Tau Pan

Tau Pan Camp, June-July 2021

As usual, the Tau Pan pride was active in the area! These well-known lions currently make up a pride of 16, but it is unusual to find them all together in one spot. Perhaps because there’s some competition?

There are also two adult females in the area and six siblings. Three of these six are young and hidden very well because they don’t want to be encountered by rivals (which might get them killed!).

One day, cheetahs were seen hungry and hunting in the morning, and in the afternoon were found feasting successfully on a springbok. This trio consists of a mother and two cubs, visiting us from San Pan. Guides are keeping a keen eye on them because lions are a threat to the little ones.

While the bigger predators often steal the spotlight, winter is a wonderful time to admire the more unusual Kalahari creatures. Thanks to colder mornings, handsome caracal and Africa’s littlest hyena, the harmless ant-eating aardwolf, were both seen active during the day. Our other sand-loving and burrowing residents, the Bat-eared fox, Ground squirrel, Yellow and Slender mongoose, also provided plentiful sightings.

As for the bigger game, no elephants were seen, but “they might be on the southern part of Central Kalahari”, Vasco says. “We do see their tracks heading towards another waterhole on the northern part of Passarge Valley”. While there are no migratory birds present at the moment, there is still plenty of bird watching to do. Vasco recorded plenty of raptors such as the Pale chanting goshawk, Tawny eagle and vultures, plus our little brown jobs, the Sabota lark, Fawn coloured lark, as well as the bigger brown jobs Kori bustard and Northern black korhaan.

Vasco says a highlight is the night sky. “It’s awesome to watch constellations in the evening. Scorpio is prominent, then there’s Corvus the crow-flying bird (but upside down) the Southern Cross and the confusing False cross, plus Musca, the bee”. Each constellation with its own African interpretation.

(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!)

Nxai Pan

Nxai Pan Camp, June-July 2021

As if they aren’t cute enough as adults, aardwolf cubs were a particularly special sighting this winter. On the West Road, Kwando Safaris guides located an aardwolf den just metres from the dirt track and one day four of the adults laid basking in the sunshine just at the entrance.

Thanks to good rains this year, there is still a bit of surface water lying around for the game. Plenty of Black-backed jackals were seen scoping these pans, some trying desperately to catch Helmeted guineafowl for dinner.

One day on the way to Baines’ Baobabs (plenty of Oryx and Steenbok logged during the drive) guides reported tracks of both lion and wild dog. The team did a few day trips and often arrived at the historical site to a welcoming committee of Lesser flamingoes flocked across the waterlogged salt pans. However, these seem to be drying fast, leaving us with a caked salt pan crust.

The camp waterhole is always flush with life during this dry season and it’s been a joy to simply watch the animals parade past from the deck. Spotted hyenas were seen drinking water on several occasions and on one particularly hot day, over 100 elephants. These pachyderms were joined by plenty of other plains game species: buffalo, blue wildebeest, plains zebra, the greater kudu and a generous herd of springbok. Under the cover of darkness, the camp also had visits from the Small-spotted genet and lions were vocal in the vicinity.

The birdlife has been great too with plenty of raptor activity, prides of ostrich foraging in the golden grasslands and several sightings of Botswana’s national bird, the scholarly-looking Kori Bustard. Two tall secretary birds were also seen (rather conspicuously) sitting on top of the Umbrella thorn acacia trees, which is their preferred nesting site.

Did you know? This bird has the longest tail in Southern Africa. It measures about 75cm.

(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!)

Pom Pom

Pom Pom Camp, June-July 2021

It’s sure been a season of lion sightings over at Pom Pom Camp this winter! Several different lion prides have been using the area. Six females and two of their six-month-old cubs were spotted feasting on a fully grown wildebeest. A further five lions were spotted near the airstrip lying in the abundant shade of a Sycamore fig tree.

On yet another occasion they proved to be more lively, much to the delight of our guides and guests alike. Four lions from the Pom Pom pride were seen stalking the speedy Tsessebe antelope, which true to its reputation as the fastest antelope outran the predators. These lions were also noted hunting Red lechwe more successfully. However, we were reminded that lions are not always the prolific hunter.

Mike noted that lions also chose to scavenge instead by taking over a leopard kill. The leopard had to watch woefully from its treetop perch as three of them feasted upon its well-earned dinner. Speaking of dinner, an African civet was seen feeding on Jackalberry fruits during a night drive. Civets are stocky animals, omnivores that eat everything from grass to poisonous millipedes to fish and even puff adders.

On another evening, while guests ate their three-course meal of far more delicious fare, three lionesses passed close by the camp in a rather blatant fashion. Their contact calls rang through the bush as they attempted to find others from the pride.

