Moremi Crossing

Moremi Crossing Camp, March 2022

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

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

Lots of lion activity and leopard kills

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

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

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

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

Wonderful wild dogs

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

Red Lechwe Okavango Delta

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

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

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

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

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

(Note: Accompanying picture is from our Kwando Photo Library which consists of all your great photo submissions over the years, it may not be the most up to date, but we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

Tau Pan

Tau Pan Camp, March 2022

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

Tau Pan Summer Season

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do whydahs and waxbills have in common?

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

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

(Note: The leopard in the Camelthorn tree was taken by sound recordist and wildlife photographer Derek Solomon during his summer safari. Other accompanying pictures are from our Kwando Photo Library which consists of all your great photo submissions over the years, it may not be the most up to date, but we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

Dinare

Dinare Camps, March 2022

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

Okavango Delta Camp

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

A fine arrival!

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

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

Animals to see at Mma Dinare Camp

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

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

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

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

(Note: Accompanying picture is from our Kwando Photo Library which consists of all your great photo submissions over the years, it may not be the most up to date, but we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

Nxai Pan

Nxai Pan Camp, March 2022

Things to do Nxai Pan

On a rather memorable day trip to Baines’ Baobabs, we came across a handsome male leopard walking along the road. It veered off and disappeared into the long grass, but to our great fortune, we found a female leopard resting in the shade on our way back. We approached slowly, and she got up to walk along the road, much like the male had. We followed her until she spotted a steenbok, which she then successfully stalked and killed! 

The territory of a Steenbok is relatively tiny, so we come across many in the park. This petite antelope typically covers its dung, which is unusual for antelope, but a clever little defensive tactic it uses to prevent predators from sniffing out their homes. Unless, of course, a hungry leopard comes strolling past.

Nxai Pan zebra migration update

Zebra Migration Nxai Pan

Nxai Pan has been incredibly productive for hungry herbivores. The site was exceptionally green, lush and sticky with mud. The Dropseed grass grew tall and puffed up (“Like someone who went to the salon!” Kwando Safaris guide Alex expressed). We saw Gemsbok, enormous gatherings of Springbok, Red hartebeest, small groups of kudu and the Plains zebra migration was still underway. However, the zebra numbers have gradually dwindled as they start to resume their journey south. One day, we encountered thirty giraffes in a single concentration along Baobab Loop road.

Predators of the pans

Two male cheetahs were spotted walking along the middle road heading south just after sunset one evening, their silhouettes unmistakable in the vanishing light. They seemed skittish and aborted the hunt. We later found lions active in the area and heard their gravelly roars close to camp that night. The following day, the male cheetah was found hunting springbok, but with no success.

The Nxai Pan pride of 11 lions was frequently seen (and often on a zebra kill) throughout March. Mid-month, we came across a mating pair of lions along West Road. It was interesting because the male lion was not part of Nxai Pan Pride. One afternoon, the sudden descent of circling White-backed vultures drew observant guides to Baobab Loop road, where they found eight of the Nxai Pan pride on a sub-adult zebra kill.

We briefly saw a single adult female spotted hyena this month, but it quickly disappeared into the bushes. We also saw Africa’s smallest hyena, the Aardwolf, along Middle Road, being chased by Black-backed jackals. Black-backed jackals were seen daily, and we frequently found families of Bat-eared foxes nestled into the base of termite mounds attempting to hide in the long grass, only to be betrayed by their satellite ears.

Summer birding and Baines’ Baobabs

Kori bustards also strutted their stuff on these plains and we particularly enjoyed watching a Pale chanting goshawk feeding on a Ground agama. Black-shouldered kites, Brown snake eagle, Black-chested snake eagle and Steppe buzzards soared the skies while Rattling cisticolas, Yellow canaries, and Crimson-breasted shrikes bounced about in the branches of the Umbrella thorn acacia trees. Blue checked bee-eaters and Swallow-tailed bee-eaters were often seen hawking from the roadside on our trips to Baines’ Baobabs. The pans in front of these iconic trees are full of water. Sometimes we come across big elephant bulls seeking shade below the other trees nearby, and we saw Lesser flamingos feeding in the water.

