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!)

Kwara, Splash

Splash and Kwara Camp, February 2022

Just before Valentine’s Day, we witnessed a young female leopard between the curio shop and the public bathrooms at Splash Camp. The animal was skittish to start but soon relaxed. It locked eyes on a genet and started hunting and chasing the genet. It was incredible to see this action safely from the dining area on foot.

Best place to see wild dogs

Trackers located 13 wild dogs at Impala Pan, where they were actively hunting, but they aborted the mission when they came across a dead baby elephant, and the pack started feeding on the carcass instead. The Kwara Pack of wild dogs was seen hunting along Jackal Den road but was also unsuccessful. A group of 14 dogs was then seen at Goms crossing, finally feeding in a frenzy upon a Red lechwe kill. 

However, more action indeed transpired with the felines this February. A female leopard was seen hunting near Motswere Pan, and we watched her land an impala meal before she dragged into the long grass and disappeared from our sight. Another female leopard was seen at the Marapo a Kubu Pan with wet nipples, so we suspect she has cubs hidden nearby. We also encountered a male leopard on the way to the mokoro station. It sat in the middle of an island, scanning the area. 

Mr Special still dominates

Mr Special, the resident male cheetah, was seen loitering around the Kwara Camp area, sniffing around a termite mound north of staff village. He then marked his territory and sat on the termite mount, looking for animals. Three other cheetahs were located in the Bat-eared fox area (one female and her subadult cub, plus a nomadic male). The male was visibly disturbed by the cub’s presence kept growling at her, but the mother was very protective, holding her body between the male and the cub. This nomadic male was found dead with bite marks on his neck the following day, and we uncovered Mr Special roughly a hundred yards away. We suspect that he caught up with the nomadic male and killed him. 

The Mmaleitho Pride was resident in Kwara Camp for at least a week and a half. We mostly saw three females with two cubs around rooms 4, 5 and 12. The pride occasionally moved to the staff village and rested near the firebreak. One morning, two of these females were seen hunting right in front of Kwara Camp, aiming for the wildebeest. However, there was not enough cover and all the prey scattered. 

The Kwara Pride, consisting of two females and three cubs, was seen on a zebra carcass along Tom’s Road. The kill was relatively new, and the three cubs were neatly hidden under a small shrub not very far from the kill. The Kwara Pride also attempted an ostrich hunt, but the quest didn’t succeed. The wide-eyed bird spotted the lionesses and speedily fled the scene. 

Later in the month, a further pride of lions of four lionesses, two cubs, and five males were seen resting along Tom’s road and hunting around Lechwe Plains later that afternoon. 

Four of the five resident males were located close to Splash Camp with two Splash Pride females. The animals were well fed and headed north in the mopane woodland. Two male lions (the Zulu Boys) were located at Green Pan. 

The Spotted hyena den was active, with one cub and a couple of adults resting by the den site. One hyena came trotting along during dinner after our exciting leopard sighting at Splash Camp and actively investigated the feline scents left behind. Spotted hyenas have also been seen frequently around Kwara Camp, Splash Hippos and Lechwe Plains. One day we found a dead giraffe at the aptly named Giraffe Pan. We assume the animal died of old age because it was still intact. The hyenas were out in their numbers to enjoy the feast.   

Brilliant bird sightings

We encountered plenty of elephants in almost all the game drive routes, Red lechwes, Tsessebes, giraffes, Hippos, Impalas, Waterbucks and noticed many raptor species, including Tawny, Wahlberg and Brown snake-eagles. A juvenile Southern ground hornbill was seen around the Splash Hippos area, with two adults following closely behind. These hornbills are long-lived birds and only reach maturity at six years old. Like all smaller hornbills, they also nest in tree hollows, which can be hard to find for a bird this size!

Ground Hornbills Botswana

A pair of nesting secretary birds at the Bat-eared Fox area also provided excellent birdwatching. Saddle-billed storks, Wattled cranes, European bee-eaters, Carmine bee-eaters, Egyptian geese, Hamerkops and lots of teals were present this month too.