After hunting through the night, they were found feasting on a kudu the next morning. A day later, a different set of lionesses were seen beside thick riverine bush with their two cubs after landing an impala kill. It seems those contact calls eventually proved successful because the mothers with cubs joined the lions seen feeding on the kudu. However, we don’t know if they are getting along. Our last report for the month recorded the sighting of an injured lioness on her own, bleeding from her thigh and sporting a swollen head.

One morning during an early game drive, one of our guides intuitively followed alarm calls coming from the airstrip just as dawn broke. Closer investigation revealed an adult leopard on the hunt. A few days later a pair of wild dogs exploited this open area again while looking for food on the move. Later, a pack of ten dogs made for far easier photography as they lay resting. Our guides have also uncovered the location of a wild dog den, which is very exciting!

A female leopard was seen at a site known as Fishermans Crossing, making her way towards camp and seemingly on the hunt and using the wind to her advantage, but she was unsuccessful. Over on Marula island, another leopard has been seen fairly regularly. Guides noted that it likes to use the tall grass (there’s still a decent height remaining from the rainy season) to discreetly follow impala. A smaller spotted special, the beautiful serval cat was also seen on the hunt on two separate occasions.

Water levels in July were still high from the incoming floodwaters that wind down from Angola, so both boating and mokoro activities were enjoyed by guests. Little bee-eaters, fish eagles swooping in for barbel fish and malachite kingfishers proved very obliging and made for great pictures, but the most unusual sighting had to be a bright green chameleon spotted by one particularly eagle-eyed poler.

Lebala

Lebala Camp, June-July 2021

During June, a female wild dog was located very late one afternoon. Guides noted she was alone, pregnant and it looked like she was cleaning burrows, creating a suitable den to bring up her puppies.

These predators will identify and secure an area to birth the litter and remain underground until the pups are able to follow their mother. However, den sites might change often if the mother feels threatened. Keeping an eye on the area, Wago noted that a wild dog den has since been active, “and their puppies were out on 31 July, an amazing moment!”.

Over on Zebra road, a huge herd of eland was seen sharing a waterhole with baboons. “Seeing these beautiful antelope is always interesting”, Wago wrote, “but it was a highlight to see them drinking with a calf”. The general game has been very good and most animals, especially giraffe, zebra and wildebeest, were seen in large herds. Imagine a tower of twenty giraffes!

A lioness was hanging around one such plentiful area for over two days trying to hunt. Wago noted interestingly how she targeted a wildebeest and it uncharacteristically escaped into the water. Another pride had more luck, however. Lions were found feeding on a wildebeest with their cubs in tow and stayed in the neighbourhood for a few days providing great encounters. Cubs were also noted with another group of lions – this time there were seven of them!

Lions were also located hunting on Mophane Road, but didn’t make a kill during the afternoon game drive. On the return to camp, guests braved the cold night drive and were justly rewarded, however, with an aardwolf sighting, plus a serval! On hearing the francolin make a hubbub, Wago stopped to listen. Guests recalled will glee how they then saw a serval leap out of the long grass into a bush. “This has been a brilliant moment”, Wago noted. Plus, the lions were spotted the next day, successfully feasting on an impala.

The night drives have been rather productive in fact. Springhares – our Kalahari kangaroos – featured often hopping across the spotlit scenery and many African wild cats were identified on the hunt. The tiny little Barred owlet was logged too.

(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!)

Lagoon

Lagoon Camp, June-July 2021

We are so pleased to share that a pack of African wild dogs successfully denned with a busy litter of 9 puppies! Kwando Safaris guides have been following the action closely.

Spencer reports that there are actually two dens. “Just 60 metres apart! The main den, where the Alpha female is often visible at the entrance is more active than the Beta female as she spends a lot of time indoors due to being dominated. She also tends to be fed less. At some point, she decided to join the hunt in the afternoon because she wasn’t being fed by the pack. They successfully killed a male kudu some 150 meters west of the den and stashed the kill in thick vegetation, devoured the meal over several days with the vultures hanging close by. The White-backed vultures constitute the largest percentage of the vulture species seen, but Hooded vultures help to give away carcasses and kills. The Lappet-faced vultures and the White-headed on rare occasions also grace our sightings”.

Meanwhile, the resident lion pride at Lagoon (the Holy pride) has been located several times this winter. The Holy pride has 10 cubs grown up to about almost a year. Then there are also two lionesses with seven more cubs of about two months old. They have been moving a lot to keep the little ones safe and the lionesses have been hunting during the day, mostly along the shores in Muddy Waters. There has been plenty of plains game. We saw lots of Red lechwes as our seasonal flood plains had been rejuvenated with the floodwaters, as well as waterbuck and reedbucks. The other pride (Mmamosetha pride) had been very active in and around the camp periphery almost every day with yet another coalition of three males occupying the territory north and west of Lagoon camp providing great sightings along with their pals, the hyena.