African Monarch Nxai Pan

There were many puddles and pans around the park, so we were flush with insect life and noticed a kaleidoscope of butterflies, including the Yellow pansy, African joker, African monarch, Zebra white and Broad-bordered yellow grass butterfly. Giant jewel beetles and tok-tokkie beetles have also enjoyed the prime conditions. One sweltering day,  a Leopard tortoise took advantage of the conditions and enjoyed a mud bath. We also came across a bright green Flap-necked chameleon on the road. 

To our surprise, cattle came to visit the Nxai Pan Camp waterhole one day and drank alongside the zebra and wildebeest. We called the wildlife authority to alert them.

Pom Pom

Pom Pom Camp, March 2022

Two different packs of Wild Dogs have operated in the Pom Pom area. A group of ten wild dogs came hunting through the camp one day, and there was another pack of two adult dogs who preferred the airstrip territory. We saw them hunt and successfully kill impalas on several occasions. One early morning, we watched five hyenas being chased by the pack of ten wild dogs at Kessy’s field.

A group of twelve Spotted hyenas was seen at Rebecca’s field lying down near the big waterhole. Another clan was then repeatedly seen around the airstrip, and the den was located ten minutes away from camp near Bushman’s Baobab tree. 

Little lion cubs and leopard action

Pom Pom Camp has enjoyed plentiful meetings with the resident pride of four lionesses and one male. We have not witnessed any kill from the pride this month, but they were very successful and regularly feasted on Red lechwe. 

Guides noticed that three of the four lionesses were pregnant and two heavily so. Towards the end of the month, one gave birth on an island in the flood plain near the mokoro station. We estimate that the cubs are about a week old as we compile this report. Although we have not seen them, we have heard their squeaks and growls at the den site! Lions are born blind and weak, so they are kept in hiding until strong enough to join the pride.

Unlike antelope, lions have no particular breeding season, but they do synchronise their breeding so that mothers can mutually suckle each other’s cubs. 

We had amazing leopard action during March. One morning we saw four leopards in different locations! There is one adult female that is very relaxed. She was seen several times with her cub, often on the hunt. Another shy adult female has been roaming the camp area and she also has a sub-adult cub that is more relaxed. We saw a big male leopard on Mochimbamo island feeding on sub-adult female kudu up on a Rain Tree one day.

Camp has enjoyed plenty of wildlife. Spotted hyenas often walked past when guests were having their morning breakfast. Crocodiles have enjoyed sunning themselves by the waterhole out front and at night, the bushes around the campfire area come alive with the flickering lights of fireflies in a most romantic end to the day. Dragonflies and Banded groundlings have also been common, especially when we stop for our morning teas and sundowners.

Swimming pythons and pairs of Pel’s

There was little luck with cheetah sightings this month, but tracks have been detected in the area, which means they are around. Likewise, the reptiles were still active, and we came across plenty of snake tracks crossing the game drive routes but never glimpsed them. However, one day we did find a Southern African Python swimming in the water at one of the crossings in the flood plain near the mokoro station.

Scrub hares, Small-spotted genets, Side-striped jackals, Aardwolfs, porcupines, Honey badgers, African wild cats and Springhares were all logged during night drives. During the day, elephants (both breeding herd and bachelor herd groups), buffalos, giraffes, Tsessebe, Blue wildebeest, Kudus, Common reedbuck, Waterbuck, Bushbuck, Steenbok, Impalas, hippos and Plains zebras all enjoyed the lush grasses.

Birding has also been fantastic with plenty of waterbird activity. We spotted Wattled cranes, Saddle-billed storks, Black-winged stilts, African jacanas, Squacco herons, Goliath herons, Black egrets, Slaty egrets, Pied kingfishers and Black crakes. We have also had great fortune with sightings of Verreaux’s eagle owls and Pel’s fishing owls in the tree lines along the flood plains. We even found one pair of Pel’s in an open branch clearing one day, making for wonderful photographs.

