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Month: November 2022

Tau Pan Camp, November 2022

Summer is the time when the Kalahari really shines!

After months of dry heat, much of the game rushed to the Tau Pan waterhole or the nearest shady bush (or, in the case of the Tau Pan pride, using the camp as shade) and sepia-coloured topography, a rainbow kaleidoscope of colours returned. Plants like the Brandy Bush, Western Rhizome, Lavender Fever Berry and Worm Bark albizia added their tints and hues to the landscape ensemble. At the same time, Brunsvigia lilies, Scorpion’s Tail and Devils Claw carpeted the sands with their flowers. This reborn panorama provided fresh material for fascinating San-led bush walks and meandering game drives.

It’s also been an abundant month for cheetah and leopard sightings.

The spotted species of Tau Pan

One resident female leopard kept us entertained with her hunting, especially her fantastic tactic of snatching doves as they flew overhead. She was only sometimes successful, but it was always tremendous behaviour to witness. Meanwhile, the resident cheetahs hunted springbok across Tau Pan as the antelopes arrived for the new green grass. We had a group of four who took turns stalking the sprightly antelopes and hunted as a coalition.

Cheetah at Tau Pan Camp

They positioned themselves to take the springbok by surprise. Despite the limited bush cover, which granted prey a solid chance to steer clear of the predators, the cheetahs were successful, and we found the group on more than one occasion with their springbok quarry. This inevitably drew the attention of black-backed jackals. Despite their high numbers, these scavengers have yet to manage to steal the well-earned meal, and, for now, the cheetahs remain lords of Tau Pan.

Bull elephants visit the Central Kalahari

Solitary bull elephants were regular visitors to the waterhole. It’s easy to see where they emerged from, with the broken and stripped vegetation exhibiting their dietary requirements while they awaited a return of the grasses. Elephants are “preferential grazers”, meaning they will most likely choose grasses when possible.

Tau Pan lion prints Botswana

Early rains and periodic heat punctuated the days, and elephants enjoyed bathing and drinking from the waterhole. One day, a big, drinking elephant gave the Tau Pan pride a warning glance before charging and sending the lions scampering off towards the airstrip. Big herds of gemsbok, hartebeest and springbok were also seen at the water hole and around Tau Pan, as have the majestic old bull giraffes. Different species of vultures, as well as Bateleur eagles and Secretarybirds, likewise visited the waterhole during the day when it became too hot to cool themselves without a splash or two.  

The Tau Pan pride relocated to an area nearer the airstrip. The lush new grasses began to grow in the pan, and the lions frequently visited to watch the herbivores coming to feed.

Reptiles return with the rains

Black mambas, snouted, and cape cobras were also logged in the area, especially around the burrows of ground squirrels. Both serrated and leopard tortoises were seen around the pans, where they feed on the soft fresh shoots. The lion cubs appeared strong and healthy, and on more than one occasion, we found them with their favourite toy – the leopard tortoise. Whether pure play or a genuine (attempted) feeding habit, the young cubs always struggle to crack that nut!

We tracked the lions to numerous oryx and springbok kills, so it seems that they won’t be switching their supper to tortoise just yet.

The lion kills provided a good meal for the side-striped jackals. We located their den on the border of Tau Pan and enjoyed many happy hours with the puppies. Spending time with the jackals is an amazing lesson in family bonding. Jackals (both black-backed and side-striped) form monogamous pairs for life, and young will stay with them for almost a year before forging (or should that be foraging?) their own future.

Bounty at the bar-eared fox dens!

Nearby we also located several bat-eared fox dens. Feeding almost exclusively on a diet of insects, they are not much of a threat to the nearby jackals. After heavy rains, lots of velvet mites, millipedes and centipedes, Matabele ants, dragonflies and cicada beetles joined the desert’s mammals, birds and reptiles.

The baby bat-eared foxes (known as pups or kits) will stay with the parents for six months, a promising prospect for photographers heading to Tau Pan in the coming season.

(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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Moremi Crossing, November 2022

The Boro River (which feeds this game-rich Moremi Crossing area) was almost at its lowest before the summer rains arrived, but November showers brought new life as the Woodland kingfishers called out their song and serenaded the new baby warthogs and impalas.

