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Month: October 2023

4 Rivers Camp, October 2023

The charismatic African wild dogs, comprising a pack of 20, made recurring appearances during our game drives and showcased their energetic hunting prowess. 

One day, our guide paused during a game drive stop to explain the unsung architects of the Okavango Delta and guests gathered around a big termite mound for a chat about these fascinating insects. Ever alert, the tracker gently interrupted,  asking everyone for a moment of silence. He had heard the faint greeting call of a wild dog. Everyone slowly climbed back in the car, drove around the corner and there they were – 22 of them!

African wild dogs Kwara 4 Rivers

Delighted, the guests spent a long time with the pack, and patience paid off. Two hyenas which had been seen in the area, approached the group, and the wild dogs started chasing them. Soon after, the wild dogs ran into lions! At this juncture, the group wisely started backtracking.

On the 15th, the wild dogs pursued red lechwe through the marsh areas. Later, on the 17th, a pack of 12 indulged in a feast on a giraffe carcass, displaying communal camaraderie. We were enthralled as the alpha female later led a spirited hunt on the 25th, highlighting the pack’s incredible vitality.

Will I see lions at 4 Rivers Camp?

This month was rich in lion encounters, each unfolding like a gripping narrative. Six lion cubs frolicked in the water near 4 Rivers Camp under the watchful eyes of their mothers. The scene was a symphony of water splashes and attentive warning calls, making for a memorable encounter. Another day, a pride of four females and two cubs revealed signs of a successful early morning hunt, with playful cubs displaying blood stains in testament to their recent feast.

The Tsum Tsum Pride, comprising three lions, claimed a giraffe kill in the scenic floodplains, their regal feast illuminated by the morning sun. Two formidable males joined later, seizing control of the meal and adding a layer of drama. 

As floodplains dried, resilient grass species emerged, bringing a touch of green to the vast landscapes of 4 Rivers. Herbivores and elephants were drawn to these green oases, transforming the scenery into a thriving panorama of life. 

Seeing spots: leopards, cheetahs and more

In the middle of the month, a female leopard graced the landscape and perched atop a tree in the evening light. Leopards are adept climbers and their strength allows them to haul prey that may be larger than themselves into the branches of trees to avoid scavengers such as hyenas and lions.  

Spotted hyenas, often associated with nighttime scavenging, made their presence felt, particularly around lion kills and during night safaris. Their eerie calls echoed through the camp, adding a mysterious touch to the nocturnal soundscape. Hyenas are known for their vocalizations, which include whoops, giggles, growls, and a distinctive “laughter” sound. This laughter-like vocalization is often heard during feeding and helps establish social bonds within the clan.

During night safaris, guests enjoyed delightful sightings of small-spotted genets, civets, and bush babies. Cape clawless otters appeared in the waters near the camp, adding a lively aquatic element. Also known as African clawless otters, these captivating aquatic mammals live in various freshwater habitats across sub-Saharan Africa. Unlike other otter species, Cape clawless otters lack the typical external claws, hence the name “clawless.” Instead, they have fully webbed fingers with prominent pads on their paws, which aid in grasping slippery prey.  

The renowned Mr. Special, a resident cheetah, was spotted west of Bat-eared fox territory, savouring a male impala kill. The scene unfolded beneath a leadwood tree with vultures as silent spectators. Cheetah territories are often called “home ranges” rather than strict territories. These home ranges can be extensive, covering a large expanse of land and vary in size depending on the abundance of prey and the distribution of other predators. Mr Special has occupied his home range in the Kwara Private Concession for several years and successfully defended it from new cheetahs coming in.

Return of the reptiles and elephants in the Tsum Tsum River

The changing weather brought sightings of pythons and puff adders, emphasizing the adaptability of the region’s reptilian residents. Crocodiles exhibited their aquatic prowess in shallow waterholes, while water monitor lizards ventured out searching for beetles and insects.

