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Category: Lagoon

Lagoon Camp, October 2023

The charismatic Mazabuka leopardess captivated guests when she appeared with her two cubs. We witnessed the trio devour an impala and saw the family feasting on a deceased elephant, the spectacle unfolding at Badisa Island.

Our guides also located another subadult female, perched high on a tree, and her swollen nipples hinted at new cubs.

October proved exceptional for African wild dog enthusiasts. Two distinct packs, one of ten members and another of two, showcased their wild and untamed spirit. From hunting along the Main Road to playful moments near Marobalo a Ditshwene, these wild dogs added a dynamic and vibrant energy to the landscape.

The two resident cheetah brothers made some moves, expanding their territory into the dry expanse and occasionally venturing into the neighbouring area. The ever-present lions influenced their movements, and on the 29th, they marked their homecoming with a successful impala kill.

Spotted hyenas had active dens, and our engaging morning game drives often featured these intriguing creatures and their adorable little ones.

Elephants northern Botswana

Giraffes gracefully nibbled on the flowers of the knobbly combretum in picturesque scenery that also featured massive herds of elephants and buffalos, along with sable, roan, and the tsessebe protecting darling newborns.

Bounding bushbabies and migrant birds

The nocturnal realm was alive with jackals, bat-eared foxes, springhares, scrub hares, civets, aardwolves, African wildcats, and lesser bushbabies making captivating appearances during night drives. African civets are omnivorous, consuming various food items, including fruits, insects, small mammals, birds, eggs, and sometimes carrion. They are particularly known for their fondness for specific fruits and are considered critical in seed dispersal in places like the Kwando Private Concession.

Carmine bee eaters nesting Botswana

Carmine bee-eaters, broad-billed and European rollers were standard sightings on the bird checklist. We also observed golden weavers weaving intricate nests in preparation for summer breeding while raptors such as yellow-billed kites and short-tailed eagles graced the skies.

The stealthy water monitor lizard and the stoic crocodile added a prehistoric touch to the riverbanks and lagoons of the Kwando River. A spotted bush snake was sighted near camp. The delicate flutter of butterflies, including the citrus swallowtail, African monarch, and diadem, brought a peaceful brilliance to the landscape.

The lion landscape at Lagoon Camp

The Holy Pride, accompanied by eight playful lion cubs, revitalized the area near Water Cut and Lebengula South.

Meanwhile, the Mma Dikolobe Pride, famous for its four cubs, frequented the Air Strip Road and Muddy Waters Stranglers. They exhibited remarkable hunting skills, taking down a tsessebe on the Link from Pangolin to 1st Lagoon. Their prowess continued with successful hunts of zebras south of the camp and along the Pangolin Road. A coalition of three male lions, including the Northern Boys, added to the drama, and we often witnessed them showcasing dominance. We also located the Holy Pride feeding on an elephant, while nearby, two male lions rested in the shade by Lebengula South, their bellies full.

(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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Lagoon Camp, August 2023

We witnessed some fantastic leopard sightings at Lagoon Camp this month. Mmamazabuka and her two cubs were particularly impressive when they made an impala kill due to baboon disturbance.

We saw her dragging the carcass between Old Lebala and James’s roads. One of her previous litter, Mazabuka, has been doing well hunting various prey species. We also saw the big male leopards in the area feeding on a warthog, using their brawn to haul it up a tree along the Main Road.

We located spotted hyenas on the move along Bee-eaters Road and salivating near the aforementioned leopard kill along Main Road. Many tracks indicated potential den locations in the mopane scrub, but we have yet to locate a definite site. Towards the end of the month, we encountered several hyenas relaxing around an elephant carcass.

Holy pride happenings

When it comes to the Holy Pride, we were very excited to hear that three lionesses gave birth to nine cubs three months ago. However, at the beginning of the month, we could only identify eight cubs. The fate of the missing cub remains a mystery. We found this pride feeding on the elephant carcass, taking turns with the opportunistic hyenas.

We also enjoyed seeing the seven male lions that have ventured further south to feast on buffalo carcasses. We later located their tracks by the link connecting Old Lebala and Sepachi Roads with a kudu carcass nearby. The Leadwood Pride, consisting of five females and seven cubs, was witnessed around the Watercut and Leadwood Drive areas. We observed one female from this pride mating with a Rabogale coalition member.