With the river waning, we covered greater distances than any other time of year. The night drives and offroad options yielded great sightings of leopard, African wild cat and the elusive yet most awesome of predators: the black-footed cat!

Weighing less than two kilograms but able to jump over a metre into the air, this fantastic (yet fluffy) sighting is perhaps one of the most lethal predators we know of in the bush, with a hunting success rate that rivals the African wild dogs.

Little lions and birding splendour

The principal lion pride in the area numbered around ten, including their young and boisterous cubs. The cubs practised their tree climbing skills, which came with mixed results, including a couple of heavy falls and sibling rivalry. After several hard knocks, they returned to basics and rehearsed on fallen trees instead – much easier to climb! The two big pride males ruled this territory, and their displays of brotherly affection made them a firm guest favourite.

We saw them regularly, sunning themselves before and after the storm clouds rolled in. When we didn’t locate them during the day, their calls often punctuated the night as they patrolled their territory and occasionally joined the hunt.

Over three weeks, the bush went from dusty and dry grasses to a beautiful green with myriad trees and bushes flowering. The birdlife was excellent, and spending time at one of the many large waterholes allowed birders to tick off dozens of species. The pelicans, storks, geese, herons, stilts, and many colourful species created a string of humming coffee stop spots to admire the scenery. The plentiful hippo population was always on hand to give a photo-grabbing yawn.

Pel’s fishing owl still roosting among us

The resident Pels fishing owl has found his favourite roosting spot high in a Jackalberry tree near the central area. He regularly hunted in the channel before camp, giving lucky guests some splendid sightings every week.

The hyenas were also very active. We often found them close to the airstrip first thing in the morning as the adults brought back breakfast for the youngsters, who steadily grew bigger and stronger. They kept a wary eye as the two pride males patrolled not far from their den. For now, the lions mostly kept to the other side of the river, which kept the peace, but it won’t take much for these two eternal foes to lock horns.

(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, November 2022

With the rain tantalisingly close but not arriving until late November, the elephants were a staple sighting at Nxai Pan Camp. 

At almost all times of day, the herds shuffled in and out, entertaining us with drinking, bathing, and playing. Two youngsters, in particular, delighted in the waterhole, wallowing, splashing, and trumpeting their way through the day. It was a lovely time of year to simply sit on the sprawling Nxai Pan Camp deck, sip on a gin and tonic and watch the sun turn a deep red in the west as it dropped through the dust particles thrown up by the next herd of incoming elephants.

Wildlife at the waterhole

With the lack of water at this time of year, we didn’t have to go far for action; much of it came to us! We watched both leopard and cheetah drinking at the waterhole from the main area, and the cheetah took up residence around camp. African wild dogs were in the area, too and we identified their tracks. However, with lions hunting continuously, the canines, quite rightly, don’t seem too keen to cross paths. 

The lions had a successful month. We located them eating wildebeest and springbok, but they always appeared well-fed and content whenever we came across them: impressive, given they had minimal cover from which to hunt. One of the lionesses was also heavily pregnant, and we anticipate the new cubs will arrive in conjunction with the rains. 

Antics at the aardwolf den

Earlier in the month, we found an aardwolf den and watched his comings and goings late in the afternoon and early in the morning. With the hodotermitidae (harvester) termites forming most of their diet, Nxai Pan is ideal for them. As aardwolves are happy to share their territories with others, there may be other dens nearby which would explain the high number of aardwolf tracks we regularly witnessed each morning.

The Nxai Pan birdlife certainly did not disappoint. The Pale chanting goshawk showed off its hunting technique, and we saw one resident kill both a snouted cobra and a western stripe-bellied sand snake. While the venom of the latter wouldn’t be too off-putting for the goshawk, the snouted cobra is another matter altogether. A snake with a potent neurotoxic venom, one false move by the goshawk would quickly result in the hunter becoming the hunted. The raptor’s poise and precision when attacking a cobra were quite something to see. 

New life at Nxai Pan

There was plenty of excitement at the first batch of springbok lambs, but what really captivated us were the new ostrich chicks living next to Nxai Pan camp.

Ostrich Nxai Pan

We often saw them charging around, shepherded by their ever-vigilant parents. Lions, leopards and cheetahs will be eyeing them hungrily. However, these predators must also be wary. An enraged ostrich is not something to mess with!

