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!)

Dinare

Dinare Camps, June 2022

“Rra Dinare never ceases to amaze”. At least, that is what our resident safari guide, Zulu, reported from an action-packed month. 

This season, for the first time in living memory, the Gomoti River — which flows in front of Mma Dinare Camp — reached the Thamalakane River in Maun before the Boro River in an atypical floodwater route.

Most naturally-filled water holes and pans have run dry, and our guides noticed that animals mostly ventured west to drink from the growing Gomoti channel. This river flowed strongly, and a tremendous amount of game and birdlife congregated at its flourishing floodplains. Enormous herds of buffalos and streams of elephants paraded past Mma Dinare Camp while Red lechwe straddled the marsh. In the drier woodlands, we saw Tsessebe, Kudu, Steenbok, Impala and in one strange instance, Common reedbuck rather far from the water. Perhaps this antelope was spooked by the lion prides, which have enjoyed such prey abundance! 

Cats were sighted throughout June, but lions were seen more frequently than other species.

What happens when you skip a game drive?

For several days, a small group of lions roamed the floodplains at Rra Dinare Camp, and their tracks were seen repeatedly in the Kalahari sand. A typical day in camp proved rather fruitful for sightings, in fact! Giraffes and elephants ambled past the pool, a honey badger was seen scurrying below the deck, while Red lechwe and buffalo bulls enjoyed the softer grazing of the sodden grasses. The river also supported a healthy array of aquatic birds, such as egrets, herons, Spoonbills, fish eagles, kingfishers and storks. 

Another lion pride, consisting of a male, three lionesses and six cubs, was regularly seen near Mma Dinare camp. The cubs are growing healthy and energetic under the protection of the strong pride male. 

A documentary-worthy lion kill!

During one afternoon drive, two male lions trailed a herd of buffalos (approximately 300), strategically singled out a big bull, and guests watched a documentary-worthy lion kill from stalk to skeleton. One of the lions held the buffalo by the nostrils while the other male attempted to weaken the rear and it seemed like the animal was surely doomed. After 15 minutes of bellowing struggle, the buffalo’s herd returned to a courageous rescue and bullied the lions off the injured animal. This hundred-strong herd then stood around the animal, protecting it from further attack for about an hour. Unfortunately, eventually, the group had to move on and continue feeding and the wounded buffalo could not keep up. With group defences down, the male coalition struck again, and the buffalo distress calls brought in more lions! Four adult lionesses and ten subadults arrived on the scene joining the two young males. After a tense moment of growling and establishing the hierarchy, the lionesses and lions ultimately worked together to quiet the prey. The buffalo was reduced to a skeleton in a matter of 30 hours. 

Lion Kill Rra Dinare Camp

Flocks of vultures and other birds of prey were seen daily soaring, gliding, descending and ascending. Hooded, Lappet-faced, and White-backed vultures were common species in the skies, and the distinctive Bateleur Eagle could never be missed with its acrobatic flight patterns. We also spied the rarer White-headed vulture from the deck of Rra Dinare Camp! 

Three leopards in one tree – well almost

Leopards were seen throughout the month, but one event had guests and guides excitedly chatting around the dinner table. In a mating ritual, three leopards were found together: two males and one female. The distracted leopards went about their business until suddenly, a cloud of dust signalled an incoming lioness, intent on harassment. The leopards were fortunate to escape by taking refuge in the towering Kalahari Apple leaf trees while the lion circled below. 

Our first cheetah sighting of a mother and three sub-adult males was enjoyed at Nxaraga. During another morning drive, we encountered a lone female. Still, the last week of June was most impressive when we followed the group of four cheetahs moving from Katty’s Pan to a suitably horizontal branch of an old Leadwood tree. They marked territory and played together before continuing their journey. 

There were no sightings of African wild dogs this month, but their fresh tracks were found imprinted over our own vehicle tracks. Their scarcity is likely linked to a den site on the far side of the reserve, but they are hunting in the area.

