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Month: January 2024

4 Rivers, January 2023

Encounters with cheetahs were memorable during January, particularly on the eastern front near Paradise.

A promising young male caught our attention during off-road tracking game drives, and we wondered if he might be poised to take over territories previously dominated by the undefeated cheetah, Mr. Special. This young male was observed to have successful kills, showcasing his hunting prowess. His movements, marked by strategic scent markings, were tracked as he ventured further east towards Splash and Kwara.

The resident pack of 21 African wild dogs kept us on our toes! We tracked them as they gracefully navigated the flooded plains, skilfully capturing red lechwes, wildebeest, and even small zebra foals. An exciting incident unfolded when they surrounded a large herd of lechwes near 4 Rivers lagoon. Some lechwes, unfortunately, found themselves in the clutches of hungry crocodiles, and the distress calls attracted spotted hyenas to the scene, too. We watched in awe as the pack adeptly defended their hard-earned meals.  

African wild dog 4 rivers camp

One particularly fascinating observation this month involved a snake capturing a flap-necked chameleon near the staff village area.

Among the treasures of the avian world, the magnificent Pel’s fishing owl was also observed gracefully perching in the riverine forests at camp, and further bird sightings included storks, colourful bee-eaters, regal herons stalking the pans, and the elusive marsh owl.

The lions and leopards of 4 Rivers: cubs coming?

Leopards concentrated their movements within the impenetrable woodlands. However, we encountered a few shy leopards and occasionally spotted relaxed ones around the 4 Rivers lagoon area. Anticipation is high for the coming months, with expectations of increased sightings and the possibility of glimpsing new leopard cubs!

We frequently crossed paths with a pride of 11 lions in the southeast, while the east hosted a lively group of 17 with playful cubs. Moving westward, two males were spotted accompanying a female, and to the northeast, a lioness was seen with three subadults. Excitement lingers!
We look forward to new arrivals within the pride of 17 lions, with several females expected to give birth in the coming months.

We encountered small hyena clans south of camp. These clans, often accompanied by playful cubs, engaged in various activities. Some were spotted feasting on the remnants left behind by lions. To our surprise, a few hyenas ventured close to the lodge, offering our guests an unexpected but delightful spectacle.

What is the weather like in January?

The initial weeks of the month brought forth bountiful rains, ushering in a transformative spectacle across our ecotones. The floodplains changed remarkably as water levels surged, resulting in widespread flooding, and we enjoyed mokoro rides in the brimming lagoons. This natural rainfall acted as an irresistible invitation for various animal species, leading to the emergence of vast herds of buffalo, mixed groups of zebras and wildebeests, elegant waterbucks, and agile red lechwes. Even the usually serene woodland areas experienced a metamorphosis as their waterholes filled with water, attracting elephants. Adapting to this abundance, the wise hippos expanded their territories, mitigating potential competition and conflicts between dominant and younger males.

We also experienced magnificent lightning strikes with the storms. Although there is a significant risk of fires created in the Okavango bush, this atmospheric nitrogen is also converted by plants and used to produce proteins required by the grazing animals in the great web of life.

When lightning strikes, it indirectly helps plants by contributing to nitrogen fixation in the soil. This happens because lightning splits nitrogen molecules in the air, which allows nitrogen atoms to combine with oxygen to form nitrogen oxides. The nitrogen oxides then dissolve in rainwater, creating nitrates and nitrites. These compounds are essential nutrients for plants and can be absorbed through their roots.

Honey badger 4 Rivers

In the quiet embrace of the night around the camp, we often spotted the curious honey badgers. Another nocturnal presence is the porcupine, its quilled silhouette appearing in the darkness. 

(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, January 2024

The pan has been unusually dry this month. Consequently, we embarked on longer drives from the camp. Despite the uncommon conditions, our epic expeditions had many exciting moments! 

The most memorable? Watching approximately eight black-backed jackals join forces to confront a baby oryx. This young oryx had become separated from its mother due to a bull attempting to mate with her.

Black backed jackals Tau Pan

The jackals persistently tested their luck for about 10 to 15 minutes until the same bull that had chased the mother returned to the rescue. However, the jackals did not easily relent, continuing their challenges until we departed as the sun descended. 

The plentiful joys of Passarge Valley

Many of our best general game sightings occurred along the Passarge waterhole to Passarge Valley, where we watched numerous oryx with their young, springboks with offspring, wildebeests, and occasionally a few red hartebeests. We also encountered one timid brown hyena on the route to the Passarge waterhole from the camp, before it swiftly disappeared.