Hyena have been spotted on many occasions, either at the remains of the kills (zebra, in particular, the guides have noted) or on patrol. Spencer says, “We counted about 12 (if not more) having responded to one lion kill, but they were unsuccessful at intimidating the pride. The Mmamosetha pride has about six sub-adult males, which is why they so successfully defend their kills”.

In contrast, the cheetahs are reportedly feeding at midday. We have had good sightings of the three young cheetahs, aged 18 months (two males and their sister) hunting. On all occasions, they successfully killed an impala. They have slowly been moving north and are now close to camp (or literally in camp sometimes!)

Speaking of camp. There has also been a gorgeous leopardess with a cub of about six months visiting the area. One exciting evening, she made a kill just 200 meters from the camp and they dined on the steenbok for days, regularly moving to and from the lagoon to drink.

Kwara

Splash/Kwara, June-July 2021

The lagoon in front of Kwara Camp is brimming with water making for fantastic mokoro outings. Guests have been treated to resident herds of Red lechwe, warthogs and impala grazing along the shores – and wonderful views of the camp!

The Hyena den is still active and the four curious pups have been a delight to watch! They all look healthy and strong. There have been regular hyena calls at night throughout the month around the Kwara area. The Jackalberry trees have started dropping ripe fruits. This attracts elephants, monkeys, and baboons. They are frequently seen feeding on the fruits – even in camp. The guides have witnessed an increasing number of elephants in almost all Kwara game drive tracks and around the Kwara lagoon in front of the camp.

Dwarf mongoose and slender mongoose were common sightings in June. This is the time of year when several bigger birds start to rear their young; Secretary birds, Ground hornbills, Saddle-billed stork and African hamerkops all welcomed hungry little mouths!

The resident cheetah known as Mr Special sported a limp recently which seemed to hinder his hunting, but he was still seen with several warthog kills. He was active a lot, visiting his marking posts to affirm territory boundaries. One morning he was very actively calling as if he smelled a female in the area, so the Kwando Safaris guides knew to wait and watch. After a while, a female came into view and they started mating.

Interestingly, a young female leopard was seen one afternoon climbing a tree because she was running from a male cheetah. A fascinating interaction! Two new subadult cheetahs were logged, they looked well-fed and another new female cheetah with three cubs in tow was located on the hunt.

She was not the only one teaching her young. Guides tracked two female lions with cubs and found them hunting baboons. Luckily they managed to kill one and we watched the cubs feeding. Their meal was rudely interrupted by a male lion that took over the kill from them.

The Kwara pack of African wild dogs is currently sitting at 14 members and we are waiting with bated breath for any puppy news.

Tau Pan Camp, October 2020

RAhlborn.Cat1.Lion Family.TauPan

Lions were often in and around the camp area. A lioness with three cubs took up temporary respite from the intense sun under the deck of the manager’s house. We could see that she was nursing an injured leg and during this time seemed to prefer being away from the pride and staying in camp where she could hide her cubs. This meant that the camp team needed to be extra careful as they moved around, but by the end of the month, her leg had improved and she was seen more often with the pride at the waterhole. A male lion, the father of the cubs, was also keeping an eye on his family in camp and seen near to the office. The lions were often hanging out at the waterhole, much to the frustration of thirsty antelope, who could smell the water but did not dare to get too close. One day the lions were successful in killing a wildebeest at the waterhole and another time we saw that they were stalking some drinking giraffe, but the giraffes spotted them in time and ran away. As is usual at Tau Pan, the team looking after camp were regularly entertained by the coalition of five males roaring heartily through the night to proclaim ownership of their territory.

One morning a brown hyena was seen running away from a lioness at the waterhole. We also saw a caracal heading towards the camp office – a very special sighting.

A big tom leopard was seen resting under a bush, this is the son of the dominant female in the area. The resident leopard did a patrol of the whole camp, inspecting the veranda of each room, before moving onto the next one. We followed her tracks in fascination the next day, wondering what had been going through her mind. Maybe she is missing having guests in camp as much as we are?!

The camp team saw a gabar goshawk kill a cape turtle dove and then he took his meal off to the bushes to enjoy in peace.  Another time, a big brown snake eagle caught a dove, but he didn’t finish his meal, because all of a sudden, a tawny eagle flew over him and he dropped his prey, which was snatched up by the larger eagle.

General game at the waterhole included kudu, giraffe and wildebeest.  Right at the end of October we were delighted to see a newly born springbok, already strong and ready to run for its life from some approaching lions.

One morning our guide saw a slender mongoose climb a tree and then jumped down. As soon as he landed, a Kalahari scrub robin started to give a warning call to other birds.