The Mmadikolobe Pride, with four cubs and six subadults, experienced turmoil as the subadults appeared to be rejected on one occasion. The Rrabogale coalition moved closer to Lagoon Camp, nudging the northern boys towards Kwena Lagoon. Additionally, the Mmamosetha pride, along with their three cubs, has been active. There was a unique sighting of one of the males feeding on an elephant carcass northwest of the camp along the Airstrip Road.

African wild dogs kwando

A pack of nine African wild dogs (six adults and three pups) was located north of Grass, Rex, and Secretary Junction. We followed the pack’s tracks to the Kalahari bushes but lost them as they headed east towards John’s Pan. African wild dogs are easily recognized by their mottled coats with a patchwork of colours — white, black, yellow, and brown — and each animal has a unique pattern.  

During one incredible game drive, we watched a female cheetah make a kill, only to be outdone again later in August when two brothers made a successful subadult female impala kill. These cheetah brothers were seen fully bellied on several occasions and were active in various areas, hunting and marking their territory.

As we approached the end of the dry season, the landscape saw a significant movement of animals towards the river due to water scarcity. There were abundant elephant populations, sable antelopes, roan antelopes, and buffalo herds. Various other species, such as impalas, kudus, tsessebes, red lechwes, wildebeests, zebras, giraffes, baboons, and warthogs, were seen throughout the concession.

Night drives were equally busy with aardwolves, mongoose families (dwarf, banded, yellow, slender, and white-tailed), honey badgers, bat-eared foxes, porcupines, springhares, bushbabies, civets, and wildcats making appearances.

Monitor lizards and crocodiles were easy to see during the boat cruises, while some common butterflies, including the African monarch, were detected flying about.

Return of the carmine bee-eaters

Lagoon Camp

We welcomed the return of southern carmine bee-eaters. These birds prefer open country areas, especially along rivers, where they can find sandy cliffs or riverbanks to dig nesting burrows. Lagoon Camp is the ideal place to observe them. Other wonderful bird species, such as ground hornbills and secretarybirds, were logged alongside bustards, vultures, marabou storks, eagles, ostriches, and cranes.

(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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Lagoon Camp, June 2023

Thrillingly, we spotted a pangolin leisurely feeding near Leopard Road during an evening drive!

When threatened, a pangolin will curl into a tight ball, with its overlapping scales acting as a suit of armour, providing exceptional protection from predators. These scales are made of keratin, the same substance found in human hair and nails. In addition to their impressive armour, pangolins have a long, sticky tongue extending up to 40 centimetres, perfect for extracting ants and termites from their nests.

Another evening while exploring the wilderness after dark, we encountered an aardwolf. Despite its name, the aardwolf is not a wolf at all but rather a member of the hyena family. Like the pangolin, this small, nocturnal mammal also has unique feeding habits. Unlike its carnivorous relatives, the aardwolf feeds primarily on termites. Its long, sticky tongue and specialized teeth help it consume up to 300,000 termites in a single night!

The many lions of Lagoon

This month, two prides roamed the Lagoon area, each consisting of approximately 10 lionesses and cubs. One thrilling morning hunt resulted in the swift consumption of a fully grown impala by four lionesses and their seven cubs.

The Mma Mosethla pride, led by a dominant male, ventured eastward from the camp, while the Holi pride explored the southern and eastern regions. Excitement filled the air when we encountered the Holi pride near the Baobab islands, where they had successfully taken down a hippo! The sight of two males, five lionesses (including one heavily pregnant), and seven cubs devouring a freshly killed giraffe left us in awe. On another island, a lioness was spotted nursing her three cubs, just a month old.  

Along our game drive routes, we often met spotted hyenas on their patrols, but an active hyena den near Grass Pan gave us remarkable insights into these fascinating creatures. Over three months, we have observed the activities of the adult hyenas, who frequently returned to the den during mornings and evenings. We then spied newly born young exploring near the entrance. 

Cheetah that hunt at moonlight

The two resident male cheetahs delighted with regular appearances, and we noticed a shift in their hunting behaviour, as they chose to hunt under the moonlight, leaving them well-fed and content by morning. Their favourite locations included 2nd Lagoon, Maheke, Mosheshe, Mabala-a-Matlotse, and the cutline. These charismatic cheetahs frequently traversed the area, shuttling between Water Cut and Mosheshe Maheke, occasionally venturing further towards Lebala.