(Note: Accompanying picture of Pel’s fishing-owls by guest René Gomes. The others 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, March 2022

March is one of the hottest months in the Kwando Private Reserve, so elephants arrived in herds of hundreds to drink and mud bathe, especially on the eastern side of the reserve. The ground was also soft and malleable following good rains, making it easy for Damaraland Mole Rats to excavate their tunnels, which they do with their very impressive front teeth. These near-blind creatures are rarely found above ground, so are highly unusual to see, but we were lucky enough to find one digging out in the open. We encountered a Black mamba snake following one of these rodents around the Skimmer Pan area in yet another remarkable sighting!

These odd-looking creatures tend to emerge from the earth when it is cooler, and the soil might succumb more quickly to the diggings. Did you know? A true mole is an insect-eating animal, but these mole-rats only eat vegetable matter and favour bulbs and roots.

A much bigger rodent, the porcupine, was often seen around Lebala Camp in the early mornings, and we frequently found a Water monitor lizard worshipping the sun on the bridge at the entrance.

The ebb and flow of predator species

Lions are the largest terrestrial carnivores of the African wild and dominant over sympatric (occurring within the same or overlapping geographical areas) apex predators, such as leopards, cheetah, Spotted hyenas and African wild dogs. The Kwando Safaris guides have noticed increased lion numbers across the Kwando Private Reserve. This inevitably affected other predator numbers.

The wild dogs have been fairly scarce, but we did have several sightings of a small pack of three. We located just one full-bellied female cheetah at Motama Pan, resting in a deep sandy area below Kalahari apple-leaf trees. Our expert guide Barcos noted that “They are more than enough leopards around the Lebala area, but these cats are shyer. It is their survival skill”. We witnessed this typically ‘shyer’ spotted cat species, the leopard, more often this month and especially to the north of camp.  

The Wapoka Pride, dominated by Old Gun and Sebastian, was rarely seen in the north (their typical territory) and Barcos reckons this is because of a second coalition, the Golden Boys. “The Golden Boys have started fighting with the sub-adult male lions of Wapoka. Another war is burning between these young males and the Golden Boys from the south. Let’s wait and see!”

The Wapoka Pride has split into two smaller groups, and two lionesses of this pride have been seen with three cubs of about two weeks old cubs. We have witnessed the mothers drinking water and then disappearing into the bushes to feed their hidden cubs. The Golden Boys have made their mark as they are now in the company of these two lionesses (one of them is the elderly lioness of Wapoka).

The underrated sounds of safari

Water levels have increased in the Kwando River, and the pans were still full, attracting a variety of birdlife, including storks, herons and ducks.

There were several nocturnal sightings of African wild cats and African civets, Servals and Honey badgers. One evening we found a Spotted hyena enjoying the leg of a buffalo and carrying the comically big bone in its strong jaws while running. We hear these hyenas calling each evening from camp. Speaking of sounds, guests were treated to the amazing audio of a lion roaring in the distance one morning during a walking safari.

A reminder that stepping down from the game drive vehicle provides a far more intimate experience of the African wilderness.

(Note: Accompanying picture of the mole rat was taken by Kate Nelson and others 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, March 2022

The Lagoon Camp landscape was just glorious this March. Most trees and grasses still wore a summer uniform, but some areas have started losing their colours as autumn approaches. Happily, the Wild jasmine was still in flower together with the Ruspolia plant, which decorated the camp area in a handsome coat of red. Sunrise and sunset likewise gifted us with ruby hues. Once the sun disappeared, our night sky was fantastic on cloudless nights. Our guides noticed five planets lined up in a parade consisting of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn on several evenings.

Stargazing Lagoon Camp

One morning drive, Springhares entertained guests by fighting for dominance, a spectacle that lasted over 30 minutes. These crazy-looking creatures live in burrows and dig impressive warrens. Speaking of diggers, the dung beetles were still rolling their balls of dung, often with a mate catching a lift on the mound before her egg-laying duties commenced at the ideal excavation site. Bat-eared foxes were also seen foraging in different areas of the Kwando Private Reserve.

One night, we found a medium-sized python moving between room one and the main area of Lagoon Camp. A baby crocodile was also seen several times along the log underneath the deck by the boat station. Water monitor lizards often frequented this area too.

