Moremi Crossing

Moremi Crossing, July 2022

Our regular game drive routes gradually grew wetter and muddier as the month progressed due to the rising floodwaters, but guests were rewarded with the abundant game that Chief’s Island is so famous for.

Moremi Crossing

Raised above the water level by tectonic activity, this island is where wildlife retreats as Okavango floodwaters rise, making it home to a dense concentration of wildlife. Game drives provided front-row seats to an astonishing plentitude of fauna. Impala, Giraffe, Plains zebra, Cape buffalo, African elephants, Chacma baboons, Warthogs, Tsessebe, Common reedbucks and Red lechwes, Hippos and Nile crocodiles were all abundant across the floodplains.

What did we see on a boating safari?

This influx of water has allowed us to resume boating, and one morning, we spotted three lions from the water as they rested peacefully at the base of a termite mound. As well as offering an elevated outlook from which to spy their next meal, these towering mounds often draw antelopes because the soil nourishes some of the most nutritional grass species in the bush.  

Okavango delta boating safari

We enjoyed many leopard sightings in the Moremi Crossing area and came across handsome males, and regularly saw a female leopardess with her sub-adult cub. Spotted hyenas and Black-backed jackals were seen on almost every drive.

Small mammals such as Servals, Cane rats, Porcupines and Honey badgers were seen with the help of the spotlight during night drives.

African openbills and bell-like bats

Common resident bird species logged include the striking black and white Swamp boubou, White-browed scrub robin, and Rufous-naped larks. Several threatened bird species, such as Wattled cranes and Southern ground hornbill, were observed, and guides also detected growing flocks of African Openbill storks. These birds are governed by the water levels of these sprawling seasonal floodplains and look for retreating waters that expose their favourite snail snacks. Incredibly, these birds can shake a mollusc free of its shell with vigorous headshaking in 15 seconds. They foraged in groups and were often seen with African sacred ibises.

As guests retreated to the tents at night, the soft beeps of Peter’s Epauletted fruit bats tinkled through the trees. Unlike most other bats, these fruit bats don’t rely exclusively on echolocation to navigate. Instead, they use their enormous eyes and a keen sense of smell to find their way and locate food.

(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, July 2022

Brown hyenas are known to be elusive, but we were treated to the glorious sight of one throwing caution to the wind and having a roll in the waterhole in front of Tau Pan Camp.

Bat Eared Foxes Kalahari Tau Pan Camp

Meanwhile, the Bat-eared foxes have been ubiquitous. They are easily identified by their unique ears, which they occasionally rotate to face downwards (much like revolving satellite dishes) to seek out insects, invertebrates, and rodents. A Tau Pan regular, they are proficient diggers and were sighted across the area where they have multiple dens and boltholes. Winter allows us to see them sunning themselves (ears down to avoid drawing attention). 

Blue Gnu Tau Pan Camp

With the bush drying out, various waterholes attracted more than just the birds. Tau Pan, San Pan, Passarge, Lethiahau and others have drawn Giraffes, Blue wildebeest and Kudu to these focal points, which inevitably attracted the attention of the Kalahari lions.

Lions at the waterhole

The Tau Pan pride spent most of July around camp with a beady eye on the waterhole, and lionesses confidently left the cubs to go and hunt. One afternoon we spent the entire game drive in the company of the little ones at the airstrip, playing, fighting, and enjoying some rough and tumble. Late in the afternoon, the pride returned and picked the cubs up from their impromptu kindergarten before heading back into the bush. We are pleased to report that they all seem happy and healthy.

Tau Pan Winter Kalahari Lions

Leopards featured prominently this month. While the Tau Pan lion pride took up residence at the camp waterhole, they occasionally wandered further away, allowing the leopards to roam without worry. Our regulars were widely witnessed, and we were also excited to see a lone male leopard who we had not seen before in the area. Male leopards will mark and defend their territory, so it will be interesting to see if our newcomer likes his surroundings and decides to stay. This could create an exciting dynamic as our resident leopards become aware of his presence.