Lagoon Camp Cheetah - Brent Leo-Smith
By Brent Leo-Smith

As trees shed their leaves and the grass grew shorter, the arrival of elephants and buffalos in large numbers signalled their migration toward the river and floodplains for water. The arrival of several herds of buffalo was a highlight. Kwena Lagoon, 1st and 2nd Lagoon, Muddy Waters, and Water Cut became their chosen destinations. Two groups even ventured close to the camp to quench their thirst. At the same time, recent movements near Firewood Pan indicated buffalo activity in the area, including numerous lurking bulls.

Majestic parades of elephants moved through the woodlands to the floodplains. These giants gracefully made their way in the morning towards hotspots such as the camp front, Water Affairs Island, Segweda’s Crossing, Fallen Baobab, and Halfway Pan. Bachelor groups also frequented the floodplains and riverine areas.

Lagoon Camp guests easily photographed two female leopards, each accompanied by their respective cubs. One female had two youngsters, approximately three months old, while the other cared for a single cub, estimated to be a year old. Additionally, two male leopards captured our attention during separate sightings. The younger male, known as Mazabuka, frequently appeared, confidently patrolling his territory. The older male, seen on three occasions, patrolled the eastern part of the pan, well-fed and imposing. We also caught glimpses of another younger female leopard, who often stalked the western region near the airstrip, displaying her hunting prowess. Mma Mazabuka, the older female leopard with two young cubs, continued her nocturnal expeditions around the camp, occasionally making impressive kills, notably targeting reedbucks

Where are the Lagoon African wild dogs this denning season?

The resident pack of Lagoon African wild dogs ventured south for denning purposes, making encountering them during our drives more challenging. However, we received reports from the army patrols (who witnessed the pack) that the group comprised around 30 individuals.

Roan antelope Lagoon Camp

Various species of animals gather at waterholes and floodplains, displaying clear social dynamics between breeding herds, bachelor and territorial males. Common species included wildebeest, zebras, tsessebe, kudus, impalas, waterbucks, reedbucks, steenboks, and warthogs. Elands, sable and roan bulls were also seen (especially during mid-morning hours near floodplains) while hippos basked in the sun along the riverbanks.

(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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Lagoon Camp, April 2023

April was an incredible month for lion sightings at Lagoon Camp.

The majestic Holi Pride was a regular presence, especially on the islands, and we suspect they recently gave birth, as some lionesses were pregnant before disappearing.

A powerful coalition of three male lions feasted on a zebra kill, and later that same day, the Mma Mosetha Pride, consisting of two lionesses and four cubs, made a wildebeest their meal. Another remarkable sighting involved two lionesses with six adorable cubs enjoying a warthog kill near Halfway Pan. The lions truly made their presence known in the area!

Leopards with little ones

Leopard sightings were nothing short of extraordinary, with at least five resident leopards in the area, and we were treated to their stunning presence almost daily. One female leopard recently gave birth to two adorable cubs, and we located their den, but we provided them with space and time to grow and explore.

Leopard cubs Lagoon Camp

Cheetah sightings were equally abundant. Two resident brothers made themselves quite visible, appearing almost daily. We witnessed two successful kills during this period. These magnificent felines have primarily explored the western area near the airstrip and Water Cut; seemingly, they have narrowed their territory for now.

While spotted hyenas were less frequently sighted this month, a new hyena den was discovered at Grass Pan, and it’s a substantial one. We observed over 12 adult hyenas and two shy cubs!

Magnificent elephant herds, graceful elands, plus the return of sable and roan antelope was a notable highlight, coinciding with lowering water levels in some watering holes. Overall, antelopes and giraffes provided excellent viewing opportunities.

Lagoon Camp Kwando

Bat-eared foxes delighted us with their presence and we observed different families in good numbers. The spirited sided-striped and black-backed jackals also made appearances, their playful nature enchanting us during night game drives. Additionally, we spotted creatures like genets, spring hares, porcupines, and civets, as our trackers illuminated the nocturnal wonders of the wild.

Birdwatching enthusiasts treated to a spectacle at Lagoon Camp

Large flocks of marabou storks and saddle-billed storks graced the marshes and seasonal channels, indulging in a fish feast as the water levels receded. The deep colours of white-fronted bee-eaters and little bee-eaters added a touch of magic to our boat cruises, and the water monitor lizards made sporadic appearances too. The vibrant green spotted bush snake has become a familiar sight around the camp, luckily this snake is not considered dangerous to humans. Majestic eagles such as tawny, martial, and short-tailed further enriched the avian diversity of the region this April.

