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Category: Kwara

Kwara and Splash Camp, January 2024

In the heart of Kwara, one renowned leopardess showcased her hunting prowess, taking down an impala near Sable Island. 

Another skilled female leopard, on a hunt around Kwara Camp, successfully captured a young kudu close to Room 1. To the east of the new bridge, a female leopard lounged in a tree, while nearby, a male leopard in the west of Kwara Camp rested among the bushes after securing two kills.

Further off-road tracking expeditions revealed another intriguing scene: a female leopard near the new bridge, feasting on the carcass of a fully grown male red lechwe. Additionally, a male leopard claimed his spot up a tree with an impala kill, and a female leopard was spotted atop yet another tree, having skilfully caught a steenbok.

Another serene female gracefully moved between Splash and the Kwara airstrip. In the third week of the month, around the third bridge, north of the airstrip. Though she appeared to be a lactating mother, none of the guides had yet caught a glimpse of her cubs.

Guests at Splash Camp were treated to sightings of at least four relaxed leopards. Their activities included multiple kills on baby antelopes. Notably, the adult male leopard, often found in the marsh area southwest of Kwara, surprised us by venturing further than usual and was sighted north of the Splash boat station area. Perched on a sausage tree, he enjoyed a feast on a fully-grown female impala.

Six cheetahs roam around Splash Camp

The Splash Camp guide and tracker teams identified six cheetah individuals. Among them, a new coalition of two adult male cheetahs, less familiar with vehicles, dominated the east of the camp, particularly around Ngayaya Lagoon in the Ngorongoro area. The resident male cheetah, Mr. Special, whose territorial domain spans the entire Kwara Private Concession, was last observed near the Bat-Eared Fox Den in the west in the first week of the month. An addition to the scene was a young male cheetah displaying diverse movements. His explorations extended west towards the Bat-Eared Fox Den and further to the 4 Rivers area. At times, he ventured east towards the Ngorongoro area. In the most recent sighting, he was spied on Tau Island attempting to hunt reedbucks. However, a limp hindered his success. 

Mr Special Kwara

A male cheetah found south of Kwara Camp enjoyed a peaceful rest. The following day, another cheetah to the east of Last Mabala went on a thrilling hunt for zebras, unfortunately missing a foal. A male cheetah near Lechwe Plains initiated another chase, capturing a reedbuck within 20 minutes. Later in the day, a hungry male cheetah pursued a kudu herd. Notably, a pair of cheetahs, male and female, were sighted separately but in the same eastern region of Ngorongoro. The female successfully took down a common reedbuck, while a mother cheetah was spotted resting with her cubs south of Splash Hippos.

Servals and spotted hyenas 

The elegant serval cat was spotted South of Kwara Camp; characterized by its slender build, spotted coat, and large ears, it is a remarkable feline species found in the diverse ecosystems of Botswana known for its adept hunting skills. Encountering these cats in the wild is a rare and memorable experience.

In the western vicinity of Kwara Camp, a hyena clan clashed with lions over a warthog kill. The intense confrontation featured two lionesses and a single cub fiercely defending their prey. Despite their valiant efforts, the lions eventually yielded, and seven hyenas seized control of the spoils. 

During one game drive, three hyenas embarked on a pursuit of a female leopard who had successfully captured a baby kudu. The action unfolded rapidly, with the leopard swiftly turning the tables as it chased away the hyenas and in a nimble display of agility, the leopard secured its kill by swiftly ascending a nearby tree.

The wonderful wild dogs of Kwara and Splash

A pack of 21 lively African wild dogs often roamed the landscapes. They were spotted from the east of Splash Camp, all the way to Ngorongoro, west of Kwara and covering the 4 Rivers region. They engaged in the fun activity of digging, possibly in search of a den, in the northern part of the lagoon. Following their tracks along Flame Lily Road, we encountered the pack of chasing after impalas, though without success. They were also seen energetically hunting west of the Bat-Eared Fox area. 

At Splash Camp, the African wild dog sightings were equally superb. An adult pack of six, known for concentrating in the mopane woodland north of the Splash area, exhibited exceptional hunting skills. They successfully took down a male impala during a hunt at Motswiri Pan, and evidence of further kills of various baby antelope species was spotted east of the camp. 

Lion cubs Kwara

The dominant Kwara lion pride, boasting 22 members, ruled the northern territory, while the Mma Leitho Pride, with two females, four cubs, and two males, reigned in the east. Notably, the nomadic Sephane pride joined the Kwara Pride’s eastward ventures. Two male lions maintained their dominance east of Willy’s Valley. Kwara pride’s activities included feeding on a warthog at Southern Mmoloki Mabala and joining Mma Leitho pride at the Splash fishing spot.

Heading to Splash, the Mma Leitho pride, now five strong, featured two intriguing male lions that arrived last year. They extended their territory, mating with the pride and fathering four cubs. Meanwhile, the Mopane pride explored the open floodplains around Splash, following buffaloes drawn to the lush greenery.

The Kwara pride (once centred around the Bat-Eared Fox area) excitingly shifted as seven members expanded eastward, exploring new northern territories, particularly the Kalahari apple leaf trees.

Summer at Splash and Kwara 

Bee beater boat trip Splash Camp

We’ve encountered a variety of reptiles, including the boomslang, black mamba, Mozambique spitting. cobra, African rock python, and olive grass snake. The rainy season brought a surge in insect activity, with dragonflies, damselflies, African monarch butterflies, and water scorpions. Crocodiles were frequently spotted during our boat cruises along the river.