Days spent out on the water were fruitful. We saw a Double-banded courser and Grey-headed kingfishers on mokoro activities and two male sitatungas along the Kwara Channel during a boat cruise in the morning. We also found a crocodile feeding on a baby warthog at Motswere Mogobe. The warthog family was trying to cross the water body, and sadly the baby was caught.

(Note: Accompanying pictures 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, January 2022

In early January, a pack of wild dogs was located east of Splash Camp, shredding a baby impala. The following day 14 more dogs were seen at Kwara islands. A different pack came chasing impalas into camp and made a kill just next to the main pool area. However, they could not enjoy their meal. It seemed like a bigger predator (probably a lion) spooked them, and they soon fled.

Speaking of lions, there’s been action this month! 

A territorial dispute

The Zulu boys occupied the western part of the Kwara Private Reserve, extending into the Shinde area. One day we saw these males mating with a lioness. Soon afterwards, we came across five male lions feeding on a wildebeest carcass near the Splash boat station along the river road. We believe this coalition controls the Kwara-Splash territory. The next day, four of these lions picked up on roars of other males nearby. Kwando guides followed as the resident lions responded with fierce roaring and headed towards the challenging calls.

The four males caught up with the three Zulu boys, and a territorial fight immediately ensued near Basarwa Sethabana. It was four against three, and the resident four males won, leaving one of the Zulu boys with severe injuries. Unfortunately, this lion succumbed to the damages. Two days later, we discovered his remains. Guides were alerted to the carcass by vultures and rampant hyena tracks crisscrossing the road early in the morning. They only found his fresh skull, part of the skin and remnants of paws and claws.

The Mmaleitho Pride visited Splash Camp one night and killed a wildebeest calf, then a clan of Spotted hyenas caused a commotion trying to overrun the kill. We saw this pride again at the Splash Camp waterhole drinking at midday. They then moved west past room 12 late in the afternoon but returned to Splash Camp again towards the end of the month. Closely monitored by the camp manager, the pride moved south, passing the solar room heading towards Tau Island.

Mr Special made his usual rounds and was often found hunting or scanning the plains from a termite mound. Another male cheetah was seen stalking impalas at Wild Dog Pan but could not secure a meal and scent-marked the area instead.

A male leopard killed an impala at the Kwara staff village and pulled its carcass up into a tree. Unfortunately (for the leopard), the carcass fell, and hyaenas quickly took it over, leaving only the head. Another male leopard was then located north of Kwara lagoon, comfortably sitting into the shaded storey of a Sausage tree with a Red lechwe kill. He spent about two days enjoying his meal much more peacefully.

At Kwara Camp, three hyenas came sniffing around the old Little Kwara staff village and proceeded towards the airstrip. A sub-adult hyaena frequently came to inspect the main area and was often seen during the day. Many hyenas were seen at Willy’s Valley celebrating the demise of the Zulu boys. It’s also highly probable that the hyenas could have finished off the injured lion since he was more vulnerable.

Servals, civets and other spotted creatures

Thick bush covers most of the landscape, and the long Turpentine grass grows everywhere, which posed a challenge when locating smaller animals, but we still enjoyed many incredible nocturnal sightings. This included serval cats, occasionally African wild cats, civets and Honey badgers, but Small spotted genet and Springhare were the most common sightings on night drives. One evening we also saw a huge Spotted eagle owl during dinner in the central area at Splash Camp. 

We saw several Ground hornbill groups this month. They spent much of their time scouting for prey — lizards, insects, snails and snakes — which are all abundant at this time. Monitor lizards were regularly seen, and sightings of snakes such as Puff adders, Mozambique spitting cobras and Black mambas were all recorded at a safe distance during game drives.

The grass has grown very tall, and there is lots of water, especially on flood plains, due to plentiful rain. Small and medium-sized crocodiles were seen frequenting these refreshed waterholes, as well as the plethora of wading birds that now have to dodge the reptiles as they feed.

Hippos at Splash Camp

Despite the tall grass, we saw plenty of general game, mostly antelopes such as tsessebe, impalas, wildebeests, kudus, waterbucks, small buffalo herds, Common reedbucks, Red lechwes, zebra, plus plenty of giraffes and good elephant numbers. There is also a significant pod of over 22 hippos (with adorable calves) residing in the Splash Camp lagoon. They occasionally leave the water out during the day and feed around the camp area at night.

