Moremi Crossing

Moremi Crossing, April 2022

Winter inched in bit by bit, as the first few days of April were foggy and misty on waking up in the morning, and the Okavango floodwaters were reported just 44km from Moremi Crossing.

With the natural waterholes drying up in the woodlands, the game moved to the nutritious floodplains in ever-climbing numbers. This month, we saw leopards, cheetahs, wild dogs, and hyenas more often on our drives.

One morning, we spotted two males in a territorial battle. We followed the two for almost three kilometres as the Black-maned lion dominated the blonder male, forcing and driving it out of its territory. The vocalisations and deafening roars between the two resonated through our bodies! We regularly saw a coalition of two smart-looking males throughout the Rra Lopang area, and park rangers of the Moremi Game Reserve confirmed our suspicions that a lioness with two cubs, accompanied by a big old male, favoured the Nxwega Island area.  

Adventure camping highlights

One of our guests relished our overnight adventure camping and had some breathtaking moments. One evening, they followed a pack of 22 dogs, which later disappeared into the thickets before a leopard was reported on the radio by the camp manager at the airstrip. Guides rushed to the scene to find a relaxed cat sitting on the soft sand of the vehicle track.

Wilderness Camping Moremi Crossing

We spotted a lone cheetah during an evening drive along the open floodplains five minutes away from Moremi Crossing Camp. Guests witnessed the fastest land mammal attempting a hunt, which failed as the Red lechwe escaped into the water. We also enjoyed the sight of three cheetah brothers resting in the dense shade of a Jackalberry tree.

We could not ignore the horn clashes and beastly roars of impala males. The rut season of this most abundant and prosperous antelope in Africa has begun, and it’s always amazing to see them on game drives and walking safaris because the males are so busy trying to herd as females that we barely cross their radar. Bachelor males were sparring and preparing to dethrone the dominant males. Red lechwe were also running along the channel to mate and congregated in numbers. Giraffes, wildebeest, zebras, tsessebes and breeding herds of elephants were often seen along the water channels, further proof that the woodland waters are drying up.

Impala Moremi Crossing

Harvester termites were still collecting the last dry grass to prepare for the coming dry season. We best witnessed their frenzied activities on our signature bushwalks through the Moremi Game Reserve. Small-spotted genets, Springhares, Honey badgers, Bat-eared foxes, civets and servals all crossed the flashlight on night drives. Spotted hyenas and both Side-striped and Black-backed jackals were logged almost daily.

Birding has been fantastic throughout the month. Most of the summer visitors have left, so we located our residents, such as the Saddle-billed stork, Bateleur eagle, Yellow-billed stork, African fish-eagle and some Sacred ibises to mention a few from the endless list.

(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!)

Tau Pan

Tau Pan Camp, April 2022

The birding sure has been remarkable! We were thrilled to catch sight of the rarely-seen little Grey wagtail for the first time at Tau Pan. We were also reminded that not all hunts comprise big cats and crazy chase scenes. The skies are equally rewarding.

A Pale chanting goshawk swooped and nabbed a dove one afternoon. The prey was still alive and heading towards a tree to deliver the fatal blow, but before it perched, the dove fell and was scooped up by another raptor of the same species!

Then there was action on the ground too. A pair of Secretary birds came across a Puff adder, and the bird that first set eyes on the reptile was chased away by his friend, who swiftly took over to kill the snake. It wasn’t long before other raptors came in for a share. A Tawny eagle fought the Secretary bird, but the eagle lost. Pied crows and Black-backed jackals harassed the Secretary bird too. Needless to say, despite the win, it did not have a very peaceful meal.

A Black crake also visited the water hole, and we watched a comedy show as a Yellow-billed hornbill carried a Giant jewel beetle and tried to swallow it whole. Insect life has slowed a bit, except for the Antlions (whose nocturnal activity left a dazzling lacework of tracks in the sand) and the hard-working dung beetles. Their numbers have clocked up since elephants have visited the Tau Pan Camp waterhole again.