The distinctive Jacobin cuckoo, the elegant Levaillant’s cuckoo, and the mysterious black cuckoo all have been spotted. Resident and visitor bird species included the colourful woodland kingfisher, the delicate lesser jacana, the European bee-eater, the purple roller, the lilac-breasted roller, and the osprey. The skies are further adorned with the Wahlberg’s eagle, spotted eagle, tawny eagle, carmine bee-eater, robin-chats, and various species of strikes.

Massive herds of elephants, a hallmark of our concession, frequently walked the landscape. Afternoon activities unveiled the majestic presence of sizable elephant herds venturing into the open floodplain, abandoning the lush mopane woodlands abundant with food during this rainy season.

Antelope sightings included impalas, red lechwes, kudus, bushbucks, Roan antelopes, elands, and sable antelopes when traversing the route to Tsum Tsum Mabala.

(Please note: For the safety of the animals, we do not disclose the precise 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!)

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Kwara and Splash Camp, December 2023

We encountered six cheetah individuals this month: four males, one female, and an adorable cub. 

Additionally, a cautious coalition of two male cheetahs travelled the Ngorongoro area. The movements of the resident male cheetah, Mr. Special, became intricate due to the presence of a young male in his territory at the Bat-eared fox area. Interestingly, the young male marked the same territory posts as Mr. Special. Unfortunately, a female cheetah lost two cubs to hyena threats, but she bravely cares for her surviving single cub. She spent most of her time in the West, benefiting from the open terrain, which served as an excellent hunting ground.

Cheetahs Kwara Concession by Jay Collier 2
By Jay Collier

Green season boat cruise in the Okavango Delta

The Okavango Delta waters teemed with life during boat cruises into the Moremi Game Reserve. Numerous young crocodiles inhabited the shores, and we occasionally spotted snakes, skinks, and monitor lizards along the channel. Summer migrant birds listed included carmine bee-eaters, woodland kingfishers, and yellow-billed kites. Various kinds of storks, pelicans, and, on one occasion, the violet-backed starling were observed in Kwara Camp. The heronries were all active, with Godikwe being particularly lively. 

Boat Cruise Moremi

The Kwara Pride, thriving notably, frequently roamed the Bat-eared fox area, with occasional ventures into the 4 Rivers expanse. The once-familiar pride of seven, a customary sight near Splash Camp, has embraced the sanctuary of the mopane woodland. Speculations suggest they are shadowing buffaloes drawn to the replenished inland water holes courtesy of the rainy season. 

On the eastern fringes of Splash Camp, the resilient lion pride of five, known as MmaLeitho, prospers. An exciting encounter involved these lions scavenging on an elephant carcass. In the morning game drive, we witnessed a clan of hyenas interacting with the lions. Watching these large predators engage in a standoff was captivating, with the lions emerging victorious. After a while, the lions moved away from the carcass due to the unpleasant smell, and the hyenas continued to follow them through the meadow grasses. Considering the challenging terrain, we decided to leave the scene. 

Two impressive male lions, relatively new to the east of the concession, appeared robust and handsome, with fewer battle marks on their faces. Zebras were a favoured meal, and we observed two full-grown females lying down at Ngorongoro, looking very healthy indeed.

Summer at Kwara and Splash Camp

The calving season has rewarded us with remarkable leopard sightings and these beautiful cats were often seen preying on young animals. One memorable incident involved a leopardess hunting and successfully taking down an ewe impala behind tent three at Kwara Camp, right in front of guests being escorted to their tents after dinner. She showed little concern for the onlookers as she continued with her duty, eventually dragging the kill into the bush. Another leopard appeared near the main area in the following days, heading towards tent seven.

Last week, a leopard tom made a mark by killing two prey, an ewe impala and a red lechwe. The two carcasses were skillfully hoisted into different trees. During a late afternoon game drive, we encountered a substantial female hyena lying under the same tree where one of the carcasses was kept. (The denning area near Kwara Camp was active, with nightly echoes of hyenas howling and their footprints leaving a trail along the walkways). The following day, we missed the carcass, and it appeared to have dropped down, possibly taken by a hyena. 

A female leopard known to frequent the airstrip vicinity appeared to be lactating. There was a suspicion that she might have cubs, although no one has had the privilege of confirming the presence of these elusive offspring.

The African wild dogs of the Kwara Private Concession

An established pack of 22 African wild dogs has expanded its territory and sometimes seen at 4 Rivers. The pack and its six puppies showed resilience after losing two pups last month, and abundant food sources have contributed to their well-being, including offspring from prey species such as impalas and tsessebes. There was an intense encounter when the pack ventured into Kwara Camp and successfully hunted impalas. A clan of hyenas promptly appeared, hoping to scavenge, leading to prolonged and noisy competition for food.

Recently, we observed a shift in the pack’s movements, spotting them three times heading deeper east. During one instance, we tracked them as they captured a fully grown tsessebe and took it down. The following day, we trailed them along Mabala a Matlotse. As they reached the centre, they began chasing impalas. Although the impalas managed to escape, the wild dogs turned their attention to a dazzle of zebras with small foals. In a surprising turn of events, the wild dogs successfully captured a young foal, approximately two days old. The foal’s mother valiantly tried to defend her offspring, but unfortunately for her, the wild dogs strategized and succeeded in killing the foal. 

(Please note: For the safety of the animals, we do not disclose the precise 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!)

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Kwara and Splash Camp, November 2023

Roaring melodies of lions east and south of Splash camp, seemingly from Moremi Game Reserve, led us to discover the Mma Leitlho female with two males atop a termite mound.

Boineelo and Boago, these males, arrived in February 2023, and their vigilant presence suggests protection for cubs. Mma Leitlho’s daughter seems to have her cubs hidden within Tau Island. These males have now assumed control of Mma Leitlho’s pride, last seen two months ago, with the young female lioness taking the lead in mating activities.