(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, November 2022

Leopards provided fantastic sightings, and we encountered a new female leopard with two cubs occupying the northwest corner of the Pom Pom Reserve.

After tracking her one morning, we found the trio in a Sausage tree with a dead impala. We watched her for ten minutes before a lioness entered the scene from the bush. Immediately alert, the leopard watched as the lion orbited the base of the trunk. She pushed her two cubs higher into the tree before dragging the impala up as the lioness herself began to climb. The impala was pulled higher and higher, branch by branch, as the intruder made her way slowly up the tree. Eventually, the leopard was almost at the top but, luckily for her, the lioness was too hefty to climb further. They spent five minutes staring and snarling at each other. One of the leopard cubs couldn’t handle the tension, leapt from the tree, and sprinted to the nearest bush to hide. Eventually, the faceoff ended with the lioness abandoning the climb, dropping to the ground, and striding away into the undergrowth. 

The Spotted hyena soap opera and African wild dog hunts

After the past few months of the Pom Pom spotted hyena soap opera, this time, we aren’t leading with a story about the hyenas running around bothering all and sundry! The clan still held their fortress at the airstrip, but kept a lower profile when it came to making a nuisance of themselves stealing food from other predators. We saw the healthy young cubs growing steadily, playing rough and tumble with their older siblings. Soon they will be almost too big to fit into the den and may relocate. 

As the first rains rolled across the landscape, we heard the sounds of tiny hooves. Impala, tsessebe, wildebeest and warthogs (among others) all had young wobbling beside them. Mother Nature showed her most tender side with amazing parent/offspring interaction, but the harsh bush realities also came into play.

Will I see wild dogs Okavango Delta

We saw two impala lambs falling prey to one of the resident packs of African wild dogs. While the impala can run with its mother not long after being born, a pack of 12 African wild dogs is a formidable foe, and newborns will inevitably be thinned out in the coming weeks. 

The pack of 12 (with 8 puppies) was located attempting to steal a kill from a big male lion, so they were clearly confident. 

A pitter patter from the Pom Pom pride?

One warm November morning, we found the Pom Pom pride watching a herd of red lechwe. After some consideration, they got up and slowly paced towards the antelopes. They managed to close the gap slowly and in silence until a warning call from one of the lechwe sent them fleeing back towards the relative safety of the water channel. Unfortunately, one lechwe calf went the opposite direction from its mother, and the lionness had it in a matter of metres. 

Lions of Pom Pom Camp

Nature is rough, but this meant sustenance for the cubs of the Pom Pom pride. Until recently, they raised ten cubs, but we only saw them with nine this month. However, the circle of life resumes, and it looks like another lioness is pregnant.

The breeding herds of elephants roamed in large numbers, with the low water allowing the babies to cross from island to island with relative ease. While elephants don’t give birth to their young to coincide with the rains (like many antelopes), several tiny elephants accompany these herds. They can’t have been more than a few weeks old, and we spent many fun hours enjoying their antics and futile attempts to cope with their own trunks. It’ll be 8-12 months before they get a good handle on this amazingly dextrous appendage, and the herds remain very protective of the young. As they marched through the reserve, a fantastic array of birds exploited their movements for insects and prey dislodged from the ground. Turning an eye to the skies, we saw Whiskered terns, White-winged terns, Osprey and African fish eagles, plus Jacanas, Spur-winged geese, African openbills, herons, and egrets on the water. We had sightings of the Pel’s fishing owl on two occasions, and a Marsh owl was seen at Warthog Island sitting on the ground.

(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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Lebala Camp, November 2022

It has been a month of rain, hunts, and newborns. Sometimes all at the same time. 

Despite all the astonishing sightings this month, it was a wildebeest that stole the show and our hearts. 

One afternoon we happened upon a Blue wildebeest giving birth and we settled into the game drive vehicle to witness a live nature documentary. The calf spent twenty minutes trying to stand, falling over, trying again and generally getting its legs all mixed up. Eventually, with encouragement from the mother, it made it to its feet and started walking. We stayed with them for much of the afternoon and gave quiet encouragement as it went from tripping to stumbling to a confident stride. Finally, it was time to leave the mother and calf to meet the herd, and guides and guests enjoyed sundowners feeling very much like proud parents. 