(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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Lagoon Camp, November 2022

The ‘Unluckiest Animal of the Month’ award for November must go to a warthog.

We spent hours one morning with the Holi pride of fourteen lions, wiling away a warm summer morning, watching them playing and bonding with quality family time. Suddenly, a male warthog blinking at the morning sun emerged from an aardvark hole not five metres from the pride. He quickly realised the fatal error and bolted. However, a subadult male cut him off and forced him back towards the welcoming jaws of the pride. He attempted to break through the wall of gold, but one lioness, with lazy swipe of her paw, caught him on the leg and sent him to the ground. The lions made short work of their surprise morning snack.

The buffalo specialists of Lagoon Camp

While this was a surprise, the Lagoon prides were also very calculating in their hunting. We tracked them to various kills and were fortunate to witness the same pride take on a big male buffalo. The buffalo retreated to a shallow channel (perhaps thinking that with his back to the water, he would have a better chance of seeing off the aggressors). At first, this strategy seemed to work until the lions overcame their fear of the water and followed him.

Buffalo Kill Lagoon Camp

An incredible cacophony of bellows, growls and splashing ensued. Eventually, the old boy tired, and the pride managed to take him down. They were now faced with the daunting task of getting the almost one-ton animal out of the water. Eventually, this was achieved, and the effort didn’t appear to slow them down. We found the same lion pride on a wildebeest kill two days later!

As with much of the wild Northern areas of Botswana, November brought the rains and a bevy of new life. Young impalas, warthogs and many others were found almost everywhere. This is also boom time for the predators and we saw several leopards and cheetah taking advantage of this new food source.

Plenty of cheetah action

The average predator doesn’t know when the next meal is coming and aims to save as much energy as possible when hunting. The inexperienced newborn herbivores provide a more straightforward test than an experienced antelope herd accustomed to the alarm calls and signals that help keep them safe. The easier pickings also attract additional competition. We were treated to the fantastic sighting of two resident male cheetahs, the Two Brothers, facing down and then fighting off another male that had strayed into their territory. The lone male retreated and wasn’t seen again.

Cheetah Lagoon Camp

We also enjoyed frequent encounters with the two resident male leopards as well as a mother leopard with a cub strolling south of the appropriately named Leopard Road.

Delightful little antics

The Spotted hyena den near camp was still active, and we had the privilege of sharing time with a mother porcupine and her porcupette that scuttled about near camp. The youngster’s quills are already hardened (they start off as hair) and, as it is only a few weeks old, we hope to see mother and child together for a few months yet.

The elephant herds have been thrilling us daily as large numbers of them, alongside the immense buffalo herds, wander past camp to the Kwando River to drink.  

Birding was spectacular, with an explosion of colours and feathers as the rollers, bee-eaters, whydahs, and various others competed under the towering clouds.

(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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Lagoon Camp, October 2022

Guest favourites this October were two cheetah brothers, who used their phenomenal speed to great effect. We located them bringing down an impala, and they successfully hunted in the secluded Mopane woodlands of the Kwara Private Reserve. Another coalition of five (adult female and four subadults) cheetahs took down a steenbok near our vehicle. In an unequal contest of five against one, there was little remaining of the steenbok after fifteen minutes. A further group of four cheetahs (a female and four youngsters) were also occasionally seen.

Cheetah of Kwando Safaris

The resident pack of eight African wild dogs took up a more permanent residence near Lagoon Camp and we spent many hours enjoying their boisterous and vocal group interactions.

We were treated to a fashion parade of wildlife coming down to the Kwando River to drink this month. Hundreds of elephants and buffalos were accompanied by herds of kudu, roan, sable, and zebra. Tsessebe and wildebeest fed on the lush grasses at the river’s edge and drank from the clear waters. This mammal medley attracted the attention of the Kwando Private Reserve’s prolific predators.

What did the lions of Lagoon get up to?

The lions focused on older male buffalo coalitions (the grumpy-looking dagga boys) and did their majority of hunting in the floodplains approximately one kilometre from camp, which afforded many guests ringside seats to the action. The lion prides and male coalitions we mentioned last month generally stayed in place, and we encountered lions almost daily looking well-fed and content. A lioness from the Mma Mosetlha pride was heavily pregnant and due to give birth any day now.