Caracals and cobras

Caracal was clocked at Tau Pan too, and the male cat was interested in a meal of Northern black korhaan. As the predator approached, the prey made a strange noise which threw the caracal off, and it disappeared into the bush to try another hunt. We saw Caracals for several days, and the African wild cats have hunted frequently too. There were also good numbers of Black-backed jackals, Bat-eared foxes, Yellow and Slender mongooses, plus the endlessly entertaining shenanigans of the Ground squirrel.

One day we logged a handsome Snouted cobra with its head in the burrow of a Ground squirrel, but it was unsuccessful in finding any. We also came across a Black mamba crossing the road and estimated it to be at least two meters long.

The Tau Pan pride, being the two adult female lions, three males and six cubs, was seen feeding on a Gemsbok. They killed the mother Gemsbok and its calf right in the pan! We often found the cubs frolicking and playing with one another. One day we saw them investigating a poor Leopard tortoise, which had safely recoiled into its shell until the cubs got bored and moved along.

On a day trip to Piper’s Pan, we located the Piper’s pride, one male and one female. The lioness was very active and interested in the giraffes nearby. She attempted stalking, but the snorting of Springboks nearby gave away her hiding place and warned the giraffe.

A male leopard visited us at the Tau Pan waterhole, and we saw a mother with two cubs on several occasions on the Western side of Tau Pan. We also saw a mother cheetah with two subadult cubs chasing Steenboks just on the edge of the pan but were not successful in landing any.

Goodbye summer?

The trees and grasses around Tau Pan were still green but had already started to dry. The dominant grass in the area was the Kalahari sand quick, but the Eight-day grass was lusher and more palatable for herbivores, so they assembled to graze. We enjoyed big herds of Gemsbok, Springboks, wildebeest and Red hartebeest – especially at Phukwi Pan. On the other hand, Giraffes have favoured Phokoje Pan and the Litiahau Valley areas.

Trackers Make Fire Kwando

We have enjoyed what we reckon are the last rains of the season and marvelled at the skills of our trackers, who displayed their traditional skills in making fire by friction during the cultural nature walk – even though the landscape was wet.

(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!)

Nxai Pan

Nxai Pan Camp, April 2022

A big herd of buffalo walked in a seemingly endless single file to visit the waterhole in front of Nxai Pan Camp, joining the elephants for a thirst-quenching drink much to our guests’ delight. 

The area was still very green and we enjoyed a beautiful spread of life all across the park. Plenty of insects were listed because of our abundant rains. We noticed Giant jewel beetles, Yellow pansy, African joker, African monarch, Zebra white and Broad-bordered yellow grass butterflies, and the abdomen-tapping Tok tokkie beetles scuttling across the pans. 

Let us take you on a sound safari

Our guides are trained to use all their senses when locating animals in the Nxai Pan National Park and we learnt how sound always amplifies the safari experience this April. At night, guests enjoyed the whooping calls of Spotted hyenas as they settled in by the fire below the stars. When we stopped to photograph a tower of giraffes, guides discerned the loud roars of a male lion and drove closer to investigate. There were two dominant males patrolling the Nxai Pan Camp area and one of the brothers was mating with a female. On another occasion, the trumpeting of elephants led us to a lion sighting. We located the Nxai Pan pride along the West Road as they were flushed from the bush by some very disgruntled elephants. 

Another lioness was located walking along the road in obvious pain. We noticed she had fresh wounds on her face and a bad injury to the shoulder, which all pointed to a fight. As she walked, the Springboks were running around her alarming and pronking, but she took very little notice. 

Giraffes Nxai Pan Camp

There were good herds of Springboks, Gemsbok Red hartebeest plus small groups of Kudus and a significant number of zebra were still around on their migration route south. We encountered thirty giraffes concentrated in one area along Baobab Loop road one day. The world’s tallest mammal, these animals are not territorial (though the males will fight for a mate) and live in loose, open herds gathering together for mutual security. 