We ticked off a glut of waterbirds during boat activities, such as herons, egrets, Egyptian geese, teals, and many jacanas. Raptors such as Tawny eagle were also seen, often scoping out kills before vultures (such as the White-backed and White-headed) rolled in.

Artur Stankiewicz was there to capture the drama and his image portrays just a fraction of the intensity of the lion confrontation. Sightings like these remind us that this truly is the wild!

Kwara, Splash

Splash/Kwara, December 2021

The Kwara Private Reserve sure felt like cat country this month! There were several memorable lion observations, serval sightings and cheetah tracking. 

During December, a pride of five lionesses and their five cubs were frequently encountered. Guests loved watching the happy cubs bounding about in the early morning hours under the watchful eye of the females. Though they appeared relaxed, they were always on high alert! One day, a troop of baboons in the vicinity sounded their brash alarm calls,  which forced the pride to move along. Later, we checked in on the pride and approached the area in time with a single warthog closing in on the sleeping cats. On realising his error, the warthog quickly dashed into an aardvark burrow, and the pride surrounded the hole and started digging. They eventually gave up since the terrain was too tricky.

We often found the five lioness mothers without their cubs, but they never seemed distressed. They are still relatively young, so we know they were likely stashed away somewhere safe during hunts. 

On 27 December, a lioness walked through Splash Camp looking for her pride members, making a contact call as she went along, and we found her the next day at Pelican Pan reunited with her pride and the cubs.

At the end of the month,  five females and four cubs sat at the Kwara airstrip. The pride seemed very hungry and was actively searching for a meal. We followed them until they came to a lagoon with a dead hippo floating in the water. There were dozens of crocodiles feeding on it. For the safety of their cubs, the mother lions decided not to risk it with the crocs and moved on. 

The Mmaleitho pride and the five resident males rested at Splash Enclave the following morning. They spent the whole morning dozing around the fireplace before drinking from the waterhole and proceeding to the other side of the camp, where they spent the afternoon in the shade between rooms 9 and 10.

The male cheetah, Mr Special, was located at Sethabana close to his marking post, but there was little action thanks to wet drizzling rain. Guides noticed that he genuinely did not like to get wet! Guides Josiah and See tracked the animal for eight kilometres one day, only to find him tucked into thick bushes, avoiding the weather. On another more action-packed day, he was seen hunting Tsessebe calves and some wildebeest calves but was unsuccessful in landing any.  

On 28 December, a cheetah and her subadult cub were located north of Wild Dog Pan, but the animals were slightly skittish because lions were calling a mere kilometre away. We followed them north towards the mopane woodland, where they chased some warthogs and managed to catch and kill a piglet. However, the duo could not enjoy their meal as their foe, a male lion, appeared and took over their kill. The following day the guides went to locate them again, finding them at Tau Island, where they were lucky to bring down a reedbuck which they feasted upon peacefully this time around.

A young leopard was located at Motswere pan with an impala kill, and the animal was very comfortable until dusk set in. The animal then started feeding quickly. We suspected the presence of another leopard created this anxious behaviour. Another male leopard was located in Tau Island east of Splash boat station. This big male was wonderfully relaxed, and the team followed him as he climbed trees to demarcate territory.

We also saw small cats throughout the month, especially serval and the African wild cat. Recent bush fires opened the grassland areas, making these secretive and elusive small cats easier to see.  

One day, we found a serval hunting on the edge of marshland along Xugana main road and on another night drive, guests spotted two Serval cats feeding on African bullfrogs that had erupted after the rains. On yet another occasion, there was a great sighting of a relaxed serval along hippo road, but the challenge here was photographing the animal hidden in the tall grass. 

In the aftermath of the aforementioned recent fires, those fresh grasses that revealed shy cats have attracted huge zebras and wildebeests, assembling with other antelopes like tsessebes and impalas, waterbucks and red lechwes, common reedbucks and kudus. Lechwe sightings were a daily sight in front of Kwara Camp. 

In early December, a pack of 18 wild dogs chased a herd of these Red lechwes into the water in front of Kwara Camp. Being unsuccessful, they moved off towards a shaded island and rested until another group of lechwes came through. They gave chase again and killed three animals.

