Kwara, Splash

Splash and Kwara Camps, July 2022

Guests witnessed two African wild dog hunts where the pack successfully took down a kudu and an impala. As wild dogs are such social feeders, this greatly benefits the new puppies, who are allowed to eat at the dinner table first. 

African wild dog den movements

The pack moved away from their original den near Kwara and headed west this month. The puppies managed to cross shallower water channels but decided they were not yet keen on swimming lessons. One day, the alpha female called for them to cross a deeper Okavango Delta channel, but the pups refused, walking up and down uncertainly on the far bank. Uncertainty quickly turned to danger when 12 Spotted hyenas suddenly appeared, alerted by the chattering of the puppies. As the clan slowly advanced, the wild dog pack launched across the channel and the hyenas thankfully turned tail.

Wild dogs of the Okavango

The pack, perhaps knowing its precarious position in the predator hierarchy, abandoned their efforts to get the youngsters across the channel and headed back towards Kwara Camp. They discovered a well-excavated aardvark hole just south of camp, and after a detailed inspection, this has since become their new home. They moved away from their new home late in July, heading west. However, they soon doubled back for a reason we have yet to ascertain. Perhaps they simply realised that there is no better place than Kwara? 

Lioness introduces her cubs

Lions spent much of the month around the Jackal Den area and had good luck with the hunt as the whole pride has been lolling around, full-bellied and content. We found them after they had taken down two zebras not far from Kwara Camp. The pride moved on to the second zebra, having eaten their fill of the first, which allowed nine Spotted hyenas to work on the remains of the first – an uneasy truce as two Black-backed jackals watched enviously. These same hyenas also trailed the wild dogs often – living up to their somewhat unjustified reputation as scavengers.

Back to the lions, guides tracked the same pride feeding on a hippo carcass later in the month. The five-day banquet meant the lions’ daily route changed little from snack-sleep-shift–snack. These successes were essential as four new cubs were finally brought to the pride for an official introduction.

Lion cubs of Kwara

The lionesses detached from the pride for almost three months as the cubs remained secreted away. We were present when the newest mother warily presented her young to the pride. As the cubs wandered around meeting their siblings, the lioness protectively stood over them, batting away the rougher behaviour of some sub-adults. Lion cubs face daunting odds of making it to adulthood. However, these newcomers have a strong pride around them, granting them an excellent chance.

Meanwhile, the pride males did an excellent job of defending their territory. We found them chasing two new males who strayed into their territory, sending the interlopers running back. They did not want to learn the same lesson they had just doled. Later in the month, they wandered East towards Khwai and came back licking some impressive wounds. Clearly, their incursion was not welcomed!

Honey badger vs lion

Both the MmaLeitho and Kwara lion prides hunted well this month, including stealing an impala kill from the resident African wild dogs right in front of tent 8 at Splash Camp. However, they don’t always get their way, as some of the younger members of the Kwara pride found when they approached a Honey badger.

The Honey badger, legendary for its fearlessness, was not in the mood to submit and leapt forward as the lions paced around it trying to find an angle. The leading lion jumped hurriedly out of the way as the badger went on the offensive. No matter what the lions did, their attempted bites had no effect!

Honey badger Botswana

Eventually, the badger found itself on the edge of the flood plain and walked off into the bushes. (Perhaps “strolled” would be a better word. Honey badgers don’t run from anyone.) After all the hunting and moving around, the MmaLeitho pride needed somewhere to rest. What better place than under tents 1 and 3 at Splash Camp, where they spent a few relaxed evenings.

Large herds of elephants and buffalos moved through the Kwara Private Reserve in their hundreds, throwing dust and trampling the little grass that remained. The Tsessebe, Plains zebra, Red lechwe and Blue wildebeest are out on the plains in large numbers, further opening up the bush.

Mr Special on the hunt

Mr Special, our resident cheetah, took full advantage of the dwindling grasses. For months, the long grasses provided a haven for the smaller antelopes, which hide and appear almost invisible to the naked eye. We found him slowly pacing along Ostrich Road, highly alert. As he entered the low grass, a baby Common reedbuck broke cover. Mr Special didn’t hesitate and accelerated down the road in pursuit with a fantastic speed turn of speed.