Elephants majestically traversed the Tsum Tsum River while roan antelopes and sables dotted the woodland scenery. A colossal herd of more than a thousand buffaloes became a defining spectacle on several days. Giraffes, zebras, kudus, waterbucks, hippos, red lechwe, common reedbucks, and tsessebes added to the visual feast.

Ostriches made a striking appearance to the west, and the skies witnessed the graceful flight of vultures plus pied and striped kingfishers while Southern ground hornbills strutted the grasslands. Majestic raptors, including bateleurs, brown snake eagles and martial eagles, added to the avian spectacle. The arrival of summer migrants, such as broad-billed rollers, yellow-billed kites, and Wahlberg’s eagles, signalled the changing seasons.

(Please note: For the safety of the animals, we do not disclose the precise 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, October 2023

We watched in awe as a mother honey badger spent a week teaching its subadult baby to hunt.

Yet, the lessons ended abruptly one day when the mother unexpectedly chased the baby away. The duo returned days later, with the mother brandishing a snake to keep the curious baby at bay. Playful bat-eared foxes and an African wildcat’s evening hunt were equally memorable moments from October. 

Brown hyena at the Tau Pan Camp waterhole

Then, there was the early morning drama as guests spotted a brown hyena at the Tau Pan Camp waterhole. It suddenly disappeared into the darkness, but to everyone’s delight, it returned during breakfast, offering splendid photo opportunities. 

Unlike their more socially oriented counterparts, spotted hyenas, brown hyenas tend to be more solitary, frequently foraging alone or in small family groups. Their opportunistic feeding behaviour encompasses skilled scavenging – they often feast on carcasses – and active hunting of small mammals, birds, and insects.

The great Kalahari black-maned lions of Tau pan

The resident Tau Pan Pride of eight lions showcased impressive ambush techniques during the enchanting golden hours of the morning at the camp waterhole. After several missed attempts, the lions retreated to the shade of the guest rooms for a day of leisure until trying again in the cool of dusk. Another notable highlight was seeing a mother and subadult male with two tiny cubs finding shade under an umbrella thorn acacia at San Pan. Witnessing two subadult lions attempting to take down a fully grown oryx added another thrilling encounter to our fantastic game drive log. 

Oryx kalahari desert

In the afternoons, a small herd of six bachelor elephants became a daily spectacle at the camp waterhole, seeking relief from the heat with refreshing drinks and showers. The bone-dry start of the month attracted a plentiful congregation of general game around the waterhole besides. Greater kudus, giraffes, and wildebeests quenched their thirst. Springboks, red hartebeests, and prized desert antelope, herds of oryx, were seen out in the grasslands.  

A mother cheetah with three cubs, estimated to be five to six months old, graced us with their presence for a week. While we didn’t witness kills, the cubs’ bloodstains on their mouths and full tummies hinted at successful hunts.

Leopard tracks were visible around the camp, especially in the mornings, taunting us with their tantalizing proximity. One morning, we enjoyed a tranquil encounter with a female resting below a small umbrella thorn acacia. We then watched another leopard try to land a steenbok, but it missed. 

Kalahari ostrich

Summer brought avian guests like the yellow-billed kite, common buzzards, and red-necked falcon, complementing our resident birds, like the cattle egrets and ostriches. Raptors, including pale chanting goshawks and gabar goshawks in various morphs, also showcased their hunting prowess. 

(Please note: For the safety of the animals, we do not disclose the precise 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, October 2023

Often spotted between Tents 8 and 9, guests revelled in the rare sighting of a feathered basso.

Much like a soprano, but with a bass voice or vocal part, the Pel’s fishing owl is a large and striking bird that boasts dark brown plumage, a broad face, and calls with a low, deep hoot that’s audible from 3km away.

Pel's Fishing Owl MX - By Leslie Robert Edgar
By Leslie Robert Edgar

The Pel’s fishing owl thrives in riverine habitats characterized by slow-flowing or still water, such as lagoons, swamps, and riverbanks, making the Okavango Delta’s water channels and lagoons (as found near Moremi Crossing Camp) an optimal environment for habitation.