One afternoon we were lucky enough to locate the pack as they started their haunting greeting ceremony before setting off to hunt. The target this time? Zebra and wildebeest calves. The pack tried their best, but the adult grazers kept a strong defence stowing their young safely in the middle of the herd.  

Another pack of 13 dogs were located feeding on an impala. Surprisingly, two male wild dogs arrived on the scene. Strangers to the pack kept their distance until the alpha pair approached the animals. As the alphas came close, the two males displayed submission. However, the rest of the group was unimpressed and left their meal to give chase. 

Another pack of 8 dogs was located in front of Splash Camp with full bellies and bloodied muzzles running towards the eastern side. On the last day of the year, yet another pack of wild dogs was located at Mabala-a-Dikgokong on the hunt. Guests were lucky to send off 2021 with the sighting of a kudu kill.

Three hyenas were located at Hippo Road chasing a young reedbuck into the water, successfully killing it. Our guides noted with interest that the third hyena was a young one, and the two older hyenas would not share the meal until only bone and skin were left. 

A clan of four hungry hyenas were also encountered at Double Crossing, trying to isolate a baby elephant but failed because the matriarchs were simply formidable in their defence. The commotion went on for quite some time until the hyenas gave up.

We witnessed big groups of breeding herds of elephants around and quite an astounding number of giraffes in the area. During a bush walk, guests saw a single elephant bull loping from a safe distance while nearby, plenty of Angolan reed frogs lay in the reeds. Guides also reported a few frogs hiding in the buildings, trying to get away from hungry egrets and herons. 

Common platannas sightings were, er, common. Especially on the roads in the early morning when we found them hopping along the road with hamerkops giving chase. Reptiles were also active this month. A Black Mamba was seen close to Tsum Tsum bridge. It seemed like the serpent was trying to escape the vibration of the oncoming vehicle. On returning from a drive, a bright Spotted bush snake was located at the Splash Camp entrance.

On 19 December, we had an incredible sighting of a female Sitatunga during a memorable boat cruise. The water level in the channels increased a bit thanks to the rain but not significantly.

Civets and genets were commonly spied during night drives, but sightings of White-tailed mongooses were rather notable! We located one close to New Bridge and another at Leadwood Island. An aardvark was also seen south of Splash camp. This strictly nocturnal animal was incredibly relaxed, and guests got some great shots of this rare creature. 

We were also fascinated to watch a Verreaux’s eagle owl swallowing a bullfrog and sat in awe at Kwara Camp when two African fish eagles fought over a barbel with their talons locked to each other until both fell to the ground.

(Note: Some of the 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/Kwara, August 2021

A Botswana safari is unparalleled, largely thanks to its water. Exploring the floodplains and boarding the boat to explore the Okavango Delta certainly yielded some of our best sightings during August. 

A mating pair of African rock pythons were seen at the boat station, and the little Marsh mongoose was seen twice this month! The big, dark-coated mongoose is extremely shy and a very rare sighting. Each time it was spotted, it would instantly merge with the marshes and disappear. It is also primarily, but not strictly, nocturnal. 

The landscapes at this time of year are beautiful, especially on the boat cruise. There are plenty of palm trees and Palm swifts diving in and out of the fan-like foliage. An adult male Sitatunga was identified during a boat cruise in the Muanachira channel. He was busy foraging but froze in alert when we stopped the boat. After a minute or so, he disappeared into the papyrus again (much like a Marsh mongoose). 

The Xobega heronry is still highly active, with waterbirds nesting in large numbers. Marabou storks, Yellow-billed storks, Cattle egrets, Squacco herons and many more contribute to the cacophony. It’s fascinating to sit and watch the nesting, mating and tending of fluffy chicks. 

At Kwara Camp, guests aboard the mokoro were equally treated to magnificent little sightings. Painted reed frogs, African jacanas, and many other water birds crossed the path of our traditional dugout canoes. The water level is now receding due to the rising heat and evaporation. Nonetheless, an aquatic orchestra continues. Outdoor dinners are amazing, with effortless stargazing to the deep blowing sounds from bullfrogs and the twinkling of the aptly named Bell frogs emanating from the lagoon.