Cheetah Botswana

The reedbuck had a good headstart, but in less than 40 metres, Mr Special had caught up and swiftly took down the unfortunate antelope. He immediately pulled the reedbuck under a bush and began to eat and we left him after half an hour, still content with his prize.

(Please note: For the safety of the animals, we do not disclose the location of either rhino or pangolin sightings. Accompanying pictures are from our Kwando Photo Library which consists of all your great photo submissions over the years, it may not be the most up to date, but we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

Kwara, Splash

Splash and Kwara Camp, June 2022

Our highlight this month has to be the surfacing of African wild dog puppies at the Kwara den site! Just over a month old, these cute canids comprise a litter of nine, and they frequently left the burrow to feed on their regurgitated meals.

Wild Dog Puppies Kwara Camp

African wild dogs denning at Kwara

The alpha female rejoined the pack for hunting (instead of babysitting) because it’s been cold and challenging for the group to start hunting early. They often left the den as late as ten in the morning. One day, we followed the pack as they hunted west of Kwara and killed an impala. They chased, cornered, and killed a kudu just west of Mothusi Crossing a few days later. Another afternoon during siesta, guests heard splashing in the Kwara Lagoon and glimpsed the group chasing impala through the water from the deck of tent eight at Kwara Camp.

During a boat cruise, the pack was caught at the edge of the Maunachira Channel in hot pursuit of Red Lechwe, but they quickly disappeared into the papyrus walls. Following each successful hunt, the dogs hurriedly returned to the den to feed the pups. Interestingly, this year the dogs have denned very close to the channel and have often been seen hunting in the afternoons through the flood plains. This strategy has helped keep them away from their usual predators, but it certainly increases the risk of attack by crocodiles, both while they are hunting and the den itself is well within reach of their powerful jaws. During a boat cruise, guides were highly impressed by one spectacular specimen measuring four metres in length. An enormous Southern African python was also spied in these waters.  

The Okavango Delta floodwaters still rose slightly, and we noticed water freshly refilled some of the regularly-used vehicle tracks. Buffalo herds have started to emerge in more significant numbers from woodlands. The tall, dry grass has turned a golden brown and broken down with these growing mammal hordes. The proliferation of elephants has significantly opened the thickets and bushes, making sightings of smaller mammals, especially cats, more frequent. Serval, African wild cat, spotted genets, Honey badgers, Civets, Aardwolfs, Springhares, and Porcupines were commonly encountered on evening game drives. One particularly thrilling nightfall, our spotlight illuminated a serval cat on the stalk, and it killed a springhare.

The general game concentrated chiefly on the western side of the reserve, where we saw zebras, wildebeest, Tsessebe, Red lechwe, kudus, Waterbucks, Impalas, and occasionally Sable antelope.

The winter landscape

Large Fever berry and the Leadwood trees changed colour, and the harsh winter brought heavy winds that dropped most leaves. Fortunately, the striking Cat’s claw flaunted its cranberry-red flowers, brightening the Kalahari landscape. This botanical blooms in winter and has an extended taproot to reach the water that sits far below the sandy surface, and it is a critical source of nectar during these colder months.

The Bat-eared fox area remains one of the most beautiful and was preferred by herbivores, although we have started to see a shift as animals move nearer to the Splash region. The resident male cheetah, Mr. Special, liked this prey-abundant area, and we often found him resting on termite mounds or marking his territory. One day, guides trailed his hunt, and he grabbed a baby warthog. Another day, he caught a young impala that had left the herd and walked straight into the cheetah, which acted fast and seized his meal.

Mr Special Cheetah

Our lion sightings have been dominated by the Kwara Pride, and we repeatedly found two male lions that form part of the coalition of five brothers. They were usually vocal and communicated with the rest of the pride, but we did not see them together as five brothers this month.