An Aardwolf was seen along the Middle Road in an interesting sighting because the Black-backed jackals were after him. The little Aardwolf was visibly distressed and very skittish. A charming family of six Bat-eared fox was also seen along Middle Road, playing together during the day.  

A sidestriped sand snake was found on top of the walkway in camp and a pair of Crowned lapwings was seen mating pair at Nxai Pan waterhole. Thanks to the remaining insects, some migrant birds, such as the Blue-cheeked bee-eater and Swallow-tailed bee-eater have remained a little longer than usual in the area.

Flamingoes at Baines’ Baobabs

We also scored some gorgeous photographs of Greater flamingoes on a day trip to Baines’ baobabs. They were wading close to the shore of the Kudiakam Pan at very close range. There was also a Pale chanting goshawk seen feeding on a Ground agama plus the regularly-seen Black-shouldered kites, Brown snake-eagles, Black-chested snake-eagles, Common buzzards, Rattling cisticolas and vibrantly-coloured Crimson-breasted shrikes

(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!)

Pom Pom

Pom Pom Camp, April 2022

One of the Pom Pom pride lionesses bore a litter of five cubs, and they are about three weeks old as we compile this report. We often found them stashed safely into the dense foliage of Magic Guarri bushes as the mother went out to hunt.

Pom Pom Camp Mokoro

The waterholes fed by the rainwater have started to dry up, which concentrated the waterbird species as they clamoured for the food in these pools. Hamerkops, Egyptian and Spur-winged Geese, plus many Kingfisher species, have enjoyed the feast. Meanwhile, the floodwaters have started making their way toward our camp, and we have enjoyed hour-long mokoro rides as we wait for the inundation to reach us.

The vegetation was very thick, and most trees were covered with green leaves, such as the Large fever berry, Sausage tree and Jackal berry. It won’t be long until they start to turn with the autumn season. The grass is also tall, with species such as Cottonwool, Burr bristle, Riverbed and Yellow spike grasses standing high. We had a bush fire that burned along the south towards the edge of the airstrip, but we kept it under safe control, and it’s sure to yield a lush landscape as soon as the floods recede.

A Spotted hyena den close to camp?

There have been superb sightings of Spotted hyena, and we suspect that they have a den just a few hundred meters from Tent One. Most mornings and early evenings on our way to the airstrip, we found at least six of them resting in the area, often moving in and out of the thick bush.

Kwando Safaris guides located a female cheetah with two sub-adult males to the west of the camp, and we have detected one particular female leopard that liked the trees around our camp area. Sometimes, we heard Impalas making alarm calls during dinner, and the following day we would discover her tracks on the camp paths. One morning, we followed these fresh tracks and found the cat, staying with her until she successfully stalked and killed an impala. The same drive resumed, and these lucky guests found themselves in yet another leopard sighting just a kilometre away, where another female was feeding on an impala.

We’re expecting!

We still see a pair of wild dogs that reside in the southern section of the Pom Pom Reserve and the pack of ten that prefers the north. Both packs are very successful hunters, and it looks like the pair of dogs are expecting puppies soon!

Night drives have delivered sightings of African civet, African wild cat, Serval, Scrub hare, Genets, Springhares and Side-striped Jackals. During the day, we have noticed an increasing number of Red lechwes and Tsessebes as they start to assemble into bigger herds. Giraffes, lonely buffalo bulls, elephants and zebra were frequently admired from the 4WD vehicles.

We also guided some fantastic morning walks in the northern region of the reserve. During this activity, it’s much easier to examine and understand the subtle differences between animal tracks. For example, is that paw print a heavy male leopard? Or just a well-built lioness? And when did they pass through? It’s also an ideal way to better glimpse the indigenous plants and learn about their many medicinal uses.

(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!)