The Tau Pan Camp water hole provided a life-giving drink but also harboured dangers for the unwary. As our guests sat watching the various flocks of birds arriving and leaving while keenly marking off their tick lists, a Gabar goshawk took its chance. These speedy birds can accelerate to over 60kmph, and the flock of Red-billed quelea had barely settled to drink on the ground as the goshawk bounced, catching a quelea on the wing as the flock scattered. The sheer speed and precision of the goshawk make a leopard seem positively lethargic by comparison!

Shorter days and a desert chill set in during July, and the last vestiges of green grass faded. Early morning starts were accompanied by thick jackets and fleece-lined ponchos, although the early morning winter clothing almost always gave way to t-shirts and shorts by late morning.

A guineafowl comedy show

Despite the chill, the cycle of life continued unabated at Tau Pan. We often report on exciting lion hunts and leopard ambushes. However, a ‘kill’ isn’t defined just by the actions of the large predators. The avian descendants of the dinosaurs also provided some amazing action. On one occasion, our guests found a Helmeted guineafowl that had caught a striped mouse. Firstly, they were treated to the comical spectacle of the guineafowl trying to swallow the mouse whole before any of his fellow fowls got wind of his prize. This proved impossible as his throat simply was not large enough to accommodate the unfortunate mouse. As we wondered whether he might well choke, another guineafowl came in and attempted to remove the mouse. This was, of course, no act of charity but calculated theft. The two fought over the mouse in a noteworthy bout of fisticuffs. Eventually, the first bird rescued his prize and flew off to eat in peace.

A heavenly stay in the Central Kalahari

While the days reached the mid-20 degrees centigrade, overnight temperatures dropped to almost freezing in the bush — a terrific time to enjoy the clear skies and endless stars framing the Tau Pan night.

Tau Pan Stargazing

In an area as remote and isolated as the Kalahari desert, light pollution is minimal to none, and star-gazing is simply magnificent. Especially if you spend a night at the sleep-out deck. Fall asleep to unobstructed views of shooting stars streaking across the heavens. There are few places in the world where you can be so completely absorbed in the night sky!

(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. Still, we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

Dinare

Dinare Camps, July 2022

African wild dogs denned down at the Dinare Reserve this month! Guests enjoyed stunning sightings, watching the five adults play and interact with the seven puppies. 

Leopard Dinare

On the feline front, male leopard sightings dominated during July. A lone leopard killed a fully-grown male kudu, and we found it brazenly feeding from the ground because the kill was too heavy to haul up into the safety of a tree. 

The last waters for winter

July also marked the height of winter in the Dinare Reserve. Bordering the Moremi Game Reserve, this territory contains critical dry season watering points, and high animal densities congregated around the lingering waters.

Elephants Dinare Reserve

Every day we had the pleasure of seeing growing elephant herds drinking and bathing in the Gomoti River and its winding channels as the weather warmed up a touch. One afternoon, they waded right into the river,  crossing it with much splashing and splooshing. Meanwhile, Saddle-billed storks frequently fished in the shallows, and one day we found a Bateleur eagle drinking water — a welcome change from typically seeing their underbellies as they soar across the skies. 

Pachyderms love palm trees

The Real fan palm, or Mokolwane trees, were in full fruit. The ripening nuts drew plenty of pachyderms that exploited their height and great strength to shake the fruits free from the tall fronds.

Palm trees Okavango Delta

These nuts provide a vital food source during the dry season. 

Mokolwane Palm Nuts

Winter mornings always bring spectacular sunrises, and we weren’t the only ones enjoying them. During dawn game drives, we often encountered lions patrolling the area looking for their prey. Several times our guests snapped away as lions feasted on buffalos until bursting.  

Lion pride update

The resident pride at Rra Dinare Camp consists of three lionesses and six cubs. One day, we found them resting, but they suddenly stretched out and launched into a hunt, ultimately killing a buffalo calf. When the Cape buffalo weren’t fending off lion attacks, they were devouring the last grasses. Like cows, buffalo chew cud to further extract as many nutrients as possible. The buffalo breeding herds have assembled enormously, and we frequently counted groups numbering over 330. The collective noun for buffalo is ‘herd’, but other, more descriptive phrases include ‘gang’ and ‘obstinacy’.

