Pom Pom

Pom Pom Camp, May 2022

Pom Pom Camp became a maternity ward this May and we’ve had so many delightful little ones to coo at as winter set in. 

African wild dogs have denned not far from camp. The alpha male has been out on the hunt, as have a pack of 10 (unrelated) wild dogs. We followed and witnessed several successful hunts of these persistent predators and it’s fantastic to see the wild dogs prospering with their pups in our area. 

A leap of leopard sightings

We’ve had impressive leopard sightings of our resident cats, but there were some new additions to our pantheon of leopard stories. Two of our resident leopardesses had been living with their sub-adult offspring, but this month proved time for the sub-adults to strike out and make it on their own. Our guides spotted them several times roaming alone in the reserve. This is because one female resident had young cubs, and these little fuzzballs were her sole focus. Generally, a leopardess will raise her cub for approximately two years, and then offspring are pushed out to establish their own territory. This doesn’t necessarily have to be acrimonious, though. Maternal bonds are strong. There are numerous accounts of young leopards visiting their mothers in the following months and years, and we look forward to seeing how these fine cats will forge their way in the world. 

Leopards at Pom Pom Camp

A similar family boom has hit the lions, too, as seven became ten. Until recently, the Pom Pom pride comprised the dominant male, four lionesses, and seven cubs. Imagine our joy when the fourth female (whom we had not seen lately) emerged with three cubs in tow! The pride now numbers fifteen in total, and that’s a lot of hungry little mouths to feed. 

We also kept an eye on the smaller pride that previously split from the prominent lion family. This sub-pride numbers two females, two subadults and one cub. However, there are a couple clouds on the feline horizon. New male lions were seen entering the territory, and we are waiting to see if they make a play for the dominance. Knowing what might happen, the females have regularly moved their cubs to keep them safe and avoid the well-documented infanticide that a new dominant male could visit upon the existing cubs. 

Lion Cubs at Pom Pom Camp

Three separate cheetahs have been spotted this month near to camp. One male and two females have seemed happy to make Pom Pom their home, and one of the females currently has two four-month-old cubs. 

Cheetahs often come up second best in the predatory hierarchy. Other threats include hyenas, and the robust Pom Pom Spotted hyena clan is no exception. They have denned near the airstrip, and we saw them on almost every game drive that passed through the area. 

Bushfires in the Okavango Delta

Bushfires often can cause massive destruction to an ecosystem. However, they also form part of the natural cycle of nature. It clears out low-growing underbrush, scours the ground of debris and opens up the ground vegetation for sunlight. Fires also nourish the soil; some species even depend on the flames to survive and flourish. A bushfire that came through a part of Pom Pom has renewed an area. These new plains have attracted a variety of plains game, but they are always vigilant. These grasslands have become a fertile hunting ground for African wild dogs and cheetahs.  

There have been many other incredible sightings, but let’s sign off with one last wonderfully winged one. Pel’s is one of the largest owl species in the world with a wingspan of approximately 1,5 meters, and we have relished regular sightings of these curious creatures. Although they are primarily nocturnal hunters, we had some amazing daytime viewing. 

Pom Pom Camp Mokoro

The flood arrived in camp, and our mokoros were launched. Mokoros gave a unique insight into traditional life in the Okavango Delta and allowed the chance to slow down on safari. There has been plenty of birdlife along the various river routes and we’ve loved watching Wattled cranes, Saddle-billed storks, Marabou storks, Hamerkops, ibis, Pied kingfishers, egrets, herons, ground hornbills, Egyptian geese, fish eagles and many more.

(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, May 2022

Our star activity this month has been the night drives, and we had the pleasure of glimpsing Aardwolf various times. African civets have also been very active and we commonly saw more than five on a single evening. 

You’ll need a strong stomach 

Aardwolf Lebala Camp

When thinking about predators, we often focus on their strength, stamina, and speed in the hunt. If an Aardwolf were to take a medal, it would probably be for the most impressive stomach. An elusive creature at the best of times, these termite-guzzling members of the hyena family can eat up to a kilogram of termites every night. Their muscular stomach can grind up 250,000 termites at a sitting and occupy a unique niche amongst the Hyaenidae by avoiding the competition for the hunt their brown and spotted cousins share with the felines and canids.


Feline family ties and successful Lebala lion hunts

One afternoon, we encountered three leopards and spent 45 minutes with the romantic trio as the two males tried to mate with the female. 

The coalition of three dominant male lions has been moving around the area near Lebala Camp, and it was wonderful to witness the bonds with their families. The three lions would greet all the pride females and patiently put up with the rough, tumble, ear pulling and nibbling the youngsters put them through. Their strong family ties paid dividends as they had tremendous success hunting wildebeests (guides have noted that lions have been killing more wildebeests than any other prey).

