Our other principal pride (T’s pride) hunted in the area where we usually conduct mokoro rides. The five males and four females that make up T’s pride have youth and strength on their side and granted guests many fabulous lion sightings!

Rra Dinare Lions

The African wild dog pups at the den reached three months old, and all the pups are still with us. The pack left the shelter and was seen roaming throughout the reserve. 

Three cheetah brothers also made a bunch of appearances. Cheetah coalitions, often made up of two to three brothers, may stay together for much of their lives and are fierce hunters when they have such strength in numbers. Their position in the predator hierarchy (quite far down) means that they often give our camps a wide berth due to the mighty lion prides we have the privilege of hosting.

Seeing spots

The leopards put on a show this month, preening and stretching wherever a tree allowed them to pose for the camera. However, this was a month of spotted hyenas who crossed our path on game drives almost daily. The clan focused on the road to the airstrip, and one female frequently had two young cubs with her. They are developing their characteristic spots marking them a month or so in age. With a female hyena typically having only two teats, hyena cubs are born ready to fight. A third sibling may commonly be forced away by the others and left to starve. Survival of the fittest can be harsh in the bush, but it does ensure that the strongest go on to support the clan.

Migrant birds arrived in steady numbers with the bee-eaters, Yellow-billed kites, and Lesser-spotted eagles amongst the new residents in the neighbourhood after their journey from Central Africa and, in some cases, as far as Northern Europe. 

Hamerkop nest okavango delta

We watched in awe as a Hamerkop constructed a nest not far from camp. This is the avian equivalent of building a castle, and guests can be forgiven for asking if there are pterodactyls in the area. Hamerkop nests can reach over 1.5 metres wide and support the weight of a grown human. Thousands of sticks, leaves and mud go into this major construction project, and it can take over two months to build. Hamerkops often build in pairs and seem to enjoy it, often building two or three nests to create a healthy property portfolio. This often proves necessary because the brown birds are frequently forced out by owls, genets, snakes, and other species, sometimes even Leopards!

(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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Nxai Pan Camp, September 2022

Cheetah passed through Nxai Pan regularly this month, and one morning, a pair of African wild dogs joined guests for breakfast when they stopped to sip from the waterhole in front of camp!

Wild dogs Nxai Pan

However, the concentration of lions around these last water sources made other predators very mindful when coming to drink. The success of the Nxai Pan lions has been well-documented in the past few months. Sometimes it’s inevitable that prey fights back.

Buffalo calf trumps lioness

At 4.30am, the first hint of sunlight peeped from below the horizon. Camp stirred with guides on their way to knock their friendly wake-up calls. However, one morning the alarm call was different when dawn was abruptly punctuated by the thunderous sound of hooves. A herd of buffalo, spooked by a lone lioness, bolted for the perceived safety of the bush near camp.

Buffalo Nxai Pan Camp

When light enough around the firepit, we saw a lioness had attacked a young cow. She tried to seize the animal alone, but the feisty calf shook the lioness off, who then uttered a low call for the pride to assist. Simultaneously, the potential prey likewise hollered for help and the buffalos were first to answer the calls. Seeing the lioness alone, the herd warily approached in ones and twos, until eventually charging en masse. Vastly outnumbered, the lioness retreated, and the injured calf re-joined her hero herd. We saw the little calf several times since the attack, bearing the battle scars but apparently none the worse.

As temperatures rose through September, the lions sought shade at the hottest time of the day. One day they settled not far from the main area, and we monitored them as they scanned the waterhole. Well camouflaged, they raised their heads when a small kudu herd approached. As the antelope cautiously started to drink, the lions locked target and shot forward in a cloud of dust. Lions can move at speeds of more than 70kph, but the wary kudus were quicker, and the pride returned huffing and puffing to the shade.

Reptiles and raptors

As grasses withered, it opened up new foraging for large bird species. It was fantastic to watch ostriches, Kori bustards and the stately Secretary bird strut their stuff across the plains. The Secretarybird has an incredible way of hunting. Their stamping technique may seem a strange way of killing prey. However, they can hit targets in approximately a tenth of a second while applying a pressure of almost five times their body weight. The snakes that have resurrected with the warmth best watch where they slither.