The lions were also seen with a kudu kill, hunting Red lechwe, and one day, a tower of giraffes stood browsing carefree within eye-watch of the lioness and her sprightly cubs. Unsurprisingly, the Dinare guides picked up the pride of seven lions feeding on a giraffe carcass later in the month. 

An insurgent coalition of three male lions battled it out with the reserve’s resident male. They obviously wanted a slice of this prime territory, but the fearsome fight was at last won by the mighty male lion. His strength forced the three rivals to flee back across the river despite his singledom.

As always, there was plenty of activity around these predator kills. We had regular sightings of Spotted hyenas, Black-backed jackals and circling White-backed and Hooded vultures. 

Cheetahs normally avoid high lion densities and so given all the lion activity, we were truly blessed to enjoy regular sightings of a cheetah coalition of four brothers that provided fantastic viewing.  

With the bush thinner during July, the night drives were outstanding, and we witnessed a Serval hunting. Other nocturnal sightings included a Honey badger, African wild cats and Large-spotted genets. It’s also been easier to admire the Southern ground hornbills in this more open landscape as they patrol the grasslands searching for tasty critters. 

The biggest surprise of the month was seeing giraffes mating. Giraffes reproduce all year round and have a gestation period of 14 months.

(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, July 2022

Winter at Nxai Pan brought crisp, chilled air perfect for photography and gorgeous night skies. Now that the natural pans have dried up, animals spent more and more time frequenting the permanent waterhole at camp, which meant full bellies for many of the lions we saw around Nxai Pan Camp this month.

Waterhole Nxai Pan Camp

On one occasion, we found two lionesses on a Springbok kill, while seven of the Nxai Pan Pride were found on a freshly killed kudu which they relished until the dominant male came to help himself and took away the remains.

A feline affair

We had brief sightings of a Spotted hyena, plus cheetahs and leopards, but the Nxai Pan pride reigned supreme. They will, however, need to keep their eyes open. One evening we stopped for sundowners and heard roaring from a few kilometres away. We packed up and, G&T in hand, headed off towards the booming lion calls. Upon arrival, we were stunned to find a nomadic male lion mating with one of the Nxai Pan pride females.

Nxai Pan Lions

Given the strength in numbers of the Nxai Pan pride, we could only admire the courage of the nomadic male who had strolled into their territory. Lion mating rituals last some time, and if the pride males get wind of him and track him down, he will face serious consequences. We haven’t spotted the nomadic male since, so he likely made good on his escape.

Awesome Aardwolf sightings

Our sightings of Aardwolf have continued, and they have been seen wandering close to the camp on several occasions. As previously reported, they are seldom-seen creatures, so we always count ourselves lucky to have spent so much precious time with them. The open veld at the airstrip also granted wonderful wildlife viewing, including Black-backed jackals, Caracals, and Bat-eared foxes.  

Aardwolf of Botswana

A male baboon was also seen drinking briefly at the camp waterhole but quickly dashed back into the tree line.

Then, we had the distinct pleasure of seeing a mother and baby Honey badger strolling across open grassland! Given its fearsome reputation, the Honey badger can probably allow itself an air of nonchalance. Even lions have learned the hard way that they are not to be messed with. Mum was likely taking Junior out to learn self-defence. 

That is not the only creature with a reputation in the bush. On the road to the airstrip, we stopped to watch the graceful Black mamba glide across the track. Their name is often met with fear, which lies in its potent neurotoxic venom, but it’s worth noting that a Black mamba will almost certainly turn tail and vanish if you encounter one. And before you judge them, ponder this. In the past ten years, it has been discovered that mamba venom contains a powerful painkiller. As potent as morphine but without many of the side effects. Despite the fear their name instils, perhaps your pain medication will come from the mamba in the future! 

Nxai Pan has also been alive with herbivores, including Red hartebeests, Oryx, Springbok, Kudu, and a journey of 57 Giraffes. This large grouping of giraffes has been a wonder in recent months in Nxai Pan as it is unusual to find them in such numbers.