Lions of Lagoon Camp

A hippo died in the shallow waters not far from camp, and crocodiles descended en masse for this unexpected free meal. Lying in the shallow waters, these reptiles have a natural advantage over any potential competitors, but this didn’t stop the resident Spotted hyena clan from having a go! They assembled near the hippo and made the occasional dash into the water to try and snatch a bite. While hyenas have a good turn of pace when they need it, they don’t stand a chance against the tremendous speeds with which the crocodiles can turn and bite. After numerous nervous attempts and a couple of near misses, the hyenas retreated. Another advantage of having a hippo carcass not far from camp? Regular views of our favourite reptile, Howard the short-tailed croc, swimming in front of camp on his way to a hippo lunch!

An update on the Kwando River Carmine bee-eater colony

The various resident leopards were seen, and we had the privilege of “hosting” the family of three (female with two subadult males) in camp as they hunted impala and tsessebe from the camp environs. We’ve also spent time with a young mother and her cub. She has been leaving her cub up a thick shady tree while she hunts and once brought back an impala which kept them well-fed for almost a week.

Carmine bee-eaters Kwando Safaris

The Carmine bee-eaters, with their bright red plumage, were back at their normal nesting site and number over 100, with more on the way. They have been hunting dragonflies on the wing out in the floodplains and are a welcome dash of colour against the dusty brown landscape.

Southern African rock pythons, Spotted bush snakes, Puff adders, Leopard tortoises and Striped-bellied sand snakes were all seen. The sand snakes were often found twisted together and mating.

Fabulous frog sounds graced our evenings, and the Reed frogs and the Guttural toads were highly active.

(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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Lagoon Camp, September 2022

The big herds returned! Considerable wildlife wanders through Lagoon Camp throughout the year, but the driest months herald the influx of great hordes of elephants and buffalos.

The Kwando River became their haven along with many other species, including impalas, reedbucks, kudus, giraffes, tsessebes and wildebeests. This array of animals also served a serious purpose — looking out for one another.

Buffalo Herd of Lagoon Camp

A symbiotic relationship of so many eyes, ears and noses (and trunks) is a lifeline in an area like Lagoon Camp, where predators are so prolific. A single snort or alarm call can build tension before dozens, if not hundreds, of animals, suddenly scatter in the face of possible predation.

The prolific predators of the Kwando Private Reserve

Several species could cause such a commotion. The African wild dogs were glimpsed regularly, although they roamed far and wide across the Kwando Private Reserve. We followed the hunt several times and caught up with them when they took down an impala. One quick feast later, they found a beautiful Sausage tree to relax under, out of the baking heat of the midday sun. Guides noted that the dogs have been highly nomadic, frequently hunting in the well-wooded Mopane zones. This is where the big herds of sable liked to hang out, and we also encountered groups of roan and eland antelope this month. 

Kwando Safaris Wild Dogs

River waters lowered slightly, and the hippo pods concentrated in the deeper lagoons in front of the camp, creating fabulous photography opportunities. Ospreys and African fish eagles likewise exploited the shallows while Carmine and White-fronted bee-eaters soared the skies, and Open-billed and Saddle-billed storks strutted the shores. One day during a boat cruise, we witnessed the impressive crossing of a mega buffalo herd. 

A coalition of five cheetahs was seen periodically north of the camp in addition to the coalition of regularly-sighted brothers. They all seemed well-fed and relaxed. We found them taking a particular interest in a dense bush one morning. We thought they had cornered a scrub hare or another small herbivore and were astonished when they flushed out a leopard cub that ran for its life up the nearest tree! This was likely one of two cubs saw roaming the reserve with their mother. We frequently found the leopardess with the two in tow, although, later in the month, she was seen sunning on a termite mound with only one cub. Time will tell if they are all reunited.

We’ve had other fantastic Leopard sightings, but our favourite has to be a classic ambush. We tracked a leopard that had climbed into a Sausage Tree, where she waited, partially hidden from view. We were about to move on when a small herd of impalas wandered into the frame and began eating near the tree. The leopard unhurriedly raised her head and repositioned. As an impala drew near, she dropped from the branch, landing almost on top of the animal. The impala flattened but was up again in a flash, and before the leopard could grab hold, it sprinted from the tree. Unperturbed, the leopard climbed the tree again to wait. We saw her there two more times and hope her patience finally paid off. 