A cheetah mother of three cubs, estimated to be 7 to 8 months old, was observed resting under a buffalo horn acacia at the Passarge waterhole. Following that, she was sighted along Phukwi Pan for three consecutive days. Another mother, accompanied by a subadult cub, was glimpsed on the northern part of Tau Pan during one of the afternoon drives. Additionally, two subadult cubs were seen at Letiahau Pan, resting on the roadside, leading us to assume that their mother had left them, possibly for hunting.

The scarcity of rainfall significantly influenced the movement patterns of local prides, including the resident Tau Pan pride. During one morning activity, we encountered the airstrip pride attempting to hunt adult giraffes, but the endeavour yielded no positive results. Due to the heat, they sought shade under an acacia tree on the roadside. The same pride, accompanied by two of the five dominant males, was spotted at Passarge Valley, feasting on an oryx. At times, the Tau Pan pride ventured into camp, entertaining with their playful activities and creating noise, and in the mornings, they frequented the waterhole, offering a picturesque view from the deck of the main area. The last three days of the month were particularly special, as our resident pride was consistently present in the camp, even during the nighttime. 

Leopard swimming pool bush

A resident subadult leopard female attuned to our movements, and one morning, she visited the poolside while we tucked into breakfast around the fire. 

Busy families of bat-eared foxes and ground squirrels contributed to the lively atmosphere in and around Tau Pan. We also spotted secretarybirds twice this month on the hunt. Additionally, sightings of a pale chanting goshawk, Gabar goshawk, and peregrine falcons added to the avian diversity around the pan. 

Limited rainfall prompted many animals to migrate to other areas. The harsh Kalahari landscape featured trees gradually turning brown, and temperatures reached a maximum of 42 degrees. Natural waterholes were dry, and animals relied solely on pumped waterholes. Elephants hovered in the area seeking water, but encounters were limited to tracking their footprints and dung along our game drive routes. 

(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 Camp, January 2023

One pride of three lions, often seen around the camp, exhibited the unique behaviour of catching African wild dogs in Moremi Crossing camp this month. 

Further to these crazy sightings, we tracked African wild dogs hunting near the water hole. As the wild dogs were about to snatch up an impala, the antelope took refuge in the waterhole with its tenantry of grumpy hippos. The hippos confronted the impala, who chased it out as it splashed into the water. 

Locating lions on game drives at Moremi Crossing

Various prides of lions were spotted in the concession, likely due to summer’s gift of abundant food. The Moremi boys, two male lions who were previously absent, returned to the area, and unfortunately, one lion from the pride of three fell victim to a warthog attack and passed away. 

Lion game drive Moremi Crossing

Following the dry spell of the Boro River, the focus shifted from water activities to thrilling game drives. One day, as the sun began to set over the Okavango Delta, guests were treated to a remarkable sight near Moremi Crossing Camp when a mother leopard with her cub was located feasting on a freshly caught kill. 

Guests were mesmerised as they watched these majestic predators in their natural habitat and could observe the intricate details, from the leopard’s powerful jaws and razor-sharp claws to how their spotted coats blended perfectly into the surrounding environment at Gunn’s Private Concession. The mother carefully guarded her cub as they enjoyed their meal.

As the rains commenced, the elephants dispersed with the surplus of food available. Still, the great buffalo numbers remained stable, and the concession continued to be rich in kudu, zebras, common reedbuck, impala, and more. Small mammals sighted included scrub hares, springhares, ground squirrels, and various rodent species. Banded mongooses were frequently encountered foraging in the area, which bloomed with fantastical flowers and plants, including devil’s claw, grapple plants, and pink water orchids. Wattled cranes, southern ground hornbills, Southern yellow-billed hornbills and various other bird species were logged.

Crocodile Okavango Delta

Water lizards and crocodiles frequented the waterholes, but the hot January weather conditions caused these ponds to slowly dry up at the edges. This situation became challenging as these creatures were displaced by territorial hippos concentrating in the remaining water. 

Two more African wild dog sightings marked this month, capturing the excitement of our guests. The wild dogs passed by the main area in one particularly thrilling event. No denning activity was recorded.

Distinctive hyena calls echoed throughout the night at Moremi Crossing, and exceptional sightings were noted, especially with young ones. Night skies offered their usual celestial spectacle with visible galaxies, the Milky Way, the Southern Cross, and Orion’s Belt. 

(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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Nxai Pan Camp, January 2024

We located a group of four African wild dogs at Nxai Pan traversing from the northern to the southern side, attempting to hunt springboks. 