Foxes and hyenas getting along?

Another unique sighting this month involved two subadult Spotted hyenas. We located them at Rhino Pan in the company of four bat-eared foxes. Seeing these animals is always special, but they appeared to be playing together with no sign of the fight or flight reaction that a smaller animal would have when faced with one of the larger predator species. Truly amazing!

What will you see on a walking safari at Lebala Camp?

Walking remains one of our favourite activities because it allows guests to get to grips with the smaller and more intimate side of the bush. One day, on a nature walk near camp we observed a Southern ground hornbill nest (at a respectful distance). Southern ground hornbills nest in the hollows of large old trees and only breed approximately once every three years (if the chicks survive). On another walk, we found three baby aardwolves in their burrow just a few weeks old. This was a fortunate sighting because the aardwolf can have multiple burrows across an area so that doting parents can hide their offspring. 

Walking safari Okavango Delta

Lebala transformed into a lovely landscape of swaying green grasses and open plains. We watched leopards lolling about this sublime scenery before setting off on several successful hunts, taking advantage of the inexperience of the new impala lambs. We also located a male leopard chasing a warthog and its piglets. The family made it to the apparent safety of an aardvark hole with metres to spare, but that didn’t discourage the leopard. It only had to dig for a few minutes to uncover the hapless warthog before snatching a piglet and climbing a tree. Two days later, we found him in the company of a female leopard while she fed on the carcass of a young impala. As we watched the scene, he slowly got up and walked into the bushes. Curious, we drove around to inspect the object of his attention and found that he had ambushed a baby wildebeest. Ever the showman, he dragged the carcass out into the open (brave behaviour given the other predators who would happily relieve him of it) and ate his fill before returning to the female. 

Lion hunts warthog

The lions followed suit, and we discovered them on carcasses throughout the month. The split of the Wapuka pride meant we regularly saw two lionesses with their six cubs and three lionesses with nine cubs. 

Brown hyena den update

We have been aware of a brown hyena den near camp. However, following some fantastic tracking one morning, we followed brown hyena tracks to a second yet unknown den. The presence of two subadult brown hyenas mentioned above was the reward for a long morning of shifting forwards and tracking backwards through the bush. A true testament to the skills of the guide and tracker. 

We also saw a large variety of the smaller predators, with civets, serval, black-backed and side-striped jackals, and African wild cats featuring on both day and night drive expeditions. 

Elands, zebras, and wildebeest framed the landscape throughout the month, as have the large herds of elephants moving from the woodlands in the west, to the Kwando River in the east and then back again.

(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, November 2022

The ‘Unluckiest Animal of the Month’ award for November must go to a warthog.

We spent hours one morning with the Holi pride of fourteen lions, wiling away a warm summer morning, watching them playing and bonding with quality family time. Suddenly, a male warthog blinking at the morning sun emerged from an aardvark hole not five metres from the pride. He quickly realised the fatal error and bolted. However, a subadult male cut him off and forced him back towards the welcoming jaws of the pride. He attempted to break through the wall of gold, but one lioness, with lazy swipe of her paw, caught him on the leg and sent him to the ground. The lions made short work of their surprise morning snack.

The buffalo specialists of Lagoon Camp

While this was a surprise, the Lagoon prides were also very calculating in their hunting. We tracked them to various kills and were fortunate to witness the same pride take on a big male buffalo. The buffalo retreated to a shallow channel (perhaps thinking that with his back to the water, he would have a better chance of seeing off the aggressors). At first, this strategy seemed to work until the lions overcame their fear of the water and followed him.

Buffalo Kill Lagoon Camp

An incredible cacophony of bellows, growls and splashing ensued. Eventually, the old boy tired, and the pride managed to take him down. They were now faced with the daunting task of getting the almost one-ton animal out of the water. Eventually, this was achieved, and the effort didn’t appear to slow them down. We found the same lion pride on a wildebeest kill two days later!

As with much of the wild Northern areas of Botswana, November brought the rains and a bevy of new life. Young impalas, warthogs and many others were found almost everywhere. This is also boom time for the predators and we saw several leopards and cheetah taking advantage of this new food source.