Last but certainly not least, there was a Pale-chanting goshawk feeding on a Ground agama, and plenty of different species of birds and Black-backed jackals fed on termites. There were Tawny eagles, Cattle egrets, Steppe buzzards, Gabar goshawks, Brown snake-eagles and elegant Bateleurs.

(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, July 2022

While we try and report on all facets of wildlife, big and small, sometimes centre stage must be given to our most famous species.

The African wild dogs of Pom Pom

Firstly, the endearing African wild dogs. Their den this year initially yielded eight puppies, but this fell to six in later sightings. This month we only saw four at the hole, which may mean that the robust predator populations around Pom Pom have taken their toll… 

Despite this crueller side of Mother Nature, we have been treated to some fantastic sightings of the wild dogs. A highlight occurred in the second Hippo Pool area, where a male impala was found drinking at the water’s edge and suddenly raised his head with a snort. Guides checked around to gauge what had alarmed him, and the Pom Pom pack burst from a nearby bush. The impala bolted but was too late as the pack speedily subdued him. Wild dogs are often labelled cruel hunters because they attack on-masse and effectively eat the prey alive. From a human perspective (where emotion often gets the better of us), it may seem cruel. However, for an exhausted and in-shock prey, death can often come quickly and likely numbed by adrenaline. Cats, in comparison, can take some time on their prey before killing it.

Unbeatable Spotted hyena clashes

The local Spotted hyena clan went from strength to strength. On more than one occasion, we saw over 18 members of various ages, and they proved the power of family (and numbers). One day, we found the clan near a water crossing when a large male lion appeared. The lion and the hyenas regarded each other before the big male lion rightly resolved that the hyenas were stronger and he retreated under the watchful gaze of the clan. The hyena force was further demonstrated a couple of days later. A large male leopard burst from cover on our early morning game drive. The appreciative gasps from the car at such a beautiful animal shifted to outright excitement as five hyenas emerged in hot pursuit.

Fortunately for the leopard, it flashed past before choosing a tree and disappearing upward in a streak of black and gold. As much as a fully grown male leopard might fancy his chances against a single hyena, the well-organised social structure (not to mention the incredible vocalisations) of a hyena clan will match almost any predator other than a considerable lion pride.

Speaking of which, there were consistently good lion sightings. The most interesting ongoing dynamic is the emergence of some nomadic males that entered and exited the territory of the Pom Pom pride.

Regular leopard sightings

We saw four leopards regularly: two males plus a mother leopardess and her daughter. The males roamed together on more than one occasion, so it appears they have an agreement (and hierarchy) in place. We have also seen them separately with kills in trees (where else?) and sunning themselves, waiting for the camera lenses to click.

Herds of elephants and buffalo passed through regularly, and their numbers have been supplemented by other popular sightings, including Hippos, Giraffes, Plains zebras, Blue wildebeest, Kudus, and Common reedbuck. With the flood reaching its height, we’ve enjoyed all these sightings in various ways, including game drives, boating, mokoros and walking activities.

While focusing on the more famous wildlife is easy, special mention must be given to the sightings of Caracal, Aardwolf, Tsessebe and Roan. The elusive Sitatunga was also seen, which is always an extraordinary sighting. This great swimmer and partially aquatic antelope is a must for the dedicated Delta lover. Being relatively rare and so well associated with water, Pom Pom is a prominent place to catch sight of them.

(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. Still, we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

Lebala

Lebala Camp, July 2022

There were plenty of excellent sightings of Aardwolf, Serval, Nile Crocodiles and Civets, but the sighting of the month must go to the Honey badger.

Honey badger defeats a Black mamba

One late afternoon game drive, we came across the ultimate confrontation: Honey badger versus Black mamba. The badger had caught the mamba in open ground, and the mamba (which is often likely to move away from confrontation) decided that it had to make a stand.