Lebala

Lebala Camp, April 2022

The massive rainfalls have left us with a dark green landscape and tall grasses even away from the river’s system. Thanks to these late rains, we have also experienced an intense winter onset this year. Mornings are exceptionally wet from the morning dew, and an icy chill has already settled into the air.

What to see Kwando Private Reserve

Migrant species such as Carmine Bee-eaters and European Rollers (which would have typically left our area already) were still lurking about. This is likely due to the unseasonal surplus of their food source, tasty insects.

Elephants returned in thriving herd numbers on their local migration route this month. These incredible animals disperse during the rainy season, crisscrossing the Kwando Private Reserve to explore Namibia and possibly roam onward into Angola along ancient elephant highways to seek out the most nutritious feeding grounds. 

Conversely, we noticed smaller buffalo numbers. We predominantly saw bachelor groups and expect to see the larger migratory breeding herds by mid-winter when they gather in their hundreds and thousands, kicking up a cloud of dust in their wake. Giraffes, zebras and other regular antelope species, such as lechwe, roamed the Lebala Camp vicinity in their herds. All seemed in good shape after a rich summer of plentiful food.

Shifting lion dynamics

Lion sightings have likewise been generous, thanks to some exciting pride dynamics. There have been many breaks and separations between the two dominant prides and new female lions in the area. A highlight was observing the Golden Boys attempting to court one such lioness, which already had two-month-old cubs. They valiantly pursued her for two days until she submitted to their appeals. The mating continued for several days, and she was forced to abandon her new cubs for the whole week. Fortunately, another female from her pride (a fellow feline mother to three cubs of the same age) adopted her litter and suckled them until the engaged mother returned. Late last year, the Golden boys took over the Wapoka pride from Old Gun and Sebastian. We thought these new males would kill the cubs because they realized that they were not the genetic fathers, but the Golden Boys let these little ones live to our surprise.

What to see Kwando Private Reserve

The resident pack of three wild dogs was seen chasing Red lechwe antelopes in front of the camp, but they were unsuccessful in their hunt. We encountered four different leopards in one trip during a pick-up transfer from the Lagoon Camp airstrip! This included a male, a cub and a pair of mating leopards. 

An Aardwolf on foot!

We discovered two Aardwolf dens. One was occupied by a mother and her two precious pups. During one of our nature walks, an Aardwolf was spotted in an extraordinary encounter at very close range. These animals are typically nocturnal and emerge from their den at six weeks old. At about one year old, both male and female aardwolves leave their mother and establish their own territory. 

What to see Kwando Private Reserve

During night drives, porcupines, springhares, and African wild cats were all encountered. Late one afternoon, one very happy hyena was spotted finishing up a wildebeest carcass early in the morning.  

We also had two snake sightings of the infamous Black mamba and watched enthralled as one snake made its way inside the tunnels of mole rats in search of supper. 

(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!)

Lagoon

Lagoon Camp, April 2022

The Aardwolf sightings have been incredible around Mabala-a-Matlotse and Mosheshe areas! Bat-eared foxes, Yellow, Dwarf, Banded and White-tailed mongooses, and Civets, genets and Porcupines all seemed to favour the insect-rich area too.

The Holy Pride had split up for a while, but the lions located each other this month again. Once, we tracked the pride to Grass Pan and found the leftover carcass of a Blue wildebeest, where we also identified the tracks of more lions. These belonged to the three northern boys, who had chased the Holy Pride off their kill. The Holy Pride were otherwise successful, and we frequently encountered them feeding on zebra and Red lechwes. 

Lion Sighting Lebala Camp

We also uncovered the Mma Dikolobe pride. They had been pushed over to the Lebala side of the Kwando Private Reserve by these same Northern Boys, which come from the Rra Leitho Coalition. The Mma Mosetlha pride was not often seen, but we did come across them once at the airstrip, and one appeared to be lactating, which is a sure indicator of cubs stashed somewhere. 