Large herds of buffaloes and exceptional herds of elephants have been noted on almost all game drive routes. However, you don’t have to venture far to see the pachyderms. They love feeding on the fruitful Jackalberries within the Kwara Camp island. It’s getting windy, and most of the trees are dropping their dry leaves in the change of season. The Sausage trees, however, are rich with wildlife due to the nectars being produced. Baboons, monkeys, and plenty of birds are enjoying the sweetness. We have also been seeing herds of zebras and wildebeest plus small groups of waterbucks and pelicans at the waterhole in front of Splash Camp. 

A very large flock of pelicans amounting to hundreds came to rest at Pelican Pan. They were on the hunt and fervently fishing. A pair of Tawny eagles nested on top of a Knob thorn acacia nearby, which helps prevent other predators from getting too close, and we often witnessed the adult feeding their chicks. 

Did you notice? We haven’t even mentioned the big predators yet! 

At the start of August, Kwara Camp guides located the Mmaleitlo pride with their three cubs. The animals were well-fed and actively playing along the marshland. This pride later took up residency in the Splash Camp area. Occasionally, they were joined by the Mbukushu boys’ coalition made up of five males. Guests didn’t need to drive out to see lions. They would alternate between sitting at the campfire area to watch the waterhole and Splash Enclave to follow with the lively cubs. Herbivore activity around the waterhole came to a standstill because of their presence! 

Two lionesses from the Splash pride we located resting on the runway. These animals were in a hunting mood, looking around for prey, but baboons saw the cats and raised the alarm. Guides and trackers could only see two lionesses, but as the alarm was so serious and tense, they investigated more closely. Three months old cubs popped up and ran towards the mothers from their hidden area! 

These two lionesses were located again, southeast of Kwara Camp, but this time with the whole pride of nine lions. The happy cubs were among them sniffing each one of the lionesses and being licked in return greeting. It seemed this was their first-day introductions to the pride. This pride was later seen on Sable Island with a kudu carcass, which seemed to be the first solid meal for the cubs. They didn’t do much with the ample meat and instead kept begging for milk from the mother. 

Guides at Splash Camp, meanwhile, came across three female lions and two males feeding on buffaloes. After examining tracks and closely assessing the circumstances, it appeared that the lions had chased a herd of buffalo into the water, and some of them drowned. It was a feast for all, including Spotted hyenas and Black-backed jackals who soon joined the party. 

Speaking of parties. It’s always on the day you’re keen to slow down that things seem to happen! One day guests wanted to take it easy and bumped into a pack of 23 Wild dogs heading toward Kwara Camp. They set off in pursuit and witnessed an impala kill. In the afternoon, they went back to check on the wild dog den and found a few adult dogs had stayed home on guard. When the rest of the pack got back, they called the puppies out for a meal of regurgitated meat, which they promptly turned their noses up at. In the end, the guard dogs took over their meal.

One morning drive, guides heard the alarm call of impalas. Something must be around the area, possibly a predator, they thought, and upon arriving, a female cheetah with her subadult cubs was suffocating an impala. Mr Special, the resident male cheetah, was located nearby just East of Kwara Camp, walking between the solar panels. 

Another day, a male leopard known as Golden Boy was spotted. He was very relaxed and tried to steal a lion kill while the big cats were resting beside their buffalo carcass. A different male leopard was seen on top of a tree just 100 meters from Splash Camp. He was also relaxed and very obligingly waited until everybody had taken a photograph before departing. 

We still have two active Spotted hyena dens near Kwara Camp, and hyenas have been seen nursing their cubs in the late afternoons.

Kwara, Splash

Splash/Kwara, June-July 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Splash/Kwara, October 2020

MSchuff.Cat4lunch_lebala

One morning, whilst waiting for guests to arrive for breakfast, we noticed signs that wild dogs had been chasing impala in front of camp. Almost immediately, our tracker called to say that the dogs were on a kill next to the car park. The guide quickly rushed to collect his guests and went straight before breakfast to watch them eat. As soon as the dogs left for water, a female leopard showed up to scavenge and almost hunted a black backed jackal that had showed up before the leopard. Then we went back for breakfast and headed out for mokoro and fishing. Just as we left camp, after about half a kilometre we spotted a cheetah with a two months old cub! All of these sightings happened in less than an hour – Kwara Reserve living up to its well-deserved reputation yet again.