Fierce honey badger

A dance across the sands ensued with the mamba trying to strike the Honey badger while its tormentor risked a lethal bite. This went backwards and forwards, and the mamba scored a couple of direct hits, which did not deter the maddened badger. The creature suddenly took his opportunity and grabbed the mamba behind the head. A moment later, the contest was over, and the victor tucked into his evening meal of mamba.

This fascinating question immediately arose: why is the badger not dead, having clearly been bitten at least twice? Recent studies show that the Honey badger, like the mongoose, hedgehog and (surprisingly) wild pig, appears to have evolved a natural defence against the potent venom. In an evolutionary arms race, the badgers are in a cycle of one-upmanship with the venomous snakes.

Sebastian and Old Gun return

It has been a month of soap opera relationships around Lebala Camp. Firstly, Old Gun and Sebastian re-emerged. These two male lions once dominated the Wapoka pride and have been missing for several months. They look healthy and well-fed and have clearly been successful on their recent travels. Will the three Golden Boys, who seem to have recently claimed their mantle, be in for a power struggle? Only time will tell!

Lions Lebala Camp

The Wapoka pride females have been moving apart and then coming together again. They appear to have twelve cubs and youngsters amongst them. While this bodes well for a healthy future pride, the various male lions we have seen in the area could still threaten them if there is a new play for dominance.

Not only have the lions caused confusion. The den of four African wild dogs seems to have been abandoned, and there is no evidence of puppies. It is highly likely that the wild dogs sensed a threat in the area and moved to a new den site. We have been fortunate to watch this small pack hunt on several occasions. While attempting to hunt an impala, a new pack of eight wild dogs appeared and the smaller pack broke off the hunt and made haste to put some distance between them and the newcomers. The eight scent-marked the area and then moved off without a second glance. We are still to find out their agenda in the area, but we suspect this tale has some way to go.

The recent disjointed nature of the Wapoka pride has made the leopards more confident, and guests enjoyed watching five different individuals throughout the month: two males and three females.

Spotted hyena cubs delight

Cheetahs have been scarce this month, with only tracks found south of the Kwando Private Reserve, but the same cannot be said for the Spotted hyenas. Their den is now home to four cubs addicted to their new playground.

While the hyena den has been a firm favourite, elephants have regularly made the camp their home this month. Guests merely had to step out onto the room verandah to see these four-ton roadblocks silently crisscrossing the paths to the tents.

Marabou Stork Botswana

Species such as rollers, storks and geese were common, and then there were our beloved cleaners of the environment, the vultures. White-backed and Hooded vultures flew from one carcass to another. These birds were rarely without the company of the morose-looking Marabou storks, which salvage the last remains of lion kills.

(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. Still, we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

Lagoon

Lagoon Camp, July 2022

As winter set in across the Kwando Private Reserve, the Cat’s Claw was one of the few plants to flower (Clerodendrum uncinatum), punctuating the sepia landscape with radiant red flowers. 

As well as providing an exquisite dash of colour, it’s an essential provider of nectar for bees and other insects during this dry season. These flowers are protected by unpleasant recurved thorns, which give this potentially painful flower its name. 

The leopards and lions of Lagoon

The cats themselves fared well this July. We encountered a mother leopard and her two healthy and happy sub-adult offspring. The mother hunted south of the Moporota road. Over a couple of days, we watched her make several attempts at landing Impalas and a Warthog. Although she initially was not successful, we eventually found the little family feeding on an impala. 

Leopard Kwando

Given that many waterholes away from the Kwando River were dry, elephants and buffalos moved past Lagoon Camp in considerable numbers. This fact was not lost on the Mma Dkolobe pride of 12 lions, who closely shadowed the herds, scrutinising for weak spots.

We found the lions enjoying a buffalo banquet numerous times throughout the month and recuperating in the shade of Candle Pod Terminalia trees. Besides the gruesome sights (and smells) of a lion’s lunchtime, it also allowed time to observe the social side of lion life. Lions are the only truly sociable cats. Bonding behaviour goes a long way in helping establish their dominance and prowess when taking on large and dangerous game such as buffalo. The Holy Pride was likewise seen with many buffalo meals and the northern lion pride known as Mma Mosethla was located with full bellies too.  