Spotted hyenas and black-backed jackals were routine visitors at kill sites and often spied during night drives. One evening, our guests were delighted when our spotlight gleamed upon the figure of a Brown hyena. Another Brown hyena was found near a leopard kill around Mma Dinare Camp. We also saw an Aardwolf among the usual nocturnal species, such as serval, civet, honey badger, genets and wild cats.

(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!)

Dinare

Dinare Camps, May 2022

This month’s sightings highlighted the circle of life and its meaning in this wild part of the Okavango Delta.

Late one afternoon, our guests were returning to Mma Dinare Camp when they came across the sad sight of a dead baby elephant. The family were nowhere near, but it is worth briefly noting that elephants have a fascinating relationship with death. Herd members often spend significant time with a deceased family member, touching, sniffing, and nudging the remains. They have also been known to return to the bones of their family members and demonstrate the same practices months later. Anyone who might ever doubt the sentient nature of Loxodonta africana needs only see this ritual to forever change their view of these remarkable animals. All signs pointed to natural death, and herein lies the cycle of nature; the next day, a pride of five lions fed on the remains. When they finished, the Spotted hyenas and Black-backed jackals moved in to enjoy their morsels. The sad loss ensures the survival of others and a return to nature.

In more positive news, the resident pride of eight lions re-remerged, having taken an extended leave of absence from around the camp. Despite their arrival, the other predators have remained in the immediate vicinity of Rra Dinare Camp. We enjoyed numerous nearby leopard sightings, cheetah feeding on a steenbok, and the ubiquitous hyenas were always keen to put in an appearance. A pack of seven wild dogs was also spotted around Rra Dinare camp, beside the fire break.

Many avian migrants have headed north as the cooler winds rolled in. However, a vast array of birdlife remained, including the herons, eagles, owls, and cheeky hornbills. Amongst other things, hornbills are seen as a symbol of positivity, good luck, and optimism. Look closely: when perched on a tree, they always look up at the sky. You will never see this little optimist’s beak fall, and it consistently faces upwards with hope for the future.

What will you find on a walking safari?

On a nature walk one morning, we came across lion spoor and spent the morning tracking these felines on foot. In some safari moments, not seeing the animal can be as exciting as seeing it… imagine yourself slowly walking, following the tracks, learning the alarm calls that can alert you to the presence of a predator. The senses strain to detect the slightest sign of these massive cats. On this occasion, the tracks led off into the thick vegetation, and we abandoned the search. However, the excitement and stories of the walk lasted throughout the day as the walk was recounted — and everyone pretended they didn’t jump when the hidden impala ram snorted from behind a termite mound!

Finally, the mythical Okavango Delta flood is still a way from us. Still, we enjoyed mokoro outings and ticked off African Jacanas, elephants coming to the edge of the Gomoti River for a drink, Red lechwe herds, Common reedbucks and the gorgeous Angolan reed frogs. Nevertheless, we may receive some unusual and unexpected flood patterns this year and hope to report more on this next month.

(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!)

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!)

Dinare

Dinare Camps, January 2022

January marks the middle of our rainy season, and the Gomoti River has risen every day due to the high amount of localized showers we’ve experienced. This month, we recorded 86mm of rain and enjoyed warm days with spectacular afternoon thunderstorms. These cloud gatherings conjure breathtaking sunsets and make for dramatic photography at this time of the year.

Lion vs. buffalo

Our resident male lion Sankedi was not seen for a few weeks but returned with a bang. Kwando guide NT describes it with comedy. “One night during dinner, he roared very close to Mma Dinare Camp, and our guests needed no introduction. It was like a Dolby surround sound speaker broke the silent night”. During one morning drive, a pride of four lions was found feeding on a giraffe.

The Tees pride was seen frequently on our game drives through the reserve, often with a buffalo kill. One day 12 lions lay sleeping in the shade, and guides noted that one was injured — perhaps in pursuit of their favoured prey? The African buffalo is a formidable animal known for its grumpy temperament!