One evening we finished dinner and took all the guests to see the stars. As we were enjoying our astronomy, the five resident male lions started roaring. Although some of the guests decided to go to bed, others stayed up to enjoy the magical ambience of the camp fire. Half an hour later we heard the screaming of a buffalo, so the guide quickly rushed to fetch his game viewer and everyone jumped on board. About a kilometre from camp we saw shining eyes and the lions suffocating the buffalo. We watched the kill and then two lionesses arrived. The females wanted to feed, but one of the males preferred to mate so the chasing and roaring carried on for some three hours. What an incredible night-time sighting for our guests!

These five males had started to specialise in larger mammals, as well as buffalo they also killed giraffe and an elephant calf of about 4 years old.  It was incredible to see that they finished the elephant in just a couple of days. These males are still relatively young to have a dominant position at just under four years. They are feeding well and their increasing size will mean that they stand a better chance of defending their hard-won territory from older, more experienced males.

We were delighted to find a new female cheetah in the Splash area. After tracking her for an hour we found her feeding on a freshly killed reedbuck lamb. The following morning we located her again, on top of a termite mound, scanning the area for prey. Realising that she was on a hunting mission, we decided to cancel our boat trip and follow the animal. Half an hour later, the cheetah saw a group of reedbucks and zebras. She waited behind one the bush where we thought it was selecting her prey and calculating the distance. After a few minutes, the female took a few steps and then came out like a bullet through the groups of reedbuck. She picked off a young ram that was caught within 130 meters. The kill was made in open sun and the cheetah decided to drag the kill in the shadow of our vehicle where she started feeding. The resident male, known as Mr Special, was also in the area and feeding well. We were lucky enough to see him hunt and kill an impala.

A clan of ten hyenas were seen feeding on a wildebeest calf.  Black backed jackals were trying to steal meat from the carcass but were driven off by the larger predator. Another time we found a hyena lying fast asleep on a kudu carcass that it had stolen from a leopard.

Large concentrations of elephants were found around Splash area as they browsed the riverine forest looking for greenery. We were surprised by one bull standing on its hind legs with trunk fully stretched out straight as it reached up to find food high up a tree.

More than once we found our resident sub-adult female leopard up on a sausage tree, enjoying the breeze and also a shyer leopard up towards Tsum Tsum.

We enjoyed watching African wild dogs along flood plain areas with water, where they seemed to enjoy playing.

Night safaris yielded aardwolf, Verreaux (giant) eagle owl, marsh owl, small spotted genet, African civet, lesser bushbabies and hyenas.

During mokoro activity we were able to show guests lots of waterlilies, Angolan reed frogs, long reed frogs African jacanas, pied kingfishers, malachite kingfishers, a few fish eagles and red lechwe.

On the boat cruises we had good sightings of malachite kingfishers, pied kingfishers, hippos, a few crocodiles, lots of elephants, red lechwes, sitatunga and fish eagles. The heronry was very active, with some nestlings including marabou storks, open billed storks, grey herons and yellow billed storks

As the weather warmed up, fishing became more productive, especially at the mokoro station spot. On one trip we caught nine red-breasted tilapia and in general guests were really enjoying this activity.

 

(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!)