When the leopards did manage to snatch a meal, we almost always found the spotted hyenas on site, ready to steal the kill. We also clocked eyes on a brown hyena strolling one morning.

We love the nightlife

The aardwolf den was bustling, and guests loved observing their activities during night drives. The spotlight also revealed white-tailed mongooses, honey badgers, porcupines, springhares, lesser bushbabies, civets, genets, African wild cats, and the sleek serval. We had excellent evening sightings of birdlife too. Marsh and Southern white-faced owls, together with their smaller cousins, the Pearl-spotted, Barred and Scops owlets, were ticked off during September.

The many lions of Lagoon Camp

Three prides and two male lion coalitions roamed the Lagoon area this month: a considerable number of individual groupings given that lions are typically not the best neighbours. The various groups sunbathed, hunted, mated and ate throughout the month. When they crossed paths, it often led to chases and an occasional bout of fisticuffs. The Kwando Reserve is Botswana’s most extensive private reserve at over half a million acres (somewhat larger than Greater London), so a degree of peace was usually maintained.

Lagoon Camp Lions

One day, a young male lion found a leopard tortoise. The tortoise immediately disappeared into its shell, and the lion spent the next twenty minutes clawing, gnawing and biting, trying anything to get to the inhabitant of the carapace. Eventually, the shell proved too much, and a frustrated lion slunk back into the bush.

Southern Ground Hornbill Kwando

We stopped to watch three Southern ground hornbills stalking through the short grass. Suddenly, one pounced and speared a small rodent with its beak. As the bird raised its head, we identified it as a Damara mole rat.

Yet another successful Lagoon hunt!

(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. Still, we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

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Lagoon Camp, August 2022

Frequent sightings of the resident African wild dogs and Cheetahs were appreciated and adored throughout August, but the most captivating hunt must go to the leopards of Lagoon.

As reported last month, a mother leopard and her two sub-adult offspring remained happy and healthy, and the mother continued to support her small family. One day, the leopardess left the youngsters and went off to hunt, and the juniors kept themselves occupied by honing their skills.

Young leopards of Lagoon

Their game of “hunt the tree squirrel” had us transfixed for almost an hour as they stalked, chased, and corralled three unfortunate tree squirrels in the top branches of a tree. Every time the squirrels tried to escape, the two cats sprang into action and attempted to ambush the squirrels. Ultimately, the sub-adults didn’t come very close to success, but this was invaluable training for their future when focus, stealth and speed can be the difference between a prosperous future or an empty belly.

Eventually, their mother reappeared and called. With a rueful look, they gave up the squirrel hunt and followed her. They walked almost two kilometres before reaching an Impala she had stashed in a tree. With the same boundless energy, the youngsters leapt into the tree for a feast. A fitting end to a hard day of squirrel hunting!

We also located another young female leopard feeding on a francolin.

Dramatic buffalo vs lion encounters

The lion prides were equally well-fed by the plentiful buffalo herds, which travelled through the Kwando Private Reserve in considerable numbers.

For many guests, the holy grail of sightings is the quintessential buffalo hunt seen in many documentaries and online. The dry season frequently serves up the most dramatic lion-buffalo interactions, which can be short and raw or long, drawn-out affairs.

On our way to sundowners, we came across a pride eyeing the dust as buffaloes moved across the floodplain. They seemed relaxed and content to watch the spectacle. Suddenly, one of the lionesses raised her head, scanned the horizon, and set off towards the buffalo, swiftly followed by her family. When we caught up, they had surrounded a buffalo and swamped it with sheer pride numbers. A well-placed bite to the throat brought the encounter to an end, and the lions ate well for the next two days.

Lion of lagoon camp

Other guests encountered a battle royale between an older male buffalo and the Holy Pride on the old road south to Lebala. The older male buffalos who can’t keep up with the herd will often form small bachelor herds for protection. We found a solitary nomad surrounded, but he was not prepared to go down without a fight. As the lions tried to jump on his back or land bites on the spine, nose or throat, he whirled round, sending the lions flying through the air or scampering away from the gigantic horns. This continued for over an hour as the lions mounted wave after wave of attacks, with two of the lionesses retreating from the fray, having taken heavy knocks. However, weary from the fight, he eventually succumbed to his wounds. Although a gruesome affair, we had to admire the courage and stamina of the buffalo and acknowledge that, while Mother Nature may appear cruel, this provides hearty sustenance to the next generation of lion cubs.