(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!)

Nxai Pan Camp, October 2020

ASwan Cat8 Waterhole

As was the norm for the time of year, the main animal sightings in and around camp were elephants, elephants and yet more elephants. Herds up to 300 strong congregated at the camp waterhole. Dominant bulls hogged the precious resource causing a lot of frustration and fighting between the lower-ranked animals.

Plains game, such as impala and springbok, could only watch in thirty desperation as the elephants refused to let them come near. Luckily, they were able to use the Department of Wildlife waterhole to drink.

One very hot afternoon, a lioness with two young cubs came for a drink at the camp waterhole. After drinking, they rested in the shade of an acacia tree. The general game continued to quench their thirst, the need for water driving them despite the presence of a predator. The next day we saw two lionesses with full bellies and blood-spotted faces, we didn’t see the carcass, but when we got back to the waterhole, we found another lioness on the remains of a kudu. It seems that at least one antelope paid the price for reckless drinking in the end. After that, all three lionesses, with their eight cubs, spent the night in camp. They were roaring all night and we could hear a response coming from about two kilometres away.

A pack of eleven wild dogs were seen in camp a few days running. Hyenas also visited the waterhole.

One time we saw an ostrich chasing a jackal to protect its chicks.

(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!)

Pom Pom Camp, October 2020

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A pack of four wild dogs, alpha male, female and two puppies, were located resting near the camp lagoon. Not too far away was the resident pride of sixteen lions.  We saw this big pride very regularly, including with their two males. Once we came across them as they were feeding on a wildebeest.

Breeding herds of buffalo were grazing and resting on the flood plain, about five minutes from camp. We also saw them feeding in the water at Marula Island. In a lucky sighting, we were able to see a pair of giraffes mating.

Crocodiles could be seen basking on the sand banks. We observed how they opened their mouths to regulate their body temperature.

Leopard sightings were good; one group of guests seeing three different leopards in three different spots during their two-night stay. A leopard was seen up a tree at Zeppa Island and came down as we watched. We also came across a mating pair of leopards. One afternoon we were lucky enough to come across a leopard cub resting on a tree.

Elephants were feeding along the channels and we enjoyed watching some bulls crossing the Xudum river. There were plenty of hippos in the water.

Two tsessebe bulls were fighting a territorial battle. We watched for about fifteen minutes until one ran away. Red lechwe could be seen splashing through the water as they ran from island to island.

Both black-backed and side-striped jackals were identified; one jackal was curiously approaching the camp fire at night, summoning up courage to get close, and then nervously darting away again. This was fun to watch. The resident clan of seven spotted hyenas were still often near the airstrip. A lone hyena was also seen walking across Shine Bridge. On night drive we found genet, wild cat and civet.

On walking safari we were able to observe wildebeest, zebra and giraffe grazing on the flood plain.

One day lucky guests were able to see a fish eagle catching his fish and eating it. Other notable bird sightings included wattled cranes, saddle-billed storks, yellow-billed storks and African jacana.

(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!)

Lebala Camp, October 2020

AJonsson.Cat3Martialeaglewithkill.GuideGeorge

Lebala was closed during October, but although guests were not visiting, the animals still were.

The two intruder male lions who had previously fought with the well-known resident males were in the area. On one exciting afternoon we saw five lionesses and a sub-adult drinking water and decided to follow them. As they crossed the airstrip road, they started to stalk some warthogs and managed to kill two of them.  The following day, Old Gun and Sebastian were back with their pride and chased away these intruders. A lioness with four sub-adults was seen on the west of camp

The pack of three wild dogs sometimes visited camp, looking for prey species, but we didn’t see them make a kill.

A coalition of two cheetah brothers were seen one day; they looked hungry and restless.

Herds of wildebeest could be seen grazing in front of camp. Lots of elephants and buffalo regularly overnighted at the end of camp towards the managers and guides’ units. Bushbuck could be seen browsing near the guest rooms and hippos grazed after dark around the camp.

Elephants were drinking at the channels and one night a particularly big bull somehow managed to squeeze himself right into the middle of the camp, but miraculously did not cause any damage in the process.

Impala were huddled into the shade to escape the blistering October sun. Warthogs were mud-bathing, also to beat the heat. We had a lovely sighting of a sitatunga family grazing the green grasses in the middle of the swamp. Other general game included eland, kudu, red lechwe, giraffe, reedbuck, tsessebe, zebra, steenbok and sable antelope. Baboons came into camp to feed off the fruits of the sausage tree. They also decided to use one of the tents as a trampoline, keeping our camp team busy with maintenance.

We had a wonderful sighting of a martial eagle as we crossed to Lagoon camp one day. Other notable bird species were African fish eagles, open-billed storks and white-backed vultures.

(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!)