Delightful dens

Our resident den of African wild dogs shared this social aspect of the bush too. Puppies have left the den and begun to find their feet (or paws). The alpha female has been weaning them off milk, and we saw the adults regularly regurgitate for the pups not enjoying their new carnivorous and lactose-free diet. 

The Maheke Road and waterhole area to the west of the camp have been quiet from the perspective of the largest predators. However, as with everything in the bush, the scarcity of one species brings another. The ordinarily elusive aardwolves have been active with fewer visible threats. We have found three separate aardwolf burrows along this track and found aardwolves almost every time. 

Aarwolf density of Lagoon Camp

The cheetahs have also enjoyed the quiet interval without lions close by. The resident coalition of two cheetahs was located at Maheke waterhole resting in the shade, and a female cheetah with her two cubs was found at Lion Den, where she gave hunting lessons to her young cubs. The cubs have been shy of the game drive vehicle, and we have kept our distance. However, the two cubs soon plucked up the courage to come and inspect us. We later found the two male cheetahs with a fresh kill contentedly lying in the sun with full stomachs.

The fish and feathers of the Kwando River

The Kwando River is a birders paradise at any time of the year. Malachite, Pied and Giant kingfishers have accompanied our clients on their fishing expeditions (catfish, breams and Three-spotted tilapia were caught and released) while Fish eagles provided the ubiquitous soundtrack of the African waterways. 

Lagoon Camp boating

The success of the lions provided plentiful food for the vultures, who will soon enter their breeding season. We have also seen a nesting Secretary bird and have enjoyed a very healthy population of Wattled cranes. Approximately 8000 remain in the wild these graceful birds are always a special sighting!

Other animals seen include Giraffes, Blue wildebeests, Steenbok, Impalas, Plains zebras plus handsome herds of Roan and Sable antelopes. 

(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. Still, we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

Kwara, Splash

Splash and Kwara Camps, July 2022

Guests witnessed two African wild dog hunts where the pack successfully took down a kudu and an impala. As wild dogs are such social feeders, this greatly benefits the new puppies, who are allowed to eat at the dinner table first. 

African wild dog den movements

The pack moved away from their original den near Kwara and headed west this month. The puppies managed to cross shallower water channels but decided they were not yet keen on swimming lessons. One day, the alpha female called for them to cross a deeper Okavango Delta channel, but the pups refused, walking up and down uncertainly on the far bank. Uncertainty quickly turned to danger when 12 Spotted hyenas suddenly appeared, alerted by the chattering of the puppies. As the clan slowly advanced, the wild dog pack launched across the channel and the hyenas thankfully turned tail.

Wild dogs of the Okavango

The pack, perhaps knowing its precarious position in the predator hierarchy, abandoned their efforts to get the youngsters across the channel and headed back towards Kwara Camp. They discovered a well-excavated aardvark hole just south of camp, and after a detailed inspection, this has since become their new home. They moved away from their new home late in July, heading west. However, they soon doubled back for a reason we have yet to ascertain. Perhaps they simply realised that there is no better place than Kwara? 

Lioness introduces her cubs

Lions spent much of the month around the Jackal Den area and had good luck with the hunt as the whole pride has been lolling around, full-bellied and content. We found them after they had taken down two zebras not far from Kwara Camp. The pride moved on to the second zebra, having eaten their fill of the first, which allowed nine Spotted hyenas to work on the remains of the first – an uneasy truce as two Black-backed jackals watched enviously. These same hyenas also trailed the wild dogs often – living up to their somewhat unjustified reputation as scavengers.

Back to the lions, guides tracked the same pride feeding on a hippo carcass later in the month. The five-day banquet meant the lions’ daily route changed little from snack-sleep-shift–snack. These successes were essential as four new cubs were finally brought to the pride for an official introduction.

Lion cubs of Kwara

The lionesses detached from the pride for almost three months as the cubs remained secreted away. We were present when the newest mother warily presented her young to the pride. As the cubs wandered around meeting their siblings, the lioness protectively stood over them, batting away the rougher behaviour of some sub-adults. Lion cubs face daunting odds of making it to adulthood. However, these newcomers have a strong pride around them, granting them an excellent chance.