Unfortunately, they were not successful. We also witnessed two wild dogs on the middle road near a lioness kill, trying to take control of the prey from the lioness, but their efforts were likewise unsuccessful. 

2024 Zebra migration update

The scenery was lush following substantial summer rainfall, and the zebra migration significantly enhanced overall wildlife activity, with their numbers steadily increasing each day, reaching what we believe to be their peak. In addition to zebras, the prominent game included wildebeests and springboks, often accompanied by their calves. Solitary bulls or groups of males are also frequently observed. 

Zebra migration Nxai Pan

The landscape was adorned with various flowers in different colours, including striking red blooms from the amaryllis family, such as the flame lily, fireball lily, brunsvigia lily, and hibiscus wild stock-rose. Additionally, flowers like cat’s tail, otoptera burchellii, and wild asparagus flourished in the sandy soil. 

Heavy rains brought forth bullfrogs and guttural toads, with scarlet tip butterflies, African monarchs, painted ladies, yellow pansies, and brown-veined butterflies fluttering through the summer skies. In the realm of reptiles, black mambas and spotted bush snakes were located, and African rock python tracks were identified.

Lions at Nxai Pan during summer

The grasslands on the pan were a spritely green, making it easier to spot lions as they moved through. We enjoyed frequent sightings, primarily from the resident pride comprising three lionesses and two subadults. One of these lionesses is currently nursing three one-month-old cubs. The lioness has established a den at Middle Road, and we observed her relocating the cubs between two dens on two occasions. 

Nxai Pan Lions

Witnessing them feeding on wildebeest carcasses was also a remarkable sighting, occurring in different locations. At times, they ventured to the park’s western side, staying for a few days before returning. Two males were spotted south of the camp, feeding on a deceased elephant, which we suspect they might have killed. They remained in that location for three days before departing. Along the Baobab Loop Road, we encountered another old male lion indulging in a wildebeest carcass, and after two days, he moved on. Additionally, a lioness was observed at Middle Road in the middle of the road, successfully hunting and killing a wildebeest.

Newly born wildebeests and springboks were a common sight, with black-backed jackals often seen in the vicinity, eagerly seeking afterbirth. Black-backed jackals and their young offspring were observed daily. They were often spotted feeding on termites, dung beetles, and the ample mushrooms attached to termite mounds.

Giraffes were a consistent highlight, and while the buffalo population on the pan is less abundant due to the widespread availability of water, we had the pleasure of encountering two sizable groups of Cape buffalos along West Road. Towards the salt pan and Kudiakam pan, we spied oryx and red hartebeests.

Flamingos flock to Baines’ Baobabs

These salt pans were particularly captivating, filled with water that attracted a multitude of birdlife. Both species of flamingos arrived at Baines’ Baobab, and we logged cape teals, Hottentot teals, dabchicks, numerous blacksmith lapwings, open-billed storks, black-winged stilts, and various small plovers like three-banded plovers, ringed-necked plovers, Kittlitz’s plovers and ruff. Cheetah tracks were also identified in the area.

Kori bustards, including some gorgeous chicks, were a common sight, and secretarybirds prowled around the pan, searching for snakes and small rodents. We also watched a black-chested snake eagle feed on a striped-bellied sand snake. Among the summer migrants were European bee-eaters, blue-cheeked bee-eaters, red-backed and grey-backed shrikes. 

Spotted hyenas roamed around Nxai Pan Camp as they fed on the remains of a dead elephant. However, more commonly, we heard their calls during the night and occasionally in the early mornings. We also observed their tracks on the sandy patches, both from brown and spotted hyenas. Other nocturnal creatures included cream-striped owl moths drawn to camp lights while geckos fed on them. Spider-hunting wasps and ground beetles were observed, along with jewel beetles feeding on thorn bushes. Despite the cloud cover, bright stars such as Sirius, Procyon, and Aldebaran were visible, with occasional glimpses of constellations like the Southern Cross, Sagittarius, Centaurus, Taurus, Gemini, Canis Major, and Canis Minor near Orion the Hunter. 

(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, January 2024

The brown hyena made several fleeting appearances, often observed at a close distance yet consistently on the move. 

On occasion, it ventured into Lebala Camp, particularly along the meandering marsh adjacent to room 8, displaying a notably shy demeanour. Meanwhile, the spotted hyenas provided entertaining scenes as they visited the remnants of old elephant skins post-rains. We watched their interesting behaviour of chewing on the remains and picking up small bones softened by the rain, subsequently crushing them much more quickly than during the dry season.