In yet another testament to the name of our camp, we have seen enormous herds of these buffalo grazing, often numbering 100 or more in a grunting congregation feeding on the lush plains. Meanwhile, the old dagga bulls have lazily bathed in the numerous water ponds filled from the rains.

A first for us!

More unusually, we spotted a female leopard on a young buffalo kill. It was pulled very high into a tree away from the competition. Kwando guides report that it is not common to come across a leopard preying on buffalo. However, a young buffalo was seen alone in the same area the previous night. It is a reminder that cats are opportunists! if a young buffalo is separated from the rest they will take advantage.

Healthy African Wild Dogs roam Santawani

A pack of seven healthy wild dogs was frequently spotted in the Santawani area, and they were looking fantastic. Their coats were shiny, and bellies bulged thanks to the influx of young impala prey. “The young antelopes that were born at the end of 2021 and survived are strong and very fit”, NT reported. “They are giving predators a hard time”. We enjoyed some great cheetah sightings this month and spent a wonderful afternoon with a coalition of two relaxing in the shade one day.  

A giant crocodile was seen at Sam Pan, which is 7 kilometres away from Gomoti River, and it’s not the only creature that went walkabout. The hippos have also been noted wallowing in water holes far away from the main rivers because they have plenty to graze upon these days. One morning, a hippo was seen feeding on land near the mokoro station despite the sun beating down on its back. Elephants also enjoyed the plentiful mud wallows across the reserve.

A feast for feathered friends

Birding has been equally fantastic. With all butterflies and insects around, it’s been a feeding frenzy. The migratory Woodlands kingfisher was joined by Carmine bee-eaters, Broad-billed rollers and Yellow-billed kite. A particular highlight was seeing termites eruptions after the rains. Marabou storks, rollers, plus many more birds enjoyed the insect feast.

Back at Mma Dinare camp, guests were delighted to watch eight giraffes as they journeyed past room eight. Significant numbers of buffalo, grazing zebra, elephants, kudu, and red lechwe were also seen from the main area deck as they drank from the river. At nighttime, the eerie human-like laugh of Spotted hyenas was usually heard from camp.

(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!)

Dinare

Dinare Camps, December 2021

Mma Dinare Camp Wildlife

Rains have fallen, the Kalahari dust has settled, and the Gomoti River has started flowing again. “The terrain in the Dinare Reserve has become our Eden”, NT reported. These waters also refreshed the pans too. 

When the sun rose at Mma Dinare Camp during December, it was common to be awakened by the roar of the Great Sankindi. This male lion rules the South East side of the camp with many dominating decibels. A pride of two female lions and two cubs was spotted on several occasions nearby, and the Santawani pride has also reunited into a total of nine lions (five lioness plus their cubs) frequently seen near Rra Mochine Pan. A fantastic sighting of lions mating on the road transfer sent guests back to Maun with a super safari under their belt. 

Most antelopes, such as impala and wildebeest, have dropped their young ones. One of the impala’s most successful tactics is its breeding strategy. All their lambs arrive in a flood that bets on outnumbering the amount that predators can eat. We also observed plenty of hide-and-seek played by mothers as they taught the babies how to survive in the Okavango Delta. 

A female leopard stole the show this month when we ended the year with sundowners on Mma Dinare road. The crafty leopardess killed an impala right in front of guests as they sipped on gin and tonics on 30 December. 

We found spotted hyenas on just about every evening game drive. Their unearthly shrieks and haunting whoops sure added to the mystery of nights in Mma Dinare. During the day, buffalos were a common sighting in front of the main area, under the tents and along the Gomoti River.

A pack of three wild dogs were seen feeding on an impala with five puppies next to Gomoti Crossing. 

This has been the best time to visit the Okavango Delta for birders. With their different shapes and colours of the feathers, migratory species beautified the trees and coloured the skies with melody.

(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!)