Cute cubs at Kwara Camp

Nights around the Kwara Camp fire echoed with the spotted hyena calls. A relentless chorus to the east hinted at nocturnal affairs. We hopped into the vehicles and located an unexpected battle — a buffalo bull under siege from the cunning hyenas. The rear, tail and genitals of the buffalo were already eaten. Still, the animal put up a tremendous fight, even retreating to the (relative) safety of the water, but eventually succumbed to its wounds and was devoured by the hyenas. 

At the break of one beautiful dawn, we saw the grand silhouette of three male lions from the Kwara pride indulging in a feat — a giraffe, a fallen giant from the moonlit hunt. The rest of the pride remained hard to pin down, prompting a trip toward the far reaches of the reserve, Last Mabala beckoning. Yet, under the spotlight’s glow the next night, an abandoned feast greeted us — vultures and hyenas performing nature’s cleanup. The pride had ventured into the deep mopane woodland, leaving only tracks.

Tracking the creatures of Kwara

A force to be reckoned with in the region, tracking led us to a formidable pack of 22 wild dogs at Kelvin Crossing. This pack of 22, once part of a larger group of 27, demonstrates a remarkable ability to dominate various species in the area. Later that day, the pack successfully hunted a common reedbuck. Another pack of six indulged in a more stationary feast in Willie’s Valley.

The search for resident cheetahs fanned guests onto both southern and eastern safari expeditions. Tracking male lions, our team intercepted signs of a female cheetah from the previous night. This cheetah, known for favouring marshes and mopane woodlands, was found with her three to four-month-old cubs concealed under mopane shrubs near Splash Camp. Vultures perched on the sidelines of their impala kill on another day, a concern in case hyenas or lions lurked in the vicinity. Yet, relief embraced us as the family enjoyed their banquet.

The male cheetah, Mr. Special, was tracked from north to south. His recent feat included chasing and capturing a heavily pregnant female impala, a poignant scene in the lambing season.

Another male graced Motswiri Pan, claiming his territory with a young warthog kill.

A lovely leopardess and her cubs

Under the warm midday sun one day, we encountered a female leopardess with her cub nestled beneath the magic guarri shrubs near a massive termite mound east of Kwara airstrip. On another nearby island, squirrels chattered madly, leading our vigilant trackers to a mother leopard resting on a lower branch of a sausage tree, her two cubs concealed in the shadows. Shyness veiled the cubs, denying us their playful antics. Hours later, hunger drove the mother alone, a solitary figure navigating the marshes in search of sustenance for her hidden offspring.

We clocked eyes on an aardwolf on the eastern side of the Kwara Private Reserve. Aardwolves are generally shy and elusive, making them challenging to spot in the wild. They often rely on their cryptic colouration, which helps them blend into their grassland habitats.

Springhares also appeared in the evening’s spotlight; their nocturnal hops are always a delight. Genets, silent and elusive, completed the cast of twilight mysteries.

Giants sought refuge in wooded shades. Elephants and buffaloes emerged in the cooler hours, their massive herds a spectacle of life amidst the heat. Plains game added to the summer landscape with newborn impalas, tsessebes, and wildebeests. 

Godikwe Heronry

Banded mongooses paraded through the rejuvenated landscape. Dung beetles and long-horned beetles emerged post-rain. Millipedes ventured forth on their miniature march through the dampened earth. The tawny and Wahlberg’s eagles made precise dives for the flush of flying ants and harvester termites. Summer migrants included lesser grey shrikes, woodland kingfishers, red-chested cuckoos, and yellow-billed kites. Breeding sites like Xobega and Godikwe enjoyed successful fledging of chicks, including marabou storks, yellow-billed storks, spoonbills, sacred ibises, and more joined by hamerkops.

(Please note: For the safety of the animals, we do not disclose the precise 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!)

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Kwara and Splash Camp, October 2023

New cubs injected life into the resident Kwara Pride, which comprised 12 members: two lionesses, three subadults, and six cubs of varying sizes.

The Kwara lionesses showed a penchant for trailing buffaloes along the marsh, a behaviour often observed this month. A lioness carrying her cub to a hidden thicket added another touch of maternal magic.

Two male lions exploited the dense cover of woodlands to optimize their hunting. Meanwhile, the Ngorongoro area witnessed a spectacle — a pride of seven lions, sated after feasting on a kudu. East of Ngorongoro, another group of five (including males and subadults) engaged in an unsuccessful hunt. Over at Mojeremane plain, a regal pride of four lionesses, three subadults, and two dominant males revelled in the aftermath of a hearty meal. Two new male lions made their mark, scavenging an elephant carcass along Kudu Road, fending off hyenas, and even facing crocodiles in a late-afternoon spectacle!

Lions at Kwara Camp

Yet another pride of seven lions, in a display of dominance, claimed a share of the spoils and chased away crocodiles while vultures and marabou storks loomed, waiting for their turn. Only the scene at Last Mabala was arguably more impressive, with over twenty spotted hyenas scavenging on a dead elephant. A massive male lion was also sighted near room nine at Kwara Camp.

Boating safaris in the Kwara Private Concession

Each boat cruise at the Godikwe Heronry was a birdwatcher’s delight, with long-crested eagles, herons, storks, and bee-eaters creating a spectacle. These Okavango Delta heronries are breeding colonies for various bird species, including herons, egrets, and other water birds, including the sacred ibis. These sites play a crucial role in the life cycle of these birds, providing safe nesting areas when they migrate down from the North.