A mother leopard and her two cubs were spotted in different places, but often on male impala carcasses that the female favours. We also located another heavily pregnant leopard busy chasing away a subadult female and a big male leopard that was also repeatedly seen. 

The Spotted hyenas were busy this April and captured many kills from other animals. We found four of them feeding an impala killed by cheetahs, seven finishing an antelope felled by a leopard, and countless animals moved in and out of the carcass of a hippo, which lost its life in a territorial dispute. The male hippo had a deep wound on its chest before it died, which took three long days where it stayed totally out of the water. 

The resident pack of wild dogs was found hunting along the airstrip areas but they were unsuccessful in landing a meal. We also found that one of the nine dogs is missing and counted just five subadults, one adult plus the alpha pair. They were seen again on Main Road feeding on a male Red lechwe and several times throughout the month in search of prey. 

Lebala Camp Cheetah Territory

The two cheetah brothers marked their posts and actively sniffed out their territory before completing their circuit beyond our boundaries. Cheetahs will leave calling cards on prominent landmarks, such as termite mounds and big trees to tell other males that they were in the area. Being able to assess these markings for freshness also helps inform our guides where to look for the cheetah next!

Pearl-spotted owlets, Brown snake-eagles, Ostriches, Wattled cranes, and Ground hornbills were commonly seen out on the game drives along with zebra, Hippo, Sable, Eland and Kudus, among many other antelopes species as well as different breeding herds of elephants. 

Sublime autumn stargazing

The night sky has been incredible because we have experienced fewer cloudy skies as we move closer to winter. Most trees and grasses have slowly started to lose their colours as we start the day off in colder mornings. The Milky Way was crystal clear, and guests could identify several constellations lying in our galaxy. The early mornings were even more ideal because we could watch the planets around the fire with coffee in hand. After all, they are typically the last night lights to peter out, and we watched as Venus and Jupiter grew closer together every day. Mars and Saturn, on the other hand, widened their gap from the rest.

(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!)

Kwara, Splash

Splash and Kwara Camp, April 2022

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

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

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

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

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

What’s happening with Mr Special?

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

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

Herds congregate again

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

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

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

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

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

(Please note: For the safety of the animals, we do not disclose the location of either rhino or pangolin sightings. Accompanying pictures are from our Kwando Photo Library which consists of all your great photo submissions over the years, it may not be the most up to date, but we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

Moremi Crossing

Moremi Crossing Camp, March 2022

Moremi Crossing Camp sits perched in front of the captivating Boro River, which returned to life this month. We recorded a slight increase in flowing water along the channel. Our Land Cruiser safari vehicles are back to living an amphibious life when they cross over into the Moremi Game Reserve for game drives.

The excitement of the African fish Eagle could not be missed around the camp, signalling an abundance of fresh food from the new water. Hippos are also back in the channel from Nxaraga Lagoon, where they congregated with the crocodiles. “Soon, the water will fill up the channel and spill out across the floodplains signalling the resumption of our iconic and peaceful mokoro experiences”, reported Kwando Safaris guide Kesaobaka. 

Lots of lion activity and leopard kills

The lions have been incredibly vocal. Many lions have come in and out of our area, which means plenty of territorial disputes and takeovers. One old male lion (dethroned two years back) has formed a coalition with two sub-adult males, and they were seen the most around the camp and airstrip region. They all are not in good condition, which could be attributed to their being evicted earlier than usual. Our guides noticed that the trio rarely roared, possibly because they didn’t want to attract any danger.

There have been two well-built males who have been frequently sighted too and are very outspoken. Towards the end of the month, they were seen mating with one lioness, and it was easy to find them since they were stationary for a few days and making a noise about it. According to The Safari Companion by Richard Estes, researchers estimate that lions must have copulated about 100 times for every year-old cub we see in the wild. This requires a couple to mate at least four times an hour for three days.  