Lion prides and leopards in Leadwoods

We located two dominant lion prides (Mmadikolobe and the Holy Pride), but we have been lucky with sightings of the Mma Mosetlha pride, which comprises two lionesses, and the three Rra Leitho coalition too. One of these three male lions wears a collar. We watched 14 Black-backed jackals trying to steal scraps at one kill made by one of these impressive male lions! One evening during the night drive, we found the male with the collar from the Rra Leitho coalition, and he was bleeding around the right eye after a fight with the dominant males from the Rra Bogale coalition.

On another night safari, we came across a female leopard hunting along Rex Road. Porcupines and civets were also commonly seen during the evening activity.

A mother leopard of two cubs perched up on a Leadwood tree by the Firewood-Rakgolo junction, full-bellied and we later saw this female teaching her cubs to hunt an impala. Comically, they had very little success.  

We also came across a Brown hyena this month! It was very relaxed, walking along Makudi road before disappearing into a hole. We visited again to check if it was perhaps a den site, but there were no further signs of inhabitation. On another day, guides noticed many vultures and investigated to find a lone Spotted hyena feeding on a kudu carcass.

The resident pack of Wild dogs numbering nine was seen hunting. On another occasion, the team picked up the tracks of three dogs running around Grass Pan before disappearing into the thick bush. The next day they were seen at Giraffe Pan and identified as the resident Lebala Pack.

Fresh cheetah tracks gave us the run around for a few days. We spent about a week following the tracks and signs without a sighting until one afternoon proved fruitful. We spotted the two brothers on the move and followed them to a termite mound, where they spotted a Red lechwe. They stalked it over the next hour but failed to land the meal. We kept with them until they eventually managed to kill a female Red lechwe.

There have been excellent sightings of the general game, including enormous herds of Plains zebra numbering over a hundred in size. Breeding herds of elephants were also sighted on many occasions, and guests were delighted to see the Red lechwe leaping across the waters with a photographic splash. Lechwe are the most aquatic antelope after the Sitatunga and can feed in water up to their bellies (if they deem it safe from crocodiles). Roan and Sable antelopes were also witnessed, and we have been lucky with several Eland sightings.

Banded, Dwarf and Slender mongooses all made an appearance this month, and we once found a Black mamba halfway through its meal of an Emerald spotted wood dove on Rex Road.

Ground Hornbill Botswana

Most migrant birds were still around, including European, Carmine and Blue-cheeked bee-eaters, Broad-billed rollers, Woodland kingfishers, Jacobin cuckoos and Amur falcons. Ostriches, Wattled cranes and Ground hornbills were logged too.

(Note: 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, March 2022

What sets Botswana apart from other safari destinations is the affluence of water in an unusually arid setting, and plenty of action transpired at the water this month.

We had several leopard sightings in the Kwara Private Reserve, but the most spectacular sighting had to be of a male leopard hunting a baby hippo at Waterbuck Pan. He managed to catch the calf, but the mother came out of the water and rescued the baby.

Sitatunga

A rare antelope, the aquatic Sitatunga frequents the deepest parts of the Okavango swamps, preferring the protection of the tall papyrus and wetlands that make it more challenging for predators to get at them. We found these handsome animals a few times this month during our boat cruises and two bulls together on one occasion. Guests also enjoyed two big elephant bulls crossing the channel in front.

Many Malachite kingfishers were seen during boat cruises with regular water birds such as Squacco herons, African jacanas, Spur-winged geese, Black-winged stilts, Yellow-billed storks and African fish eagles. This month we also saw lots of vultures; Hooded, White-backed and White-headed. There was also the wonderful view of a Greater painted snipe, small flocks of Southern ground hornbills, plus a delightful family of ostriches (their collective noun is a pride) with young ones.

We caught sight of a Southern African python around Mogobe Wa There one day, but it subsequently disappeared into the grasses. There was lots of tall grass across the reserve, especially in the floodplains, which can make it tricky to observe animals. However, we had no shortage of spectacular predator sightings!