After a boat cruise, we saw a female leopard weaving through the marshes west of the Splash Camp mokoro station. She unwittingly crossed paths with a lion pride but quickly escaped to a tree. Another female, near Tom’s Road, ascended a tree after heading south, while a third adult female enjoyed a meal on a tree south of Marapo Kubu. A morning hunt between Giraffe and Sekgapha sa Kudu Pans proved fruitless for different female leopard.

Leopard Okavango Delta

During an evening game drive, the resident male leopard near Kwara Camp cooperated by lying on a tree along the riverine road for an extended viewing. A more skittish male at Last Mabala, at Tsum Tsum, disappeared into the marsh grasses. Along the Xugana Main Road, another leopardess fed on a steenbok kill treed up on a sausage tree. A massive tom scavenged on a buffalo at Honeymoon Pan, again connecting the fates of lion and leopard.

The 25 lively African wild dogs of the Kwara Pack were located on an energetic hunt around Double Cross. Another group of six dogs pursued common reedbuck south of Splash Camp, albeit without success. A triumphant moment unfolded as the 25 wild dogs claimed an impala east of Decks Crossing. Lastly, at Last Mabala area, the pack found respite in the comforting shade.

African wild dogs of the Okavango Delta: prowess and playfulness!

High lion numbers on the Kwara side forced resident African wild dog packs to adapt their movements slightly. A troubling sight unfolded as one dog displayed signs of illness near Forward Tsum Tsum. Another group of twelve (including puppies) indulged in play around a water puddle. However, the harsh reality of the wild became apparent when two wild dogs faced a brutal lion attack, and their survival still hangs in the balance.

The island grounds of Kwara Camp were home to a bustling business of banded mongooses. Banded mongooses are captivating social mammals living in tight-knit social groups called troops, which can consist of several individuals to over 30 animals. These troops have a complex social hierarchy, with a dominant breeding pair leading the group,  much like African wild dogs.

The spotted sprinters of the savannah were also a spectacle! A female cheetah, north of Big Man and Puffy Pan, exhibited grace in her pursuit of impalas. The resident male, Mr. Special, navigated carefully in a lion-dominated landscape. Feeding near Last Mabala, he swiftly escaped as lions appeared unexpectedly. Mr. Special chased a red lechwe ram west of Bat Eared Fox, and his hunt took an unexpected turn when vultures and hyenas disrupted the scene. On the opposite spectrum, another male, west of Sethabana, lazed about with a full belly. A lone male cheetah was also spotted north of the area.

Most of the floodplain waters have receded. Hundreds of buffaloes created a spectacle, joined by elands, sables, and roan antelopes. The sprawling plains of Splash Camp were home to parades of elephants, zebras, and impalas.

During night game drives, we sighted servals, springhares, and lesser bush babies, which were always delightful to watch, bounding through the tree branches. We also saw a civet, a serval skilfully hunting, and the many animated antics of black-backed and side-striped jackals.  

(Please note: For the safety of the animals, we do not disclose the precise 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!)

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Kwara and Splash Camp, August 2023

Herds of buffalos, numbering around 1000 in separate gatherings, roamed between Splash Hippos and Pelican Pan in grand, dust-raising spectacles.

As expected, the usual abundance of general game persisted across the Kwando Private Concession, with herds of elephants, buffalo, red lechwe, zebra, and kudu roaming the area. Sightings of roan and sable antelope notably improved, especially towards the eastern direction leading to the Ngorongoro plains.

Lion kingdoms and coalitions of the Kwara Private Concession

The Mmaleitlo Pride and their three cubs delighted spectators along Bale Road, and a subsequent morning drive delivered an intriguing story when two lionesses from the Splash Pride set off in pursuit of prey. Their stealthy manoeuvres were disrupted by baboon alarm calls, leading to a surprise as three elusive cubs emerged, darting towards their mothers for protection. The pride was located on Sable Island later in the month, enjoying a kudu carcass and nourishing the playful cubs.

Guests at Splash Camp witnessed the arrival of a new coalition of two lions. Their presence created quite a stir, prompting the resident Splash Pride to navigate the area with heightened caution. The arrival of these males compelled a separation within the pride, particularly concerning the safety of two subadult males. Amongst the turmoil, the old female of the pride mysteriously went missing for nearly a month, leaving questions unanswered.

The Kwara Pride in the west experienced its own upheaval, eventually reuniting after an extended period of separation, especially with some lionesses in the denning stage. This reunion led to significant drama, with the pride exhibiting a preference for male giraffes as prey.

Giraffe at Kwara

African wild dog den near Kwara Camp

We followed fresh tracks and unearthed an African wild dog den near Kwara Camp, a discovery that brought guests closer to the daily routines of this charismatic species. The following day, we watched the pack of 23 land an impala after a lethal hunt, unveiling nature’s swift and coordinated strategy.

In a more heartwarming scene, the adults cared for the puppies, regurgitating food and fostering a joyful playtime session. The puppies’ playful antics amidst the adults’ nurturing guidance highlight how communal care within the pack is critical for survival.

Another pack of six wild dogs exhibited occasional movements across Splash Camp and 4 Rivers.

One memorable morning, we witnessed a female cheetah and her subadult cubs expertly capture an impala. On another occasion, guests loved watching a female cheetah playing with her three cubs as they ran and jumped through the landscape, basking in the warm morning sunlight. During many afternoon drives, we encountered a well-fed and content cheetah named Mr Special, who had just finished an impala meal. He also made sporadic appearances closer to Splash Camp but predominantly spent time further north in the Tsum Tsum Plains.