Splash/Kwara, August – September 2020

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During August and September, lions were often near Splash camp, and on one remarkable afternoon, a lioness decided to visit the camp’s main area. After strolling around to inspect the furniture she caught her own reflection in the glass door of the bar fridge and seemed fascinated by it. Apparently happy to have some company, she then lay down to snooze for the afternoon. High tea was swiftly relocated and even dinner had to be served at Splash Enclave because she decided that she didn’t want to move in a hurry. Guests and staff were thrilled with the very unusual photos that they were able to get of the lioness guarding the bar fridge, somewhat ironic given the alcohol ban that was in place at the time due to Covid19 (since lifted).
Around this time a coalition of 5 male lions were within the camp vicinity, drawn by the allure of a lioness in oestrus. Whilst one brother was busy mating, the other four males were actively patrolling their territory and had a fatal confrontation with a lone nomad who somehow sneaked into their territory. The four boys did not waste time killing the intruder then headed straight to camp to declare their victory. The whole pride then spent some days scattered across camp, roaring night after night and keeping the camp team on their toes. One day we had to change our bush brunch site as the five male lions preferred the cool shade of the sausage tree where we had planned our surprise meal – it might have turned out to be a bit more astonishing than we had bargained for!
Leopards were also roaming the Splash camp area, with tracks of a big male going all the way from Room 8 to Room 1. A tom leopard was admired stalking tsessebe as guests were returning from their boat cruise. Another time, we tracked him and found him enjoying an impala carcass.
After a long time without locating wild dogs, they suddenly started appearing all over the reserve. First, a pack of 5 was seen resting along the southern fire break close to camp, then another pack of nine was located. Later in the month we located a massive pack of 38 wild dogs comprising twenty-three adults and fifteen pups. They were resting having eaten that morning.
Special, the resident male cheetah was mostly located not far from camp, and often actively hunting. We also saw a mother cheetah with two sub-adults and were lucky enough to follow them as they chased reedbuck.
We had lots of elephants around Splash camp on a daily basis, especially late in the afternoons when they came to visit the camp waterhole for a drink. It was wonderful to see the breeding herds interacting. After spending time drinking, they moved into camp to start feeding.
With the annual flood inundating Kwara Reserve, it was wonderful to watch herds of red lechwe, up to thirty strong, splashing through the water as they ran. Buffalo were seen in herds up to 100. Other general game included giraffe, zebra, impala, tsessebe, wildebeest and kudu.
We saw very relaxed honey badgers during the day. Night drives yielded porcupines, serval, bush babies, spotted hyenas and wild cat.
Notable bird sightings included secretary birds, black-chested snake eagles, and tawny eagles. The flood waters meant that we had various species of water birds such as African jacanas, white faced ducks, pygmy geese, black-winged stilt, pied kingfishers, malachite kingfishers and slaty egrets. Intra-African migrants started to appear such as yellow-billed kites, black kites and carmine bee-eaters.
Photo by Moyo Kapinga, Kwando Safaris guide

Splash / Kwara, March – July 2020

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We were delighted to have an abundant flood arrive after a drought season and this filled the lagoon in front of Kwara camp for the first time since reopening. The team were only too happy to move the mekoros back to camp so the activity can start right from the main area. A good number of hippos had moved into the lagoon within a matter of weeks. All the flood plains around the Kwara area flooded and the scenery was very beautiful. All three bridges were put into action and by July the water was pushing onwards towards Splash camp.

Since we resumed game drives in the Kwara Reserve, we located all of our usual resident prides. The One-Eyed pride comprises a mother and daughter lioness and they are both pregnant after mating with the new coalition of five males during May. The daughter is the nearest to her due date and expected to give birth at the beginning of August. These two lionesses and the five males were concentrated around the Splash area where they were seen at least every other day. Sometimes they hang out in camp itself and this included a honeymooning couple.

Rather confusingly in terms of names, the Splash Pride has now relocated to live around Kwara camp because they are trying to avoid the coalition of five males. The three sub-adult brothers of the Splash Pride have developed some mane now and so would be under threat from the larger and stronger coalition.

In July we also came across a healthy new male lion in the area. He killed a zebra 400 metres from the airstrip bridge. However, a few days later he was found dead near to the Kwara walking range with signs showing that he had been fighting with other lions. We picked up the tracks and they led us to three of the coalition of five, one sporting fresh injuries from the fight. Eventually the dead lion was eaten by vultures.

The famous male cheetah known as Mr Special was still in the Kwara area and doing really well. A resident female was also in the area. Another female cheetah with three cubs killed a fully-grown impala on the edge of the woodland and we saw them busy feeding.

Seven spotted hyenas were located feeling on a tsessebe carcass. A leopard was seen actively stalking a tsessebe calf by the woodland and another female was often seen in and around Splash camp, one time making a kill right by the main area.

We saw twelve of the dogs from the Marsh Pack recently and have seen signs of the Kwara pack of twenty-four in the northern area where they denned last year, although at the time of writing the guides were still busy trying to locate the den.