Honey badgers were not perturbed by the rise of reptile activity and were found foraging along the roadside, and the clever Pale chanting goshawks kept an eye out for anything it missed.

What to see on a day trip to Baines’ Baobabs?

At Baines Baobabs, areas near the trees were burnt by a bushfire, and a few springboks, steenbok and gemsbok fed on the roasted fodder. Nearing the end of our dry season, it’s been windy, and out on the salt pans, we saw great dust clouds whipped up in massive whirlwinds that spiralled hundreds of feet into the air.

Baines Baobabs

Early morning proved the best time to be out in the bush with elephants, springbok, blue wildebeest, bat-eared foxes, and sometimes spotted hyenas seeking water before the temperature increased. The elephants made for great photography subjects as they covered themselves with white sand and earth, and youngsters plunged into the shallow pan to cool off. 

(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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Pom Pom Camp, September 2022

The spotted hyenas continued to grow from strength to strength and asserted dominance from their base of operations near the airstrip. As mentioned last month, they have new cubs, and the clan’s power gives these little ones an ideal family environment to thrive.

Pom Pom Camp Spotted Hyena Den

Despite being typecast as scavengers, spotted hyenas hunt their own prey as much as lions do. We saw them repeatedly, and sometimes, the animals wandered through camp. They have also taken to stealing kills from leopards. After losing kills to lions last month, these cats can’t seem to keep any food for themselves!

Leopard growth at Pom Pom?

The resident leopards are still thriving, however. Four different individuals (with offspring and the occasional mate in tow) have territories across the Pom Pom Private Reserve. One young female born to the south of camp occasionally hunted the bushbuck that rest out of the harsh sun under the guest tents. It also seems like the healthy Pom Pom Leopard population is about to get a bit bigger! We noted one future mother about to give birth, and two other females were seen with males.

Leopard Pom Pom Camp

The best Leopard sighting goes to an early ambush. One morning we found two sets of cat prints threading through the bush, and patient tracking led us to a young leopard creeping towards an impala herd. Using the long dry grass as cover, she slowly inched towards the antelopes as they fed quietly below a Jackalberry tree. Once within a few metres, she waited five long minutes while the impala cropped at the grass. After what seemed an eternity (everyone holding their collective breath), one impala wandered within range, and the leopard pounced like a coiled spring. After a futile battle, the animal succumbed to the fatal predator throat bite within 15 metres of our vehicle.

Animals gave the airstrip a wide berth

After the sad loss of the African wild dog puppies last month, the pack took a sabbatical and vanished for a week. However, they re-emerged with a bang chasing an animal through camp. The impala sprinted to the water in front of Pom Pom Camp and dashed to safety after much splashing and jumping. The following day, however, the wild dogs won. We were following a hunt through the bush and kept our distance, shadowing the last dog trailing the pack.

We followed that African wild dog until it came across another pack member trying to hold on to a frantic Impala. The dog entered the fray, joined shortly after by the rest of the pack, who got to the gruesome job of taking down the herbivore and eating their fill. Since then, we saw the pack hunting and patrolling on several occasions close to camp and further afield while definitely avoiding the airstrip!

The jackals avoided this area too. Late in the month, we located a side-striped jackal den east of the airstrip. Both jackal species mate for life, and this monogamous pair had five puppies. We had the good fortune to watch them relocate the tiny jackals to a new den during the day. At night, we spotted African wild cats, servals, African civets, and genets when heading back to camp.

Return of the raptors

Guides noticed plenty of raptor action, and birds seen across the reserve included eagles, harriers, kites, Pel’s fishing owl and a Verreaux’s eagle-owls that took over a Hamerkop nest near the boat station. Even more exciting, we spotted a chick in the nest. Verreaux’s eagle-owls leave their nest after approximately two months, although they do tend to hang around and be fed by their parents for some time.