Guides picked up lion tracks along Elephant West Road and tracked the pride feasting on a giraffe kill, where they spent two days eating. Guides also found them on buffalo, Red lechwe, and baboon kills, and once attempting to stalk waterbuck. One morning, three male lions were spotted at Mabala-a-Mmoloki heading west. Guides followed them to females of the Kwara pride, but the lionesses did not welcome these males and charged them. Two resident males were spotted in front of Splash Camp, actively roaring and marking territory.

Two lionesses were nursing. We located them resting at Jackal Den junction with four tiny cubs. They relocated from the previous den as the young lions were now strong to walk. Another lioness was discovered with three new cubs, and she crossed into the centre of Sable Island, where they are presumably denning.

A fair number of Spotted hyenas were encountered along Elephant west road as they tried to scavenge from the Kwara Pride’s giraffe kill. Two mothers and cubs played and were active at the Kwara hyena den. Intriguingly, we found one gripping an old elephant foot.

Winter birding is all about the hunt

Many raptors were seen in the area. Eagles such as Martial, Bateleur, Tawny, Brown snake-eagle, Black-chested snake eagle, and terrestrial hunters, such as Southern ground hornbills, Secretary birds, plus a variety of storks have been common throughout the month. Namaqua doves frequented the grasslands along with bounding ostriches and Kori bustards. Pelicans were seen across the flood plains as the water table rose daily, and we witnessed lots of change in the floodplains as the water pushed in. Still, the water birds preferred the drying pans where they dined on the stranded aquatic animals.

A female leopard, apparently a nursing mum, was located at Green Pan on the hunt. Another early-morning game drive kickstarted with a relaxed female leopard walking along the Middle East Pan on Splash camp’s eastern flank. They followed her as she marked her territory until she disappeared into thickets, but she was seen again stalking impalas during an evening drive. Another leopardess was located the following day at Splash Hippos, and there were three different sightings of different leopards on one day at the end of the month. High baboon numbers and increased lion activities across the area have pushed leopards to act more cautiously. However, a male leopard was briefly located by the third bridge at Kwara before disappearing into the long grass, and a female leopard was found a few days later, feeding on an impala at Willie’s Valley. Almost in defiance, the Kwara Island male was spotted at the airstrip, where it rested all day and night.  

(Please note: For the safety of the animals, we do not disclose the location of either rhino or pangolin sightings. Accompanying pictures are from our Kwando Photo Library which consists of all your great photo submissions over the years, it may not be the most up to date, but we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

Kwara, Splash

Splash and Kwara Camp, May 2022

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

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

Beautiful little leopard cubs

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

Leopard Cubs Kwara Camp

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

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

African wild dog puppies on the horizon?

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

Kwara Camp Wild Dogs

Floodwaters came flowing in

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

Hamerkop

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

(Please note: For the safety of the animals, we do not disclose the location of either rhino or pangolin sightings. Accompanying pictures are from our Kwando Photo Library which consists of all your great photo submissions over the years, it may not be the most up to date, but we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

Kwara, Splash

Splash and Kwara Camp, April 2022

We enjoyed incredible night drives and have started to see more small cats, including serval and African wild cats, plus civets and genets. One afternoon, a serval was located just southeast of Diolo Road on a dead stump. It had been forced up a dried log of Leadwood by hunting dogs and stayed put until the dogs left. The cat had a hard time coming down because they are not good climbers!  

The Splash Camp guides glimpsed a mother leopard with two cubs of about 4 to 5 months early this April. The tiny cubs were very shy, and it was probably the first time there was a vehicle close to them!

Another female leopard was pinpointed by the Kwara team, and she too bore evidence of caring for cubs because of her swollen teats. We saw her on several occasions in the same area near Green Pan, either disappearing into or emerging from the thick bush. Hopefully, she will soon show us her healthy cubs because she has had some successful kills. One morning, we noticed an ostrich with a swollen leg, and the leopard killed it overnight. We then located her sharing the spoils with a male leopard! Later, two Spotted hyenas finished up the remains.