The predators of Moremi Crossing Camp

Two prides paraded the Gunn’s Private Concession — one flaunting five lionesses, the other a formidable six-member crew victorious in toppling buffalos. There are also dominant males, the Moremi Boys. Lions share the Okavango Delta with other predators, such as leopards, cheetahs, and African wild dogs. Interactions between these species, including competition for prey and conflicts over territory, contribute to the dynamic ecosystem of the delta. 

A resident leopard revealed her covert life with a newborn cub in the shadowy realms. Leopard cubs are typically born in a litter of one to three cubs and remain with their mother for an extended period because she is solely responsible for hunting and providing food.

The Matsebe pack of 15 African wild dogs made several appearances. The group included seven playful puppies and eight seasoned adults who had no trouble felling a red lechwe during one unforgettable afternoon drive. African wild dogs are highly social animals, living in packs led by an alpha pair. These packs can vary in size, typically ranging from 6 to 20 individuals, but larger packs have been observed (for example, 29 animals in the Kwara Private Concession). Social bonds are vital within the pack, and they exhibit cooperative behaviours such as communal care of the young and group hunting.

Mma Leitho, a hyena matriarch, nurtured four fuzzy companions in the southeast, but their den site remained a secret cocoon. Dozens of Peters’ epauletted fruit bats hung like living chandeliers from the main area, a fascinating spectacle for our enchanted visitors. 

Walking Moremi Crossing

Our safari guests, seekers of connection, found solace in nature walks on Chief’s Island. On the wide-open floodplains, elephants, zebras, lechwe, impalas, tsessebe, warthogs, giraffes, and buffalo were easy to spot from a distance. Animals gathered at the last reservoirs in this flat geography as the Boro River’s water levels receded further in response to the relentless October sun.  

(Please note: For the safety of the animals, we do not disclose the precise 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, October 2023

Five distinct leopards graced our presence in the Kwando Private Concession this month.

One female had two cubs, and their playful antics frequently caught our attention. Impala feasts marked their territory, while the resident male showcased his hunting prowess. The territories of two leopards clashed in a silent yet powerful dance. Leopards are territorial creatures, marking their area with urine and leaving claw marks on trees. The size of their site varies depending on factors like food availability.

Lion update from Lebala Camp

The lions of Lebala were seen many times this month and present in two formidable groups. We observed the bonds and hunts of an 11-strong pride and another of seven, which left us in awe, especially when the dominant males took centre stage.

Lebala Camp Lions

One morning, breakfast around the campfire became a wildlife symphony as the lions strolled nearby and vocalised to the rest of the pride. Their routines ranged from failed hunts to devouring impalas, wildebeests, kudus, and zebras. The dry spell in October compelled other lions to venture towards camp from inland. Tensions occasionally flared, leading to fierce subadult clashes, but unity ultimately prevailed, leaving each pride intact.

The general game descended to the Kwando River’s edge. Tsessebe calves pranced around, male buffalos asserted their presence, and elephants graced us in large herds. Sable and roan antelopes showcased their elegance by the water, while hippos claimed the channel.

Most of the bee-eater species have arrived in the area, with carmine bee-eaters and white-fronted bee-eaters seen in good numbers. Waterbirds logged include saddle-billed storks and wattled cranes along the marsh areas, along with Southern ground hornbills, in an impressive group of nine on one occasion.

African wild dogs Kwando Lebala

One memorable African wild dog sighting turned into an adrenaline-pumping spectacle. Along the southern marsh, we watched a successful impala hunt unfold under the descending sun, leaving us in suspense into the last light as the pack finished the meal. These dogs are exceptional endurance runners. They can cover great distances during hunts, often pursuing prey until the prey is exhausted. Their efficient cooling mechanism facilitates this — they have fewer sweat glands and rely on rapid breathing to dissipate heat.