Leopards, ever shrouded in a veil of mystery, offered glimpses of their secretive lives. In one scenario, a  leopard vanished into the tall grass, only to reappear guarding an almost-devoured impala. In a compelling plot twist, the elusive leopard was spotted again, lurking around a kill. Another tale unfolded with the relaxed Golden Boy found attempting to sneakily partake in a lion’s meal, showcasing the cunning and opportunistic nature of these feline residents.

Another female leopard was quite active and spent most of her time to the east of the runway, frequently seen making kills before dragging them in treetops. The resident male counterpart, who also lives nearby, was seen frequently around the same area.

Spotted hyena dens bustled with activity in two distinct areas — west of Kwara Camp near Mothusi crossing and northwest of the Bat-eared Fox Den.

An early influx of migrant bird species in Northern Botswana

August heralded the early return of animated carmine bee-eaters, yellow-billed kites and the calls of woodland kingfishers filled the air with their melodies a little sooner than usual. Notably, the breeding grounds at Xobega and Godikwe demonstrated slow yet promising progress, with the construction of nests by marabou storks indicating a forthcoming rise in numbers come September and October.  

Kwara Camp boat cruise Moremi

Guides also noticed the sprouting of new foliage, particularly on sausage trees, blue bushes, and strangler trees, endowing the region with bursts of green.

(Please note: For the safety of the animals, we do not disclose the precise 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!)

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Kwara and Splash Camp, July 2023

Even though the floodwaters continued to pour in, the plants were still dry and wintry. Many trees shed their leaves, and bushfires burned in the Bat-eared fox area. The waterholes were also drying up, but the floodplains around Kwara were still waterlogged, drawing in plenty of wildlife.

Large herds of buffalo grazed at Mmoloki Mabala, while vast groups of elephants have been wandering through the woodland in search of water. Most elephants were seen in the floodplains during hot afternoons, taking mud baths. Other common sightings include tsessebe, wildebeest, kudu, giraffes, and zebras.

The Kwara and Mmaleitho lion prides

There were 15 lions in the Kwara pride, comprising six adult females, three males, and six cubs. Recently, the pride has been frequently spotted around the Bat-eared fox den area, as antelopes prefer the shorter grass from the previous bushfire. The Kwando guides at Kwara Camp observed that the pride’s movement pattern has become more complicated due to the freshly bare area. Additionally, they have extended their territory towards 4 Rivers and Last Mabala. One morning, we found the lions together, feeding on a giraffe along the main road.

The spotted hyenas were less active at the Kwara den area, but we saw them moving around close to the camp, and twelve hyenas scavenged on the dead giraffe carcass during the absence of lions. They often ventured into Kwara Camp at night, and we sometimes saw them creeping about. A business of mongooses also hung about in Kwara Camp. One morning, we observed a slender mongoose acquiring scraps from the giraffe carcass!  

Game drive Splash Camp

Males from the Kwara pride actively patrolled and defended their territory thanks to a new pride of seven lions that moved to the game-rich area to hunt buffaloes. One day, we followed the new pride on a buffalo hunt. It took them about half an hour to take the beast down because the pride had two full-grown females without a big male to help. Instead, the youngsters stepped up and quickly became highly skilled hunters. As we watched the hunt, an elephant came in to drink water, and the pride took up a horseshoe formation targeting the elephant. Eventually, the elephant wisely moved away from the water puddle.

The Mmaleitho pride was active around Splash Camp early this month (often roaring until one or two in the morning!), and new male lions rolled in to find them feeding on a zebra south of the camp. These two new males chased the Mmaleitho pride off their prized kill and hounded the subadult males. We later found the two new males on an elephant kill south of Splash Camp, and streams of spotted hyenas visited the carcass every night until nothing was left. The hyena den south of the Bat-eared fox den remained active with at least three cubs.  

Kwando guides noted that these two new male lions forced the whole Mmaleitho pride out of the area so they could better protect their two young males.

One young female leopard roamed around the environs of Splash Camp, and leopard tracks in the Kwara Camp road networks evidenced another frequent patroller. The resident female leopardess at Kwara Camp enjoyed climbing higher into the trees, and there was a shy new leopard at the boat station area.

Coqui francolin spotted!

We got up close to African harrier hawks and handsome Long-crested eagles during our boating safaris along the Maunchira channel. On another day, we drove down Upper Wild Dog Road and spotted a Coqui francolin, the smallest and rarest francolin in the area! Additionally, we observed Wattled Cranes, Ground Hornbills, African Barred Owlets, Giant Eagle Owls, and Marsh Owls.

Kwara Camp boating safari

During one morning game drive, the resident male cheetah, Mr Special, picked up the scent of a female around his marking post, and we observed as he tried calling her and visited every marking post, but she was nowhere to be found. He preferred Splash Hippos and Bat-eared fox area. One morning, we located him feeding on an impala, and later that evening, the hyenas and jackals appeared, and he had to abandon to move away from the carcass. We also saw another young male cheetah in the area.

The African wild dog dynamics of Kwara

There were sightings of two different packs of African wild dogs near Splash camp. One group consists of three dogs: two females and one male. They tend to roam between the northern mopane woodland of Splash camp in search of prey. The second pack comprised six dogs, including four females and two males.

African wild dog Splash Camp

They are active between Kwara and Splash camps but were also observed moving westward towards Kwara and beyond. Although another pack of nine dogs was spotted further east, they were rarely seen due to the increased number of lions in the area, making it difficult for them to settle in one place.

Kwara night drives were exciting, and every outing differed, but we often logged large-spotted genets, African wild cats, servals, civets, aardwolves, springhares and scrub hares and water mongooses on several occasions by the airstrip bridge.