One memorable morning, while sipping a cup of coffee around the fire, a male lion from the Northern pride strolled past room one. We jumped into the vehicles and followed as he sniffed around curiously. He then slowly stalked into the lofty grass, towards the sound of crunching bones. The Holy Pride was feeding on a Tsessebe, but the lion easily chased the Holy Pride off the meat. Just when we thought it was over, another male came rushing in with a roar and cleared out the Holy Pride sub-adult males once and for all.

Blossoming trees and birds returning

Many of the thorn trees, the Sausage tree and the Kalahari apple-leaf are flowering, just in time to plug the gap between the parched plains and the rains that are to come. The tiny shoots are favourites amongst elephants, and some antelopes and the blossoms are also a lifeline for bees and various species of dragonflies on the edge of the floodplains, such as the Banded groundling, Blue baker and Red-veined dropwing.

With the elephant and buffalo herds trampling much of the tall grasses, we enjoyed unobstructed views of the (often) less celebrated predators. White-tailed mongoose, African wild cat, Bat-eared foxes, Aardwolf, Civet and the Small-spotted genets were all logged during night drives.

Carmine bee-eaters

Some migratory bird species began to arrive, including the Yellow-billed kite and the Carmine bee-eater, bringing its beautiful splash of colour to the Kwando River again. Boat cruises have been a delight! Little egrets, Whiskered terns, White-fronted bee-eaters, Giant herons, Malachite kingfishers, Pied kingfishers and Giant kingfishers were all spotted. Rufous bellied herons, Squacco herons, Black herons and Wire-tailed swallows were seen almost daily and one day, we enjoyed a fantastic congregation of 50 or more vultures preening.

(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. Still, we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

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Lagoon Camp, July 2022

As winter set in across the Kwando Private Reserve, the Cat’s Claw was one of the few plants to flower (Clerodendrum uncinatum), punctuating the sepia landscape with radiant red flowers. 

As well as providing an exquisite dash of colour, it’s an essential provider of nectar for bees and other insects during this dry season. These flowers are protected by unpleasant recurved thorns, which give this potentially painful flower its name. 

The leopards and lions of Lagoon

The cats themselves fared well this July. We encountered a mother leopard and her two healthy and happy sub-adult offspring. The mother hunted south of the Moporota road. Over a couple of days, we watched her make several attempts at landing Impalas and a Warthog. Although she initially was not successful, we eventually found the little family feeding on an impala. 

Leopard Kwando

Given that many waterholes away from the Kwando River were dry, elephants and buffalos moved past Lagoon Camp in considerable numbers. This fact was not lost on the Mma Dkolobe pride of 12 lions, who closely shadowed the herds, scrutinising for weak spots.

We found the lions enjoying a buffalo banquet numerous times throughout the month and recuperating in the shade of Candle Pod Terminalia trees. Besides the gruesome sights (and smells) of a lion’s lunchtime, it also allowed time to observe the social side of lion life. Lions are the only truly sociable cats. Bonding behaviour goes a long way in helping establish their dominance and prowess when taking on large and dangerous game such as buffalo. The Holy Pride was likewise seen with many buffalo meals and the northern lion pride known as Mma Mosethla was located with full bellies too.  

Delightful dens

Our resident den of African wild dogs shared this social aspect of the bush too. Puppies have left the den and begun to find their feet (or paws). The alpha female has been weaning them off milk, and we saw the adults regularly regurgitate for the pups not enjoying their new carnivorous and lactose-free diet. 

The Maheke Road and waterhole area to the west of the camp have been quiet from the perspective of the largest predators. However, as with everything in the bush, the scarcity of one species brings another. The ordinarily elusive aardwolves have been active with fewer visible threats. We have found three separate aardwolf burrows along this track and found aardwolves almost every time. 

Aarwolf density of Lagoon Camp

The cheetahs have also enjoyed the quiet interval without lions close by. The resident coalition of two cheetahs was located at Maheke waterhole resting in the shade, and a female cheetah with her two cubs was found at Lion Den, where she gave hunting lessons to her young cubs. The cubs have been shy of the game drive vehicle, and we have kept our distance. However, the two cubs soon plucked up the courage to come and inspect us. We later found the two male cheetahs with a fresh kill contentedly lying in the sun with full stomachs.