The talented Mr Special

Mr Special was often located around the Bat-eared Fox Den area, and we discovered the fresh trail of another male cheetah by Impala Pan. Trackers later found him by Giraffe Pan, where he was stalking a juvenile Tsessebe. One morning, we followed Mr Special hunting at Splash Hippos, where he made several failed attempts to catch impala, but they all escaped. He later tried to hunt a baby wildebeest and managed to catch it. The mother came to the lamb’s rescue by trying to trample and kick Mr Special, but to no avail, and he enjoyed the meal once it had given up.

We also located a female cheetah and her sub-adult cub with full bellies in the same area, and they had killed an impala. On another occasion, the Kwara Camp guides followed the pair one afternoon. Suddenly, a steenbok bolted from behind the bush, and the two cats gave chase with an impressive sprint. They caught it within just 80 metres.

Three African wild dog packs roamed Kwara

We have recently enjoyed the antics of three African wild dog packs in the area. A pack of 13 dogs was seen resting at Impala Pan resting, and we found them later feeding on an impala lamb, a meal we frequently encountered them with. One day, guides tracked down the pack to find just 12 members Tsum Tsum Road. The alpha male was missing, and the rest of the animals were restless, making contact calls without moving. After about 15 minutes, the alpha male returned to the pack covered with blood. The dog also had fresh wounds on his back and wasted no time. Instead of leading his group back to the kill,  he moved in the opposite direction. These were all signs that he was involved in a fight with another predator that stole his kill. The Kwara Pack also had multiple successful impala hunts. A third group, dubbed the Golden Pack, was seen feeding on a baby kudu north of the Splash Camp workshop.

Plenty of game enjoyed the spoils of Splash Camp. Three hyenas walked in front of the staff village and a small pride of three lionesses was seen near guides’ tents. One of them enjoyed playing with a fire extinguisher and removed the pin so fire extinguisher went off, much to the consternation of the pride. The lionesses cautiously approached the empty extinguisher once it had finished hissing and spraying. They were snarling as they tried to figure out what kind of creature just “attacked” their cub. Hopefully, the cubs learned a lesson that they should leave our safety equipment alone from now on! The Mmaleitho Pride was also in the camp, resting near room 12, and we made sure to safely collect the guests from their room by vehicle for the morning activity. The lions had spent the night in camp and killed a male kudu. The Kwara pride comprises five females, one male and two cubs. They were also found on a kudu kill, and the male chased everyone off the kill and fed alone. We also found them feeding on a giraffe kill. A coalition of five lions still controls the Kwara-Splash territory and were often seen clearly marking and patrolling their territory.

Over at Kwara Camp, a (harmless) Spotted bush snake was located between the bar and dining area during high tea and guests have enjoyed visiting an active Hyena den southwest of Kwara Camp close to Mothusi’s Crossing. Thanks to the heavy rains, the landscape was still gorgeously green, with water levels rising every day. 

(Note: Accompanying pictures of Mr Special were taken by Kate Nelson and others 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!)

Ntswi

Moremi Crossing Camp, February 2022

After the significant heat of summer, over 80 hippos and several crocodiles have congregated in the last remaining pools of the drying Boro River to await the coming floodwaters. 

Moremi Crossing Summer Sightings

The water level was very low, and guides worried that the hippos could succumb to diseases, which can concentrate as water shallows. Thankfully, the small amount of rain we had this month greatly contributed to these life-giving lagoons around Moremi Crossing, which remain safe havens to considerable hippo numbers. They have also made for a memorable (if noisy) sundowner stop. 

Rivers and roaming predators

The shrunken state of the Boro River has brought outstanding experiences to guests and guides alike. We saw lions on almost every afternoon game drive, and they have also been around the camp. The lions’ home range has expanded with the river low, and they seem to favour the plentiful warthogs in our area. 

Two handsome male lions were repeatedly spotted without any females, but we are yet to establish whether they are nomads taking advantage of the lowered water or if they have a pride nearby. One evening, we recognised one male had a new limp and sported a fresh wound on his rear, a sure sign of battle with another male. The other lion appeared fresh and untouched but remained highly vocal, making his presence well known.