Golden Boy is a male leopard frequently seen on Kwara Island. One day we spotted him a few meters out of Kwara Camp and followed as he walked towards the vehicle stop area before cruising on past room six. A week later, alarm calls issued by unhappy baboons and monkeys resounded from the trees south of camp. We tracked a young female leopard to some long grass, where she was using an elephant highway to navigate the plains. The next day she was seen again near the airstrip, catnapping upon a Sausage tree branch.  

The Bat-eared Fox Den area had luxuriously open plains with good short grasses after the fires from last year. It’s proved a fantastic hunting ground for cheetah because it attracts herbivores in considerable numbers. We’ve enjoyed the gathering herds of zebras, wildebeest, lechwe, Common reedbuck, tsessebes, kudus, and impalas.

What’s happening with Mr Special?

Mr Special was often seen, but our guides noted that he seemed to be ageing and spent more time resting than actively pursuing food. Not that we can blame him when it seems to fall from the sky! One morning he got incredibly lucky. While sleeping, an impala herd passed right beside him. A male impala just walked right up to Mr Special, and the cheetah speedily leapt from his slumber to give a brief, successful chase. He was also seen hunting a zebra foal by Mabala a Matotse area but had no luck as the mother zebra fought back, forcing him to abandon the pursuit. After spending almost three weeks in the west, he finally veered east of Splash Camp to inspect his territory. He also struggled to make a kill one day, and we saw that one of his upper right canine teeth had broken short.

A female cheetah with her subadult male treated us with excellent sightings. We found her frequently around Willies Valley and the Old Xugana main road, shoulders tensed for a stalk and hunt as she diligently tutored her cub. She has since moved out of this area because big herds of elephants began to arrive through her favoured stalking bushes.

Herds congregate again

Enormous herds streamed down from the woodlands, especially at midday and late afternoon, because the waterholes have started to dry up. Marula trees dropped their berries, which was undoubtedly another drawcard! We loved watching these giants of Africa bathing or crossing the flood plains, sometimes passing the safari vehicle at incredibly close quarters.

After almost two months without big buffalo sightings, we were treated to a vast herd of over 100 buffalo by Matswiri Mogobe. We also relished the presence of a Sable antelope that moved west of Sable Island and a huge python, which crossed the road near Giraffe Pan. A Spotted bush snake was repeatedly seen in Splash Camp, and we found plenty of Water monitor lizards sunning themselves on the river banks during our regular boat cruises.  

The African monarch butterfly was seen all over, and the changing grass shades provide a further reminder that the rainy season has come to an end. Our summer bird visitors were getting ready to fly out with their young, and we enjoyed the last stunning sights of Woodland kingfisher and Swallow-tailed bee-eaters. Secretary birds, Wattled cranes, and Verreaux’s eagle owl were common sightings, as were Malachite Kingfisher, African Jacana and African fish eagle. We saw three different Southern ground hornbills families one day, which was a remarkable sighting!

We were treated to some extraordinary endeavours of the two different Wild dog packs in the area. The resident Kwara Pack was seen in the west for the most part, and we followed them often as they hunted, killed and ate with great success. One morning, we trailed the group as they confronted some impala and gave chase. It was chaos as zebra and wildebeest united to face down the dogs with victory. They managed to kill a Red lechwe, but unfortunately, a lioness was nearby, and she came running across the floodplains, taking the kill for herself. The alpha female is expecting pups soon. Her belly was almost touching the ground, constantly slowing the pack down.

The Splash and Kwara lion prides interacted but avoided each other for the most part. They use the same space, and sometimes the five males are seen together. Halfway through the month, the two groups met at Lechwe Plains, and we witnessed the showdown. The Splash or Mmaleitho Pride won and displayed their dominance at room 12 for a few days, booming roars to advertise their territory.

(Please note: For the safety of the animals, we do not disclose the location of either rhino or pangolin sightings. Accompanying pictures are from our Kwando Photo Library which consists of all your great photo submissions over the years, it may not be the most up to date, but we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

Kwara, Splash

Splash and Kwara Camp, 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.