The Lebala lions follow abundant prey 

The landscape has become dense, and the blossoming flowers from various plants and shrubs added to the Lebala’s beauty. During nature walks, we admired this burgeoning flora as well as dung beetles weaving between the fertile herbage thanks to the plentiful plains game. 

General game sightings were impressive, with numerous zebras mingling with wildebeest and their calves in open areas on the inland side. There were changes in the lion movement patterns as the prides transitioned from marsh to the open grounds on the inland side of the Kwando Private Concession. 

The lions also explored the woodland side, aligning their movements with the prey in the area. At Lechwe Corner, three males, accompanied by a female lion, spent approximately three to four days in the region as one male mated with the female. What was intriguing was the presence of the other two males observing the mating couple for several days. Despite witnessing prides attempting to stalk zebras, they were unsuccessful in their endeavours. An exciting moment unfolded as two male zebras fought and ran toward the lions. Although the subadults reacted and came close to a successful catch, the zebras escaped. Furthermore, we spotted a lioness in the walking range area with two kills of male red lechwes.

The cutest leopard cubs!

A female leopard with two subadult cubs was frequently observed, and it was always delightful to witness their playful antics — chasing each other on top of trees, jumping from one branch to another. Meanwhile, a male leopard was seen hunting warthogs. During the chase, a large male warthog valiantly fought back to protect the piglets, successfully pushing away the leopard. Another male leopard in the area was more shy, being relatively new to the region. Along Makodi Road, the resident male leopard made a remarkable kill, capturing a zebra calf. He then dragged the prey up a tree and spent several days feeding in the area.

During one game drive, vultures circling and landing caught our eye, prompting an investigation into the source of their interest, and our search led to the African wild dogs lying beneath a tree. One displayed remarkable activity, running around before awakening the entire pack. Swiftly, they darted into the mopane woodland and disappeared. Their satiated appearance indicated they had likely recently fed on an animal, explaining the presence of vultures in the vicinity.

Wild dogs Lebala Camp

A pair of male cheetahs were found near Motama Pan, feeding on a wildebeest calf. Following their meal, they dedicated the rest of the day to leisure, resting under a tree beside the road leading to the airstrip. Even in the afternoon, they remained in the same vicinity. 

Amur falcons and bustling waterholes 

The Amur falcons persisted in large flocks, displaying lively activity in the morning and afternoon. Similarly, the carmine and blue-cheeked bee-eaters are actively present. The region continued to host various migratory birds, offering delightful sightings of Broad-billed rollers, woodland kingfishers and grey-headed kingfishers. Particularly fascinating was the sight of water birds congregating in substantial numbers around waterholes (brimming from the recent rains), encompassing a range of sizes from small to large aquatic species. During days with considerable rainfall, fewer elephants were observed, while on warmer days, a significant number of elephants were spotted.

(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, January 2024

In the heart of Kwara, one renowned leopardess showcased her hunting prowess, taking down an impala near Sable Island. 

Another skilled female leopard, on a hunt around Kwara Camp, successfully captured a young kudu close to Room 1. To the east of the new bridge, a female leopard lounged in a tree, while nearby, a male leopard in the west of Kwara Camp rested among the bushes after securing two kills.

Further off-road tracking expeditions revealed another intriguing scene: a female leopard near the new bridge, feasting on the carcass of a fully grown male red lechwe. Additionally, a male leopard claimed his spot up a tree with an impala kill, and a female leopard was spotted atop yet another tree, having skilfully caught a steenbok.

Another serene female gracefully moved between Splash and the Kwara airstrip. In the third week of the month, around the third bridge, north of the airstrip. Though she appeared to be a lactating mother, none of the guides had yet caught a glimpse of her cubs.

Guests at Splash Camp were treated to sightings of at least four relaxed leopards. Their activities included multiple kills on baby antelopes. Notably, the adult male leopard, often found in the marsh area southwest of Kwara, surprised us by venturing further than usual and was sighted north of the Splash boat station area. Perched on a sausage tree, he enjoyed a feast on a fully-grown female impala.

Six cheetahs roam around Splash Camp

The Splash Camp guide and tracker teams identified six cheetah individuals. Among them, a new coalition of two adult male cheetahs, less familiar with vehicles, dominated the east of the camp, particularly around Ngayaya Lagoon in the Ngorongoro area. The resident male cheetah, Mr. Special, whose territorial domain spans the entire Kwara Private Concession, was last observed near the Bat-Eared Fox Den in the west in the first week of the month. An addition to the scene was a young male cheetah displaying diverse movements. His explorations extended west towards the Bat-Eared Fox Den and further to the 4 Rivers area. At times, he ventured east towards the Ngorongoro area. In the most recent sighting, he was spied on Tau Island attempting to hunt reedbucks. However, a limp hindered his success. 