Despite catching their tracks frequently, leopards have been scarce. Perhaps due to the rise of lion activity? One day, we found a Red lechwe carcass and suspected a leopard had slain it because only the foetus was removed from the stomach and eaten while the rest of the kill was dragged into the tall grass and abandoned.  

Sightings of Spotted hyenas have definitely increased. One afternoon we watched a young hyena as it tried to land an impala without success. Both the Side-striped jackal and the Black-backed jackals have been regularly encountered, along with our resident Banded mongooses that parade the campgrounds. 

Wildebeests, giraffes, Warthogs, Impalas, Common Reedbucks, lechwes, zebra, Vervet monkeys, and baboon troops were all logged in the sightings register. Considerable summer bird visitors remained, too, and we could easily identify their distinctive calls. The Moremi Camp soundtrack comprised the Woodlands kingfisher trill reverberating through the riverine trees and the Broad-billed roller’s grating sounds. Though silent, Pel’s fishing owls were observed around the camp, and we noticed lots of juvenile Bateleurs, pairs of Saddle-billed storks, Tawny eagle and Black-chested snake eagle.

Harvester termites were on the run to collect as much grass as possible to prepare for the winter, when their activities drop to a minimum. Dung beetles have also been frenzied, flying around and crafting brood balls to attract mates and breed. Astonishingly astute navigators, dung beetles can detect fresh droppings within seconds.

(Note: Accompanying pictures were taken 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, February 2022

In its summer wash of luxuriant grass, the sprawling Central Kalahari Game Reserve vegetation remained green during February. Rain forever feels like a miracle in this desert, even though we have already enjoyed our fair share this season! We recorded 35mm of rainfall in just one day, and the animals continued to gorge on the abundance.

In an unusual hunt, we watched a Southern pale chanting goshawk feeding on a lizard, and there was a high number of Oryx, springbok, wildebeest and Red hartbeest around. They were often stuck to the pan in the early mornings and late afternoons, where they gathered for safety to better scrutinise the surroundings for predators. Wisely so.  

Tau Pan Central Kalahari

A shy male cheetah was seen at the southern part of the popular pan trying his luck at hunting the Springboks, but one eagle-eyed antelope gave up his location and the herd scattered, leaving him hungry.

Korhaans, Kori bustards, falcons (Amur, Red-footed, Red-necked), Burchell’s sandgrouse, and Turtle doves all visited the camp water hole regularly in the mornings for a drink. The Tau Pan Camp waterhole remains a hive of activity even in the wet season. If only everyone stayed awake to witness the action.

Waterhole excitement

One day, around mid-morning, a male leopard strolled down for a drink and took his time, lapping gingerly from the water for over 15 minutes. Unfortunately, our guests didn’t see him because it was during the siesta.

Another morning, we were due to conduct the nature walk with our San tracker, Scoupa, but during breakfast, he spotted some Oryx and one giraffe acting unusually down near the water. On picking up the binoculars, Scoupa spotted lions in the area, and we boarded the vehicles instead to get a closer look at the Tau Pan pride, which comprises two lionesses with their six cubs.

Although scarce at the beginning of the month, our days soon filled with lion sightings. On a day trip to Deception Valley, we came across the Letiahau Pride resting at the base of a tall Umbrella thorn tree close to the road. The group of two lionesses with their three cubs were accompanied by three males,  which all looked well-fed and healthy. We also encountered two lionesses from the Airstrip Pride slaking their thirst at the camp water hole, and we tracked two other different lionesses on yet another occasion. We followed lion roars towards the pan and located two females with two skinny cubs on the northern side. The cubs were trying to get close to the two lionesses, but they kept growling and pushing them away. Later that day, we located the cubs as a trio with a third young member, but the older females were nowhere to be seen. We suspect that these cubs somehow became separated from their mother.

Tau Pan Central Kalahari

Reptiles were still active on warm days, and we stopped the car during one game drive for a handsome Snouted cobra crossing the road. This intriguing snake actively hunts its prey during the day. It feeds on rodents, birds, eggs, and toads but is fond of eating snakes, too, including the Puff Adder. It measured nearly two metres in length. We also found a Ground agama with a young one, which is uncommon!

(Note: Accompanying pictures were taken 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!)