Meanwhile, the pride males did an excellent job of defending their territory. We found them chasing two new males who strayed into their territory, sending the interlopers running back. They did not want to learn the same lesson they had just doled. Later in the month, they wandered East towards Khwai and came back licking some impressive wounds. Clearly, their incursion was not welcomed!

Honey badger vs lion

Both the MmaLeitho and Kwara lion prides hunted well this month, including stealing an impala kill from the resident African wild dogs right in front of tent 8 at Splash Camp. However, they don’t always get their way, as some of the younger members of the Kwara pride found when they approached a Honey badger.

The Honey badger, legendary for its fearlessness, was not in the mood to submit and leapt forward as the lions paced around it trying to find an angle. The leading lion jumped hurriedly out of the way as the badger went on the offensive. No matter what the lions did, their attempted bites had no effect!

Honey badger Botswana

Eventually, the badger found itself on the edge of the flood plain and walked off into the bushes. (Perhaps “strolled” would be a better word. Honey badgers don’t run from anyone.) After all the hunting and moving around, the MmaLeitho pride needed somewhere to rest. What better place than under tents 1 and 3 at Splash Camp, where they spent a few relaxed evenings.

Large herds of elephants and buffalos moved through the Kwara Private Reserve in their hundreds, throwing dust and trampling the little grass that remained. The Tsessebe, Plains zebra, Red lechwe and Blue wildebeest are out on the plains in large numbers, further opening up the bush.

Mr Special on the hunt

Mr Special, our resident cheetah, took full advantage of the dwindling grasses. For months, the long grasses provided a haven for the smaller antelopes, which hide and appear almost invisible to the naked eye. We found him slowly pacing along Ostrich Road, highly alert. As he entered the low grass, a baby Common reedbuck broke cover. Mr Special didn’t hesitate and accelerated down the road in pursuit with a fantastic speed turn of speed.

Cheetah Botswana

The reedbuck had a good headstart, but in less than 40 metres, Mr Special had caught up and swiftly took down the unfortunate antelope. He immediately pulled the reedbuck under a bush and began to eat and we left him after half an hour, still content with his prize.

(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, June 2022

Some winter mornings, temperatures ranged between 7 and 9 degrees Celcius as the cold breeze swept across waters in front of Moremi Crossing Camp. We even experienced drizzling rains, which is unusual for this time of the year! 

An epic aardvark sighting

We could still navigate the Ntswi Reserve roads by Landcruiser as the floodwaters have yet to block our access, and Spotted hyenas and Black-backed jackals were regularly detected. With the help of a radiant spotlight, smaller mammals such as Serval, Civets, and genets were easily eyed too. One eventful evening, the rare Aardvark crossed into our beam! These ant-eaters must be one of Africa’s most bizarre yet enigmatic animals. Scientists reckon they can dig up and devour some 50,000 insects every night. Typically shy, Aardvarks occur in almost all of Africa’s parks and reserves, but only a lucky few ever catch sight of them. They are best sought out on a night drive, ideally in open terrain and during this winter season. Banded mongooses, honey badgers and porcupines were also seen after darkness fell. 

Boating activities have resumed, and the general game along the Boro River and the sprawling channels around it have been fantastic. Zebra, Giraffe, Buffalo, Tsessebe, Blue wildebeest, Impala, Vervet monkeys and troops of baboons, Common reedbuck and Red lechwe all grazed along the water’s edges as we sailed past. There were also plenty of Nile crocodiles (one day, we counted 13 basking together) and Water monitor lizards making the most of the sunshine. Big flocks of Open-billed storks and Spur-winged geese have started to cloud our skies as the waters rise and feeding grounds flourish again. Guides reported standout sightings of endangered birds, the Wattled cranes and Southern ground hornbills, plus the roll call of regular residents, the Pel’s fishing owl, African fish eagles, Coppery-tailed coucals and Lilac-breasted rollers.  