Okavango Delta Pom Pom Camp

The gradually falling flood waters revealed more and more of the floodplains, which led to an influx of game onto the islands as they re-emerged from the Delta. Large herds of elephants, buffalo, giraffes, kudu, tsessebe and plains zebras graced the landscape. Some zebras liked to feed in the water to get at the choice shoots along the water’s edge. They’ll need to keep an eye peeled, though, as some sizeable crocodiles cruise these waterways. We often saw the reptiles sunning themselves on the banks.

Finally, to the Pom Pom lion pride. The pride (one male, four females and 10 cubs) took advantage of the herbivores passing through the new corridors that formed as the floods fell and made two wildebeest kills. We watched the hunters bring the whole family to one of the kills and they devoured an entire Blue wildebeest overnight. While they remain a powerful family, the growing hyena clan also vied for dominance. On multiple occasions, the lions moved through the hyena’s territory, causing scuffles and violent encounters. As pride and clan have many small mouths to feed, there is cautious respect from both sides. As the guides in camp put it, they don’t see “eye-to-eye”! Will this “truce” hold, or will we see some serious fallout?

(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. Still, we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

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Lebala Camp, September 2022

Maybe it was the increasing heat, but the inter-species rivalry and search for food boiled over into cinematic-level sightings for guests at Lebala Camp. 

Lebala Camp

During morning drives, we noticed more active reptiles as the season shifts, including a Southern African python sprawled across the road and monitor lizards digging for food. A coalition of two full-bellied male cheetahs was also seen strolling across the open plains at midday until they found a patch shade to rest.

What do you call a baby porcupine? (other than adorable)

A resident porcupine has had young! She lives not far from camp and has kept the little ones (cutely known as porcupettes) safe and away from the world’s prying eyes, but they seem to be about four weeks old.

Other youngsters we regularly saw were ostriches (who loved running on the airstrip) and three brown hyena cubs! The cubs curiously peeked at the game drive vehicles while the mother rested by the den entrance.

Elephants Kwando Private Reserve

Young elephants moved across the landscape with their large herds and had to work hard to keep up with the long treks from food to water and back again in the heat. The lioness that was hiding her cubs finally introduced them to the pride. She had hidden them in front of camp, so we got a superb view of her introducing them to the family. The older cubs immediately started to play with the newcomers, and the mother had to step in as the older siblings were in danger of hurting them with their rough play.

The lions of Lebala hunt hippos

Last month, we reported on the hippo-hunting lions of Lebala, and they refined their technique in the past few weeks. We saw them on the carcasses of no less than three hippos. Hippos are not an easy prospect with multiple tusks, some reaching over 40cm in length, a bite force of 1800psi and a nasty attitude. Each time we came across a carcass, the broken landscape surrounding it evidenced that the flight to bring it down was wide-ranging and demanding.

The lions didn’t stop at hippos. A bachelor herd of 11 buffalos caught their eye and only four now remain. The lions didn’t always get their way, however. One day three lionesses attacked a porcupine that was racing to its den. Having cornered it, the lions swatted cautiously while the porcupine attacked with its quill-covered back. The lionesses finally managed to kill the porcupine, but the two came away with multiple punctures to their paws. These quills have sharp tips and overlapping scales (that act as barbs), making them difficult to remove once stuck in noses. They are in for an uncomfortable few days!

The Golden Boys of the Wapuka Pride were still in charge, although we heard a challenge to their authority one evening. There was a horrendous row in the darkness, and we came across the two dominant male lions battered and bleeding the next day, but the intruders were seen off. While not lethal, their injuries were severe, and they boast more scars they will carry with them for years.

Two other subadult male lions took the fight to the local spotted hyenas. We found two lions trying to dig out cubs at the local hyena den. The female alpha hyena arrived on the scene and furiously attacked the felines. Clearly taken aback by the fierce onslaught, the lions decided that the risk of injury wasn’t worth taking further scuffle.