Night prowlers and marsh dwellers

After the first rains, crickets and moths have been active, and at night, the harvester termites gathered grasses. In hot pursuit, the aardwolves gracefully stepped into the spotlight during our nocturnal adventures, largely unfazed by our presence. In a single night, an individual aardwolf can consume up to 300,000 termites with a combined weight of 1,2kg! An African civet made a cameo near the camp, and the elusive porcupine paraded along the firebreak. Our night drives were also enhanced by spotted hyenas, which occasionally congregated near an elephant carcass. Their brown counterparts, elusive and shy, teased us by darting into thickets by the northern marsh.

(Please note: For the safety of the animals, we do not disclose the precise 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, October 2023

The charismatic Mazabuka leopardess captivated guests when she appeared with her two cubs. We witnessed the trio devour an impala and saw the family feasting on a deceased elephant, the spectacle unfolding at Badisa Island.

Our guides also located another subadult female, perched high on a tree, and her swollen nipples hinted at new cubs.

October proved exceptional for African wild dog enthusiasts. Two distinct packs, one of ten members and another of two, showcased their wild and untamed spirit. From hunting along the Main Road to playful moments near Marobalo a Ditshwene, these wild dogs added a dynamic and vibrant energy to the landscape.

The two resident cheetah brothers made some moves, expanding their territory into the dry expanse and occasionally venturing into the neighbouring area. The ever-present lions influenced their movements, and on the 29th, they marked their homecoming with a successful impala kill.

Spotted hyenas had active dens, and our engaging morning game drives often featured these intriguing creatures and their adorable little ones.

Elephants northern Botswana

Giraffes gracefully nibbled on the flowers of the knobbly combretum in picturesque scenery that also featured massive herds of elephants and buffalos, along with sable, roan, and the tsessebe protecting darling newborns.

Bounding bushbabies and migrant birds

The nocturnal realm was alive with jackals, bat-eared foxes, springhares, scrub hares, civets, aardwolves, African wildcats, and lesser bushbabies making captivating appearances during night drives. African civets are omnivorous, consuming various food items, including fruits, insects, small mammals, birds, eggs, and sometimes carrion. They are particularly known for their fondness for specific fruits and are considered critical in seed dispersal in places like the Kwando Private Concession.

Carmine bee eaters nesting Botswana

Carmine bee-eaters, broad-billed and European rollers were standard sightings on the bird checklist. We also observed golden weavers weaving intricate nests in preparation for summer breeding while raptors such as yellow-billed kites and short-tailed eagles graced the skies.

The stealthy water monitor lizard and the stoic crocodile added a prehistoric touch to the riverbanks and lagoons of the Kwando River. A spotted bush snake was sighted near camp. The delicate flutter of butterflies, including the citrus swallowtail, African monarch, and diadem, brought a peaceful brilliance to the landscape.

The lion landscape at Lagoon Camp

The Holy Pride, accompanied by eight playful lion cubs, revitalized the area near Water Cut and Lebengula South.

Meanwhile, the Mma Dikolobe Pride, famous for its four cubs, frequented the Air Strip Road and Muddy Waters Stranglers. They exhibited remarkable hunting skills, taking down a tsessebe on the Link from Pangolin to 1st Lagoon. Their prowess continued with successful hunts of zebras south of the camp and along the Pangolin Road. A coalition of three male lions, including the Northern Boys, added to the drama, and we often witnessed them showcasing dominance. We also located the Holy Pride feeding on an elephant, while nearby, two male lions rested in the shade by Lebengula South, their bellies full.

(Please note: For the safety of the animals, we do not disclose the precise 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 Camp, October 2023

New cubs injected life into the resident Kwara Pride, which comprised 12 members: two lionesses, three subadults, and six cubs of varying sizes.

The Kwara lionesses showed a penchant for trailing buffaloes along the marsh, a behaviour often observed this month. A lioness carrying her cub to a hidden thicket added another touch of maternal magic.