Lebala Camp Lion Dynamics

One of these hunts happened right in front of camp just as post-dinner drinks were being taken to the fire. A thunder of hooves in the darkness gave way as a wildebeest burst into the dim light from the camp, followed by the pride at a flat-out sprint. While wildebeests are fast (they can reach up to 80km an hour), the lions had sprung their trap to perfection. The wildebeest went down in a flurry of dust and hooves, and the lions quickly completed the job. This led to an evening of crunching and calling, and dawn found some content and full-bellied lions huffing and puffing near the camp, keeping a keen eye on the remains of their night’s work.

Enormous herds in the Kwando Private Reserve 

Away from the camp, we found a herd of almost 70 impressive Elands on the flood plains. The distinct clicking noise of the elands’ hooves can be heard from some distance, especially when there are so many of them! They were very relaxed around the game drive vehicle, and we almost became part of the herd with the correct car positioning. 

Large elephant herds have been seen with plenty of youngsters on the floodplains, and we enjoyed frequent sightings of a beautiful bird that occupies a special place in myth and legend. The Southern Ground hornbill is known as Lehututu in Setswana. Many tribes throughout Southern Africa associate them with death, but some associate them as bringers of rain, breakers of drought and protection against lightning. 

There has been a sprinkling of Carmine bee-eater sightings, a very early arrival as we usually only expect them in August and September. 

(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, May 2022

Opportunism. Or just simply bare-faced theft?

First, the lions stole from the African wild dogs, and then the Spotted hyenas stole from the lion. The cheetahs were busy looking over their shoulders during the hunt, and the leopards pulled their kills up trees to avoid the attention of the lions and hyenas. The merry-go-round of the Kwando Private Reserve continued unabated!

Wild dogs of Botswana

A new pack of five African wild dogs was seen in the area during the first quarter of the month. One crucial piece of news is that the alpha female of the Lagoon pack (still comprising eight members) was heavily pregnant. They will be looking for a den soon, and we look forward to sharing that with our guests once the newborn puppies emerge.

Oribi spotted in the Kwando Private Reserve

An extraordinary and relatively uncommon sighting, we encountered the Oribi during a game drive. While being denoted as “least concern” in terms of conservation threat level, it is not a frequently viewed antelope in our area. This is the largest of the small antelopes, which can sometimes be confused with the slightly smaller Steenbok. They occur in small parties, so hopefully, he had some family around too.

Talking of lists, the bird life at Lagoon Camp has been excellent. Although many of the migrants were gone, there were still hundreds of species to witness: African fish eagles, Grey herons, Malachite kingfishers, Pied kingfishers, African darter, African jacana, Wattled cranes, vultures (White-backed, Lappet-faced, Hooded), pelicans, African spoonbills, Yellow-billed storks, Egyptian geese – the tally goes on and on.

As we scanned for the waterbirds (the Wattled crane being one of our favourites, not least because of its vulnerable conservation status), it was always worth casting an eye on what we might find beneath the water. More than 20 crocodiles have been regularly seen in and out of the water at Halfway Pan, and if that doesn’t get the blood racing, we also came across a five-metre rock python leisurely crossing the road. That is approximately 90kg of snake!

Our dedicated guides located the new den of a leopardess after tracking the animal. Black-backed jackals sounded the alarm and we found her moving through the bushes, returning to a warthog kill. After feeding, she returned to her thirsty cubs.

Lagoon Camp Botswana

The elephants passed through Lagoon Camp in large numbers this month, enjoying access to the river. They have also been crossing the river to the various islands that form in the Kwando River flood, and it was always a privilege to quietly watch them from the boat or room porch as they fed on the aquatic grasses and cool off in the heat of the day.

Caracal acrobatics

From the large, we’d like to draw attention to the small. A Porcupine has been frequenting camp, as have a couple of honey badgers. Instantly recognisable by its ear tufts, the wonderful Caracal made several appearances. While they can hunt and take down prey up to the size of small antelopes, their aerial skills need to be seen to be believed. They have a fantastic ability to hunt birds in flight, often jumping up to three metres to take birds on the wing. This talent also extends to their ability to twist and change direction mid-air.

The night sky was also marvellous this May with prominent constellations crisply outlined by the star. Southern Cross, Scorpio, and Sagittarius were visible. We had a good view of Jupiter, Venus, and Mars in the morning sky on the eastern side.

(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, May 2022

The Kwara coalition, our famous group of five male lions, was unhappy.

We found these fearsome males roaming the Kwara Private Reserve, continually roaring and sending a loud and unmistakable message. A newcomer had ventured into their territory, and all this mighty calling was a clear advertisement: stern words would be had if they came across this interloper. The remainder of the Kwara pride (four lionesses and two cubs) had little luck hunting in their absence. When we encountered them, they appeared listless and hungry. However, persistence is the key to success, and one morning we followed them as they took down a baby giraffe as it blundered across their path. Two of the five males smelt the air and quickly found their way to the carcass. Still hungry the following day, the lionesses took down a waterbuck. One of the lionesses who recently gave birth was still stashing her cubs in the dense bush, while another looked like she was almost ready to give birth.