(Please note: For the safety of the animals, we do not disclose the precise 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!)

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Kwara and Splash Camp, June 2023

We located a pangolin during one incredibly magical evening safari.

Pangolins are highly elusive and endangered creatures, often called “living dinosaurs.” Covered in scales and possessing a gentle nature, they are known for their unique ability to curl up into a tight ball for protection. Observing this elusive creature foraging for ants and termites was a true privilege, as pangolins are rarely encountered in the wild due to their nocturnal habits and increasing threats to survival.

Another evening, as the sun started to set, we were enchanted by the sight of an African wild cat gracefully prowling through the grasslands with its lithe movements and piercing gaze. During night safaris, we also located relaxed aardwolves, African civets, African wild cats, serval cats, springhares, and large-spotted genets.

An update on the Kwara African wild dogs

A pack of three wild dogs was active around Splash Camp and we had the privilege of following them on several hunting expeditions and witnessing their feeding. The female appears to have had pups, although we suspect they may not have survived.

Kwara Camp - African Wild Dogs - Grant Atkinson

We followed the larger pack from Kwara Camp and witnessed their successful hunt of six red lechwes in a lagoon filled with crocodiles and hippos. The chaotic scene drove the hippos into a frenzy while the crocodiles eagerly awaited their opportunity. Later that evening, a smaller pack of five wild dogs chased an impala into the water during our sundowner drinks! Although the wild dogs lost sight of their prey, they patiently waited, and after a few minutes, the impala resurfaced, only to be swiftly taken down by the pack. Two hungry crocodiles emerged from the water, hoping for an easy meal, but the voracious wild dogs left little behind.

Although no den has been discovered on the Kwara side, we suspect some of the packs in the area have given birth, but the pups are still too young to move around freely. In the coming months, we eagerly anticipate the return of the packs with their adorable new additions.

Rising floodwaters and happy hyenas

Animals focused their activities around the channel, where the rising waters bring new life. The start of the flooding season brought a gradual rise in water levels (water that slides into the Okavango Delta all the way from Angola), transforming the landscape and adding an element of intrigue to this ever-changing environment. Despite the influx of floodwater, the Kwara Private Concession experienced dry winter conditions, resulting in the drying up of rain-fed water holes that filled during summer.

Due to less rainfall this year and drying water holes in the north, large herds of buffalo and elephants descended to the channel in search of water. We’ve enjoyed sightings of zebras, tsessebe, kudu, and other general game coming down to Splash Camp for a drink. Additionally, we had the pleasure of observing a large and relaxed herd of sable antelopes nearer to the new 4 Rivers Camp.

Hyena Kwara Camp

While the hyena den at Kwara was not active, a healthy population remained in the area. On one memorable night after a game drive, we witnessed a commotion of hyenas in front of the camp. Two clans came together, resulting in conflict among the members. One hyena was forced to take refuge in the water for an extended period. Another evening, we observed a hyena feeding on a baboon, showcasing their adaptable scavenging behaviour.

Indeed, spotted hyenas were frequently present, particularly near the carcass of an elephant north of Splash Camp. The elephant died earlier this month due to a broken leg, attracting multiple hyenas. We also observed a clash between the hyenas from the northern clan and the Mmaleitho pride over a wildebeest kill. Another hyena clan to the east of Splash camp was seen on a kudu kill, possibly taken by a leopard.

Bold baboons chase a leopard away

Speaking of. A male leopard with a kill was found up in a Sausage tree. To our surprise, a female leopard joined him, and they spent two days feeding together. We had an exciting sighting of a male leopard hunting a reedbuck. Despite the alarm calls from baboons, the determined leopard continued stalking its prey. However, the baboons grew bolder and chased the leopard into the marshes!

The male cheetah, affectionately known as Mr Special, continued to frequent the Bat-eared fox area, and a female cheetah favoured the marshes and occasionally ventured close to Kwara Camp, providing exciting opportunities for guests to observe her graceful movements. Recently, we followed her as she crossed the Kwara floodplains, showcasing her agility and elegance.

We had several sightings of Mr Special around Splash Camp. too and the nearby Hippo Pools area, where he had been absent for some time. We followed him on a successful hunt where he took down an impala. The following morning, with a full belly, he marked his territory around his favourite spot.

(Please note: For the safety of the animals, we do not disclose the precise 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!)

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Kwara and Splash Camp, April 2023

Guests from Splash enjoyed the antics of two honey badgers fearlessly harvesting honey from a termite mound, utterly unfazed by the bees swarming around them.

We also relished the rare sighting of an aardvark just minutes before reaching the camp during an afternoon drive.

Lots of luck with leopard sightings!

During a journey to the boat station, the alarm calls of vervet monkeys helped us track a male leopard from the Kwara airstrip to the majestic baobab tree on Kwara’s eastern side. An adult male leopard triumphantly perched in a tree nearby, having successfully preyed on a large male baboon. Maintaining a respectful distance (allowing him to acclimate to our presence), our captivating encounter with this remarkable creature and his elevated perch lasted three incredible days as he ensured the safety of his prized meal.

Leopard at Splash Camp

During another game drive from Splash, we located an adult male leopard gracefully perched on a tree along Hobbs Road after an hour-long tracking effort. Another female leopard caught our attention east of Mabala a Dikgokong, but swiftly disappeared into the bushes.

Spotted hyena antics

A clan of over 12 spotted hyenas was found feasting on a baby elephant carcass between Tom’s and Hobbs Road, north of Marapo a Kubu. We also located a hyena feeding on an impala carcass in the Mabala a Mmoloki area, carrying the skull while moving south.