Elephants were constantly in the area, and we saw them bathing, feeding and drinking. General game was consistently good, as it always seems to be in Kwara. There were plentiful zebras, giraffes and other antelopes.

With the smaller mammals, we saw a lot of jackals, both side-striped and black-backed jackals. Honey badgers were also located.

During boat cruises on the permanent Maunachira channel we saw crocodiles and water monitors.

A good number of saddle-billed storks were feeding on the flood plains and a group of eight black herons settled in to stay at Kwara lagoon. A few malachite kingfishers and over ten rufous-bellied herons were seen during boat cruises. Fish eagles took up residence on the Kwara Lagoon and they were feeding on the catfish arriving with the new water.

(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!)

Splash / Kwara, Jan 2020

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Four new young male lions made a bold move on the Kwara Reserve and seemed intent on pushing out the resident males that we know as Big Man and Puffy. One of them was limping and it seemed as though they had come into conflict with either the residents or the Zulu Boys who were also hanging around. Our guides were sad that these new lions killed a rather special young lioness who was recognisable by her ginger/cinnamon colouring.  Towards the end of the month we witnessed a fight and lots of chasing between the four new males and the residents. The ongoing battle between these male lions mean that the nights were full of roaring as each side tried to proclaim their territory. Big Man and Puffy were still in the area at the end of the month, but looking extremely nervous. The resident Splash Pride of eight seemed keen to avoid the new males, but we found them a couple of times eating warthogs that they had just killed.

The three resident packs of wild dogs continued to provide plenty of action.  We followed the pack of eighteen as they hunted and killed impalas on a regular basis. One time they managed to kill four impala lambs at once. Vultures and kites could be seen finishing up the leftovers. They also killed a waterbuck calf near Room 12 at Splash.

Meanwhile, the Marsh Pack of twenty-five dogs were also located hunting around the Splash area. One day they came running straight through camp chasing impalas. Eventually they killed two lambs right next to the workshop, devoured them quickly and then continued on with their hunt.

The resident male cheetah known as Special was very active in terms of marking his territory and hunting; he was located on most days as he moved between the eastern and western side of the Kwara reserve. We saw him hunting and killing various antelope species including impala, common reedbuck and a wildebeest calf. Once we saw his kill be taken by two male lions.

A female cheetah was busy tracking Special’s marking posts, indicating that she was ready for mating again. When we saw her in the area last year, she was travelling with her sub-adult son, but this year she left him behind at the mokoro station where he was seen calling for her. We saw her hunting and killing an impala lamb.

Herds of elephant could be seen feeding and bathing in the channels. Guests enjoyed watching the young calves playing. Big bull elephants were regularly feeding on the Kwara camp islands and breeding herds could be seen drinking water at the pan in front of camp. A herd of approximately 300 buffalo was seen in the area.

A relaxed tom leopard known as Golden Boy was located frequently near to Kwara. Vervet monkeys alarm-calling revealed a shyer individual and another time it was the snorting of impalas that gave away the location of the cat. A female leopard was found up on a sausage tree.

Spotted hyenas were denning and we were able to see the single cub nursing from its mother. A clan was seen scavenging on a dead giraffe that appeared to have died of natural causes. We also saw hyenas eating a reedbuck carcass and another time watched them as they cooled off in water.

A caracal was spotted hunting helmeted guineafowl but the birds took off before the cat could manage to snatch one. A relaxed aardwolf was located at its temporary den. We were also lucky enough to spot an aardvark, although the animal was quick to dive into some thickets. We saw black-backed and side-striped jackals on most game drives.

Big herds of zebra were attracted by the great grazing and as they month progressed, they were steadily increasing in number. Other general game included warthog, common reedbuck, tsessebe, impala, kudu and red lechwe. We came across an interesting sighting of mating giraffe. Sable antelope were located in the area.

It was a good time for birding as we were able to enjoy several migratory visitors including European rollers, European bee-eaters and broad-billed rollers. A flock of over 100 carmine bee-eaters were seen feeding on flying ants. It was great listening to the snapping of their bills and chattering as they caught their prey. Yellow-billed kites were also enjoying the feast. Endangered wattled cranes and ground hornbills were both doing well in the Kwara 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!)