Beautiful little leopard cubs

We encountered a large male leopard on a game drive towards Peter’s Crossing. As we stopped to soak up the sighting, he turned and made a mad dash for the nearest tree. It’s always special to watch a leopard climbing. One minute at the bottom and a second later at the top without apparently passing through the space between. However, his exertion was well merited as the five lion brothers appeared from the bush, gave him a look, and then sauntered on their way.

Leopard Cubs Kwara Camp

The other leopards had more luck than this hapless male. We tracked and found a female leopard on an impala. Unexpectedly, she started calling and disappeared into the Kalahari apple leaf tree, leaving her prize unattended. Our curiosity was rewarded when, shortly after, the leopard appeared with two cubs in tow who could not have been more than six months old. They nervously approached the impala before retreating back into the safety of the scrub. As the mother cajoled them into joining her, suddenly, a Spotted hyena emerged from the trees and made a beeline for the carcass. The hyena managed to take a bite before the furious leopard re-emerged, and he beat a hasty retreat. Knowing the word was out, she dragged her kill off into the bushes, where the family ate in peace.

We located this leopardess again two weeks later, and she had learnt her lesson. This time, she dragged her kill up into a Leadwood tree where the cubs could eat without the unwanted attentions of other dinner guests.
However, it didn’t deter the hyenas from waiting patiently at the bottom.

African wild dog puppies on the horizon?

This month we also learned that there is a fine line between bravery and foolhardiness. A pack of 15 African wild dogs had taken down a Tsessebe and two hyenas charged in to assume the remains as the dogs rested from their kill. This bravery (?) was met with a full-on charge from the wild dogs, and the hyenas were forced to turn tails and flee. The tsessebe served an essential purpose, and we saw the pack’s alpha female was obviously heavily pregnant. We hope to soon report the pitter-patter of tiny paws!

Kwara Camp Wild Dogs

Floodwaters came flowing in

As the flood waters arrived, we detected an influx of birds keen to take advantage of the new shallow channels filling with water and fish. The Malachite kingfishers put on a show as they darted in and out of the water, capturing food and tossing it in the air as they shuffled it about to swallow the fish headfirst. They were, however, by no means the only fisherman keen to take advantage. Wattled cranes, Saddle-billed storks and Goliath herons were also drawn to this paradise.

Hamerkop

As the woodland areas become drier large herds of buffalo and elephants, have started moving across the floodplains in their hundreds. A small group of elephants pushed over a Mangosteen tree next to tent two in Kwara Camp and happily fed themselves on everything the tree had to offer for four days. Chomp! 

(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, May 2022

As the herbivores sought the water in the few remaining waterholes, the lions lay in wait.

The Nxai Pan pride is eleven-strong in number and well practised in the hunt. Over ten days, we found them feeding on zebra, kudu, wildebeest, and springbok. On one occasion, this led to family strife as the male strode in to take over a kudu carcass, only for the lionesses to register their disagreement with his arrogance. Paws and claws were drawn, and they settled their dispute with a bout of fisticuffs. The male eventually asserted his position as head of the table and wandered off with the kudu remains. Despite this slight disagreement, the pride was looking strong for the coming winter with their bellies full.

We also watched the mating rituals of the dominant male lion and his paramour on a day trip to Baines Baobabs. Lion mating rituals are the stuff of legend, lasting three to four days with the couple repeating every half an hour. (You do the maths.) Lionesses have a gestation period of approximately four months, so if they were successful, we’re sure to hear the patter of tiny paws later in the dry season. 

The cheetahs have also been busy, and we witnessed an unsuccessful hunt near the camp. After a failed chase in the midday heat, the male decided it was still too hot to reach the required speeds. Instead, it took up station in the bush, scanning the open ground for prey while our happy guests snapped away.

A giant journey of giraffe

Nxai Pan hosts a wide array of herbivores for all these predators to thrive. We sat in awe as a journey of 57 giraffes grouped together, which is rarely seen in such numbers. Our guides expertly moved ahead of the herd and sat quietly for a time, allowing the vast collection of tall mammals to pass close by before they elegantly sashayed off into the bush.

Giraffe Nxai Pan

We also had the privilege of seeing the Plains zebras as they commenced their long return migration north out of Nxai Pan, heading back towards the Chobe River. 

Caracal, aardwolf, a baby honey badger (small but deadly!), and baby Bat-eared foxes (perhaps the cutest of them all) were all seen during night drives. 

There’s a star man waiting in the sky

Nxai Pan is a stargazer’s paradise, where history is written in the skies, and local celestial tales can be related all night long. However, sometimes these huge skies come to us. This month our guests were treated to a large flash as a meteorite lit up the sky over the camp and headed south.

Stars at Nxai Pan

The last time this famously happened was in 2018, when a fireball shot across the sky and landed in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. The meteorite was found and named after a local waterhole called Motopi Pan. Scientists believe it started its journey to earth some 23 million years ago. Now that shows some serious safari commitment for anyone who has ever doubted that the remote Kalahari is worth the trip!   

(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, 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!)