Known as the diligent scavengers of the African savannahs, we had an active hyena den within the Kwara area. We enjoyed observing two young cubs alongside two smaller, pitch-black ones during our visits. We intended to check on the hyena cubs on one particularly eventful day. However, an unexpected encounter disrupted our plans, and we encountered three male lions. Intrigued, we followed them to the hyena den and observed them shifting their positions around the shelter. Returning a week later to check on the hyena cubs, we were met with stillness. Despite our repeated visits, there was no action, but the den showed signs of being regularly cleaned, indicating hyena activity. We surmised that the scent of the lions had instilled fear in the hyenas, keeping them cautious and hidden.

The lions of the Kwara Private Concession

Throughout the month, our team had several more captivating encounters with the lions of the area. Lionesses and subadults were spotted in various locations, including the Bat-eared area, Mokoro Station Road, and Pelican Pan. We observed their daily routines, from unsuccessful buffalo hunts to resting periods in the scorching afternoon heat.

One day, guides followed a giraffe’s gaze, leading them to a female lion with two tiny cubs in a hidden den. Tracking and vultures further aided in pinpointing the lions in the marshlands, which became their favoured hunting ground.

Early in April, we came across three lion cubs, aged three and six months, accompanied by an adult lioness heading west towards Diolo Road from the Bat-eared area. The next day, an impressive pride of 11 lionesses from the Kwara Pride was discovered northwest of the den, seeking shade. Additionally, two adult male lions, two adult lionesses, and two subadult females, along with their three and six-month-old cubs, were found moving within the same vicinity.

On another occasion, two lionesses and two adult male lions from a pride of twelve were seen walking north near Wild Dog Pan, eventually settling down in the surrounding bushes. A lone male lion from a coalition of five was sighted near the Bat-eared area, exhibiting his presence with regal confidence.

Calls of black-backed jackals and the assistance of vervet monkeys guided us toward a group of three adult male lions located at Last Mabala area, and the month concluded with the heartwarming sight of six lion cubs, accompanied by a subadult male, seeking refuge in the thickets south of the Bat-eared area while their parents ventured out in search of prey.

Three African wild dog packs roam Kwara

In the Kwara area, we had the pleasure of observing three distinct African wild dog packs. One pack consists of five members, another with six, and the most impressive pack boasts an impressive 29 canines. Recently, we had a thrilling encounter with the pack of 29 as they engaged in a fascinating standoff with a group of blue wildebeests. They teased and tormented the gnus for hours until the dogs sought respite under the sheltering Kalahari apple leaf trees while the wildebeests monitored their foes from a distance.

Wild dogs Splash Camp

Later during the month, we came across a pack of six in the late afternoon on a relentless hunting mission, skillfully attempting to flush out common reedbucks hidden within the tall yellow thatching grass. After a gripping pursuit lasting about 20 minutes, their persistence paid off. They successfully captured a young common reedbuck and efficiently devoured their well-earned prize. As we observed this spectacle, hyenas appeared on the scene, eager to partake in the spoils.

We found Mr Special perched atop a termite mound one morning, basking in the early morning light. However, the serenity was abruptly interrupted by the arrival of a male lion. With a calm demeanour, Mr Special observed the lion’s approach from a mere 15 meters away before deciding to descend and make his escape. The intrigued lion sniffed around the termite mound and cautiously followed the cheetah’s trail for approximately 15 minutes before eventually losing interest. Meanwhile, the agile cheetah stealthily navigated through the dense thickets, continuing his journey.

Abundant herds

There was an increase in buffalo and elephant herds due to the drying up of natural water holes in the woodlands, signalling the onset of winter. During one dawn drive, we observed a buffalo enduring the relentless pursuit of hyenas as they chased him for several minutes. The area continued to thrive with abundant general game, including impressive herds of elephants, breeding herds and bachelor groups.

Elephants of Kwara

Other sightings included greater kudus, zebras, tsessebe, wildebeest, impalas, giraffes, hippos, and water-loving antelopes such as red lechwe, common waterbuck, and sitatunga.

Jackals, both striped and black-backed, frequented the Kwara area. Additionally, we spotted other small mammals, such as African wild cats and genets. These elusive creatures were often seen perched on treetops or pursuing small rodents.

African rock pythons, spotted bush snakes, water monitor lizards, and rock monitor lizards crossed our paths, and we discovered sizable crocodiles about three meters long during boat cruises, basking in the sun atop the Miscanthus grass along the Maunachira channel. Armed crickets, grasshoppers, dragonflies, damselflies, pond striders, and various butterfly species like monarchs, brown veined whites, foxy charaxes, broad-bordered grass yellows and guineafowl butterflies added vibrancy to the Kwara Private Concession.

(Please note: For the safety of the animals, we do not disclose the precise 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!)

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Kwara and Splash Camp, December 2022

We saw a beautiful female cheetah around Kwara Camp for much of this month. After an early morning start, we spotted her lying silently in the long grass. Curious about why she was hiding, we switched off the engine and waited as the sun slowly rose and the doves replaced the nighttime choir of frogs and toads.

Suddenly, a spotted hyena emerged from the bush and started a lazy walk toward the cheetah. The hyena paused. He had seen the cheetah, and with little hesitation, he charged. The cheetah lost any element of secrecy and exploded from the grass and into the open plain beyond. The hyena gave chase but his “paltry” 60km/h top speed was no match for her impressive acceleration.