Wild dogs vs the wild

A few days later, the den was besieged by a pack of African wild dogs. A few hyenas again defended the youngsters, and the den remained unassailable for another day.

Wild dogs lebala camp

The wild dogs, not content with attacking the hyenas, then turned their sights on the leopards. We’ve had great leopard sightings and were excited to find two mating. As we watched their courtship, eight wild dogs appeared on the scene and cornered the two big cats! As the leopards spun and swiped at the dogs, the female darted up the nearest tree. The course of love does not always run smooth!

(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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Lagoon Camp, September 2022

The big herds returned! Considerable wildlife wanders through Lagoon Camp throughout the year, but the driest months herald the influx of great hordes of elephants and buffalos.

The Kwando River became their haven along with many other species, including impalas, reedbucks, kudus, giraffes, tsessebes and wildebeests. This array of animals also served a serious purpose — looking out for one another.

Buffalo Herd of Lagoon Camp

A symbiotic relationship of so many eyes, ears and noses (and trunks) is a lifeline in an area like Lagoon Camp, where predators are so prolific. A single snort or alarm call can build tension before dozens, if not hundreds, of animals, suddenly scatter in the face of possible predation.

The prolific predators of the Kwando Private Reserve

Several species could cause such a commotion. The African wild dogs were glimpsed regularly, although they roamed far and wide across the Kwando Private Reserve. We followed the hunt several times and caught up with them when they took down an impala. One quick feast later, they found a beautiful Sausage tree to relax under, out of the baking heat of the midday sun. Guides noted that the dogs have been highly nomadic, frequently hunting in the well-wooded Mopane zones. This is where the big herds of sable liked to hang out, and we also encountered groups of roan and eland antelope this month. 

Kwando Safaris Wild Dogs

River waters lowered slightly, and the hippo pods concentrated in the deeper lagoons in front of the camp, creating fabulous photography opportunities. Ospreys and African fish eagles likewise exploited the shallows while Carmine and White-fronted bee-eaters soared the skies, and Open-billed and Saddle-billed storks strutted the shores. One day during a boat cruise, we witnessed the impressive crossing of a mega buffalo herd. 

A coalition of five cheetahs was seen periodically north of the camp in addition to the coalition of regularly-sighted brothers. They all seemed well-fed and relaxed. We found them taking a particular interest in a dense bush one morning. We thought they had cornered a scrub hare or another small herbivore and were astonished when they flushed out a leopard cub that ran for its life up the nearest tree! This was likely one of two cubs saw roaming the reserve with their mother. We frequently found the leopardess with the two in tow, although, later in the month, she was seen sunning on a termite mound with only one cub. Time will tell if they are all reunited.

We’ve had other fantastic Leopard sightings, but our favourite has to be a classic ambush. We tracked a leopard that had climbed into a Sausage Tree, where she waited, partially hidden from view. We were about to move on when a small herd of impalas wandered into the frame and began eating near the tree. The leopard unhurriedly raised her head and repositioned. As an impala drew near, she dropped from the branch, landing almost on top of the animal. The impala flattened but was up again in a flash, and before the leopard could grab hold, it sprinted from the tree. Unperturbed, the leopard climbed the tree again to wait. We saw her there two more times and hope her patience finally paid off. 

When the leopards did manage to snatch a meal, we almost always found the spotted hyenas on site, ready to steal the kill. We also clocked eyes on a brown hyena strolling one morning.

We love the nightlife

The aardwolf den was bustling, and guests loved observing their activities during night drives. The spotlight also revealed white-tailed mongooses, honey badgers, porcupines, springhares, lesser bushbabies, civets, genets, African wild cats, and the sleek serval. We had excellent evening sightings of birdlife too. Marsh and Southern white-faced owls, together with their smaller cousins, the Pearl-spotted, Barred and Scops owlets, were ticked off during September.