Dinare

Dinare Camps, August 2021

The Dinare Camps have lived up to their name this month. Mma Dinare means ‘Mother Buffalo’ in Setswana and sits in a glorious site on the Gomoti River in the south-eastern side of the Okavango Delta called Santawani. Since the annual flood has flourished in this area, we have experienced enormous herds of buffalos.

Herds congregate at the remaining waterholes during this dry season, wading deep into the water, grumpily shouldering their way into the best drinking positions. Buffalo social structures are matriarchal, just like the elephant, and these breeding herds can sometimes number over 1000.

Thanks to these massive herds, the lion population is thriving too. After almost six months without a pride male in the area, more males are sneaking into the territory for mating opportunities, Kwando guide NT says. “We are expecting a new generation to emerge anytime now! We have seen the lions mating with a few of the resident females”. The team also saw a coalition of five lions feeding on a giraffe and one healthy male digging into a warthog kill. One afternoon, we tracked two males to room nine at Rra Dinare Camp. They were exploiting the sweet shade for a fitful nap below the deck. 

There has been a spate of excellent Wild dog sightings. Guides noted that these only consisted of adults out on the hunt, and they suspect a den must be nearby. The tracker and guide teams are still pinpointing an exact location. 

The mokoro station has been a busy neighbourhood with hippos bobbing about in the water, crocodiles basking on the banks, elephants on one occasion crossed the Gomoti River in a lively herd numbering 25 strong. Then there was also a leopard sighting. Unusually, some hippos were also seen fighting outside the water. 

Our game drive transfers between Maun and camp have been equally productive. One day guests were treated to giraffe, zebra, elephant and a pair of leopards mating before check-in! A healthy cheetah was also seen feeding on the road that leads to Maun. 

Santawani has been dubbed the honey badger capital of the world, and the August records sure reinforce the label. One evening a night drive yielded a sighting of three honey badgers. Black-backed jackals and the civet were also regular spotlit sights. Civets are stocky animals that resemble cats, are dog-like in size but are actually closer to the mongoose family.

Likewise, the Brown hyena is neither cat nor dog but an order all its own. We were thrilled to catch sight of one this month while on the way to the mokoro station! Predominantly nocturnal, these animals are easier to see in August because they tend to travel further during the dry season. Brown hyenas will seek carcasses to scavenge on or protein-rich ostrich eggs to crack open using their strong jaws. These curious creatures also hunt small vertebrates, such as birds, amphibians and mammals and can walk up to 30km in one evening. During the rainy season between December and March, they travel and scavenge less. 

(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!)

Dinare

Dinare Camps, June/July 2021

“On a safari, you find that nature has a rhythm, an organised pattern of activity”, writes Kwando Safaris, guide Ntshupegetsang (or NT as we know him) from the Santawani area. “There is a peak in the morning, as nocturnal animals hurry through the last of their business and the diurnal wake up to kick their morning chaos, stretch and start sniffing around for their breakfast – and danger.” 

June was filled with guests, local and international, plus plenty of game sightings in and around Mma Dinare Camp. The general game was excellent, especially in the aptly-named Paradise section and lions were sighted almost daily. One particular viewing was rather memorable for guests! 

“After a very long, hectic period of Covid-19 without picking up any international clients, it was totally miserable to me”, NT continues. “I fetched my first American clients and asked, “Folks, what’re your special interests? What animals you are hoping to see?”. Lions, leopard, giraffes and elephants came the reply. Within five minutes of our chat, my tracker and I saw movement under an Acacia tree covered by very long grass. We went to check and boom! Two male lions”.The following morning the team set off to find a leopard for the list but returned to camp, unsuccessful in finding the feline. “However, on their third day, we combined a drive and mokoro”, NT reported. “Shortly after we got to the boat station, as we were busy organising the team, we heard impalas making an alarm. Calling and snorting, we knew it might be a predator of any form, so we jumped back into the vehicle! Driving, we saw impalas running to one direction and just around the next bushes, a leopard dragging an impala”.

This month’s photo was taken by NT.