One evening we saw a leopard on top of a grassy termite mound, but it ducked into the grass as we approached. We have found several carcasses (leopard kills) that were almost always stashed into the crown of Sausage trees along the flood plains. These trees are one of the dominant species in the Delta, and the fallen flowers are sought after by a variety of animals, including antelope, baboons, porcupines, and civets. The kills we found were either of Red lechwe or Common reedbucks.

A calm, beautiful female leopard was spotted just along the vehicle track in an open space at the end of the month. She had a fresh scratch around the mouth, possibly from a fight or a clumsy hunt when prey got the better of our pretty predator.

Wonderful wild dogs

Wild dogs stole the show this month as they featured on most of our game drives and almost always on the hunt for food. One morning we enjoyed a terrific show as we watched a pack of 11 dogs chasing lechwe around a lagoon. Eventually, the lechwe were smart enough to take refuge in the water, which the dogs prefer to avoid. It was interesting to see the antelope choose crocodile-infested waters over the pack’s wrath.

Red Lechwe Okavango Delta

Spotted hyena, side-striped and backed Jackal have been regularly sighted in the camp in early mornings and late evening, and Banded mongoose crisscrossed the sandy paths often too.

Honey badgers and civets were sighted on night drives and during the day, guests saw plenty of elephants, zebras with young and journeys of giraffes, the speedy tsessebe and wildebeest. The lechwe males were often fighting amongst themselves and courting females ahead of the breeding season and impala males were likewise trying to establish their territories for the next rut season.

Many migratory birds are still here. Swallow-tailed bee-eater, European bee-eater, White-fronted bee-eater, and Woodland kingfisher have added colour to the residents, such as the Saddle-billed stork, African fish Eagle, Martial Eagle and Wattled cranes.

The birders’ favourite, the Pel’s fishing owl, is still in exile as this is their breeding time. They have hardly been spotted because they are still in tree cavities guarding their eggs. These owls prefer to nest during the dry season, which has the benefit of lower, clearer water and thus more easily detectable fish.  

Fungus termites, whose artistic buildings cannot be ignored, were busy renovating and patching their enormous mounds preparing for the upcoming season of scarcity. In the winter months, their activities are minimal, and we loved admiring their artwork on the regular bush walks. The tiny insects construct the mounds using a mixture of saliva, clay, sand and salts found on the island edges in the Delta. These nests can stand for longer than us humans, sometimes 80 years.

(Note: Accompanying picture is 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!)

Tau Pan

Tau Pan Camp, March 2022

Two female lions from the Tau Pan pride killed a Brown hyena in an extraordinarily rare sighting this month!

Tau Pan Summer Season

After hearing the distinct distress call from the waterhole in front of the camp, guides quickly drove to the area to find the lions killing the hyena. During the rainy season, the remains of lion, leopard and cheetah kills become a significant food source for this forager, which is likely what led to this fatal conflict.

Kwando Safaris guide Vasco noted that plants have started losing their flowers and that Kalahari Sand Quick grass was dominant across the pans and valleys, along with Eight-day grass. Both are highly favoured by herbivores for the high nutrient levels, and it has held plenty of plains game somewhat captive. Concentrations of Oryx, wildebeest and Springboks were commonly seen in these rich areas. The herbivores have also been licking the clay soils to obtain the calcium, potassium, and phosphorus required to best strengthen their bodies. This phenomenon of soil-eating is known as geophagia.

To the south of Tau Pan, we found a very shy male cheetah (perhaps due to all lion activity listed below) and enjoyed encounters with a very relaxed leopard. It was located along Aardvark road, resting upon the Camelthorn tree, and we spent beautiful quality time watching the animal go about its day.

Our resident lion pride hung around the Tau Pan area the whole month. The pride consists of two mothers with their six cubs plus five males, who come and go as they please in groups of two or three. They frequently came down to the camp water hole for a thirst-quenching drink after their numerous kills and all seemed in excellent condition. We found the pride on a fresh Oryx kill one day, and after just four to five hours, everything was gone. The cubs played around with the skull and the hooves, and our guests took some fantastic pictures. A few days later, we found three of the males finishing off a wildebeest, which was killed by the females.