Plenty of cheetah action

The average predator doesn’t know when the next meal is coming and aims to save as much energy as possible when hunting. The inexperienced newborn herbivores provide a more straightforward test than an experienced antelope herd accustomed to the alarm calls and signals that help keep them safe. The easier pickings also attract additional competition. We were treated to the fantastic sighting of two resident male cheetahs, the Two Brothers, facing down and then fighting off another male that had strayed into their territory. The lone male retreated and wasn’t seen again.

Cheetah Lagoon Camp

We also enjoyed frequent encounters with the two resident male leopards as well as a mother leopard with a cub strolling south of the appropriately named Leopard Road.

Delightful little antics

The Spotted hyena den near camp was still active, and we had the privilege of sharing time with a mother porcupine and her porcupette that scuttled about near camp. The youngster’s quills are already hardened (they start off as hair) and, as it is only a few weeks old, we hope to see mother and child together for a few months yet.

The elephant herds have been thrilling us daily as large numbers of them, alongside the immense buffalo herds, wander past camp to the Kwando River to drink.  

Birding was spectacular, with an explosion of colours and feathers as the rollers, bee-eaters, whydahs, and various others competed under the towering clouds.

(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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Kwara and Splash, November 2022

We saw several packs of African wild dog this month numbering 7, 8 and 29 individuals. They hunted the easier targets and took down wildebeest, impala, and reedbuck. However, they didn’t have it all their own way.

Early in the month, we found the large pack shadowing a herd of wildebeest. Having seen the wild dogs, the gnus aggressively protected their young, and the pack finally retreated to avoid injury. However, we watched them chase a wildebeest into a small lagoon the following day. As the embattled herbivore retreated further into the water, we watched with bated breath as a crocodile moved in slowly from behind.

Wildebeest Okavango Delta

The wildebeest noticed the crocodile at the last minute and moved towards shallower water, where the crocodile couldn’t attack from a submerged position. The wild dogs scampered up and down the water’s edge for over an hour, clearly conversing about what to do while the crocodile lay in wait, mostly submerged, to see if the wildebeest would be forced back into the deep water. Eventually, the wild dogs decided that the crocodile in the water was not worth the risk and moved away. As darkness fell, we departed with the wildebeest still standing in shallow water, facing a perilous night.

Spot of the month!

The prize for the best spot goes to the Kwara team, who set up a bush dinner only to find a leopard watching them from a tree a hundred metres away. (We moved to a different place to avoid having to share our dinner!)

Leopard of Kwara Camp

Love has also been in the air, and a pair of mating leopards were seen regularly between Splash and Kwara. They were found mating and then split up for two days, only to reconcile and continue their mating ritual. At one point, another male leopard, attracted by their amorous growls, was found watching from fifty metres away. However, the couple showed no sign of being aware of him.

Our guides reported the reserve was booming with lots of smaller mammals like serval cats, genets, civets, African wild cats, springhares and lesser bushbabies. On mokoro outings, guests poled past many Angolan painted reed frogs and beautiful water lilies.  

Mokoro Botswana Kwara Camp

Lions were sighted regularly across the Kwara Private Reserve and located near Splash and Kwara, feasting on zebra, giraffes and even a baboon. The various lion prides all appeared well-fed and strong.

Likewise, the Spotted hyenas had considerable success. The clan of fourteen managed to take down a baby giraffe, having separated it from its mother. In a heartbreaking scene, the mother then returned and chased the hyenas off the body of its offspring. She continually tried to nudge it and urge it to get up, but it was too late. She then stood over it for four hours, defying the hyenas with well-placed kicks. Ultimately, she moved away, opening the way for the hyenas to finish what they had started.

Wildebeest, impalas and more antelopes gave birth across the plains and woodlands. Going out into the bush was hard without coming across a creche or mother shepherding her energetic youngsters through the landscape.

Fantastic Mr Special

Mr Special, the resident cheetah, had excellent triumphs hunting impala lambs as well as a young wildebeest. We also watched him hunting lechwe, where he was met with stiffer resistance. The lithe predator quickly returned to the easier prey. A very relaxed female cheetah was also seen in the area. She made a kill two hundred metres from Kwara and enjoyed the meal for nearly two days without interference. This is quite strange, considering the number of Spotted hyenas in the area! She ate her fill and eventually moved away. Afterwards, we saw a serval cat feeding on her remains during a night drive.

(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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