The many lions of Lagoon Camp

Three prides and two male lion coalitions roamed the Lagoon area this month: a considerable number of individual groupings given that lions are typically not the best neighbours. The various groups sunbathed, hunted, mated and ate throughout the month. When they crossed paths, it often led to chases and an occasional bout of fisticuffs. The Kwando Reserve is Botswana’s most extensive private reserve at over half a million acres (somewhat larger than Greater London), so a degree of peace was usually maintained.

Lagoon Camp Lions

One day, a young male lion found a leopard tortoise. The tortoise immediately disappeared into its shell, and the lion spent the next twenty minutes clawing, gnawing and biting, trying anything to get to the inhabitant of the carapace. Eventually, the shell proved too much, and a frustrated lion slunk back into the bush.

Southern Ground Hornbill Kwando

We stopped to watch three Southern ground hornbills stalking through the short grass. Suddenly, one pounced and speared a small rodent with its beak. As the bird raised its head, we identified it as a Damara mole rat.

Yet another successful Lagoon hunt!

(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. Still, we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

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Kwara and Splash Camps, September 2022

A high prevalence of lions across the Kwara Reserve kept Mr Special (the resident cheetah) away from the immediate area around Splash Camp, but we never had to go far in search of him. 

Mr Special Splash Camp

He hunted out on the open plains of the reserve, which contained plentiful lechwe, impalas and warthogs. The drying grasses didn’t give him the cover he previously enjoyed when stalking back in May and June, but he got a good view of all the prey species and remained well-fed through September. He also seemed content to share his vast area with a female and her sub-adult youngster who recently moved in. 

The African wild dogs of Kwara

We have frequently located the Kwara pack of African wild dogs since they left the den, but unfortunately, the group seems to be missing two puppies, and we suspect that they met their fate at the hands of the Kwara lion pride. 

The resident leopards have been successful hunters. Two mothers, both with two cubs, moved between Kwara and Splash Camp. They were sighted several times with Impala and Red lechwe dangling from branches and forks in trees and eating their fill. The leopards also plucked up the courage to visit the carcass of a dead giraffe and feed. While they are not generally scavengers, they definitely won’t turn down the offer of a free meal. The cubs, having eaten their fill, enjoyed using the remains as a climbing frame and entertained guests with their rough and tumble. Having died of natural causes, the giraffe has been a food source for multiple species, including black-backed and side-striped jackals.

The Godikwe heronry is alive with sounds and smells

From death, we move on to life. The Godikwe heronry is now beginning to flourish with our feathered friends. Yellow-billed storks, Marabou storks, Sacred ibises, Black-crowned night herons, African darters, Reed cormorants and egrets of all sizes began the frantic phase of nest-building. The sights, sounds and colours were remarkable. Water birds are a vital indicator of the health of a riverine ecosystem, and this heronry is a critical base for the laying, hatching and raising of thousands of birds over the next few months. The sounds, squawks and even the interesting smells were not to be missed. 

Heronry Kwara Camp

Huge groups of elephants and buffalo were witnessed, especially in the afternoon, and zebra herds relished the new grasses that had shot up since the winter bushfire.

The Kwara and One-Eyed lion prides were seen almost daily feeding, mating, playing, hunting or sleeping. With such regular lion sightings, it’s hard to choose which tale to tell, so we restrict ourselves to two short stories. With the waters dropping and the herds of buffalo, wildebeest and zebra strewn across the floodplains, the lions were spoilt for choice. Late one afternoon, we watched the lions stalking zebras to the west of Splash Camp. One lioness took the lead and exploded into a sprint with a zebra firmly in her sights. It seemed a sure catch until two teen lions decided to help their aunt. The juveniles broke into a run but completely misjudged the distance, almost running into the pursuing lioness instead. The lioness was forced to break off her pursuit and, panting from such wasted exertion in the 35-degree heat, marched to the tree line and flopped down. 

Finally, we were treated to a rare sight. We followed a mating pair of lions and found them at Impala Pan. Lion mating rituals can be very long affairs,  but this one was disrupted by 30 elephants joining them at the waterhole to drink and bathe. As the lions continued their amorous business, the elephants drank their fill not even 40 metres away.

(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. Still, we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

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