The fish and feathers of the Kwando River

The Kwando River is a birders paradise at any time of the year. Malachite, Pied and Giant kingfishers have accompanied our clients on their fishing expeditions (catfish, breams and Three-spotted tilapia were caught and released) while Fish eagles provided the ubiquitous soundtrack of the African waterways. 

Lagoon Camp boating

The success of the lions provided plentiful food for the vultures, who will soon enter their breeding season. We have also seen a nesting Secretary bird and have enjoyed a very healthy population of Wattled cranes. Approximately 8000 remain in the wild these graceful birds are always a special sighting!

Other animals seen include Giraffes, Blue wildebeests, Steenbok, Impalas, Plains zebras plus handsome herds of Roan and Sable antelopes. 

(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. Still, we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

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Lagoon Camp, June 2022

As the pans dry up and the greens give way to gold, we gear up for some of the most productive wildlife viewing months. Most of the trees, especially the Silver terminalia and Kalahari apple leave trees, have already lost their leaves, and the grasses have dried up.

Winter is the best time for night drives

Sightings of aardwolves have been excellent across the Kwando Private Reserve, and guides uncovered two different burrows being used as dens. However, the sighting of all sightings had to be witnessing a pair of aardwolves mating along James Road.

Night drive Lagoon Camp

Civet sightings were also fantastic, and we watched them feeding on ripening Jackalberries along Upper Kwando Road. Genets, Springhares, Bat-eared foxes and Scrub hares also entertained us thoroughly during night drives.

Elephants were found on almost every game drive, but let’s be frank, guests never had to venture far to see hordes of these pachyderms. One afternoon we counted over a hundred elephants moving towards the Kwando River for an afternoon dip and sip. As always, the room deck makes a relaxing vantage point to drink in the sight of these migrating mammals.

General game was equally prolific, with herds of Giraffe, Impala, Kudu, Tsessebe, Plains zebra and more crisscrossing the Kwando Private Reserve in search of fodder. We particularly enjoyed spending time with a small herd of Roan antelopes. This vast concentration of game attracted the attention of large predators.

Three packs of Painted wolves

We’ve enjoyed the company of three different packs of Painted wolves this month. A pack of five African wild dogs roamed the area around Lagoon Camp. The alpha female of this small group was heavily pregnant, and we last saw them hunting along Maheke, disappearing into the thick and enshrouding Mopane forest. Another group of three wild dogs hunted our area and frequently travelled between us and the Lebala region.

Wild Dogs Lagoon Camp

Meanwhile, the resident Lagoon pack took down a fully-grown female kudu at Kwena Lagoon. We tracked them after their frenzied feast upon the antelope, and they led us to their new den! The pack has been incredibly successful, and their puppies emerged from the burrow well-fed towards the end of the month.

Our guides located two cheetah brothers this month and guests watched in awe as they chased down an impala. We then discovered a different coalition of three males moving through the reserve.  

Leopards leaving the nest

On several occasions, a female leopard was seen with her subadult male offspring, and we suspect she has been training them for the hunt. They fed well on male impalas, but on close inspection of the tracks at her kill sites, guides noticed she had also lost her fair share of carcasses to Spotted hyenas and lions. Another subadult male leopard was seen moving alone, having been booted from his mother’s territory. His speciality has been hunting Helmeted guinea fowl. Another relaxed male leopard was also seen in the area.

Nile crocodiles lazed on the shores of Halfway Pan, and we found many Water monitor lizards during our boat cruises and around the camp. Ostriches, lilac-breasted rollers, African fish eagles, saddle-billed storks, African spoonbills

Crocodiles of Botswana

The Holy Pride of lions was about, but the group operated only as far as Halfway pan because the northern males have pushed our resident coalition southeast, more towards Lebala Camp. The Mma Dikolobe pride was often seen near Lebala and Johnnie’s pan. One day, we encountered the three Rra Leitho coalition (northern males) mating with the Mmamosetlha pride at the beginning of this month.

Countless tracks prove between the Mopane bushveld area, and the Kwando River had us suspicious. We reckon that the Spotted hyenas are denning in the cover of the thicker woodlands.

For this time of year, some unusually heavy clouds temporarily tampered with our winter stargazing. However, we enjoyed an excellent view of the planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn lining up.

(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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