Mr Special Kwara

A male cheetah found south of Kwara Camp enjoyed a peaceful rest. The following day, another cheetah to the east of Last Mabala went on a thrilling hunt for zebras, unfortunately missing a foal. A male cheetah near Lechwe Plains initiated another chase, capturing a reedbuck within 20 minutes. Later in the day, a hungry male cheetah pursued a kudu herd. Notably, a pair of cheetahs, male and female, were sighted separately but in the same eastern region of Ngorongoro. The female successfully took down a common reedbuck, while a mother cheetah was spotted resting with her cubs south of Splash Hippos.

Servals and spotted hyenas 

The elegant serval cat was spotted South of Kwara Camp; characterized by its slender build, spotted coat, and large ears, it is a remarkable feline species found in the diverse ecosystems of Botswana known for its adept hunting skills. Encountering these cats in the wild is a rare and memorable experience.

In the western vicinity of Kwara Camp, a hyena clan clashed with lions over a warthog kill. The intense confrontation featured two lionesses and a single cub fiercely defending their prey. Despite their valiant efforts, the lions eventually yielded, and seven hyenas seized control of the spoils. 

During one game drive, three hyenas embarked on a pursuit of a female leopard who had successfully captured a baby kudu. The action unfolded rapidly, with the leopard swiftly turning the tables as it chased away the hyenas and in a nimble display of agility, the leopard secured its kill by swiftly ascending a nearby tree.

The wonderful wild dogs of Kwara and Splash

A pack of 21 lively African wild dogs often roamed the landscapes. They were spotted from the east of Splash Camp, all the way to Ngorongoro, west of Kwara and covering the 4 Rivers region. They engaged in the fun activity of digging, possibly in search of a den, in the northern part of the lagoon. Following their tracks along Flame Lily Road, we encountered the pack of chasing after impalas, though without success. They were also seen energetically hunting west of the Bat-Eared Fox area. 

At Splash Camp, the African wild dog sightings were equally superb. An adult pack of six, known for concentrating in the mopane woodland north of the Splash area, exhibited exceptional hunting skills. They successfully took down a male impala during a hunt at Motswiri Pan, and evidence of further kills of various baby antelope species was spotted east of the camp. 

Lion cubs Kwara

The dominant Kwara lion pride, boasting 22 members, ruled the northern territory, while the Mma Leitho Pride, with two females, four cubs, and two males, reigned in the east. Notably, the nomadic Sephane pride joined the Kwara Pride’s eastward ventures. Two male lions maintained their dominance east of Willy’s Valley. Kwara pride’s activities included feeding on a warthog at Southern Mmoloki Mabala and joining Mma Leitho pride at the Splash fishing spot.

Heading to Splash, the Mma Leitho pride, now five strong, featured two intriguing male lions that arrived last year. They extended their territory, mating with the pride and fathering four cubs. Meanwhile, the Mopane pride explored the open floodplains around Splash, following buffaloes drawn to the lush greenery.

The Kwara pride (once centred around the Bat-Eared Fox area) excitingly shifted as seven members expanded eastward, exploring new northern territories, particularly the Kalahari apple leaf trees.

Summer at Splash and Kwara 

Bee beater boat trip Splash Camp

We’ve encountered a variety of reptiles, including the boomslang, black mamba, Mozambique spitting. cobra, African rock python, and olive grass snake. The rainy season brought a surge in insect activity, with dragonflies, damselflies, African monarch butterflies, and water scorpions. Crocodiles were frequently spotted during our boat cruises along the river.

The distinctive Jacobin cuckoo, the elegant Levaillant’s cuckoo, and the mysterious black cuckoo all have been spotted. Resident and visitor bird species included the colourful woodland kingfisher, the delicate lesser jacana, the European bee-eater, the purple roller, the lilac-breasted roller, and the osprey. The skies are further adorned with the Wahlberg’s eagle, spotted eagle, tawny eagle, carmine bee-eater, robin-chats, and various species of strikes.

Massive herds of elephants, a hallmark of our concession, frequently walked the landscape. Afternoon activities unveiled the majestic presence of sizable elephant herds venturing into the open floodplain, abandoning the lush mopane woodlands abundant with food during this rainy season.

Antelope sightings included impalas, red lechwes, kudus, bushbucks, Roan antelopes, elands, and sable antelopes when traversing the route to Tsum Tsum Mabala.

(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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