African fish eagle fishing

One morning a pack of nine African wild dogs came tearing through the staff village, and we quickly tracked them. Our speedy response was rewarded as we arrived on the scene in time to see the dogs chasing down a female Red lechwe, successfully landing the prey with a splash. Elephant herds have blossomed and we counted a group of 70 wading through the waters from the deck during afternoon tea. 

Lions were scarce at the start of June but returned with a bang as we watched a lioness hunt an impala during a thrilling afternoon game drive. Another day, we located a coalition of three males who rested around a termite mound and used the elevated vantage point to keep a lazy eye out for passing prey. 

Lions of Moremi

Spiralling vultures ushered us towards a leopard which had killed a Common reedbuck male and hauled it into a tree. Closer to camp, a leopardess has taken refuge in a quiet corner of the bush and chosen it to raise a cub close to Gunn’s Camp. The mother and cub were repeatedly seen, and the little one delighted guests with its playful antics. 

(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, June 2022

Most insects have hibernated with the weather dry and nippy at this time of year. However, the cheerful orange African monarch still frequented our skies, and harvester termites have been busy at work. 

Mornings have been particularly icy (one day, the thermometer dipped briefly below zero degrees centigrade) but encased in blankets and holding hot water bottles, our guests were richly rewarded. We located a very relaxed female leopard along the aardwolf road. She was lying in the open, grooming herself, and there were plenty of opportunities to photograph her. Then she slowly stood up and walked past our vehicle before disappearing into the bushes. 

As always, lots of lion activity

One afternoon, we followed the beautiful cats of the Tau Pan Pride until they reached the Tau Pan Camp waterhole for a drink of water. The resident pride of eight (two healthy lionesses and six growing sub-adults) was witnessed again closer to the runway. They were well-fed, dragging their bellies as they trotted about in the early dawn. Another morning, we located fresh lion footprints along the fire break and tracked them towards the camp workshop, where the sub-adults played a charming hide-and-seek frolic to the delight of our guests.

We also found a male lion lying on the road near room one. It made its way to the waterhole, where he made a paltry attempt to hunt a gathering of Greater kudus, but they easily outran him. 

The following day, we tracked two big male lions thanks to their resounding roars and located them along the road to Phukwe Pan. Their impressive sounds rattled through our bones, and the pair served several renditions we could record on video. A good safari makes use of all our senses. Guides often pause a game drive, switching off the engine to listen to the sounds of the bush. One day, Springbok snorts led to a lion sighting of two lionesses with three tiny cubs walking along the road, and we watched as one lioness lifted her cub by the scruff of their neck to stash them safely in thick vegetation before she veered off to hunt. 

Tau Pan Winter Sightings

The predators of our skies have been active too. We saw a Southern pale chanting goshawk feeding on a lizard, Black-shouldered kites, Swallow-tailed bee-eaters, and the considerable Verreaux’s eagle owl with its distinctive pink eyelids. 

Guides have noticed fewer numbers and smaller herds of springboks, but Red hartebeest, giraffe, Blue wildebeest, and gemsbok have been common along with the sweet little Steenbok pairs. The Common duiker was rarely seen in the open as they preferred the protective thickets along Carlos Road.

Two relaxed cheetahs were discovered close to our borehole (one female and her sub-adult male). That afternoon drive also proved productive as we managed to locate a big male cheetah along the main road heading to Makgoa Pan, but he was much shyer. 

Shy Brown hyenas and sticky Aardwolf tongues

Speaking of shy. We came across one Brown hyena during a game drive along Chocks Road. He stopped briefly, but as soon as we switched off the vehicle engine, it tore off like a bullet. We likewise only caught a brief glimpse of a Black mamba, and the snake speedily disappeared into the grass. 

Black-backed jackal, Honey badger, Wild cat, and Bat-eared fox were seen around the Tau Pan area, and an Aardwolf was found foraging along the main road heading across to Mawelewele Road. The aardwolf has exceptional hearing and can supposedly hear termite jaws snapping a blade of grass from two metres away. Thanks to a seriously sticky tongue, it can easily lick up the meal before the insects scurry away.

(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!)