During one early morning drive, the three males gathered at the camp water hole roaring with the dawn in an incredible spectacle. The two females with their six cubs joined in, creating beautiful photographs as they were all lined up, showing their reflection in the water. They then moved south of the water hole, where they all spent the rest of the hot day in the welcome shade of a Kalahari apple-leaf tree.

After following a flock of vultures to an Umbrella thorn tree, we located two females from the Airstrip pride that made a kill of a kudu.  

What do whydahs and waxbills have in common?

Monotonous larks have arrived, and we saw a few over at the airstrip. In many regions, they come after the heaviest summer rains. Wattled starlings have also been logged (though we have yet to find their breeding site in our area), along with Northern black korhaans, Red-backed shrikes, Crimson-breasted shrikes, Violet-eared waxbills, and the Shaft tailed whydahs. The latter two birds have an interesting relationship. This whydah is a brood parasite, and the female lays her eggs in the nest of the pretty Violet-eared waxbill. The wily Shaft-tailed whydah will often mimic the violet-eared waxbill’s call when singing or calling.

Plenty of Common buzzards were seen during game drives to Deception Valley. These raptors enjoyed plenty of leftovers from the carnivores and an abundant insect pantry thanks to all the rain. We often found them chasing beetles, termites, frogs, and earthworms on the ground. Tawny eagle, Black-chested eagle, Brown snake eagle and Bateleur eagle were common in the area, but our best raptor sighting had to be two goshawks fighting for the meal. A Gabar goshawk and a Southern pale chanting goshawk locked talons, but the latter ultimately emerged as the victor.

(Note: The leopard in the Camelthorn tree was taken by sound recordist and wildlife photographer Derek Solomon during his summer safari. Other 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!)

Dinare

Dinare Camps, March 2022

We experienced plentiful rains again, and the Gomoti River is rising rapidly, as has abundant grass.

Okavango Delta Camp

With the herbage so long and green, it’s been tough to spot the secretive leopard. However, the dedicated patience of our trackers paid off, leading guests to one on a kill and another leopard panting up in a tree, trying to escape the heat of the day.  

A fine arrival!

They did not have to work nearly as hard for lion sightings! One morning, guests arrived via bush plane to 18 lions perched beside the runway of our Santawani airstrip. This pride continued to awe us with their presence and we benefitted from several sightings. We also savoured the sweet sightings of two female lions with their newborn cubs at just two or three weeks old.

Wild dogs have also been in the area repeatedly, specifically a very active pack of three. We had a fresh kill in camp one day after they landed an impala and remained in the camp area for over a week, much to the delight of our guests.

Animals to see at Mma Dinare Camp

Elephant sightings have been excellent. They adore the floodplains in front of the camp, and we found them splashing in the mighty Gomoti River several times, but we did notice fewer big buffalo herds. However, the dagga bulls were still around, making the most of the soft marshes and easy-to-chew grasses. General game during our drives included the usual dazzles of zebra, wildebeest herds, plus plenty of impalas while hippo and crocodile continued to cruise the waters.

Night drives proved fruitful, and our spotlight revealed civets, African wild cat, and Spotted hyenas. Two black-backed jackals were also seen feeding on an elephant carcass, which appeared to have died of natural causes.

Our summer visitors remained to enjoy their southern sojourn, and many birds continued to feast upon the insects to stock up before their long flight back. It may not be a migrant, but one Giant eagle-owl followed the feeding suit, and we found it with an impressive snake kill.

There was a slight chill as we set out at dawn on our activities, and winter sure is looming. We tentatively expect a beautiful season ahead because it seems like there is sufficient food and water across the reserve.

(Note: Accompanying picture is 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!)