Pack of 29 African wild dogs

While this encounter favoured the hyena, it didn’t always go that way. The pack of 29 African wild dogs was seen regularly between Kwara and Splash. One day, we were enjoying a lazy late afternoon watching the sleeping wild dogs when four hyenas wandered nearby. After a hurried discussion, over twenty pack members attacked the hyenas. Spinning and biting, the hyenas were almost overwhelmed by the pack before they retreated as fast as their legs could carry them. The following morning, we found three hyenas close to the battleground, where they sat licking some extensive wounds and bite marks.

Wild dogs of northern botswana

On the other hand, the wild dogs seemed no worse for wear as we found them that same morning with the remains of an impala. Another early morning we tracked the pack to find them chasing a group of bachelor roan antelopes from Lechwe Plains to False Splash Hippos. Three of the antelopes escaped to the south and one was trapped in the waterhole. The dogs watched and waited but eventually gave up, so the roan lived to see another day. There is another pack of African wild dogs, and during a nature walk from Splash Camp, guests encountered the trio on foot where the curious animals ventured relatively close.

Roan and sable sighted

With very low water levels, it was the perfect time to watch the elephants and buffalo crisscrossing their way across the Okavango Delta floodplains towing multiple generations of offspring. Zebras, wildebeest and impalas also covered the islands, and we relished sightings of the roan and sable herds. Not much smaller than the kudu or eland, these fine antelopes are always a wonder to admire. The longer grasses at this time of year proved ideal for hiding the young antelopes. Indeed both sable and roan hide their young for days and weeks after they are born before introducing them to the family herd. However, it wasn’t only little antelopes hidden in the long grasses.

As winter ended, we saw a lot of lion mating activity. With a gestation period of approximately three and a half months, we suspected some more success. Two females in the Kwara pride were lactating; one had cubs with her, while the other regularly came and went from the pride. This likely means she has hidden the cubs away for their first six weeks until they are strong enough to join the family and keep up as they move around the Kwara Private Reserve.

Kwara Lilac Breasted Roller

Pygmy geese floated in the last waterways. Pans were lined with African jacanas, spur-winged geese, white-faced whistling ducks, and the odd knob-billed duck and slaty egrets. During boat cruises, we also logged lesser jacanas, many species of bee-eaters,  kingfishers, herons with African openbills, cattle egrets and sacred ibises roosting at the Godikwe heronry.  Genets, springhares, African wild cats, servals and honey badgers were regular features on night drives. One day before daybreak, we picked up fresh leopard tracks as we left Splash Camp in the morning. As we were following the paw prints, we heard an alarm call from jackals, and quickly rushed there only to find two young side-striped jackals had been killed by a leopard, but the cat was nowhere to be found. 

(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!)

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Kwara and Splash, November 2022

We saw several packs of African wild dog this month numbering 7, 8 and 29 individuals. They hunted the easier targets and took down wildebeest, impala, and reedbuck. However, they didn’t have it all their own way.

Early in the month, we found the large pack shadowing a herd of wildebeest. Having seen the wild dogs, the gnus aggressively protected their young, and the pack finally retreated to avoid injury. However, we watched them chase a wildebeest into a small lagoon the following day. As the embattled herbivore retreated further into the water, we watched with bated breath as a crocodile moved in slowly from behind.

Wildebeest Okavango Delta

The wildebeest noticed the crocodile at the last minute and moved towards shallower water, where the crocodile couldn’t attack from a submerged position. The wild dogs scampered up and down the water’s edge for over an hour, clearly conversing about what to do while the crocodile lay in wait, mostly submerged, to see if the wildebeest would be forced back into the deep water. Eventually, the wild dogs decided that the crocodile in the water was not worth the risk and moved away. As darkness fell, we departed with the wildebeest still standing in shallow water, facing a perilous night.

Spot of the month!

The prize for the best spot goes to the Kwara team, who set up a bush dinner only to find a leopard watching them from a tree a hundred metres away. (We moved to a different place to avoid having to share our dinner!)

Leopard of Kwara Camp

Love has also been in the air, and a pair of mating leopards were seen regularly between Splash and Kwara. They were found mating and then split up for two days, only to reconcile and continue their mating ritual. At one point, another male leopard, attracted by their amorous growls, was found watching from fifty metres away. However, the couple showed no sign of being aware of him.

Our guides reported the reserve was booming with lots of smaller mammals like serval cats, genets, civets, African wild cats, springhares and lesser bushbabies. On mokoro outings, guests poled past many Angolan painted reed frogs and beautiful water lilies.  

Mokoro Botswana Kwara Camp

Lions were sighted regularly across the Kwara Private Reserve and located near Splash and Kwara, feasting on zebra, giraffes and even a baboon. The various lion prides all appeared well-fed and strong.

Likewise, the Spotted hyenas had considerable success. The clan of fourteen managed to take down a baby giraffe, having separated it from its mother. In a heartbreaking scene, the mother then returned and chased the hyenas off the body of its offspring. She continually tried to nudge it and urge it to get up, but it was too late. She then stood over it for four hours, defying the hyenas with well-placed kicks. Ultimately, she moved away, opening the way for the hyenas to finish what they had started.

Wildebeest, impalas and more antelopes gave birth across the plains and woodlands. Going out into the bush was hard without coming across a creche or mother shepherding her energetic youngsters through the landscape.

Fantastic Mr Special

Mr Special, the resident cheetah, had excellent triumphs hunting impala lambs as well as a young wildebeest. We also watched him hunting lechwe, where he was met with stiffer resistance. The lithe predator quickly returned to the easier prey. A very relaxed female cheetah was also seen in the area. She made a kill two hundred metres from Kwara and enjoyed the meal for nearly two days without interference. This is quite strange, considering the number of Spotted hyenas in the area! She ate her fill and eventually moved away. Afterwards, we saw a serval cat feeding on her remains during a night drive.

(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!)

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