Two male lions exploited the dense cover of woodlands to optimize their hunting. Meanwhile, the Ngorongoro area witnessed a spectacle — a pride of seven lions, sated after feasting on a kudu. East of Ngorongoro, another group of five (including males and subadults) engaged in an unsuccessful hunt. Over at Mojeremane plain, a regal pride of four lionesses, three subadults, and two dominant males revelled in the aftermath of a hearty meal. Two new male lions made their mark, scavenging an elephant carcass along Kudu Road, fending off hyenas, and even facing crocodiles in a late-afternoon spectacle!

Lions at Kwara Camp

Yet another pride of seven lions, in a display of dominance, claimed a share of the spoils and chased away crocodiles while vultures and marabou storks loomed, waiting for their turn. Only the scene at Last Mabala was arguably more impressive, with over twenty spotted hyenas scavenging on a dead elephant. A massive male lion was also sighted near room nine at Kwara Camp.

Boating safaris in the Kwara Private Concession

Each boat cruise at the Godikwe Heronry was a birdwatcher’s delight, with long-crested eagles, herons, storks, and bee-eaters creating a spectacle. These Okavango Delta heronries are breeding colonies for various bird species, including herons, egrets, and other water birds, including the sacred ibis. These sites play a crucial role in the life cycle of these birds, providing safe nesting areas when they migrate down from the North.

After a boat cruise, we saw a female leopard weaving through the marshes west of the Splash Camp mokoro station. She unwittingly crossed paths with a lion pride but quickly escaped to a tree. Another female, near Tom’s Road, ascended a tree after heading south, while a third adult female enjoyed a meal on a tree south of Marapo Kubu. A morning hunt between Giraffe and Sekgapha sa Kudu Pans proved fruitless for different female leopard.

Leopard Okavango Delta

During an evening game drive, the resident male leopard near Kwara Camp cooperated by lying on a tree along the riverine road for an extended viewing. A more skittish male at Last Mabala, at Tsum Tsum, disappeared into the marsh grasses. Along the Xugana Main Road, another leopardess fed on a steenbok kill treed up on a sausage tree. A massive tom scavenged on a buffalo at Honeymoon Pan, again connecting the fates of lion and leopard.

The 25 lively African wild dogs of the Kwara Pack were located on an energetic hunt around Double Cross. Another group of six dogs pursued common reedbuck south of Splash Camp, albeit without success. A triumphant moment unfolded as the 25 wild dogs claimed an impala east of Decks Crossing. Lastly, at Last Mabala area, the pack found respite in the comforting shade.

African wild dogs of the Okavango Delta: prowess and playfulness!

High lion numbers on the Kwara side forced resident African wild dog packs to adapt their movements slightly. A troubling sight unfolded as one dog displayed signs of illness near Forward Tsum Tsum. Another group of twelve (including puppies) indulged in play around a water puddle. However, the harsh reality of the wild became apparent when two wild dogs faced a brutal lion attack, and their survival still hangs in the balance.

The island grounds of Kwara Camp were home to a bustling business of banded mongooses. Banded mongooses are captivating social mammals living in tight-knit social groups called troops, which can consist of several individuals to over 30 animals. These troops have a complex social hierarchy, with a dominant breeding pair leading the group,  much like African wild dogs.

The spotted sprinters of the savannah were also a spectacle! A female cheetah, north of Big Man and Puffy Pan, exhibited grace in her pursuit of impalas. The resident male, Mr. Special, navigated carefully in a lion-dominated landscape. Feeding near Last Mabala, he swiftly escaped as lions appeared unexpectedly. Mr. Special chased a red lechwe ram west of Bat Eared Fox, and his hunt took an unexpected turn when vultures and hyenas disrupted the scene. On the opposite spectrum, another male, west of Sethabana, lazed about with a full belly. A lone male cheetah was also spotted north of the area.

Most of the floodplain waters have receded. Hundreds of buffaloes created a spectacle, joined by elands, sables, and roan antelopes. The sprawling plains of Splash Camp were home to parades of elephants, zebras, and impalas.

During night game drives, we sighted servals, springhares, and lesser bush babies, which were always delightful to watch, bounding through the tree branches. We also saw a civet, a serval skilfully hunting, and the many animated antics of black-backed and side-striped jackals.  

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